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I like Barack Obama. I like him even though he didn’t put his hand over his heart the last time he heard the national anthem. I like him even though he doesn’t wear an American flag on his lapel. And I still like him, even though he plans to appear on stage with Donnie McClurkin, an “anti-gay” gospel singer. I like Barack Obama because Obama is trying really hard to get me to like him.

I can understand his desire for popularity—after all, isn’t that what buys a presidential victory? Still, watching his recent campaign performances, I can’t help but wonder if Obama is trying a little too hard. Take the senator’s South Carolina Gospel Tour, for example. The Gospel Tour features predominantly African-American acts, including “ex-gay” Reverend Donnie McClurkin and other gospel singers. This sensational political strategy, focused on a state where half of the democratic voters are black, was intended to be a vehicle through which this presidential hopeful could compete with Hillary’s popularity among black voters.

Yes, Obama is trying to be original. He is trying to build support from a grassroots level by taking part in a powerful cultural identity. But in his attempt to win the support of black voters, Obama has provoked the LGBT community. His on-stage companion, Reverend McClurkin, has made homophobic remarks regarding the need to “break the curse of homosexuality,” prompting the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to condemn the senator’s affiliation with the gospel singer. Instead of taking a stance either way, Obama attempts to neutralize McClurkin’s incendiary effect by tacking on an openly gay minister to the front of his tour. The situation that ensues is abominably awkward. Obama does not support McClurkin’s homophobia, nor does he want to take any chances at offending the black community by renouncing the reverend’s partnership. By catering to both sides, he seems unassured and hesitant where he should be decisive.

Barack Obama wants everyone to like him, and that’s his biggest problem. People
do like Barack Obama. He seems to be a genuinely good guy. But the HRC is not asking for him to be buddies with a gay minister. They—along with the rest of America—are looking for leadership. They’re looking for a man with the backbone to stand up for real values and to make real change.

The Barack Obama I like tries to befriend everyone and offend no one. He cracks jokes, organizes concerts, and relates to voters on a personal level. But the Barack Obama I might vote for is a man with vision, passion, will, and the agency to replace ideals with actions. I believe in his message. I believe in his visions for the future, in his hopes and his fears. What’s more, I believe that he has the potential to make his dreams for our America into our reality. But when Obama favors popularity over principal, voters lose confidence in his efficacy as a leader. It is when he stands soundly behind his own opinions, and delivers his message with the confidence of a president of the United States, that Barack Obama becomes a man who voters can believe in.

I like Barack Obama, but I’m crossing my fingers.


Pam said...

Hear, hear!