Jerame Davis

Open Thread: It's my first time

Filed By Jerame Davis | March 15, 2007 7:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Gay Icons and History, Politics, The Movement
Tags: gay rights, open thread, radicals

I'm starting my first open thread...Here's some red meat to get it started...

Over at AmericaBlog, John Aravosis takes gay Republicans to the woodshed. He says so much of what I've been saying for years.

Then, Towleroad reports on Larry Kramer's 60 minute barnstormer of a rant at the New York Gay & Lesbian Center.

I love it when someone else sums up so much of what I have been thinking...How about you? What do you think? What's out there that we should see? Share it in the comments...


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I am so in love with Larry Kramer. As an ACT UPper myself, I can relate to Larry's speech. ACT UP was huge only a few years ago - and they did move our country forward on HIV/AIDS issues.

And Larry's right - we need a "gay army" to do battle for our lives. That's the point of all the grassroots organizing I've been doing lately - we have to come together. I would differ with Larry in that I think we also need straight allies in this fight, but I have to agree with him that while I have plenty of straight friends, most of them (other than the PFLAG parents, of course!) will give me the "Yeah, that's fucked up!" consolation, but wouldn't think of raising a protest sign on our behalf. It's not "their issue."

Good grief, Jerame, do I again have to rehearse what Republican engagement has been necessary in order to provide support for progress, including passage of the HRO. I would propose to you that even editorial opposition to SJR-7 would not be occurring in Indiana without a significant amount of groundwork having been done by gay Republicans and Republican allies to affect Republican mindsets and move the center in our direction.

I'll take you back to geometry: http://www.bilerico.com/2006/05/001289.php

You have to understand the big picture in order to understand the crucial work that gay Republicans have done and are doing.

Chris, you just don't get it. I find myself saying that to Republicans way too often.

I've never criticized the work of gay Republicans. I've criticized the blind party affiliation. The willingness to say you stand for a party whose ideals are totally counter to your very existence.

It's silly to think that you have to identify as a Republican in order to get Republicans to talk to you. Scott Keller is a damned good Republican, but he doesn't shun me, my views, or my advice because I'm a Democrat.

Just because gay Republicans have done the work it sure doesn't mean that gay Republicans were the only ones who could do the work. It's a specious argument.

If you can't understand the argument that it is counter to your own interests to support a party that has turned it's back on you and that you are continuing to feed the machine, then I don't know how to help you.

This isn't about Republicans vs. Democrats. This is about self-repsect vs. self-loathing. It's about voting against your best interests. It's about standing with a group of people who hate you and trying to convince yourself they don't.

Engagement is not the same as endorsement, Chris. If the vast majority of Republicans weren't outwardly hostile to LGBT people, this would be a different story.

Democrats are not perfect, but at least they don't make it part of their party platform to destroy the lives and families of LGBT people. At least they don't suck up to people like James Dobson, Eric Miller and Micah Clark. It's just a tragedy to see intelligent people such as yourself fall victim to the game Republicans are playing at your expense.

David Wene | March 15, 2007 3:24 PM

Here is part of my view.


1. The traditional philosophical principles of the Republican Party are (1) limited government (2) strong national defense (3) individual rights and responsibilities. I strongly believe in these principles in order to insure a vibrant and free civilization. Therefore I label myself a Republican. Democrats have their own philosophical understanding of government, which I do not agree with so I cannot identify that way.

2. All Republicans do not think alike. There are 3-5 major factions within the party all struggling for control. The Religious Right has been in control but there is starting to be a shift. The Democratic Party is similar. I am not that familiar but I do know that Bill Clinton and Evan Bayh are considered centrists and they are in a different faction than say Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy. Therefore even though Brian Bosma and I may label ourselves Republicans and we may even agree on the same philosophical principles, when it comes to putting them into practice, we are in different factions and are more like enemies (this is true in both parties). Therefore I work to bring "my faction" of the party to power.

