How gay activists may save the Obama re-elect

Time for a huge, “told ya so.” Not to all of you, but rather to the administration and its defenders who claimed that: A) gay donors didn’t matter; and B) The President’s action or inaction on his gay promises would not affect gay donations.


A truly fascinating piece by Ben Smith today. Read it in its entirety. Ben is a smart observer of politics generally, and of gay politics. This story has a lot of interesting wrinkles to it. Here’s a quote, then some analysis.

President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign is banking on gay donors to make up the cash it’s losing from other groups of wealthy supporters who have been alienated and disappointed by elements of Obama’s first term.

Pleased by an all-out White House push to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” gay donors have surprised campaign officials with the extent of their support. And the campaign’s new fundraising apparatus appears designed to capitalize on their enthusiasm: Obama’s finance committee included one gay man in 2008; there are 15 this year, a source said.

The spur for the gay community becoming an anchor for Obama’s reelection fundraising is a series of policy shifts in 2010. After a year of rocky relations and suspicion from Obama’s gay supporters that he wasn’t really committed to their issues, the last year saw a surge in activity.

Lots to digest here.

1. As I understand it, Democratic fundraising operatives have been downright surprised by the amount of gay money coming in this year as compared to last year, and they’re not simply writing it off as the results of an improving economy (not to mention, the economy hasn’t improved that much).  They think it’s because of Obama finally acting on DADT, and to a lesser degree, DOMA.

2. That means that gay money DID drop off last year, as we had been predicting it would, as a result of the administration dragging its feet on our issues, and doing a lot of just awful stuff like defending DOMA, and then doing it in the most homophobic way possible.  Points 1 and 2 prove the link between giving and promises kept (or unkept) that we’ve been alleging all along.

3. It’s interesting to note that other key constituencies’ donations have apparently dropped off and aren’t yet coming back.  That means gay money is all the more important to the party in 2012.  Again, contradicting those who tried to say our money, and our “small” community, didn’t really matter.

4. The White House’s plan was to tackle DADT in 2011. We all know that that would have been impossible with the GOP congress, and many of us had been warning about the possibility of a GOP takeover a good year-plus ago. But still, the administration put DADT repeal on the slow-burner, even going so far as to slate DOD’s DADT study for completion on or after December 1, 2010.  Imagine the fundraising problem the President would have had had we kept to his timetable rather than ours.

5. The President didn’t keep to his timetable because a lot of us beat him up, early and often.  And oh did we catch hell for it.  Had the President kept to his plan, and not tried to repeal DADT until 2011, he’d have failed.  In other words, but-for Dan Choi handcuffing himself to the White House fence, but-for GetEqual interrupting a series of Obama appearances at key Democratic fundraisers, and but-for the gay Netroots driving the news cycle, and the community’s increasing ire and angst, I believe the President would have never acted in time on DADT repeal, nor would we have seen the meager action we’ve gotten on DOMA or UAFA.

So the President owes us a debt of gratitude for saving his re-elect.

Now, does that mean the gay vote and gay money are in the President’s pocket for 2012?  Not entirely, though he’s clearly turned thing around from where they were only six months ago.  At some point people are going to realize that of the President’s top three promises to the community – repealing DADT, repealing DOMA, and passing ENDA – none of the three have yet been kept.

We’re still waiting for DADT to be gone, and if that happens by the end of this year, in full, I think you’ll see even more support for the President in gay circles.

On DOMA, while it’s good that the administration is no longer defending it in court, they waited too long.  We asked them to stop two years ago.  Had they done it then, the Democratic House would never have hired a powerhouse GOP outside counsel to defend the case, and we’ve had had nearly two years of no defense of DOMA in the courts.  Now, because the administration waited, and pretty much misled everyone by claiming they had no choice but to defend the case, we’re stuck with an even more vigorous defense of DOMA than the administration itself was willing to offer.

And finally, on ENDA, nothing.

The President has turned things around with the gay community, if only because things were so bad in the first place, anything was an improvement.  But he hasn’t yet turned things around quite enough.  We still have a year and a half to go to the election, and there’s a lot the President can do by executive order on DADT (a non-discrimination policy for the military), on ENDA (a don’t-discriminate policy for anyone working with the government (grant recipients and vendors), and on UAFA and other issues, such as the administration’s new-found zeal to enforce DOMA even in cases having nothing to do with marriage (this is being called Super-DOMA by advocates).

We’d be foolish to take two months of action on our behalf as sufficient action for a four year term.  There is more the President can do to support our community, and there’s certainly more our community can do to support the President’s re-elect in 2012.  When we see the former, we’ll happily provide the latter.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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