Contingency Planning, Anyone?

by Stephen H. Miller on January 14, 2012

From the Wall Street Journal, Hope Dims for an Evangelical Pick. Good. The odds are about even that the Republican nominee will be able to unseat Obama. Romney is flawed, but if we’re rolling the dice, better that Romney should land in the Oval Office than an anti-gay equality, anti-personal liberty (anti-free-trade, anti-right to work) zealot like Santorum, or an anti-gay equality, anti-free market, deranged egomaniac like Gingrich.

Political analysts also indicate that the odds of the GOP taking control of the Senate are high as well. So, given that there is at least a strong possibility that the Republicans will control the presidency, House and Senate next year, I wonder if our leading gay lobbies are engaging in contingency planning the way that successful business do, mapping out strategies for various likely (or at least possible) developments over the near term.

The largest and richest LGBT national lobby, the Human Rights Campaign, is in the midst of selecting a new executive director to replace the departing Joe Solmonese. It would be nice to think that, maybe this time, they won’t reflexively go with another leftwing Democratic operative who is uninterested in reaching out to libertarian Republicans (and couldn’t speak their language of personal liberty if he was), and who showed himself to be unwilling to pressure Democrats to spend political capital on our behalf even when they controlled both houses with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. And that goes as well for the future HRC leader’s willingness to hire lobbyists who aren’t died in the wool Democratic partisans.

If HRC sticks to its old game plan and the Republicans take congress and the White House, that won’t necessarily be bad for HRC (think of the fearsome fundraising pitches they’ll send out); it will, however, prove terrible for those interested in advancing gay liberty and legal equality, or playing defense against rollbacks where equality has hitherto advanced.

More. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer writes:

after a quarter-century in the wilderness, [Ron Paul is] within reach of putting his cherished cause on the map. Libertarianism will have gone from the fringes — those hopeless, pathetic third-party runs — to a position of prominence in a major party. … Paul is nurturing his movement toward visibility and legitimacy.

The movement for gay equality should be able to make common cause with the movement for greater individual liberty. If it can’t because fealty to big-government leftism is seen as a higher goal, that would be an immense lost opportunity.

{ 23 comments }

Houndentenor January 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Why is it that the only people who talk about HRC are the gay conservatives? All HRC does is throw lavish fundraisers. There’s absolutely no record of accomplishment. It doesn’t much matter who the next head of this organization is. I have no idea why gay right bloggers are so obsessed with HRC. No one else is.

BobN January 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm

It’s ridiculous to say HRC has no record of accomplishment. It’s especially ridiculous coming from the right. Did the changes in corporate America come about as a result of “lefty radicals” staging “embarrassing displays”? (I’m trying to channel the typical attacks on liberal tactics.)

In today’s America, where lobbying is what pays off, we need a national organization. The anti-gay groups certainly have theirs and you don’t hear carping about how useless they are (even though, frankly, we’re beating the crap out of them).

Houndentenor January 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I’m on the right now? When the hell did that happen?

Name an accomplishment from HRC. One.

Yes, corporate America often offers good benefits and nondiscrimination policies. That didn’t happen because of HRC. That happened because employees (and occasionally unions) went to HR and asked for it. Often there wasn’t even that much discussion. Since most companies didn’t feel they were discriminating in the first place, saying on paper that they wouldn’t didn’t amount to any real change in how the company operated.

HRC is useless. Please provide evidence if I am wrong.

BobN January 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

While I certainly agree that Romney would be better than Santorum, a Republican in the White House with either branch of Congress in their control would be terrible. All three would be a catastrophe.

And while we’re giving unsolicited advice, wouldn’t such a scenario mean that conservative gays would have to step up and, you know, actually do something for gay rights? What’s with this having to take over the liberal organizations? Shouldn’t GOProud and LCR just take the helm for a few years? (Sorry to insult LCR with the implied equivalence).

Houndentenor January 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I can’t believe I’m defending LCR, but they did bring a lawsuit against DADT. They have done something that was worth doing.

