Roland Martin: Almost Getting It

I saw this on CNN the other day and have been thinking about posting it. With Jay Smooth’s blog on the front page (we keep overlapping… weird), I think it’s impetus enough for me to post.
Now, on the Jay Smooth post, I did write that I do think Miss California is right to be able to express her opinion no matter who is asking and how it can be taken. While I have my reservations of the absolute sincerity of her comments, I do staunchly defend her right to express her opinion, even if she is against my interpretation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause as well as the premise of Brown v Board (“Separate but equal is inherently inequal”).
Roland Martin and I agree on that level. However, he starts getting into politics as his example as to why the “Left” shouldn’t really be angry about what happened and why the pundits should just cool it down. I could not begin to disagree more on his standards, and it shows as a point of commentary in its own right, as well as an expression of political manuevering as its understood in American politics.

Particularly, he states that Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton are all opposed to gay marriage. It’s true. Their official positions are that of heterosexual marriage being a gold standard that gay people do not live up to. However, there’s a deeper issue to that, that the LGBTQ community and allies have been clued in on for a long time: no national politician will get elected if he or she anounces that they completely support all gay marriage.
The sad, sad reason for this is because of the polling numbers. Gallup, Quinnipiac, NBC, ABC and CNN all release polls which state that a slight majority of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, while they would like to see same-sex couples get equal protection and rights. It’s an interesting line to maneuver, especially when the Democratic party has been using Howard Dean’s “50 States” strategy to get the Democratic part in the majority, which has been resoundingly successful thus far.
On the particular issue of Barack Obama, he has stated in the past — as used in political campaign commercials against him — that he does support gay marriage. He said it when he was an Illinois state senator. However, when entering the national stage, he modified his position to say that gay people should have all the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage, even if the “traditional” marriage is not something he’s willing to tamper with himself as president.
Without rehashing the entirety of his platform and his first 100 days, as we’ve been following him pretty closely with his liberal policies, I would like to point out that, in an attempt to open up the discussion on the impact of gay people on society, he’s actively trying to take out Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
While there’s not been much talking about it in the media or by the White House, when asked about it, key military officials have been saying that they’re willing to discuss the policy with the President and take whatever track he deems best for the military. Retired officials have renounced the policy, including Gen. Colin Powell, a powerful moderate Republican.
This is me being an extreme optimist, but I believe that once the huge crises begin to better themselves, DADT will be going to way of the dinosaurs. From there, a real discussion of the rights of gay people and their place in society can be dicussed.
Mr. Martin also continues on to discuss that President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act, a law designed to block states from recognizing gay marriage through the guise of a state’s rights measure allowing states to disallow marriages they deem as unfit for their state.
What he misses is the fuller context, again, of what was going on in that debate. Clinton had won the presidency, but quickly lost majority for his party in the Congress. He had tried to push other, more progressive, legislation to be stalled and halted by the Republican majority Congress. DOMA and DADT were symptoms of his problem.
We also cannot forget that gay rights were not as prescient as they are now. The movement has grown, changed and become more powerful since Clinton was in office. We should not forget that a lot of the flashpoint for the more contemporary gay rights movement started with the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming, something which happened during the Clinton presidency. How could he have possibly reacted to a movement which was still in its infancy?
We cannot entirely judge the man for the things he did. Some was political maneuvering, to be sure; others had to do with gays not being the political force they’ve become.
Something which probably did not fit well into the column, but was still missed by Roland Martin was that, for her age group, Miss California is in a minority. Voters 18 to 35 through out the nation are far more supportive, accepting and active within the gay rights movement than any other cohort. The successes of gay marriage and gay rights have come in part because the staunch opponents of gay marriage are, literally, dying.
It’s no coincidence that the representatives usually seen representing the anti-gay stance on political programming are never young and energetic activists and columnists. It’s also no coincidence that the coalition of supports that can be culled to express pro-gay opinions can be of any age.
With the passing of the torches, to use a hackneyed phrase, of the older generations to the younger, we’re seeing a re-liberalization of society. Many people in the 18 to 35 age set are either the children of or grandchildren of generation Jones. Generation Jones, living in the shadow of the Baby Boomers, were the ones who rebelled with the social revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s. They’re the ones who brought in the ideas of tolerance, radical ideology and the birth of real, modern progressvisim.
These are the people who brought us the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement and the beginnings of the Gay Rights Movement. It’s no coincidence that these ideals are being passed down to their children and a new age of liberalization is coming with them. The parents and grandparents of this generation instilled the value of standing up for what is right — and now, together, we’re bringing that about.
My final point, which is one of the first points Martin makes, is a simple one. He poses these questions: Would she now be celebrated on gay-focused blogs, magazines and Web sites? Would her detractors actually be saying how open she is and that she’s a great person?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer has to do with the interplay between the two extremes in American realpolitik.
Blogging pundits, like I am right now, will latch on to any story which catches their eye to prove their point. If Miss California has answered the question as opposite, maybe Perez Hilton would have said nothing, but it would have been put in the gay blogosphere. It would receive that attention and the same lauding that the Conservative blogosphere is giving her for the answer she did give.
To continue this hypothetical, the Radical Right would have taken her pro-gay answer to show how much gay marriage, rights and culture is taking out America’s moral fiber. It would show that even Beauty Pageants, where women are showing off their beauty and intelligence, is not immune to this political banter.
They would decry some conspiracy between Hilton and Miss California for a stage political stunt and would call the entire Miss USA Pageant some sort of vast Left-wing scam to promote the propoganda that gay people are, well, people. It would be smattered all over Conservative news outlets and lambasted as outrageous.
The motives of asking the question in the first place would be speculated upon and it would become a talk radio hot topic. Fox News would be asking politicians what they thought of the whole thing and trying to tie it to Iowa and Vermont, or some other gay-related hot topic of the moment.
The Conservative Right would actually make a bigger deal out of it than the gay blogosphere has. The reason being, I think, that the Conservative Right knows it’s losing this battle and they don’t know where else to turn. The Gays have been their doom-saying selling point for almost 20 years and they’ve lost touch with other issues to such a degree that they can’t even have the debate. Case-in-point, look at the lack of ire about the Executive Order about Embryonic Stem Cell Research. However, Iowa’s highest court judges that gay people can enter in a legally binding contract which benefits the state economically and there’s fire, brimstone and ridiculous advertising.
So, Mr Martin, while I agree with your premise that she should be lauded for expressing her opinion freely and openly — an enaction of what it really means to be an American, I don’t agree with any of the examples you’ve cited or mused on in regards to the ways in which you tried to tell the gay bloggers, essentially, to “shut up and deal”.
By ignoring the facts and distorting the past, you’re a becoming a dangerous revisionist for a Moderate agenda. Any revisionism is dangerous.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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