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    January 24, 2007

    Who's the Howard Dean of '07?

    Posted by: Chris

    Dean_howard The gays made Howard Dean.  In 2003, almost nobody knew anything about the former governor of Vermont or gave him any shot at contending for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. 

    But the gays knew Howard Dean because three years earlier, he signed landmark legislation allowing gay couples to enter into civil unions that were the virtual equivalent of marriage.  Even though civil unions came to Vermont by order of the state supreme court, gays credited Dean with not fighting the ruling and, even more importantly, not running away from the issue on the presidential primary trail.

    So gays became "early adopters" of Dean, just as we do of fashion and music trends, and urban neighborhoods. Dean was rewarded with an overwhelming amount of gay support — in dollars especially.  The Washington Post reported later that fully three-quarters of Dean's early fund-raising events were organized and attended by gays.  The Internet boom that took Dean to the top of the candidate pack came later, and would not have been possible without the early gay backing.

    Now that the field is shaping up for 2008, the question becomes "Who will be the Howard Dean of 2007?"  Will one candidate mobilize early gay support in a way that energizes his (or her) campaign's early days? On the flip side, who deserves that support? How high will we raise the bar in this presidential campaign season?

    Last time around, Dean got our early backing despite opposition to gay marriage.  When he imploded with one fell "whoop!" in Iowa, that support flowed to John Kerry, the eventual nominee, because of his unblemished congressional record on gay rights and AIDS issues. 

    But Kerry, too, opposed gay marriage, even though he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and the federal marriage amendment in 2003.  (He and Edwards both skipped the vote on the marriage amendment in 2004 ostensibly because they were on the campaign trail.)  Kerry was also outspoken in his opposition to the historic Massachusetts supreme court decision in 2003 that required the state to marry gay couples, and he backed efforts to overrule the ruling with a constitutional amendment.

    On the Democratic side, it goes without saying that a candidate expecting the bulk of gay support should vow to enact basic gay rights protections in employment, housing, hate crimes, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and so on. 

    Things get tricky when we turn to legal recognition for same-sex couples.  Last time around, only three minor candidates, including Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who's announced again, backed full marriage equality.  We already know that the leading Democrats once again oppose gay marriage, though one leading Republican — Rudy Giuliani — has hinted in the past that he's open to full-fledged marriage equality.  So where does that leave us?

    Any candidate seeking early gay support should, in my view, support civil unions at the state level, recognized as such at the federal level, in every way similar to marriage except the name.  That means all the rights and responsibilities of marriage — in taxes, immigration, Social Security, etc.  Such federal civil union recognition ought to also include gay couples married in Massachusetts, Canada, or other states as it becomes available. 

    What's more, a candidate seeking early gay support ought to take a cue from our neighbors to the north in Canada and defend our judiciary from unfair attacks from conservatives.  It would be unconscionable for gays to back someone like Kerry who actually advocated using the constitutional amendment process to overturn a civil rights ruling.

    Do you agree with my criteria?  I'd love to see your comments about what we should expect.  Are we better off backing someone like Giuliani, whose influence on the GOP could marginalize social conservatives?  For those of you who aren't regular readers, click here for background info on some of the '08 contenders.  Then cast your vote in this week's survey (to the right) and let's hear what you think.



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    1. Andoni on Jan 24, 2007 3:55:02 PM:

      General Wesley Clark is our man…..our SHOULD BE our man. Look at his great stands on gay issues back in 2004:


      He was way ahead of the pack except for Kucinich.

      Interestingly, both he and Kucinich are not tall men, but aren’t afraid to stand tall with their positions.

      He is a good candidate for our rank and file to latch onto, just like we did for Dean. Good grief, it certainly shouldn't be Hillary....but more on that later.

    1. Robinev on Jan 24, 2007 5:13:55 PM:

      I think Bill Richardson is in a good spot to take that mantle. Like Dean, he's a governor. Even though he has a deeper DC resume than the other candidates, he's been out of the Beltway spotlight. What he does in a campaign run from Santa Fe will -- like Dean -- be mostly invisible to the DC press corps until they turn and exclaim, "OMG, he could be the real deal."

      His record on gay issues(according to Chris's earlier post and other sources) isn't great, but better than many of the others.

      And he's from a region that could be important in tipping the delicate balance of prez voting to the D's. A mountain-state governor nominated at a mountain-state convention. It's a good hook, at least.

    1. Alan on Jan 24, 2007 10:57:58 PM:

      Either Wesley Clark (for whom I signed a petition trying to get him to run) and Bill Richardson work for me.

      As for Guiliani let's not forget that were it not for 9/11 he would have already been on the scrap heap of political history - hated by a large percent of New Yorkers and mired down in a scandalous divorce. In addition, his more liberal social positions make it unlikley if not downright impossible for him tp win a nomination in his own party. If anyone wanted to run a third party campaign it should be Rudy. But Donna Hanover's comments, the fact that he lived with a gay couple during the divorce and those photos of him in drag would just be used to distract the 10% of their brains most humans use.

