Guest Blogger

You Made the Bed, Now Sleep In it (Alone)?

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 03, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Adam Bink, Bil Browning, Jon Corzine, Kalamazoo discrimination campaign, LGBT movement, Maine Marriage Equality, Michelangelo Signorile, National Equality March, NGLTF, NJ-Gov 2009, Pam Spaulding, Refendum 71, The Task Force

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Adam Bink is the Online Strategy Manager at Progressive Strategies, LLC, and manages design and advertising at OpenLeft.com, a blog covering national progressive politics. He is a Dupont Circle resident and enjoys cooking, cycling, ultimate frisbee, and independent shops of all kinds.

Thumbnail image for Adam Bink.jpgThe news out late yesterday was that the National Equality March was endorsed by "over 140 leaders from all walks of life in the LGBT community."

What was interesting to me about this was (a) the timing of the announcement (b) the number of people who decided to get on board after leaning against the march publicly, or in some cases, expressed outright opposition. There have been concerns expressed by many that it was/is shaping up to be a disaster, and other concerns such as those I expressed earlier this week over resources being spread thin.

If you'll follow me across the flip, I have some background on the March, and a general strategy question for you all.

Because this hasn't been as much talked about in non-LGBT progressive circles, let me provide a little background. The National Equality March was announced on June 7th when Cleve Jones, a collaborator of Harvey Milkís and the founder of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt said in Salt Lake City he would be having a march in just four monthsí time. I traffic a lot in LGBT politics, and at the time, the response was nearly universally negative, with the exception of David Mixner. I wonít go through them one by one, but instead you can check out my friends and colleagues Bil Browning and Pam Spaulding's posts, who make important points, and summed it up as a pretty horrible idea. Toni Broaddus with the Equality Federation, the coalition of state equality groups, also has a good op-ed on the topic.

Despite the loud outcry, Jones insisted that the march would go on as planned, and responded to the criticisms (examples here and here).

At Netroots Nation in mid-August, two organizers for the March came and we had a large caucus on the topic, at which half of about 50 activists in the room expressed criticism on the planning and execution of it so far, and the other pleaded it be canceled altogether. I offered help in Pittsburgh to their press spokesman, though it shocked me a little that he had been hired only two days prior, already had multiple commitments on various projects, and answered ìreally, noneî when I asked him what national press had covered this. This was just eight weeks out at the time, and probably why a lot of folks in non-LGBT circles havenít heard of it. It's hard to find any mentions of it in non-LGBT media, either on TV, radio or the internet, that I've seen (other than a brief mention on NPR.org).

Or, as one friend of mine put it, when Netroots Nation was announced one year prior, folks set about booking our flights and circling their calendars. Folks knew it was happening. Eight weeks prior to a national LGBT march on the National Mall, most LGBT people in Pittsburgh were asking each other if it had been canceled yet, and all my straight colleagues were asking me, "what march?". Kind of sums up how well it was going at the time.

Conversations started to ensue amongst my colleagues on whether the folks behind the march, which was shaping up to be a disaster, have made their own bed and should now sleep in it, or whether LGBT bloggers, activists and organizations should try and save it from the certain disaster it would be, both in terms of media perception and how lawmakers would scoff at the pathetic LGBT rights movement that could only get a couple thousand people on the Mall.

It tended toward the latter. HRC, which demurred when the march was announced, announced it was endorsing the march (although many said it was only because they wanted more attendees at their national dinner, which is the night prior). Bil, who spoke extensively with the organizers at Netroots Nation, wrote a post endorsing the march after writing a scathing piece back when it was announced. Radio host and columnist Mike Signorile, who also opposed the March, has changed positions after Cleve Jones came on his show. So has Pam, according to the endorsement list.

Then, after more bad news last week, the wave of endorsements came yesterday. And today, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announced their endorsement. There are a few ways to respond to all that news.

One is that the March was so poorly organized and staffed that no one had the time or brains to reach out to these folks in the first place. Another is that they had been collecting these endorsements for months and wanted to wait until they hit a critical mass to announce them. Another is that over 140 smart people and one organization in what Bil calls "Gay, Inc." all had a sudden change of heart after refusing for three months to endorse this thing- some, like Bil, Mike and Pam, even expressing opposition.

The last is that conversations started in LGBT circles among people who had been ambivalent or opposed to this thing, and they thought, "well, if this thing is going to happen, I guess we better make sure we don't embarrass ourselves on national television". I can't speak for the motives of all my colleagues, but I tend towards this one.

I am not writing this to pile on the March and the efforts around it. I'm writing this to ask a general strategy question.

Is this the right move? Is it right that Cleve made what many consider a mistake, soaked up people and money and other resources that need to go to Maine and Washington State and the Corzine race and Kalamazoo and possibly California and elsewhere, and now others have to rescue it? Is it right that poor planning meant little national media has covered it, Congress wouldn't be in session, organizers started to fear no one would come, planned activities like the AIDS vigil at the Lincoln Memorial had to be canceled- and others have to put down what they're doing and do media training for the participants, pitch friends in the national media to cover it, write e-mail blasts to get people to come, raise money, etc.? At a time when health care is near the finish line and there are a ton of other huge battles we could lose around the country? Should those who made their bed have to sleep in it alone?

