On Asking Experts, Part One, Or, Do Democrats Really Understand Their LBGT Problem?

(9AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Stories begat other stories, or at least they do for me; this two-part conversation came from a comment that was made after I posted a story suggesting that voting matters this time, especially if you don’t want environmental disasters like the recent Hungarian “toxic lake” that burst from its containment and polluted the Danube River happening in your neighborhood.  

Long story short, we are going to be moving on to ask what, for some, is a more fundamental question: if you’re an LBGT voter, and the Democratic Party hasn’t, to put it charitably, “been all they could be” when it comes to issues like repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” or the Federal Defense of Marriage Act…what should you do?

Now normally I would be the one trying to develop an answer to the question, but instead, we’re going to be posing the question to a group of experts, and we’ll be letting them give the answers.

And just because you, The Valued Reader, deserve the extra effort, for Part Two we’ve trying to get you a “Special Bonus Expert” to add some input to the conversation: a Democratic Member of Congress who represents a large LBGT community.    

“We were liberated not only empty-handed but left in the power of a people who resented our emancipation as an act of unjust punishment to them. They were therefore armed with a motive for doing everything in their power to render our freedom a curse rather than a blessing.”

–From The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition, Ida B. Wells, 1893

So we have our question, now we need a panel of experts.

As it happens, one of the sites to which I post is The Bilerico Project (“daily experiments in LBGTQ”), so I went to the site, posted the question (What Would You Tell A Frustrated Gay Voter?), and told the readers that I wanted to stand back and let them inform the conversation so that I could pass the message on to the larger Democratic and Progressive audience.

Most of what you’ll be reading in this two-parter will be those comments; I’ll be offering a few thoughts of my own, but my main effort will be to be “set the stage” for others.

So as we said, the big take-away here is that there is a portion of the LBGT community that feels like they have been “left behind”, if you will, by the very Democrats they helped to elect; Hannah offers an example of how that thinking manifested itself in the comments:

I don’t think many politicians really are pro-gay. Democrats will vote for gay issues, but the issue in question can’t stand alone. It needs to be attached to military spending or to credit card legislation, so that their constituents that don’t pay attention to detail will miss their pro-gay votes. When it gets there, I don’t think ENDA [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act] will be a stand-alone bill. I can’t even think about how DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] will end.

Bill Perdue puts it a lot more strongly:

The ‘progressive’ wing of the Democrat party is a wet noodle. It has no – zero, nada, zilch – clout or influence. It’s barely tolerated as left cover and if it gets too pushy they call the cops…

The Democrats have a long and clear history of bigotry and of doing what they have to do to appease bigots and get their votes. Democrats voted for DADT [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] and DOMA in large majorities and a Democrat bigot signed both bills.

Rank and filers and supporters are welcome to donate time and money and even attend conventions to watch their betters maneuver and scheme but they have no power.

Gina9223 picks up part of Bill’s theme and runs a bit further with it:

Between the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and HRC [Human Rights Campaign, a pro-civil rights organizing group] they both use GLBT and our struggles for gaining equal rights ONLY to generate money for their bottom line. How often have you heard or seen the some ad hack saying ‘the fight has only begun and they need your dollars now!’??? A few weeks or months go by with the assurance that they’re “doing everything possible” to secure the passing of ENDA, but they had to let that fall to give support to repeal of DOMA but they had to let that go to run after repeal of DADT. But don’t worry, they’ll come around in the bus next time to pick up our money. Just not us.

Now comes to the table Alex Blaze (who often gets stuck with the yeoman’s work of editing the things I post to Bilerico) with a bit of realpolitik:

It’s a catch-22: If Dems do fine in November they’ll learn that ignoring LGBT people was great and they should keep on doing it. If they lose big, then they’ll think that they went too far to the left and they should do even less.

One would become suspicious about the fact that there’s no situation where they become more responsive to public opinion and more queer-friendly, but we obviously can’t question the Democrats’ commitment to LGBT rights. That just wouldn’t be polite.

Andrew W expands on Gina’s point that it’s not entirely a Democratic problem:

The frustration is warranted, but instead of simply singling out Democrats for not accomplishing something they never had the votes to accomplish, what about Gay Inc. and activist groups? A significant amount of money was spent in the last 2 years and we have nothing to show for it. GetEQUAL resurrected 1960s styled civil disobedience and protest – without any measurable results and mounting evidence that we’ve simply alienated our only “friends.” HRC spent millions lobbying Congress and yet they cannot show us a single vote they “changed.”

SoFloMo is of the opinion that a big part of the problem is staring at voters in the bathroom mirror each morning:

Too often we get indignant and then throw parties where politicians and/or Gay Inc. come to collect checks after everyone has found their way to the bottom of three or four cocktails.

