Barack Obama, Donnie McClurkin And the Limits Of Tolerance

Trying to run a campaign that's a step above the fray -- that's higher than the interest group balkanization that characterizes our modern politics -- is not easy. Values often compete.

Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin is very popular among black Christians in South Carolina. Obama's success in South Carolina is predicated on his ability to convince these voters that he is temperamentally conservative like them, not Muslim, and electable.

McClurkin happens to hold a traditional American evangelical view of homosexuality. He is a Pentecostal minister.

Is McClurkin popularity and willingness to embrace Obama -- a staunch supporter of gay right's -- more important than the sensitivies of Obama's gay donors? As of this writing, that's up in the air -- the Politico's Ben Smith reports on a calm-the-waters conference call that David Plouffe has to take time from his campaign manager duties to attend.

There's a legitimate conflict here: in Obama's vision of America, are anti-gay views acceptable? Does Obama, as a modernist evangelical, accept the support of those Christians who believe that homosexuality is a curse? Politically, does McClurkin gospel message -- and the way it helps validate Obama's religious identity -- trump the parochial concerns of an interest group? And why did a campaign staffer fail to search McClurkin name in Wikipedia? And does the Democratic political class include a space for people who think homosexuality is immoral? And can any candidate win the gay vote and the conservative African American vote at the same time in the same state with the same message?

Fortunately for the Obama campaign, virtually no one in South Carolina is paying attention to this controversy. The press has barely touched on the story.