Will Gay Bloggers’ Boycott of Democrats Get Traction?
How effective would an LGBT boycott of an organization, a big, a very big organization, be? We’re about to find out--if, that is, enough people agree.
In an effort to motivate the Democrats in Congress to move faster on LGBT civil rights issues, a coalition of progressive bloggers have launched a boycott of the Democratic National Committee, Organizing for America, and the Obama administration.
For the past several months, LGBT activists have become increasingly frustrated by what they perceive as a lack of action on issues such as a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), and the passage of ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act).
Last Monday, John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay, the editors of Americablog, announced they were organizing a temporary donor boycott of the DNC. Aravosis and Sudbay are veteran political operatives based in Washington, D.C. AMERICAblog has raised over $300,000 for Democratic candidates and progressive causes, including nearly $50,000 for then-candidate Barack Obama, who was supported by AMERICAblog early in the primaries.
Other prominent bloggers and activists, including Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend, Sirius OutQ talkshow host Michelangelo Signorile, Andy Towle and Michael Goff of Towleroad, popular sex columnist and political commentator Dan Savage, Democratic political operative and gay activist David Mixner, and Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, have joined the effort. They’re asking people not to donate any money "until the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is passed, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) is repealed, and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed."
The bloggers are also angry with President Obama, who had pledged during last year’s campaign to be a "fierce advocate" for LGBT issues, for not keeping his campaign promises. They look at DADT as emblematic of their concerns, as well as the president’s not speaking out about the Maine referendum on gay marriage there.
Aravosis cited a lengthy list of Obama slights toward the LGBT community in his posting explaining the reasons for the boycott. These include "inviting anti-gay activist Rick Warren, who helped pass Prop. 8 in California, to give the invocation at the inaugural; continuing to discharge two gay servicemembers a day, even though he could stop it immediately by issuing a stop-loss order immediately; comparing gay relationships to incest and pedophilia in a Justice Department brief; changing his commitment to repeal’ Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to ’changing DADT it in a sensible manner,’ refusing to issue a statement specifically opposing anti-gay ballot measures in Maine and Washington state, and refusing to apologize for any of these slights."
"In less than a year, serious damage has already been done to the president’s commitments to the gay community," Aravosis wrote. "The problem isn’t only that he hasn’t been quick enough to fulfill his promises, it’s that he has actually backtracked on his promises and hurt the cause of civil rights and our community, as detailed above."
"There is no excuse for the lack of movement on so many minor, let alone, major LGBT issues by this administration and by Congress," said Spaulding. "The president made promises, we’re holding him and the party to dealing with them. The problem is there’s always going to be an excuse that also revolves around timelines for midterms, re-elections, etc., so the best time to deal with the "hard" issues is now. These leaders can multitask. They choose not to."
There is some concern about the potentially negative effects a financial boycott will have on the Democratic party, especially with the 2010 midterm elections coming up. "The danger is that people’s impatience becomes self-destructive," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on Thursday during a reception for the LGBT community in Providence, Rhode Island.
Whitehouse said if bloggers wished to continue their boycott until Christmas, that would be fine, but if they prolonged it any further, there would be damage to the Democratic party in the midterm elections.
Andrew Tobias, an openly gay man who serves as treasurer for the DNC, believes in Obama and hopes the LGBT community will continue to support him."The administration is going to continue to make steady progress on our issues whether or not we help strengthen its hand," Tobias told EDGE . "But the stronger it is, the faster that progress will come."
Aravosis, however, believes the LGBT community has enough financial clout to make an impact on Obama and the Democrats in Congress.
"LGBT Americans are a core constituency of the Democratic Party, and we wield significant influence in the party," Aravosis told EDGE. "Take the DOMA scandal that erupted in June, where the White House had the Department of Justice defend DOMA in court, and then compared gay relationships to incest and pedophilia.
"Within days of the community rising up," he added, "and mind you, no one had even launched a boycott at that time, the White House quickly started organizing a menu of small pro-gay actions they could trot out to woo the community back, including an Oval Office signing ceremony. They were clearly worried about the gay community’s ire. And I know for a fact that they’re worried this time too."
Adds Sudbay: "I really do think that the professional Democrats really consider the LGBT community an ATM. The last thing they want is for that source of funding to dry up."
Aravosis is not worried about wealthy gays and lesbians continuing to donate huge sums of money to the Democrats just so they can remain friendly with powerful politicians. That segment of the LGBT community have lost their influence, Aravosis claims.
"A number of elite gays, like (openly gay Congressman) Barney (Frank), several gay lobbyists with financial interests before the administration, and other LGBTs who were looking for administration jobs, defended President Obama during the DOMA incest/pedophilia brief scandal," Aravosis explained. "And it wasn’t enough. The scandal continued to grow, and I think the White House damaged its relations with the community as a result. It didn’t help that a number of traditional gay elites came to the President’s defense. They simply no longer control the community like they once did, if they ever did."
Wayne Besen, the executive director of Truth Wins Out, which fights what it calls "the ex-gay myth," gives Obama’s record on LGBT rights a mixed review. A lot of work has to be done to foster a healthy relationship between the President and the LGBT community, Besen said.
"The president’s speech at (last month’s) Human Rights Campaign dinner and his signing of the Hate Crime Bill was a good start," Besen told EDE. "But that was followed up with silence about the referendum in Maine which was a perplexing show of inconsistency.
"Perhaps, the White House and Democrats can do a better job communicating with the LGBT community, because there is often a cloud of confusion, which leads to suspicion, that seems unnecessary and avoidable. For the good of the Democrats’ political prospects and the LGBT Community, we need to make this marriage work."
Sudbay believes that there are other ways to pressure Democrats and the Obama administration to work harder for LGBT civil rights. "Everyone in the community should be calling their member of Congress and their Senators," Sudbay said. "Make sure they’re co-sponsoring or supporting the LGBT agenda. Call the White House. Demand action."