And it's not just a hindsight question. It's a question of how we send resources over the next month. Like I wrote the other day, my friend in California only has enough to go to either Maine or DC, not both. It's a choice. Every person who endorses this thing is affecting that choice.

Or is it progressives' and LGBT activists' responsibility to answer the call to arms and make sure we don't embarrass ourselves and look disorganized and weak? We are all in this together.

And at what point is that decided? Is there a moral hazard question for the next time this happens?

I'm asking these as honest questions, and very interested in reactions.

Cross-posted at OpenLeft.com


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After watching our debacle in California...we spent $40,000,000 and were completely disorganized and FAILED!!!

Then all the new young activists who came on board via JTI after that need to hook up with some group that is organized and doing something! JTI is just a website that does nothing, but still has hundreds of thousands of addresses of people who want to help.

If NGLTF can get them on board and grouped up by state, or whatever their organization is, that will help immensely to let these people begin to focus and be of use. More power to their org if they are willing to do this. Their press release made it sound so.

I don't really understand who you're talking to here. Are you talking to large LGBT groups or to LGBT individuals?

As an individual, I've donated to Maine Equality and will be going to the March. I'll probably donate more when my friends pitch in for the hotel I've already paid for. I'm doing what I can as someone who is not a resident of Maine or Washington.

If you don't want to go to the march, then don't. I don't think the march should be about quotas; rather it should be about effectively presenting our message. The march will have an impact, whether it's on a nation or on the individuals that participate in it. Bil got that a couple weeks ago.

I'm talking to people with and not with groups. I'm talking to everyone.

Re quotas, It's hard to effectively present a positive message with a dismal number of people and the national press either ignoring you because it's not a large number who have shown up, or smirking at you for the same reason. It's important to put oneself in the shoes of the audience. You're correct that it will have an impact, my question is whether it will be very good or not.

And my question for you is, what happens the next time someone wants to plan a large collective action that will draw media attention and require the participation of a lot of people? Is it fair to force people to jump in if it's going to be a bad idea?

What number counts as dismal? What number would be success to you?

All I've been hearing (and sorry, I'm not trying to take my frustration out on you) is the march will fail, no one will come, no one can afford to be there, blah blah blah.

What exactly would failure look like? What would success look like? I think goals should be set by the National Equality March folks, but also people who decide that the march isn't good enough need to say what is good enough.

In regards to your question, I don't see people being forced to go. A Washington trip can be expensive, especially with the economy. I don't see pro-march people guilting those that can't go.

I also don't think the goal of the march is an end, its point is to organize people from every Congressional district. This isn't like the past Marches on Washington where there was lobbying and protesting; I think one (of the few) goal(s) set up by the National Equality March was to get people from every district to come to get organized and motivated, and to bring that back home.

How should the next large collective action be arranged? I don't know. I think national organization would be different because of the diversity within the LGBT community, as well as what rights LGBT citizens are lacking in their regions. Regional organizations would be more successful, I think. For a national campaign, I would suggest organizing in Washington to support one of the gay rights bills coming to a vote soon (how cool would an ENDA march be?). It would take educating LGBTs and straight allies beforehand at home to raise awareness about the legislation in question.

It's not much up to me to determine how large or small it needs to be. I haven't organized marches before. The media determines that, as do activists around the country. I have talked to march organizers, and read interviews with Bil, and they have refused to lay out a specific number because they don't want to set expectations and fall short. I understand that. But what I do know, and I hear this around and about a lot, is that as of several weeks ago, the numbers were looking so dismal it was in serious trouble.

Re resources, it's not a question of guilting anyone. We're operating in a limited-resource environment with multiple commitments around the country. People are entitled to organize things they feel strongly about. People are not entitled to organize them poorly, and at a time when resources are being sucked up and LGBT rights are literally on the ballot just starting just a week after the march. That's the reality. I would like to see not just heartfelt activism, but effective, thoughtful, heartfelt activism, and that's not what this is so far.

You'll have to forgive me, I'm a baby activist. If you could clear up what you mean by "media" and by "resources," that would be great. :)

By media, are you talking about gay media or mainstream media? If you mean gay media, there's been plenty of attention. If you're talking about mainstream media, then how successful is anything that LGBTs do? Why does success depend on them? There are LGBTs still boycotting the Democratic party because of the DOMA brief filed this summer. While the media isn't giving them much attention, Obama sure picked up on it and gave up some DP rights to federal employees. I'm more concerned about what my politicians have to say rather than the corporate-controlled media.

And what do you mean by resources? Are you talking about time, money, media attention? Are you talking about individual people's money and time or money, time, and media attention of the gay orgs supporting the march? If you're talking about individuals here, with all due respect, I'll choose where my money and time goes.

