Monday, June 16, 2008

2004 Redux?

“I'm getting married in the morning!
Ding dong! The bells are gonna chime.
Pull out the stopper! Let's have a whopper!
But get me to the church on time!” Get Me To The Church On Time, Alan Jay Lerner from My Fair Lady

Today’s the big day, and people are lining up all over California. This, June 15, 2008, is the day marriage became legal for same-sex couples. Unlike Massachusetts, this ruling works for anyone who’s a resident or non-resident. As a result, gay and lesbian couples from all over the country are flocking to the Golden State to tie the knot. For many, it’s a dream come true.

As a result, it’s also very big news as well. Maybe too big.

It’s hard to be the wet blanket, but I see some distinct parallels between now and 2003-2004 and another presidential campaign season. In 2004, it seemed there was no possible way Kerry or Democrats could lose. The war in Iraq was quickly becoming a major scandal, there were major scandals brewing with the outing of Valerie Plame and cover-up of it, and there was Republican hubris and at that point, the economy was sluggish, Tom DeLay’s redistricting of Texas, and only rumored, yet-to-be-uncovered scandals of GOPpers in both houses of Congress and beyond. Of course who could forget hurricanes Katrina and Rita!

Even though the same-sex marriage decision (as well as the sodomy case in Texas) had happened well before the primary campaign season, barely a word was breathed from the religiopolitical right. It was almost as if they’d lost their stamina and given in.

It seemed that there was no way Republicans would retake the White House, and would likely lose at least one house of Congress. So it seemed ….

In retrospect, we now know what happened. Bush retook the White House and Congress tilted even more to the neo-conservative side, with a hubris-fest about to occur. On election day, nobody knew what hit us.

To be sure, there are a number of reasons the election went conservative. But one thing unseen, the religiopolitical/conservative values groundswell, was bubbling under while none of us paid attention. Rove was a mastermind at getting them organized and keeping them stealth. Out of George W. Bush’s 54% of the vote, fully half – 27% – cited “values” on exit polls as to why they were voting. Add that to the neo-cons and corporate tycoon set, along with the beer-addled red-meat bubbas (none of whom would vote Democrat), and you had a victory.

Along with the bloodbath at the polls, no less than 12 states also enacted statewide legislation declaring marriage between a man and woman. It didn’t escape the transgender community. Transsexuals around the country who had legally married in their states where no legislation previously existed suddenly found legislation throwing their marital future into the dumpster.

This followed a rather high-profile push by the gay and lesbian community, who after their very first legal victory instantaneously formed multiple organizations, furiously raised funds and rearranged the theretofore political agenda. One year before, it wasn’t even on the radar, next year it was moved to the top issue. It even became an issue with the Kerry campaign when he wouldn’t endorse it and the gay and lesbian community was up in arms.

It reminds me of a luncheon I attended in 1998 with the special guest, Elizabeth Birch. I questioned her on ENDA during the lunch, and she wiggled the best answer she could (uncomfortable as the subject made her). Her plea was to have patience, [HRC] was trying, and they had to take lead as “we’ve (gay and lesbians) made so much progress so far, and we don’t want to jeopardize the good work we’ve done” on ENDA and other legislation. The upshot: trans people couldn’t be the visible voice on ENDA, and what gains had been made were achieved by the gay and lesbian lobbyists or successful employees in the workplaces. Our desire for our voice being heard, as per Birch, was “politically unrealistic”

While I knew the urgency for employment was more pressing from the trans side, Birch’s logic was not out of line. They had made a lot of strides, and there was possibility (if we were the visible face of the movement) that it could damage that progress. It sounds a bit incremental, but her answer was not addressing legislation in incremental parts – at least not to me in front of that supportive audience back in ’98.

Fast forward five years later. Marriage is something the trans community has had a modicum of success with – even state legislation (although not pushed by trans people) on marriage. The gay and lesbian community should’ve known marriage stood the best chance if approached by trans and intersex Americans. We already had the progress, and the right-wing’s arguments could’ve been eroded and eventually passed due to the sheer logic of it.

Yet the gay and lesbian community had no problems putting themselves in the drivers seat, not even asking trans opinions on the subject and completely oblivious to the damage they were doing to marriage – for them and for trans – around most of the country. We may be “politically unrealistic” to some, but even transgenders knew better than to push this during a crucial election cycle in 2004.

To that end, I’ve noticed that some of the Republicans are starting to make gains, or extend their gains over solid Democratic candidates. Our senatorial candidate Rick Noriega had been running a close race with incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (D-TX). Yesterday a poll released new numbers showing Cornyn had opened a 17% lead. It’s inexplicable, considering the economy tanking, the hardships, the war, and their never-ending scandals. What could be stirring folks on McCain (who’s not the darling of the religiopolitical set)? Values?

"Oh no!!! Why, why, why ...?" — Mr. Bill

Well 2004 should’ve been a lesson. However the high profile of California, and the additional prominence of the same questions during HRC / LOGO channels presidential debates really leads me to conclude that they didn’t learn.

What’s worse, this doesn’t just affect same-sex marriage. If we lose the election the way things fell out in 2004, the ramifications are dire. We’re in the worst economy we’ve seen since the stagflation days of the 70’s, and quite possibly worse. The planet’s showing some sincere strain, ecologically speaking. The wars we have are enough, but conservatives are eyeing Iran as their next pre-emptive target. And the overwhelming majority of this country (outside of GLBT) feel voiceless, used, stressed to the max and are facing some dire life changes.

This is not an election cycle to piddle around with. Yes, McCain and the GOP looks like they’re on the ropes. But we’ve seen this before. The last thing I want to see is a repeat of ’04.

For once, let’s hope the gay and lesbian leadership starts following some of their own advice to the transgender community all these years: Don’t be “politically unrealistic.”

“I've always said that in politics, your enemies can't hurt you, but your friends will kill you.” — Gov. Ann Richards

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, I thought You'd appreciate the lead. -=cliff