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Bloomberg Is Out:
Ode to a Mythical Candidate

Bloomberg Is Out:
Ode to a Mythical Candidate


New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has put the final dagger through the heart of his might-be presidential bid -- dashing any hope for a marriage equality candidate in 2008.

We have been warned about the pitfalls of daring to dream. We have been conditioned by the pragmatism of politics -- the guideposts of electability narrowing our course till our hopes fit neatly into mainstream boundaries.

We have been building our castles in the air not because, as Henry David Thoreau said, "that is where they should be," but because that's the only place they can be, according to Democratic politicians and strategists.

But just maybe, if we believe, the landscape can change.

No, this is not an excerpt from Barack Obama's stump speech. This is a rendering of what might have been -- a third-party candidate from New York with $1 billion at the ready to drop on a general election and who is, indeed, pro same-sex marriage.

What if a certain mayor had risen up and provided more hope for gay Americans than the Democratic nominee, whoever he or she might be? What if the candidate -- who didn't need our money -- had also been the candidate who turned out to be the most progressive on our issues? What if that candidate had inspired the imagination of the LGBT community and, just by virtue of being pro-marriage, challenged mainstream notions that same-sex unions pose a threat to society?

Imagine if during a three-way general election debate, a questioner asked Candidate X why he supports same-sex marriage and he straightforwardly answered, "Because I believe that all tax-paying Americans should have the same rights." What would the Democratic nominee say then when asked why he or she doesn't back marriage equality? Would they dare answer, "Because America isn't ready for it?"

Imagine the press conference where the Democratic nominee faced the question "Are you worried that Candidate X will peel away your base of gay votes, even as he provides a home for social moderates and fiscal conservatives?"

What if that self-financed candidate had run for president and never backed away from his marriage equality pronouncements, and the exit polls revealed that the only voters who abandoned him based solely on his marriage stance were the 25% bloc of conservative evangelicals who always vote Republican anyway?

The LGBT community is still waiting for a leader to do for gays and lesbians what President John F. Kennedy did for African-Americans in 1963 when he framed the inequity they experienced as "a moral issue" that the country must rectify.

Pew polls over the last few years consistently show that around 55% of Americans favor allowing same-sex couples to enter into some form of legal agreement that grants them rights similar to marriage.

And as David Eisenbach, author of Gay Power: An American Revolution, noted recently, that support exists without virtually any national politicians taking a strong stand on the subject. "What if there was actually leadership and it was explained from respected leaders within the Democratic Party to the American public that denying marriage equality was denying legal equality, and keeping an entire class of citizens in second-class citizenship?" mused Eisenbach. "What if Obama were doing that, or Clinton? People would begin to look at anybody who opposed gay marriage as somebody who was prejudiced. To their credit, the American people are -- the vast majority --against prejudice. Somebody just has to tell them that being anti-gay marriage is prejudiced."

Admittedly, no one fantasizes that Michael Bloomberg (aka Candidate X) -- who in a New York Timesop-ed today quashed any remaining hopes that he might still enter the race -- would have trumpeted his stance for legalizing same-sex marriage during this hypothetical bid. But he would have moved the goal post considerably just by running and demonstrating a down side to Democrats who won't go all the way on marriage.

This candidate wouldn't have had to push the issue; he simply had to be. That would have been enough.

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