I think as more gay orgs sign on to the National Equality March, attention will grow, as will numbers and the organizers of the march can plan more. I also think that individuals should be recuiting at home (carpooling!). Word of mouth is a great way to get more participants, and support for LGBT rights in general.

Well, you have to consider the underlying assumptions here. Bink (and progressives of the DailyKos stripe generally) are of the opinion that:

1. All GLBT resources belong to the Democratic Party, or at least the "progressive movement" and thus must be used to benefit President Obama and his party.

and

2. Gay issues really aren't as important as the next election or satisfying more powerful constituencies.

We are, essentially, the gAyTM.

Anyroad, so anything organized outside of the cadre of DP think tanks, front orgs, etc, must be quashed. Thus the concern trolling.

Hi Alan,

1. I'm gay. Gay issues kind of matter to me. Did you know that before you wrote they didn't?

2. Rather than nasty attacks, I'm interested to hear from you if you got to be a leader one day, how you would ask people to spend their money and time. Please speak up.

1. So what, "leader?" What's your "support" worth?

2. If I were a "leader," I'd tell my "followers" to stop following "leaders" and damn well march if they want to march instead of trying to run them down. After all the "support" they've gotten from you democrats, I think they have every fucking right to march, 'cause they're "leaders" sure as shit aren't "leading."

Maybe "leaders" aren't all they're cracked up to be, "leader."

I'm talking about traditional media. If I cared only about LGBT media, I would not get much done because the audience is, well, entirely LGBT. It's important to have straight individuals watching on CNN respond positively to our message. How many members of Congress do you know read LGBT media?

In terms of resources, it's money, time, man and womanpower. Leaders recognize that it's important to ask folks to allocate that in different ways. Meaning, if I had 200,000 people who were interested in my opinion on something, the way climate change activists are interested in Al Gore's opinion on whether legislation is good or not, that matters. Leaders have to make decisions about that in smart ways. So rushing off to do whatever march/protest/ballot campaign/city council race just because you want to is unstrategic. My $0.02.

Adam, you have already made most of the "con" arguments that I might make, and have made in the past.

To be honest, I still fear that this might be a train wreck in the making --- but I hope it isn't, it is clear it will take place for better or worse, and in order for me not to be one among many who "speak failure into reality" I have quit posting arguments against the March. I now have a wait-and-see attitude. (It happens that, because of family responsibilities, it wouldn't be likely I could go personally even if I were thoroughly enthusiastic.)

But I think it was highly irresponsible for the initiators to call this March under these conditions. If the March is a fizzle, they should be held accountable, by reputation if nothing else. If the March is a clear success, I will be first to admit, and be relieved, that my misgivings were wrong.

Then two months later, we get to find out whether the distracted resources affect our fates in Washington and Maine. All this while unemployment is highest since the Great Depression, and some among us can barely make housing payments or have already lost the roof overhead, or worry about what happens next month when their unemployment benefits expire.

Adam, I know that your post isn't an attack. You're questioning the reasons and assumptions behind the change of heart from many of the bloggers and the national organizations. It's an interesting conversation.

But the framing of this post makes me really sad. We are not a "moral hazard"; we are a hardworking, grassroots group of folks from all across the country who are coming together to march and rally for our lives and our rights.

We are done cutting deals and making laundry lists for a handful of rights in a handful of states. We are free and equal people, and we are coming to DC with one simple demand: Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. Now.

We are organizing from our hearts. You all have been right from the beginning - this job is messy, it's chaotic, and it looks impossible from the outside. It is a labor of love, but we're doing this because we believe in it. And we're committed to the big picture - all the work that has to be done all over the country AFTER October.

I personally appreciate all the endorsements of those whose hearts and minds have changed, whatever their reasons. But it makes me sad when people support us reluctantly or begrudgingly. This is a movement, and movements are messy. That doesn't mean it's a "bad idea." The only "bad idea" is discouraging genuine, heartfelt activism. My appeal to all of you is this: jump in and get messy too, because we have a special, special moment to share with each other. It isn't about numbers; it's about a new demand, and a new chapter in the struggle for social justice. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Feel free to get directly in touch with me if you want to talk more about it. Everyone - EVERYONE - is welcome.

So much love,
Kip

Kip, you're being totally intellectually dishonest here. If by "laundry lists" do you mean "specific policy goals"? If so, your website has laundry lists right on it. Repeating "We are free and equal people" over and over again doesn't make any less meaningless.

Hi Kip,

A couple of thoughts:
-A moral hazard is defined as when a party insulated from risk behaves differently than when it is exposed to risk. If Random Gay Activist calls for a sit-in at the White House in Feburary 2010, and is big enough to get the media to pay attention to him, and it's a stupid idea set up to fail, the rest of us face a question over whether to help him or not. He relies on the notion that we will all come to the rescue. Cleve starting running a march that was poorly organized and lacked a lot of foresight. A lot of people, after three months of either refusing to support it or outright opposing it, have come around to support it. Attribute whatever motives you will to that, but it insulates Cleve from risk of looking like a fool, and it helps insulate (hopefully) our movement from looking pathetic to the national audience. Thus, moral hazard, thus, my question of what happens the next time someone proposes an idea that will draw national attention but is poorly planned and executed, which is really what I would like this discussion to be about, not defending the merits of this action.

