Uncle Barney

by Stephen H. Miller on September 18, 2012

The Washington Blade looks at Barney Frank’s denigrating the Log Cabin Republicans as “Uncle Toms.” Frank is right that on gay issues alone, the Democrats are better—not as ideal as he pretends, but certainly better.

However, LCR head R. Clarke Cooper is also right when he responds, “Frank calls us ‘Uncle Toms’ and pretends that Log Cabin hasn’t been on the front lines of the fight for equality. The truth is, by speaking conservative to conservatives about gay rights, Log Cabin Republicans are doing some of the hardest work in the movement, work that liberals like Barney are unwilling to do and couldn’t do if they tried.”

More to the point, Frank’s nasty little slur is all too typical of the smug mean-spiritedness of so many self-styled big government “progressives.”

In contrast, Ellen DeGeneres has a cordial conversation with Clint Eastwood, who talks about libertarian values—fiscal responsibility and government staying out of your life. That’s the ideal that neither party embraces, but in this election Eastwood (via his convention endorsement of Romney) believes Republicans are better enough in comparison with Obama’s out-of-control on spending, exponentially expanding regulatory state.

More. From Box Turtle Bulletin: “Barney Frank is the worst kind of politician, a partisan hack. … [N]ow that his career is ending, it seems that he has taken on a new role: throwing a wrench into any possible bipartisan movement that can be achieved on gay rights.

{ 19 comments }

Tom Scharbach September 19, 2012 at 8:13 am

I’ve don’t agree with Barney Frank on the “Uncle Tom” analogy.

I can see where Frank comes from in making the analogy:

The argument Mr. Cooper and the others in the Log Cabin Republicans have put forward in their defense is that they have succeeded in getting the Republicans to reduce the extent to which they denounce us, and, in Mr. Cooper’s phrase, the fact that Paul Ryan is “willing to engage” with gay Republicans. That is where Uncle Tom comes to mind. They are urging people to vote for the anti-LGBT candidate over the most supportive LGBT candidate and platform imaginable because the “antis” are calling us fewer names and are willing to talk to some of us. It is this willingness to acquiesce in a subordinate status as long as the masters are kinder in tone, although not in substance, that emulates Uncle Tom.

But I don’t agree with it. We have to accept as a given that LCR (and GOProud) members are Republicans — partisans for 90% of the Republican platform, if not the 10% — just as conservative gays and lesbians have to accept as a given that gays and lesbians who are working within the Democratic Party are Democrats.

It seems to me that instead of trashing LCR (I won’t say the same for GOProud, which (in my view, anyway) is useless and counterproductive), Democratic LGBT’s should be encouraging LCR, helping LCR adopt effective tactics to turn the Republican Party.

We know what works — involvement and hard work to further our issues in the party at county, state and federal levels, rather than just talking the talk — because we have done the work and seen the results.

In 1980, the two parties were just a dime’s difference apart on LBGT issues, if that. Thirty years later, the Democratic Party has become an advocate for “equal means equal”, while the Republican Party, if anything, has moved in the other direction. The difference between the parties is stark and unavoidable.

What LCR needs to think about is why the Republican Party has gotten worse, not better, since 1980, while the Democratic Party has moved decisively in the direction of “equal means equal”, and honestly assess whether the tactics and strategies they have been using are effective or not. In my view, the results since 1980 give the answer.

I agree that LCR, unlike GOProud, is “… doing some of the hardest work in the movement [speaking conservative to conservatives about gay rights], work that liberals … couldn’t do if they tried.”

But “speaking” isn’t enough. We learned that, though hard experience, in the Democratic Party. Having learned that, we got to work. The results are now in, and it is time for LCR to look and learn.

JohnInCA September 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Why do people keep saying that LCR is doing work that liberal gays couldn’t do if they tried? By your own admission, they’re doing work that liberal gays have already *succeeded* at.

Tom Scharbach September 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Why do people keep saying that LCR is doing work that liberal gays couldn’t do if they tried? By your own admission, they’re doing work that liberal gays have already *succeeded* at.

I’m not sure exactly what you mean, John, but I think that Democrats can most effectively make the argument within the Democratic Party and Republicans within the Republican Party. Certainly the work within the Republican Party — joining county parties, attending meetings, getting elected to county party office, and so on, can’t be done by Democrats. We aren’t Republicans.

