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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Time’s “Inclusive” Person of the Year

Here he is.  Our Dear Leader.  The Messiah.  Time Person of the Year.  And the coolest person in the history of humanity.  I mean, when was the last time we had a president who sent text messages!?


For some reason, this sounds familiar.

Obama wants to reach out to evangelicals.

Obama invites a high-profile homophobic preacher to a major event.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Because it happened in 2007.  Obama invited ex-gay minister Donnie McClurkin to participate in his Gospel Concert Tour in South Carolina.  After an uproar among LGBT Democrats and other liberals, Obama threw the gay community a bone, adding gay youth minister Andy Sidden to the tour.   Apparently, having both a homosexual and a homophobe made him a big tent Democrat.  No pander here at all.

I took the McClurkin episode as a misstep by political rookie and I’ve never held it against him.  Politicians aren’t perfect.  But Obama’s decision to invite right-wing evangelical minister Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration suggests that I was wrong.

During the primaries, I repeatedly said creating a new governing majority-as Obama insisted he would do-would exclude those on the margins.  I also said that given how die-hard liberals, centrist Democrats, and Republicans (Obamacans) were flocking to Obama, at some point he would start making governing decisions that would leave somebody out.  I also said that Obama is a mere mortal.  I should not be-and frankly am not-surprised by his decision.  While I’m relieved that Obama is turning out to be more of a pragmatist than an ideologue, I’m not happy about his actions.  

Why is this such a big deal?  Two reasons.  First, if you haven’t spent much time on the blogosphere since the election, you might not realize that anti-gay initiatives in Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Florida, supported disproportionately by black voters, opened up a big rift between LGBT activists and African-American activists on the left.

One of the tactics employed by the anti-marriage equality campaign in California was the use of Obama’s words in robo calls, implying that he supported Proposition 8. In reality, he came out in opposition to that and other anti-gay initiatives, but that didn’t stop the anti-gay lobby from using his name to peddle their hate.  Among those on the right who distorted Obama’s views on Proposition 8 was none other than the beloved Rick Warren.

Given the electoral defeats dealt the LGBT community on Election Day and the strife that followed, this is not the time for President-Elect Obama to be sending mixed messages.

Second, by embracing Rick Warren, Barack Obama is passing on an opportunity to showcase the Christian left.  In elevating Rev. Warren-and make no mistake, this is the biggest platform of Rev. Warren’s career-he is, in effect, saying that the evangelical right is better at Christianity than the Christian left.  Kyle at Right Wing Watch put it best:

Presumably, the purpose of Obama’s evangelical outreach was to try and make evangelicals comfortable with progressive Democratic positions by demonstrating that such views can be rooted in faith, not attempting to make evangelicals comfortable with the party by abandoning those positions for the sake of appeasing a key part of the electorate.

Yet, by tapping Warren for this high-profile role in his inauguration, this is exactly what Obama is threatening to do.  After all, Warren has made it explicitly clear that, for all his work on poverty and HIV, it is the social issues like choice and marriage that are non-negotiable and define his worldview, proclaiming that it is “wishful thinking” on the part of Democrats if they think that evangelicals “are going to drop the other issues … they’re not leaving [their] pro-life” or anti-gay views behind them.

So why did Obama do this?  Because he could.  There are no consequences for offending LGBT Democrats.  We have no other place we can go.  Barack Obama had to have known that he would take some heat for the decision.  With this single move, he gets to a) show that he is “inclusive” and b) show that he will not be controlled by the gay lobby.

Once again, the gay and lesbian community is reminded that we should be grateful for being tolerated and that we should not expect any politicians, even the Democrats we support with money and votes, to take “risky” position on our behalf.  We have to accept that sexual prejudice is still legitimate in our culture and our elected officials should not be expected to do anything to fight it.

Obama, as it turns out, is just another typical Washington politician.  Surprised?  No.  Disappointed?  Yes.


