Thursday, January 10, 2008

Change? ... What Is Obama Talking About?

A couple of days ago I violated one of my hard-learned principles and got into a discussion about the presidential race with a friend who happens to be a big Obama fan as well as a huge Hillary hater. He was quite shocked when I told him I had no reason to trust Obama any more than I had reason to trust Hillary because, despite that fact that both of are trying to make me think otherwise, neither of them thinks I should receive equal treatment under the law.

Oh, says my friend, you really shouldn't be a one-issue voter.

So I asked, "What issue are you referring to? Is it the issue of property inheritance? Would it be the issue of unequal taxation? Maybe the issue that health insurance benefits are pre-tax deductions for some while they are taxed as income for others?" I could have gone on and on with well over 1000 of these issues, but he eventually got the point long before I even reached 10.

In the end, I'll vote for whoever gets the Democratic nomination. They all smell a whole lot better than that bizarre bunch in the Republican race that seems more like National Lampoon's Race for the Nomination than a real-life run for a presidential nomination.

However, I certainly won't be an enthusiastic supporter of any candidate who thinks I am not entitled to all the same benefits and protections given to others by virtue of their US citizenship.

Then this morning I ran across an interesting
Huffington Post article written by Barney Frank. Apparently I'm not the only one who doesn't quite trust Barack Obama.

Among other things, Barney Frank says the following:

This brings me to my particular concern with Senator Obama's vehement disassociation of himself and those he seeks to represent from "the fights of the nineties." I am very proud of many of the fights I engaged in in the nineties, as well as the eighties and before. Senator Obama also bemoans the "same bitter partisanship" of that period and appears to me to be again somewhat critical of those of us who he believes to have been engaged in it.

I agree that it would have been better not to have had to fight over some of the issues that occupied us in the nineties. But there would have been only one way to avoid them -- and that would have been to give up. More importantly, the only way I can think of to avoid "refighting the same fights we had in the 1990's", to quote Senator Obama, is to let our opponents win these fights without a struggle.

It would have been nice in the nineties not to have had to fight to defend a woman's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, and I would be very happy if that fight ended tomorrow. I was troubled when Newt Gingrich and his right wing band took over Congress after the election of 1994 and sought to put an end to programs to deal with continuing racial discrimination and the resulting inequality, and I am even more distressed that we have to continue to fight that battle against a Republican party largely opposed to all of these efforts -- consider the Bush Justice Department and its role in dealing with people's right to vote. As a gay man, additionally, I would have been delighted in the nineties if our conservative opponents had been willing to recognize our rights to be treated fairly under the law, and I would have saved a lot of time, as recently as this past year, if there was not continued strong right wing opposition to the "radical" position that people should not be denied jobs because of their fundamental nature, or that hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be treated less seriously than those based on racial or religious prejudice. These are three of the major fights in which I was engaged in the nineties, and I literally do not understand what Senator Obama means when he says that he does not want to keep fighting them. I know that he understands that those who were opposed to all three of those causes in which many of us deeply believe in the nineties continue their opposition, and I do not understand how we can avoid fighting those battles other than by conceding them, which I know he does not advocate.

In some cases, Senator Obama does not seem to remember what some of the fights of the nineties were. I agree that it would be a good thing to have the 2008 election be in part "about whether to...pass universal health care" but that in fact is one of the central fights we had in the nineties. The effort of many of us to pass a universal health care plan is precisely one of the battles of the nineties, and it seems to me one that we very much want to keep fighting. Again, the only alternative to fighting it is losing it by concession.

I don't always see eye to eye with Barney Frank, but this time I find myself wondering the same things about what exactly Barack Obama is talking about.