JohnInCA September 19, 2012 at 10:32 pm

I mean that gay democrats already succeded at turning their party around. gay republicans are still holding onto the “oh shit” bar.

So the “hard work”, of turning the party around, that gay republicans are trying to give themselves props for doing? gay democrats *already* did.

It’s dishonest, patting them on the back and saying “what a good job you’re doing, no one else would do this kind of hard work” when it’s patently clear that someone already *did* that hard work, which is why the contrast is so stark today.

Tom Scharbach September 20, 2012 at 8:31 am

Dead on, John.

And what good does it do to complain that Barney Frank is partisan, for God’s sake. Anybody who hasn’t figured out by now that Barney is fiercely partisan (and wickedly acerbic to boot) has been living on Pluto. If Barney started singing kum ba yah — and at his age, it is a bit late to nip his way of being in the bud — would that change the Republican Party?

What frustrates me is that if LCR is correct, and 30% of gays and lesbians are Republicans, then they have more than enough people to do the work. Why isn’t that resource being put to work within the Republican Party, changing the party from the inside out?

If LCR can’t find its way to learn from gay and lesbian Democrats, then let them look at their own party and learn from the people who turned the party into a hard-core social conservative bastion. The transformation of the Republican Party by the Religious Right since 1980 is is a textbook example of how to do it. It was a case of hard work, done from the ground up, little by slowly.

The path to turning the party around is right in front of LCR’s face. All LCR has to do is pick it up and start using it.

Jorge September 19, 2012 at 9:03 am

But is the gay rights movement, itself, a Democratic or a Republican movement? A progressive or a conservative one?

I think what separates some groups from others is whether or not they are willing to recognize that there is a use for progressivism and conservatism, period. I reject utterly the notion that straights (or whites, Christians, men, the rich, the middle class) should be Republicans but gays (etc.) should not. One group trying to dominate another is not what this country’s ideals are about, even if for gays that is still what life is about.

I’d say things are getting better, but the fact that the level of Republican support among gays is fairly constant belies that claim. For I believe that it is as things get better that minority groups are better able to become mainstream. Not that the Republican party alone is the mainstream, all-American political party–perish the thought of that!

Houndentenor September 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I realize that Clint is in favor of gay right and gay marriage. Most Americans, however, don’t know that. It might have been nice if he’d mentioned that during his comedy routine at the RNC.

You are right that your views on fiscal policy and many other issues have nothing to do with your ideas about social issues. But the parties are aligned as they are, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Besides, a great many social conservatives do not benefit from the GOP’s economic and tax policies so that works both ways.

I have heard a lot of opinions about Frank’s comments both ways from liberals. Personally, I think he just said out loud what most gay people say all the time. So like with so many other recent “gaffes” and “controversies” I don’t really see what all the uproar is about. This is what he really thinks. It’s what a lot of gay people really think. Rather than shooting the messenger, why not get to work changing the GOP. The party IS terrible on gay issues. Just yesterday a Republican Congressman vowed to bring back DADT if they get back the WH and the Senate. I didn’t see anything about that here. Republicans are bad on gay issues. Change that and then you might have some respect from me for voting Republican. Until then, yes, I think you’re an Uncle Tom.

Jorge September 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Rather than shooting the messenger, why not get to work changing the GOP.

Oh, sure, blame the victim. I have a better idea: how about we change what “most gays” think?

JohnInCA September 19, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I think your “better idea” is exactly why liberal/democrat gays don’t think much of LCR and GOProud. Because instead of changing the GOP (something they’ve both spectacularly failed at over the years) they would rather complain about gay liberals/democrats.

Or, to put it another way… instead of changing their own party to make the criticism moot, they ignore what their party does and criticize people who point out their inefficacy.

Jorge September 20, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I think your “better idea” is exactly why liberal/democrat gays don’t think much of LCR and GOProud.

No, sir, it’s the reverse, and if you don’t know it well I have serious questions about your modern political awareness. Haters can kiss my ass.

I think the fact that “liberal/democrat” gays “don’t think much of LCR and GOProud” is extremely ingrateful, not just of the efforts conservative and Republican gays have made, but of the results. Results liberal and Democratic gays have benefited from in the form of not just increased acceptance of gays, but a strongly majoritarian disavowment of gays having no social place in this country.