-Because I would prefer this thread not become another debate about whether this was a good idea or bad idea, I want to skip over your thoughts on how special and heartfelt this march is, and get to the real question I'm putting out there.

Since you say:

The only "bad idea" is discouraging genuine, heartfelt activism

I wonder whether you think any activist with a microphone who wants to jump in and get dirty, even if it is a poor use of resources, even if it may hurt our movement in terms of media perception, even if it forces the rest of the movement to drop what they're doing and jump in too, they should be encouraged to go and do it. In other words, whether Random Gay Activist should be insulated from the moral hazard risk of hurting our movement, just because it's genuine and heartfelt, and it's a bad idea to discourage it. That's what you seem to be proposing, so own up to it.

Adam - the March will be a disaster even if it draws 300,000 people. It's motivation is negative - pique at Obama for failing to make lgbt issues THE priority of his first half-year in office. The more the proponents explain what it is about, the clearer it becomes that it's about HAVING A MARCH.

And it will inevitably suck critical resources and attention away from the effort to protect existing lgbt rights (marriage equality and partnerships) in Maine and Washington state. If the referendums reverse our recent hard-won legislative victories in those two states, the negative repercussions will erase any possible positive effect of even a huge turnout in D.C.

Leaders of Democratic (sic) Party front groups like the HRC, NGLTF, and Democrat oriented bloggers have been trying to stop, stall or sabotage the MoW since its inception.

Why the hostility? Part of it was a turf war. Many of these self appointed LGBT ‘leaders’ were shocked at the hostility directed at them in the aftermath of Prop 8 and are fearful of alternative leaderships. And I suspect that they're less than thrilled that the MoW will be an anti-Obama rally. Obama and the Congressional Democrats have a clear record of open hostility towards us and a strategy of stalling our legislative agenda until the next election cycle.

In reaction there’s been a growing hostility to Democrats in the movement as a whole. There has been wave after wave of demonstrations against the homohaters victories in California, Florida and Arizona, against the travesty at the Inaugural, and the DoJ use of rancid bigotry to defend Clinton’s DOMA. People are angry about the stalling on ENDS and repeal of DADT and no one expects them to have the guts to repeal Clintons DOMA. At this point, however it's organized and no matter who speaks the MoW is going to have the character of an anti-Obama rally and place him on the spot. It’ll be the crest of the first of many waves of rejection of the Democrat sellouts in the Congress and White House.

HRC and the others are also afraid of being left behind as the movement grows, gets more active and moves to the left. Their fears are well justified. It’s good that they're jumping on the bandwagon and their support, for whatever reason and however late, is a good thing.

Nevertheless the people and organizations that blundered and urged a vote for Democrats or Republicans will pay a heavy price for it as the radicalization of GLBT folks, especially youth, deepens.

Okay, we all know the motivation for the march. That's not my question. My questions are (a) Is it strategic to have one at this time (b) What do we realistically expect it will accomplish (c) How would you respond to the moral hazard problem of anyone calling for a poorly organized, resource-sucking march, and eventually it moves from a case of "This thing is a stupid idea and I'm not interested in spending massive amounts of my time on stupid efforts" to "oh shit, we need to make sure our movement doesn't look stupid on national teevee".

People have to move beyond anger and hot-air rhetoric to thoughtful strategic discussions.

I would argue that a march may NEVER be strategic... or that they are ALWAYS strategic--depending on your goals.

I think for this one's goals, a march IS strategic. Kip, stop me if I'm wrong (I guess that cliche doesn't work as well on a message board, since you really can't stop me) but I believe this march is seeking to harness the energy and raw emotions in the wake of all of the changes that have happened this year, and to set people up with the type of jumping-off point (and tools and strategies and network) to go back to their communities and turn their raw emotions into action?

In this case the march is strategic.

If we're looking for any IMMEDIATE change in DC after this march, well... this march will certainly NOT be strategic, then.

I put in my support for this march on Bilerico.com on Wednesday (after I had already made the list) not because I feel 100% that this has to happen right now, but because I'm not sure that squarely placing myself in opposition is really where I can do good.

This march didn't come from Cleve Jones' brain, out of nowhere. He was compelled into leading this march. Don't forget there have been calls for it for a long time. The timing isn't perfect, but I think that's a shitty excuse to postpone anything--they're telling US that we can't repeal DOMA right now because the 'timing isn't right.' They're telling US that we can't repeal DADT right now because the 'timing isn't right.' We can't pass ENDA because the 'timing isn't right.' First it was the economy. Then it was Health Care Reform. Next it will be National Security.

