March 28, 2008
To the right lies insanity?
Posted by: Chris
Ever wondered why gay rights legislation is typically an agenda afterthought for congressional Democrats, why we seem to be the first minority group to be "thrown under the bus," as Melissa Etheridge put it? Ever suspected the Democratic National Committee and other fund-raising arms of the party love us more for our wallets and purses than they do for our civil rights struggle?
My suspicion has always been that Democratic Party leadership genuinely believes in our equality -- probably even including gay marriage -- but in the end will spend minimal political capital on us because they know the GOP is so much worse on our issues. That's no slam on Democrats per se; the GOP has been treating conservative Christians like that since the Reagan years, even with their much bigger numbers.
Every once in a while a leading Dem will say something that confirms my suspicion that we are taken for granted. Consider what DNC chair Howard Dean said yesterday at a speech in Madison, Wis.:
Dean said that the Republican Party has scapegoated every ethnic group and therefore can’t create a multicultural identity and reach younger voters.
“They can’t become more diverse,” Dean said. “Who in their right mind, if they were African American or Hispanic or Asian American, if they were gay or lesbian, would join the Republican Party?”
That's a common belief among not just party leaders like Dean, but many gay Democrats as well. Unfortunately, that assumption has real political consequences, primarily undermining whatever influence GLBT issues might be given within the party. Why take political risks on hot-button issues for a group that has nowhere to go?
Therein lies the primary criticism I've made against the Human Rights Campaign over the years because the gay Dems who run it work to reinforce the assumption that our movement is destined to be just another special interest captive within the Democratic Party. HRC's Joe Solmonese has actually said that's his goal.
Part of fixing that means pushing the Democratic Party to do better. The other part is improving the Republicans on gay issues, so Dean's arrogant assumption is challenged. Enter the Log Cabin Republicans, who issued a statement understandably taking umbrage at having their sanity questioned, especially in such drive-by fashion -- as if the question wasn't one for serious debate.
Nonetheless, it was faschinating to read the reaction from LCR director Patrick Sammon, who sounds like he's spent a lot of time this election year listening to Barack Obama:
“It’s unfortunate that the chairman of the Democratic Party would rather divide people than engage in a thoughtful debate about policy ideas or a vision for our country’s future. Americans deserve to know whether the two Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, agree with these remarks,” said Sammon. “The chairman of the DNC should focus on what unites Americans instead of dividing us by race or sexual orientation.”
Si se puede, Patrick! If only Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, the closeted previous chair of the Republican National Committee, thought more like you.
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