March 28, 2008
What's it all about, Howie?
Posted by: Chris
This was my weekly column, written on Tuesday, before his quote about the insanity of gay Republicans and before another bit of breaking news I note in a postscript at the end.
The column was a bit of a love letter to Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean:
It’s us, the gay community. We need to talk. You know what about -- our relationship.
It’s no secret we’ve been drifting apart, all that romance and excitement from the halcyon days of 2004 seems like a lifetime ago now. These days, all we do is argue, and our dirty laundry is daily fodder for the gossiphounds on the blogosphere.
The name-calling. The nastiness. The pettiness. This isn’t us.
We should be thick as thieves. Eight years of George W. Bush is enough to make all but the button-down Log Cabin boys swoon at the prospect of one of yours in the White House. I mean just look at our choices.
The GOP is nominating a septuagenarian whose idea of a May-December romance is a gay rights record even worse than George Bush in 2000: no workplace protections, no hate crime law, no gays serving openly in the military -- even the most limited domestic partnerships are a non-starter with John McCain.
Your side, on the other hand, is down to two courtesans who know exactly what to say. Hillary had us practically at hello –at least since she said she wasn’t staying home serving milk and cookies. She’s already won over most of our prominent politicos, including 13 of the 21 out LGBT superdelegates. (We won’t count Donna Brazile, nudge nudge wink wink.) Despite Barack Obama’s own charm offensive, he has only 2.
But the handsome senator from Illinois knows how to push our buttons, too. He woos us with promises to repeal all of the Defense of Marriage Act, which reminds us of the presidential playa who signed it into law in the first place. Hillary feels our pain on that, no doubt.
When you see Clinton and Obama courting us, do you remember the 2004 party primaries? It was all about you, Howard -- a little-known governor from Vermont who courageously supported the nation’s first civil unions law. No matter the audience, you talked about gay rights before gay rights were cool. We swooned in response, and our dollars played a major role in putting you on the map. Later, we cheered when you parlayed your primary success into a bid to chair the Democratic National Committee.
So where did it all go wrong, Howard? It was that meddling “M word,” wasn’t it? Our expectations for this relationship went sky high after we could get married in Massachusetts. We thought you’d be happy for us but instead, like most pols, you just weren’t ready to go there. We were moving too fast for you, and it put you on the defensive. Sorry about that.
Then you went on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” and said your party platform backed “one man-one woman marriage.” Ouch! We felt doubly betrayed; you were philandering with our sworn enemies and acting like you weren’t already spoken for. Looking back, we were too sensitive. It was smart politics for you to reach out to the religious right. So many of them these days are not their grandfather’s evangelicals.
But the Democratic Party platform is actually neutral on gay marriage, and it wasn’t the only time you got that wrong in public. Our suspicions grew. Where was the Howard we fell for? Maybe you were just like Bill Clinton and the rest – wham bam, thanks for the cash, man.
Then came the squabbling. Some of your most loyal party gays swore you’d lost that lovin’ feeling. You nixed the “gay outreach desk,” left us out of the party’s annual grassroots report, and you wouldn’t go along with treating us like other minority groups in delegate selection. You said you had your reasons, you said you did it for us, to make our bond stronger. We said, “Talk to the hand.”
What did you expect? You sacked Donald Hitchcock, your top gay liaison, and said it was strictly based on performance. But now he’s sued you alleging anti-gay bias. We don’t know who to believe, considering he got the axe just a week after his partner, longtime Dem Paul Yandura, publicly blasted you for not doing more to fight state marriage amendments. There’s that “M-word” again.
You know what happened next. Everything got personal. You called the Washington Blade “the Fox News of the gay media.” The Stonewall Dems got so riled at your chief of staff they said it was high time to “get these mother fuckin’ snakes off this mother fuckin’ plane.” A senior DNC staffer said she used gay newspapers to line her birdcage.
It’s crazy, isn’t it, how nasty it’s gotten, when we were so important to each other early on. Is it too late for us? Have we gone from Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” to “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”? Actually no – that’s the “M word” again, sneaking up from behind. Still, civil union “D-I-S-S-O-L-U-T-I-O-N” just doesn’t have the same ring.
So what do you say, Howard? Can we give us one more try? Meet us halfway? You don’t have to bring us flowers – just get a gay rights bill or two through the Democratic-controlled Congress.
As a postscript, it's interesting to see this from today's Washington Blade report on Dean's deposition in the Donald Hitchcock suit:
Dean noted that he personally supports same-sex marriage, a position brought about by “getting to know gay people” during and after his 2004 presidential campaign.
“I learned more,” he said. “I learned a lot about the gay community. And I became much more comfortable with the gay community as I got to know more about them.”
That's a big change from his previous position, which was to derisively dismiss the notion that civil unions and marriage weren't equal. It also confirms what I wrote earlier today -- this is a man who believes in our equality, and that's an important first step toward making it a reality.
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