Media

Sullivan Goes Gay Collectivist with Obama Love

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"My name is Barack Obama, and you are here to recruit me!"

So beyond Newsweek getting buzz for turning President Obama into a big gay angel on its cover, what did writer Andrew Sullivan actually have to say about our "First Gay President"?

First of all, let's give Newsweek credit for cleansing America's palate of the curdled flavor of a woman breastfeeding her three-year-old on the cover of Time. Presenting a man who reserves the right to execute civilians in drone strikes and whose administration is callously invading and shutting down legal medical marijuana dispensaries with a halo is repulsive in its own way, though. (Sullivan might grudgingly agree; he has criticized the administration in these areas)

Like a lot of Sullivan's writing on gay issues and especially gay marriage, the essay is very much bound by his own feelings and experiences on the matter. It's written in first person, with occasional drifting into the royal "we" as he speaks on behalf of the gay experience. That generalization can be chafing to a gay man or woman with different experiences and priorities than Sullivan's. His need for affirmation and approval from authority figures is on naked display. As a result, Sullivan strives to acknowledge Obama's political calculations while also absolving him of having had to make them.

He writes of first meeting Obama at a fundraiser in 2007 and hearing him support civil unions over marriage for religious reasons:

Was this obviously humane African-American actually advocating a "separate but equal" solution — a form of marital segregation like the one that made his own parents' marriage a felony in many states when he was born? Hadn't he already declared he supported marriage equality when he was running for the Illinois Senate in 1996? (The administration now claims that the questionnaire from the gay Chicago paper Outlines had been answered in type — not Obama's writing — by somebody else.) Hadn't Jeremiah Wright's church actually been a rare supporter of marriage equality among black churches? The sudden equivocation made no sense—except as pure political calculation. And yet it also felt strained, as if he knew it didn't quite fit. He wanted equality but not marriage — but you cannot have one without the other. On this issue, Obama's excruciating nonposition was essentially "Yes we can't." And yet somehow, simply by the way he answered that mother's question, I didn't believe it. I thought he was struggling between political calculation and his core belief in civil rights. And it was then that I realized he was both: a cold, steely, ruthless, calculating politician who nonetheless wanted to do the right thing in the end.

Obama was "obviously humane." He opposed gay marriage, but somehow, Sullivan knew Obama didn't really mean it. Somehow, in the way he answered the question. He knew it in his gut.

On the criticism from gay activists of Obama's slow pace of dismantling Don't Ask, Don't Tell and resisting the Defense of Marriage Act, Sullivan nearly apologizes on behalf of the gay community:

He fooled most of us much of the time, our outbursts often intemperate — I went on CNN at one point to say that the president had betrayed the gay community on the military ban. We snarked about the "fierce urgency of whenever." Our anger built. And sometimes I wonder if he goaded us into "making him do it." If he did, it worked.

It's almost as though Sullivan thinks there's something unique or special about the president waiting until the polls were going the right way before he took action and not political business as usual. Obama was "leading from behind," Sullivan explains at one point. Somehow Obama gets credit for the increase in volume surrounding gay activism on the marriage and military front. By doing nothing, the president made gay activists do the leg work. And thus he gets the praise. It's almost zen.

If Obama's poll-driven tactics feel different to Sullivan it's because he has crafted the story around himself and his own experiences. He identifies as a conservative Catholic with an eye on a very particular family dynamic he needs to preserve and adapt to his own purposes. Like many desires, this one is not universal, and attempting to make it so leads to strange projections:

Gays are born mostly into heterosexual families and discover as they grow up that, for some reason, they will never be able to have a marriage like their parents' or their siblings'. They know this before they can tell anyone else, even their parents. This sense of subtle alienation — of loving your own family while feeling excluded from it — is something all gay children learn.

"Part of your woooooooorld!"

Given how my parents' and sibling's marriages ended I certainly hope I don't have one like theirs.  Sullivan is creating a narrative in which gay youths feel alienated from a Disney-compliant vision of dream weddings and nuclear families. Fears of exclusion, abandonment, humiliation and even violence can contribute to that subtle alienation. But lack of marriage? Really?

He then pivots to the argument that Obama is "just like us"; he had to come out of the closet as a black man in a white family:

He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family. The America he grew up in had no space for a boy like him: black yet enveloped by loving whiteness, estranged from a father he longed for (another common gay experience), hurtling between being a Barry and a Barack, needing an American racial identity as he grew older but chafing also against it and over-embracing it at times.

Yeah, thanks for perpetuating that stereotype about gay men and their dads, Sullivan. He concludes that Obama "learned" to be black the same way that gays "learn" to be gay, thus explaining the attention-grabbing headline.

