Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Between a Rock and a Hard Place"

Around the blogosphere, I still hear lots of weeping and gnashing of teeth about President Obama's inaction on LGBT issues. Lots of people seem surprised, though I don't know why.

As I've said before on this Blog, President Obama is going to disappoint us. He is a politician, and he's already thinking about reelection. All Democratic officeholders are politicians. Again, where is the surprise here?

One of gay conservatives' favorite games of obfuscation is to conflate "Democrat" with "progressive" and vice versa. As if all Democrats were progressives, and all progressives Democrats. No one familiar with the American Left and Center is dumb enough to believe this. In fact, a good many progressives will have nothing to do with the Democratic Party, and all too many Democrats are anything but progressives -- as they themselves would be the first to tell you.

It is not President Obama's job to lead on LGBT issues. That's right; you heard me. That isn't his job, it's ours.

He will do whatever we make him do. Progressives elected him. We couldn't have done it without the centrists, or the moderates, or whatever they're calling themselves these days. But right-wing Republican "culture warriors" had virtually nothing to do with his election -- that is, besides disgusting the rest of the country into turning toward Obama and away from right-wing "culture wars."

President Obama knows that. He will not cave in to that crowd. Like most Democrats, he seems to be enamored by the notion that "the center" is where it's at. How will he know better if we don't show him?

Again, that's OUR job.

All too many Americans are stuck between the "rock" of timidity and the "hard place" of despair. Both of these are passive, helpless, whiny, cowardly positions. Neither is a place of strength, much less of the hope for which we voted.

The "conventional wisdom" says we must be careful not to upset "the center." But the "center" does not determine itself; its position is determined, almost entirely, by the movers and shakers on the Right and the Left. WE are the ones who will decide where the center is. The Right has so completely lost all credibility that we have the rare opportunity to determine this practically by ourselves.

We do need for there to be some sort of a "center," to keep us from sliding too far to the Left. If we scare the hell out of everybody and make nuisances of ourselves, we will empower the Right to make a resurgence. It is, in fact, the only hope they've got. But the "center" can function only as a brake; it can never, ever be an engine. We on the Left must be the engine.

To passively sit by and expect Obama to do everything for us will lead to nothing but more of the sort of whining we now hear. It will get us nowhere. Engines don't whine unless they're broken.

On the other hand, to give up and despair of ever accomplishing anything because Obama hasn't waved his magic wand and automatically transformed the country into exactly what we want it to be won't help either. This is a representative democracy. Obama's job is to follow OUR lead.

We need to dig ourselves out from between the "rock" and the "hard place." And we need to get busy. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to get the country moving -- once again -- in a progressive direction. If we fail at it, we'll have nobody to whine at about it but ourselves.



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