And now we're telling ONE ANOTHER that 'the timing isn't right.' The timing is NEVER perfect in politics, and those who wait and wait and wait for perfect timing are spinning wheels. When perfect timing happens, its sheer dumb luck, not strategy.

I say, become a part of the march (whether you're going or not) lend your voice to the discussion, and voice your concerns widely. You may be surprised to find that your ideas and suggestions may be more welcome than you may think, when you remove yourselves from the adversarial role, and begin working WITH one another rather than against.

Those of us who hope this march does not DISTRACT from all of the important local contests this fall, well I believe and hope there is a place for us in the discourse as well. Thus far, I've been nothing but impressed with Cleve and Kip's total professionalism and positivity. Every time they've received criticism, rather than turn away and ignore, or extend a hand to block out the conversation, they've extended a hand and said "Get on board, we'd love to have you." Folks, this appeals to me right down to my VERY CORE. This is what I've always been all about, and regardless of my concerns, it is THIS type of leadership I can't ignore and that we ALL need to learn from and imitate.

Strategic? Are you kidding?

Of course it’s strategic. It’s a strategic divide. It's a mass march for GLBT liberation and equality in the national capital in the face of obstinate resistance by Democrats and Republicans and their front groups in our communities. It’ll divide those serious about winning our full liberation and equality from those serious about their careers as self appointed leaders.

It'll promote and solidify, and hopefully in an organizational form, the growing inclination towards independence of our struggle from the Democrats and their front groups. Fear of that is what triggered opposition to the MoW.

It doesn’t matter if Congress is in session or not. They stay in touch.

It’s not counterpoised to local and regional actions or to the fights in Maine and Washington. There are millions of us. We can defend ourselves from the cults and Democrats who pander to them and go on the offensive at the same time. Actually, we have no choice but to do both. Always being on the defensive and always getting run over by the Obus is getting a little tiresome.

It doesn’t mean we can’t follow it up with a round of local, regional or bi-coastal actions; it makes it easier to organize them by providing a base of activists and local organizations.

The higher the number the better, but the march is already a huge success. It’s assembling, organizing, enthusing and galvanizing the energies of a core of activists, some new and some old, who’ll play leading roles in succeeding waves of struggle against the bigots in the White House, Congress and the cults.

It's a huge step to the left.

I LOVE the amazing dialogue this march has begun. I'm having a totally awesome debate with the amazingly brilliant blogger, WorkingClassFag (go look him up and check him out, he's phenomenal) in email, and then there's this too. Everyone has such a different take on this march, and its really rallying people in new ways. Love it or hate it, you gotta be impressed with the way its got us all talking. I hope it sparks some positive momentum now. With all of these dialogues going, our engines are running. Let's release the brake and accelerate!

I get what you're saying. A lot of people have endorsed under the banner of "Well, they're doing it anyway, might as well help out...."

If a group is going to represent the LGBT community (and, in effect, represent me), lots of people are going to either criticize or want to jump in. And considering that this isn't a democracy and anyone can appoint themselves the representative of the LGBT population as they want, the most the rest of us can do is try to dissuade or shape what they're doing. Lots of people are choosing the latter at the last minute, it seems, but it's better than sitting back and having to accept the consequences all the same.

That's why I'd personally answer "no" to the title question: "You Made the Bed, Now Sleep In it (Alone)?" It doesn't work that way, and if we're worried about looking stupid in front of the media and legislators who don't think we can't gather up enough people to get there (which, a few weeks ago, I'd have given a 99% chance of happening), it's not like those same legislators and media folks are going to be making a distinction between the queers who organized the march and those who didn't.

But, hey, that's part of living in a vaguely defined subpopulation - there is no democracy. There wasn't before Prop 8 and the way this March has been organized proves that the so-called "new generation" is going to follow in the same footsteps. But anyone who really believes that every queer should have a voice in how their movement is organized and represented should probably just get out now and save themselves the migraines and eventual heart attack. Me, I don't have so much of a problem, so I'll stick around.

Thanks for the thoughtful response. A few followups:

-If you had an activist with limited resources, eg cash to spend, and could send he or she anywhere, would it be DC over a state-based ballot campaign, and why?

-You're right that "at the last minute" people decided to come in and work on this thing. What are effective ways to dissuade the same problem from happening the next time? Just because it's not a democracy doesn't mean we should shrug our shoulders and sigh when a new mass action that isn't the greatest idea is announced.

Dear Mr. Bink:

I hope you won't mind a Canadian weighing in on this, but you can count me as one of those activists who profoundly wishes he cold afford to go to the MoW or Maine - too poor to do either! However to address a few of your concerns:

"If you had an activist with limited resources, eg cash to spend, and could send he or she anywhere, would it be DC over a state-based ballot campaign, and why?"

I'd let the activist make their own choice as their commitment will be most effective if directed where their passion lies.

