« Bush's Legacy in One Word: Incompetent | Main | Blago: I'm Not a Crook! »

A Warning on Warring over Warren

President-elect Barack Obama ruffled feathers within the gay/lesbian community and within the larger Left community when he announced that Reverend Rick Warren would deliver the invocation at Obama's swearing-in ceremony. "Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans," the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. "[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination." Reverend Warren is the popular senior pastor at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Warren hosted a dual interview, dubbed the Civil Forum on The Presidency, with Obama and Senator John McCain in August that focused on the candidates' values as the presidential campaign picked up steam. Warren also campaigned for California's Proposition 8, a ballot initiative designed to overturn California's Supreme Court ruling that gay marriages are constitutional, hence much of the outrage.

Politico.com reported that gay rights activist and chairman of California's Courage Campaign Rick Jacobs said, "Can you imagine if he had a man of God doing the invocation who had deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore should be excluded from what's going on in America? People would be up in arms," he said. Salon.com currently has at least four posts dedicated to liberal outrage over Rev. Warren, one of which describes Obama supporters demanding their campaign contributions back.

Advertisement

I'm wondering if all of this outrage isn't all just a bit of overkill. Obama has promised to try to bring Americans together. To do that, he's going to have to reach out to people who didn't vote for him and who may not like him for any number of reasons, legitimate or not. Bear in mind that there is no shortage of idiots in this country who honestly believe that Obama is some sort of Secret Muslim bent on destroying America. To reach out, he's going to have to engage some people with whom his supporters have big differences.

I'm not here to defend Rev. Warren, but the fact is that he is very popular. He authored the best-selling Purpose Driven Life. And if one had paid any attention at all to Obama during his campaign, one would know that he spoke often of representing all Americans and even of strategically seeking input from people with views different from his own. This is reflected in his inclusion of Republicans in some of his Cabinet selections and, perhaps, especially in his selection of Hillary Clinton to the Secretary of State post. This strategy eliminates the group-think that develops by surrounding oneself with mere yes-men while keeping political opponents in positions where they serve at Obama's discretion, under Obama's oversight. Call it the "Team of Rivals" approach.
Given such an approach to building a Cabinet, Obama's choice of Warren to deliver an invocation is not so surprising.

Often, people on the Left imagine that the political center is further to the left than it actually is. The Right just did this to a greater degree and it cost them dearly - see Sarah Palin's effect on John McCain's Presidential aspirations. The reality is that Rev. Warren is very popular and fairly representative of mainstream America in many ways. As Americans wrestle with a perfect storm of underwater mortgages, foreclosures, job losses, and tightening credit, the Left might want to forgive Obama if he didn't chose his inauguration as the perfect moment to grant the Left its Christmas wish-list. If Obama proves even remotely competent in tackling these problems, then he might have some capital to spend on some of the Democrats' less universally popular agenda items.

Comments

Also consider that this may be proactive political insulation, which will allow him to push firther with the progressive policies most Americans supprt (as long as they're not labeled "liberal").

As important as symbols are they are not the same as policy. I'll be more interested in what policy Obama institutes.

And do we really want another insulated idealogue in the White House?

Exactly. Put it this way: Obama has made pretty much every right move so far. People need to remember the poster:

"Everybody CHILL. I got this."

Maddow weighs in and sees it as a lose-lose situation:
"What are we left with here? We are left with the cold, hard political fact that this is a lose-lose proposition for Barack Obama, the first big mistake of his post-election politicking. The Christian Broadcasting Network folks are proverbially loaded for bear against him anyway. … And Obama’s supporters among centrists and progressives? Well, they just dumped a big bucket of tarnish all over Obama’s star power."
http://thinkprogress.org/2008/12/19/obama-maddow-warren/

And now Sullivan:
"I think Obama is different. I think the earnestness and sincerity of his campaign, and its generational force, have given us a chance for something new, and I fear that in responding too viscerally to the Warren choice, we may be throwing something very valuable away far too prematurely. There is no question that gays and lesbians have made enormous strides in explaining who we are in the last couple of decades. There is equally no question that Obama has substantively committed his administration to more gay inclusion and gay equality than any president in history. We absolutely do need to be vigilant on this. But we should also understand Obama's attempt to bridge some gaps in America that the Clintons, with their boomer baggage and Dick Morris cynicism, couldn't and didn't. This is what matters. Do gays and lesbians want to be a part of this - or sit fuming on the sidelines at symbolic slights?

I know the arguments against this, and if Obama delivers nothing on gay equality, the critics will have every reason to complain loudly, as they should. But I'm not going there yet. And the truth is: if we cannot engage a Rick Warren on the question of our equality, we may secure a narrow and bitter victory in some states (just as the Christianists won a narrow and bitter victory in California in November). But we will not win the bigger argument and our victories will lack the moral legitimacy they deserve."

I saw Rachel deliver this commentary last night. Of course, she is directly offended and is taking this personally. However, from what I can gather, Warren seems to appeal to a somewhat more moderate stripe of Christian than those who are "loaded for bear." There are those on the far Right who actually think Warren is too liberal.

The gay community is deluding itself if it thinks they are/were Obama's core supporters. A lot of Lefties have projected their values onto a candidate that was always relatively centrist, for better or worse.

The gay community might want to chill and let Obama build some real political capital via effectively dealing with any number of real crises affecting all Americans. Then the general public might be much more forgiving if he throws some bones to the Left. The political reality is that if Obama were to cater to what many view as the far-Left (GLBT) right out of the gate, Obama would risk a real backlash among the political moderates who are the ones who really put him in office.

Oh, and Obama might not be POTUS-E without the tremendous support of the African-American community. The AA community has its own very peculiar attitudes toward the gay commmuntiy that are in some ways more whacked than those of the rest of America. (Keep it on the down-low, yo!)

That's exactly what I mean by political insulation. Clinton screwed up badly when he launched into hot button issues (see: Healthcare, Gays in the Military) without a track record behind him. He immediately conformed the fears of social conservative middle Americans and helped stoke the fires against himself.

Obama ain't playing that.

Post a comment

Get GLONO merch!