Did Obama Just Lose The Gay Vote?
by Todd Beeton, Mon Oct 22, 2007 at 05:57:57 PM EDT
What's worse than saying you think homosexuality is a choice?
Barack Obama is drawing fire for including Donnie McClurkin, a Grammy-winning gospel singer who has crusaded against homosexuality, on a concert and political tour that the Democratic presidential candidate will launch in South Carolina later this week.
Wikipedia elaborates on what makes McClurkin so offensive:
He states that homosexuality is a spiritual issue, from which one can be delivered from by the power and grace of God. In his book, Eternal Victim, Eternal Victor (ISBN 1-56229-162-9), he writes: "The abnormal use of my sexuality continued until I came to realize that I was broken and that homosexuality was not God's intention... for my masculinity." He then describes himself as going through a process by which he became "a saved and sanctified man".
A firestorm has been growing steadily over the past few days. At HuffPo this weekend, political analyst and author Earl Ofari Hutchinson called on Obama to "cancel and repudiate" the gospel tour and Truth Wins Out has called on Senator Obama to "distance himself" from McClurkin. To try and mitigate some of the fall-out, Obama has released this statement, which denounces McClurkin but stops short of removing him from the tour:
"I have clearly stated my belief that gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters and should be provided the respect, dignity, and rights of all other citizens. I have consistently spoken directly to African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts our community so that we can confront issues like HIV/AIDS and broaden the reach of equal rights in this country.
I strongly believe that African Americans and the LGBT community must stand together in the fight for equal rights. And so I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin's views and will continue to fight for these rights as President of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division."
Chicago Tribune's The Swamp does a good job of explaining the tightrope Obama is walking and why it's politically perilous both to keep McClurkin on the tour and to let him go:
One gay activist involved with the Obama campaign said the situation puts the candidate in a bind, since he risks offending evangelicals in South Carolina if he cancels McClurkin's appearance but could alienate gay supporters if the performance proceeds as planned.
"This story is quickly turning into a disaster for Barack," said the supporter who is active on gay and lesbian issues. "He's screwed if he goes through with the trip with Donnie McClurkin....But he's also screwed in South Carolina if he dumps McClurkin. I hope that the staffer who set this up has already been fired."
Even so, the question remains whether this statement will be enough to pacify those in the gay community for whom this could be a dealbreaker. John Aravosis for one is not even close to being satisfied by the statement.
Obama's outreach to the black evangelical community is admirable and could reap benefits for the Democratic Party in the long-run but this conflict in values that has emerged between Obama's own base and those of this prominent figure whose base Obama is courting can't have come as a shock to the campaign. The paradox of running a campaign based on inclusion is that you're more than likely going to alienate somebody at some point based on who you're including, unless of course you're experienced and skilled enough to avoid those landmines. And I have to say, whether or not you feel the inclusion of McClurkin in this fundraiser for Obama is a deal breaker, Obama's inability to avoid this foreseeable bump in the road at the very least contributes to the growing crisis in confidence people seem to be feeling about Obama lately (see the results of the latest DailyKos straw poll for the most recent evidence of this.)