As to how you measure the success of the MoW, I would suggest that if you let the mainstream media be the determinant, you may be missing the point. I believe the answer will lie in the experience of the individuals who are there, how it affects and hopefully empowers them. Likewise for those who can't afford to go, if they're able to motivate even a handful of folks to picket their local congressional offices, recruiting centres - or even congress members homes, as Cleve Jones teasingly suggests in his interview with Bil - it is those individual local activists who can and should define whether of not this national day of action is a success.

A brief story from my Toronto days. Years back, Ontario elected a centre-left party to power. They promised LGBTQ rights, then delayed and delayed. Finally, afraid of losing re-election, they sold us out completely. A group of angry queers took to the streets. We started to draw a crowd. Hanging around the edges was a gorgeous young man on a bike. He clearly hadn't come out for a demo - he was dressed in blue lycra racing gear! He sat astride his bike, keeping his distance. Our march moved on to target a constituency office. I lost sight of him, but later on - when we'd started a noisy sit-in in the middle of downtown traffic, I saw him again. Not on the periphery, but right in the thick of it, blocking traffic and pumping his fist in the air, "We're here! We're queer! We're NOT. GOING. AWAY!" I never met him, never saw him again that I know of, but I think of him often. I have no doubt that joining that march was an important, perhaps even defining moment for that young man.

Watching from north of the border, I am so envious of your opportunity for these defining moments. Maine, Washington State and the MoW are not mutually exclusive struggles. Indeed, they are the same. Proposition 8 was never just a Californian issue. It affected queers across America and believe me we felt the chill in Canada! Maine's wonderful, moving No on 1 campaign is very much a national issue and I'm sure will be on the minds of every marcher in DC on October 11. Given how the anti-gay religious right cross-border agitates, I believe it's very much an issue for Canadian queers as well.

Our community is wonderfully diverse - in every conceivable way. As Alex rightly points out, we're not a democracy. Sometimes we're more of a shouting match! It's good to dissent, it's good to worry about outcomes and strategies, but sometimes - if you can - it's good to put your worries aside and march. Full Equality under the law! Surely something worth marching for!

All the best,
Hugo


I agree with you completely. You said this so beautifully. All the best to you in Canada!

Hi Hugo,

As someone from suburban Buffalo, I do not at all mind a Canadian comment! Yay neighbors.

Very interesting perspective. I've heard it before re the need to excite and mobilize people. I'm in favor of local organizing. I do not see the immense use of spending well over $1,000 to go to Washington to do so. You're looking at this as a convention, to network people from other states. Sure, it is that. Is that the best use of tons of money and time?

Marches are exciting, they're sexy, and the partying will be fun. It's hard to get the same busload of 40 people from Tennessee or wherever to put the same amount of money they would have spent into local organizing. But that is the model I would want. I fail to see how their going to Washington, of all places, for 2 days to pressure the national government is a better use in organizing locally. And on top of that, sucking resources out of other fights that were already on our dance card or likely going to be when this was announced on June 7th. Some of that busload from Tennessee (was) going to be helping their neighbors in other states, and if we win in Maine, that is a huge boost, both for donors unwilling to give previously to other fights and to the moods of activists like myself.

My question is are the 140 endorsers just endorsing or are they going to show up? I look at these names and I think, "great, good solid list of people" but then I wonder, "are they behind this event enough to attend?"

Rea Carey said, "The Task Force will be there at the march to support the voices of new activists, LGBT people and our allies who push and push for the end to hatred, discrimination and unjust laws," but what about the others?

Well I don't have a nickle to my name...

So no, you definitely won't have 140 there, at most 139.

You can support and still not go. Its a matter of principle. I want this march to succeed. I will do what I can. We can all jump on and support it, regardless of whether or not we can plan to go. That's really one of the most helpful things--to support it with positivity.

I really would love to see some sort of a program put together for people to sponsor others to go, and I'd gladly leave myself out of the program--this isn't a selfish thing. All of the people with economic hardships that have been chiming in have really got me thinking, we can really ramp up the good vibes if some of our wealthy sisters and brothers sponsored someone who is having extreme economic hardship to join them there. Oprah-style.

Some sort of scholarship program where the Gills the Bastians and the Strykers out there pooled a bunch of money together and people applied for their hotel and transportation to be taken care of depending on their economic situation. THAT would inject a LOT of positivity into the march!

If you look at the budget put out by the organizers, for the main event they are renting enough port-a-johns to support 40,000 people.

So, they are either adequately planning for a fairly small event, or inadequately planning for a larger one. Neither thought is very comforting.

Maybe they're just crossing their fingers that noone will drink too much coffee that morning! Or eat too many prunes.

Yeah --- when the lines for the port-a-potties get too long, most of the guys will be happy to just whip it out and pee on the lawn.

When that makes it onto CNN, the folks in Peoria will just love it.

As an honorary Peorian (I'm a short drive from) I am outraged that you're insinuating our great city has a pee fetish. Its SO not true. The river doesn't smell like piss because of ACTUAL piss! Its all just a coincidence!
;-D

But yes, I hope that EVERYTHING that occurs at the march plays well to the public. And knowing those that I know are going, I'm sure it will, because they are nothing but classy individuals.

