Jim and Bob are fast becoming some my favorite folks in Boston. Over the last year we have become better friends, bonding over the shallow lunacy of contemporary mainstream LGBT politics. Our growing friendship has been mutually sustaining as we all emotionally unpacked the trauma induced by the recent gay marriage referendum in Maine and the Coakley/Brown Senate race in Massachusetts. All three of us have had to bear the brunt of some of the most vicious "you're either with us or with the terrorist" liberal LGBT political organizing the last decade has seen. Below is a short conversation between the three of us captured in the wake of Coakley's senate race defeat.
(Jim D'Entremont is a journalist, playwright, civil liberties activist, and former chair of the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression. Bob Chatelle, his longtime partner, is executive director of the National Center for Reason and Justice--the NCRJ--a nonprofit organization seeking to reverse wrongful convictions. Both are registered Democrats.)
Conrad: Has there been any serious fall out for either of you since you both were so outspokenly against just holding your nose and voting for Martha Coakley anyways?
Jim: Since the lunacies coming from Democrats haven't been confined to the gay community or Massachusetts (I've been yelled at or flamed by all sorts of people from as far afield as Singapore), the number of people no longer speaking to us now has a broader base than just those who were already miffed by our lack of interest in embracing marriage as the overarching goal of the movement.
Bob: I had some awkward times with a few friends, but they're behind us. The Facebook friends I lost weren't actual friends. I did lose one long-time subscriber to my blog who was someone I treasured and who had been wonderfully supportive of Bernard Baran [a wrongfully convicted gay day care worker cleared last June with the help of the NCRJ after a 25-year struggle].
Conrad: Based on Coakley's campaign advertisements and messaging, particularly her pandering to LGBT leaders, how do you think the LGBT community perceived her during the senate race to fill Ted Kennedy's now vacant seat?
Jim: Many of the Coakleyites only knew she was a pro-choice woman who as Massachusetts Attorney General had filed a lawsuit aimed at killing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). They didn't notice that she's been kowtowing to the gay leadership out of expedience, that she hasn't always been the homo's best friend, and that she brought in the person who enthusiastically signed DOMA into law, Bill Clinton, to campaign for her. Most of her supporters didn't know and didn't want to know anything about her appalling record as Assistant District Attorney, District Attorney, and Attorney General.
Bob: The Massachusetts media, especially the Boston Globe, which once called her "a rising star of the Democratic party," has long championed Coakley and promoted her as a child-saving community hero. Before she filed her lawsuit challenging DOMA, nothing in her record indicated that she was interested in the rights of sexual minorities. In fact, some of the innocents she sent to prison were gay men. But her DOMA suit--an empty gesture, in my opinion--won her accolades in the gay press and the support of organizations such as Mass. Equality. That was a clever political move that no doubt helped her win in the primary.
Conrad: A lot of people were campaigning for Coakley even though they did not feel she was the best candidate. What kind of dialog existed about the fact that Coakley wasn't exactly a stellar candidate?
Jim: There was no dialogue. As the election loomed, Bob and I started getting emotionally charged emails and phone calls from people around the country urging us to vote for Coakley despite our "reservations." But we didn't have reservations about her; we had irreversible white-hot loathings dating back more than ten years. Our feelings aren't based on a six-o'clock-news/Boston Globe knowledge of her, but on personal experience predating her plunge into politics. We've sat in courtrooms watching her fuck people over, and listened while she lied to the press--who of course, in Massachusetts, could be counted upon never to take issue with anything she said. The press stood by while she railroaded innocent people into prison for sex crimes and fought to keep them there, even obstructing the release of DNA exonerees. Paul Shanley, who is innocent, will almost certainly die in prison because of her. She has also sought by every means in her power to detain people past the end of their criminal sentences. She sees to it that many of the not-so-innocent are punished out of all proportion to their actual crimes, and does so selectively, casting a blind eye on crimes by law enforcement officials. She's capable of shocking reptilian meanness, and is in no way morally superior to Scott Brown.
Bob: I once stood not far from her during one of her press conferences and I was struck by her iciness. Of course that doesn't mean much. Some warm and kind-hearted people have icy exteriors, especially when they present themselves publicly. But it struck me at the time that she was someone who'd have a hard time winning the affection of voters. She won the primary - with 47 percent of the vote - against three male candidates. Like most people, I assumed that she would easily win the final election. When it became apparent that she was in trouble, the election no longer was about her. It was about preserving a Democratic super-majority in the Senate. Given that the Republicans are bent on obstruction if not destruction, that was a legitimate concern and one that completely had my sympathy. But I just couldn't bring myself to hold my nose and vote for her. Her stench was just too powerful.
Conrad: Now that the election is over, have you dealt with any backlash from the GLBT community, or other generally liberal folks, when they find out you did not vote for Coakley?
Jim: This election, cobra venom versus dog shit, coupled with the defeat of Paul Shanley's appeal a few days before, just about made me mentally ill. In the end, I decided to opt for a write-in. Even though Scott Brown won by a wide enough margin that write-ins and Libertarian votes made no difference, people react as if we raped their grandmothers when we admit to not having voted for Coakley.
Conrad: A lot of that anger stems from many Democrats being up in arms about losing the 60-seat majority in the Senate. They are seeing the election of Scott Brown (R) as a major setback for the health care reform bill.
Jim: People seem to have been taught by the news media, which reconstructs reality to obey the screenwriting rules for TV cop shows, that the magic 60-vote super-majority was a matter of life and death. But what about all those Democrats who seem to be Republicans in disguise? What about Joe Lieberman? Don't people realize Lieberman's power was sharply diminished by the Massachusetts election, and that loss of a 60-vote majority, something few presidents ever get, was hardly Armageddon?
Bob: The problem isn't the loss of the 60-vote super-majority. The problem is the goddamn filibuster. But the politicians won't get rid of it for the same reason they refuse to get rid of the Electoral College. Both parties think that in the future the gross unfairness of these undemocratic institutions will work in their favor.
Jim: I think our two-party system has devolved into Republicans versus Republicans Lite, and has ceased to work.
Further writing on Coakley's history can be found in the article Sympathy for the Devil by Poli Psy.