The Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement of Hillary Rodham Clinton for president was no surprise, given the close ties between the lobby’s leaders and the Clintons. But coming before the first primaries, it was sure to tick off the Sandernistas, and indeed they felt the Bern.
“It’s understandable and consistent with the establishment organizations voting for the establishment candidate, but it’s an endorsement that cannot possibly be based on the facts and the record,” Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs told the Washington Blade.
I preferred it when HRC just endorsed congressional candidates, prior to the group first presidential endorsement, that being Bill Clinton in 1992. Before then, the group could lay a claim to actual bipartisanship, supporting a fair number of socially inclusive Republicans. But once HRC tied itself so closely to Democratic presidential nominees, it was seen as the party’s outreach arm to lesbian and gay (and later, LGBT) voters. One reason the National Stonewall Democrats closed up shop is that its efforts were seen as redundant with HRC’s.
On a practical level, the early endorsement is viewed by many as bad tactics. Other lobbies on the left and the right make Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, respectively, compete fiercely for their support; HRC pretty much gives it away on the first date.
As Scott Shackford writes at reason.com:
[Many] perceive the HRC leadership as aspiring political operatives securing their own futures rather than actual LGBT activists and compromising so as not to harm their relationship with the Democratic Party elites.
The timing of the endorsement is itself evidence for the argument. … A look at poll averages right now showing Clinton vs. various Republican candidates and Sanders vs. various Republican candidates suggests it’s all extremely up in the air. Sanders does come out on top in some match-ups.
For not a small number of people in the LGBT left, Sanders’ criticism of HRC will not hurt him at all and might actually help him get some primary votes, particularly among older, disaffected gay voters who remember both Clinton’s and the HRC’s histories.
As this blog has pointed out before, not rocking the Democratic Party establishment is HRC’s specialty. During the initial two years of the Obama administration when Democrats enjoyed filibuster-proof majorities in Congress, HRC failed to aggressively push, much less demand, that Democrats move forward with what was then its top agenda item, passage of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. The bill was never moved out of committee, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (among others) didn’t want to spend the political capital.
The one big achievement of the session, repeal of the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy, lay dormant until just weeks before Congress was set to recess with a GOP majority slated to take over the House, when the grass-roots erupted and pushed congressional allies in both parties to force an end run around an again hesitant Reid, while HRC sat on the sidelines.