Today’s NYT notes that not only does the Obama administration continue to disregard laws that it finds objectionable, but it’s doing so in a manner that’s even less transparent than what George Bush did, and for which Bush was routinely castigated by, among others, candidate Obama.
At the same time, the Obama administration, and its apologists in Congress (Frank, Baldwin, Polis) and the Democratic Party (Tobias), have the temerity to lecture the gay community on how the President simply couldn’t put a temporary stop to the two-a-day discharges of gay service members, couldn’t provide federal employees with health benefits for their family members, couldn’t permit the foreign partners of gay Americans to enter and stay in the United States, couldn’t even argue against DOMA and DADT in a court of law – all because we simply must respect the rule of law, to hell with how ‘wrong’ we think that law is.
Now we know that this was a lie. From the NYT:
[T]he approach will make it harder to keep track of which statutes the White House believes it can disregard….
[T]he administration will consider itself free to disregard new laws it considers unconstitutional….
Mr. Obama, whose advisers sided with the latter camp, has characterized Mr. Bush’s use of signing statements as an abuse and pledged greater restraint.
Mr. Obama nevertheless challenged dozens of provisions early last year. The last time was in June, when his claim that he could disobey a new law requiring officials to push the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to adopt certain policies angered Congress….
Last year the Obama administration disregarded a statute that forbid State Department officials to attend United Nations meetings led by nations deemed state sponsors of terrorism. Congress has included that restriction in several recent bills.
Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis, and Andy Tobias have some explaining to do.
All four have done a fine job defending the Democratic party’s anti-gay actions over the past year. And make no mistake, it’s flat out homophobia and bigotry that we have been witnessing from the White House and the DNC since President Obama assumed office. They were happy to make promises to our community in exchange for our votes. But now that they’re in power, we’re supposed to understand that our civil rights, our humanity, is just a tad too embarrassing for the Democratic leaders we put in office. We’re supposed to understand why Frank, Baldwin, Polis and Tobias defend the Democratic party’s recurring attacks on our community. (But hey, they did have a gay band in the inaugural parade.)
We have a serious problem. The Democratic party likes our money, and it likes our votes, but, as one commenter noted a few months back, whenever our civil rights come up in a public discussion, the White House, especially, comes down with a sudden case of political gay panic. Yet the rich gay funders continue to bankroll the Democrats. They continue to go to the party fundraisers. They continue to pay for the cocktail parties being thrown by the DNC and the White House to buy off our leaders. They continue to give the Democrats cover for their political homophobia.
And for those who might argue that nothing is wrong, where is ENDA? We were told that it would be passed by the end of 2009. So where is it? Where is the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? We were told that we should expect it to be passed by the spring of 2010. Yet now we hear that no planning is going on, whatsoever, to make that a reality. And as for President Obama’s promise to repeal DOMA – a law he once called “abhorrent” – we are mocked by senior Democratic party officials for simply asking the President and the party to keep their promise. We are told that we’re naive to think that DOMA could ever be repealed, and that it won’t be this term. No. We simply believed Barack Obama when he promised to get it done.
Via this blog, Joe and I have raised over $300,000 for Democratic candidates and causes (the exact figure is on ActBlue). Our allegiance to the party cannot be questioned. But at some point you have to ask yourself why you are helping put politicians in office who don’t keep their promises, who don’t put a high value on your own humanity. As Democrats, we routinely mock gay Republicans for supporting politicians that doesn’t see them as fully human. We make perhaps too harsh comparisons to Jews who would be Nazis, and blacks cozying up to the Klan. But how can we look at gay Republicans with a straight face, as it were, and tell them that they’re selling out when our allegiance to our own party is not equally contingent on a basic respect for our own humanity?
It’s great that the Obama administration has hired 100 gay officials. As they should. 2010 is not 1994. Democrats do not get kudos for not discriminating against gays in their hiring practices. You do not get kudos for issuing the Pride proclamation equivalent of National Ice Cream Day. You do not get a pass on your promises on ENDA, DOMA and DADT simply because you gave a speech at the HRC dinner. We are not your grandfather’s gay community – words and crumbs are no longer enough. We have matured in the past decade, and even in the past year since Prop 8 was repealed. Our party, however, is still stuck in the past.
