One source said LGBT leaders had sent “strong signals” to the White House that they want repeal to happen this year and that there would be “repercussions” if it did not. The source would not say what form those repercussions might take.
– from Kerry Eleveld’s article, “Activists Call Urgent “Don’t Ask/Tell” Meeting“
Now I’m kind of concerned that Big Gay is out there issuing ultimatums on our behalf, because I’m sure you don’t want to see our movement go down in flames when the Obama admin and Congress jerk us around again — and there are no repurcussions of significance.
I think it’s ironic when the gay netroots have been calling for action for a long time (The “No Excuses” theme regarding action on our issues was not created in HRC’s shop, btw) and have been chastised endlessly for the lack of patience — “he’s only been in office __ months.” Well now our leaders are pissed, (and, now many progressives as well) about getting the shaft by Congress and the White House. They are late to the game.
We sad little know-nothings in Cheetos-stained pajamas saw this coming, but hey — we’re just rubes, politically unsophisticated, you know. Just not smart enough to understand how it all works.
Well, thankfully our movement’s movers and shakers are finally waking up to political reality — the cocktails for a few came along with a big “talk to the hand” for everyone else. Our community (or rather, those who do have access) must be seen seen as easy to buy off and stall.
Our movement has wasted the opening months of this administration trying to denigrate voices from the outside who knew our civil rights were going to get backburnered because of 1) health care, 2) the endless military debacles, 3) all other progressive causes waiting in line that have been out in the cold for years. The only way to move ahead in the line when it comes to civil rights and a group — LGBTs — is to stop the glad handing and to have a plan, not fret over the gay netroots.
The bottom line is that LGBT rights are not seen by the vast majority of potential allies as worthy of moving up the action chain because of the baseless perception that we are a political liability for elected officials and not really hurting. The black tie gladhanding is not seen as any indicator that hardball politics is going to be played. These elected officials drained our ATM to get elected. They work for us. The shuffling and tap dancing time is over, people.
And so there was the emergency meeting (as John Aravosis noted, was not organized by these groups, but by a third unnamed party). Kerry:
The two-hour long meeting was unusual in that it assembled the advisers to major LGBT political donors from outside the Beltway such as Tim Gill, Jon Stryker and David Bohnett alongside DC-based lobby groups such as HRC, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the Center for American Progress, and The Palm Center as well as lobbyists with ties to the White House and Congress.
The gathering resulted from a growing sense of urgency that 2010 is a make-or-break moment for repealing the military’s gay ban and that the White House would likely make a decision about how to move forward on “don’t ask, don’t tell” sometime in the next several weeks.
Participants declined to discuss specific strategy with The Advocate but said they mulled over how LGBT leaders would move forward if the White House decided to make a strong push for repeal or, alternatively, if it took a pass on the issue this year.
And after that, the whole “repurcussions” quote came up. There’s no need to keep this a secret — what, pray tell, will our institutional leaders do when the WH and Congress take the football away as our peeps try to kick it?
In contrast to past statements from gay groups and administration officials that “there is a plan” with regards to the President’s gay rights promises, including DADT, the secret meeting (and the Times article) both made clear that there still is no plan at all.
Both the meeting and the Times article confirm that the White House has not even decided if it will push for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, let alone what exactly it will push for for, if anything (as noted in the Times article, the Pentagon is even considering whether a “separate but equal” policy should be adopted). The hope is that the White House will come to a decision and announce what, if anything, it is going to do about moving forward on the repeal of DADT sometime in the next month or two. But the groups have no idea what the White House is going to decide, or when it will decide, and therefore cannot and will not endorse an all-out campaign to support the repeal of DADT until the White House makes up its mind.
The unnamed source John spoke to clearly indicates the White House is calling all of the shots here, and is flexing its muscle to shut criticism down.
Maybe I can just make up a plan. Will we get the memo when it’s time to “do something” when nothing passes in 2010?
Some attendees expressed guarded optimism during the meeting because many in the room had “been guaranteed that this is a priority for the president” — some by President Obama himself and others by some of his top advisors. But one source weighed that against the fact that health reform was also a top priority for the administration and its passage has not gone smoothly. “There’s an awful lot of distance between something a president says and actually making it come to light,” said the source.
Another hurdle, many felt, was that although advisers like White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Jim Messina, Director of the Office of Political Affairs Patrick Gaspard, and Director of Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes are viewed as pro-LGBT, there’s really no single power broker in the White House who’s consistently pulling for LGBT issues.
OK. I have to ask a question here. Where has Brian Bond, the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement (aka the LGBT liaison) been during all of this? He’s nowhere in this piece and he’s supposed to be the Obama administration’s primary contact with our orgs all this time. (BTW, Brian never did get back to me about any further WH plans to interact with LGBT New Media/citizen journalists, as the WH has with other interest-group media. Take what you want from that. )
This does raise a broader, more structural problem about our connections to the White House, since there are allegedly so many pro-LGBT people on staff – what is has been done to facilitate action so that it didn’t come to this point?
You’d have thought our leaders would have been incensed earlier on, given the dodging and polite screwing our community received in 2009. Suddenly there is an epiphany? We’ve been watching all the way here in the coffeehouse, seeing the quotes of commitment, promises of action and general platitudes about how important civil rights is to this administration. We’ve also seen FAIL-worthy DOMA defenses, completely insulting press conferences where ignorance of the status of our issues has become a broken record.
Whatever maneuvers were going on behind the scenes over the last months to solidify a plan of action on LGBT legislation, it didn’t work. On the Hill, too many of the spines are weak, scared of the Blue Dogs that they will never get pro-gay votes out of, not calling for action to get LGBTs to call their fence sitting pols to move.
None of this is news. I’m glad these folks, who do have a form of recognized power, got together to strategize, but the downward spiral of effectiveness has been going on for months now. Where is the game plan — there’s so little time to do anything bold — that’s what you do early on. Now it will be hold on for the 2010 elections, then the run up to Obama’s re-election. Our issues are not seen as a priority, only a liability (and I think it’s BS, but assume it’s true) — our people on the inside have not made the case to move legislation forward with enough vigor to withstand the inertia in DC to go along and get along and keep the money flowing and keep controversy low.
It’s time to stop putting activism into silos and use all the resources (and I’m not talking money) to engage in this fight for equality, and set the egos aside for a change.
Readers — are you holding your breath on that one?