  1. a bit surprised – but v. happy.  

    that said drew, this about sums it up for me:

    While I’m relieved that Obama is turning out to be more of a pragmatist than an ideologue, I’m not happy about his actions.

    one thing that has been running through my mind is imagining if bush had invited david duke to a white house event in the guise of inclusiveness.  wouldn’t people be upset?

    what particularly bothers me about this decision and the reaction in the blogosphere is the indifference to the feelings that this is insensitive at best and a great big shiny FU at worst.

    seriously – after the whole prop 8 (and other states) debacles and mcllurkin broohaha – now this – what is the message that the gay-rights community should take away?  

    i read a comment on this that i found both on-the border trollish and humorous at the same time:

    Makes perfect sense (1.50 / 2)

    When someone suggested that black people are genetically programmed to have lower IQs than other races, he became a pariah in his community.  (James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix)

    When someone suggested that women are not neurologically equipped to handle complex science and engineering problems compared to men, he got eased out of office.  (Lawrence Summers, ex-president of Harvard and now Obama’s economic adviser.)

    When someone proclaimed that homosexuality is a genetic defect, and gay marriage is equivalent to pedophilia and incest, he gets a prominent spot during Obama’s inauguration.


    anyway – rec;d.

  2. from the LGBT community. Especially after the Prop. 8 debacle in CA and the vote in FL. What bothers me is how virulent the attitude is towards Warren and, by extension, Obama.

    When Obama spoke at the 2004 convention he talked about one America. Not a red America or blue America, one America. He’s talked about bringing the country together and about inclusiveness. He has said everyone should have a seat at the table. Apparently, his supporters thought this meant only the people with whom they agree.

    The inauguration is not a victory dance. It is the inauguration of the POTUS. Rick Warren is an American and represents millions more. What better time to start bringing the country together then the inauguration?

    Inclusiveness, as espoused by Obama, means including everyone in the discussion. Even people you don’t agree with on some subjects.

    I was against having Warren give the invocation until I thought about it some more. Now I’m not so sure. This could be considered to be a magnanimous gesture by Obama. He’s reaching out to all parties. I’m sick and tired of living in a divided country. We will never move forward if we stay divided. The only way to come together is for all of us to work on our differences.

  3. From HuffPo:

    At his press conference on Thursday, Barack Obama for the first time addressed the flurry of protest that has erupted over the choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation.

    Stressing his own advocacy of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, the president-elect raised a relevant anecdote from his biography as a defense.

    “A couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren’s church to speak despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion,” he said. “Nevertheless I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialogue I think is part of what my campaign’s been all about, that we’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.”

    Almost sounds kinda Moosey… ;~)

    Lucy Brawley at Huffo elucidates better than I could have put it on that point:

    Barack Obama is smarter than we are. It’s an unfamiliar concept, after the last 8 years of non-leadership we’ve endured as a nation. He draws on historic precedents for contemporary political wisdom. Famously, his selection of cabinet members from the left and right ends of the political spectrum hearkens back to Abraham Lincoln’s “team of rivals.” But there may be another precedent at work here – that of Nelson Mandela and the Springboks, South Africa’s white supremacist rugby team. In his book, PLAYING THE ENEMY: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation, John Carlin describes how Mandela sparked controversy by sporting the Springbok jersey, despite the all-white team’s history of singing racist anthems at their games. Nelson Mandela’s efforts integrated the team and its fan base, and helped unite the nation. In fact, in numerous arenas, Mandela embraced figures hateful to black South Africans, in order forge longer-term consensus.


    For the record, let me state unequivocally that I believe homophobia is an abomination. I believe heart and soul that the LGBT population deserve the right to marry – and deserve all requisite spousal benefits – just as black people and women deserved the right to vote before they won it. And indeed, Obama’s choice to lead the taskforce for the Inaugural benediction, Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights leader, agrees with me.

    Pastor Rick Warren, however, emphatically does not. But he does agree with a majority of the American population. Barack Obama lies somewhere in the middle, supporting civil unions and spousal benefits, but not marriage, for the LGBT population. While I find Rick Warren’s homophobia abhorrent and his creationism impossible, I recognize that he helped Obama double the number of evangelical voters in certain states from what Kerry garnered in 2004 – key states, such as Indiana, Florida and Colorado that helped Obama win the election. Barack Obama and I disagree fundamentally on certain issues, but what he achieves so spectacularly, beyond any American figure in my lifetime, is the ability to help us transcend our differences by appealing to our common values.