How else to explain President Obama’s obviously uncomfortable comment to NBC’s Brian Williams, in response to a question about the infamous DOMA brief, that the President believes gays should be able to visit their partners in the hospital? Yes, they should. How very 1994 of you to agree. And how 1974 of you to squirm when being asked a question about the gays.
Our party is stuck in the past. And so, unfortunately, is much of the leadership of our community. How else to explain why Joe Solmonese, the head of the Human Rights Campaign, attended a hastily arranged Oval Office meeting intended to give the President political cover following the DOMA brief fiasco? At the time, Solmonese told Michelangelo Signorile that when the president calls, you come running.
No, his dog comes running.
The leader of the largest gay civil rights organization in our country, when asked to provide political
cover for an incredibly homophobic act, does not come running until and unless he exacts a good pound of flesh in return. And a commitment to speak at an HRC fundraising dinner is not the quid pro quo we had in mind. Too many of the old gay guard seem incapable of fighting today’s battles. They’re too accustomed to the old days and the old ways, when simply being acknowledged (oh my God, he spoke to me!), or invited to the table (regardless of whether dinner was actually served), was enough. It didn’t matter what we got out of the deal, so long as the new guy beat us less than the old guy (sure he keeps breaking his promises, but at least he’s not ReaganBushMcCainPalin!). We promise to be good, and to accept whatever scraps were thrown our way.
Democrats, and far too many of our own leaders, think that if the President meets the bare minimum of what was expected from a Democratic president nearly two decades ago – hiring gays in the administration (but not to too senior a position), giving a few speeches about your commitment to gay civil rights (but only to gay crowds), and signing a law that the President didn’t lift a finger (or spend an ounce of political capital) to get passed – then that’s all that is needed to buy our community’s favor.
It may be all that is needed to buy off our leaders. But our leaders are no longer “the community.”
With the advent of the Internet and modern communications, we are all HRC.
Pam Spaulding is HRC. Mike Signorile is HRC. Dan Savage is HRC. Joe Jervis is HRC. Jeremy Hooper is HRC. Andy Towle is HRC. The ‘Join the Impact’ kids are HRC. And even Rachel Maddow is HRC.
Our national organizations no longer have a monopoly on message or activism. And while the Obama administration and the DNC continue to control many of our leaders, our people become more angered by the day.
I am not optimistic about the Obama administration keeping its promises on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, DOMA and ENDA. And I am not optimistic that HRC, our rich gay donors, or most of the other national gay rights group will do what is needed to hold the Democrats responsible for their promises. I am however optimistic about the ability of a people to hold its leaders, both gay and straight, responsible for their actions. We have shown with this blog, and our new generation of gay leaders across the country have proven with their successful activism, that those who would stand in the way of our human rights cannot keep us silent by simply buying off our leaders. That they cannot forestall bad press, and the increasing ire of a core Democratic constituency, by simply keeping our traditional groups, and our representatives in Congress, at bay.
The only way we are going to get our civil rights, the only way the Obama administration is going to keep its promises to repeal DADT and DOMA, and to pass ENDA, is by demanding them. The only way our party is going to care about what we say and what we think is by holding them responsible for their actions.
Joe and I, along with a number of other Netroots leaders, including Markos Moulitsas, Pam Spaulding, Robin Tyler, Bill Browning, Dave Savage, Mike Signorile, Jane Hamsher, David Mixner, Andy Towle, Michael Goff, Taylor Marsh and Paul Sousa, launched the Don’t Ask Don’t Give campaign just two months ago in order to make clear that we expected our party, and our President, to simply keep their promises before we gave them even more money in exchange for more broken commitments. Today, nearly 10,000 of you have joined our campaign, and more are joining every day.
Make no mistake, we are proud to be Democrats. We simply expect our party to be proud of us in return.