A few overlying messages that inform my blog. One is the importance of everyone becoming engaged with the legislative process and issue advocacy. However, another that has emerged through this election season is the need for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender folks to vote. This stands in stark contrast to some bloggers and activists who have almost given up on the political process. During an election where the Democrats are expected to lose some of their seats, and while general frustration with the Democrats is so high, that may seem either useless or as if we are simply pouring salt on a wound. Why should gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans voters support these very same politicians who have failed to honor their promises to us? I’ve written plenty as to why I think we must help the Democrats retain as much power as they can, but I have been thinking about what is wrong with this framing of the issue. Isn’t the very notion that this is about Democrats vs Republicans a part of the problem that has led us to where we are today? I think it is.

Sometime ago, I began a post (still unfinished) about how the LGBT movement in general, seems to want to find a single hero to make everything OK. Many thought that would be Obama. We are hoping to find our own Wizard of Oz, who can give us what we need to feel whole. This notion of a hero has failed us over and over, but many still cling to it, demonizing any politician who doesn’t measure up. We, the whole of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, will continue to fail to achieve full equality as long as we hold out for a single hero, and refuse to grasp that equality will be achieved when we connect multiple pieces that make up the jigsaw puzzle of democracy. Some others have written about this notion too. For example Arianna Huffington talks of issues as not being left or right. She gets it. Another of my personal heroes, Rachell Maddow, does as well as she shines a light on contradictory politicians like Blue Dog Democrats, and the term Progressive has taken on more meaning and value that the term Liberal used to.

But another major failing rests squarely on the whole of the electorate and perpetuated by the pundits who attempt to paint politics as being a battle between the left and the right, when nothing could be farther from the truth of that. There are far more pieces to the puzzle, and until we grasp that and seek to affect each of the pieces, as well as to connect them, it will be slow going for LGBT Rights as well as any other progressive issue.

There are three branches of government at most levels, including the State and Federal levels.  We have to get smarter at understanding the role each of these three play and how they impact each other. At the Federal level for example, many are outraged that the President hasn’t simply put an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) which he really doesn’t have the authority to do. Closer to home, I’ve heard some say that allowing Corbett to be elected Governor won’t really impact gay rights, because he doesn’t have that much power over social issues. How wrong that is!  Imagine the surprise if he were to eliminate the Human Relations Commission by taking it out of the budget under the guise of saving money. If we are to make progress, we must be more savvy at understanding the different branches of government and how each is impacted and influenced by the others.

At a more granular level, we also have to understand the differences within each part of the government. For example, the US Senate and House operate under very different rules. What a majority can do in one is different from what can be accomplished in the other. The rules work either for us or against us far more than a focus upon which party is trying to use the rules. We saw this so clearly during the Health Care Reform struggle where the House was far more capable of accomplishing work than the Senate. To focus only on “Republican” or “Democrat” misses the real point and we never address the real underlying obstacles that stop our issues from moving forward.

Progress may then look a bit like a three ring circus or a juggler who is handling three balls in one hand, three knifes in the other, while attempting to balance some spinning plates, all at the same time. A balancing act of all of these elements is needed to get things from point A to point B, of the road to full equality. Perhaps this is why, the semi-fallacious dichotomy of Left and Right is so appealing, where we hope that one side may simply bulldoze over the other. That is a notion far easier to grasp. But, it is an approach that fails time and time again for those of us intent on moving our society forward instead of backward.

It will take some time for all of us to get on the same page of understanding all of these puzzle pieces and how to try and put them together, and to let go of any desire to make this be about finding the right hero. In the mean time, we have to buy into the battle of Democrats vs Republicans, for that is the way the issue is understood by most.  If we are really honest, we have to accept that there is virtually only one Republican who seems to grasp the importance of social equality for conservatism to succeed, and that is John McCain’s daughter, Meghan. As a daughter, she doesn’t hold much power, and there are few that stand with her, except perhaps her mother. Other than that, there are no Republicans on our side in the legislative/political sphere. If we hope to have a legislative environment that is favorable to equality, we must turn out and support the Democrats.


  1. Bonnie Half-Elven says:

    President Obama has the power to SUSPEND the discharges on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I know that has been blown way out of proportion. But Obama has played it safe so far, in an effort to reach across the aisle. That’s not working out so well, and it seems to me that whether he takes a centerist line or swings far left, the Republicans will cry foul. As it is, he’s angered both the Republicans and his own base. I don’t think he realizes how much. The message I have gotten from all of our politicians, regardless of party, is that they are about their own survival first. This contributes to a lack of vision for the long-term, and, in the Republicans’ case, a lack of caring for what their own constituents want (their votes on DADT don’t reflect the will of the people).

    That said, it’s what we’re stuck with, and the idea of the Tea Party having any influence on gay rights or anything else is enough to convince me of how crucial my vote is.

    • There is a huge difference however between ending DADT and putting a temporary stop on discharges, and that is too often ignored in the discourse. And no one has really written in a thoughtful way about how a stop loss act would impact total repeal. That’s all I’m saying.

      Every election for the next 6-10 years is going to be rough like this one. We are at a crucial turning point, and the status quo is fighting tooth and nail to remain in control. That is, if our democracy survives the likes of Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin.

      And when do you think we will see Rick Santorum resurface in politics? 2012?