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    February 01, 2008

    Pick a president like me!

    Posted by: Chris

    Joangarry There's never been any shortage of ego or chutzpah among the leaders of the national gay rights groups, but the essay today on Logo's Visible Vote by ex-GLAAD director Joan Garry was still a bit of a jaw-dropper.

    Garry stepped down a couple of years back after almost a decade at the helm of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, during which time she successfully grew the organization and put it on strong financial footing -- much like her contemporary Elizabeth Birch did at the Human Rights Campaign, albeit on a much larger scale. At the same time, her tenure was marked by near-invisibility by GLAAD in the trenches of actual activism, as the lobby group was reinvented as a black-tie fund-raising machine. (Again, very much like HRC and Birch.)

    Garry is apparently undecided thus far in the Democratic presidential primary but in the Visible Vote essay suggested we consider her own history when weighing Clinton and Obama on experience vs. change:

    I moved from corporate America to running a national lgbt organization (GLAAD). I had absolutely no non-profit management experience and I had never asked a soul for money for a worthy cause.

    The truth is this lack of experience was not a disadvantage; it was in fact key to what many saw as my success. I didn’t know that our movement’s politics can crush people; thus I wasn’t watching my back – I was looking ahead. I knew none of the players, but my relationship skills held me in good stead. I knew how to manage people and run a business. And I had good instincts.

    Of course, the folks with the best instincts in 1997 were the members of the GLAAD Board of Directors. The board’s instinct was to define experience in its broadest terms.

    As someone who sat on the GLAAD board in 1997 and voted for Garry to be the group's new director, I can say that many of us did view it as a positive that she came from outside the non-profit activist world because at that point in the movement too many top leaders couldn't stand to be in the same room together, much less work cooperatively. Her primary competitor was, much like Hillary Clinton, from the heart of the gay establishment and promised -- for better or worse -- more of the same.

    The risk with Garry, and I have heard this criticism of Obama from Clinton supporters, is that she would not have the belly to fight for the cause. In my view, that turned out to be the case. She was so focused on co-opting the entertainment industry from the inside that she abandoned public activism and criticism and completely ignored the group's watchdog role with the nation's journalists.

    I doubt share those doubts about Obama; obviously he and she are two very different people. But I think Garry's analogy was undercutting her ultimate viewpoint.



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    1. Lucrece on Feb 1, 2008 6:14:13 PM:

      Well, changing the entertainment industry from the inside could potentially have the same effect, if not a greater one, on influencing public opinion that public activism and criticism has.

      Our country's views are often shaped by the entertainment we are exposed to over extended periods of time.

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