Pervasive Partisanship

by Stephen H. Miller on January 13, 2013

The National Stonewall Democrats has ceased operations, at least for now, citing funding issues. More to the point, the organization really has had no reason to be, since the Human Rights Campaign competes far more successfully on the same turf—organizing LGBT support for Democratic candidates and working to defeat Republicans, including openly gay Republicans (such as Richard Tisei), and socially moderate, gay supportive Republicans (such as Scott Brown). In fact, the preponderance of the LGBT movement is a thinly veiled party fundraising operation run by LGBT Democrats, making the need for an explicit “Stonewall Democrats” on the national level redundant from the get go.

Relatedly, Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff opines on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, despite his recently renounced anti-gay record going back decades. HRC had scored Hagel a “0″ during his time in the Senate from 2001-2006 (not a single pro-gay vote), but “immediately accepted the tepid apology” Hagel issued just before Obama announced his nomination. Moreover:

Did HRC extract any promises from the White House or Hagel himself before so quickly forgiving and forgetting his rather serious sins? Hagel voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004, putting him in the company of the most rabidly anti-gay members of Congress. In 1999, he said he opposed repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” …
It’s all politics as usual — Log Cabin opposes Hagel merely because Obama wants him. And HRC supports Hagel because it must now support everything Obama does. What’s lost here is accountability.

{ 17 comments }

tomjeffersonIII January 13, 2013 at 4:17 pm

1. Over the decades gay Democrats did the necessary work to move their party forward, in terms of platform and (for the most part) the leadership and rank and file party voters and office holders. Stonewall Democrats may become less necessary for that very reason. It has been largely successful.

2. The Human Rights Campaign is basically happy with the two-party system and has a center-left philosophy. These factors tend to dictate their endorsement process. Gay Republican and gay Libertarian candidates wonder why they do not get too many HRC endorsements. Well, its less about party affiliation and more about a particular set of procedures and values.

3. Hagel basically saw the writing on the proverbial wall and was not going to let whatever real or politically motivated bias he had about gay people get in the way of a potentially historic career move.

4. It is a good question; Did he really hate gay people when he voted against them or was it just “nothing person, just business”? No doubt Barney Frank (for example) probably had a fair share of conservatives voted against gay rights bills and say anti-gay things in public, but would then privately tell him that it was “just business”. I suspect that is one reason why Congressman Frank is not especially kind to the GOP.

As public opinion changes, I suspect more and more public figure type folks (who supported anti-gay bills or said homophobic things) will probably find it… “advantageous” (if you will) to suddenly, and publicly, see the errors of their ways.

Rick January 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Hagel was representing Nebraska in the 90′s, after all.

Houndentenor January 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm

WTF?

Weren’t you just criticizing the gay community for not allowing Republicans like Hagel to evolve on gay rights issues. He says he has. He’s going to be asked about this during the confirmation hearings. If he promises to enforce the current military policy regarding gays serving in the armed forces, I have no problem with his nomination.

So why are you mad that a gay rights group is okay with the Hagel nomination?

Once again it looks like you are just looking for an excuse to criticize liberal gay people. How does that accomplish anything? It certainly doesn’t advance gay rights. If you support the Hagel nomination and HRC does too, where exactly is the problem?

Tom Scharbach January 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm

The National Stonewall Democrats has ceased operations, at least for now, citing funding issues. More to the point, the organization really has had no reason to be, since the Human Rights Campaign competes far more successfully on the same turf—organizing LGBT support for Democratic candidates and working to defeat

The Stonewall Democrats were rendered redundant by the LGBT Caucuses within the Democratic Party. No need for an outside group working to influence the party when you have internal caucuses.

The Stonewall Democrats were useful at one time, perhaps, but that hasn’t been the case for years.