BobN January 15, 2012 at 3:23 am

I agree. That’s why I preemptively apologized for mentioning them in the same sentence as GOProud.

Tom Scharbach January 14, 2012 at 10:38 pm

If … the Republicans take congress and the White House, it will … prove terrible for those interested in advancing gay liberty and legal equality, or playing defense against rollbacks where equality has hitherto advanced.

In 2012, do your part to make sure that the Republicans don’t take Congress and the White House, and you won’t be part of the problem.

Shadow Chaser January 15, 2012 at 12:02 pm

This isn’t an original thought — I freely admit that I read this idea on another website — I nominate Ken Mehlman, former chair of the Republican National Committee to head the HRC.

I will credit Mehlman for his efforts on behalf of marriage equality in New York. However, he still has to perform much more in the way of penance to make up for his previous efforts against the members of the LGBT community… remember Ohio in 2004. I am sure that gay men and lesbians in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo haven’t forgotten.

Secondly putting Mehlman as head of the HRC would give moderate-to-conservative gays the opportunity to prove that they can change the system from within. I, for one, want to see moderate-to-conservative gay political operatives prove that they can change the minds of Republicans. I don’t even need to see a majority of Republicans change their minds; I just want to see enough Republicans change their minds so their vote when added to Democratic totals can add up to a majority. (I also freely admit that a majority of Democratic politicians are indifferent at best or outright hostile to LGBT issues). Something tells me that Mehlman might even know a couple of secrets that some Republican politicians might not want to be made public.

If Ken Mehlman doesn’t want the job, I can think of a certain Republican congressman who has yet to announce his re-election plans for 2012. Maybe he or his highly-paid chief of staff might consider taking the job.

On a another note, I would like to see the HRC have Democratic and Republican co-chairs or alternate the chairmanship between Democrats and Republicans or have the director be a member of one party and chair of the board of directions be of the other party.

One name that is being floated for the HRC directors’ job is Jim Debakis, the chair of the Democratic Party in Utah. Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire …

BobN January 15, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Republicans arguing for tokenism, and based on what? Chair of HRC as penance?

Conservative Republicans have made it absolutely clear (supposedly) that they have no use for HRC at all. Let them run their own organizations. Let Mehlman run LCR (though I doubt they’d have him).

Tom Scharbach January 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

[P]utting Mehlman as head of the HRC would give moderate-to-conservative gays the opportunity to prove that they can change the system from within.

I think Mehlman would be an okay choice, so long as he doesn’t make the same mistake that Joe Solmonese made, but in reverse — get so entangled with intra-party politics and inside the Beltway lobbying that the HRC loses sight of the facts that (a) its purpose is to be a change agent, and (b) individual gays and lesbians, not politicians, have been responsible for driving the progress we’ve made over the last few decades, often, if not inevitably, pushing the envelope against the advice of the HRC and other groups constituting the so-called “leadership”. Change happens because we make it happen, not because the HRC has any mojo.

My own view is that the HRC should look for another Elizabeth Birch, an attorney with a background in LGBT advocacy, rather than a background in party politics. Birch was a lot more successful than Solmonese, and I think that the reason she was successful is that Birch wasn’t tied up with either party, and generally kept the HRC independent.

I, for one, want to see moderate-to-conservative gay political operatives prove that they can change the minds of Republicans. I don’t even need to see a majority of Republicans change their minds; I just want to see enough Republicans change their minds so their vote when added to Democratic totals can add up to a majority.

I don’t know about “political operatives”. I think that change within the Republican Party is going to have to come the same way change came within the Democratic Party, that is, through ground-up involvement and pressure from gays and lesbians (and straight allies) willing to become active in the party and take on the party. The “political operatives” — the paid career operatives — won’t rock the boat. I’ve seen this with my own eyes over the last few years within the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. The pressure for change comes from volunteers and activists, not the staffers and the operatives, who are interested in spin and tactics rather than speaking the truth.