    People will argue that they do not share any values with Pastor Rick Warren, who compares abortion to the Holocaust and calls for the assassination of Ahmadenijad. But if we can enfold his numerous followers into our political dialogue, let them get to know us of all stripes, perhaps we can begin to wear away some of the myths and misconceptions that disconnect us. If we continue to push away those who disagree with us, we will entrench ourselves deeper and deeper in the divisions that have gotten us nowhere. Obama’s campaign proved that reaching out to those with whom we differ achieves the advancement of the progressive agenda – incrementally, rather than all in one fell swoop.

    In his autobiography, LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, Nelson Mandela relates how he repeatedly experienced the wrath of his own supporters, during his nearly 30 years in prison, for extending olive branches to the Apartheid government. But only through the gesture of reaching out to the opposing force was he able to dismantle it. I hope that’s what President-elect Obama has in mind.

    I agree with Lucy: “Barack Obama is smarter than we are.”  I doubt we can convert anyone to our beliefs by telling them what a bunch of fucking ignorant assholes they are, but I’d be willing to bet we might do it by treating them better than they do us…

    It seems highly unlikely that Obama is “siding with homophobes” – that does not sound like a thoughtful strategy.  Methinks there are other plans afoot.

    (sorry for the bolding, but I just dumped a lot of text on you…)

  4. Obama, as it turns out, is just another typical Washington politician.  Surprised?  No.  Disappointed?  Yes.

    So, Obama is practicing the same old politics by inviting someone who disagrees with him on some issues? That’s not the politics I’ve been watching in this country for the last couple of decades. The anger over the Warren choice seems a lot more like Bush’s with us or against us attitude.

  5. creamer

      I think that you should reach out to people whenever you can. I am so tired of the divisivness. I feel for the GBLT community. As a christian I’m alway disappointed by Preachers who would have my faith be some exclusive club. I’m even more disappointed when other christians don’t stand and say they are wrong.

    That being said, I also believe that symbolicaly this has a right wing consevative preacher reaching to his left, and a liberal democrat reaching to his right. This may be the begining of a constructive dialouge.

    Also, at the end of the day, President Obama has the stage, not Mr. Warren.


    He will be giving the benediction at the end of the inauguration.  What do you take away from an event, the first prayer or the last prayer?

    I’m just saying, in true liberal fashion, we’re outraged over Warren but not giving any credit for Lowery.

  7. Warren’s words speak for themselves; and he alone is going to be judged on those words. And Warren’s words make him sound like an 8 year old on the subject of sexuality — hetero or homo. He sounds like a pre-pubescent child who learned about sex from comic books and his older cousins. Ultimately, this is going to blow up in the Christian Right’s face because of the intensity of the spotlight and the poverty of Warren as a speaker and thinker.

    That said, it was abysmally stupid for Obama to invite Warren to do this invocation. Is Obama tone-deaf on gays? That case can be made now with more assurance than before. Is he feeling the heat for it like never before? Gladly, yes. And the heat should continue to rise. I think Obama wanted Warren’s inclusion to be a “teaching moment” — I think now the teaching moment will include Obama.  

  8. creamer

    Just a thought…………….

    A serious thought, I’ve watched and listen and read some differing views on this subject. Truly I don’t think Obama was thinking about Prop 8 or the GLBT community when he picked Warren. I think he was trying to show inclusion. I’ve also come to believe it was a mistake.

    That would lead me to ask if an unintentional slight is the same as an intentional one?

    I don’t think the majority of Americans view his choice of Warren with any paticular concern what so ever.

    I also pray that this issue gets its day in court. Letting people vote on the rights of others is just dumb.

  9. HappyinVT

    I just wanted to say that I’m new here.  Signed up yesterday after Brit entended an invitation to a diarist over at DailyKos.

    I appreciate that there is actual constructive dialogue.  I’ve about given up at a site that has been my virtual home for several months because of the level of vitriol.

