Joe Mirabella

Feeling burned by the Democratic party? Do something.

Filed By Joe Mirabella | December 18, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: 2010 Election, Democratic Party, Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, health care reform, politics

Fellow contributor Adam Bink wrote on Open Left about the following Newsweek prediction for 2010:

Patience became the 2009 mantra of the gay rights movement, which generally supports Democrats. Many activists believe that in his heart Obama supports their flagship issues: the ability to serve openly in the armed forces, to be protected from employment in the workplace, and the right to marry (even though he's on record as favoring civil unions over marriage). But they've received almost nothing for their troubles. What the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community has learned this year is that the president is ultimately a pragmatist. Although his very presence in the White House is the stuff of culture wars, Obama himself is reluctant to wade into one. Moreover, if socially divisive policies have the potential to compromise his legislative agenda, Obama has proven that he simply won't pursue them. Expect this tension to become more acute as the 2010 elections loom-and for gay rights to be shunted aside again. The last thing this pragmatist president will do is hand election-year ammunition to an already energized conservative base that's venomously opposed to gay marriage.

Adam writes:

If Newsweek is thinking about about energized voters, did they happen to notice an already energized LGBT movement that is pissed as hell at inaction and repeated slights by this Administration? As Mike Lux pointed out, 1994 was lost in major part because the base stays home. If Obama and Democrats in Congress really want to know what, to quote George W. Bush, a "thumpin'" feels like, they should take no action on LGBT issues and watch scores of LGBT people stay home.

Adam is correct. The LGBT movement is "pissed as hell," and they should be. Contrary to popular belief, LGBT voters are not single issue voters. They vote on a platform of several progressive ideals. They are largely pro-environment, anti-war, pro-meaningful health care reform that befits people and not the profits of insurance companies, and so on.

The Democratic caucus has dropped the ball on all fronts (with the exception of a couple of notable Representatives like Kucinich, McDermott, and Senator Franken). Add those sins with the fact that LGBT Americans will still be legally terminated from employment in 2010 because they are LGBT. Yes, Congress failed to pass ENDA or repeal DADT in 2009. The Democratic party now faces a powerful group of politically and financially savvy constituents who are not ready to stay home as Adam suggests, but worse -- LGBT Americans will actively campaign against those who are not true progressives.

That's right, we should campaign against Democrats if we have to. Does that mean we are suddenly going to support the Republican party? No way. The Republican party was taken over by the ideals of the Constitution party years ago. Most of them are more than willing to aggressively oppose our rights and in some cases lobby for our deaths in foreign countries like Uganda. The Republican party is and should remain an absurdity.

Rather, we should challenge Democrats in primary elections with fresh faces who are honestly dedicated to real reform and dare I say progress toward a better future. If such a candidate does not exist than find one... or better -- be one. If the Democratic party is too corrupt where you live, then run as a third party candidate.

Staying home is not an option. We're fighting for our lives -- not just the lives of LGBT people, but for humanity's future. Timid tiptoeing Democratic politics of the past must end. We should not fear the neo-cons and their predictable retributions for trying to better our planet. We must elect leaders who actually live the ideals we seek, leaders who are just as angered by hypocrisy as the citizens who elect them, and leaders who are not afraid to make decisions that will undoubtedly rile up teabaggers. These candidates exist, but we can not let the fear of losing prohibit us from supporting them wholeheartedly.

There are enough progressives gay and straight who are so disturbed by the current state of affairs that we have enough political power to completely upset the power structure in 2010 and yes even in 2012.

That power will only be realized though, if we don't stay home. Staying home is the worst thing we can do.


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"If such a candidate does not exist than find one... or better -- be one."

I'm unelectable. Any suggestions for who we should work for to challenge the President in the 2012 elections?

Sooner or later we must come to the realization that there is no "political solution" to LGBT inequality. Only then, will we begin to do the real work to create our equality.

Anger at Democrats is NOT a strategy.

What do you think a constructive strategy *is*?

If there is no "political solution" then what does the "real work" entail? Economic boycotts? Another round of Stonewall Riots? Sabotaging the hair salon that Sarah Palin patronizes? What "real work" are you talking about?

The real work is changing minds. Instead of all the money and energy we waste pretending that politicians will save us - we should save ourselves. We should talk to our neighbors, co-workers and even strangers. If we want our equality we will need to create it. One on one - with conversation.

We should also re-brand ourselves. We have suffered from horrible branding (at the hands of the "very religious"), and yet we have done nothing to provide a better image of ourselves.

HRC has spent more than $550 million and where are the results? We've never passed a single Bill in the US Congress. Just imagine what we could have done with a half billion dollars.

We will create our equality when we stop deferring to some make-believe "political solution" and when we have the courage to do it ourselves.

Anthony in Nashville | December 19, 2009 9:52 AM

For me "changing minds" has its place but it's an issue of legal equality.

I don't care if homophobes don't like me but it should not impact my ability to work or have a legally recognized partner.

