Saturday, October 20, 2007
Obama Should Repudiate and Cancel His Gay Bash Tour, and Cancel it Now
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama ripped a page straight from the Bush campaign playbook with his announced upcoming three date barnstorm tour through South Carolina with notorious gay basher, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. The Grammy winning black gospel singer’s last effort on the political scene was his song and shill for Bush’s reelection at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Obama has hitched his string to McClurkin’s high flying gay bash kite in part out of religious belief (he purports to be somewhat of an evangelical), in bigger part because he’s falling further and further behind Hillary Clinton with the black vote in South Carolina and everywhere else, and in the biggest part of all because he hopes that what worked for Bush’s reelection will work for him. Enter McClurkin. He’s black, he’s popular, and gospel plays big with blacks in South Carolina, especially black evangelicals, and many of them openly and even more of them quietly loathe gays.
Bush masterfully tapped that homophobic sentiment in 2000 in part with McClurkin and even more masterfully in 2004 again with McClurkin and the top gun mega black preachers in Ohio and Florida. He tapped it so masterfully that Bush‘s naked pander to gay bashing with the GOP spawned anti- gay marriage initiative in Ohio did much to win over a big chunk of black evangelical leaning voter to Bush.
In fact, the great untold story of the 2004 presidential elections was the black evangelical vote. Although black evangelicals still voted overwhelmingly for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, they gave Bush the cushion he needed to bag Ohio and win the White House. There were early warning signs that might happen. The same polls that showed black's prime concern was with bread and butter issues – and that Kerry was seen as the candidate who could deliver on those issues – also revealed that a sizeable number of blacks ranked abortion, gay marriage and school prayer as priority issues. Their concern for these issues didn't come anywhere close to that of white evangelicals, but it was still higher than that of the general voting public.
A Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies poll in 2004 found that blacks by a far larger margin than the overall population opposed gay marriage. That raised a few eyebrows among some political pundits, but there were much earlier signs of blacks' relentless hostility to gays and gay rights. A survey that measured black attitudes toward gays published in Jet magazine in 1994 found that a sizable number of blacks were suspicious and scornful of them. Many blacks also were put off by Kerry's perceived support of abortion. In polls, Kerry got 20 percent less support from black conservative evangelicals than Democratic presidential contender Al Gore received in 2000.
In Florida and Wisconsin, Republicans aggressively courted and wooed key black religious leaders. They dumped big bucks from Bush's Faith-Based Initiative program into church-run education and youth programs. Black church leaders not only endorsed Bush but in some cases they actively worked for his re-election, and encouraged members of their congregations to do the same.
This lesson isn’t lost on Obama. Desperate to snatch back some of the political ground with black voters that are slipping away from him and to Hillary; Bush’s black evangelical card seems like the perfect play. Obama wouldn’t dare go down the knock gay path, and risk drawing the inevitable heat for it, if he didn’t think as Bush that anti-gay sentiment is still wide and deep among many blacks.
And that’s what makes Obama’s ala Bush pander to anti-gay mania even more shameless and reprehensible. From the moment that he tossed his hat in the presidential ring, Obama has done everything he could to sell himself to voters, as the Man on the White Horse, a fresh new face on the scene, with new ideas, and the candidate that’s not afraid to boldly challenge Bush and the GOP on everything from the Iraq war to health care. He’s also sold himself as a healer and consensus builder. Legions have bought his pitch, and have shelled out millions to bankroll his campaign. But healing and consensus building does not mean sucking up to someone that publicly boasts that he's in "a war" against gays, and that the aim of his war is to "cure" them. That’s what McClurkin has said. Polls show that more Americans than ever say that they support civil rights for gays, and a torrent of gay themed TV shows present non-stereotypical depictions of gays. But this increased tolerance has not dissipated the hostility that far too many blacks, especially hard core Bible thumping blacks, feel toward gays.
Obama has spent months telling everyone that he's everything that Bush isn't. He can proof it by saying a resounding no to McClurkin and to gay bashing. He can repudiate and cancel the South Carolina “gospel” tour, and do it now.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press).