I hadn’t written on this, and I didn’t anticipate I was going to, because it seemed like the greater netroots (and some of the gay blogs) had been doing a good job of explaining why, though many of us are demoralized by broken promises from the Obama administration, it’s important that we exercise our franchise in the special election in Massachusetts to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat. But I’ve also noticed a few dissenting voices, and I’m finding their arguments to be short-sighted at best. I’m going to get this out of the way on the front end: Martha Coakley sucks. She just does. There’s no way to get around it. Also? I fervently agree that, as LGBT Americans, the Obama administration has, so far, given us the shaft on a lot of his campaign promises. But, for two major reasons, this is not the time to try to make a political point by staying home on Tuesday:
1. Scott Brown is worse, and
2. The Senate is the most undemocratic legislative body on Planet Earth, and this is simply not a time we can afford to lose that 60th vote.
Let’s break it down:
1. Scott Brown is worse. So much worse.
We’ve all had a laugh at his nakey pictures from the early 90’s. (If you haven’t, go do that right now!) But the fact of the matter is that it’s a bit hard to gage exactly how much of a wingnut Brown really is. Of course, the usual gay Republican suspects are falling all over themselves to defend him, but they’ll defend anyone who hasn’t recently been videotaped gay-bashing anyone, so they’re not much help. But you know who else is falling all over themselves defending Brown? Not only the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), but also Southern Poverty Law Center-certified hate group MassResistance, which is urging a vote for Scott Brown in opposition to Martha Coakley’s support of the “radical homosexual/transgender agenda.” Another group backing Brown, the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) has close ties to another SPLC-certified hate group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Now, on the issues, what does Scott Brown himself have to say? His positions on the issues* aren’t always entirely clear, and that’s the problem. I haven’t seen a politician hedge like Brown in quite a while**, as he seems to want to be everything for everyone.
Scott Brown says that the matter of marriage in Massachusetts is “settled law,” which is the kind of non-answer one should expect from a politician like Brown. He studiously ignores questioning from gay journalists on issues that affect our families, apparently not wanting to go on record either way, in an effort to appease both the teabaggers and hate groups who adore him and moderate-to-liberal minded Massachusetts voters who are simply unsatisfied with the status quo. But again, anti-gay hate groups (both SPLC-designated and those which are but just haven’t been recognized yet) are foaming at the mouth in his defense, so that could be a serious clue as to his privately held beliefs, and thus the way he would vote on matters like DOMA. Let’s also remember that, unlike the Democratic Party, today’s GOP is a cesspit of groupthink. They stick together and they vote together. Here’s more of Scott Brown’s record on LGBT issues, as compared with Martha Coakley:
-He voted over 25 times against marriage equality, even when 3/4 of our legislature and many MA Republican legislators stood with us.
– He doesn’t support the Transgender Civil Rights & Hate Crimes bill
– He opposes repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”
– He opposes repealing the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA)
– He has ridiculed LGBT parents as inadequate
– He supported anti-gay policies of George W Bush & Mitt Romney
Martha Coakley’ record on LGBT issues is the opposite of Brown’. Coakley has stood up for the LGBT community at every opportunity:
-Coakley filed the first national lawsuit against the federal DOMA
-Coakley supports repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”
– Coakley supports passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA)
-Coakley supports Transgender Rights
-Coakley supports repealing the federal DOMA
-Coakley supports across-the-board equality for LGBT families
There are other clues as to Brown’s character and his true beliefs. One incident in 2001 rings out like an alarm bell that behind his coiffed, naked figure lies the black heart of a Jim DeMint style wingnut:
One month after the September 11th attacks, Scott Brown was one of only three Massachusetts State Representatives to vote against a bill to provide financial assistance to Red Cross workers who had volunteered with 9/11 recovery efforts, we’ve learned.
The Brown campaign acknowledged the vote to us, claiming the measure would have taxed already-strained state finances.
The 9/11 attacks flared as an issue in the Massachusetts race today. The NRSC sharply criticized Democrat Martha Coaxley over a DSCC ad, first reported by Politico, that flashed an image of the Twin Towers. Rudy Giuliani, who stumped for Brown today, also slammed Coakley over the ad, saying it was “unthinkable” and “offensive.”
On October 17th, 2001, Brown voted against a bill that would authorize “leaves of absence for certain Red Cross employees participating in Red Cross emergencies.” The bill gave 15 days of paid leave each year to state workers called up by the Red Cross to respond to disasters. At the time, state workers called for such emergencies were required to use sick and vacation days.
The bill was initially filed before 9/11, and after the attacks, it was made retroactive to 9/11, covering the time spent by state workers who’d assisted with 9/11 recovery work for the Red Cross. Brown’ vote against the measure came a little more than a month after the attack.
Wow! Now, if you’re inclined to think he’s simply a doctrinaire fiscal conservative, it’s helpful to point out that at the same time as that vote, he was also pushing for a taxpayer funded golf course in his district. Priorities!
Brown is also Wall Street’s clear choice, as he opposes Obama’s tax on the big banks which we taxpayers have been supporting, one of the clearest populist moves we’ve seen from the administration. The teabaggers think they’re populists, but let’s be honest here. They’re basically unpaid, easily led employees of Wall Street, and this is their candidate. And speaking of the teabaggers, it seems that Scott Brown just might be one of them himself:
As Digby said, “Oooooh.” Damning. You couldn’t see it in the Cosmo photo shoot, but it’s fair to say that his Taitz is showing.
