Friday, October 27, 2006

Fair-Weather Friend Time Again?

As usual, I enter this election phase with trepidation. What will the consequences be for me? It doesn’t have as much to do with the Republican Party exploiting the recent decision in New Jersey as it does with distrust of my own party. I know that, when I pull that party lever on November 7th, some of the people chosen will not be my friends.

Despite years of volunteering and supporting the Democratic Party, gays remain a constituency that embarrasses the candidates we support. When scads of anti-gay amendments started appearing in state legislatures across the country, Democratic candidates rushed to support or even sponsor them in the hope that they would be seen as ‘moral'. It didn’t work; Democrats were still advertised (by the GOP) as the pro-'gay marriage' party, and voters bought into it because most of them don’t pay attention to what their legislators actually do in office. The candidates also shot themselves in the foot with gays and other progressives, because we do pay attention to what people do and a lot of people decided not to vote for either party.

Howard Dean, who took a lot of heat on gays' behalf after enforcing the civil unions compromise in Vermont, is on the hot seat these days. Poor Howard ran as a progressive when he was pursuing the presidency, and his organization, Democracy For America, is definitely progressive and very gay-friendly. As the leader of the Democratic National Committee, though, he has had to reconcile his previous Democratic base of progressives with party members that blame gays for Kerry's loss in 2004 and DLC supporters who think that a more 'moderate' (i.e. not gay-friendly) approach will win elections. It's gotta make him squirm.

Now gays think he has some ‘splaining to do. Earlier this year, Howard Dean got rid of the gay outreach coordinator for the party. When Dean went on the 700 Club and stated publicly that the Democratic Party platform stated that marriage was between a man and a woman (it says no such thing), Peter Rosenstein of the Washington Blade stated:

(Howard Dean) thinks gays are a burden on the party and is moving away from us as fast as he can get away with it.

And who can blame him for saying so? Dean attempted to reassure gays by telling them that he was combining all the outreach desks into a national desk that would integrate them into party activities at all levels. In August, however, the DNC refused to grant affirmative action status to LBGTs for the 2008 National Convention, instead creating an "inclusion" section to the party's delegate selection rules that refers to the "LGBT community and people with disabilities" as underrepresented groups.

What does that imply? Pow! Right in the foot again! Howard, how could you sign off on that without at least rewording it? To make matters worse, the "inclusion" section has no teeth. It suggest that it might be nice if a state selects LBGT delegates, but that's all. Do we at least get handicapped parking for the convention?

That's why my advice remains, for the time being, to find specific candidates that are gay-friendly and support them directly with your time and money. Only give to your local political party after examining their history with gays, or if you're a Yellow Dog type (if you don't know what that is, you aren't one). And participate in those primaries next year! It's the best way to send a message to the party functionaries above you. It shook things up in Connecticut...

In all fairness to the Democratic Party, though, it doesn’t help that gays act embarrassed by their own presence in the public eye. The ads against Proposition 107 (anti-marriage amendment) in Arizona show pictures of elderly couples and children, but gay couples are “conspicuously missing” from the ad. If you think your mere appearance will taint the ad, why shouldn’t other people assume you are tainted in some way? People respect the goat more than the apologetic sheep.

P.S. Assume that, if the Democrats don't get the seats they hope to pick up next month, that the New Jersey decision – and those pushy gays, wanting rights – will be blamed. You heard it here first.


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