Are you suggesting that the LGBT community take the money spent on political advocacy and create our own society (businesses, neighborhoods, schools, community centers, etc)? Black people did that in the segregation area and I see many immigrant communities doing it today.

There is something to be said about building your community's economic and social strength to the point that you don't need someone's recognition.

I would see that as a worthy goal, but it seems most LGBTs reject the idea of living in a "gay world" and want to be in the mainstream.

I'm sorry Anthony, but there is no such thing as "legal equality." The idea of equal rights for "protected classes" is about laws to protect us and/or other minorities. I would prefer to be "equal" than a protected "minority."

Laws do not create equality. They never have and they never will. They simply provide for punishments for bad behavior. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (45 years ago) didn't create equality for Black Americans. It also didn't end racism. Time has done more to end racism, than any law has. It is about old ideas dying and about understanding. The truth is Bill Cosby probably did more to change the minds of white Americans than the Civil Rights Act did. He helped erased the fear that created racism.

I am not suggesting segregation, I am suggesting understanding. Bigotry (as well as racism) should be given their "last rites," as old (fear based) ideas.

If we want equality we must engage our fellow citizens in conversation that leads to understanding. The idea of equality is much bigger than the old ideas of bigotry and racism. But, we do nothing about creating equality - instead we hope for a political solution or protective laws. There is no political solution and those laws don't protect anyone. Equality would mean we don't need any special laws or imaginary protections.

We will be equal, when people believe we are.

OK, Andrew W, now at least I know what you are talking about --- I hate to give it this label, but you are talking about a campaign of gay evangelism.

I'm am not knocking your idea, but I'm sure you know that evangelicals of all stripes --- Jewish, Christian, Muslim, atheist, communist, anarchist --- have been trying to win the world over to their way of thinking since the being of recorded history. Yet, there is no consensus on any of these subjects. Some minds can be changed, and some just can't.

Anthony in Nashville | December 19, 2009 5:42 PM

You're right that laws don't change feelings. I don't think many people believe that civil rights laws eliminate ill will.

But I have no problem with laws that punish "negative feelings." Using racism as an example, a restaurant may not want to serve me because I'm black. There's really nothing stopping them from denying me service. But the law gives me a recourse for when I've been blatantly discriminated against.

To wait on society to see the error of its way with respect to gay people sounds very passive. Gay folks have been "reaching out" for quite some time, to the point where many (most?) people realize they have a LGBT person in their lives. Yet homophobia and legally-sanctioned discrimination still exists.

I feel at some point you have to do something to get what you want -- in this case, equal treatment under the law. Some go for the cultural route, some focus on interpersonal relationships, other put their energy in politics.

Laws only provide recourse. They don't protect or change minds.

You said: "To wait on society to see the error of its way with respect to gay people sounds very passive. Gay folks have been "reaching out" for quite some time, to the point where many (most?) people realize they have a LGBT person in their lives. Yet homophobia and legally-sanctioned discrimination still exists."

I didn't say anything about "waiting." As a community, we have never engaged in "changing minds." Less that 10% of gay people "reach out," the majority simply wait for the magical political solution they've been promised for more than 40 years.

Blacks have been "waiting on society" since the 1960s. Those laws didn't change any beliefs. Only sincere conversation can. It's harder to do than writing a check (very passive) to your favorite Democrat or LGBT Organization - but, it actually works.

Polling shows that as time goes on, Americans are becoming more moderate, especially around LGBT issues. The problem is that the representatives of the people are NOT changing with the rest of America. Our founding fathers never intended the Senate or the House to be life long positions. No old white male senator who was in his seat in the last Civil Rights movement should still be sitting there.

We need term limits, and we needed them yesterday. If you want real change, start making term limits an issue with your congress sloths, and start voting out ALL incumbants who have served over 12 years (6 house terms, 2 senate terms) and replace them. I don't even care what party they are.

We need three things: a fair redrawing of districts to actually encourage seat turnover, term limits for the Congress, and severe lobbying reform that will not allow a former elected politician to participate in ANY lobbying capacity for at least 5 years before AND after their term.

Until we crack their heads a bit, nothing is really going to change. At least not fast enough to make a difference anytime soon.

I was a loyal Democrat for over thirty years. Every election year, I was told the same thing: the Dems have too much on their plates right now to address gay issues. Wait until next time. For THIRTY years.

The final straw came when I read a letter in the paper from the state Dem chairperson that went something like: "Kick up your hooves, Democrats. Now that we've eliminated those immoral homosexuals from our party platform, we can really give those Republicans a run for their money,"

I became independent at that point, and have never looked back. I voted almost entirely Green in the last election. I voted for Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party for president because he supported gay rights and made balancing the national budget his main priority. I voted my conscience for the first time in my life instead of for the "lesser of two evils." It felt damned good.

And I will continue to do so until my dying day.

Marlon Woodward | December 19, 2009 2:17 AM

thanks for the insight and the lively discourse amongst readers. It's good to know that I am not alone in feeling a bit disappointed with the pace of progress in DC. Having said that, there is much, maybe everything, to be said of the prior suggestion (as has been made elsewhere) that we engage our neighbors, family, folks in the elevator, whatever. Unitl the electorate "knows" us a bit better as fellow travellers on the planet, they will not understand the necessity for our outrage.