JohnInCA January 13, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Eh. LCR and GoProud both exist. Even if I accept your skew that HRC is essentially part of the democrats (I would argue that if Republicans weren’t just about universally worse on LGBT issues then their Democrat opposition that they would get HRC endorsements. But even in the cases you called out, the Republican might have been *good*, but the Democrat was *better*), doesn’t that make it only fair for HRC and Stonewall Democrats to both exist?

Houndentenor January 14, 2013 at 11:20 am

Yes, he thinks that a gay rights organization should endorse an okay Republican over a solidly pro-gay Democrat.

Perhaps Stonewall has made itself obsolete. The Democratic Party is official on board for gay rights now. It took decades of hard work, but mission accomplished. It’s not the fault of Democrats that HRC and GOProud have made no impact at all in the GOP. Miller and company would like to blame the Republicans’ anti-gay positions on liberals, but that’s completely warped and twisted.

Tom Scharbach January 14, 2013 at 11:33 am

Perhaps Stonewall has made itself obsolete.

Stonewall Democrats made themselves redundant. Gays and lesbians within the party formed LGBT Caucuses at state and national levels after Howard Dean introduced the idea of caucuses into the party structure, and then the caucuses got to work from the inside, pushing and shoving for change.

Stonewall, which was not integrated into the party structure, became less and less relevant to the forces of change within the party driven by the caucuses over the years, and has now, apparently died on the vine.

I don’t mean to diminish the contributions of Stonewall Democrats earlier in the struggle. Stonewall did a lot to push the party in the 1970′s and 1980′s, and all of us are building on that foundation. But Stonewall became redundant and irrelevant as a change agent within the party.

Doug January 13, 2013 at 8:38 pm

You are right that partisanship is pervasive but take a look in the mirror and look at some of your previous articles. Can you honestly say you have done anything to lessen the partisanship? I don’t think so.

Tom Scharbach January 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm

It’s all politics as usual — Log Cabin opposes Hagel merely because Obama wants him. And HRC supports Hagel because it must now support everything Obama does. What’s lost here is accountability.

Well, what’s to say about HRC and LCR?

I think that OutServe-SLDN got it exactly right: “We are pleased that Senator Hagel recognized the importance of retracting his previous statement about Ambassador Hormel and affirming his commitment to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal and LGBT military families. We look forward to learning more about his commitment to full LGBT military equality as this nomination and confirmation process unfolds.

In a word: We are pleased Hagel says that he has changed his views. We expect him to address the issue further during his nomination hearings. And we intend to hold his feet to the fire.

Or, as Ronald Reagan might have put it: “Trust but verify.”

It was just a few weeks ago when Stephen was arguing: “If we don’t let people (that is, Republicans) evolve on gay issues, then why should they evolve? But the last thing progressive Democrats want to see is a GOP that could actually compete for gay votes.” Now he’s criticizing HCR for folding its tent.

The more things change, the more things stay the same, it seems.

Aubrey Haltom January 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Despite Hagel’s apology for being “insensitive” re: his offensive statement on Hormel (including the notion that being gay was an “inhibiting factor” in government employment), I’m still much opposed to Hagel’s confirmation.
Along with the nomination of Brennan as CIA Director, it seems an indication that human/civil rights are not as much of an issue in Obama’s 2nd term.
That aside, here’s a short clip from Rachel Maddow looking at Hagel’s record on abortion, rape, lgbt issues. It’s a Todd Akin-dream fest:
http://freebeacon.com/maddow-exposes-hagels-akin-esque-views-on-rape-abortion-and-lgbt-in-the-military/

Aubrey Haltom January 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I hope those that are interested will take the 5 minutes to watch the Maddow clip. Some interesting detail on the public record Hagel invited us to look at.
btw – I used to regularly read IGF a few years ago. After some time away from the site, I’ve started reading it more often.
But I’m flummoxed by Stephen Miller’s constant attacks on liberals/progressives – as if we are the cause of every problem a gay conservative/Republican might face.
Actually, it’s beyond bewilderment. It’s becoming an annoyance.
I keep coming back to this site nowadays because of the comments section. Thanks to Tom Scharbach, Houndentenor, etc… for keeping me interested in IGF.
(For the IGF oldies in the crowd here, I used to read and post when there was a “Deb” who would always wail against the “yuck” factor, regardless the topic. Also NorthDallas used to post frequently, if not daily. Probably 4 – 5 years ago, give or take…)

Jimmy January 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

“I keep coming back to this site nowadays because of the comments section.”

