What Should Gays Do About the Democratic Party Problem?

The front cover of the new and expiring Advocate features a sassy donkey with the title: Gays to the DNC: "Kiss My Ass" followed by the subtitled, "A boycott of the Democratic Party gains momentum." The story was written by notorious--albeit confused--Democrat basher, Jamie Kirchick. Once the scourge of Ron Paul--who he claimed in one of his first investigative hit pieces, is anti-gay, anti-Black, anti-Semitic, obsessed with conspiracies and "sympathetic" to far right militia movements--Jamie's now the in house, gay anti-leftist for right-wing propaganda sheets like The Weekly Standard and Commentary. The dying or reborn Advocate picked themselves a real winner for this month's cover story.

The disappointment with the Obama Administration that is so palpable among progressives, is even more advanced in the politicized segment of the gay community. Many gays are now focusing on the Democrats' slow walk and tepid response to their issues, rather than on the somewhat less present existential threats from the right. Kirchick is happy to throw some gasoline on the fire without a mature look at the political context: "They're fond of your checkbooks-- and deaf to your demands for equal rights."

In the wake of the Maine defeat, a coterie of liberal bloggers and activists called for a temporary moratorium on DNC donations. The fledgling movement, which has adopted the motto "Don't Ask, Don't Give" and has attracted the likes of legendary gay rights activist David Mixner, hopes to discourage donations to the party until the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of both "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act. In so doing, these activists are hoping to reshape-- if not completely upset-- the relationship between gays and the Democratic Party. 

...With the 2010 midterm congressional election looking increasingly perilous for progressives, thus making the imperative to pass pro-gay legislation before then all the more urgent, a picture is beginning to emerge of a Democratic president and political party that are, as Szekeres describes them, happy to take money and votes from gay people but less inclined to spend political capital on their behalf. So far, the only piece of significant gay rights legislation to pass Congress and receive the president's signature is the expansion of the hate-crimes act, which was ultimately appended to a defense spending bill. Hearings on ENDA and the repeal of DADT have been delayed, and the prospects for getting DOMA off the books are dimming. Perhaps candidate Obama made too many promises; even some of his strongest supporters acknowledge that his early guarantees for change may be coming back to haunt him. "I wish he had said he was a 'firm and steady ally' rather than a 'fierce advocate,'" says one prominent gay Democrat.

Losses on the state level have only darkened impressions of the DNC in the eyes of some gay activists. In addition to the revocation of equal marriage rights in Maine, the New York state senate rejected a marriage equality bill in December, with eight Democrats joining all of the chamber's Republicans. At press time it appears marriage in New Jersey, which once looked like a surefire bet, may not make it through the legislature. "Many of us in the progressive movement just want to throw up," Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality told Newark's Star-Ledger. "Democrats put out one hand to ask for money, and with the other they stab you in the back."

Sensing the rumblings of discontent among a loyal constituency, the party has not been silent. Partly in response to the brewing anger, gay DNC treasurer Andrew Tobias recently sent out an e-mail containing what he termed a "nicely growing list" of pro-gay initiatives sponsored by the Obama administration. The message was long, but nearly all of the measures-- the decision to sign on to a United Nations declaration condemning the criminalization of homosexuality, a presidential proclamation celebrating Gay Pride Month, the appointment of an openly gay ambassador to New Zealand-- were largely symbolic.

...Gay voters' frustration with the Democratic Party in general, and Obama in particular, is one piece of a larger narrative of progressive disenchantment with the first year of the new administration. Members of the president's liberal base have experienced a rude awakening: They are not as powerful as they thought they were. Despite all their efforts, Congress failed to pass a health care package with a public option, and the president has chosen to escalate the war in Afghanistan with a surge of 30,000 additional troops, two stances sharply at odds with the views of his base. Seen in this context, the Democratic Party's lackadaisical approach to gay rights isn't that remarkable.

All true and widely accepted. But then Kirchick goes off into a right-wing fantasy aimed at separating the gay constituency from the progressive movement and babbling about how much better off gays would be if they operated more like the NRA or AIPAC, which he terms "bipartisan lobbies," although he does acknowledge-- without mentioning widespread and implacable GOP homophobia as a primary wedge issue the party uses to define itself-- that gays may have a little teensy weensy bit of trouble achieving "the same sort of bipartisan consensus."

As we mentioned yesterday there is a better way to fight back against reactionary tendencies in the Democratic Party than empowering our mortal foes whose idea of solving the gay problem is somewhat akin to how their ideological antecedents in Germany in the 1930s attempted to solve the "gay problem." Teabaggers and Republicans are not the answer. And neither are Blue Dogs and other right-wing Democrats. Keeping in mind that every single Republican-- all 175 of them who were there to vote, including closet cases like Patrick McHenry (NC), Mark Kirk (IL), Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Tent Franks (AZ), Aaron Schock (IL), etc-- voted against the Hate Crimes bill and that the only 15 Democrats to vote no were all Blue Dogs, isn't it clear-- or at least logical-- that the real enemies of legitimate gay aspirations towards equality are not "Democrats," but conservatives-- both outside the party (i.e., Kirchick's friends the Republicans) and inside the party.

And that, of course, is why Blue America has embarked on a Better Democrats campaign for this cycle, starting with this ActBlue page, Send The Democrats A Message They Can Understand. Please take a look. We are targeting bad Democrats and trying to assist grassroots progressives who are opposing them. The Democrats who voted against the Matthew Shepard bill-- again, all Blue Dogs-- are serial homophobes who oppose gay fairness at every opportunity, just the way Republicans do. Blue America opposes and hopes to defeat each and every one of them-- Dan Boren (OK), Chris Carney PA), Travis Childers (MS), Lincoln Davis (TN), Joe Donnelly (IN), Brad Ellsworth (IN), Parker Griffith (AL, who has since left the Blue Dogs to officially join the Republican Party), Baron Hill (IN, against gays on the enabling legislation but switched up the same way Minnick did, on the final vote), Frank Kratovil (MD), Mike McIntyre (NC), Charlie Melancon (LA, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in a state with a lot of gay people), Walt Minnick (ID, who told us he firmly supports equality for all Americans and, although he voted with the anti-gay GOP on the enabling legislation, he did switch to the Democratic side in time for the final vote in a swell little political jujitsu for home state consumption), Mike Ross (AR), Heath Shuler (NC), and Gene Taylor (MS)-- not with a worse or equally bad Republican but with a better Democrat. If you donate any money at all the the DCCC, most of it will go towards bolstering anti-gay Democrats in trouble with the Democratic base. Your money will go to make sure dedicated and relentless homophobes like Chris Carney, Frank Kratovil, Baron Hill, Walt Minnick, Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth abd Travis Childers are re-elected so they can continue voting against gay families. And the DCCC has already started trying to destroy progressive candidates like Doug Tudor in favor of conservative shills like Lori Edwards in Florida. At the very least, we hope to eviscerate the power of their Blue Dog caucus and make it less able to work against the interests of gay people and other Americans who are not part of the corporatocracy conservatives seem to believe should get all the breaks. Again, if you'd like to help, this is a very good alternative to donating to the DNC, DCCC or DSCC: Blue America.