I agree with Dave (term limits) and Brad (vote third party). After 38 years as a loyal active Democrat I registered Libertarian. I have voted my conscience for a number of years and find great comfort in Not providing my vote for misuse. For me my vote had to become a more personal thing. I just sleep better at night knowing that I am not supporting a dysfunctional 2 party system. There is no way I could stay away from the polls.

I have always voted Democratic since began voting in 1967. When President Obama ran he said "if elected" he would....; he did not say "if elected and then reelected".

It was truly heartbreaking to hear when he takes office that finally ALL barriers have been broken. In my opinion, this simply made it official: members of the LBGT community are officially Second Class Citizens. In addition, the complete silence regarding Gay Marriage issues in both California and Maine spoke volumes. Yet Democrats have spoken up in support of a number of other issues.

I feel the Democrats simply want my money and my vote.

Rahm made a statement recently that he had the Dem Progressives in check, meaning that he supports the Blue Dogs. Time to have a serious talk with other parties.

Bingo, Maura! When Pelosi says she is going to protect the Blue Dogs from any "controversial" votes, it's time for us to start sending the DNC checks made out for two cents --- accompanied by a long letter explaining why this check is smaller than the last one.

This is singularly, the very best 'state of the (lgbt) nation' piece I've read thus far. I don't much care that the author doesn't posit more succinct strategy; what matters is that my angst is reflected so perfectly. The author politely labels Obama a pragmatist; fine. In my own head, and I sense - in most gays? We are indeed facing a moral dilemna of the 'staying home' vs. 'figuring out a moral choice' (pragmatic) venue. It's vexing and I'm struggling with it...
The only way I can frame this is personally... Years ago, my Republican father voted for Ross Perot. I wanted him to vote for the Dem. candidate, but he wouldn't. But at least he wouldn't vote for the Republican. Yet I hated my Dad for 'tossing away' his vote. I wanted him to vote for 'me' - a Democrat. My candidate lost the election, and I blamed my Dad for that. And now? My Dad is dead, and I am exactly the same age as my Dad when he voted for Perot. History repeats itself, and indeed; the apple does not fall far from the tree. More importantly; it's good that me and others are struggling with this. I wish us all well, and to be wise as we grapple with it.

Seems like the LBGT community is faced with either somehow holding Democrats accountable, not voting or simply voting Republican. During the last election, I voted based on all the issues yet, in my opinion, John Mc Cain has a history in the state of Arizona of being extremely pro-Gay. The case of his support Steve May is probably the best example. Seems Democrats really say one thing and after they get the LBGT vote act as if we do not exist.

Personally, I felt for 24 years my being LBGT was a non-issue and then for nine years for my partner and myself the same held true. Sadly my Partner and I had four years of hate and extreme harassment simply because we were LGBT. The fact that, in my opinion, some of the harassers were non-Christians (Hindu from India) and we were white it was allowed. I believe strongly that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect and just because we are white males (yet also Gay) hate towards us can be permitted is not acceptable.

If I were to vote today, and I say if I were to vote today, for the first time in my life at age six I would vote Republican.

correction age sixty

Like Brad, I began voting Green in the last election. It did feel good. I intend to do a lot more of it.

"Laws only provide recourse. They don't protect or change minds."

Direclty, I'd agree. But (and I hate to roll out, one again, the oversimplsitic and often misused analogies to interracial marriages, but..) indirectly I don't agree. Legal interaccial marriage was won in the courts decades before it enjoyed majority support in the country. More critically, in our case (and I suspect this is true with interracial marriage as well but I dont' know it for a fact), the existence of significant numbers of legal same-sex marriages without, y'know, the whole world imploding *will* change hearts and minds. Not over months, but over years and decades and generations.

We've been trying to eliminate racism in this country for a hundred and fifty years, sexism perhaps half that, and we have a helluva long way to go to really reach either goal. But in the meantime, legal protections have provided real benefits and rights to real people in that time, and have been part of, slowly, changing society's consensus.

The laws don't change minds, the people affected by the laws do.

"But in the meantime, legal protections have provided real benefits and rights to real people in that time, and have been part of, slowly, changing society's consensus. The laws don't change minds, the people affected by the laws do."

There is no evidence for that Joe. There IS evidence that conversation and sharing - that leads to understanding - DOES change minds.

My point is that for all our resources - people, time, money, effort, etc., - we spend very little on what we know works and most on what we hope works. That's backwards.

The history of the LGBT movement has been reactive and not proactive. We continue to fight for faux "protections" and repeatedly make ourselves "victims," instead of proactively working to change minds. Perhaps this is because hoping is much easier than doing.

If we want to be equal, we must enroll our fellow citizens. Demanding, ordering and punishing do not "enroll." In fact, they defer our equality.

Laws will not create equality. Politicians will not create equality. Courts will not create equality. Only we can do that. That is something our dysfunctional movement has never done.