Monday, December 17, 2007

Sen. Hillary Clinton, a New Gay Icon?

She's got fabulous hair and (sometimes) fabulous outfits, but there may be more to why lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are lining up with Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, according to a recent survey conducted at Hunter College in New York.

The survey shows that 63% of LGB voters (this survey, funded by the Human Rights Campaign, did not include transgender individuals) support Sen. Clinton, while 22% back Sen. Barack Obama, and 7% support John Edwards. LGB voters also have higher rates of political interest and awareness than the general population and place "gay rights" high on their list of priorities, the survey results indicate.

Only about 4 in 10 LGB voters see John Edwards as "gay friendly" (only slightly better than Rudy Giuliani), while 7 in 10 view Sen. Clinton as such. This may very well have to do with Edwards' cultivation of a Christian evangelical image (appearing recently on Pat Robertson's 700 Club, yuck!) that obscures his record of supporting most current issues of import to the LGBT community, such as expanded funding for health care needs, support for domestic partnerships and civil unions and the like.

Overall, to expose the Democratic Party's "gay agenda," 9 in 10 LGB voters say they will vote in the Democratic primaries.

In sum, though, candidate analysis conducted by the Human Rights Campaign as well as public statements on key issues show that all of the Democratic candidates share similar positions on gay rights. Two candidates stand out: Rep. Dennis Kucinich is alone in supporting full marriage equality. Gov. Bill Richardson has been caught making offensive statements about LGBT people, but contradictorily has a policy and legislative record of supporting equality.

Because all of the Democratic candidates share strong pro-equality values, why do LGB voters support Sen. Clinton in such numbers? I suspect that her husband's record of being the only president in US history to be open to talking about the LGBT community and its needs puts Sen. Clinton by association into a class of her own.

Sen. Clinton has also refused to shy away from speaking for equality (up to full marriage equality), despite the nastiest and most hateful invectives from the ultra right.

To be sure, a concerted effort by Sen. Obama and Mr. Edwards (and the others) to reach out to the LGBT community and to specify the kinds of policy changes they would take the lead on could significantly alter these numbers.

After all, as the survey's analysis of the political awareness and activism of LGB voters indicates, Sen. Clinton won't just get by with great hair and outfits. She's got guts, and soon the other candidates are going to have to show they've got guts too or sit down.


normandmarkowitz said...

I think that progessive gay people should remember that Bill Clinton's policies toward Gay rights were in reality more posturing for votes and funds than really substantive. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for Gays in the Military made the closet in effect national policy. Also, more gay people were discharged from the military after the policy was enacted as the military leadership scapegoated them to show their opposition to Clinton's very tepid policy.

I would say that for gay people, in a society where Homophobia, although challenged as it has been since the 1970s, is still considered "normal" in the society as a whole, is to have the Civil Rights legislation of the 1970s rewritten to include Gays at the very least(there have not been any major Civil Rights Bills passed in the this country since 1968) or, and this would be much more advanced, the Equal Rights Amendment rewritten to include sexual preference and finally enacted(the amendment, developed by women's rights activists first in the 1920s, would strengthen the rights of all people by making equal rights a constitutional amendment).
This is more important it seems to me than Hillary Clinton supporting Gay marriage.
Also, progressive Gay people should look at Hillary Clinton's overall record as the most "conservative" of the major Democratic nominees(even if the distinction isn't that great between her and the others) before
supporting her. Her policy of wheeling and dealing with establishment power brokers and selling out mass constituents, which has characterized her husband's career and hers, would continue into her presidency, and would probably mean that she would do little for Gay rights, excepts verbally and, perhaps, through some token appointments.

Joel said...

One of the points of the survey determined that LGB have higher rates of political activism and awareness than the general population. And while gay rights issues obviously ranked high among LGB voters, they were not the sole issues that motivate LGB voters.

These facts suggest to me that more than the general population, LGB voters are aware of Sen. Clinton's record and have determined that she is the best candidate in the field for both their interests and the general public's.

My point is that other candidates who are supposed to have better politics need to reach out to LGBT voters better and not try to posture as evangelicals.