Monday, March 05, 2007

HRC's Dance With Hillary Under Fire

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has long been criticized for being too much of an extension of the Democratic Party. Now, some folks in the GLBT community are wondering if HRC is now a part of HRC, the campaign--that is the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Andrew Sullivan described Sen. Clinton's speech this past week before HRC's spring Board of Governors meeting as a "Love-In." Seeming to forget that Sen. Clinton was President Clinton's equal partner in giving our country the federal Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", HRC President Joe Solmonese embraced Clinton as the staunchest ally the GLBT community has in Congress-even crediting her with the defeat of the FMA last year. Sullivan, warning that the GLBT community is about to make the same mistake as it did in 1992 by backing a Clinton for president, writes:

There was no press coverage of this speech, and HRC kept it very hush-hush, which is weird, defensive, suspicious - but that's HRC, sucking money out of gay pockets to finance an insider, velvet-rope elite of D.C. hacks. But the speech is significant in one respect, it seems to me. HRC, the organization, is now fully integrated into HRC, the campaign. It is the Clinton campaign. Clinton calls HRC's executive director, Joe Solmonese a "colleague." She talks of a future "relationship" with HRC in a Clinton administration: "You will have an open door to the White House". Among HRC's victories, she cites the 2006 election turn-out campaign ... for the Democrats.

To her credit, she forthrightly backs gay adoption. And she backs ENDA and hate crimes. But no mention of marriage. She's against it. She also makes no commitment to passing ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) or hate-crimes laws in the current Congress. That's also significant. I have a feeling that they've run the numbers (that's what HRC does when it's not fund-raising for the Dems), figure that employment discrimination could actually be the first gay wedge issue to work against Republicans, and are going to hold off to use it in the presidential campaign. What matters is what's in the best interest of the Clintons and the Democrats. It's 1992 all over again . . .

The highly respected GLBT blogger Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend chimed in on Sullivans's comments. Spaulding observes how quickly HRC was in putting out a press release saying it had not endorsed Clinton, although Sen. Clinton referred to Solmonese as "her good friend and colleague" and announced Board of Governors member Mark Walsh had formally joined her campaign. "I suppose this was a pre-emptive strike to allay fears that the organization is already in her pocket," Spaulding mused. Spaulding then lets it all hang out about how she feels about HRC's leadership:

All the cheering and glad handing and back patting is simply too much. She compliments Joe Solomonese and calls him a colleague and a friend and says "what a smart, steadfast strategic leader HRC has; someone who understands how to get where we need to go." Sigh.

I've spoken to Joe, and I don't doubt that he has the best interests of the community at heart, I simply think he and most of HRC's leadership still haven't a clue about what it's like to be gay outside the major blue metro areas of the country, and has any idea how HRC is perceived outside the Beltway.

Doing the necessary work on the Hill to move LGBT-positive legislation forward doesn't mean being invisible to gay folks in non-urban areas of the country. We've watched marriage amendments slide in little or no visible opposition, creating all sorts of real obstacles to gay families that will not be able to be overcome for years. Even the one victory, in Arizona, where a state amendment was defeated, national advocacy organizations were MIA.

While HRC is throwing galas and pole stroking, 72-year old Andrew Anthos was beaten to death with a pipe in Detroit, amendments are resulting in bills to ban couple benefits in Kentucky and efforts to repeal benefits won by gay couples in Michigan, and a host of other legal morasses and outright violence that affects gay folks in the hinterlands on a daily basis. As long as HRC is the go-to org for the MSM, it has to be held accountable when it goes off the rails, or it fails to represent us accurately or truly advocate for LGBT equality when it becomes too partisan to be fully effective.
And when it comes to the presidential candidates, nobody has been keeping closer tabs on where the candidates stand on GLBT issues than Spaulding. And for the record, Sen. Clinton's is about as weak as they come among the current crop of contenders for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. For that matter, the leading GOP contender, former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, can boast of a better record of support for GLBT rights than Sen. Clinton.

Both Spaulding and Sullivan are correct in their criticism of HRC. It really galls me, in particular, that Solmonese heaps so much credit on the defeat of the FMA last year to Sen. Clinton. Remember, Republicans were still in control of the Senate last year. There were more than a few GOP senators who aided in that effort to defeat the FMA. But to hear Solmonese describe it, the credit belonged to the Democrats and, especially, to Sen. Clinton. As for Sen. Clinton, she has a lot of nerve telling the HRC audience that she had "worked in a lot of battles with the folks in the audience over time." She had to be referring to election campaigns to elect Democrats to office because she has yet to take up a battle for the GLBT community. She did, however, stand four-square behind her husband's decision to enact the only two federal laws enacted in our nation's history which specifically discriminate against gays and lesbians.