But even the idea of "learning to be gay" is getting old-fashioned, and it's a little odd for Sullivan to be invoking it given his blog's periodic chafing at the gay establishment. In his need to make Obama "one of us," he has nearly gone collectivist. The gay community, to the extent one exists, has fractured and diversified significantly since the days of Harvey Milk, and we're all the better for it. The shift in attitudes toward gay Americans by the public (and Obama) reflects people's real experiences with gay people, not a belated pat of approval from the political class.

NEXT: Speaking Tonight (Tues May 15) at Cato Institute About RON PAUL'S REVOLUTION

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  1. Andrew Sullivan is really beyond parody, isn’t he?

    1. It’s a shame the media isn’t state-run, but he can still pretend like it is.

    2. He’s like in hyperparody. He must’ve bought a hyperparody drive in order to warp space, time, and facts.

      1. Geez, ProL, being a little homophobic, aren’t you? You just assume Sullivan likes everything that looks like this.

        1. I’m not homophobic; I’m hyperphobic.

          1. He must’ve bought a hyperparody drive in order to warp space, time, and facts.

            He’s at ludicrous parody!

            1. That’s a paradox created by the hyperparody drive, which involves a parody occurring before the work on which it is based is created. Presents all sorts of legal problems, let me tell you.

  2. First! Or at least, the first to ask in this thread why anyone is paying any attention to either Newsweek or Andrew Sullivan.

    1. Newsweek called the president gay. I think that merits attention.Sullivan just wrote the filler to go with the cover.

  3. And it was then that I realized he was both: a cold, steely, ruthless, calculating politician who nonetheless wanted to do the right thing in the end.

    You almost had it Andy and then that doublethink kicked in.

  4. It amazes me that anyone continues to take Sullivan the least bit seriously. I used to read his blog now and then. The last straw was the just plain creepy obsession with Trig Palin.

  5. I keep being told that people are born gay, that it is not a choice. If that is true, then what the fuck is this “learning to be gay” shit?

    1. Well, I was born “straight”, but it still took me until 5 years of age to figure out what goes where. And much longer to actually put my theories into practice!

      Jus’ sayin’

      1. Wow, HM. I guess you got called “fag” a LOT.

  6. He then pivots to the argument that Obama is “just like us”; he had to come out of the closet as a black man in a white family:

    He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family. The America he grew up in had no space for a boy like him: black yet enveloped by loving whiteness, estranged from a father he longed for (another common gay experience), hurtling between being a Barry and a Barack, needing an American racial identity as he grew older but chafing also against it and over-embracing it at times.

    Ah yes, The Tragic Mulatto. Remember folks, Andrew Sullivan says it’s OK to be racist when you’re part of a disenfranchised minority too!

    1. “just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family.”

      My 2-year-old niece has two gay moms. What if it turns out that she is a lesbian?

      1. Or even weirder – what if she turns out straight? Does she have to come out of the straight closet to her gay parents?

        1. And what do gay parents hope for vis-a-vis their child’s sexuality, anyway? That would make a good study, assuming that everyone answered honestly.

          1. Gay, straight or otherwise, what everyone hopes for their child is that they don’t become Andrew Sullivan.

            1. This^^

              “He’s so gay

              And he like it that way

              Of course, his evening’s not complete

              Without some meat in the seat”

              NTTIAWWT

      2. My 2-year-old niece has two gay moms. What if it turns out that she is a lesbian?

        I cannot answer this question without pictures of the moms. PICS NAO

  7. What’s wrong with the Time cover, exactly?

    1. She didn’t get the other one out for us.

      1. Or, she could have just had her kid stop blocking the view.

    2. A giant child attached to a woman’s naked breast.

      Gosh, I have no idea what the objection could be.

      1. Some women exercise to lose weight. Others diet. She just transfers the extra weight to her kid’s gut.

    3. HER TITS WERE TOO SMALL. WHY USE SMALL TITS LIKE THAT TO PROMOTE BREASTFEEDING? IT WAS AN INSULT TO THE LACTATING WOMEN OF THE WORLD.

    4. Warty’s photograph should never appear on the cover of a magazine.

  8. Its as if theyre trying to not be taken seriously. Even college student Obamamanics have got to be saying wtf.

  9. Is he talking about Obama, or a composite Obama?

  10. Question for Tonio if you are around. Aren’t you insulted by Sullivan? His writing is a total characterature of the emotional, irrational and excitable queen.

    1. I know only one gay person who takes offense at Sullivan, but then, I know only one gay person who pays the slightest attention to Sullivan.

  11. At least this week’s TV Guide cover featuring Hugh Laurie as House is readable.

    As for this issue, people are way overhyping it. Obama can’t influence judges and can’t influence Congress. He’s been so ineffective at leading that marriage equality may as well just be added to the list of things he says he supports but can’t get done.

