Nadine Smith

Don't Fear the Whip Count

Filed By Nadine Smith | September 30, 2007 11:21 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA

It is important to remember the dynamics of a whip count. It is a tool of political gamesmanship and often a very bad idea when faced with a bill that has a slim majority or hard won support.

It is easy in the process of a whip count - that a legislator knows will be anonymous - to say NO. Legislators have no accountability and by saying NO they can help to kill the possibility that they will have to face a tough political choice.

There is a huge difference in being asked where you stand in a secret whip count and facing how you will vote when the moment comes and everyone is watching.

We saw this dynamic in San Diego with the Mayor. The Day Before he was still publicly pledging to veto the Marriage resolution if it came to his desk -- perhaps hoping his longstanding pledge of opposition would keep the matter from reaching him at all. But having reached him, the decision before him stopped being gamesmanship or being driven by fear of a backlash.

His decision became clear and human and courageous.

Whip counts are not etched in stone from on high. They need not be the deal breaker. We can and should push for a vote on the smartest language, the best bill, the one we know protects us all most effectively based on our actual and perceived sexual orientation and our gender identity and expression.

House Democrats - even those who have been dedicated leaders and allies - cannot be allowed to provide anonymous cover. We need to know who those Democrats are who are telling us back in the district that they are with us and then taking a dive in the secret whip count to scuttle the bill.

I bet anyone who has worked to pass one of these at the state or local level has seen this dynamic before. Standing together and stating clearly that it must be inclusive to protect us all is the only way past this tough moment.

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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | September 30, 2007 11:41 AM

Well said Nadine. We need to find out who is standing firm in support of an inclusive bill, who is wavering so that we can help them gain a spine and who is opposed so that we can possible change their minds.

You are so right, Nadine. This legislation is about fairness, and a whip count is different from publicly endorsing the message of unfairness to transgender people. I've written further on this at my Transgender Workplace Diversity blog entitled The Sin of Omission.


Dr. Jillian T. Weiss
Associate Professor of Law and Society
Ramapo College

Let's stop the dishonesty that this is an "inclusive" bill even with the transgendered provision. It has already been politically compromised by excluding over a quarter of the workforce by its small business exemption.

The question is now not if we should compromise but by how much.

Geeze. Well this must be one of those “learning moments” for us.
Let me see. I don’t think Frank or Pelosi are evil doers, they are politicians. They have their head in a very different, albeit not entirely healthy place.
Looking over the facts as they appear to be, this is what I find.
Going back and adding Transgender protections is monumentally hard to do on a statewide level. On a national level? Doesn’t look easy at all.
And that really settles it for me.
Inclusion or bust.
Yes, that is a very different stance than yesterday for me. Education is a wonderful thing. So is a little time to think, look at the facts.
Additional thoughts;
1. Who needs these protections the most? Transgender people.
2. It’s gonna get vetoed anyway, so why divide the community?
3. It’s wrong, VERY wrong in principle. We are either for social justice or we are not.
4. What kind of message are we sending to our straight allies?
5. What kind of message are we sending the foes of equality?
6. What kind of message are we sending our politicians?
7. In 2 years, will the situation be better for EDNA? Me thinks yes. So, might it be better to be patient? Maybe we should put EDNA out there as is and come back again.

And for everyone out there ready to throw Barney, Nancy and Joe under the bus…. Five days ago, they where your heroes.

Now, here’s one I’m sure you all will be saying, WTF?
Perhaps it is up to us (GLBT) to lead the way for our country and politicians.

Welcome to the other side, banshiii. *grins*

Nadine, I have a question for you that I hope you can answer. What do you say in response to Barney Frank's quote here on the Project?

The main reason not to put this to a vote is our interest in ultimately adopting transgender protection. If we were to push for a vote now, knowing that the transgender provision would be defeated by a majority, we would be making it harder ultimately to win that support. As recent campaigns indicate, Members of Congress who are accused of switching their position on votes are pilloried, even when this is done unfairly as it was to Senator Kerry. Thus, forcing a vote on transgender inclusion now, which would without any question result in a majority against it, would make it harder to win when we have done better in our educational work, because Members who vote no now will be harder to persuade to switch their votes than to persuade them to vote yes in the first instance.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | October 1, 2007 3:42 PM

This is not quite as analogous as Barney would have people think, Bil. There is some room for changed positions on what are considered evolving issues -- especially if the legislator's original position is behind the curve of the constituents.

This is because the constituents will themselves have gone through a growth phase from one position base more in ignorance to a different, more enlightened one and they will tolerate a legislator who has done the same thing if it is explained to them in those terms.

Besides, people are tiring of that sort of Bush/Rove politics. At their core, they don't like being manipulated and are beginning to see the politics of it as exactly that.