Andrew Belonsky

Will Gay Opposition Help Indiana Democrat Ellsworth?

Filed By Andrew Belonsky | May 17, 2010 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Brad Ellsworth, Dan Coats, ENDA, Evan Bayh, hate crimes against LGBT people, Indiana Stonewall Democrats

Indiana's Democratic Party named Congressman Brad Ellsworth as retiring Sen. Evan Bayh's replacement on this November's ballot. The news comes as no surprise: Ellsworth's long been described as the strongest Democratic contender. That doesn't mean, however, that the state's Stonewall Democrats are happy about Ellsworth and his poor gay rights record. Their opposition raises familiar questions. But those inquiries become less recognizable amidst this year's unique political haze.

Political circles have been chattering about Ellsworth's inevitability for months. That means that Indiana's Democratic coalition, including gay group the Indiana Stonewall Democrats, has had ample time to debate Ellsworth's past politics. And, from a gay perspective, they're not great: the Congressman has voted against hate crimes, wavered on ENDA, and voiced supported a federal amendment banning gay marriage. Clearly the ISD, which had walked out of a Democratic dinner after Bayh made a confusing joke about "having AIDS," or aides, couldn't support Ellsworth as a candidate. And they're not.

The ISD remained conspicuously silent during this weekend's vote, and later released a pointed statement explaining themselves: "Our abstention is born, in large part, from the frustration of feint support from the Indiana Democratic Party, which has taken our support for granted too long and shown no interest in developing ISD further." The party, they say, has gone against their own platform, penned in 2008, which reads:

As a party of the people, we strongly oppose restriction of opportunity to Hoosiers based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or economic background.

That same platform insists the party would "encourage" laws against hate crimes, although doesn't get specific on the details.

The ISD are prepared for criticism: How can they go against a Democrat in such a tight election year? That's a common argument: gay activists have been tussling for a bigger Democratic state for years. And for years we've asked ourselves whether it's more important to support a party or ourselves. The ISD certainly did, and clarify their point: "We will no longer go along for the sake of "party unity" with a party that too frequently fails to unify with us under its own guiding principles."

Diehard Democrats will decry this decision, especially since Ellsworth's trailing more than ten points behind his Republican opponent, Dan Coats. That could change, of course, and, in fact, this gay opposition may help Ellsworth.

Despite Coats' current lead, Republicans aren't necessarily popular. A different poll taken last week shows the GOP lags behind the Democrats in popular support: 42% approve of the president's party, while only 32% approve of the GOP's actions. As an unapologetic social conservative, Ellsworth could very well use his "family values" to woo Republican voters who would avoid a pro-gay candidate.

Yes, Democrats are fighting for their political lives, but so too are Republicans, who are facing increasingly powerful Tea Party opposition. In this year's wacky election cycle, a right-leaning Democrat who opposes gay rights could very well prove quite popular with Republicans leery of their party's current leadership.

[This piece originally appeared at AKAWilliam.com]


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It's becoming increasingly clear that the Democratic Party is interested only in retaining power, and not in using it for the Party platform that creates its support. Not wanting Republicans in office is no reason for supporting a Democrat, when that Democrat is basically a Republican. Putting Republicans in office stimulates widespread opposition to their repugnant policies. Putting Blue Dogs in office tranquilizes the people and allows these scorpions to inject their poison into the country.

More than likely actually. The rumor mill has it that the Ellsworth campaign assumed the Stonewall Dems would vote against them and they're planning on using his anti-gay stances to try and earn more conservative votes. Instead of playing a statewide strategy, he's going with what would work in his Congressional district.

Not all of Indiana is conservative though - or at least not as conservative as Ellsworth's homebase of Evansville. Indianapolis is heavily African-American and they have no love of the Big E. East Chicago and the Gary area are also Dem strongholds and they're definitely not conservative. (They're also pissed that their chosen candidate from their area was forced out of the nomination process by the state party.)

One of the most common statements at the JJ Dinner Friday night actually surprised me. At least two dozen folks - including some prominent state and Indy elected officials - all commented that the dinner was almost a Republican event because it was so conservative. Talk of "family values" and "Hoosier values" and whatnot all added up to a very uncomfortable audience.

Right now, the only people excited about Ellsworth seems to be the state party.

Well, as with most politicians and political big shots, the state party is dilusional. To force Ellsworth on us instead of letting some folks fight and earn the nomination was just wrong. And so is he on our issues. I cannot see voting for him at this time and I cannot see voting for Coats either.

A. J. Lopp | May 18, 2010 2:02 PM

A potentially stupid question: Since we can't vote for Ellsworth, and we can't vote for Coats, is there any un-electable third-party candidate who is acceptable (I mean simply, preferable to those two --- that's not asking much!) whom we can cast a lavendar protest vote in favor of?

If there isn't, that's very unfortunate.

Greg Rothenberger | May 18, 2010 2:31 PM

Yes, there is. Rebecca Sink-Burris is running for US Senate for the Libertarian Party (which is the only other ballot-qualified party in Indiana). While I disagree with the LP on many issues, I've decided that unless something major happens with DADT, ENDA and DOMA, I will be voting for Libertarians in the general election. I'm not sure where she stands on these issues, but I know the LP has in its platform support for ending DOMA and DADT. ENDA, of course, is another matter. Obviously, I can't support the LP on all issues, but I believe they will make a good protest vote in Indiana.

I doubt this will get him Republican votes. Dems have been trying that for decades, trying to peel off Republicans by being more conservative than they are. Sorry, doesn't work - Republicans are always more loyal to their own party even when it makes no sense.

Maybe some independents will vote for him, but I just doubt most of them even know who the Stonewall Dems are, much less the fact that they abstained here.

In the end, though, Dems have to stop making that calculus that they must step on us to get independent votes. They really don't, and something should change that.