Sunday, November 04, 2012

This time, it’s personal

In 2008, most of the Americans—and all the non-Americans—I knew supported Barack Obama. In fact, if anyone I knew supported the Republicans, they didn’t tell me. That year, there was a palpable feeling of being part of something historic. This year it’s different, but in some ways it’s even more passionate. I finally understand why: This time, it’s personal.

In 2008, we had a Republican candidate who was a conservative but not rigidly doctrinaire, someone who had actually sometimes worked with Democrats. He was undone primarily when he lurched to the right and picked as his running mate a dim, unqualified extremist. The Republicans made the choice for voters very easy.

This year, we have a Republican ticket and party that is far more extremist than the one in 2008. Because of their extremism, that duo would set back the US by at least 50 years. Republicans would continue their wars on women, gay people and freedom, and advance the interests of far right religious extremists and the corporate elites—the only two things, it seems, they actually care about—as they screw over mainstream Americans.

As a member of one of the many minority groups that the Republican Party despises, I can see the clear and present danger that the Republicans pose to me, my freedom, and to the lives of all LGBT people in America. It’s simply not possible to support the Republicans without then being complicit in the damage they would do to us all.

So, let me be clear: People who vote Republican are voting against me. It’s really that simple. I’ve heard dozens of LGBT people say similar things—because it’s so true, and so important to say.

Voting for Republicans means voting to keep LGBT Americans as—at the very best—second-class citizens, although many Republicans think that’s too good for LGBT people and have pledged to make life very much worse for us. Many of the people helping the Republican candidate for president are exactly that sort of extremist, and they expect their agenda to be enacted.

Voting Republican means that LGBT Americans like me, in a bi-national relationship, will have to continue to choose between love and their country. It means that people like me will live without any legal recognition of their relationship, nor any protection of law.

The Republican candidates and their party platform are the most extreme I have ever seen, and I’ve been watching presidential campaigns intently since 1972. Republicans call for reinstating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” so that GLBT patriots can’t serve openly in the US military. They want to enforce the “Defense [sic] of Marriage Act” until they can push a Constitutional Amendment to forever ban marriage equality in all 50 states. They want to ban all abortion, everywhere.

Some people say that Republicans can’t really do any of those things, but those people are dead wrong: Executive Orders and bills passed by Congress can achieve many of those things indirectly, and the fact that they would be able to appoint one or more far right radicals to the US Supreme Court guarantees that they would eventually achieve their goals, one way or another.

President Obama and the Democratic Party, on the other hand, support marriage equality, they’re NOT defending DOMA, they’re the ones who successfully repealed DADT. President Obama has used Executive Orders to make things better for LGBT Americans to the extent he’s been able. It’s not just a good start, it’s farther than the US has ever progressed—and now it’s all in danger.

This is without even getting into the Republicans’ war on women, something I’ve talked about in previous posts. But if the Republicans win, things will get dramatically worse for women, too.

I know the economy hasn’t recovered yet and that people are often afraid for their own future. The fact that the Republican ticket would actually make things far worse is beside the point: It’s not the most important issue for LGBT voters, their friends and family.

So, while I think that President Obama is the obvious choice no matter the issue, it’s what it means for me personally that matters the most to me. People who say they love me or another gay American but who then vote for the Republicans must understand this: You simply cannot claim to love someone, and then knowingly vote for candidates who have pledged to make life very much worse for people like me. You cannot claim to love someone, then knowingly vote for a party that considers people like me to be an actual enemy, to be contained, marginalised, persecuted.

Obviously, I don’t get how any rational American can vote Republican; that party’s only natural constituency is among the extremely rich and extreme religious bigots. But most years I would simply shake my head, be disappointed when someone I know votes Republican, and move on. Not this year, not this election.

In 2010, a radical brand of Republicans took control of the US House of Representatives. They pledged their agenda would be “jobs, jobs, jobs”, but they spent most of their time trying to outlaw abortion, make life worse for LGBT people and for women, and to screw mainstream Americans to help the rich. They demonstrated they won’t compromise at all on their radical agenda. With some of their own in the White House, they’d be poised to enact that radical extremist agenda. THAT is why this matters so much more this year.

Many LGBT people have said that if the Republicans win the White House, they don’t know that they can forgive anyone in their lives who helped make that possible. I know exactly what they mean, and I don’t think they should be expected to forgive—or forget.

So, if you cannot bring yourself to vote for President Obama and the Democrats—and clearly I think you should—then at least be aware that if you vote for the Republican team you’re also voting against LGBT Americans you know and love. You need to ask yourself if whatever issues you’re focusing on are really more important than having us in your life.

This year, it’s very personal.


Unknown said...

Beautifully stated Arthur. And one of the many, many, many reasons I am voting for Obama is because of his efforts in the gay community. It makes me crazy that you could be denied basic rights that are taken for granted by "straight" couples. Your love and commitment to your partner is no different then the one shared by my husband and myself. And you are right, anyone who would vote republican is voting against you, shame on them. Love is love and we can never have to much of it. What you wrote made me feel emotional so I can only imagine how you feel. Know that I stand with you and I will on Tuesday!!

d said...

Another gay friend of mine (in the US) posted a similar sentiment on his FB page yesterday, and immediately received a response from one of his "friends" saying she was voting for Romney because she wants to see an end to abortion. (As a "Catholic".) I've been fighting with her ever since. It all makes me so very angry - I seriously might have a stroke before this election is even decided!!

Drew said...

It IS personal.
DAMN personal.
And it's not just personal to those who are IN the targeted minorities, but it's personal to those of us who love people in them.

If you vote Republican this year, you validate the hatred and bigotry that is included within the philosophy of exclusion that they practice.

Even if you believe they are the better economic model (they ain't), the economic benefits of their approach DO NOT outweigh the social and human rights benefits. Only greed, simple petty greed, can make a man choose personal profit over the well being and fair treatment of another man.

Arthur, I have the luxury of returning to the US and having my partner recognised, my family legal. That the Repubs now running nearly all would deny you YOUR right is offensive. Immoral. And I sure as shit hope they don't win.

Drew said...

Crap, lousy editing:
...DO NOT outweigh the social and human rights benefits.

Should end with
"of the policies of social progressiveness promoted by the opposition."

Roger Owen Green said...

Well, OK, if you insist, I won't vote for Romney. But he had such a good record on gay rights...in 2004...

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I chose not to comment on this post before the election mostly because I felt I'd said everything I wanted to in the post. But I sincerely thank you for your responses!