February 16, 2010
HRC faces blog swarm over DADT repeal
Posted by: Chris
Apparently I'm not the only one to notice that for an inside-the-Beltway organization, the Human Rights Campaign appears out of the loop when it comes to pushing for repeal this year of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld put together an excellent report that asks whether HRC under Joe Solmonese is producing anything like the results that could be expected for the amount of resources that "the nation's largest gay political group" siphons from our community. And today, a number of gay progressive bloggers have launched a "blog swarm" targeting HRC.
Eleveld's video report -- anchored by Thomas Roberts, formerly of CNN Headline News, who it's great to see here -- offers Solmonese and longtime behind-the-scenes string-puller Hilary Rosen the opportunity to make the case for HRC's effectiveness, and… well… lets just say that hopefully they do a better of job of advocacy for our rights.
"HRC needs to be as strategic as possible, as accountable as possible, to every member of our community to be laser-focused on what I call closing these very important deals." — Joe Solmonese, HRC president
"I think they are focused on their mission, I think they work for LGBT equality, I think they work for the movement and I think they feel that responsibility really strongly. At the same time I don't think it's an indictment that somebody wants to strategize with them behind closed doors. That to me is something we should be a proud of." — Hilary Rosen, lobbyist and former HRC chair
What those substance-free defenses fail to mask is what's obvious to many: The entire premise for HRC, formerly the Human Rights Campaign Fund, is that our movement needed an organization run by insiders who know how to leverage our community's small size into big results, to play the good cop to the street activists' bad cop, to play ball with the politicians, even as the rest of the movement protests outside the ballpark.
What happened is that Hilary Rosen's ex-wife, longtime HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch, grew HRC into the org that ate the movement, and we were left with only a good cop playing ball with the pols, and not particularly effectively at that. Only in the last several years, with the rise of the blogosphere, the net roots and a new generation of activists has the movement revitalized as something more than a black-tie dinner that relied on its checkbook to buy its equality.
Solmonese, who has headed up the organization since 2005, represents the culmination of the HRC model, a designer label lobbyist whose primary qualification for running the gay rights movement was that he sitteth at the right hand of Rosen, Birch and Emily's List founder Ellen Malcolm. Alongside David Smith, who has been running HRC "strategery" since before most bloggers were born, Solmonese and company have sucked millions from the movement and managed to botch the very tasks they were supposedly so suited to handle.
These consummate lobbyists gave us the legislative debacle back in 2008 over including, then not including, then promising to include, then jettisoning, transgender rights in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. They backed the wrong horse -- that other HRC whose husband gave us DADT and DOMA -- in the Democratic primary, and despite the Democrats historic grip on D.C., they have failed to either mobilize the community or leverage their resources on Capital Hill, to get anything more than hate crimes enacted into law.
So yes, the blog swarm makes good sense, though its sponsors make their own strategic miscues. Their aim is for HRC to "publicly demand that President Obama take the lead in getting DADT repealed this year," meaning:
1. That means the president needs to state publicly that he wants Congress to repeal DADT this year; and
2. The president needs to take the lead in working with Congress to make sure the repeal happens.
As goals go, these should induce more head-scratching that game-changing. All this effort to get the leading gay rights to make a public demand that the president say something he already said, complete with timetable, in his very first State of the Union address.
More broadly, it repeats the very mistake HRC has been making since even before Barack Obama's inauguration, focusing attention on the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The president made his public commitment and dispatched his leading Defense Department deputies to make his case to Congress.
Now it's time for the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate, which has been demanding our allegiance and our dollars for almost as long as HRC, to get repeal done, making a moratorium and repeal itself a part of the defense budget now working its way through Congress.
I strongly encourage readers of this blog to join in making calls to HRC, but to make a point of focusing their attention on Congress as well as the president, and demanding a DADT moratorium and repeal be included as part of the Defense Department budgetary legislation.
But even as we make these calls or send these emails, let's remember that we cannot simply sit back and expect HRC to do all the heavy lifting for us. That's why John Aravosis over at AmericaBlog claims, "You've done your job. Now it's time for the President, Congress and HRC to do theirs," even as he's telling his readers it's their job to call HRC. Our work -- all of our work -- remains unfinished.
Ultimately, our equality is all our responsibility, and it's up to each and every one of us to keep the pressure on all the key players -- within our movement and our government -- to dispense with business as usual in Washington and end the gross injustice done to gay men and lesbians putting their lives on the line for our freedom.
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