I hadn’t addressed it yet, but there was a fair amount of controversy regarding the Obama’s choice of mega-church Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration. Warren had invited Obama to participate in one debate and is willing to work with progressives on some issues. However, he is still a definite social conservative and actively worked to pass Prop 8 in California. Particularly the disappointment after Prop 8’s passage, a lot of equality activist were really angry by this pick. Other’s derided it as concern over a merely symbolic way to pick up political capital. I’m with the activists, symbolism matters, particularly since during the first year Obama’s probably going to be focusing on the economy and health care and not social issues.
The complaining has paid dividends. First off, in the hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue category, America Blog noticed that Warren’s website scrubbed some of the homophobic rhetoric (hat tip Eve Fairbanks). Second, Nate Silver noticed that back on the 26th, after the controversy over the Warren pick, the transition website got more upfront than the campaign website about equality issues:
In the area of 'Civil Rights', however, there is a significant difference between the campaign website and Change.gov, the transition website. Specifically, the transition website makes a much broader range of commitments to the gay and lesbian community.
Third, on Change.gov, on the ninth Kevin Drum noticed that Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs reaffirmed that the new administration was planning to get rid of Don’t ask Don’t Tell.
Finally, this morning, Mike Allen at Politico reported that openly gay Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Church, will give the invocation at the Sunday kickoff event for the inauguration. In a nice bit of synergy with existing symbolism, that kick off will be at the Lincoln Memorial, the location of the “I have a Dream” speech.
Ezra Klein notes the strategic implications of all this:
This is, incidentally, why it's useful for progressives to criticize the president. Politicians respond to incentives. To noise. To anger. Warren, on some level, was a response to the loud protestations of evangelicals who believed the Democratic Party had no place for them. It's hard to see Robinson is anything but a response to progressive activists who sense that Obama was more willing to risk cross those who supported him than those who opposed him... If it was the plan all along, the Obama administration sure did a good job keeping the secret. And if it wasn't, then equality activists have something to be proud of this morning. They changed the incentives.
Related: GQ's profile "Let God Love Gene Robinson." Will really help convey the symbolism of this choice.
Good work people. Think I might try to make the kickoff now. Also, bizarrely, I had a dream last night that involved driving and seeing the Saddleback church on a somewhat distant hill side. It was actually shaped saddle-like, but I quick Google image search found that my imagination was wrong.