Where We Went Wrong

As a gay black North Carolinian, I decided to support John Edwards when Barack Obama decided to let self-hating "ex"-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin emcee one of his campaign concerts. Such previously highly-connected gay activists as David Mixner also took the progressive candidate seriously.

But this is some insight into why that didn't work out. There was apparently more going on than that. This is a relevant report from from the perspective of two highly-connected southern-California gay fundraisers.

http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/obamas -gay-gold-mine/18247/?page=1

Obama's Gay Gold Mine

Excerpts below the fold.

Obama's Gay Gold Mine

By PATRICK RANGE MCDONALD

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 5:58 pm
Jeremy Bernard thinks he has been sucked into a time warp.
Only five months ago, he was sitting shoulder to shoulder with
U.S. Senator Barack Obama in the back of a black SUV, speeding
through West Hollywood on Santa Monica Boulevard, talking about
the fine points of gay and lesbian federal legislation. An hour
later, the Democratic presidential candidate was hitting every
detail they had discussed in the car, but this time on network
television.  For Bernard, it was mind-blowing. The key fund-
raiser for the Obama campaign was seeing his issues dramatically
migrate from a personal chat to the national stage.

The money men: Jeremy Bernard  and Rufus Gifford are lovers and
business partners. They are also the fund-raisers who keep the
Barack Obama presidential campaign alive and competitive.

This doesn't exactly jibe with Sen.Obama's reported refusal to even be in the same room with, or have his picture taken with, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, who is not even gay. Mayor Newsom simply supported gay marriage. It's one thing to say you can't go that far; it's quite another to refuse to even be photographed with someone who does. But these fundraisers continue to insist they picked the right side:

...[T]wo days before the Nevada Democratic caucus on January
19, Bernard is stuck inside the Caramel Lounge at the Bellagio
Hotel in Las Vegas, attending a gay social mixer disguised as a
political event. Jean Smart, the blond actress from the 1980s TV
show Designing Women, begs the three dozen or so gays in the room
to vote for U.S. Senator John Edwards.

"He's made it be known that he's not comfortable with gay
marriage," she tells the boys, "but he's such a great leader, and
he's very passionate."

Bernard stands there, staring at Smart and grinding his teeth.
The Human Rights Campaign, one of the most high-profile
gay-rights groups in the country and host of the mixer, has
invited celebrities to pitch their favorite candidates. No star
shows up to back Hillary Clinton, but an actress from Grey's
Anatomy is there for Obama. Bernard sees it as amateur hour -- an
insulting and embarrassing reminder of the old guard, or Old Gay,
approach to politics.

Straight celebrities to woo the gay vote in 2008? It's as if time
had suddenly reverted back to 1992, when Bernard worked on Bill
Clinton's presidential campaign. Everything was so different
during the other Clinton's run. It was nothing like today, with
candidates talking about same-sex marriage and truly ending the
ban on gays serving in the military. Just to be publicly
recognized and embraced by an Arkansas governor soon to be
president was cause enough for celebration. But now the political
landscape had changed. All of the Democratic candidates sought
the queer vote, and maybe more importantly, gays are a source of
millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

It's going through Bernard's mind that these things mean power and influence, and gays need to deliver their vote to build upon that power and influence -- not waste time on the Strip 48 hours before the Nevada caucus listening to an actress.

Then Edwards' campaign manager takes the floor in the low light of the Caramel Lounge. Naturally, the well-connected Bernard knows him -- former Congressman David Bonior of Michigan. Now things seem to be going somewhere. Someone substantive has finally shown on the scene.

Bernard, a compact and young-looking man in his early 40s, stands at full attention, waiting to hear the official word from the serious political flank in the Edwards camp. "That's why the Equality Rights Campaign is so important," Bonior says, getting the name of the organization embarrassingly wrong. Bernard looks around the room to see if other people heard what he heard. No one reacts. A few moments later, Bonior says "Equality Rights Campaign" again. Bernard can't believe it, and neither can a few other people. Even if few voters have heard of the HRC, to active gays, it's like seeing a top political consultant of the 1970s or '80s mangle the name of the vanquished Equal Rights Amendment pushed by women's groups of that era. Someone yells out, "Human Rights Campaign!" Bonior apologizes, but it's weird. Not the political depth Bernard expected from Edwards' people. More amateur hour.

Then Bonior flubs it again. He declares that John Edwards isn't for "that Ryan White military thing." What? Bernard is angry but also insulted. Other people are muttering. What's this guy talking about? Ryan White? That's federal AIDS funding. We certainly hope you're in favor of that. And the military thing? That's got nothing to do with young AIDS victim Ryan White, who died in 1990 and had been befriended by Elton John. The military thing is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," former Congressman Bonior. You know, the "thing" that's been used to discharge tens of thousands of gays from the military over the past 15 years? Maybe you should take a seat before you embarrass yourself further -- which Bonior soon does, but not before saying "Equality Rights Campaign" for the third time.

Bernard is visibly grinding his teeth again. But in another part of the room, his lover and business partner, Rufus Gifford, sits at the bar, talking to Hollywood überagent Ari Emanuel over an iPhone and ignoring the bumbling Bonior and the celebrity speakers. Gifford is focused entirely on setting up another big-money, high-profile fund-raiser for Obama before the February 5 primary in California and 21 other states.

Well, that's sort of it, in a nutshell. One candidate is willing to exploit our fundraisers while publicly dissing us in front of the black religious community, which is the audience MOST in need of being"told what it doesn't want to hear" about this issue. The other means well but is so socially uncomfortable around us that even his national chair doesn't KNOW anyone who could've told him the name of our BIGGEST (though certainly NOT best) organization. I don't know what it's going to take to fix any of this but we certainly need more publicity about just how bad it is to start with.

Tags: Edwards, LGBT, obama (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

this goes beyond fair use

Just post a link and an excerpt of a few paragraphs, please.

Interesting article, though.

by desmoinesdem 2008-02-04 02:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Where We Went Wrong

I just want to second what desmoinesdem said. I find this article very interesting, and I would be happy to recommend it. However, in its current form, the diary violates the fair use standards required by MyDD. Basically, just excerpt the most pertinent parts of the article, and we can read the rest by clicking your link.

Again, though, thanks for bringing this article to our attention.

by DPW 2008-02-04 02:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Where We Went Wrong

So these are the "new gays," huh?  Well- I don't like them.

by reasonwarrior 2008-02-04 02:49PM | 0 recs

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