Indeed. Forging a gay mainstream is the raison d’etre of IGF, even though one already exists, and it’s center-left. That fact may be the bane of Miller’s existence, but it is nonetheless a fact.

Don January 15, 2013 at 11:03 am

I agree with Stephen generally as to his point. Gay rights has long been a partisan issue. Where I am confused is why the lopsided approach to criticizing the gay left organizations while nearly omitting any partisanship from gay right organizations. I have always hoped for an NRA approach to our issue: nonpartisan. You are either for or against gay rights.

Hate crimes and safe schools initiatives muddy the waters and I wouldn’t support them from a conservative viewpoint. But otherwise, it should be a civil rights issue with anybody, anywhere, from any party stating for or against. We’re only just now getting to that point. I am also willing to give the Hagels of the country more of a pass (like HRC did) not because he’s joining Obama. But because he’s willing to drop his former hard line anti-gay position.

I think there should be a lower standard (at first) for conservatives willing to buck their party. Not all need it. But most do. Full marriage equality is just too much for so many.

I’m thinking Gingrich here. “I’m against it and think it can never be a ‘real marriage’ but frankly, that ship has sailed and the culture has moved beyond us on this one. No point fighting it anymore.” Should I herald his disdainful endorsement that it’s time for gay marriage with shouts of glee? No. But encouraging he and his fellow Republicans for striking the middle tone to get things done is exactly what we need.

His position would have been heralded as pretty damn good for a Democrat 4 years ago. In fact, I would argue it was more or less the national Democratic candidate position from the mid-90s on. I’m against discrimination, but I don’t like gay marriage.

I just don’t see an army of Republicans coming forward and saying “hey, all this Christianity crap about gay being wrong is just hooey and has no business in politics. We were totally wrong and should keep religious discrimination out of our political system.”

Never gonna happen. They need to say religious objections are right but we need to do gay marriage anyway because we lost. It’s the only way to thread this particular needle. I’d rather have legal recognition with qualified disdain anyday over no legal recognition and loud, angry disdain. This is what progress looks like.

Tom Scharbach January 15, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I think your assessment is probably correct.

I don’t believe that gays and lesbians should start engaging in an informal affirmative action program for Republicans, though. My view is that gays and lesbians should vote pro-equality and let the political chips fall where they may.

In any event, the future is going to be a long haul, a mix of legislative action and judicial action, playing out over the next 10-15 years, most likely, to be resolved in states like my state of Wisconsin only when SCOTUS issues a Loving-like opinion about marriage equality in 2020-2025, even though a slight majority now favor marriage equality in our state. Nobody thinks that there is a realistic chance of getting anything through our Republican-controlled legislature, so we are working on other things, like blunting attempts to repeal our very limited domestic partner law, while we wait on SCOTUS.

ShadowChaser January 17, 2013 at 12:55 am

Years ago in a sociology class, I read an article about the so-called “March of Dimes effect” on non-profit organizations. The way I remember it, the article said that when a non-profit accomplished its stated objectives, it was a choice to make … whether 1) to disband or 2) find another goal to accomplish.

The name comes from the history of the March of Dimes. That organization’s stated goal was the elimination of infantile paralysis. Once the Salk and Sabin vaccines eliminated polio, the March of Dimes had to find a new goal. Therefore, the organization took as its mission eliminating birth defects.

When the Connecticut Supreme Court legalized marriage equality and when then Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, chose not to fight the court ruling, the organization Love Makes A Family, the statewide organization lobbying for same sex marriage, chose to disband. The decision to disband the organization was praised by many posters on this forum.

