November 19, 2008
Growing chorus for change at HRC
Posted by: Chris
- Andrew Sullivan: Why are non-gay Mormons more capable of organizing and fund-raising on a gay rights measure than HRC, the biggest national gay rights group? I mean: HRC claims (absurdly, but bear with me) 725,000 supporters and members. … They are supposed to have "expertise" - but the ads that ran in No on 8 were the usual fearful, focus-group driven, conviction-free pap. So in the biggest national struggle in the history of gay civil rights, this organization - which has vacuumed money from the gay community for years - were by-standers. Why is that not a scandal? How many struggles do we have to wage with these people always, always failing to lead - before we demand accountability and reform?
Following up on Andrew's point about who wanted it more, it turns out that James Dobson's Focus on the Family is facing layoffs of more than 200 staffers because it pumped $539,000 into the Proposition 8 battle in California. Can anyone imagine HRC giving till it hurts like that? In fact, HRC claims to have donated $237,409 in "staff time." (HRC claims to have given $3 million, but it's counting bundled money from HRC donors).
- Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas: As a gatekeeper, the Human Rights Campaign sucks. Sullivan calls for the organization to be abandoned and defunded. But something worse is happening -- it is being rendered irrelevant by current events, and with irrelevance, it will shrivel up and die on its own. … The anti-Prop 8 campaign was an exercise in frustration. What we're seeing now, straight out of Taking on the System, is brilliant. And the movement is spreading far beyond California's borders. These nationwide protests are a watershed moment of sorts -- the moment when the gay community realized that it had the power to fight for change on its own, and didn't require any of it's so-called, self-appointed "leaders" to give them permission to engage.
- Robin Tyler (quoted by AP): The movement's leaders "were very timid. They were too soft," said Robin Tyler, a lesbian comic who created a series of celebrity public service announcements with the slogan "Stop the Hate, No on 8" that were rejected because they were deemed too negative. "We were lightweights on our side."
- Queerty: In our struggle to change the mind's of others, we may have to change our own. The grassroots, "everyone has a voice", web-centric nature of the campaign that started after Prop. 8 passed is a direct response to the hierarchical, "here's the plan, get on board or go away", "shout from our bubble" effort that preceded it. Madness is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response. It's clear that the strategy (or lack thereof) of the HRC and No on 8. campaign did not work. … To the people who feel that questioning our gay leaders will only make us more divided, I point to our defeat and ask, "What makes you think we were ever united?"
- Rex Wockner: Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "Maybe Stonewall was Activism 1.0, ACT UP was Activism 2.0, the failed corporate activism of HRC and No On Prop 8 was Activism 3.0, and now we are witnessing Activism 4.0 being born."? Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots."? It was.
- Michael Petrelis: After all the hard work HRC did shoving gays back into the closet during the No on 8 campaign, … HRC is now giving the San Francisco community what it truly needs at this point as we pick ourselves after being knocked down by the voters. It's HRC Spa Night! … What's next? Get a face-lift and HRC gets 10% from the plastic surgeon, to fight the next ballot proposition? … One thing that is surely not next from HRC is an achievement of any significance for gay Americans. What would happen to the gay movement and its quest for fairness and equality if we once and for all stopped giving even a dime to the worthless Democratic Party hacks burning through $40 million community dollars annually?
- Box Turtle Bulletin's Jim Burroway: The HRC’s tepid response to ballot measures is now 0-30, their accomplishments on Capital Hill are minuscule — they are in serious danger of becoming completely irrelevant. With this, they are now reduced to self-parody. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.
- Andy Towle: Voices are ringing out from all areas (liberal and conservative, some more critically than others) in the wake of the grassroots-organized protests around the nation, that national gay organizations, which have been the well-funded standard bearers for the gay movement for decades, must adjust to the new activism we've seen these past few weeks. Voices are ringing out that the national gay organizations must … adjust to this new reality" or "wither and die." Or perhaps, as we witnessed last weekend, they already have in many ways.
- Wayne Besen: There has been a paradigm shift in the movement following marriage defeats in California, Florida and Arizona. ... The leaders of what is being billed as Stonewall 2.0 are not coming from large, established organizations. ... Up until two weeks ago, major GLBT groups instructed people to write a check and then essentially instructed donors to check their activism at the door. Sometimes, one was asked to take their commitment a step further by sending e-mail or attending a dinner. I think this week's protests mark the end of the Passive Era of gay politics. A sign at protests, "No More Mr. Nice Gay", highlighted this monumental change. ... Organizations that do not adjust to this new reality will wither and die.
The commentary from Towle and Besen is noteworthy because Towle rarely uses his über-popular Towleroad blog to criticize gay groups and Besen was a long-time staffer in the HRC communications department during the Elizabeth Birch years, working with HRC lifer David Smith, who remains at the org.
It's particularly disappointing to see how behind the curve HRC is on the use of technology to push grassroots advocacy, given the dozens and dozens of young, tech-savvy staffers who work at the agency. It just goes to show you how the top-down approach to politics pushed by Smith, Joe Solmonese and other HRC leaders results in in-house management that further cripples the group's effectiveness.
Change may well be coming to HRC, for no other reason but that many of its leaders are no doubt jockeying for jobs in the incoming Obama administration. (Query whether they will be embraced by the White House, given how obviously they sided with Hillary Clinton during the primaries. It's noteworthy that none of the seven out gay politicos with roles in the Obama transition team hail from HRC.)
Either way, the gay rights movement is moving on with a retooled HRC or without it. The question is whether the D.C.-based gay groups want to remain relevant to the constituents and the movement they claim to lead.
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