Compared to the Romper Room reunion that was the Republican presidential candidates’ debate, the debate among the Democratic presidential candidates last night was a bit like a PBS documentary–very earnest, aimed at a middle-class audience, and a bit longer than necessary.
A lot of the padding had to do with the addition of a couple of non-candidates–Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican from Rhode Island whose chances of winning are smaller than his state, and Jim Webb, a former Senator for Virginia who spent his time complaining that he wasn’t getting enough air time even though he is barely campaigning at all.
That left former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary. The mainstream media is desperate for a race, when in fact, there isn’t one. Hillary is so far out in front of Sanders, who will never win the support of the party establishment, that the only question is how long can Sanders last. That’s especially true after Clinton’s debate performance, which was sharp and solid. She looked presidential.
What the debate did bring up is that LGBTQ issues won’t be front and center for the Democrats. True, CNN moderator Anderson Cooper didn’t bring any of our (and his) issues up, but the candidates didn’t feel the need to make much mention of us either. There were some passing references by O’Malley and Chafee, and Clinton included a vow to “do everything I can to heal the divides — the divides economically, because there’s too much inequality; the racial divides; the continuing discrimination against the LGBT community.”
Which is great, as far as it goes. We’re now a standard applause line amidst the campaign rhetoric. But in the absence of a burning issue, like marriage equality, it unlikely that the Democrats are going to be pushing bold new LGBTQ policies. What we’re going to get are defenses against Republican attacks and reminders as to who got us to where we are today (so cough up the cash, please).
That’s not nothing, but it’s an invitation to taking the vote for granted. It’s not like the GOP is a realistic alternative. The current media darling, Marco Rubio, likes to hang around with homophobes like Mat Staver, Kim Davis’s extreme attorney.
Of course, candidates respond to pressure. If they think they don’t have to pay anything more than lip service, that’s all they’ll do. In the absence of a strong signal from the community about taking us to the next level, whoever the Democratic nominee is will be perfectly satisfied to take a victory lap on the party’s behalf.
The question may not be so much whether the Democrats will take us for granted. It may be, will we let them?