Monday, January 14, 2019

Or She Can Change Her Initials from TG to BHO

US Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has announced that she will run for the Democratic nomination for President. Gabbard has her detractors for several reasons, including her opposition to regime change in Syria and partiality to Indian strongman Narenda Modi, a fellow Hindi. However, that is not the issue(s) likely to derail her campaign. Rather

In one instance in February 2004, Gabbard, at the time a 22-year-old state representative, was testifying against a bill aimed at legalizing same-sex civil unions.

“To try to act as if there is a difference between ‘civil unions’ and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii,” she said. “As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”

Six months later, Gabbard spoke more candidly while replying to an email originally sent to her father, Mike Gabbard, who was a Republican city councilman in Honolulu running for Congress.

“I smell a skunk,” Gabbard told Honolulu Magazine. She was responding to an email that was originally addressed to her father asking about his ties to the leader of a Hare Krishna movement in Hawaii, according to the magazine.

“It’s clear to me that you’re acting as a conduit for The Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case [Mike Gabbard’s opponent],” she wrote.

It appears that Gabbard's views on gay rights shifted radically approximately a decade ago. CNN explains that in her successful run for the US House in 2012, she stated "I want to apologize for statements that I have made in the past that have been very divisive and even disrespectful to those within the LGBT community." Since being elected, she "has supported efforts to promote LGBT equality, including co-sponsoring pro-LGBT legislation like The Equality Act, a bill to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT individuals."

Nonetheless, she has been attacked on Twitter for those earlier views. Media Matters Editor-at-large Parker Molloy: "So, she’ll co-sponsor bills supporting LGBTQ rights, but still personally thinks we’re icky."  Former Vermont governor Howard Dean: "I was on the other side of this argument wearing a bulletproof vest while she was" condemning homosexuals."  Investigative reporter Andrew Kaczynski: "I realized Tulsi Gabbard was anti-gay but didn't quite realize how anti-gay she was in the 2000s."

Gabbard, despite acknowledgment of error, may not be able to survive this onslaught and what is likely to come.

But someone else survived and even prospered from his opposition- which continued until it was untenable in 2012- to same-sex marriage.  After Senator Obama opposed gay marriage in his (successful) 2008 presidential candidacy, wrote Washington Post reporter Hunter Schwarz in 2015

Obama publicly opposed same-sex marriage for years after that, in fact, until an interview with ABC News in 2012, which also just so happened to be the first year the support for gay marriage crested opposition, data from Pew shows, and the year Obama was campaigning for reelection.

Obama's support also followed closely support endorsement of same-sex marriage by his running mate, Vice President Biden, and thereby preempted a rift in the campaign. Schwarz added

In 1996, as an Illinois state Senate candidate, Obama indicated on a questionnaire that he supported same-sex marriage. In 2011, however, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said the questionnaire was filled out by someone else and that Obama "has never favored same-sex marriage." Obama also frequently said attitudes on the issue, including his, were "evolving" -- something many took as code for what was to come.

"My Forty Years in Politics" by former campaign chairperson (and still Obama fan) David Axelrod was published at the time of Schwarz's article and

Indeed, as Axelrod writes, Obama told him at the time that he was "just not very good at bull*****ing." And he wasn't. Plenty of people believed at the time that he was actually pretty clearly in favor of gay marriage and just didn't feel comfortable saying it. Yet the White House apparently decided to keep up the charade for years afterward.

Except that Obama was truly adept at bull*****ing because it allowed him to cement his base in Chicago, especially in the black church. Axelrod noted

Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union.'

It worked like a charm. To his ecclesiastical base,  Obama publicly opposed same-sex marriage, substituting a nod and a wink to his supporters on the left. He added that he was "evolving," simultaneously signaling that he agreed with the left and taking a subtle dig at the creationists who dominate the Christian right. Additionally (and unlike Gabbard) he wisely still has not acknowledged error in opposing "marriage equality" nor apologized for pretending otherwise.

Jamelle Bouie recently argued "black candidates may have the strategic advantage in the Democratic primary.... because they won’t have to demonstrate the same social solidarity. Like Obama, they can stay somewhat silent on race, embodying the opposition to the president’s racism rather than vocalizing it."

Black candidates may have a strategic advantage on gay rights for the same reason, with liberal/progressive voters assuming they are on the correct side of the issue. That may, however, not prove to be the case. Rather, it may have only been the bi-racial, former community activist Barack Obama who, despite his protestation, always has been a very, very good bull*****er.

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