June 17th, 2009

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The GLBT Community Reminds Me A Lot of the PEG Community

Sorry, private joke going out to fatlefty and anyone else from telecom policy land.

Anyway, if we take this article at its word, the lesson for Obama is pretty clear. Do jack shit for the GLBT folks going forward.

Politics is a rather ruthless game. It entails a constant running tally over who gets put on the back burner and who gets thrown under the bus. The job of the advocate is to make it as easy as possible for people to agree with you and as difficult as possible for people to disagree with you.

The idea that Obama is going to blow up healthcare reform to make a run at DOMA -- especially with no GLBT energy actually focused on pushing it through on the hill -- is absurd. So he tried to make a downpayment gesture on one of the few things that doesn't require Congressional approval. The usual advocacy response in these situations is to say "thanks, we see this as a down payment." Saying "you crappy piece of shit! Is this all you will do for us in your first six months in office! I spit in your worthless face! tooey! You are worse than Hitler and a miserable racist betrayer for making such a small gesture in our direction!" does not generally encourage people to want to do something for you.

Because as long as Obama does jack shit on GLBT issues, it stays out of the news and he doesn't have to deal with it. But if he makes a gesture to the GLBT community, he actually gets worse press, takes a political hit from his own side, and still pays a price on the right by giving them another bite at the wedge issue. If I were in Obama's shoes, the cold blooded political calculation is "OK, I'm going to do absolutely nothing until I get my major initiatives done. If they can get a bill sponsored and passed than I will sign. But since making even a modest conciliatory gesture just gets people more pissed at me, and buys me nothing, screw it."

Nice advocacy folks. I guess you aren't suffering enough yet, because your own precious feelings are still more important to you than getting things done. Go back and watch Eyes on the Prize to see how an effective civil rights movement gets things done. I also recommend reading how Lincoln and the abolitionists got along.

Mind you, I am not saying either "shut up and eat it" or "All Praise Dear Leader!" Bottom line is GLBT is getting the same treatment civil rights got under FDR, and for similar reasons -- cold blooded political calculus that puts your needs last. Heck, it's why FDR screwed over refugees in WWII and sent thousands of Jews back to their death. The Cold Equations hold in politics as elsewhere. The challenge is how to respond that furthers the goals of the movement.

That's not easy. But it does require some basic understanding that you get what you reward.