Between a rock and a spineless place

James Kirchick (about whom my opinion is decidedly mixed) has a cover story in The Advocate about the impatience gays and lesbians are feeling with the national Democratic Party. He starts by describing the national party's relative inaction on the "No on 1" campaign here in Maine, and continues:
In the wake of the Maine defeat, a coterie of liberal bloggers and activists called for a temporary moratorium on DNC donations. The fledgling movement, which has adopted the motto “Don’t Ask, Don’t Give” and has attracted the likes of legendary gay rights activist David Mixner, hopes to discourage donations to the party until the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of both “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act. In so doing, these activists are hoping to reshape—if not completely upset—the relationship between gays and the Democratic Party.

The article goes on to describe the frustration and anger many gays (including Your Humble Blogger) are feeling toward the national party, and our feeling that our support (particularly financial) has been taken for granted. It's all stuff that I've written about before.
But while able and willing to recite a litany of arguments against the party and why gays should withhold their support, DNC critics are less clear about tangible goals. “Goals? Good question,” Aravosis replies when asked what he hopes to achieve with the boycott. He gestures toward an answer when he says gay activists should adopt the same attitude regarding Democrats as they have with Republicans—and stop being so deferential out of some presumed understanding that one party is better than the other on gay issues. “The damage to the party brand has been significant” over the past year, he says, and the Democrats’ reputation as the benevolent crusader for gay rights no longer holds sway in the minds of as many gays as it once did. But when I offer the explanation that the gay campaign against the DNC may have the effect of a “death by a thousand cuts,” irreparably damaging the decades-long ties between the Democratic Party and the gay rights movement, Aravosis delights at the analogy. “We’re just saying we’re going to take you down with us,” he says. “We’re going to blow this up and it’s going to hurt you too.”

OK, that might be a wee bit on the dramatic side. (Gays? Overly dramatic? Perish the thought.) I think we need to keep a couple of things in mind. First of all, let's not kid ourselves that withholding our dinero is going to blow anything up. As a skeptical LGBT supporter of the Democrats notes elsewhere in the article, I don't think anyone at the DNC is losing that much sleep over the lost money from our community. C'mon, people. We're just not that big or influential a donor pool. Also, I don't think anyone can plausibly argue that the GOP isn't much, much worse on gay issues than the Democrats. If I have to choose between the two parties, chances are slim I'm going to be supporting the Republicans anytime soon.

But that's just the thing. I don't have to choose between supporting the two parties. When I got that call asking me for $200 bucks a little while ago, and I denied the request, I refrained from making what I considered a lousy investment. Sure, giving to the GOP would be even more lousy, but there are other choices. I can give the money directly to a candidate I know will go to bat for my community, like Chellie Pingree. I can give it to a candidate I suspect will be much better on the issues than the Republican incumbent, like my friend Tommy. I can give it to the state party, which is full of courageous lawmakers who actually took a risk in supporting marriage equality here in Maine. Or, I can spend it on some really nice pants.

Basically, I don't trust the DNC to use my money well. For all I know, they'll blow it on trying to get some social conservative elected in a deep red district, whom they'll then have to dragoon into supporting any socially progressive legislation should he actually get elected. I'd rather just give it directly to candidates and causes I know I support.


  1. I'm unsure how you aregue that the GOP is noticeably worse for gay rights. At the moment, nothing whatsoever has changed for gay rights (to this outside observer, but I'll believe what you tell me) with commanding majorities for Dems at the Federal level, and SSM laws go down in flames in blue distrcits with Dem legislatures.

    Historically, I'll grant that Dems talk a better game, but when talk comes to action, Dems fail to deliver.

    I don't see how Ds are that much better than Rs for gays, assuming you want action, but I don't have an insiders view, so maybe I'm missing something.

  2. Oh, that's easy. All you have to do is look at the party breakdown whenever marriage equality comes to a vote. Count how many Ds and Rs there are in the "pro" and "con" columns.

    Sure, the Democrats haven't made the progress that I'd like, certainly not to a degree that matches their election-year rhetoric. But neither have they aligned themselves with the movement to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, made it part of their platform, or flogged the issue to drive opponents to the polls to further their ends.

    One side is leaning on its shovel while there's a ditch to be dug. The other side is hitting us in the head with it.

  3. Well, not always. In Wyoming, AIUI, the Republican majority legislature killed an anti-SSM constitutional amendment back in Feb. But yes, I see your point and it is a good one.

  4. If Dems fail to deliver, how is it that gay marriage is legal in any states at all? We have come so much further than 20 years ago, and ages beyond where simply being gay meant no right to employment, housing, or family. Suffice it to say, Republicans (of the tea bag variety at least, wish we lived in that era, which is why they are so obsessed with the past). For gays, the enemy of their enemy is their friend. They literally have no choice but to vote Democratic or risk losing what they have.