Last night New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn cratered, dropping to a distant third place in New York City's Democratic mayoral primary after having been the frontrunner in the polls for months. But more fascinating were the groups that abandoned her in droves. The only woman in the race, she grabbed the votes of just 16 percent of women, according to an exit poll. A lesbian former activist who once headed the New York City Anti-Violence Project, she lost the LGBT vote to Bill de Blasio, the frontrunner, taking only 34 percent. Her own neighborhood dumped her like a ton of bricks, with de Blasio taking largely gay Chelsea by 44 percent to Quinn's 39 percent.
The recriminations were coming in on Twitter even before the returns, with claims that Quinn was a victim of misogyny, homophobia and self-loathing within the electorate. "There was a lot of misogyny coming out of the Anyone But Quinn movement," openly lesbian state assemblywoman Deborah Glick told Gay City News, referring to the anti-Quinn movement spearheaded by many gay progressives who were dissatisfied with Quinn's policies. "Women don't support women to the extent they should. And I don't know that the LGBT community is always strategic in its thinking."
But that's misguided thinking. LGBT politicos are in deep denial if they don't in fact see New York's mayoral race as a harbinger of what the future brings, in New York and throughout the country. This race was actually a reflection of the advances that the LGBT community has made in New York, with LGBT voters rejecting simplistic identity politics and voting on much broader issues affecting them and all New Yorkers.
I'm certainly not saying that sexism and homophobia, and racism, for that matter, were not present in this or other elections. They'll unfortunately be a staple in politics for a long time to come. But those are the cards we're dealt: If you're a woman or a member of a minority group, you have to be that much better than all the other candidates, unfair as that might be. And Christine Quinn just was not. If an out lesbian, Tammy Baldwin, can win a statewide Senate seat in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin amid homophobic invective in the race, an out lesbian can win the mayor's race in New York if she captivates the voters and stirs passion in them. Christine Quinn did not.
Quinn bet on New Yorkers desiring continuity. She thought that being a woman and a lesbian was enough to give her street cred with progressives while she backed the status quo. But that didn't cut it, and she realized that only after the earth had shifted beneath her as the electorate signaled that it wanted a big change. Political activists and pundits in New York have gone over the issues for months -- years, actually -- looking at how Quinn was too close to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ultimately helped him secure his third term, so I'm not going to go into all those issues now.
But I do want to say that those LGBT leaders of groups based in Washington, D.C., that raised lots of money for Quinn and are now lamenting her loss -- and blaming LGBT New Yorkers for abandoning her -- are insulting the well-informed, politically active LGBT voters of New York, and it will only cause further backlash against them if they continue. They're also tone-deaf to the fact that the majority of LGBT people in this city, like the larger population, are people of color and have other priorities as well, including ending Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk policy, which became central in the campaign.
In fact, we all have many other priorities in addition to protecting our rights as LGBT people. In the past, LGBT people in New York City often couldn't afford to focus on other issues because our health care, our safety, our homes, our jobs, and our relationships were on the line; as LGBT people, we were not protected from discrimination. And while homophobia is far from dead -- evidenced by the recent string of brutal anti-LGBT violence in New York -- we can also look to other issues that are important to us and our neighbors. That's progress. It represents a maturation of the LGBT vote in New York, and, in time, it will likely happen across the country.