February 11, 2007
Turning away from the D.C. Dems
Posted by: Chris
Regular Citizen-reader Andoni makes an interesting comment to my post yesterday about Tim Gill:
It's a continuation of the spat between Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel. Is the money best spent at the top or building a party at the state level? Well both, but each half has to acknowledge the contributions of the other.
Indeed, Dean was pushing to invest many in all 50 states, while Emanuel wanted to concentrate limited resources in the races he thought would flip control of Congress. Dean did things his way, as he is wont to do, and the Dems won both houses anyway, though by smaller margins than Emanuel et al claim they would have.
I'll buy into the analogy so long as it stays an analogy. Dean and Emanuel were squabbling over how to spend limited resources on Democratic Party priorities. In the same way, Gill and Jeff Soref (and his Dem-first, gay-second friends at the Human Rights Campaign) are partying ways on how to spend limited resources on gay rights priorities.
Dean may have had the better long-term argument for Dems, but that doesn't mean gay money should back his "50-state" campaign. This confluence of Democratic Party priorities and gay rights priorities has been one of the central strategic errors of the gay rights movement over the last decade, and rathern than be corrected, it's been enshrined in Joe Solmonese's decision to model HRC after (of all things) organized labor.
I have made no secret of my great disappointment in how Dean morphed from the civil union champion who rode gay money to become the early leader in the '04 Democratic primaries into the curmudgeonly, anti-marriage technocrat who abolished the Democratic National Committee's gay outreach desk and treated gay Democrats as if they were nothing more than glorified pocketbooks.
Dean was so miffed by my paper's tough coverage and my editorial pressure that he called the Washington Blade the "New York Post of the gay and lesbian press." "They’re not credible and they have somebody there who has an agenda which is clearly not favorable to the Democratic Party so we simply don’t give them any credence," he told an interviewer last summer.
Exactly. Like so many other Democratic Party leaders, Dean expects gay people and gay groups to treat the Democratic Party agenda as if it were their own, and he bristles when the gays get uppity. Take, for example, Donald Hitchcock and Paul Yandura. Dean fired Hitchcock as the head of gay outreach after Yandura, his partner, sent out a blistering email criticizing Dean for refusing to fund the fight against statewide mariage ballot measures.
But Hitchcock is keeping up the pressure, evidenced by a letter in this week's Blade that critiques Dean's performance at the recent Democratic LGBT Caucus meeting:
After attending the recent Democratic National Committee LGBT Caucus meeting, it reaffirmed for me my reasons for standing up to Howard Dean’s reluctance to treat our community with dignity and respect, an action for which I was fired. I claim that firing as a badge of honor.
Dean barely addressed the LGBT caucus with only five minutes worth of comments and he took no questions from the floor. And unfortunately, his talking points had shifted from the comprehensive plan to address the anti-LGBT state ballot measures offered last year to throwing only “a little bit of money” into the states at the end of the fight.
So much for the strategy to combat them that he touted in the LGBT press prior to the elections. A recent survey shows that the DNC gave states less than $20,000 in total, despite having raised almost $2 million from the gay community in 2006. But we will never know the exact amount given to state groups since the DNC is embarrassed to officially release the numbers. …
At the meeting, gay finance staff and key fundraisers did sit at the caucus table, as before, but what is different is that lately we seem to be treated solely as an ATM for the party, with our civil rights seeming an afterthought or burden.
Kudos to Donald for holding Dean to task, even if groups like HRC and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force have swallowed Dean's dogma hook, line and sinker. Let's hope gays with money pay heed to Hitchcock's criticism and give close consideration to Gill's new approach.
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