Sure, there have been accomplishments by this president in his first year, as with any president. But the disappointments are more deeply felt, particularly by gay people like me.
Rather than moving boldly forward with his party’s big majority in Congress, Obama set out from the beginning, on almost every issue, to bring Republicans aboard, seemingly at all costs. It was a fool’s errand since the Republican Party has long defined itself as the party of “no way.” From civil liberties and economic policy, to the war in Afghanistan and healthcare, Obama pandered to conservatives in his first year but has nothing to show for it except headaches for himself and his party.
Simply by virtue of being a Democrat, he has energized the right, which has allowed a fringe movement punctuated by paranoid, racist extremists to speak for it and often for the entire Republican Party. And yet, rather than use this to fire up his own base, Obama only alienated some of his core constituencies, pushing them away as he pursued people who in turn pushed him way.
Obama’s coldness toward gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people upon taking office could have predicted that he wouldn’t get tough on the banks or show any passion for a public option. Gays were the canaries in the coal mine back on Day One of this administration. That was the day when Rick Warren gave the invocation at the inauguration. It signaled how easily this president would insult and sideline a loyal constituency in return for the false promise of bringing in people who will never support him.
Since then he has stepped on his LGBT supporters time and again, including that heinous Defense of Marriage Act brief filed by the Justice Department last June. In addition to pointing to a flowery speech here or there, apologists will tell you about the hate crimes bill or other “pro-gay” actions. But they are no-brainers; Obama has yet to spend any capital on gays.
This has had LGBT leaders scrambling, often told they must wait until healthcare reform is done. But even if the bill passes, Obama may have so demoralized his base in trying to get just about anything through that gay rights and other social issues may be pushed off indefinitely if Democrats lose big in November. And that may adversely affect the rest of Obama’s presidency in addition to lots of people’s lives.
Michelangelo Signorile is an author, journalist and radio host. “The Michelangelo Signorile Show” airs weekdays from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. on Sirius XM’s OutQ.