The Plank

A Question For Andrew Sullivan

Yesterday over at The Stump, Mike drew our attention to what is fast becoming a major problem for the Obama campaign: it's decision to invite the "ex-gay," black, recording artist Donnie McClurkin onto a gospel tour in South Carolina. McClurkin, who performed at the 2004 Republican National Convention, is a Grammy-Award winning singer, popular with southern black evangelicals, an important constituency in the vital primary state of South Carolina. He claims that being raped by male relatives when he was 8 and again at the age of 13 caused him to be gay, but that he eventually overcame his homosexuality "through prayer." Gay rights groups protested. Obama tried to soothe things over, but he ultimately kept McClurkin, who by all accounts gave a rousing performance Sunday night as the event's MC and spent 30 minutes railing against the gay agenda. According to the New York Times, McClurkin finished his set with this little ditty:

“God delivered me from homosexuality,” he added. He then told the
audience to believe the Bible over the blogs: “God is the only way.”
The crowd sang and clapped along in full support.

(It ought be noted that in response to the controversy, Obama lamely recruited, at the last minute, a white gay pastor in an attempt to cancel out the damage done by McClurkin). Pam's House Blend has more, as does Debra Dickerson at Mother Jones. 

McClurkin's homophobia is actually worse than that profferred by right-wing favorites like Lou Sheldon and Pat Robertson. As an "ex-gay," his message is more convincing to credulous audiences because he can claim personal experience with the "homosexual lifestyle" and his ability to overcome it. 

So you can understand why gay rights groups are angry with the Obama campaign. But don't just take it from just me; in a column for the Washington Blade, entitled "The Audacity of Hypocrisy," the black lesbian writer and Reverend Irene Monroe writes: 

In the highly competitive race for black evangelical votes in South
Carolina, McClurkin just might give Obama the needed edge. However,
that edge will come at a high price. It reveals that Obama is not only
a vote-whore, but a candidate who plays the race card as well.
The Obama/McClurkin alliance introduces Obama to McClurkin’s black and
white Southern evangelical base, which thinks Obama is neither
Christian nor black enough.

Andrew Sullivan, one of Obama's biggest boosters in the blogosphere who has written what is sure to be a fawning cover story about him for the next issue of the Atlantic, doesn't get what all the hoopla is about. He's "a little taken aback by the vehement response of many gay people to this McClurkin business." This is strange coming from Andrew, the most significant writer on the subjects of homosexuality and gay politics of the past 20 years, whose disillusionment (rightly, I should add) with the Bush administration reached its peak with the president's shilling for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Andrew is also a persistent critic of Bill (and, by association, Hilllary) Clinton, for his role in the passage of both Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act (the latter of which he touted his support for on Christian radio stations). But Andrew has curiously spared Obama the passionate criticism usually on offer for Bush and Clinton when it comes to gay rights.

After the despair caused by the last 7 years of the Bush administration, I can understand how Andrew would see Obama as a breath of fresh air. But please don't tell me that he somehow represents a break with the cynicism and "triangulation" of Hillary Clinton. Trying to have it both ways with Donnie McClurkin -- giving him a prominent role in his campaign while mouthing niceties to The Advocate -- is the apotheosis of Clintonesque doublespeak. 

--James Kirchick

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