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    January 17, 2007

    I know you are, but what am I?

    Posted by: Chris

    Donkey Reaction to my post on the Democrat-ization of the Human Rights Campaign has been at times heated, though the light hasn't always matched the temperature.

    The cattier-than-thou bloggers over at Queerty went so far as to call me a "douche bag" — well, "reported douche bag," though no sources were cited.  When they got to the substance, they cast the issue as whether HRC should only back politicians or only fight gay marriage ballot initiatives.  "Can't we just split the force?" Queerty's anonymous blogger asks. Well yes, of course, but it's a matter of priority.  For me, the priority for HRC should be gay issues, not semi-gay-friendly Democrats. 

    Many of my critics have suggested I'm arguing that, rather than back Democrats, HRC should instead back Republicans.  I didn't say that because I have never believed that.  In fact, I said it was glaringly obvious that Democrats in general are much better than the GOP on gay issues.  Any self-respecting gay group other than Log Cabin that didn't back Democrats the vast majority of the time is delusional.

    The only time I referenced choosing between the parties was in congressional races from swing districts, where HRC under Democratic operative Joe Solmonese has abandoned any pretense of sticking with moderate GOP incumbents and backed the Democratic challenger almost every time.  That strategy contributes to a hardened, more conservative GOP and usually results in the election of Dems who are are at best marginally better on gay issues.   

    So long as the parties remain competitive, it's important to have allies on both sides of the aisle, and to work against the influence of social conservatives on the Republican side.  Otherwise, gay rights face an utterly hostile GOP leadership that will block enactment of our legislation so long as they control either house of Congress or the White House — or, for that matter, can at least muster a fillibuster.

    But saving moderate Republicans wasn't the focus of my criticism.  My complaint is that HRC under Solmonese is essentially putting the gay rights movement at the disposal of the Democratic Party.  He has decided the No. 1 priority for winning our equality is to elect Democrats whenever and wherever possible. 

    It's as if HRC's leaders have concluded the gay rights movement is equivalent to, say, the Association of American Plastics Manufacturers or any other trade lobby (though few trade association "suicide" on one party or the other).  So all the focus is on beltway politics and the Democratic Party, and none on winning the hearts and minds of "we the people" who actually do the electing of these politicians — and the voting on these ballot measures.  No doubt because of Solmonese's limited background as a political hack, not a movement leader, he has turned HRC back into the glorified PAC it was before its heyday.

    The effect of that decision would be limited if, as some commenters have suggested, there's "room in the movement" for all sorts of organizations.  But HRC has — since Elizabeth Birch's phenomenal job of growing the organization (while ignoring the mission) through the 1990s — sucked almost all the money out of gay America.  For better or worse, HRC has set itself up as essentially the NAACP-behemoth of the gay rights movement.

    With all those resources comes responsibility.  A glorified-PAC run by a political operative won't effectively lead a civil rights movement, mobilizing people to get out a message that brings about social change.   That's not just to make us "feel good," as another blogger suggested, but to take our equality message straight to the people.  There's no smoke-filled backdoor to equality.

    Under Solmonese, HRC has nothing to say to the people.  They're presumed as bored and uninterested in our issues as they would be in plastics manufacturing.  For Solmonese, the only serious conversations are with politicians, so that's where the serious money goes.  That would be bad enough if it weren't coupled with his stated desire to marginalize our movement into a special interest within the Democratic Party like labor unions.



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    1. robpower on Jan 17, 2007 7:21:29 PM:

      And you've gotta love that Solmonese admitted his big plan is to mimic the labor union strategy of the past four decades. As if that's some shining example of effectiveness. The labor unions' one-party strategy has been a disaster -- would anyone suggest that the typical blue collar worker is better off today than 40 years ago? And this is what Solmonese wants to do to our community? Thanks, but no thanks, Joe.

