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  • « Eternally-bitter, combative me | Main | Lose some even winning some »

    July 18, 2007

    Blog groveling for Gravel

    Posted by: Chris

    Gravel041706146 The progressive gay blogosphere is all a-twitter this week, flush from victory over the big bad Human Rights Campaign and its partner in crime, the Logo TV channel.

    The two corporate gay behemoths announced they are cosponsoring a “forum” featuring the Democratic candidates for president. Initial reports called the event a “debate,” although it turns out the candidates agreed only to appear one after the other on stage, where they will “engage in conversation” with, of all people, lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge and HRC chief Joe Solmonese.

    Logo and HRC called the event a “historic first,” even though the Democratic field subjected themselves to real questioning on gay issues by ABC’s Sam Donaldson in a similar forum four years ago, broadcast nationwide on basic cable channel C-SPAN.

    But progressive gay bloggers weren’t upset by that downgrade of fortunes. Their beef was over the exclusion of fringe candidate Mike Gravel, who wasn’t invited to participate because, according to HRC, the former senator from Alaska didn’t meet a cutoff for candidates to have raised at least $100,000 in campaign funds — later amended to mean $100,000 in the last quarter.

    It was ludicrous, of course, for HRC to claim that the $100,000 cutoff wasn’t aimed at Gravel. It was similarly silly for HRC to argue that the cutoff was intended to limit the event to “candidates who could actually be elected,” considering an invitation was extended to Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, whose campaign like Gravel’s is all protest or ego, or perhaps both.

    But Gravel and Kucinich are alone among the Democrats in the race to have come out in favor of marriage equality, so the diss by HRC-Logo got Gravel, and the bloggers who have his back, hopping mad. Gravel often comes off like Billy Crystal’s “grumpy old man” on “Saturday Night Live,” so it was a cinch for him to go from zero to livid over his exclusion.

    “Fighting for a hated minority is a pretty dumb way to get elected president,” grumped Gravel with a Huff and a Po on Huffington Post. “And obviously it hasn't helped with my fundraising. But I want to live in a country where there are no second-class citizens.”

    Leftie gay bloggers swooned in response, but does Gravel’s claim make any more sense than HRC-Logo’s? Since Gravel has zero chance of being elected president and has no constituency except the “none-of-the-above” anti-war folks that he and Kucinich are splitting, a play for the gays isn’t dumb at all. It’s a smart, even obvious move. Far from hurting Gravel in the wallet, some gay bloggers began fund-raising for him, arguing gay donors should do their part to hoist him over the $100,000 cutoff.

    Still, none of that stopped the bloggers from soaking in the thrill of victory when HRC-Logo reversed its decision and invited Gravel to the big dance.

    “The progressive gay blogosphere has arrived and the rest of the political world is cordially invited to take notice,” boasted Mike Rogers, who cut his blogo-teeth outing closeted Republican staffers on Capitol Hill, in a piece on Huffington Post.

    Rogers is right that we can learn quite a bit from this gay blogosphere triumph, but he might not like the real lessons. The influence of the blogosphere generally has long been sidelined by quixotic quests, lost causes and misdirected “netroots” resources. The gay grovel for Gravel is unfortunately a classic case.

    How exactly does it help the cause of gay rights to be associated with a man whom most Americans dismiss as fringe and probably unbalanced? Is the push for gay marriage boosted or burdened if Gravel and Kucinich are seen as its champions?

    It’s not just that they have no chance of actually winning; the same could be said of Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, but at least they are serious candidates taken seriously by the public and the media.

    Gravel and Kucinich, like Ron Paul on the GOP side (who, gulp, also apparently supports gay marriage), are nothing more than political sideshows, and it doesn’t help convince legitimate, mainstream candidates to take our views if they’re espoused by the likes of these guys.

    What’s worse, the exclusion of Gravel was much less potent a problem with the HRC-Logo “forum” format than the exclusion of real journalists to ask real questions of the candidates who might actually win. Four years ago, Sam Donaldson pressed John Kerry and the others on gay marriage, forcing them to explain their opposition to our equality.

    Does anyone expect Melissa Etheridge — and I’m a fan — to do the same, and as effectively? Anyone who has heard Joe Solmonese’s chatfest on XM Radio already knows he makes even a big softie like Larry King look like, well, Sam Donaldson by comparison.

    Fortunately, in addition to responding to the leftie bloggers on Gravel, HRC and Logo also heard criticism from others about their panelists. Now a top-notch, mainstream journalist is being recruited to participate. Now that's a victory worth actually celebrating, for those whose eyes remain on the prize.

