Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Obama: LGBT Rights Warrior or Campaign Strategist?

On May 10th 2012 President Barack Obama on "Good Morning America" stated, “I’ve concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”  Before anything else is said on this issue it should be noted that this is important, and I'm personally glad that he supports the rights for same sex couples to marry.  However, we have to understand this comes with a caveat; he thinks that states should decide the issue.  In other words, he supports states rights to discriminate against same sex marriages as long as that's what the state wants.  It seems to me that most people in support of gay marriage would agree, this is historically important.  Even if it doesn't mean Obama actively supporting changes to federal laws allowing gay marriage, it is still a step forward for gay rights.  The problem is Obama is using this PERSONAL stance on gay marriage to campaign for re-election.  Take a look at this "documentary" produced by the Obama campaign.
Documentaries are usually thought to be for instruction or maintaining the historical record, and this is clearly a campaign video.  That aside, President Obama assures us he is that strong asset in the white house for the LGBT community, and he can keep us "leaning forward."  What does that really entail though?  If he supports letting states decide the issue of gay marriage, and would lend support to repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, but is no longer part of the legislative branch then what policies are going to change?  Even with the repeal of DADT, (Don't Ask Don't Tell) same sex marriages within the military don't allow a military member's partner the same rights as non same sex marriages when it comes to travel or housing.  If a vote for Obama is a vote for gay rights as the Obama campaign is lobbying hard for his base to accept, then what political outcomes is he seeking?

This is not a critique of Obama on his personal stance on gay marriage (which I applaud him for). This is simply a critique on campaign politics and the mindless followers intensive propaganda campaigns (AKA election campaigns) generate, which ruin electoral politics.  What I'm saying is,  Obama is clearly using and touting himself as being a warrior for LGBT rights, while at the same time refusing to say that he thinks it should be legal federally, or even decided on that level.  That to me equates to saying, "well sure even though 12 states prohibit same sex marriage by statute and 30 via the constitution, I think states should decide what right same sex couples should have even though that means nearly nationwide discrimination."

As an exercise in thought if we were to travel back to say the late 1850's when the issue of slavery was a hotly debated topic; imagine a president running their campaign as a warrior against slavery or being a strong advocate for slaves in the white house, by simply stating they personally viewed slavery as an evil, and their view had evolved to say they personally support ending slavery.  However, they note that states should decide whether slavery should exist.  This at the time was known as popular sovereignty and that was exactly what the Democratic nominee for president in 1860 supported.  Although he didn't support ending slavery and his views were considered more moderate on the issue, he supported the right of states to decide.  This man was Stephen Douglas of Illinois.  The debates in 1858 between Lincoln and Douglas have become somewhat famous, but in these debates Douglas clearly stated attitudes now seen as racist or bigoted.  Namely he insisted slavery was not a moral issue, that Lincoln advocated equality of races and even that they should be able to intermarry (Lincoln denounced such radical equality), and the government was drawn up "by white men for white men".  What's important is, he used this tactic because he had to walk a fine line to keep the support of the northern states where abolitionism was popular, while not upsetting the southern base of democrats at the time. 

It's a very similar situation back here in good ol' 2012.  Rather than being hotly debated on the grounds of how this issue should be approached politically or what should be done politically about it, it's being used merely as a social issue, and to show personal virtue to garner support for the president from his lackluster base.  The aforementioned announcement of Obama's support for same sex marriage came just before he held a fundraiser at George Clooney's house in which he touted his support for same sex couples and raised a total of $15 million.  Remember this isn't a political position, but a personal position as he doesn't support anything more than popular sovereignty outside of his comments of support for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.  This seems to amount to a kind of "progressive" hypocrisy where the left constantly criticizes the right for it's election of government on the grounds that they have similar views on religion, or other social issues.  This while ignoring the fact that many of the leaders of the religious right advocate policies that are harmful to their constituents economically, environmentally, and in some cases like abortion and defense, go against the core conservative value of a small government.  However, as I've written about earlier, the Hypocrisy of Obama supporters is not a new thing.  Electing a president or throwing full support behind a candidate because of a non-political stance on same sex marriage, while at the same time continuing policies which any truly progressive person should find deplorable (and often are illegal or borderline illegal), shows either personal moral decay, or the total corruption of the electoral system.

