Ben Buchwalter

Is Warren Worth It?
December 18, 2008, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, General Politics | Tags: , ,

I wrote a few weeks ago about the media’s overblown response to Obama’s centrist cabinet appointments. The media seemed to think that liberals were furious at Obama, when they were maybe peeved or disappointed. Many liberals understand Obama’s need to appoint people with experience who appeal to a wide cross section of the population in order to maximize his political capital. 

But Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration on January 20 is a symbolic blow to women, gays and the pro-choice and pro-gay liberals who support them.

It’s clear Warren was chosen in an attempt to bring Christians (and even conservatives) into Obama-mania. And despite the unfortunate message that the choice sends to liberals, I think it is politically shrewd. But the central question is, will Barack Obama gain enough with Christians and conservatives to compensate for the support he will lose from the left?

Powerful liberal organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are decrying this decision as “genuine blow to LGBT Americans.” Andrew Sullivan wrote:

Warren is a man who believes my marriage removes his freedom of speech and cannot say that authorizing torture is a moral failing. Shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now.

Despite the political benefits to Warren giving the invocation, I agree that it is a bad choice that sets the stage for some serious disappointments from Obama on abortion and gay rights. But I’m hoping that that disappointment is only symbolic and restricted to inauguration.

Because when it comes down to it, the Warren choice means nothing. After all, Obama is not the sole decider of who gives the invocation. And it would be much more serious if he had appointed him Secretary of State or Attorney General or as the next Justice to the Supreme Court. But that’s ridiculous and its clearly not going to happen. I trust that Obama’s pandering to Christian conservatives will not spill over into any policy decisions.

In a later Andrew Sullivan post:

I think the choice of Warren is almost certainly designed, in fact, as a unifying move – and it is a signal that Obama has every intention of reaching out to Christianists who have some liberal leanings on poverty, the environment, and heterosexual HIV and AIDS. (Check out the last time Rick Warren reached out to gay people with HIV or AIDS.) I understand where Obama’s coming from, and I don’t think this is an inherently bad idea. Building such a liberal Christianist coalition is something I saw coming, and sadly see no way to avoid.

Before we will see what the choice of Warren means for the big picture of Obama’s Presidency, Obama will lose some credibility from his base. Long term, I hope that he’ll surround himself with more liberals and make some serious progressive policy choices. But when it comes down to it, we knew all along that we were electing a moderate.



6 Comments so far
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Interesting that one of Clinton’s first pre-inauguration moves was to try to authorize gays in the military, and one of Obama’s was to ask this anti-gay guy to speak at his inauguration.

Comment by lisabu

LISABU with the zinger! Good point!

Comment by Ben

The “Messiah” is not all he was made out to be, it’s as simple as that. Many liberals are starting to get upset because they feel like they’ve been duped into supporting the Barackstar as a liberal, when he’s actual just a pragmatic Centrist who will remind everyone very much of Bill Clinton (minus the whole sex scandal because Michelle is much more attractive than Hilary was).

Comment by JK

Can’t agree that men cheat because their wives are unattractive, JK…but after the past 8 years I will be very happy to be reminded of Clinton, with or without a sex scandal.

Comment by lisabu

hey ben your blog is awesome. this comment is a week late, but hey…

rick warren’s church is actually five minutes from my house, aka orange county, not the bible belt. his opposition to gay marriage rights is undeniable, but it’s also a requisite of his traditional evangelical theology. that said, traditional theology isn’t really what he’s all about. he came down on the pro-prop 8 side, but he isn’t the standard-bearer of the christian right he’s made out to be.

the stuff he’s most passionate about is private charity, fighting AIDS, poverty, etc. if it weren’t for prop 8 happening this year, most people would’ve glossed right over his anti-gay positions and the commentary on this invocation choice would be entirely different.

should his gay marriage position invalidate the larger corpus of his work? conversely, should pastors be allowed to get this political in the first place?

Comment by Nick

I was surprised and glad when I heard that Rick Warren was going to give the inauguration. We need to rely on God in moments like these. I don’t want Obama to be surrounded by liberal thoughts, that’s why the society is how it is now because of those liberal thoughts. We need integral people. I’m sorry but I don’t approve gay lifestyle and abortions.

Comment by Yaz

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