Wilson46201 said...

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was the horrible, face-saving compromise made after the enthusiastic and naive Clintonistas at the beginning of Bill's term who tried to change military past policy. They tried to get gays and lesbians openly in the military and to abolish the witchhunts. The conservatives (mainly Republicans but also a few Democrats) fiercely opposed the Clinton initiative. The military brass fiercely oppsed allowing gays and lesbians in the armed forces, including the Sainted Colin Powell.

That well-intentioned but naive initiative was defeated politically - I recall no leading Republicans supporting it.

The Defense of Marriage Amendment was a national rightwing initiative that overwhelmed gay-friendly legislators. It was a national phenomenon - Indiana was but one of many states that passed it at the same time. It passed Congress with a veto-proof majority. Clinton signed it knowing it would be still be passed if he vetoed it. It was also an election year - the GOP would have hammered him fiercely for a veto.

In 2007, are any leading GOP Presidential contenders going to try for an HRC endorsement or are they all salivating for the blessings of Eric Miller and his ilk?

The HRC would like to be more bipartisan but the Republican Party as an organized party is fiercely opposed to LGBT people and our issues. Dont blame the HRC - damn the GOP for being so prejudiced!

Wilson46201 said...

Wikipedia has lengthy articles on "Dont Ask, Dont Tell" as well as the "Defense of Marriage Act". DOMA passed in the Senate 85-14 in 1996 with nary a Republican voting against it.

The Clintons support civil unions - would any Republican Presidential candidate own up to doing so in 2008?

Gary R. Welsh said...

In other words, Wilson, the Clintons are fair-weathered friends when it comes to the GLBT community. Rudy Guiliani has been a long-time supporter of GLBT rights--long before the Clintons gave it a second thought. He does support civil unions. Hillary is another johnny-come-lately to that. She stood alone on the New York Democratic ticket last year in opposing marriage equality for New York citizens.

Anonymous said...

The Clintons never help anyone unless it helps themselves.

Anonymous said...

Whatever it takes to get the votes!

Wilson46201 said...

In 1992 Bill Clinton ran on a platform of integrating gays and lesbians into the military - when he tried to make it happen after the election, he was beaten back by the reactionaries. The GOP as a party fought us on the issue - and won.

On Friday, Hillary was 'pandering for votes' at the HRC while the Sainted Rudy was trolling for support from the Ann Coulter worshipers. A sad comparison!

Anonymous said...

Wilson is the most pathetic lapdog on these blogs. His comments are as predictable as the bile body odor he emits when he enters a room.

Wilson46201 said...

It's a shame when an anonymous nobody tries to hijack a political discussion thread with crude personal attacks on other commenters.

Let's discuss issues of importance to LGBT voters - not the whiny complaints of unknown namecallers.

Wilson46201 said...

For what it's worth: both Rudy and Hillary have long-held identical positions on gay marriage and civil unions: against marriage but for civil unions.

Rudy stands out lonely in the GOP crowd of Presidential contenders as being the only one supportive of gay civil unions. The rest are fiercely opposed to any such arrangements. All the Democratic contenders support civil unions, without exception.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for other states but HRC has been here and working hard in Indiana over the last year and I do believe the organization has greatly improved since they cleaned house a few years ago.

With that said, I do have issues with Hillary too.

Anonymous said...

HRC has been more helpful on local civil rights issues (SJR 7, HRO) than Indiana Equality could ever hope to be. They "get it."

That being said, the HRC/Solmonese lovefest with Hillary must stop. No one is certain she'll get the nomination. Most liberal or civil rights groups are dancing with all potential candidates who have room on their dance cards. It's good politics. For now.

Interesting rewrite of history, Wilsonl. Typical.

Anonymous said...

I went to the HRC's website and watched Hillary's entire speech. She was unabashedly FOR the GLBT community. This isn't to say she is w/o her problems but it's worth watching to get insight into where she stands now. I also noted in Solmonese's introduction of her that he said he invited ALL presidential candidates to address the gathering and that she was the first to accept so I would hardly characterize the event as a pre-planned and pre-endorsed love-fest of Hillary. As reported by the AP, the HRC has not endorsed any 08 presidential candidate.