Triumph and tragedy

Posted on 06 Oct 2008 at 10:31pm
By Lisa Keen – Keen News Service

Gay vote goes heavily toward Obama, whose victory is called ‘the dawn of a new political era of hope for the LGBT community’

President-elect Barack Obama waves to supporters at his Election Night party at Grant Park in Chicago on Tuesday.



More than any other presidential candidate before, Barack Obama included gays as part of his core speeches to voters, despite decades of conventional wisdom that has held that the mere acknowledgement of gays could imperil a campaign.

Obama acknowledged gays when he announced his run for the presidency. He did so before national television audiences and before church audiences that were considered by some to be reluctant to associate with gays.

He did so in accepting the Democratic nomination in Colorado, and he did so in his final campaign stops in Jacksonville, Fla., Columbus, Ohio, and Raleigh, N.C.

And he still won.

With a message that included gay people both when he needed the votes and when he had cinched victory, Obama won the White House Tuesday night, Nov. 4.

The triumph not only marked a historic moment in American history — with his election as the first African-American as president — but a dramatic improvement in the political climate in Washington, D.C., for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, a point Obama drove home when he again included LGBT people in his Election Night victory speech.

In the third line of his speech before more than 100,000 people gathered in Grant Park in his adopted hometown of Chicago, Obama said his election is testament to the power of democracy "spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white,

Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled."

With 349 electoral votes to Republican John McCain’s 173, Obama did not require the support of gays to secure his win. However, he appears to have gotten it.

According to national exit polling conducted in 1,300 precincts around the country, including every state, 4 percent of voters identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual in Tuesday’s election. Of those, 70 percent voted for Obama, 27 percent for McCain, and 3 percent for others.

Those numbers are similar to a Harris poll Web survey conducted Oct. 20-27 with 231 self-identified LGBT "likely voters." The survey predicted that 81 percent of LGBT voters favored Obama while 16 percent favored McCain. A similar poll in August had shown 68 percent favored Obama, 10 percent McCain.

Data available thus far on voting in heavily gay precincts also suggests the gay vote for Obama was at an unprecedented high. In the last several presidential elections, the percentage of LGBT voters nationwide supporting the Democrat has hovered around 70 to 75 percent. But Tuesday’s voting was even stronger for Obama in many heavily gay areas across the country.

• In what Stonewall Democrats of Dallas has identified as the city’s eight most heavily LGBT precincts, Obama captured 67 percent of the vote to McCain’s 32 percent, with 1 percent going to Libertarian Bob Barr or write-in candidates. Countywide, Obama captured 57 percent of the vote to McCain’s 42 percent.

• In heavily gay Provincetown, Mass., 87 percent of voters supported Obama, compared to only 11 percent for McCain, and 2 percent for others or no votes. Massachusetts overall voted 62 percent for Obama, 36 percent for McCain.

• While 61 percent of Californians supported Obama over 37 percent for McCain, 85 percent of heavily gay San Francisco supported Obama versus 13 percent for McCain and 2 percent for others.

• 55 percent of voters in Pennsylvania supported Obama over 45 percent for McCain, but in heavily gay Wards 2 and 5 of Philadelphia, 83 percent of voters supported Obama.

• In heavily gay Dupont Circle Precinct 15 in Washington, D.C., Obama won 89 percent of the vote.

• Chicago’s heavily gay Ward 44 went 86 percent for Obama over 13 percent for McCain.

Patrick Sammon, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said he puts more faith in the exit poll data nationally than in heavily gay precincts

"LGBT voters don’t live in just Dupont Circle and Chelsea," said Sammon in a telephone interview Wednesday morning, Nov. 5.

But U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the openly lesbian Democrat from Wisconsin who won reelection Tuesday, said both sets of data may be right.

The results from precincts that are heavily gay, she said, reflect a demographic that has significant access to information about each candidate’s stand on LGBT issues, while the national exit poll is capturing LGB voters in places that may not have that kind of information at the ready.

And in those places, she said, LGBT people are "making their minds up on a larger array of issues."

Hilary Rosen, a longtime Democratic gay activist and political director for the Huffingtonpost.com, wrote Monday, Nov. 3, that she believes McCain lost the election in May 2006 when he "went to kiss the ring of Jerry Falwell."

"He began to support every anti-gay initiatve he could find," wrote Rosen. "On those and so many other issues, he merged into the George Bush and right-wing clone that in these closing days of the campaign have choked him beyond breath."

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese characterized Obama’s win Tuesday night as a "paradigm shift" for LGBT people.

"The pendulum has swung away from the anti-gay forces that dominated the political landscape for too long and toward new leadership that acknowledges our equality," Solmonese said.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called Obama’s election "the dawn of a new political era of hope" that "brings a promise for a sea change in the tenor of the national dialogue on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues."

©2008 Keen News Service
E-mail LisaKeen@aol.com


   
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 7, 2008.


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