What it means to support someone because of a personal stance on a social issue, is that we've made a bigger deal out of something that is in fact politically trivial and thus trivialized more important issues.  That's not to say that LGBT issues are unimportant by any measure.  They are profoundly important issues, but if a president was going to campaign on being a gay rights president than one would expect him to have the courage to say that he believes that the nation should stop discrimination against same sex couples federally.  Merely calling on democrats in congress to address the issue and stop discrimination would even suffice.  After all, there are federal laws against race discrimination.  So what could these more important issues be than the president's personal opinion on same sex marriage?  How about you name one; education, energy, agriculture policies, economic solutions to get out of this "Great Recession", foreign policy (which includes global conflicts, drone war campaigns, and making threats against Iran for purportedly manufacturing or seeking to manufacture nuclear weapons), monetary reform, Wall Street regulation, the student loan bubble, domestic spying, and crushing levels of government debt, and that's just to get you started. 

Take for example education.  Obama and his now official Republican opponent Mitt Romney are nearly identical on education policies except for Romney's support of the voucher system and some small differences on higher education.  (There was an interesting Washington Post article about this recently that pointed out their similar stances.)  It's also true that Obama's educational policies don't differ from President G.W. Bush in any substantial way.  His policy is that of "high stakes" testing which punishes schools and teachers that don't meet standards or show improvement.  A mandate that schools be 100% proficient in reading and math by 2014 now has the administration allowing a waiver form for states as no school will be able to reach this seemingly impossible goal.  What isn't often stated is, the education reform Democrats aren't really much different than their education reform Republican counterparts that were responsible for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in the first place.  The biggest problem of NCLB is that it made test scores the ultimate measure of educational quality, ignoring aspects of critical thinking, and providing a liberal sciences education that citizens need to keep a functioning republic.  Instead it focuses on education for competition in the global market, re-affirming our deep subconsciously held belief that man's purpose is to participate in global markets.  In other words to not work against the global markets that determine your place in the economic hierarchy, but instead support it.  Obama's plan goes a step further than NCLB and its obtuse measures of educational quality.  His plan asserts that teachers alone are the only thing responsible for whether test scores go up or down.  They attribute nothing to poverty, students, parents, or economic status.  If there's one thing that can be pointed to as being a factor of lower test scores it's poverty.  If you're still not convinced that Obama has an expanded version of Bush's education plan, just think after Obama appointed Arne Duncan to head his education department.  Duncan went on tour with Newt Gingrich to promote this "Race to the Top" education plan.  Obama however flew to Florida to promote it at a Miami high school with Jeb Bush.  If you're still not convinced, just wait a decade and watch how schools privatize as public education continues to become stigmatized as underachieving wastes of money despite this manufactured crisis.

How about another issue like energy.  In reality, Obama's energy policy is really no policy at all according to Bill Mckibben.  He makes the point, if you think about it, if a president had a foreign policy of everyone is an equal ally, he would be laughed at, but that's precisely Obama's policy for energy.  Mckibben said, "Burning all the oil you can and then putting up a solar panel is like drinking six martinis at lunch and then downing a VitaminWater. You’re still a drunk — just one with your daily requirement of C and D."  Obama's strategy is to promote that under his administration the US has drilled a record number of oil and gas wells.  He also touts the great reserves of natural gas the US has, but fails to state that hydro-fracking practices necessary to get this gas are extremely environmentally dangerous, especially to water sheds and the safety of our water supply.  No one is mentioning that at some point all the carbon based fossil fuels are going to be either too expensive, too hard to get to, and simply put, too depleted to power industrial civilization as it currently stands (which is as a society under the yoke of the carbon barons).  The most Obama can do is promote fuel efficiency as a solution to the depletion of fossil fuels, which is not a solution, but a continuation of dependency on fossil fuels.