I am not a Republican because I like Bush or even most of the elected Republicans--those people will change--it is because of the traditional principles.

I am not a Republican because I like or support most of the legislation that the Republican Party is pushing--that will change--it is because of the traditional principles.

When the Republican Party veers away from those principles, like I believe they are and have been for a while, then I feel like my responsibility is to get involved to take it back.

I may (do) primarily vote and support Democratic candidates but that does not mean I support the underlying principles and the philosphy of the Democratic Party, therefore I could not switch parties.

David,

Thank you for a well-thought and well-spoken response. There are some fundamentals I think I disagree about, but I can respect your careful consideration of why you are a gay Republican.

I still believe it lends legitimacy to the radical faction of Republicans that have a death grip on the party, but I can respect the ideal of change from within. I believe in that philosophy a great deal, however, there is much to be said for knowing when to abandon something in order to save it. I think the Republican party has hit that point.

You could be right, it could be changing. Then again, it could just be regrouping. I hope you are right - I do. I just don't hold the same optimism.

David Wene | March 15, 2007 6:18 PM

Jerame, I totally disagree with a lot of your points to Chris.

**Chris, you just don't get it. I find myself saying that to Republicans way too often.**
If all these people "don't get it", maybe this has something to do with how those ideas are being put forward because Chris and most elected Republicans have totally different views.

**I've never criticized the work of gay Republicans. I've criticized the blind party affiliation. The willingness to say you stand for a party whose ideals are totally counter to your very existence.**
Of the gay Republicans that I know in Indiana, none of them blindly follow the party. Their involvement is calculated and planned. At every event from GOP township meetings to the conventions, they bear witness to the need of the party to change. I also do not hear gay Republicans telling people to support the Republican party or vote a "straight" Republican ticket which would be an indication of "blind party affiliation"

**It's silly to think that you have to identify as a Republican in order to get Republicans to talk to you. Scott Keller is a damned good Republican, but he doesn't shun me, my views, or my advice because I'm a Democrat.**
This is true but I have found by my selective involvement in the Republican Party, I have had more contact and opportunities for discussion with Republican Legislators and "movers and shakers" than if I had chosen not to try to work within the party to bring about change. As you stated in your first sentence, if all these Republicans don't get what you are saying, then maybe gay Republicans might have a better chance of communicating it.

**Just because gay Republicans have done the work it sure doesn't mean that gay Republicans were the only ones who could do the work. It's a specious argument.**
This is true but I have seen over and over again, in all areas of my life, that the more one person has in common with another, the better they are to understand each other. They may not be the only ones who could do the work but they are probably more effective at it.

**If you can't understand the argument that it is counter to your own interests to support a party that has turned it's back on you and that you are continuing to feed the machine, then I don't know how to help you.**
This shows a lack of understanding of what has and is going on the Republican Party. The Republican party does not have a monolithic view. The religious right is in the majority but there are other views attempting to take over. The gay Republicans that I know do not "feed the machine", they selective feed and contribute those parts of the machine that are attempting to bring about change.

**This isn't about Republicans vs. Democrats. This is about self-respect vs. self-loathing. It's about voting against your best interests. It's about standing with a group of people who hate you and trying to convince yourself they don't.**
I agree that this is totally about self-respect. Every gay Republican that I know has so much self-respect, that they willing chose to stand in a group and interact with people who hate them in order to convince them that they are wrong.

**Engagement is not the same as endorsement, Chris. If the vast majority of Republicans weren't outwardly hostile to LGBT people, this would be a different story.**
You are right that engagement is not the same as endorsement for the reason you say but I know of no one, especially Chris that "endorses" the Republican party, but he and others do encourages people to engage the Republican party for strategic purposes.

