April 02, 2008
Deeply disappointing Donna
Posted by: Chris
The deposition given last month by Democratic Party chair Howard Dean shed some ugly light on longtime operative Donna Brazile, who headed up Al Gore's 2000 election and is a regular political analyst on CNN.
Dean admitted it was Brazile who objected most strenuously to a proposal put forward by gay Democrats to add GLBT delegates to affirmative action guidelines states follow when selecting those who attend the party's national convention:
Dean said some “influential individuals” within the DNC Black Caucus, such as Donna Brazile, opposed the plan because it was seen as “an affront to the civil rights movement.”
Brazile, who chairs the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, declined to comment for this article.
Dean said the dispute grew to the point where “we had two very important groups of people in the DNC disagreeing with each other” and several DNC and caucus officials were asked to broker a deal that would make peace on the issue.
“I wanted equal representation for gay and lesbian Americans,” he said, “and I wanted to achieve it in a way that wasn’t offensive to the history of the civil rights movement.”
On the one hand, the DNC's infatuation with quotas -- even the committee itself adheres to rigid gender parity -- hardly needs encouraging with the addition of another category, whether or not GLBT folks are deserving. On the other hand, the dismissive slap-down from Brazile reeks of competing to see who's been more seriously oppressed, a pointless contest that only serves to divide groups that ought to be combining their efforts.
We've seen this before, of course. One particularly galling example was when the National Association of Black Journalists vetoed the inclusion of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association in an umbrella group of minority journalists called -- ironically enough -- UNITY. Groups representing Hispanic, Native American and Asian American journalists OK'd NLGJA's participation but NABJ balked, and even pressed UNITY to change its name to UNITY: Journalists of Color.
It's bad enough that Brazile would stoop to something similarly petty, especially claiming "offense" to the idea of greater gay inclusion. But perhaps it's more understandable when we remember that Brazile herself is a closet case.* That's right.
After she was named Gore's campaign manager in October 1999, I assigned a reporter at Southern Voice to look into why the press releases omitted all mention of her role on the steering committee of the Millennium March on Washington, the massive GLBT rights event that listed "coming out" as the No. 1 item on its agenda.
When Brazile and the campaign ignored repeated inquiries, our intrepid reporter showed up at an Atlanta fund-raiser, where she was again rebuffed. Undaunted, she walked up to the microphone and asked Brazile why she had so studiously avoided acknowledging her own sexual orientation when the MMOW platform celebrated the importance of being open about such things. Brazile said she was, you got it, "offended" by the question.
A week or so later, when the Washington Post asked her the same question, Brazile was ready with a much better quip in response: "If I had a personal life, I'd have time for a sexual orientation." Clever, but still closeted.
It's not much of a stretch to see why a closet case like Brazile would find little sympathy in the importance of sending as many openly gay delegates as possible to the Democratic National Convention. But shame on Howard Dean (again!) for allowing her messed up personal situation to create a black-gay wedge within the party.
* = In anticipation of the inevitably comments I'll get, calling Brazile a "closet case" doesn't mean she's a lesbian, anymore than calling Ken Mehlman the same thing is saying he's gay. A closet case is someone who is hiding their true sexual orientation, whether or not they put on a public front of being straight or gay. So a closet case could be a gay person pretending to be straight, or a person of unknown sexual orientation who refuses to answer the question. Brazile and Melhman are the latter.
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