Thursday, May 17, 2012

Obama gets the old kid-glove treatment

Wonder as you might, reader, at the Workers World newspaper editorial entitled "The president and same-sex marriage," the line being enunciated is both calculating and triangulated. 

Instead of denouncing President Obama's toothless and cynical witnessing for same-sex marriage, while not lifting a finger to do anything to ensure that right, or any other, for US workers, WW presents the president's statement not as cowardice or double-dealing, but as a "reflection" of the strength of the LGBT movement and the changing consciousness of US workers about the issue.  We have come to a pretty pass when bourgeois politicians can be let off the hook so easily by Marxist-Leninists.

The editorial intones, "The fact that Obama made this statement in an election year — in which he is obviously concerned with receiving as many votes as possible — speaks as a testament to the changing consciousness in U.S. society around LGBTQ rights and ending anti-LGBTQ bigotry."  Is WW suggesting President Obama may lose votes by this stance?  Or suggesting that he will reap greater electoral rewards?

One of the most shocking things about the editorial is its lack of perspective on Obama's general modus operandi.  He has accumulated support from many a partisan of left-liberal causes by indicating his support, all the while ACTING against those causes in his exercise of executive power. 

Workers World editorials and news articles rarely mention the current presidential election, and Workers World Party has not announced whether it will run or endorse a ticket this year.  Were they to take a look at the current stage of bourgeois electoralism, it would be hard to miss the financial windfall Obama's campaign will reap on the heels of the same-sex marriage announcement.  Never has so much been raised from so many by a statement so small, and small-minded.

The editorial does correctly point out that marriage equality will require a national movement, and will only be finally secure when enshrined, like voting rights legislation, in federal law.  Obama, the editorial does not mention, wants no part of this.  And to deflect any demands that he actually DO something, as opposed to SAYING something, is the purpose of his May 9 announcement.

What is the line of WW in all this, if we may infer it from reasonable deductions based on experience and the editorial?  To not offend Black supporters of President Obama who are active in coalitions and protest activities where Workers World cadre focus their time and energy.  Hence the kid-glove treatment on same-sex marriage.  Hence headlines protesting

"1%'s NATO: Out of Chicago" as more expedient and diplomatic than "Obama's NATO out of Chicago."

Parenthetically, WW seems to be having a hard time saying that Obama is, de facto, the master of NATO. In a substantial May 14 article by Sara Flounders titled "Chicago NATO Summit, Marxism and state violence," Obama is only mentioned once:

NATO conducts undeclared wars on Pakistan, Yemen and Syria, while threatening war on Iran and encircling Russia and China with a new generation of missiles. Both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations have politically defended the deployment of targeted assassinations, secret renditions, kidnappings and torture.

Is it not less of a lie to say that Bush and Obama as US Presidents are the final arbiters of any NATO action?  They do not defend a NATO that makes its own decisions and acts unilaterally: they act unilaterally and use the NATO coalition as one platform to carry out the imperial designs of Wall Street.

The editorial "The president and same-sex marriage" panders to more than just the Black activists who collaborate with Workers World.  It also panders to those the party seeks to attract in general by soft-pedalling socialism and the historically vanguard role of the proletariat.  What do socialists have to say about same-sex marriage? We don't know, because this editorial, with its quotes from Obama and Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina [whom WW does not identify as a Democrat, or as the 110th Congress' Majority Whip], offers no revolutionary socialist perspective on LGBT liberation.  The most that can be said is that it offers a social democratic perspective.

And that is not enough.

Jay Rothermel


EDITORIAL The president and same-sex marriage

Published May 16, 2012

President Barack Obama's recent statement in support of same-sex marriages reflects the hard work of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer organizations, activists and allies to demand the right of equality for LGBTQ people. The fact that Obama made this statement in an election year — in which he is obviously concerned with receiving as many votes as possible — speaks as a testament to the changing consciousness in U.S. society around LGBTQ rights and ending anti-LGBTQ bigotry. That consciousness has only come through decades of struggle by LGBTQ people and allies.

It is also significant that the first president to come out in support of same-sex marriage is also the country's first African-American president. Capitalism always attempts to divide workers and tell them that they do not share the same interests. In this instance, the Black community is consistently baited in the corporate media as being anti-LGBTQ — despite the fact that many people in the LGBTQ community are African American, and that many of their family members and friends are also African American. The media even go so far as to demonize African countries as being anti-LGBTQ — as if the U.S. has some moral high ground from which to speak in terms of LGBTQ rights.

Workers World reporter Frank Neisser wrote in 2004: "The right to marry is a basic question of equality. There are more than 1,000 benefits on the state and federal level associated with marriage that are currently denied to same-sex partners, including numerous tax, insurance, hospital visitation and bereavement rights. Civil unions only provide a small number of these and … create an inferior second-class status." (Feb. 19, 2004) Even in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized, federal benefits of marriage are still denied to married same-sex couples.

However, while it is notable that Obama took this bold step in openly supporting same-sex marriage, his statement made clear that he and Washington would not be doing much to secure that right for LGBTQ people. After stating that it was his personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, Obama quickly added, "And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level, because historically this has not been a federal issue." (ABC News, May 9)

Obama made his remarks, in an interview with ABC news reporter Robin Roberts, just one day after North Carolina passed a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
African-American Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina called Obama's upholding of states' rights a mistake: "If we consider this to be a civil right, and I do, I don't think civil rights ought to be left up to a state-by-state approach. I think we should have a national policy on this." (­MSNBC, May 14)

It was a national approach that overturned the laws against marriage between whites and people of color in 1967. In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional, laying the basis for the nullification of all race-based marriage legislation in the U.S. Like Obama's statement, the Supreme Court's 1967 ruling was a manifestation of years of struggle by grassroots activists and communities.

As always, it will be the continued struggles of LGBTQ people and their allies that will win their true and full liberation.

Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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