Arts & Entertainment

Anything But Straight: What if We Win?

It is easy to get depressed when analyzing the elections. With serious economic and international crises facing our nation, we have voters like Gordon Maddox who may vote against Barrack Obama because he wrongly fears that his wife Michelle isn’t sufficiently proud of America.

“Those things, for people who are patriotic and love their country, that turns them off,” he told USA Today.

These are what I call “Pompom Patriots” – people who think that our complicated problems will be solved by their loud cheerleading. “Go America!” Yeah, that ought to extricate us from Iraq and bail out the financial markets.

In my view, the most patriotic Americans are those – like some gay activists or public interest grassroots organizers – who work to make this nation better than it was the day before. Boldly proclaiming that “we’re Number 1” – in instances when we are actually falling behind other countries – only compounds our problems. Such attitudes breed complacency and a false sense of security which leads to stagnation. American exceptionalism should only occur in areas where we are truly exceptional.

If the past two elections are any indication, America is a divided nation and this presidential contest will be unnervingly close. When it comes to polling, race still matters and you can shave 3-6 points off Obama’s numbers. However, Obama is such a charismatic figure, that he may bring in enough new voters – young people, African Americans, and Independents – to overcome the race factor.

The one major advantage Obama has over John McCain is the question of, “who America trusts with change.” The collapse on Wall Street and continued economic woes favor Obama – because people can vividly see that conservative government has not worked out so well. Given the current mood of the nation, if Obama outperforms McCain in the debates, he will likely be the next president.

Since the rise of modern Reagan/Falwell conservatism in 1980, which led to the Gingrich revolution, and crested with the nightmare of George W. Bush, the GLBT movement has grown used to bitter disappointments. Still, we have somehow made substantial social progress during this macabre political winter. This success makes landmark advancement palpable if the political stars finally align.

It is time to take a deep breath and imagine our lives in merely two months if we achieve a grand slam at the ballot box. Picture a trifecta in beating back three anti-gay marriage initiatives in California, Florida and Arizona. Envision Obama arriving in Washington in his motorcade, flanked by an expanded Democratic majority.

Within two years, it is conceivable that it will no longer be legal to fire someone for being gay. Sexual orientation will be included in federal hate crime laws. With marriage legal in trendsetting California, other states won’t be far behind. Within a few years, a soldier’s sexuality will not bar him or her from service. In short, we will have won the brutal culture war of the 1990s.

The question for gay rights advocates is where does the movement go after its main goals have been accomplished?

Marriage: Three marriage victories in this election cycle would decapitate the anti-gay marriage movement. It would show that they were on the wrong side of both history and public opinion. This would shift the fight to all 50 states – where a patchwork of civil union and marriage laws will take form over the next twenty years. It is likely that entire regions of the U.S. will grant equal marriage rights, while others lag behind for decades – with the Supreme Court eventually ruling on the issue.

Religion Battles: An intensification of the fratricidal warfare within mainstream denominations will occur. We got a glimpse of this ugliness in the fight over Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. If most of the original goals of the movement are accomplished in America, it will free up the resources and time to wage a worldwide campaign for equality within churches.

International: The Internet allows us to see flagrant abuses of GLBT people across the globe. Gay activists at home will increasingly turn their attention abroad and launch campaigns against anti-gay countries. I predict a boycott against Jamaica, which could be successfully launched against cruise ship companies in Florida.

Transgender: Once equality has been largely achieved for gay and lesbian people, much energy will turn towards the inclusion of transgender Americans. Lobbyists, who now walk Capitol Hill on behalf of gay people, will turn much of their focus to educating legislators about trans issues.

Social Campaigns: You can change the laws of the land, but there will still be much work to do on changing attitudes. As less money is devoted to influencing legislation, more will be spent to create tolerant environments in schools and communities.

The alternative, of course, is three marriage defeats and a Palin/McCain victory. In that case, your best bet is to rent a U-Haul and move to Canada.