Coalitions and gestures

Upon further reflection, I have come to the conclusion that my opinion on the Warren debacle has very deep resonance in my daily political struggle. You can see from my previous posts that I’m a proponent of marriage equality and LGBTQ rights broadly defined; I’m also rabidly pro-choice and for the full and equal inclusion of women into society. Why, then, am I nonplussed by Warren’s prominent role in the inauguration? Why does his public role as someone who fights against these deeply held beliefs of mine not infuriate me?

It comes down to a question I’ve been asking myself for a while: if a candidate came along who was perfect on economic and social justice issues — purely and strongly anti-poverty, socialist even, for universal health care, against NAFTA/CAFTA, pro-labor, held a nuanced and realistic view of globalization and its effects on labor throughout the world (not just the US), against the death penalty, for prison abolition, and anything else that proved his/her commitment to social justice — but was pro-life, what would I do? What if the candidate were anti-gay? How do I reconcile these competing claims on my political philosophy? What are my priorities?

I have no problem voting for tepidly pro-gay or even anti-LGBTQ candidates. I’ve had to, simply because there aren’t many queer freedom fighters out there running for office. I’ve voted for candidates who voice their personal opposition to abortion on several occasions. Within our current system, with Democrats firmly ensconced in the liberal economic and social side of the divide, I may never confront the situation I described above. But if I did, what would the deal breaker be?

I’m inclined to vote for the candidate who is against my social issue concerns but in favor of my broader economic and social justice concerns. I reserve the right to renege if the candidate could conceivably quarantine me for my homo-citude or blanketly outlaw abortion. But the principle holds: social positions are not deal-breakers for me.

I take my cue from the coalition politics I see in Baltimore. Working for social justice here means working with the church. (And, lest I’m accused of not being specific, this means the Christian church and it includes white churches along with black churches, though because Baltimore is 65+% black, it mostly means the latter). There’s no way around it. Some of the most vocal progressive voices in this city hold social positions I find abhorrent, but I can’t ignore them or refuse to work with them because they are the change agents in the community. And, at the end of the day, I have nothing but respect for the work they do. They fight poverty and illness and addiction and homelessness and joblessness and despair everyday. Then, sometimes they go to their churches and rail against abortion and call me sinful. I can critique this, I can protest it, I can decry it all I’d like, but when I’m interested in building community, I have to emphasize our common goals.

Sometimes, you form alliances on issues, not ideological purity.

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