I don’t know whether the Stonewall Democrats ought to disband. I do know that LGBT Democrats have a better place in their party than LGBT Republicans have in theirs. Democrats in Utah had an out gay man serve as state party chairman … IN UTAH! It seems that Log Cabin Republicans are like the teenagers who sit at the kiddie table at the family Thanksgiving gathering … they aren’t mature enough to sit at the grown ups table.

I, for one, look forward to the day when there is no need for gay men and lesbians to have special groups within their churches, their educational institutions, their professions and yes, their political parties. We ain’t there yet, but we all are keeping our eyes on the goal

Tom Scharbach January 17, 2013 at 8:11 am

I don’t know whether the Stonewall Democrats ought to disband.

That’s up to them.

I think that their mission as a change agent for the Democratic Party, important as it was within the politics of the Democratic Party during the early years of the struggle, was supplanted by the work of internal LGBT Caucuses after Howard Dean introduced the caucus structure within the party.

I don’t know about other states, but in Wisconsin we haven’t seen hide nor hair of the Stonewall Democrats in years. Stonewall hasn’t even had a chapter in Wisconsin in recent memory, and there has been no need for them. The DPW’s LGBT Caucus does the work that is needed.

In Wisconsin, as seems to be the case in other states, gays and lesbians, individually and through the caucuses, are now an integral part of the party structure, defining issues, advocating for change, and holding party officials and politicians accountable.

Wisconsin is probably typlical. Members of our Caucus sit in the US Senate, the Congress, the State Senate and Assembly, on the Democratic National Committee, and throughout county and state party leadership bodies. We helped find and fund two dozen LGBT candidates for county and state offices this year.

We did the work needed to bring marriage equality language to our state party platform through the county, CD and state resolutions committees, and, through the efforts of members of our Caucus who sit on the DNC and the national platform committee, Wisconsin’s “marriage equality” language replaced the proposed “freedom to marry” language in the national platform.

Overall, I believe, as you seem to believe, that we have turned the Democratic Party.
The work began in the 1970′s, from the outside, and it was a long slog. Stonewall Democrats carried the load in the early years, and the LGBT Caucuses more recently.

But the heavy lifting was done by (a) gays and lesbians all over the state, particularly in the rural areas, who came out to family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, turning public opinion, and (b) politically minded gays and lesbians who got involved in the Democratic Party at the county and (eventually) state levels, pushing for change.

In that sense, our struggle for equality is, has been and always will be an outside movement. The minute we stop winning over hearts and minds, we will be cease to move forward.

I think that it is important to keep that in mind. Groups like the Stonewall Democrats and the LGBT Caucuses are guerrilla groups, dependent on the good will of the general (in our case, straight) population to operate and succeed. Politicians and political parties will move no faster than the people.

Progressive gays and lesbians have been very lucky, too, in the way that our political parties shaped themselves after 1980.

In the 1970′s, there wasn’t much difference between the two parties on our issues, outside urban pockets.

In the late 1970′s and during the early 1980′s, Ronald Reagan, who had been relatively pro-gay during his term as Governor given the times, invited religious and social conservatives into the Republican Party, with intent, in order to build his coalition and to cement the “Solid South” into the Republican Party. The result was that the Republican Party now has, entrenched within it, an organized, motivated and powerful group determined to block any and all progress toward “equal means equal”.

In the Democratic Party, gays and lesbians did not have to face that determined and powerful block on change. I’m mindful of that even as I push on pro-equality conservatives to get off their asses and start working within their own party. Pro-equality conservatives have a tougher road ahead of them than we had behind us.

I, for one, look forward to the day when there is no need for gay men and lesbians to have special groups within their churches, their educational institutions, their professions and yes, their political parties. We ain’t there yet, but we all are keeping our eyes on the goal.

Dead on.

Barry January 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Partisan politics is what brings down civilizations. I think, unfortunately, that’s part of the goal for some people, including the sitting president. Not a partisan comment, but merely a long observation.

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