Monday, December 22, 2008

The missing seat

Barack Obama has already built the most diverse cabinet in the history of the presidency: 5 women, 4 African-Americas, 3 Latinos, 2 Asians, 2 from the opposition party, a Nobel laureate -- and yet there are complaints, perhaps legitimate, that he has not done enough to include those who made his election possible. Certainly, without the large numbers of women who were willing to abandon Hilliary Clinton, he could never have secured the nomination, and yet Obama has so far appointed no more women than Bill Clinton did 16 years ago.

It can't be ignored that after almost two decades this isn't much of advance for women. Further, Obama's victory was only possible through the hard work of young idealists and progressives, both of whom are notably missing from his appointments so far. If anything is notable about his appointments it is that they are mostly status quo retreads, Washington insiders, Clintonistas, internationalist, predictable, boring.

Most disappointing rhough, not only has Obama not only NOT thrown a single crumb to the Gay community, he has deeply offended them by asking a fundamentalists supporter of Proposition 8 to partake in his inaugural activities. Many Gays naively supported Obama, believing that they would finally be granted a seat at the table of an African American administration. Prop 8's cross tabs and Rick Warren's invitation appear to have put to death that hope.

Until Gays grasp political reality and forsake their own partisan fundamentalism, this is not going to change. Power is something that you take, rather than something that you have given to you. Gays are not going to be given a seat at the table in Washington, by a Black president, or a Liberal president, any more than they are by a White president, or a Republican president, unless they can demonstrate a show of political power and influence -- in short, unless they kick down the White House door and march in with their own chair.

The mass reaction to Prop 8 was a good start, but I fear it has lost momentum sufficiently fast that Obama can afford to ignore it. With the holidays fast approaching, we can expect even less to happen. Certainly there is no risk of any doors being kicked in -- not even in California, let alone in Washington.

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