**Democrats are not perfect, but at least they don't make it part of their party platform to destroy the lives and families of LGBT people. At least they don't suck up to people like James Dobson, Eric Miller and Micah Clark.**
There is no disagreement that the Democratic Platform is better or the power of these three on the Republican Party, but if you do not think that Democratic candidates don't suck up to James Dobson, Eric Miller and Micah Clark, you should check some of the Democratic Legislators--especially those outside Marion County.

**It's just a tragedy to see intelligent people such as yourself fall victim to the game Republicans are playing at your expense.**
The cost of the game of equality is very expensive. Chris especially but gay Republicans in general, have chosen to play the equality game where the stakes are expensive but the potential benefits to the LGBT community is unbelievable. Chris and other gay Republicans are not victims, they are change agents and they are going were the change is needed most.

Perhaps some time we should talk, it would probably be a whole lot easier than blogging.

David, I think that is one of the most reasoned and well phrased defenses of gay Republicans that I have read. Great job! While I may not agree with some of your conclusions, I greatly respect the approach you're using.

Marla R. Stevens | March 16, 2007 9:59 AM

##**I've never criticized the work of gay Republicans. I've criticized the blind party affiliation. The willingness to say you stand for a party whose ideals are totally counter to your very existence.**
Of the gay Republicans that I know in Indiana, none of them blindly follow the party. Their involvement is calculated and planned. At every event from GOP township meetings to the conventions, they bear witness to the need of the party to change. I also do not hear gay Republicans telling people to support the Republican party or vote a "straight" Republican ticket which would be an indication of "blind party affiliation"##

I've found that to be true, too, where the gay Republicans who are involved in gay movement politics are concerned, although anything but consistently so for those who don't first identify as gay -- the latter of which confirms Aravosis' premise. But remember that Aravosis is in D.C. dealing with the national Log Cabin leadership and they are quite a different animal, not at all unfueled by personal ambition in their toadying with prominent Republican politicians who deserve nothing but our scorn.

##if all these Republicans don't get what you are saying, then maybe gay Republicans might have a better chance of communicating it.##

This is the ever-hopeful cry of the gay Republican and the question it begs is when is enough enough. That proof's in the pudding and, from what I've seen, that's a mixed bag with more to the bad than the good. Larry Kramer, never one to eschew the drama of exaggeration in favor of accuracy (to which I've tended to respond that the truth is already bad enough to be motivational), claims in his piece that none of those seeking office are worthy of our support. He's wrong about that, of course, but his underlying premise that our standards for supporting them are abysmally too low and result in their lack of respect for us is absolutely correct. We are all maintaining our status as crumbs by being slavishly grateful for the crumbs thrown to us from both sides of the aisle.

##The gay Republicans that I know do not "feed the machine", they selective feed and contribute those parts of the machine that are attempting to bring about change.##

Again, true about a small segment of Hoosier gay Republicans but not so true about the far greater number of gay Republicans. But something you said earlier that you remain a Republican because you don't like what the Dems stand for at their core and that what the Rs stand for at their core speaks to you makes me wonder what that is as so many core R values are either mythology that hasn't been true in practice for long enough to make them now patently false and others are the underpinnings of a culture of oppression that has, as its current end result, the oppression of us. What core values are you talking about that you don't like in the Dems and do like in the Rs? Remember, selectively feeding a machine is still feeding it. It's like donating to the United Way but thinking that designating groups to get your money that aren't antigay means you're not supporting the United Way's support of groups that actively oppress us like the Boy Scouts. As we don't have enough people who only give to gay-positive groups, all the United Way does is use the ear-marked money as part of what they were going to give the pro-gay groups anyway and shift the rest of the dollars to give the antigay groups what they were going to get anyway. The ear-marking donor is only creating virtual change, not actual change. I suspect that our gay Republicans' selective support of the things they find acceptable in their party similarly in search of affecting change are, creating about the same virtual non-result in the aggregate.

Don't get me wrong, here, though. The way things are going on the other side of the aisle, I'm finding myself agreeing more and more with Larry Kramer that the same analysis applies to them, too. In the aggregate, they're better, but it's only a matter of degree -- a degree that is not currently rising to the acceptable.