I have some blunt advice for conservative gays and lesbians who want to see the Republican Party change:

(1) Face the facts. The Republican Party, as presently constituted, stands firmly against us in our struggle for equality, even when it makes no political sense. The overwhelming Republican support for DADT in the last Congress, in the face of polls showing that 75% of Americans supported repeal, the Republican drive to overturn marriage equality in New Hampshire, when polls show that only about 25% of New Hampshire citizens support repeal, and the movement to overturn sodomy laws (embedded in the Republican Party platform of several states and continued efforts to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction of constitutional review of state laws discriminating against gays and lesbians) at a time when only the most radical fringers favor a return to sodomy laws, are evidence strong enough for a blind man to see clearly. As Stephen and many other conservatives have pointed out, the Republican Party has become a train wreck on gay and lesbian issues.

(2) Understand the past. President Reagan and Roger Ailes invited the “moral majority” into the Republican fold with open arms, giving social conservatives a political platform from which to launch the ant-gay crusade that plagues us. President Bush and Karl Rove made a Faustian bargain in 2004, cynically trading away Republican and conservative ideals — limited government, freedom and personal responsibility, equal treatment under the law for all citizens — for short-term political advantage. The course chosen was not inevitable — Goldwater warned Reagan and a number of people, including his wife, warned Bush, but the result, once the course was chosen, was inevitable. The result has been a lock-down of the Republican Party. Stephen makes much of the fact that Romney likely to secure the Republican nomination, instead of an “an anti-gay equality, anti-personal liberty … zealot” like Santorum, Gingrich or Perry. I suggest, none too gently, that Stephen is looking at the wrong end of the horse. Romney seems to bear no personal animus toward gays and lesbians and was, at one time, a supporter of equality. The fact that he recanted almost all of his earlier support and stands where he now stands, taking “the pledge” and standing against us on most issues, is evidence of how firmly the Faustian bargain has become entrenched in the Republican Party. The past is prolog. None of this happened by accident or divine intervention. It happened because conservatives abandoned their principles in exchange for power, and conservative gays and lesbians played along.

(3) Accept responsibility and don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. For far too long, Republican gays and lesbians — if this blog is any indication — have done next to nothing to fight the social conservative juggernaut within the Republican Party. Instead, Republican gays and lesbians have looked to Democrats and liberal organizations like the HRC, Lambda Legal and the ACLU to fight the fight for them, criticizing bitterly when Democrats and liberal organizations didn’t do enough for them, all the while denouncing Republican groups like LCR as “RINO” and supporting GOProud, which never met a Republican, however repugnant to our struggle, it wouldn’t endorse, all the while voting for anti-equality Republican politicians. It is time for that to change. Republican gays and lesbians need to accept responsibility for changing their party, emulating men and women like Ted Olsen, Jeff Angelo of Iowa, James Alesi (to name one) of New York, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, and the young Republicans in Minnesota standing against the ant-marriage initiative.

(4) Stop playing along and get to work. In 2012, for once, “Just Say No”. Don’t vote for Republicans who stand against us in our struggle for equality. Don’t give them your money. Don’t give them your time. Don’t give them your voice. Instead, call them out as enemies of Republican and conservative ideals — limited government, freedom and personal responsibility, equal treatment under the law for all citizens. Looking beyond 2012, get involved in the Republican Party at county, state and national levels. Be vocal in support of Republican and conservative ideals. Meet with Republican elected officials and work to “turn” them. Actively support Republicans who stand with us in our struggle for equality, giving them your vote, your money, your time and your voice. Become an agent for change within the Republican Party.

I realize that I haven’t minced my words, but I don’t know how to put this other than bluntly.

It is logically and morally inconsistent to cheer Ted Olsen on while supporting Republican politicians pledged to push the FMA and appoint “original intent” justices to the Supreme Court. It is no longer possible to have it both ways.

We are at a point in our struggle where the issues are clear, the battle is joined and conservative gays and lesbians have to make a choice — work for equality or to work against it. It really is that simple.

North Dallas Thirty January 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm

What a surprise. Tom Scharbach, a puppet of the Obama Party, a paid Obama Party activist, a person who depends on the Obama Party for his public status and platform, wants conservative gays and lesbians to hate and attack Republicans, stop giving Republicans any money, bash religious people, and only support Obama Party members.