I’ve been to events in South Florida where the house is packed to meet a gay-friendly celebrity or the head of a national LGBT organization. But few people will turn up to canvass on behalf of local candidates who have passed laws protecting LGBT rights. Few people will work the phones to defeat candidates supported by the Christian Coalition.

So I need to keep a handle on how long stories run, and “we’ve stated the problem, so let’s come back tomorrow and address some answers” seems like a reasonable plan for splitting the story in two…so that’s what we’re going to do.

Let’s bring this Part One to a close by restating the premise: there exists some number of LBGT voters who feel they have nothing to gain by voting this time, because they perceive no available political path to achieving forward progress on civil rights issues. There’s another group who feel Democrats are not a trustworthy partner in the effort to advance civil rights, and if they show up to vote at all this time, it probably won’t be for Democratic candidates.

Just as soon as I get this posted, I’ll be assembling Part Two; with the “question now asked”, we’ll be getting to answers-and I think you’re going to be surprised at the diversity of responses.

As I mentioned above, I’ve been in touch with a currently unnamed Member of Congress who has a significant LBGT constituency over the past 24 hours, and the Press Secretary over there has indicated that they’ll try to have a response for attribution in time for Part Two.

Between now and then, try on a thought exercise and see where it takes you: put yourself in the shoes of an LBGT voter, think about this election it it’s full context, and consider what advice would make sense to you-and then, after you’ve done that, consider how you’d pass along what you’re thinking to either the Democrats or the voters we’re talking about.

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11 comments

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  1. …if democratic professionals are willing to listen.

  2. … for the good conversation you had about this over at the orange.  I’ll note the compliment paid you by one of the LGBT bloggers I admire very much.

  3. but it is the only thing in the end that is effective.

    The idea that Daniel Choi’s modest disobedience (tying himself to the White House fence) and other acts of civil disobedience alienates our political “friends” yields no measurable results is garbage.

    It was acts like Choi’s and those of others such as GetEqual that put gay rights on the radar in the first place.

    We as a community have many members that are far far too worried about “alienating” and “angering” political people.  Barney Frank was famous for saying that the marches on Washington were a waste of time.

    What is not understood in this analysis that what is not talked about in the media and what is not discussed by politicians (at least discussed, in whatever context), DIES.

    It was only after the national outcry that anything got talked about at all, much less done.  What politicians feel they don’t need to worry about, they won’t.  This is why we got a vote on DADT in the first place, it is why there is controversy.

    We are afraid of alienating and angering our friends?  Why?  The acts of civil disobedience that have occurred so far have not hurt anyone, they are mild as milkwater compared to other things that have happened in civil rights history such as bringing the transportation system of a southern city to a standstill or provoking extreme actions like being firehosed in the street.

    Why, then, the hue and cry over the purely emotional reactions of our politicians?  If they feel pressure, that is SOMETHING.  The alternative is NOTHING (Silence=Death).

    I know that many people want to trust certain Democratic leaders even in the LGBT community: Obama made all these promises and there are gay people who simply don’t want to believe he will not keep them.

    He is a politician.  And a politician in a country that has massive systemic problems.  There will in any era be these systemic problems that, in the analysis of our political royals (and they do seem to see themselves as above us, a kind of aristocracy).  That is even if they “mean well”.

    When you look at the mass media and what is being talked about, millions of people, for example, are being fraudulently kicked out of their homes.  There will always be things like this to persuade a well meaning straight politician that he or she can ignore, avoid or simply depreciate LGBT human rights.  There is every reason in the world: It’s politically hard, and there are always important needs that can always arguably come first.

    So, the only answer, the only answer that works is A SENSATION OF PRESSURE.  And a politician will never like that.

    The vote is not for giving this sensation and never will be.  If they in Washington have to read political tea leaves to divine your dissatisfaction, that is never enough pressure.

    So, yes.

    Anger them.  Piss them off.  Alienate them.  Because a politician will never do anything, especially about our civil rights unless she feels it.  

    And, to the LGBT community and not to the straight people who read us from outside, I would say this:  Trust yourself, trust us, trust “WE”.  We are so far away from illegitimate use of political pressure making it’s not even funny.  People who are not LGBT are not bleeding, and I hate violence.  It would be at the point of drawing blood that perhaps a movement has gone too far.  

    But our rights while not as important as other things to politicians (do I “blame them”?  No.  I understand them!) merit nothing less than every effort short of actual destruction.  Every effort short of hurting people.  

    If they are alienated now, imagine how alienated they would be at what should be, that is blocking traffic, strikes, hunger strikes, sit ins and mass demonstrations.

    • melvin on October 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    on towleroad to get a clue. When Obama cut a video for the It Gets Better campaign, a good half the comments were to the equivalent of “I wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire.” At this rate, you will probably see a significant number writing in Dan Choi’s name in the primary rather than voting for Obama – and I’m one of them.

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