##**Democrats are not perfect, but at least they don't make it part of their party platform to destroy the lives and families of LGBT people. At least they don't suck up to people like James Dobson, Eric Miller and Micah Clark.**
There is no disagreement that the Democratic Platform is better or the power of these three on the Republican Party, but if you do not think that Democratic candidates don't suck up to James Dobson, Eric Miller and Micah Clark, you should check some of the Democratic Legislators--especially those outside Marion County.##

I'm going to side with David on this one, Jerame. In art as in life, the negative space is as much a part of the picture as the positive space. The omission of support for our equal access to civil marriage in the Dem platform isn't because of an oversight, after all. It's because the party thinks so little of our basic humanity -- doesn't recognize our basic humanity enough -- that it is willing to functionally stand with those who lead the abuse against us -- to abuse us itself -- to achieve power.

It will continue to do so as long as we let it, too. This is why I now consider myself a Democrat the same way that Chris Douglas and David Wene consider themselves Republicans. It is why my wife and I no longer donate money or time to the party itself -- only to individual candidates we've assessed will move our cause forward. Frankly, unless majority control of a legislative house or other branch of government is at stake, we no longer give a damn to what party those candidates belong.

In short, David, you and Chris are change agents but most gay Republicans are just Republicans acting against their own interests -- just as the actions of the Democratic Party is now turning by far the supermajority of gay Democrats into doing, too.

Marla R. Stevens | March 16, 2007 10:53 AM

Bil --

I, too, am often deeply moved by Larry Kramer but please note that his call for a hierarchically-structured army, while underpinned by a righteously agog frustration at the stunned-into-inaction numbness of our people after the many overwhelming onslaughts we've suffered in recent years, also encompasses his personal inabilities to work and play well enough with others to tolerate the democratic process that, as much as the things he lauds in his speech, drove ACT-UP to greatness. He is the sort who inspires and visionarily starts things and thinks that being inspirational and starting things necessarily should translate into leadership that all should defer to. Bluntly, he's just not organizational leadership material and his pronouncements against the things he can't tolerate that make organizations like ACT-UP work don't deserve the same sort of attention we should give to his Paul Revere wakeup calls.

Yes, what he can't tolerate can be tear-your-hair-out long-slog hard but it's also genius stuff honed in decades of movement work. ACT-UP took it beyond the galaxy further and light years faster than it had ever been. That's part of why I am a gay supremacist so far removed from the shame that Laura's NUVO piece pointed out that the forces of evil are outraged that we as a people are increasingly moving beyond that I barely have enough of a frame of reference enough anymore to even be able to know why Miller et al are so bent out of shape.

That Larry still doesn't get it and continues to so transparently call for something he obviously envisions himself in control of rather than growing enough not to need that control but to be able to trust instead the results he lays out as proof of why that control is counterproductive to the exercise of a collective genius that he could play an important inspirational and visionary role in is the Achilles heel that robs him of what could be a greater place in the pantheon. It is, in a word, sad.

I think most of the points have been covered well, but there's one thing I want to address that constantly bugs me - David's statement: "The traditional philosophical principles of the Republican Party are (1) limited government (2) strong national defense (3) individual rights and responsibilities."

These are also traditional philosophical principles of the Democratic party as well. The difference lies in interpreting what those principles mean.

But each and every time Republicans try to claim the territory of "the party of limited government" they need to be called on it, because it's a foundation of both parties, and it's one of those GOP issued talking points I'm sick of hearing.

I just want to clear up one thing about my last comment. When I referred to sucking up to the James Dobsons and Eric Millers, I meant on a party level, not an individual level. Hell, I know that there are Dems who suck up to Miller, Dobson, et al...But I think they are sellouts too.

Whatever the case, it's a good discussion and I love seeing people get engaged and talking about it. Isn't that what a good firebomb is supposed to do?