And if they don’t, Tom Scharbach says they’re race traitors.

Sorry. Tom Scharbach doesn’t get to speak for all gays, as much as he and his fellow antireligious, anti-Republican “progressive” bigots have tried to pinkwash their hate speech and actions as being just something normal that gays do.

And meanwhile, conservative gays, unlike Tom Scharbach, recognize clearly that the Obama administration is anti-freedom, committed to massive and intrusive government, and completely ANTI-equality, given its wholehearted support of discriminatory treatment based on grievance-group status and its own ironic record of discrimination.

The days of pinkwashing to cover the bigotry and hate that the gay and lesbian community and its leaders like Tom Scharbach have towards Republicans, limited government, freedom, and equal opportunity are over. As is expected, Tom Scharbach and his fellow Obama operatives who have benefitted the most are fighting this. But their time is limited, and here’s hoping that the next generation that replaces them can do a better job instead of being servile vassals of the Obama Party.

Tom Scharbach January 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm

What a surprise. Tom Scharbach, a puppet of the Obama Party, a paid Obama Party activist, a person who depends on the Obama Party for his public status and platform …

As you well know, Dan, have been over this many times:

(1) I am a Co-Chair of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

(2) As is the case with all officers of the Caucus, I was elected by the Caucus, to represent the Caucus membership and the concerns of the Caucus membership within the DPW.

(3) I am not paid by the DPW or anyone else for serving in that role. I have never held a paid position with the Democratic Party, any subsidiary of the Democratic Party, or any campaign. In fact, all work I’ve done on behalf of gays and lesbians has been unpaid volunteer work. I’ve never received a dime for any of it.

(4) The C-Chair position does not, in my opinion, anyway, confer public status (unless you count harassment from wing-nuts because my name appears on the DPW website as a source of status).

(5) The role of the LGBT Caucus is to “The mission of the LGBT Caucus is to advocate within the Democratic Party and among Democratic elected officials for equal treatment under the law for LGBT individuals, couples and families. We do within the DPW what I consistently urge conservative gays and lesbians to do within the Republican Party.

You persist in lying about those matters, and it is getting old. We’ve been through this enough times that it can no longer be a misunderstanding on your part. It is intentional, and it is a lie.

… wants conservative gays and lesbians to hate and attack Republicans, stop giving Republicans any money, bash religious people, and only support Obama Party members.

I write what I write, and it speaks for itself. You seem to have difficulty reading — or at least understanding — what I write, however. For example, you seem to have gotten this exactly backwards: “Be vocal in support of Republican and conservative ideals. Meet with Republican elected officials and work to “turn” them. Actively support Republicans who stand with us in our struggle for equality, giving them your vote, your money, your time and your voice. Become an agent for change within the Republican Party.

I try to write in plain English, and I think that I generally do. With you, it is wasted effort.

And if they don’t, Tom Scharbach says they’re race traitors.

You can’t substantiate this with anything I’ve ever written, and you know it. Ditto for “hate and attack Republicans” and the other crap you dream up.

Houndentenor January 15, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Don’t bother. ND30 only has discussions with strawmen, not people.

North Dallas Thirty January 28, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Oh absolutely I can, Tom Scharbach, and I already did this summer. Remember?

Given that you and your Obama Party were openly calling for people to violently attack Republicans this summer, your words here are nothing more than lies. You and yours hate Republicans and want them and their families to be physically punished and harassed. We saw it in your screaming bomb threats in Madison last year and we’re seeing it now in your psychotic Obama Party supporters threatening people like Eric Cantor and Joe Arpaio.

And it’s also a good demonstration of something else: a principled person would be able to condemn Obama Party leaders for calling for violence. But a party hack who is dependent on the Obama Party to pay him would never be able to do that.