    None of us can say with certainty why Obama chose Warren.  I find Warren’s views on many issues offensive and sincerely wish Obama had chosen someone else.  Having said that, Obama has proven so much smarter than me, he said all along that he would engage people with whom he disagreed, and this gives him the opportunity to address people who would have otherwise not listened to him.

    Finally (sorry for the long comment), as another comment points out, Americans are tired of the divisiveness.  If Obama can get moderate Republicans, and Independents, on our side we will be better able to fix what is wrong with this country.  

  10. This is the message Obama is sending Rick Warren by extending this invitation to be a participant in the inauguration.

    This is why I think the comparison to “what if Obama had a racist or anti-semite up there on stage” misses the point.

    As has been mentioned, Nelson Mandela was a master of using white supremacists as stage props against white supremacy. His message: moderate or be marginalized — your way is dying out.

    Obama’s statement about being President for all Americans, not just those who support him or voted for him, is almost identical to Mandela’s.

    Warren has likened abortion to the Holocaust. Which means, I guess, that women and their doctors are Nazi death camp operators. Offensive? In the extreme. But also the position of the Catholic Church, which places abortion as an even higher sin than war. And won’t let women be priests. Warren and the Pope are closer on most issues than they are apart.

    So how do we square this? About 40-50 percent of Americans have positions on core moral and civil rights issues that are the opposite of what Obama espoused while running for office and has pledged to uphold while in office. This is much like the dilemma Mandela faced: a badly divided and split country festering in a stew of flung media poo.

    Someone asked above, “why are the gays being asked to take a punch in the gut for inclusiveness?” Well, from the view of a lot of folks on the Right, Warren is taking a punch in the gut for inclusiveness by showing up on stage with a bunch of gay-loving baby killers and their Muslim AntiChrist Presleydent. And remember, it is just a stage. And all on it are merely players.

    For all we know, Obama might be doing this just to get Warren to talk to Rev. Lowery. You never know where and when an Epiphany can take place.

    Christ, Warren might come out of the closet for all we know.

    Now wouldn’t that be an historic “inauguration”?

  11. alyssa chaos

    on this one because well it makes my head spin, lately politics in general have taken the wind out of me, but I do have to say that this choice by Obama is either genius or incredibly disrespectful, maybe just the latter.

    Sure its just a prayer, but how will history judge this?

    To me its definitely calculated, a move to ‘include’ the right, but at what cost? To me its like saying its okay, its perfectly acceptable to be homophobic and vote against gays. When in reality, its not acceptable, at least to me it isnt.

    I dont condone it. Sure Warren represents a large chunk of American voters, it still doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

    Of course this is just my 2 centavos as shaped by my millenial up bringing.

    Will this even matter in the large scheme of things? Will the symbology overshadow the lameness of the actual invocation [seems like it]? Will this actually work out for the better rather than backfire? [time will tell;]

  12. GMFORD

    Synergy is when desparate groups or individuals pool their strengths to work toward a common goal.  The opposite of synergy is antagonism.

    Let’s say I have neighbors on the right who are obnoxious racist assholes (IMO).  My neighbors on the left are a black family.  Lots of tension on my block, lots of antagonism, eh?

    One day 3-year-old child on our block falls down a well.  All of us respond to the plaintive cries of this child and working together, connecting lengths of rope provided by all three families we are able to reach and rescue the child.

    What will that do to the attitudes of all of us toward each other?

    One of Obama’s greatest strengths, shown by his success in community organization, the Illinois Senate (videotaped interrogations passed), the U.S. Senate (ethics reform passed) and his campaign, is the ability to create synergy.  It is this ability that will help us achieve our goals for the LGBT community and other progressive goals.

  13. creamer

     Wanted to throw this out, Huff Post reported on DEC 18:

    Some top retired military leaders and some Democrats in Congress are backing William White, chief operating officer of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, to be the next secretary of the Navy – a move that would put the first openly gay person at the top of one of the services.

    Also reporting today that C Kennedy supports gay marrige.

    Now I’m running for pizza.

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