The march's web site dances around the question of how many actually have committed to attend the march. So only those who run the web site know whether 1,000 or 100,000 have signed up so far. What number constitutes success? If your goal is to create an impressive image for network TV, you'll need a big crowd for aerial shots by the news choppers. Washington TV people could give you better guidance, but I would guess at least 100K would be needed. I'm sure if only 10,000 show up, someone will still say it was a success because so many young people received training and motivation. Keep saying that and you might believe it. Why people need to travel to Washington to find out how to organize in their own state capitals and home towns mystifies me. Political organizing is not a big, dark secret. It's been taught in sociology and political science classes for decades. Have your networking party in DC, if you must, but then point the charter buses toward Portland and Bangor.

This is a thought-provoking essay.

When I began seeing endorsements from people who were previously critical of the march, I immediately wondered what was up. Nobody has really investigated what caused the change of heart, I think either the organizers cut some kind of "deal" with them or people figured the march was happening regardless and decided to "play nice" and support it.

The question of people needing to pick up the slack for something that wasn't their idea is an excellent one. Personally, I say let Cleve and 'em take all the credit and risk for this march. (I like Jones and would attend the march if I had the funds.)

The increasing emphasis on people supporting the march reminds me of the way Prop 8 became everyone's responsibility instead of the LGBT community of California. Could the out-of-state millions donated to that effort have augmented or replaced funding that was cut from local LGBT-oriented health and social service programs and community centers? I wonder if people in WA and ME are wishing they hadn't cut that check for California since "the community" doesn't seem to consider their initiatives as high a priority?

Great post, Adam!

The endorsement list is essentially meaningless. Any group and put its name on an endorsement. It is easy and costs nothing. Here in NYC, there are often very tiny demonstrations held by fringe groups on a host of issues. These demo organizers invariably have an endorsement list that includes the names of a few hundred organizations, unions, activists, etc. Then 20 people show up to demonstrate.

It should be really obvious to everyone that the key, titanic battle is in Maine. This is the last state which will vote on our equality for the next 3 years. The outcome there will directly affect legislative votes in NY, NJ and DC later this year. If the other side wins, they will be able to claim for the next 3 years, rightly, that marriage equality is rejected everywhere it is considered by popular vote, even in blue states like ME and CA.

Billerico readers, for all their professed passion for activism, have raised all of $500 for Maine via ActBlue (contrasted with over $20,000 raised by AmericaBlog). How many of these people will waste hundreds of dollars going to DC so they can feel "energized"?

"Billerico readers, for all their professed passion for activism, have raised all of $500 for Maine via ActBlue (contrasted with over $20,000 raised by AmericaBlog)."

I'm not sure but I suspect that American Blog has, if not a larger, at least a richer base than Bilerico. Contributions there are substantially larger than those from Bilerico. (Average of $43 from 13 Bilerico readers vs. $74 from 297 AmericaBlog readers).

In addition, Bilerico is a center for the rejection of SSM as a worthwhile goal by activists, mostly based on the fact that if Obama doesn't like it they don't like it. Others have more substantial objections to marriage as an institution, most of which I share. What I don't share is anyone’s contempt for the fight for ssm equality.

And finally Dave, keep in mind that the MoW is going to happen. Nothing you or any Democrat says or does can stop it. But, if by chance it leads to an unmitigated disaster, and the polls go against us and Congress passes the FMA the very next day the Vatican calls for our mass murder, you be sure to remind us and we’ll hang our heads in shame.

If on the other hand, we lose in Maine or Washington in spite of all the hard work of our brothers, sisters and allies across the country don’t even think of blaming that on the march. Instead tell the truth and blame it on the Bigot in Chief, Mr. “gawds’ in the mix”, himself, Barak Obama and all the other religious rightists.

Last Wednesday evening I was privileged to join the DC Host Committee in supporting the march. The point of the march, however, is not in numbers. This is the first step in a much longer term effort to redefine the politics and social consciousness of the nation. Those individuals who are moved to participate will find opportunities to learn by doing--how to organize, how to publicize, how to lobby, how to influence, etc. When they return home they will become the leaders of hundreds of local efforts that will, in time, change the world we live in.

Having observed the development of LGBT community consciousness for almost 50 years, I see the current discord within the community as somewhat akin to the aftermath of Stonewall. It has become popular to define Stonewall as the birth of the movement for gay rights. The immediate reality in the community was somewhat different and has been conveniently forgotten. The leading gay organization of the time was Harry Hay's Mattachine Society, which worked almost entirely underground, through very concealed social connections, the legendary "homintern". The reaction to Stonewall was hardly supportive from the openly liberal media or the closeted community. The fact that the initiative came from the transexuals and "street kids" made the matter even more controversial and subject to revision.

