Bil yesterday attacked GetEqual's latest campaign, accusing it of "attacking friends and ignoring enemies."
What fresh idiocy is this? GetEqual has launched their newest action and this time they're asking the public to vote which politician they should "hold accountable" for Congress' failure to pass ENDA.
Bil doesn't like that they chose to target Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, George Miller and Barney Frank.
These are our friends! says Bil. They're on our side! Why not go after a Republican or a Blue-Dog Democrat?
There's one good reason not to be targeting a Republican or a Blue-Dog Democrat: they are not the ones with the power to move our agenda, and they are not the reason our agenda is failing.
Our Democratic Congressional leaders are the ones with the power to move our agenda, they have totally dropped the ball, and now they want to blame it on the minority party and their inability to control a few rogue Democrats.
I say, give 'em hell, GetEqual!
I first want to point out that I agree with Bil on one point: GetEqual doesn't have a coherent strategy in place, and that is a problem.
At the same time, GetEqual is right in asking that these leaders be "held accountable." It's not saying they're not friendly, or it wants to unseat them, or campaign against them, or that they're evil.
Yes they're our friends. And that's why it's appropriate to hold them accountable.
Holding someone accountable is pointing out where they could do better on keeping their promises and achieving their goals.
Republicans and Blue-Dogs have, as their promises and goals, taking away any rights from us. There's no holding them accountable for gay rights.
Bil suggests there is a problem with asking for accountability from Pelosi, Reid, Frank and Miller:
The problem? They've only picked Democrats who are LGBT supporters as targets; Republican opposition and conservative Blue Dog Dems who actually held up ENDA are given a free pass.
If my friend promises to lend me $5 at the supermarket, and I get to the checkout counter and then he reneges, I hold her accountable by saying "hey, you promised me a fiver, what gives?"
Someone might argue, like Bil, that, hey, what about all the other people who didn't lend you $5, why don't you go attack them?
it's not the same, and it doesn't excuse the first friend who made a promise.
Pelosi, Frank and Miller made promises about ENDA, or at least very strong representations that they were going to back it and move it quickly.
Bil calls this a "blame the victim mentality."
Bil, I love ya but I don't agree. Calling Pelosi, Miller and Frank "victims" assumes they had no power to change the result. And that's not true.
Am I arguing that they had the power to pass ENDA and chose not to use it?
Yes, that is exactly what I am arguing.
I think that they didn't use the power they had to get ENDA passed.
That first occurred when there were rumors of an ENDA slowdown on the Hill in early November of last year.
No one at that point could say there were insufficient votes. There were also many more co-sponsors of ENDA than for many other bills that successfully move through markup, and it was quite clear at that point that there were enough votes.
Re-read my article on the slowdown of ENDA from last November. You'll note in the comments section someone from Barney Frank's office telling me that I was seriously misreading the situation, asking me to calm down, and saying that ENDA was on track for a markup and vote soon.
As it turns out, it was he misreading the situation.
ENDA's scheduled markup was postponed a week later, never to return.
At that point in a bill's life there is no whip count because the language of the bill has not been finalized, so insufficient votes could not logically have been the reason. And as I noted, there appeared to be plenty of votes for ENDA. To the extent that the vote needed a bit more shoring up, and in this Congress every vote needs shoring, it would have made sense to mark up the bill, coordinate with advocates to make a major push on the House votes, and take the vote and move it to the Senate, where there was already a majority in favor of ENDA (though a few more votes were needed that the momentum could have only helped). That would have taken advantage of much momentum in the advocacy community on ENDA.
Instead, what happened? They stopped progress on ENDA. Strong advocacy efforts were stopped dead in their tracks. Some stories from Hill staffers were floated in the LGBT media about how ENDA was dead, with the Senate being wrongfully and hypothetically blamed.
DADT repeal surged ahead.
I believe it is fair to say that, had the momentum on ENDA been continued, and advocacy efforts stepped up, that we could have gotten over the hump. I do not believe that anyone can say with authority that ENDA was really dead at the point it was stopped in the legislative process, or that Pelosi, Miller and Frank could not have garnered enough support to pass it.
There's plenty of blame to go around. But part of the social contract of leadership is that you bear responsibility for your choices. When you choose, as Pelosi, Miller and Frank did, to stop the most important piece of LGBT legislation in its tracks, then it is appropriate to say that was a poor choice.
Now the revisionist story is being floated that there weren't enough votes. But this argument fails to address the fact that stopping the legislation in its tracks blocked it from obtaining those necessary votes.
It's important to hold legislators accountable. Look what happened in 2007, after Representative Frank removed gender identity from ENDA and it passed the House. Lots of gay people applauded -- we passed ENDA, let's not now point a finger at Representative Frank in the hour of his victory.
But 400 LGBT organizations rose up in protest. They held Representative Frank accountable for his poor choice. They made it clear that throwing transgender people under the bus was unacceptable. And what happened? Did the earth open up and swallow those 400 LGBT organizations who held their "friend" accountable?
No, what happened was that Representative Frank recognized the error of his ways, and the 2009 version contained gender identity, and many statements were made by Representative Frank and other Congressional allies that never again would transgender people be left by the wayside on ENDA.
We need that to happen again. But this time, we're not trying to improve ENDA, we're trying to show its importance.
As I have said in the past, I am not mad at Speaker Pelosi, Representative Frank or Representative Miller. They are good people trying to do good work.
But on this one, they missed the ball.
When the coach points out that you dropped the ball, you have two choices. You can get mad at the lousy coach and say how dare she, doesn't she know how hard I am working on catching the ball?
Or you can acknowledge the error, and take the coaching, and become a better player.
Which type of player will Representatives Pelosi, Frank and Miller be?