    1. Alan on Jan 17, 2007 9:26:01 PM:

      And it's the Democrat's fault that the typical blue collar worker isn't better off than they were 40 years ago? No it's the Republicans who busted unions (like the air traffic controllers), made it difficult for unions to operate and legalized the harrassment of people trying to form unions. Of course, inasmuch as many of those union jobs got shipped overseas by their Republican CEOs who cared more about Wall Street than Main Street, a philosophy that is still #1 in the Republican White House. Meanwhile in one of their first orders of business since taking over control of Congress, the Democrats passed the first increase in the minimum wage in 10 years - while Congress had voted itself over $30,000 in raises during the same period.

    1. Kevin on Jan 17, 2007 11:15:30 PM:

      History will be the judge, Chris. And all indications are that history will agree with you, and the brain-dyed cha-cha boys at Queerty will have long since moved on to some other superfluous method of paying their rent.

    1. raj on Jan 18, 2007 11:41:08 AM:

      Apparently, Mr. Crain wishes to ignore a couple of issues.

      One, Mr. Crain wishes to ignore the likely fact that, if the Democrats had held the majority in Congress in 1996, the likelihood is that Bob Barr's ridiculously-named "Defense Of Marriage Act" would never have been brought to the floors of the respective chambers to a vote. If it hadn't been brought to a vote--that it was, its fate was pretty much fore-ordained, although it should be recognized that the only people who voted against it were DEMOCRATS--then Clinton, snake-oil salesman that he was, would never have had to choose between signing it and vetoing it, and we wouldn't have to address the issue today.

      Two, Mr. Crain ignores the likely fact that, if the Democrats were in charge of Congress over the last several years, it is highly unlikely that matters such as the Federal (anti-)Marriage Amendment would have been brought to the floors of the respective chambers to a vote.

      The problem that Mr. Crain wants to ignore--and which Salmonese has to deal with--is the sad fact that, if more Republicans are elected to either the Senate or the House, the more likely they are to vote for a leadership that will bring matters such as DOMA or FMA to the floor to a vote. The Republicans' strategy is cynical, of course, for a variety of reasons (anti-gay is the new racism), but it has worked for them.

      So, Mr. Crain, just how is the HRC's support for Republicans--which you wish for--supposed to support equal rights for gay people?

    1. Citizen Crain on Jan 18, 2007 12:17:23 PM:

      Bob Barr is Republican but DOMA passed with overwhelming Democratic support. But even taking history as you're rewriting it, that's exactly my point. The Republicans WERE in charge, and they will be again.

      So long as the parties are competitive, which is a given, then preserving a moderate wing of the GOP is more important than electing a few more Democrats. With limited (though significant) funds, HRC can have greater impact in closely contested districts with moderate Republican incumbents by making sure they know they'll get our support when they buck their party's leadership.

    1. raj on Jan 18, 2007 1:12:40 PM:

      C-Squared | January 18, 2007 at 12:17 PM

      Thank you for telling me something I already knew, Mr. Crain. Now, answer me this. If the Republicans had not been in charge of both houses of the Congress in 1996, what is the likelihood that DOMA would have been brought to a vote in either house of congress.

      Until you can respond to me regarding the last, your comments suggesting that gay-rights operations should support Republicans will largely fall on deaf ears.

      I'm sure--actually, I'm not--that you understand the situation.

    1. Alan on Jan 18, 2007 2:28:55 PM:

      "they'll get our support when they buck their party's leadership."

      Chris this is fine in a perfect world, which we all know politics is not. Other than stem cell research I did not see any bucking party leadership during the Bush 43 presidency and we gays are probably the last group that they're going to buck the leadership for with the risk alientating that leadership and the folks back home who are to their right. Should HRC back Republicans? Of course, when appropriate. The Democratic party is filled with closeted homophobes who talk like friends and open ones like Harold Ford Jr. who likely lost his Senate bid when Tennessee's gays sat home rather than vote for that pious, pompous, card-carrying Christian conservative. His assumption of the leadership of the DLC is the scariest thing I've heard lately.

    1. Charlie on Jan 19, 2007 8:53:04 AM:

      Go get 'em Chris.

      How about a discussion of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. They certainly do good work, but are they as beholden to the DNC as the HRC?

      While not strictly politically, Lambda Legal and PFLAG get close. What's your take on them?

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