Friday, July 23, 2004

A Better Pie for Everyone

I strongly believe that GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender)Rights will be the political issue for our generation that the Civil Rights movement was to our parent and grandparents. I also believe down the road it will be the litmus test for politicians: were you on the right side of the issue from the start, or did you pander to your anti-civil rights voters and them jump on the bandwagon once the issue started gaining in popularity?

I've been thinking about this because of what Carlton wrote in his "values" post earlier this week:
Many blacks maintain conservative views on social issues due to their strong connection to the Church.
Let's look at the powder keg behind that one little sentence.

Regardless of what the Democrats actually *do* for African Americans (which is a whole other worthwhile discussion, and one I'm looking forward to Kara and others posting on), African Americans are a key constituency in the Democratic base vote.

Conventional wisdom dictates that a Democrat in a contested election needs to carry their precincts with high African American populations in order to carry the vote.

Conventional wisdom likewise dictates that African Americans are social conservatives, and will not support GLBT issues.

Which means that Democrats with a large number of African American constituents *believe,* rightly or wrongly, that if they support GLBT civil rights, they will lose the African American vote...and lose their election.

In other words, we have a problem.

1. Where else can the GLBT community turn?
We've already written off the Log Cabin Republicans, so all that leaves are the Greens. Could GLBT civil rights be the issue that galvanizes the Green Party and pushes them onto the national political scene as a viable third party? Even my crystal ball can't get a good read on this, but my guess is that while this is a long shot, the issues at play are so important and so powerful, that it is at least a remote possibility. And a scary possibility, because we really want all of the Greens as well as the GLBT community to come home to the Democrats and help us re-invent the party from the inside.

2. If the Democrats support GLBT issues, where will our African American voters turn?
The Republicans have been courting them for years--courting them in the same lip-service way, mind you, that they court women and Arab Americans. Will they fall for it? Or will they just stay home? Keep in mind that the Republicans have at the same time been *actively* campaigning to suppress the African American vote, and we're not just talking about Florida. Hit a man or woman with a stick enough times...and eventually they will stop doing whatever it was they think brought on the stick. Behavior modification 101.

3. How do we reframe the debate?
The solution to me, for the Democrats, the GLBT community, and for African Americans, is to start a dialogue towards demonstrating that this really is the civil rights movement revisited. Part of how Republicans succeed is their divide and conquer strategy of driving wedge issues to fracture the country and alienate natural allies--there is a belief here that there are only so many civil rights and only so much success to go around, and every new group needs to hold onto their own little piece before someone else takes it away. This view obviously ignores the fundamental truth that we sink or swim together, and that so long as one of us is not free, none of us are free.

One of my favorite definitions of feminism has always been that feminists don't want a bigger piece of the pie, we want to make a better pie for everyone. How can we reframe the newest civil rights battle in this way?

And folks, I'm not asking rhetorically: I want to know, and I want to know what you think.
  • How aware are your peers of GLBT issues?
  • Is anyone you know talking about Virginiai's House Bill 751?
  • How do we get support for GLBT struggles from African American Community?
  • And how do we make it "politically safe" for Democrats to give the GLBT community the support they deserve?

  • The burden for change and the moral responsibility will weigh most heavily on the shoulders of our generation. Let's get talking and brainstorming.