Ask What You Can Do for Your Country

So, Super Tuesday is over, and nothing is any more settled for us GLBT Democratic voters than it was the Monday before. Talk to any of us poll-watchers, and we would have said that on Wednesday, February 6, everything would be over but the shoutin’. Conventional wisdom figured a clear Democratic nominee would be in place after Super Tuesday. Suffice it to say, nothing’s conventional about this campaign season, and wisdom only works as a tool of hindsight.

As far as GLBT issues are concerned, I know we can count on either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to do the right thing. With either of them in the White House, the eight years of homophobia that have become a trademark of the George W. Bush Presidency will end. Assuming that the Democrats maintain and expand their majorities in both the House and Senate, we’ll see either President Clinton or President Obama signing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Matthew Shepard Act, and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Those events will be the beginning of what could be a golden age for GLBT issues in America.

So, whom did I vote for in the primary? Well, I like the job Clinton has done as the junior senator from my home state, and I’d like her to continue her work. So, I voted for Obama. I agonized over it for quite a while, and didn’t make up my mind until Tuesday morning.

I like Clinton well enough, but it was Obama’s message that got to me. After enduring eight years of cynicism and lies, I want to believe in our country again. You have no idea how deep this desire is.

I’m one of those kids Caroline Kennedy wrote about in her New York Times op-ed piece endorsing Obama. My first real memory of the John F. Kennedy Presidency is the grainy black-and-white image on our family TV of the plane in Dallas that flew his body back to DC. I was 5. My mother stood at the ironing board, crying. But it is the hope JFK instilled in my parents, who handed it down to me, that has informed my politics and my activism. He embodied an America of promise. He reached out his hand to us so that we could take the hands of others, and make our nation a better place to live.

I want that back. I want to believe in America again.

Obama’s belief in change, his ability to bring people into the presidential process who usually stay home, and his understanding of the real challenges facing our country—these inspire me.

It may surprise some of you that behind this hard political exterior of mine is a political idealist defining my views. However, when it comes to practical politics, I think Obama was dead-on when he said during the last debate before Super Tuesday that all of Clinton’s voters would vote for him if he were the nominee, but not all of Obama’s supporters would vote for her. It’s all about electability—who actually can win against the Republicans in November.

With Romney out of the race, the potential of a McCain/Huckabee ticket scares the living daylights out of me. For some reason, McCain draws some independents and younger voters. But his real challenge is molding himself to be conservative enough for the conservatives.

That’s where Huckabee comes in. His good-ol’-boy, down-home, radical-Christian rhetoric speaks volumes to those “values voters” who want an antichoice, anti-gay-rights, pro-death-penalty, proguns administration. And his populist “we have to help the little people” speeches break down the barrier between an establishment US senator—McCain—and the working-poor and working-class white folks who are concerned about where their next meal is coming from.

Huckabee gives McCain his conservative credentials. Together, they could forge a coalition of voters that potentially could take them to the White House.

So, what are the Democrats to do?

I’m hoping that the candidates will put their personal ambitions aside, and think about what’s best for the country. McCain and Huckabee in the White House certainly wouldn’t be good for the nation.

I personally don’t want to ride on the Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton seesaw. Obama has the momentum, and Clinton’s running out of money. The idea of the two of them going at it for the next few months is nauseating. All that would do is hand the Republicans the Presidency. We need a united front of Democrats and Independents in order to win back the White House.

Clinton—stay in New York. We love you. But, to paraphrase JFK’s 1961 Inaugural Address, it’s time to ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

Libby Post, the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda, is a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached care of this publication, or at [email protected].

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