For more on Brown’s conservative leanings, read this piece from the Boston Globe. I think it’s safe to say we have an anti-gay teabagging wingnut on our hands, and really, one like that will never be worthy of Ted Kennedy’s seat.
Moving on to the second reason…
2. The United States Senate, as it stands, is the most fundamentally undemocratic body on the planet, and we can’t afford to screw it up even more than it already is.
Here’s where I’m going to be brief. The Senate was set up to be a moderating force to act as a counterpoint to the House. However, Senate rules have been transmogrified and twisted to the point that the body has a really hard time accomplishing a damn thing these days. It should never have been this way, but because of the 60-vote threshold to break filibusters, a minority party with 41 votes is allowed to bring the act of governing to a standstill whenever it wants. Add to that the fact that, unlike the herd-mentality Republicans who run piddling down their legs like Pavlov’s dogs every time one of their leaders rings the bell, the Democratic caucus doesn’t seem to know the meaning of party unity. I’d argue that this has its advantages once in a while, but when it comes to major issues, we’re already dealing with a situation where, due to the petulant “look at me!” protests of Conserva-dems like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieux, and needy baby Joe Lieberman, healthcare reform was very nearly derailed, and the shell of a bill that’s left is essentially a guaranteed welfare payment to Cigna and Blue Cross. And you want to risk legislative action for the LGBT community with a 59-vote Democratic caucus? I mean good lord, we already apparently have to defecate on women to satisfy Ben Nelson, what the hell else would we have to do on huge issues, including ours, in a situation where a minority of forty-one can pull the parking brake on the President’s entire agenda? Seriously, people. If you’re pissed off at the Obama administration for not living up to its campaign promises to the LGBT community, then being lazy and allowing the election of a naked wingnut who will definitely work against us isn’t a strategy of any kind! It’s immature, and it’s stupid.
So what should we do?
Staying home, as I’ve said, is obviously not the answer. Jason Rosenbaum put it this way:
[N]ot voting or voting for a third party because you’re not getting what you want is politically infantile. It’ the equivalent of a spurned child crying out, “I’m taking my toys and going home!” It might feel good, but it doesn’t actually help you achieve your goals, because you’re helping the people you least support. There has been no instance I can think of — not one — where a purer faction of a party sent a message to the party establishment by voting third party and the party establishment listened. Not one. Though there are plenty of examples to the contrary, the Tea Party’ failed run at NY-23 being only the most recent.”
Taking away the 60th seat in the Senate … will only make the administration compromise more, as they’ll now want a Republican on board for everything.
But if staying home and allowing the Democratic super-majority to vanish is not the right response, then what is? Look, I know liberals are demoralized, especially those of us in the LGBT community. Those of us who worked hard to get Barack Obama elected (both those who really thought he was going to change things, and those who simply saw him as the best available option we had had in a long time) did so for concrete reasons, and even though it’s only been a year, it’s been a long year, and we’re justified in feeling like our community has gotten the shaft from this administration. So what’s the answer?
Primary challenges are the answer, for several reasons. For one thing,the media narrative in this country and within the soul-killing Villager mentality, is that this is a center-right nation, and that when Democrats lose, it’s because the nation has rejected liberal values. It does not matter that the Obama administration hasn’t done a damn thing that could truly be considered “liberal,” by any accepted English definition of the word — the stupids think he has, and unfortunately, the stupids set the narrative. That’s just how it is. The only way to give actual liberal values, which are pretty much the only thing that has a chance to set this country back on course, and to truly advance an LGBT legislative agenda, a chance, you have to choose the right targets for primary challenges, you have to find good candidates, and you have to primary them. Digby points out that this is actually a really good political climate for primary challenges from liberals:
We are in the most favorable year for primary challenges in recent memory. The insane teabaggers aren’t going to allow any rational Republicans to run and the anti-incumbent fever is going to be as high as it’s been since 1994. The Democratic base has an energetic activist faction, the netroots can raise money and there is a burning desire to show the party establishment that they cannot take liberals for granted. It’s a perfect environment for successful primary challenges.
And lucky for us, there are some brave progressives already out there taking on incumbents and there very well may be more. This time a few of them may win, and believe me if that happens, the Democratic party will not be able to spin those victories as being a sign that the party needs to move to the right.
Because let’s face it. Given better options, Americans don’t like the Teabaggers. They’re the dumbest of all our citizens, and if they get elected, it’s not going to be because empty wigstands like Sarah Palin suddenly resonate with a majority of the population. It’s going to be because Democrats are demoralized and disappointed and stay home. But put people up who are not incumbents, and who are not teabaggers, and you have a shot to get something done.
So let’s get on that. And let’s vote tomorrow in Massachusetts. Early and often.
“But Martha Coakley sucks!”
Yes, she does. Find a way to deal with it, and go do your duty as a progressive American citizen.
**And by “quite a while,” I mean “since a little while ago, when I was thinking about Harold Ford, Jr.
***Yes, the healthcare reform bill sucks. But I fall squarely into the camp that says, “yes, but it’s better than not doing anything at all.” It will be a lot easier to refine this bill and continue reforming healthcare if this bill is passed.