The march seems well positioned to capture the interest of broad swaths of the LGBT community that would never think of attending an HRC or Victory fund-raiser. This is an opportunity for LGBT people who are dissatisfied with the current political and social scene to learn how to make their voices heard, free from "establishment" filters. And I do not say this in any way to diminish the work and commitment of the "establishment".

There's an old Vermont story about two older gentlemen discussing the sexual revolution. One says, "It seems like there's a lot more of it going on now." The other replies, "It's not that there's so much more of it, but that there's a new crowd doing it."

Now let's all get out there and be "inclusive".

I am so ready for a new national strategy as the old one isn't working. Prop 8 & Maine are perfect examples of how our rights must be won at a federal level.

As David has pointed out, Maine will be the last state voting for equality for THREE more years. Well doesn't that give a Texan something to get excited about? At this rate, I will be six feet under by the time Texas adopts marriage equality...and it won't be because Texas voters delivered it either. It will only come through federal legislation or a S.C. decision.

So to answer the question posed by Adam where would I rather spend my dollar? Washington DC without a doubt. If I weren't going to DC I honestly would not send my dollars to Maine. What's in for me? Selfish maybe...but honest answer and one many probably would also say from the red states of our country. And I would propose that many people going to the march in blue states would also not send money to Maine to fight that battle. So to assume $ spent in D.C. by activists directly results in a loss of money to the battle for our cause in Maine is flawed argumentation.


And...why can't we do both? It's crazy that this is an either/or question posed by Adam. Choose your battleground and get involved! Why do we have to make this so hard and agonizing...this is crazy! Just sayin'

That's probably the most honest thing written about this whole bullshit debate, Mark. It's not a matter of either/or, it's a matter of both/and. My time, effort and votes don't belong to the HRC or Adam's party or anyone else and I'll damn well place them where I think they'll do the most good. And if the elites are pissed off because they're not in control, so what?

It is true that the vote in Maine will not immediately impact your life if you live in the heart of TX. But it will - this year - directly impact equality in 3 states and DC, together comprising 10% of the entire population of the United States. Maybe you don't care that the equality of 10% of the country is up for grabs in the remaining 4 months of this year, but a lot of people do.

As for TX, the only way you will ever break the back of homophobia there is to allow Texans to see equality at work in other states. I grant that this will not happen overnight. But it gets very hard to argue, for example, that same sex marriage will lead to the destruction of civilization when 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 states and the capital have had it for a decade. 25% of Texans already agree with us; the way to get the other 25% is to secure victories in places like Maine and Iowa.

Finally, you seem to be under a basic misconception about how government works in the US. The vast majority of issues that affect our daily lives are left to the states. Marriage, employment laws, housing, policing -- are largely matters for state and local governments, with the US government playing an ancillary role, if any. That is not going to change. It is constitutionally mandated. There is no magic federal solution to all of our problems. And if you were to attempt to solve our problems that way, you would need either to amend the US Constitution (which requires assent of 3/4 of the states, so you are back to local organizing) or otherwise score a radical victory in the US Supreme Court. Either way, it would take a century and would not be advanced by a march.

"The point of the march, however, is not in the numbers." Already a lowering of expectations. Ok, Dan, if people want to spend $200 or $300 to ride a bus to Washington to get "organized," fine. I thought in the age of the Internet that could be done online, but I guess there is still some value in face-to-face meetings. But since March leaders are saying now that the goal is not to assemble a big crowd to impress the media, nor to lobby Congress, why don't you just move the March to Portland or Ogunquit or Augusta and go knock on a few doors?

Well, I'm just gonna say it: I think this March will be a bonafide five-star disaster.

Here's why:

1. No credible promotion to the greater community.

What have we heard really other than about Cleve's involvement and some rather vague goals? Not much really. We know it'll be on the Mall and we know what day. Who's coming? Who's speaking? What other events will be happening? What orgs besides the biggies will be in attendance? Carpools? Caravans? Room Sharing? In short, we got nothing.

2. We have long memories.

Did you see the last March in '01? I wasn't physically there, but I watched it on C-SPAN. I spent hours in front of my TV as I watched the trans community rendered virtually invisible at the event, with only about 30 seconds of Riki Wilchins' chanting offered as what was considered appropriate transgender representation.

Given what we currently know about this March and what we witnessed during the last one, why would any transperson spend significant amounts of time and money to attend this thing? Perhaps that might be different if we had any indication that we and our issues will be properly represented and respected during this event, but what have we heard to assuage those fears? Without any programming info, again we have nothing.

3. HRC Involvement = Less Attendees

There are still plenty of LGBT's who are furious with HRC over '07, transfolks especially. Having them involved with this event will be the deal-breaker for many who might've attended. How many American transfolks do you really think are going to be willing to spend hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars, to go to DC and march under an HRC banner? How many true progressives who support trans rights? How many LGB's who are just as angry with the org as we are for any number of reasons?

Mark my words: Having HRC as a sponsoring org will be the kiss of death for this March.