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Hullabaloo


Friday, June 27, 2014

 
Knowing who your friends are

by digby

Many of us were sorely disappointed this week to see the Human Rights Campaign endorse Republican Senator Susan Collins who has a stalwart supporter of gay rights opposing her for office, Shenna Bellows.(She's not just a supporter but an accomplished organizer who helped get marriage equality passed by referendum in Maine.) Collins, on the other hand, only belatedly decided a couple of days ago that it was ok for gay people to marry after all.

Here's Howie Klein a past recipient of one of HRC's highest awards:
I heard about HRC endorsing Susan Collins again a few hours ago. It seems to have surprised a lot of people. It would have surprised me if they hadn't. Susan Collins and HRC are made for each other. Don't they always. Last time, in fact, was the same year they chose not to endorse Tammy Baldwin's congressional election, the same year I removed them from my will. I dug this up from a post I wrote this just over 8 years ago, May 30, 2006:
Because I was lucky enough to have had something of a reputation as an enlightened corporate leader for several years, my mantle is filled with awards from progressive public advocacy groups like the ACLU, GLAAD, People For the American Way and HRC. Actually my mantle used to have an HRC award on it. But a little over a week ago HRC endorsed Lieberman over clear, enlightened, unambiguously progressive and pro-gay Ned Lamont. So I took the award down and put it in a box where no one-- including, or especially, myself-- will see it.

In 1997 I had been so proud to accept HRC's Leadership Equality Award "for outstanding corporate leadership and dedication to the gay and lesbian community." My mother and my grandmother were kvelling and my boss, the Chairman of Warner Bros, was beaming at my side when I went up to make my speech. Last week I thought about calling friends and family over and having a smashing-up ceremony but I decided to just wait and see if HRC changes and gravitates more towards their roots as real agents for change and leaves the severely compromised kiss-up politics that pervades the sick, sick system Inside the Beltway to others. I'm not overly optimistic. HRC's fancy new 8-story building symbolizes their institutional self-perpetuating role inside that insider game.
[...]
Two years later, I found that award and chopped it up with an axe when HRC endorsed Susan Collins in her race against Tom Allen. Inside the crazy world known as "Inside-the-Beltway," Collins was deemed to be "good... for a Republican" on gay issues. Rep. Allen was perfect on gay issues as a human being and as a Democrat.
So, this is nothing new. It's actually indicative of a certain strain among liberal institutions in Washington which seem to crave bipartisanship for its own sake, even when it's unnecessary and will make them no allies for the causes they espouse. (And it's not just gay organizations --- NARAL, among others, has done the same.)

Conservative organizations rarely do this. Imagine an anti-gay marriage group endorsing a Democrat who merely uttered a few words indicating that she might not be fully on board (while voting with the Party down the line) over a true believer. It wouldn't happen because their donors and supporters would be appalled.

This article proves once and for all that progressives should know up front that they will not necessarily be rewarded for championing basic human rights against people who want to deny them:
It was a slap in the face.” Steven Levine is remembering that day in 2006 when President George W. Bush took the stage in a small-town school gym in Indiana. It was October 28, right before the midterm elections, and Levine was a 22-year-old White House advance aide. He’d been camped out in Sellersburg all week, working to get the details just right for Bush’s campaign rally. The flags hung just so, the big presidential seal on the podium. Then Bush started talking, his standard stump speech about taxes and supporting the troops. But a new applause line took Levine by surprise. “Just this week in New Jersey,” the president said, “another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman, and should be defended. I will continue to appoint judges who strictly interpret the law and not legislate from the bench.”
The crowd loved it. Levine was crushed.

He was gay and working for a Republican and convinced it was possible to be both at the same time.

Like dozens of other gay colleagues in the Bush White House, many of them closeted, Levine had been sure that Bush himself was personally tolerant even if the GOP was not—and uncomfortable with gay-bashing as a way to win elections. But this was a rebuff, and it was hard not to take it personally: “To be working extraordinarily hard with all of your energy, working through many nights for somebody that you believe in, and to hear that person that you work so hard for come out against something that you are.”

Levine knew, of course, that Bush had officially backed the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposed amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. But this was also the president who had made combating AIDS in Africa a personal cause (later, at Levine’s urging, he would even decorate the White House North Portico with a giant red ribbon to mark World AIDS Day), who had met with previously ostracized gay Republican leaders and whose hard-line conservative vice president had an openly gay daughter. And besides, opposing gay marriage just “wasn’t a centerpiece of the campaign to date,” Levine recalled when we talked recently. “So it wasn’t something that I was expecting to have been sort of his rallying cry at that event.” 
Afterward, Levine made what small protest he could, telling his bosses he refused to work advance for future campaign events. Back in Washington, Levine says, “I told the folks in the [White House] advance office that I couldn’t do that anymore. … I told them why. These are my friends.”

“That was sort of my quiet way of objecting,” Levine recalls.
***
Levine stayed with Bush right up until the president hopped into the armored presidential limo for the ride to Barack Obama’s inauguration 27 months later. As the taillights disappeared down Pennsylvania Avenue, Levine left town. A few months later, one of his gay friends who had also worked in the White House sat down in front of Facebook and counted the Bush White House staffers he knew to be gay. He came up with at least 70 (only two of them women).
That's just depressing ...

The good news is that fighting for civil rights and civil liberties for everyone is its own reward. But there are lots of places to put your money and your time to that end. It's worth it to find those who have a holistic belief in the betterment of human kind in all respects.

Support Shenna Bellows. She's one of those people.

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