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    April 11, 2007

    An FOB goes MIA

    Posted by: Chris

    Davidmixner_sm The John Edwards campaign released today the names of some two dozen "national LGBT leaders" who endorsed the former North Carolina senator in his race for the White House.  The list is fairly impressive, given how early it is in the presidential primary season and the very big names also in the race. But one name in particular comes as something of a shocker — not only for its prominence but because it comes from the core of the Clinton camp: David Mixner.

    Mixner is a long-time "FOB" ("Friend of Bill" for those who've forgotten their '90s political parlance) and among this country's most respected gay activists. You can agree or not with his '60s-inspired populism, but David Mixner has time and again put principle over politics, even when it meant risking his personal relationship with the Clintons.

    That's why, even in the earliest months of Bill Clinton's presidency, Mixner was arrested in front of the White House in a protest over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  I was there, playing hookie from my law firm job, on the afternoon that it happened, and his willingness to put himself on the line made a deep impression on me at the time.

    Mixner explained his reasons for backing Edwards on his blog, which I also recommend as top-notch reading for anyone interested in gay issues and politics. In a post today, Mixner writes:

    For the past 33 years, I supported former President Bill Clinton and his wife Senator Hillary Clinton every time either has run for office, including his very first campaign, an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1974, and her run for the Senate in 2006. For the first time in three decades, I sadly cannot support a Clinton for public office.

    Mixner's decision to back Edwards over Clinton is especially striking because Mixner came to prominence four presidential elections ago, back in 1991-92, when he successfully encouraged candidate Bill Clinton to reach out to gay voters.  When Clinton did so it was unprecedented, famously telling Mixner's ANGLE group from Los Angeles, "I have a vision for America, and you're a part of it."  Both community and candidate ultimately received a huge boost — though that relationship was sorely tested through Clinton's first term.

    Sixteen years later, Mixner's reasons for backing Edwards over Clinton don't relate directly to gay issues.  On that score, he ranks the two of them and Barack Obama as roughly equal:

    Only one Democratic presidential candidate, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, unequivocally supports marriage equality. All of the other candidates support some form of civil unions. In addition, all Democratic candidates have staked out decent positions on key LGBT issues, such as employment nondiscrimination, hate crimes, HIV/AIDS, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” They all have their own rhetoric, but the substance behind their positions is generally the same.

    I don't disagree with Mixner's analysis, or his disappointment that no one besides Kucinich backs full marriage equality.  But I think it's too soon to conclude that all the candidates, or even all the major candidates, are roughly equal on gay rights and HIV/AIDS.  There are too many details still to flesh out and records to compare.

    Johnedwards1_2 But Mixner's main motivation, given the rough equivalence on gay issues, is the war in Iraq. And on that score, understandably, he finds Hillary Clinton to be "frustrating" and "baffling."  He also acknowledges, as he must, that Obama is the only major candidate to be consistently against the war from the start, and he credits Edwards much more than I would for reversing himself on the war once he was no longer in the Senate. But Edwards has cast himself as a populist and that is far more to Mixner's general way of thinking. After all, he backed Dick Gephardt the last two primary seasons.

    Mixner mentions in his post that Lorri Jean, the well respected head of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, has suggested that gay activists refuse to endorse any presidentialy candidate unwilling to back full marriage equality.  Like Mixner, I think that comes off as too single-issue, even with regard to gay rights. But I do think many activists who are endorsing candidates this early may well be aiming for post-election jobs more than moving the movement.

    That certainly can't be said for Mixner.



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    1. Edwards Parades Gay Endorsements from A Stitch in Haste on Apr 12, 2007 11:47:57 AM

      John Edwards recently made a very public announcement that no fewer than 25 liberal gay activists have already endorsed his candidacy for president:"I am honored t... [Read More]


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