Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why are Virginia's gays supporting wishy-washy Creigh Deeds?

With the Virginia governor's race entering the home stretch, I've started digging a little deeper into the record of Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds. So has the Washington Post.

In a piece in the Post's Sunday edition called "Deeds: From Patching Fence to Straddling It", the Democratic gubernatorial candidate is portrayed as an indecisive country bumpkin with an deep-seeded need to be all things to all people. The Post didn't waste any time opening with the following: 

"Creigh Deeds was stammering, as is often his way when trying to explain a change in one of his political positions. He indicated that he felt conflicted over a stance, not the first time during his campaign for Virginia governor. "I'm not certain I would do that again," he said.

He was referring to a vote he cast three years earlier to place a state constitutional amendment on the ballot prohibiting gay people from marrying or entering into civil unions. Within weeks, seemingly in an about-face, Deeds said he would not support the amendment. Now, a tentative Deeds sat in a Washington conference room, still not quite sure where he stood. "My thoughts have evolved in a lot of respects," he said, noting that his evolution had carried him to the point where he had doubts that "government ought to be involved" in same-sex marriage."
In other words, Deeds was for the Marriage Amendment before he was against it.

When John Kerry ran for president in 2004, he was dogged by accusations of waffling on the Iraq war. When asked why he supported the invasion of Iraq in the senate, then reversed his position during his bid for the White House, he said he was for the war before he was against it. Like most politicians, Kerry's views changed with the shift in public opinion.

Democrats learned an important lesson from the Kerry campaign. Take a stand, but be noncommittal. If the mood in the country dictates that you change your position on a controversial issue, you should now say that your views are evolving. Bill Clinton did it this summer on the subject of same-sex marriage. Now that he and his wife are safely out of presidential politics, Clinton has decided that he backs marriage equality. Too little, too late, Bill.

It's a safe bet to say that no Virginia politician is going to make waves by backing same-sex marriage.  Making waves is just not done in the Old Dominion. It wouldn't be polite.

So when the political climate is such that a conservative mob decides to scapegoat a minority group in order to rally its base, as was done with the Virginia Marriage Amendment in 2006, it would have been rude for then-Senator Deeds to object. It was only later, when the commonwealth's political winds began to shift, if only fleetingly, in a more liberal direction, that gubernatorial candidate Deeds embraced evolution.

Be warned. Any time a Virginia Democrat says his views are evolving, he's hoping to solidify his liberal base, attract independents and not piss off moderate Republicans by having to actually take a stand. Even with Virginia inching slowly to the left, no politician here with aspirations above dog catcher is going to be the first to come out in support of full LGBT equality and Creigh Deeds is no exception. Despite the huge turnout for Obama last year, we still can't count the commonwealth as a solidly blue state.

What we have to remember is that politicians tend to fall in line with their party leadership, especially when their party's leader is in the White House. President Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, has been a serious disappointment to LGBT Americans. The hope inspired by Barack Obama's claim to be our "fierce advocate" and his historic election has, so far, turned out to be false hope.

Creigh Deeds' record shows that he is no maverick. His character is more like a mid-level corporate manager. He will not make the bold decisions. He'll try to make everyone happy by straddling the fence for as long as possible, but will ultimately take the path that is approved by higher-ups. Deeds will never lead the way in supporting LGBT rights, but he might jump on board the bandwagon if Washington takes the lead -- and that's a big if.

Deeds describes himself as "a work in progress". What Virginia's queers need to figure out is whether we're once again being sold a bill of goods by a slick politician or if we are (once again) squandering an opportunity to engage in constructive dialog with a candidate that might be convinced to help us if we take the initiative to help him evolve. So far, that dialog hasn't happened.

So why is Virginia's LGBT community so willing to blindly throw its support to a candidate that has no record of being gay-friendly? Why are we still placing our bets on a longshot? Why are we not demanding more from our candidates? Why are we settling for so much less than we deserve?

Because making waves wouldn't be polite.

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1 comment:

  1. I agree, Creigh Deeds has been wishy washy at best. The better candidate would have been Moran but with his public stance on Marriage, he committed political suicide. McAulif never had a chance despite his bankroll. McDonnell hides behind a thinly veiled argument of the governor's lack legal authority to issue non-discrimination executive order protections while stradling the fence and contradicting himself about "equal protection" for sexual orientation. His language was carefully crafted to give him the out when he shoots it down.

    SO we are left with a choice of "the lesser of two evils" or "The devil that you know"

    It's a good thing politics isn't just about one issue or we'd all be screwed.


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