Granted, most of the credit does belong to the liberals, who carried almost all the intellectual heft and most of the trailblazing. Certainly there was a time, perhaps its even still the present, when most of the gays (and BTs) who were engaging Republican politicians were liberals and Democrats–credit should be given to all. But partisanship and ideology exist. Those who have been in a position to act have acted.

JohnInCA September 20, 2012 at 11:51 pm

… what results? All LCR has to claim in the last decade is being one of many players that put pressure on Obama and the Democrats (but not on Republicans) to repeal DADT.

I think you’re gonna need to itemize more results if I’m supposed to let my gratitude for that outweigh my disdain for how LCR and GOProud spend more time attacking other gays then talking to their own politicians.

Jorge September 21, 2012 at 8:44 am

… what results?

I just told you. Not just increased acceptance of gays, but a strongly majoritarian disavowment of gays having no social place in this country.

I think you’re gonna need to itemize more results if I’m supposed to let my gratitude for that outweigh my disdain for how LCR and GOProud spend more time attacking other gays then talking to their own politicians.

For you I will deign to name one and only one: When Rick Santorum, who is, as we all know, the third antichrist, was asked about the infamous incident of people booing a gay soldier during one of the Republican primary debates, he condemned the booing and wished for his well-being.

I could have cited Ann Coulter instead but that would have been too mundane.

Tom Scharbach September 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I have a better idea: how about we change what “most gays” think?

Well, if Democratic gays and lesbians thought like LCR, we’d still be back in the days when we considered it a victory that the Democratic candidate for President actually met with our representatives.

I think that we need to change the way LCR thinks, and get them out of Washington and into (1) the local party organizations, where they can begin changing minds from the ground up, and (2) the wards, working for candidates.

LCR doesn’t even have a chapter in Wisconsin. How in the hell does LCR expect to turn the Wisconsin Republican Party around if they don’t even have a chapter in this state?

Tom Scharbach September 20, 2012 at 8:44 am

But is the gay rights movement, itself, a Democratic or a Republican movement? A progressive or a conservative one?

It is an American movement, working to effectuate the core principle that all American citizens are entitled to equal treatment under the law. It is — in theory, if not always in practice — both a Democratic and Republican movement, both a progressive and a conservative movement.

Don September 20, 2012 at 11:01 am

I’m just tired of the whining about “liberal gays” rather than substantive discussions about how to engage both sides of the aisle. LCR is doing a wonderful job given the landscape. GOProud is the backlash against LCR’s reality based approach. This is a discussion worth having. Miller’s post is not.

North Dallas Thirty October 6, 2012 at 1:38 am

Of course you are, Don; that’s because you, like your fellow bigot Tom Scharbach and your fellow bigot Barney Frank, have to run around screaming that gay and lesbian Republicans and conservatives are Jewish Nazis, traitors, and Uncle Toms.

Why should Republicans engage with bigots like you and Barney Frank? Indeed, since your sexual orientation is what makes you and Barney Frank behave the way you do, why should Republicans and conservatives respect you at all?

Snowbird Dale September 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm

“When Rick Santorum, who is, as we all know, the third antichrist, was asked about the infamous incident of people booing a gay soldier during one of the Republican primary debates, he condemned the booing and wished for his well-being.” – Jorge

We’re supposed to be grateful for that??? That was just a classic example of a politician, Santorum in that case, trying to save his face and his ass at the same time. The shallow shuffle managed only to leave treadmarks on both anatomic areas.

Jorge September 21, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I think any Republican who runs a platform that is unabashedly pro-war, pro-foreign aid, and pro-government reform in this day and age is not a classic politician.

TomJefferson III September 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Not everyone agrees with Barney Frank politics or likes his (cough, cough) ‘New York’ personality. OK, I get that.

However, he was one of the first Congressman to get re-elected, while being openly gay. That must have been a big deal in the 1980s, given the fact that being openly gay still seems to be a barrier to major office in this country (at least when you look at the lengths that people go to remain in the closest)

Frankly, in the 1970s – 1980s gay rights was probably a very ‘left-wing’ issue. It has changed, a bit now, where support for gay rights is seen among folks that are not very liberal or liberal at all.

Yet, he probably found it frustrating in trying to get good bills passed and, I suspect, much of the holdup came from conservative Republicans or Democrats.

So, I can probably understand why his public service experience never really gave him much faith in gay Republicans or straight conservatives that support gay rights.

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