Four more years! After one of the most heated (and expensive) presidential elections of all time, President Obama has been returned, triumphantly, to the White House.
For advocates of sex-positivity, there’s no doubt that the right man won. I certainly supported him, and I imagine there are few readers of SexIs that didn’t do the same thing.
But before we pat ourselves on the back, what exactly does four more years of Obama mean for the issues that we are most passionate about – marriage equality, women’s rights, access to contraceptive and other issues?
For me, Obama’s second term forces us to address some of the issues raised during his first – including the fact that he was not always the stalwart advocate of sex-positivity that many of us might think he is.
After all, let’s not forget that Obama stepped into the oval office as an opponent of same-sex marriage. While he supported civil unions that granted many of the same rights as marriage, he was quoted at the time as saying:
“I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue. I think that marriage, in the minds of a lot of voters, has a religious connotation. I know that’s true in the African-American community, for example.”
Obama also dragged his heels in addressing a number of other equality issues; including defeating the Defense of Marriage Act, and the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that allowed the military to dismiss military personal who were discovered to be gay.
I will admit that Obama finally made good on all of these points – even embracing same-sex marriage as a campaign issue during his reelection pledge, which was an incredibly bold move. Yet, as anyone who’s read any of his books will be aware – Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope in particular – Barack Obama is far more moderate in his political outlook than many assume. That has implications for when it’s his turn at bat on some of the most game-changing sex positive issues.
Another issue that’s been overlooked by many of Obama’s most vocal supporters is just how much a president can be expected to get done anyway.
One of the most stupid quotes I’ve heard in the run up to the election was by Jill Filipovic in Feministe, who wrote:
“Lefties who think that there’s “no difference” between Obama and Romney, and that it’s just a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils — I am not quite sure you’re paying attention.”
In point of fact, I think it’s Jill who needs to hit Political Science 101 again, because “no difference” pretty much summed up the Obama/Romney contest.
I mean, there’s the obvious stuff to start – in the lead up to the election I used to joke: “Who are you going to choose between? The elitist, Harvard-education candidate who introduced socialized healthcare? Or Barack Obama?”
But when it came to their perceived differences – support of same-sex marriage, access to contraceptives, female equality and health care – how much difference would each candidate really make on election day?
And that’s the dog-and-pony show – the big shell-game that keeps the political machine running. Mitt Romney opposed many of the social principles President Obama supposedly supported, but at the end of the day neither of them would have had much impact on those issues no matter who had been elected.
Issues like same-sex marriage, for example, are being debated on two separate fronts in which President Obama has no say – at the state level (states like Maine and Illinois both had anti-gay marriage bills on the roster) and in the supreme court.
Likewise, access to contraception, abortion and other serious health issues are also going to be decided locally, rather than at a federal level.
In fact, by embracing these issues President Obama was not making a stand for sex-positivity at all. Rather he was using them to con hapless voters into rooting for him as “the good guy” and prevent them from looking deeper into the issues that a president actually does have some influence over.
Because on those fronts, make no mistake. Obama and Romney were practically aligned.
For example, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are both elbow-deep into the inner workings of Wall Street. Remember that Obama was as eager to whip out the federal check-book to bail out the bankers as Mitt Romney would have been, and a quick glimpse into campaign funding reveals that pro-Obama Super PACs have received millions of dollars of Wall Street cash.
Likewise Obama’s neatly sidelined many of his foreign policy promises, with Guantanamo Bay still open, troops still in Afghanistan and radio-controlled drones still slaughtering civilians from the skies above Pakistan.
Obama, like Mitt, still allows the Federal Reserve to operate autonomously. (If you don’t understand what the federal reserve actually is – a privately-held banking organization that essentially prints its own money – you live in blissful ignorance of how indentured the average American worker truly is.)
Their plans to reduce the deficit ring are equally hollow. Both have promised to slash tens of billions of spending. Yet, that’s a fraction of our hemorrhaging national debt, and less, in fact, than the $100 billion that is “improperly spent” in each year’s budget (a euphemism, I believe, for not knowing where it went, or what it was spent on).
In fact, on most of the core issues that really affect Americans – and that a president could potentially change – having President Obama in the White House is no different to electing Romney.
All the big talk about marriage equality, reproductive rights and other social issues was just to get you to buy into President Obama’s second term; and for better or for worse, we fell for it.
By electing Obama, we’re certainly better off than we would have been under Romney – but it’s difficult to convince us that we would have been much worse off.
There’s a truth we need to educate ourselves about – that the real fight for sex positive issues takes place at the state level, with representatives and judges able to impact the lives of women, the LGBT community and others far more directly than the president could ever hope to.
Ultimately, the presidential election is largely a smoke-and-mirrors affair intended to distract the politically active from the places where they can do the most good – in their local arena. So instead of waiting for Obama to step up to the plate, watch your state legislators and local judges instead.
So many issues – like marriage equality, for a start – begun life as a grassroots movement that gained national attention as it won victories at the state level. That’s where you can do the most good. Don’t focus on the man in the White House – Obama is largely a distraction, and that’s exactly why the enemies of sex positivity are not that concerned that we put him there.