    1. david on Jan 25, 2007 12:57:02 AM:


      I think it's really simplistic to say LGBT people (and I intentionally say LGBT people and not gay people) jumped on the Dean bandwagon simply because of his position on LGBT issues.

      Aside from the fact that LGBT folks dispraportionately vote Democrat. At the time we had data that showed LGBT voters were

      * More likely than straight counterparts to oppose the war.

      * More concerned about threats to personal privacy (i.e. the Patriot Act)

      As one of the co-founders of Out for Dean (and an early organizer of Out Against the War) I can tell you that my personal commitment to Dean in the early days was not about Civil Unions.

      It was about the fact that a gay eighteen year old named Nabil who came here on a student visa seeking to escape persecution based on sexual orientation in his home country, was thrown into a federal prison for six months after 9-11 without access to an attorney.

      Howard Dean was speaking out for the Nabils of the world when nobody else was.

      (Nabil has since gotten out of jail, won political asylum, earned a college scholarship, and will graduate in May)

      Howard Dan spoke personally and passionately about the issues I was dealing with in my life at the time.

      (that said, of course I was disappointed by his performance at the DNC)

      LGBT Democrats are not single issue voters.

      The "Howard Dean of 2007" may not necessarily be the candidate who is most outspoken on LGBT issues, it may be the candidate who appeals to LGBT voters because of a commitment to other shared values.

      Personally, I think that candidate is Barack Obama.

      So called 'Deaniacs' played a key role in getting Barack elected to the Senate, and he has continued to have a close relationship with this commnity of online activists.

      His position on the war, and the Patriot Act, and Immigration, and Civil Rights, are issues that are also important to LGBT voters.

      We all know that support for full marriage equality at the federal level where it exists is symbolic only at this point. If a presidential candidate like Barack Obama or Bill Richardson looks promising, but he supports civil unions but not full marriage equality - that is not a deal breaker for me.

    1. Andoni on Jan 25, 2007 7:55:34 AM:

      As I said in my earlier post, I would like to see us support Wesley Clark. However, I could also get excited about Obama, Richardson or Edwards.

      I like Obama because he has an entirely new approach to politics, creating an appeal that could cut across old party loyalties and create a new type of majority with a broader base. I don’t really think you need “experience” to be president. You just need to able to make good decisions and this requires life experience, a good head on your shoulders and the ability to listen to advisors who present you with ALL points of view.

      Edwards is charismatic and sincere and is very good on our issues and if he doesn’t come around on marriage (“I’m just not quite there yet”), he believes in civil unions with all the benefits. But I don’t think he realigns anything. It would be the same old BLUE states vs the RED states, each side looking for that one extra state to put them over the top.

      Finally, Richardson could also change political alignments in a Reagan sort of way by bringing the Mountain States to the BLUE column. That would make the 2 Coasts, the industrial Midwest, and then the Mountain States BLUE, isolating the Republicans to the South and converting them to a regional party. And this could last for 20+ years if the Dems play their cards right.

      Here’s why we shouldn’t support Hillary like we did Dean. She is afraid to actively vocalize her positions on all gay issues the way Howard Dean or General Wesley Clark did. A nod and a wink on LGBT issues with statements from prominent gays who know her or work with her don’t cut it. Statements like, “Don’t worry, she really is on our side but can’t say it. She’ll do all the right things if she is elected,” demean us as people.

      The only dangerous gay issue for a politician today is marriage. Public opinion is pretty good on all our other issues, so there really isn’t a whole lot of risk for a candidate stating s/he supports these other issues. None of them is the “deal breaker” that marriage is for some voters.

      (I think I could even back a candidate who comes out strongly against same sex marriage as long as s/he strongly supported civil unions with all the state and federal benefits that go with marriage.)

      Where Hillary gets a lot of boost in our community is in the good buzz that our national leaders put out about her. The problem is that our leaders are doing what is best for THEM in supporting her, not what is best for the LGBT person on the street. By supporting Hillary, these leaders gain access to her and her campaign. They get invites to things we will never get invites to and they have that special feeling of being on the inside of her circle. And if she wins this will pay off in spades for jobs and future invites for these people personally for “delivering the gay vote,” but doesn’t get us on the street much of anything. (This also happens in other constituencies like the unions and the African Americans and is a given in political life, which the average person on the street doesn’t realize.)

      Finally, in order for LGBT legislation to go forward, it has to be discussed publicly during the campaign so that when our candidate gets elected, the public knows this was part of their platform and the election gives that candidate the mandate to push for and then sign the legislation. The legislation has some legitimacy because the public voted and they knew what that candidate stood for.

      If the candidate never utters a word on a given topic during the campaign, the legitimacy of that legislation can and will be questioned. Also, the likelihood of its passage is significantly reduced. This is the road Hillary puts us on unless she starts actively stating her LGBT positions.

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