I could go on about every issue including agriculture policies which give large subsidies to Agra-business and helps Monsanto keep it's business up by: not allowing for GMO labeling or banning, keeping a former Monsanto lobbyist as a senior adviser at the FDA, and pushing African countries to accept "investment" by Monsanto in order to start the next "green revolution".  Meanwhile his FDA goes around shutting down those who wish to sell raw milk using armed FDA agents to seize goods.  Then, we could look at his economic solutions, which amount to take on more debt without providing a meaningful jobs program while continuing with the mindset that an economy is akin to a family budget.  This clear in statements like, "We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs."  He won't get in to the very complicated subject of resource depletion and an economy that demands constant growth as the norm (which only came about because of fossil fuels).  Nor has he clamped down on Wall Street and the financial sector as he continues to give key positions to people within the financial market.  Most assuredly we could discuss Obama's foreign policy, which includes his position that as President of the US he has the right to launch drone missile strikes in countries without their co-operation, away from any war zone, even to strike targets they haven't identified by secret executive authority with no review by the legislative branch.  Obama has declared himself the judge, jury, and executioner to decide who can be targeted and killed anywhere in the world.  Imagine if any other country in the world declared the right to strike with a drone by internal secretive process inside the borders of another country, (or even the US).  The US would denounce it strongly.  This amounts to a failure to hold ourselves as a country, to a standard we expect of others.  We could also talk of his support for the Bahrain-an dictatorship that has been protested against, much like Egypt protesting against the Mubarak regime, or Libya's protests against Gaddafi.  The point is Obama doesn't really have a progressive leg to stand on.  Many of his own policies go against the heart of progressive thought yet he needs to continually bolster his image as the champion of the people or the champion of gay rights.  What's really true is that Obama has a nicely paid team of campaign strategists that promote the president and his persona to pacify the left, while continually caving in to demands of the right, or more accurately big business.  So it's worth it to take a look at exactly what his strategies are, even if that means having to think critically about the only person standing in the way of a US with Mitt Romney as president. 

One of his big campaign points is he's strong on terrorism, as well as ending the war in Iraq, and putting the steps into place so that down the road the US can leave Afghanistan.  What he promotes is that he killed Bin Laden, while he continually leaks more and more information to the press about this otherwise classified operation (as long as it makes him look like a strong leader that's tough on terror).  It just seems that no matter what issue you examine, Obama talks a certain talk, but when it comes down to real policy, the talk is replaced with policies that show talk is all it is.  The failure of the US public (and specifically the progressive portion of the population) to hold Obama accountable for keeping Bush's policies on warrant-less wiretapping not just intact, but expanded, as well as expanding his ability to wage war without congressional approval and authorize drone killings via a secretive kill list, amounts to a betrayal of not just progressive, but humanist principles that eschew a consistent moral or ethical standard in favor of blind political worship or demagoguery.

This is why The Association of National Advertisers awarded him for marketer of the year in 2008.  This is because he got into office convincing the US public that this was not going to be politics as usual, but change was going to sweep the white house and all of government.  In the hangover from this progressive orgy of hope without political substance that has become the Obama administration's first term, it has become more and more clear this is not just more politics as usual.  The acceptance and now normalization of activities once decried by progressives and even moderate democrats put in place by the previous administration, undermines any moral authority they might have once had as they foolishly support a wolf in sheep's clothing.  Citizens that can't demand a president work within the confines of the constitution and uphold the rule of law, but instead insist the president be supported merely because he personally believes in anything, have shirked their duty as citizens of the nation.  Isn't this the exact same thing Liberals have decried when it comes to electing official because of religious belief?  After all if it really comes down to the lesser of two evils, and Obama's personal stance on same sex marriage is the deciding factor for you, doesn't that analysis also entail that the electoral political system of the US is broken?  Maybe the whole point is, while Obama pushes to raise a billion dollars to convince the US he should remain president, we keep accepting a broken system every four years to elect another person to look after the interests of those who paid to get them in office.  What remains to be seen is how long the US citizenry is going to keep buying into such ridiculous and trivial campaign tactics while the environment, rule of law, education, and economy collapse around us.

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