Meanwhile, here’s the other thing: you hide your antireligious bigotry, your hatred of businesses and successful people, and your determination to suck on the welfare tit behind your blather about “equality” and sexual orientation. You call conservative gays race traitors and state that they are “against equality” because they dare to oppose the Obama Party agenda and the use of it by leeches like yourself to push patently unequal treatment of people based on their religious beliefs, gender, and skin color to benefit you personally.

Houndentenor January 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Given that the HRC has never gotten a single piece of legislation passed in spite of spending millions of dollars (mostly on salaries and elaborate parties), I don’t suppose anyone given this job could be any worse than the incompetent and ineffective men and woman who have already held that position.

Is it too much that they hire someone who is good at articulating the case for equal rights for gay and lesbian people, not just some party hack with some name recognition (and the baggage that comes with that) and a few connections? There’s a long and shameful history of cronyism in the organizations that are supposed to be advocating for us. I think it’s time to start looking at a different strategy: one with more grass roots support and organization instead of one solely focused on beltway elitists. What we’ve been doing hasn’t worked. It’s time to try something new.

And hells to the know for Kenny Mehlman. He worked against gay interests for his entire career. I don’t trust him. Yes, he worked in NY for marriage equality. Let’s talk after he’s successfully repealed the anti-gay ballot initiatives he helped put in place in dozens of states.

Houndentenor January 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm

That was “hells to the no”. Unfortunately I don’t always have the “edit” option on this site. I have no idea why.

Tom Jefferson III January 16, 2012 at 12:16 pm

The Human Rights Campaign does important work and frankly their are not too many people, with the organization, willing to offer up an alternative.

Although, some of the Human Rights Campaign staff that I have dealt with on a more State/Local level sometimes are…well…not entirely understanding of how politics really work outside of D.C. lobbying. They can help out a bit, but I not sure they really know how to get things done at the State or Federal level (I would say that about many gay groups I been dealing with)

What seems to stall progress at the federal level is not so much party, although that does seem to be a factor, but the State or the district the politician lives in. If a politician thinks that voters in his conservative State or district want anti-gay policies, then he is not likely to go against them.

So, I am not entirely sure that selecting a Republican to head the Human Rights Campaign is going to really help that much. I can see the need for tact in public speech making and the like, but the issue of Senator ‘x’ being in a conservative State or Congressman ‘y’ being in a conservative District is still going to be a real problem…setting aside the fact that being center-left is not ‘left-wing’.

Again, Democrats had a majority, but some of them lived in more conservative States or districts where God, Gays, Guns, etc. are ‘hot issues’ that likely voters lean right on and probably do not care too much who runs the HRC.

Why not have a HRC chair who is an Independent and then two committees that work on how best to appeal to Democrats and Republicans?

Houndentenor January 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Last year when marriage was up for a vote in NY State, there were private citizens who went directly to their state representatives and senators and won them over. The state and national organizations were going to write these legislators off and provided no support. There’s a lesson there. It’s worth your time to talk to your own representatives. It would be helpful to have some material from the organizations to help organize what to say in these meetings should you be able to get them. But it’s a more personal and sometimes very effective way to lobby. Yes, big money groups can have an impact, but their track record is abysmal. 3 out of 4 Americans support adding gays to ENDA. We couldn’t get that passed even with Democrats in majorities. It’s time to try something else. The right has been effective with grassroots organizations. We have tried doing everything from inside the beltway. It’s time to try something that works and give up paying big salaries to people who leave the job with not a single accomplishment to show for their time.

BobN January 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Can you think of any other group which has given up its DC lobbying efforts? Do you ever hear any other group, especially one that has made such enormous strides in four short decades, dump on their national organizations as much as gay people do?

And don’t get me started on the GOP’s “grass roots” organizations.

Houndentenor January 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm

So what is the alternative? Give HRC a pass while they blow millions with not a single accomplishment to show for all that time and money spent? I will not apologize for demanding accountability. And nowhere did I saw we should abandon attempts to lobby Congress. But as you well know most of our battles are at the state and local level. Our organizations fail us time and time again. The campaign against Prop 8 was ineffective. Yes, sometimes it’s an uphill battle, but we aren’t doing a good job of fighting. Something needs to change. If HRC can’t do the job, then we need to replace it with something else. It could be better. Fighting the critics rather than demanding more from the people who are supposedly lobbying on our behalf is not going to lead to anything but more of the same. I’m tired of the same. Aren’t you?