    1. Wait, what was that? I didn’t hear you.

      1. God

    2. Actually, given his abysmal track record, the last thing I’d want if I were gay would be for Barry to weigh in on my side.

  12. At least this week’s TV Guide cover featuring Hugh Laurie as House is readable.

    As for this issue, people are way overhyping it. Obama can’t influence judges and can’t influence Congress. He’s been so ineffective at leading that marriage equality may as well just be added to the list of things he says he supports but can’t get done.

    1. Hmm, I didn’t quite make out that last part. One more time?

      1. Damn

  13. At least this week’s TV Guide cover featuring Hugh Laurie as House is readable.

    As for this issue, people are way overhyping it. Obama can’t influence judges and can’t influence Congress. He’s been so ineffective at leading that marriage equality may as well just be added to the list of things he says he supports but can’t get done.

    1. Agreed.

      1. How can you agree when he keeps changing his story?

      2. Squirrels

  14. Always knew Sullivan was in the closet – to get his mud-shark on that is.

    1. I am soooo not googling what that is.

      1. Unless it’s the Led Zeppelin reference, and then I don’t get the joke.

      2. LMUDTFY: Mud Shark

        Kind of offensive, actually.

        1. Clever. Racist and offensive, but clever all the same, I suppose.

        2. Mudsharks and sweatpigs have a considerable overlap.

        3. When I was in the Army, there was a hand gesture that could be used in place of saying the words. It was also unisex, in that it could be applied to men as well.

          One does learn all sorts of insulting slang in the military.

  15. Andrew Sullivan, almost like the Human Cannonball, except that he’s the Human Fish in a Barrel.

  16. Here is Tammy Bruce’s theory on the gay for pay pivot.

    Then it dawned on me?Obama’s internal polls must show him losing to Romney, and handily. The latest Rasmussen certainly show the Golfer-in-Chief in trouble and behind the GOP nom. He must realize it’s over and is now simply looking to establish his “legacy,” while reinforcing leftist relationships he desperately wants to keep?like with Hollywood?after we kick his ass to the curb. For an obsessed, cynical and narcissistic president like Obama, he only makes moves that serve his agenda one way or another?and the only upside to this exists out of the White House. Liberal gays will vote for him anyway, and 1 in 6 of his top bundlers have already raised $500,000+ for him. I believe he’s frantic to not have his legacy be the truth?one of disaster brought by narcissism and incompetence, he hopes this sort of story, covers like Newsweek, will be the thing that allows him to walk away at least within his liberal/leftist base as not a complete pariah.

    1. You know that I thought Tammy Bruce and Tammy Baldwin were the same person until right now?

      1. Bruce is one of the few lesbians I would like to convert.

  17. The “Barry or a Barack” line was my favorite, because it hit so close to home. Growing up, I was always torn between a “Joe and a Joseph”, whether I should let my German heritage flow like the Rhine or cover it up like sauerkraut over a brat. It didn’t make sense to me why kids used “Roland synthesizer” as an insult, or why their last names had less than eight consonants. “Why”, I asked my father, “have there not been any Lutheran presidents? Why do they hate us?” But father was drinking, and mother was making kuchen. “Why hasn’t there been a German American president?”

    But that’s a question no child will have to ask again. Barack Obama – the first German American president.

    1. Post of the day.

  18. Was this obviously humane African-American actually advocating a “separate but equal” solution ? a form of marital segregation like the one that made his own parents’ marriage a felony in many states when he was born?

    I thought his parents’ marriage was a felony in many states because bigamy was and is illegal in many states…even Utah.

    But Sullivan must have forgotten about Obama’s daddy being a bigamist, huh? It didn’t fit his narrative, so best to omit it altogether.

    1. That is so fucking insightful. Could you please repeat that for those that might not have heard?

    2. Great catch, sloopyinca.

  19. Was this obviously humane African-American actually advocating a “separate but equal” solution ? a form of marital segregation like the one that made his own parents’ marriage a felony in many states when he was born?

    I thought his parents’ marriage was a felony in many states because bigamy was and is illegal in many states…even Utah.

    But Sullivan must have forgotten about Obama’s daddy being a bigamist, huh? It didn’t fit his narrative, so best to omit it altogether.

    1. Thanks so much!

    2. Thank you so very much!

      1. FYI, apparently the phrase, “Thanks so much!” gets you marked as spam by a third party spam filter… Jack booted thugs…

    3. God, sloopyinca, how could you post such utter nonsense?

      1. Please, Ted. Explain.

        1. Nevermind. I get the joke now. Fucking squirrels.

    4. OK, call me clueless, but was Obama’s daddy a bigamist? If so, this is the first I have heard of it.

  20. No reference to James Buchanan? For shame.

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