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No More Dog Whistles: Introducing the Obama LGBT Scorecoard:

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

January 22nd, 2009

We’ve had eight years of listening for dog whistles. We learned quickly that whenever President Bush or members of Congress spoke, we had to dissect every utterance, split every infinitive, and scoop every dangling participle to try to discern the secret message that was being sent to the base. For all of his assaults on English, President Bush was particularly adept at speaking that unique language which only his base could understand without raising the ire of moderates.

Along the way, we learned that the Dred Scott decision somehow related to abortion and that God prefers commas over periods. We analyzed every message, the way the CIA dissects audio tapes from Osama bin Ladin in case there might be a secret message for a far-flung branch of Al Qaida — which, coincidentally, just happens to be Arabic for “the base.”

And I think that affected to how we approached statements from erstwhile allies as well. Was that a flinch we saw when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came up? Why won’t she come straight out against “DOMA”? Why can’t he come out more forcefully against Prop 8? Every statement became a possible clue, and every omission appeared to boom louder than words.

This continued after the election. I was certainly part of it. Why Rick Warren? Why not Gene Robinson? And why was Gene Robinson’s invocation omitted from the broadcast? Why didn’t Obama give us a shout-out in his Inaugural address?

Well, we can stop listening for dog whistles. We can stop jumping up and down in excitement whenever he mentions gays, and we can stop pouting when he doesn’t. Because when the web site switched hands at 12:01 Tuesday afternoon, a very important document appeared: an LGBT civil rights agenda.

I said then that it looks like a very good scorecard on which we can judge the Obama administration. In fact, the more I look at it, the more I’ve concluded that no gay rights organization could have created a better scorecard in their wildest dreams.

That’s why I decided to condense it into a simple checklist form. And here it is: Barack Obama’s LGBT Civil Rights Scorecard. It’s the one he himself signed up to. And it’s one that I intend to refer to often over the next four years.

I doubt there will be immediate action on any of these items. After all, I can see how a crashing economy and a war in Iraq might be something of a distraction, to say the least. With people losing their jobs, homes, and health care, there’s a lot that needs to be done.

But I have to admit that I labor under the possibly mistaken impression that our elected representatives can walk and chew gum. They should be able to squeeze in a few of these promises in due course amongst the other things that need to be done. But even I know that we can’t sit back and assume that all of those wonderful politicians who made so many swell promises will actually get right on all those promises they made. I mean, c’mon — they’re politicians.

Besides when we’re talking about civil rights, the door has never opened because someone pulled the door open from the inside. It’s always been opened by a strong push from that outside.

That’s where we come in. They signed up for an impressive checklist. But it’s up to us to hold them to it.



January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

It’s up to us to hold them to it, but also to give them some time. Obama will not repeat Clinton’s 1993 mistake that led to DADT, by jumping too quickly into a gay-related controversy and letting it consume too much bandwidth. That episode damaged both Clinton and our cause.

I’ll judge this presidency by the quality of the groundwork that they lay behind the scenes, the effect that they have on opinions and moods in Congress, and finally on what they achieve legislatively two or three years from now. But of course, we have to judge ourselves by the same marks. Obama is a leader, but the work to be done belongs to us all.

Scott P.
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

I’ve never heard of the “Dread” Scott Decision. However, I have heard of the DRED Scott Decision.

Please hire a fact-checker/editor to correct these errors and the numerous misspellings on this site.

January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Excellent work. I completely agree that we have to judge the Obama administration by its actions, and this is a great way to keep track.

me again
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

“That’s where we come in. They signed up for an impressive checklist. But it’s up to us to hold them to it.”

It’s also up to us to help them do it.

Hard work all around, and work worth doing. “We voted for you – now deliver” is not enough, not realistic. We have to show the way, show continuing support, do the legwork, make it easy and obvious for them…so we get the equality every citizen is promised by the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Pledge of Allegiance. To get the equality we deserve.

Bring the business case for each (include a minority report if necessary), a strategy and plan for each, and prioritize the list.

January 23rd, 2009 | LINK

The AFA has issued an action alert for their followers to spam the White House e-mail to complain about President Obama’s support for women’s reproductive rights and GLBT rights.

We need to counter them with positive e-mails.

David C.
January 23rd, 2009 | LINK

We need to counter them with positive e-mails.

OK, here is my message to the Obama White House:

Certain so-called “Pro-Family” organizations are weighing in with their usual anti-choice, anti-gay positions, most of which are based on lies, distortions of legitimate science, and junk science. They are again advancing points of view that are contrary to the principals of freedom and the separation of church and state. I urge you to reject their attacks on innocent people that wish only to live their lives freely and to love and marry the one they choose.

cognitive dissident
January 26th, 2009 | LINK

Nice work with the scorecard…I look forward to seeing the items getting checked off as his term progresses.

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