To get the cliché out of the way, looking back over a just-completed year is generally an exercise in indulging our own perspectives. Those of us never without our rose-colored lenses see progress and success; those of us who drink only from half-empty glasses see stagnation and defeat.
Honestly, my nature tilts toward the latter. But given that I’m aware of my own doom-and-gloom tendencies, I make a conscious effort to view things through a more positive prism. Even if I don’t agree with a particularly rosy outlook, being able to understand it better informs my own outlook and keeps me from falling too far into cynicism.
It also makes me far more pleasant to be around.
Anyway, while it’s important to keep some focus on the past to better understand the present and prepare for the future, it’s also important not to turn a look back into an extended tour of what might have been. In particular, the recent chatter among a small portion of the handful of LGBT activists still interested in re-litigating the 2008 Democratic primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, specifically entertaining the idea that — had Clinton won the primary and the presidency — we would have had a White House declaration of full support for marriage equality.
Presumably, we would also have a pony.
I don’t believe I need to make any special effort to see that the accomplishments of the past year — really, the past three — have been beyond significant for the LGBT community, from repeal of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to inclusion of transgender issues in administration policies to the Justice Department’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. All of these are landmark moments in LGBT history and each of them creates a cascade effect. (See the immediate impact of the DOMA decision on immigration rights for binational gay couples.) That doesn’t mean that everything has been achieved — the stalling of ENDA in Congress is galling, especially given that the ball was dropped before the Republican rabble took over the House. It does mean that it’s ludicrous to act as if the Obama administration is a lackadaisical enemy of LGBT people.
The entertaining of ”gut feeling” fantasies that a Hillary Clinton administration would have somehow magically created full marriage equality and passed ENDA on top of the achievements we’ve already seen is simply a left-wing version of Newt Gingrich’s alternate history novels, a way to indulge pet grievances under the false banner of analysis and strategy.
While the number of people still campaigning for Clinton 2008 is mercifully small — though well-connected enough to a reporter or two to occasionally re-float the same balloon — the number of LGBT progressives who believe that Obama is an adversary, or even enemy, is lamentably large. No one should be satisfied by what’s been achieved because far too much is left to be done. But to say that there have been achievements is not to be an apologist, but to be a realist.
It’s odd that a community that can shower praise on professional baseball teams that gather for a few minutes in a locker room to record an ”It Gets Better” video — despite having a total of zero openly gay players — can be exactly the opposite with an administration that has achieved more than any other in history for LGBT people. Not everything, not enough, and certainly not beyond criticism for missteps and delays, but undeniably more.
With the Iowa caucuses next week featuring a slate of Republican candidates who’ve committed to turning back those gains and an election that promises to be difficult given the economy, 2012 isn’t a time for self-indulgent fantasies.