Friday, April 07, 2006

Is Fenty Asleep at the Wheel?

Adrian Fenty (D-Ward 4) has the backing of the DC gay political machine. But why?

I myself got caught up in the Fenty bandwagon early on. It is clear that he is a strong supporter of gay rights. He also has taken public stands against the baseball stadium and in support of the law banning smoking in District restaurants and bars. Many of his positions align him with the DC progressive and gay community, which are both good groups to have behind you in DC campaigns.

However, Fenty lacks presence. When he works a crowd alone he can certainly shake hands and do the small talk thing as well as any other successful politician can. Though, juxtaposed against other candidates in the race for Mayor he certainly falls short.

When I attended Fenty's official campaign kick-off, I was struck by how unsmooth he was on the stump. Rather than speak to the crowd in a passionate way about why he wants to be the next mayor, a position he clearly has wanted and thought about for quite a long time now, he read uninterestingly from sheets of paper containing text full of snoring platitudes. He spoke with his hands firmly gripping the side of the podium he read from, as if he was the only one at the event that believed his words would carry with them a force strong enough to blow the podium into the crowd. Indeed, with that much hot air he may very well have been saving the audience from injuries cause by a large projectile.

Recently when I saw him at an event with other candidates (even those that do not have a real chance of winning the September DC primary), he came across even worse. Many of my friends who attended this event and had never heard him speak before called him a "let down" and a "disappointment". Fenty appeared tired, bored and "over it". The other candidates appeared energized and invaded the senses of the crowd with their words and gestures. Compared to the other candidates, Fenty looked like a kid in his father's suit. They were supposed to be there, he was not and he was lazy.

Fenty certainly bored me, a supporter, who could hardly concentrate on a word he was saying. Uninspiring is the nicest way to put it.

Fenty is in an interesting position, because he is the clear frontrunner in this race. While he has maneuvered himself successfully this far in the race, he has also put himself in a situation where expectations of him are now high. People are starting to take notice of Fenty, and it is clear that all the hype about him is just hype.

While it is true that his performance on the stump may not correlate with how well he may perform in office, the campaign is his only way to connect with voters. And right now the connections he is making are making people connect the dots away from his camp. Many of his supporters that I speak to appear to be dating Fenty but not married to him. He is Mr. Right Now and not Mr. Right.

Perhaps it's time the gays do what they do best and start window shopping for another candidate.

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