Outfest Goes Political: Obama Anxieties

Outfest’s Queer State of the Nation panel with gay politicos and filmmakers on Saturday was designed to talk about issues like same-sex marriage and “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but it naturally spilled over into a wider discussion of the state of the ’08 race.

More specifically, there some in the audience at the Directors Guild of America expressed concern and frustration over Barack Obama’s move to the center, most notably his vote for telecom immunity last week. The issue has inflamed a chunk of Obama’s liberal supporters, and has been the source of a great deal of consternation among those who have seen it as a drift away from the candidate’s mantra of a new kind of politics.

Jeremy Bernard, Obama’s Southern California finance consultant along with partner Rufus Gifford, said that he was “critical of the vote this week. I think it was the wrong vote,” adding that he has let officials in Chicago know that “we’re losing some money” from donors upset with the candidate’s decision.

He also pointed out a double standard in the way that campaigns have been perceived the past few cycles: McCain becomes the nominee, and the media and political consultants ask how he will tilt right to shore up his base. Obama becomes the nominee, and the question is whether he is too far to the left and can move to the center.

Bernard also provided some perspective, noting that “we are electing a president, not a king,” and after eight years of Bush “there are going to be high expectations.”

“Anything anyone does is going to be seen like a lot after eight years,” he said.

Rick Jacobs, the founder of the progressive group Courage Campaign, noted that some 25,000 members of MyBarackObama, the campaign’s social networking site, organized in protest to the candidate’s FISA vote. He noted that it’s proof the campaigns positions are more likely to be forged from the ground up.

“Here’s the point: You can do something and still be loyal,” Jacobs said.

Obama’s moves to the center naturally raise questions about what he will do on some pressing gay rights issues. The candidate has said he would like to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a move that would allow gays to serve openly in the military.

“It will probably not be the first thing that an Obama administration will look at,” Bernard said, citing the the host of pressing concerns about the war in Iraq and the economy, and the furor that President Clinton went through when he tried to change the gays in the military policy when first taking office in 1993.

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