August 8, 2004

POSTSCRIPT: Barack Obama

Back in the cold days of February and March 2004, well before Barack Obama was catapulted onto the national scene by his electrifying speech at the Democratic National Convention, Robert Charles and I mailed a letter to the state senator who was then struggling against a handful of tough opponents in the Illinois Democratic Primary. We stated our support for his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, saying his election would “be good for Illinois and good for the country.” But we also noted our disappointment with his position of supporting civil unions while withholding support for gay marriage, even though Robert and I recognized the political calculation of the strategy (i.e., winning the battles we can, making what progress we might). We enclosed a check and offered best wishes in the upcoming primary. To our surprise, Barack responded to our letter with a personal letter of his own: an elegant, eloquent explanation of his position crafted around the anti-miscegenation laws his white mother and black father faced in 1961 and the political jeopardy of “playing into Karl Rove’s playbook on cultural issues.” To our shock, Barack also returned our check, inviting us to first consider his response before accepting our support. What politician would ever turn down money, especially in the midst of a fierce election struggle? Barack Obama. Of course, it was the right thing – and the smart thing – to do. Robert and I immediately doubled our contribution.


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