What fresh idiocy is this? GetEqual has launched their newest action and this time they're asking the public to vote which politician they should "hold accountable" for Congress' failure to pass ENDA.
The problem? They've only picked Democrats who are LGBT supporters as targets; Republican opposition and conservative Blue Dog Dems who actually held up ENDA are given a free pass.
I've blogged before that I have a real problem with GetEqual's constant attacks on Democrats (they've never protested a Republican) since their funding comes from men with a grudge against the Democratic Party. While the HRC gives Democrats dramatic license to walk all over our community, GetEqual seems content to let the Republican party watch with glee as the group ignores our enemies in favor of attacking our friends.
There are three major problems with GetEqual's latest action. Combine the lack of a strategy with suspect motivation and a blame the victim mentality and you've got a recipe to get stupid.
What's the Strategy?
GetEqual doesn't seem to have a coherent strategy for their direct action escapades. There's nothing wrong with using direct action to benefit the movement. I've led several actions myself and the history of AIDS activism in the LGBT community is overwhelming proof that when done correctly protests and zaps can make a difference.
Direct action, however, is not a strategy. It's a tactic. It's a means to an end. Interrupting a speech by the President or a committee hearing isn't a "win." The repeal of DADT or the passage of ENDA would be a victory.
We're supposed to trust our best interests to a group that's not been able to produce more than a website & a nebulous mission statement about "full equality" that's now been scrubbed from their website to hold someone else accountable? How ridiculous is that? They haven't even named a board of directors to hold them accountable for their actions!
And what does it mean to be "held accountable?" If GetEqual thinks that Representatives Nancy Pelosi, George Miller and Barney Frank plus Senator Harry Reid should pay some sort of price, what is it? What's the end result they are seeking?
Is it their loss at the ballot box? Bringing down their fundraising amounts so challengers can outspend them? Embarrassing them in front of constituents? What sort of punishment should be meted out to consider the Congress members fully chastised and less one pound of flesh?
Does anyone think that a Senator Sharron Angle would be more LGBT supportive than Senator Harry Reid? Would it be better if these friends lost their seat - whether GetEqual works to lower the amount of LGBT voters, negatively impact their fundraising, or sends volunteers to the opposing campaigns? No matter what, it's to our benefit to have those four in office.
Targeting Blue Dog democrats like Indiana's Representatives Brad Ellsworth and Joe Donnelly, or Florida Senator Bill Nelson - all of whom wouldn't support ENDA because it covers transgender people - and helping a more progressive primary opponent win against the Blue Dog is a stronger tactic. Zapping Republicans during the general election to help a LGBT-friendly Democrat win is also a great idea.
Protests and actions are a powerful tool when used wisely to support a movement. Sadly, this latest stunt to "hold them accountable" just proves that instead of working with our brothers and sisters in the fight, GetEqual is, once again, sashaying out to battle like queer old Don Quixote. Someone should really hold them accountable...
What's the Motivation?
When I questioned the authenticity of GetEqual's claim of being a grassroots org and pointed out the quarter of a million dollars being funneled through the group the first half of this year, GetEqual's Managing Director, Heather Cronk, claimed the the group has "not yet asked for a dime."
If you go to their website, however, there's a big bucket at the top of the page with a big pink tag that says "DONATE." They are accepting donations from the public and suddenly owe an explanation to the people who are forking over their hard earned cash during a poor economy.
But do you think GetEqual is going to feel more responsibility to be accountable to the farmer from Nebraska who gives $20 or the big money donors who've given hundreds of thousands of dollars? I think the answer is obvious.
When we followed the money behind GetEqual, we discovered that one of the main forces behind the group has a history of publicly feuding with the Democratic Party. There's no shame in pointing out the Democrats failing and he and his partner really exposed the dirty underbelly of internal political dealings; I'm regularly a thorn in the side of Hoosier Democrats who fail to measure up.
But that fact needs to be kept in the back of the mind when you look through the GetEqual lens. Any wonderful intention can get tainted by a need for revenge or redemption; sometimes a dubious tactic can seem perfectly reasonable and personally satisfactory when you're in that mindset.
And if the person holding the checkbook has an agenda - whether deliberate or subconscious - you can even end up lashing out at your friends. Our community has a history of eating our own out of frustration at a lack of progress and one of GetEqual's potential targets really illustrates that problem well.
Blaming the Victim
The group has offered up Representative Barney Frank as a possible sacrifice. If ever there was a case of blaming the victim, this is so blatant that it could be used as an illustration in a textbook.
"Should it be Rep. Barney Frank, who said 'we will get this [ENDA] done fairly quickly,' but then called GetEQUAL's pressuring tactics 'immature' and 'tacky'?", the group asks in their recent e-blast.
So let me see if I've got this right. GetEqual wants to punish Barney Frank for his colleagues' unwillingness to vote in favor of his employment rights? After all, if it had the votes to pass Congress, I'm confident the gay legislator would sail the bill right through. The org want to "hold him accountable" because some of Frank's fellow Democrats from different states ignore the party platform on LGBT issues or baldly say homophobic things and reject our very human dignity? What's the strategy behind that?
We are, in effect, punishing Frank for failure. Is that productive or an incentive to continue working on our rights? By that same token, we should hold GetEqual Co-Director Kip Williams accountable since DADT wasn't repealed right after he yelled at the President during a political fundraiser.
Should we hold Representatives Tammy Baldwin or Jared Polis accountable too? After all, they're queer and they also promised movement on ENDA and counseled patience. How about Indianapolis' Congressman Andre Carson? He's black, straight, a member of the LGBT caucus and Muslim; surely that gets us extra credit diversity points in this accountability contest and benefits the movement even more! Right? Right?!
If promising action isn't the determining marker, than what is? That he slammed the group in the media by calling them "immature" and "tacky?" That's about like kicking up dust while you're arguing with someone and then complaining that the conversation got your shoes dirty.
Perhaps it's time someone reminded GetEqual of the old adage, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." If they can sit around and throw barbs all day at both LGBT activists at other organizations or LGBT supportive Democrats, they have to expect the occasional spitball in return.
But the problem with being hit by a spitball is that they make you feel gross, make you look stupid, and you never know what germs are all over it from the other person's drool. So when GetEqual starts reaching for their straws, forgive me if I step out the way and point out that the whole "us versus them" theme that seems to be driving this latest shenanigan is misguided. They are us.
Attacking our allies is a foolish tactic that doesn't benefit the overarching movement. It's not part of a cohesive strategy meant to further our cause. It might be a way to get even, but it's not a good path to get equal.