Tom Scharbach January 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

And don’t get me started on the GOP’s “grass roots” organizations.

God forbid I should get you started — been there, done that and don’t like the t-shirt — but I would suggest to you that most Americans have never heard of HRC, let alone have felt its influence. The HRC lives within the Beltway, and HRC’s failing, in my opinion, is a typically Beltway obsession with Washington insider politics. It has become too involved with the Democratic Party and is too unfocused, building Beltway “alliances” with other causes and organizations that dilutes its message and its usefulness.

Be that as it may, HRC does good things. It does lobby in Washington, although almost entirely within the Democratic confine. It is a voice for “equal means equal” that is picked up by the media from time to time. The indirect benefits of some of its activities — its corporate index has been an important influence in bringing along private employers, for example — are often important. But is has not been, and probably will not be, the driving force toward “equal means equal”.

Here’s where I’ll probably get your dandruff up. I think that progress we’ve made has over the last forty years has been made largely at the grassroots.

In the beginning, grassroots — small organizations popping up and focusing on specific issues in specific areas — were all we had. What “national” organizations existed were more figments of pretension than substance. The HRC, for example, wasn’t even founded until 1980, and didn’t coalesce, in any real sense, until the 1990′s.

I am not arguing that a lobbying organization at the federal level is helpful, but I would argue that:

(a) most of the heavy lifting has been done by local and state-level lobbying organizations, affiliated-interest organizations like PFLAG, GLAAD, GLTF, SLDN, Freedom to Marry, GLSEN and others, legal organizations like Lambda Legal, AFER and the ACLU, political organizations like caucuses within the Democratic Party and LCR (GOProud is off the list intentionally), and individuals like Jon Rauch and Ted Olsen who articulated the case for “equal means equal” to the general public;

(b) the single most important factor in our progress toward acceptance has been individual gays and lesbians coming out and becoming visible to their families, friends, c0-workers and neighbors — “grassroots” at ground level; and

(c) this is not likely to change any time in the near future, anyway, since most “equal means equal” issues are state issues and support for “equal means equal” among the public directly correlates with whether or not a person knows a gay and lesbian family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor.

Jorge January 21, 2012 at 10:33 am

I like the Krauthammer tie-in.

Tom, suffice it to say that I would rather have people in office take the wrong position for the right reasons than the right position for the wrong reasons. And some boilerplate notion of “equality” is the wrong reason. We have been given an assignment, and that is well and fine, but how we complete it is up to each individual person alone.

TomJeffersonIII January 22, 2012 at 9:17 am

1. Ron Paul is not a libertarian. Yeah, he likes to pretend to be when it suits him, and the media loves pinning it on him (almost as they love to ignore him). But he is really a Paleo-Conservative/
State’s Rights Conservative. BIG Difference, as we can see with gay rights issues alone.

2. I have zero problem with LGBTA folk coming out and working to make things better (in terms of gay rights) in the GOP, but most of the time their is little interest among the GOP leadership to do anything that will upset the ‘religious right’ constituency (look at how Fred Karger is treated), unless a ‘moderate’ Republican is required to win in a State or district.

3. Yeah, coming out at the local “grassroots” level can really make a difference in changing personal attitudes. Although it many of the places where it could do the most good, it is often not very safe or practical to do so.

4. Granted, I am probably one of the youngest folk here, but I seen the HRC do some good work in terms of lobbying federal bills and putting out a fairly decent/professional campaign/advertising that can speak to a broad base of Americans. At the State and Local level, the HRC can help with funding or training, but it generally does not understand or appreciate some of the more practical-on-the-ground realities.

5. My suggestion to all those gay Republicans. Do what Fred Karger did and run for public office! The man is probably one of the sanest politicians I have heard from.

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