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    Comments

    1. Brian Miller on Jul 18, 2007 8:37:04 PM:

      To be fair, though, Chris, if it's all about only talking to "candidates who can win," why talk about gay rights at all?

      "Candidates who can win" are interested only in superficial statements on gay issues with no substance behind them, or making flighty commitments to gay equality (like repealing DADT) that they don't back up with action (like co-sponsoring the existing bill to repeal DADT in the Senate).

      Without the Libertarians, Greens, Kuciniches and Gravels in the race, there's no pressure at all on the duplicitous Democrats to actually make good on their promises.

      Of course HRC's forum on Logo is going to be a love-in for Hillary Clinton. But so is every other forum, if gay rights organizations decide to make themselves kingmakers instead of impartial inquisitors on the issues that matter most to the LGBTQ community.

      With a closed process, alternative perspectives don't get heard, gay people are marginalized, and worst of all, no progress gets made. Closed processes and "strategic politics" of this nature only ensures that 25 years from now, gay people will still be saying "if you want UAFA or marriage equality, you have to support this anti-UAFA, anti-marriage equality Democrat and wait for them to become educated on the issue! Don't rock the boat."

      That's not the sort of future I want two decades from now. . .

    1. gleeindc on Jul 19, 2007 7:10:24 AM:

      At least Gravel mentions gay issues, the others seem to prefer not to be asked (minus Elizabeth Edwards, but she is only married to a candidate) unless forced to comment.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jul 19, 2007 10:08:43 AM:

      I think the points you both make cut the other way. Our energies are better spent pressuring the leading candidates to make and keep commitments than to back marginal candidates (even from gay-friendly parties) who only siphon off votes (Ralph Nader anyone?) in the long run.

      If we want Hillary, Obama and Edwards pressed on gay issues, then we need a strong journalist moderator at the HRC forum who'll do that. All the praise in the world from Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich won't change that.

    1. Double T on Jul 19, 2007 4:22:34 PM:

      The greatest issue facing LGBT community this elect, should be EMPLOYMENT. Gays need federal protection in the workplace. Everything else is “fluff”. And yes, I said “fluff” and I meant it.

      Marriage~ what good is it if you and you are both unemployed. Well at least I can put my husband on my insurance, no wait, I’m unemployed. I don’t have insurance.

      Military~ yes, fighting for one’s country, or oil sheik, can be very rewarding. But if the hiring manager can say “G.I. Fag need not apply”. What good is your service?

      The tail does not wag the dog.

      The true challenge the LGBT community faces is demonstrating that we “add value”. We need to be sails, not anchors.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jul 19, 2007 5:04:43 PM:

      You lost me about three or four mixed metaphors in, Double T, but suffice to say we disagree fundamentally. The percentage of gay Americans who suffer workplace discrimination is very very small. Even those that do can find employment elsewhere. Of course a bigoted boss is a bad thing, but it's not the same as the government itself doing the discriminating.

      Meanwhile, almost every American, gay or straight, will one day enter into a relationship that they wish to have recognized by their government, whether in the form of domestic partnership, civil union or marriage. When the government says no, it's the bigoted party, even though we pay its taxes and should be protected by its Constitution.

    1. Double T on Jul 19, 2007 6:57:41 PM:

      Chris~ Yes, it appears we will have to agree to disagree, and that’s ok with me.

      My apologies if my “rant” was confusing. Let me step back and re-phrase. I see the problem in the context of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I see marriage at the 3 & 4 levels Love/Belonging and Esteem. I feel that the community needs to take care of 1 & 2 Physiological and Safety, FIRST. I don’t see this happening. And I don’t see the community moving forward until it does.

      I see marriage as a distraction from what is urgent today.
      Feel free to call me a heartless bastard.

      p.s. this heartless bastard does wish you the best with your marriage.

    1. Brian Miller on Jul 20, 2007 5:32:16 PM:

      Our energies are better spent pressuring the leading candidates to make and keep commitments

      Just how do you propose "we" do that? By providing our unqualified support to the same people we're "pressuring," and ensuring that no threats to their position emerge to keep them on their toes?

      Queer fealty to Democrats didn't work in the 1990s, when we tried your strategy with Bill Clinton and were "rewarded" with DOMA and the military's anti-gay ban. I doubt such fealty would deliver different results in this decade.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jul 21, 2007 2:44:08 AM:

      It's all about leverage, Brian. We leverage HRC and leading gay Democrats to leverage their candidates. That's the way it works in politics.

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