Obama_41

They came, they danced (some boogied down while others moon walked and at least one had two right feet), we clapped, and then it was over and they were off to hit the streets in search of some of that gay money.

I’m talking about last night’s LGBT Prez Forum that was televised from Los Angeles on MTVs LOGO channel.

So let’s get right to it.

The Audience

I spoke with my boy Keith Boykin during the forum.  We were trying to accurately count the number of Blacks in the hand picked studio audience.  We came up with about 10 or 11 out of maybe a hundred or so people.  We recognized most of them including Phill Wilson of the Black AIDS Institute, Vallerie Wagner, Noah’s Arc’s Doug Spearman, Darryl Stephens, and Patrick Polk.  I guess if you look at the number of Blacks in the country, the number in audience was accurately reflected.   

Side note: Was I the only one that noticed the cameraman’s love affair with the Blacks in the audience during Senator Barack Obama’s presentation?

The Panelists

Out of the three panelists, Joe Solmonese, Melissa Etheridge and Jonathan Capehart and forum moderator Margaret Carlson, Jonathan was by far the most polished and well-spoken up there in terms of presentation.  Jonathan—tens across the board!

The Issues

Marriage vs. Civil Unions

Separate but equal is alive and well in America, I know it and you know it and tonight only validated it.  If we were debating Jim Crow laws and during a forum similar to tonight’s wherein presidential candidates offered to Blacks that they should have equal rights to whites but that it had to be called something different and consisted of Blacks being able to use the same restroom as whites just not the same toilet, we’d never go for it.  So then tell me again why the supporters of marriage would back any candidate who could not just come right out and say I support marriage for gays and lesbians?

Of the six candidates, make that five, we’ll just take New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson out of the equation all together, only two of them said emphatically without a doubt that they would support marriage, not civil unions, for lesbian and gay couples, Congressmember Dennis Kucinich and former Senator Mike Gravel (and remember Gravel wasn’t even invited in the initial planning for forum).  Go figure.

Now tell me again why they’re not being fully supported by the leaders in the fight for marriage?  Because the two candidates that are considered to be the front-runners and who have a real shot at the Presidency can’t seem to grasp the concept of marriage for gays, that is unless you can call it something else but have no problem collecting check from gays in support of their campaign.  Now that’s just ludicrous.

Blacks and Homophobia

Of course this question was exclusive to the Black man, but could’ve and should’ve been given to all of the candidates in the broader context of addressing the issues of homophobia in minority communities which is clearly an issue and I suspect will become a bigger issue as we get closer to the election. 
I think it’s great that Obama has addressed this issue outside of gay forums and within the Black community specifically Black churches, but I am not sure how effective he can  really be in those forums when he himself can’t even support equal rights for gays under the umbrella of marriage. 

HIV/AIDS and Blacks

Was I the only wondering why Gravel was the only one asked that question and why he went from answering the question to talking about America’s war on drugs, and legalizing marijuana?  Legalizing marijuana isn’t going to bring the number of Black men with HIV and AIDS down nor is decriminalizing “hard drugs.”  And for the record, Black people aren’t the only ones smoking marijuana and using cocaine.

Gay Rights vs. Civil Rights

I agree with Obama that the issues that gays face are different from the discrimination that was faced by Blacks during Jim Crow and I’ll take it a step further and say that I  resent and am tired of  the constant comparison by white gays to the Black civil rights struggle especially when those same whites do nothing to further today’s Black civil rights struggle.  Obama scored a couple of points for calling out the obvious, don’t just ask the Black candidate about civil rights because he’s Blacks thinking he is going to be more sympathetic.

The Candidate’s Religious Beliefs

John Edwards isn’t there, in fact he’s no where near the road to getting there and you know what, neither are Senator Hillary Clinton and Obama. There isn’t much else to say about that.


So, Were We Represented?

Let me try to do what none of the leading candidates could seem to do and that’s give a straight answer.

No.

Sure, there were sprinklings of us in the audience and one of on the stage, but overall last night’s forum was very void of color and at the end of the day, did we really expect differently.

By and large this movement isn’t about us, we’re just along for the ride.  Try as hard they might, we are almost always the afterthought, if we get that.  So needless to say, I wasn’t very surprised at the lack of minority issues presented last night.

Will Gay Marriage Be Used A Wedge Issue in 08’

Yes, I believe it will.  During the course of a conversation today, this very question was asked and the point was brought up that since Katrina, Republicans have stopped trying to message to Blacks.  Look, don’t put anything past desperate people in desperate times.

Now whether or not it is successful is what remains to be seen.

My Final Analysis

Former Senator Mike Gravel said it best when he said that a good politician can tell you to go to hell and make you look forward to the trip.

The gay leadership is just as guilty as the politicians are when it comes to doing a political dance on critical issues and if I cared enough, I’d be leading the march to call them out on why they insist upon supporting people who don’t support the very issue that has become the crux of their movement, marriage.  But since I don’t, I won’t.  This election is coming down to a popularity vote, plain and simple and has ceased to be about the issues.  In essence, gays are going to have to settle, settle for one of the more popular candidates who do not, cannot, and will not ever fully support equality for gays and lesbians in the Presidency.

I saw a number of candidates last night who lacked the audacity and courage to step up and actually lead.

Sure, they all talked about their records and what they did in the past, but looking towards the future there doesn’t seem to be much hope for anything more than what we got last night which was a whole lot of talk.
As for me, I still haven’t made up my mind on who to support in the primary election.  There’s a lot more to consider than where a candidate stands on gay marriage.  Oh let’s see, there’s the war, immigration reform, health care, the economy, access to affordable housing, the criminal justice system and so much more.  At this point in my life, I am more invested and interested in how candidates are going to reduce America’s rate of homelessness and ensure that we all have access to a living wage salary.  Call me old-fashioned, but those seem to be the real universal issues that we should be fighting for.

The Report Card

Senator Barack Obama – C
Obama was the average candidate in last night’s forum.  He treaded lightly, didn’t make any waves and skated out of there without really being pressed on any of his views.

Senator John Edwards – D
Edwards earned himself a D for not being able to articulate his message.  He was all over the place on and was unable to clearly explain some of his past actions.

Congressmember Dennis Kucinich – A
Did you feel the love?  I did.  Kucinich gets an A for being forthright and honest and sparing us the spin cycle.

Former Senator Mike Gravel – A-
Another love child, Gravel  lost a couple of points for equating, whether intentionally or not, the war on drugs with Blacks and HIV/AIDS.  Other than that you gets no complaints from me.

Governor Bill Richardson – A
Richardson gets an a for being open and honest in all of replies whether we liked them or not.  He spared us all the spin cycle and allowed us to come to the conclusion quickly that he ain’t the one. 

Senator Hillary Clinton – C+
There are definitely advantages to being the only female, you usually end of the best dressed as was the case with Clinton.  In fact that earned her extra points, thus the +.  But coral red aside, Clinton was an average candidate who didn’t say or do anything to get set herself aside the her counterparts.  She was heavy on the double talk.

The Panelists and Moderator

Jonathan Capehart – A+

Tens across the board Jonathan

Melissa Etheridge – D
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Joe Solmonese – C
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Margaret Carlson – D-
A hot mess!