Phil Reese

I'm sorry I'm the reason you didn't vote

Filed By Phil Reese | November 08, 2010 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

I really didn't think I was being all that nuanced.

democrats-spot-a-backbone.jpgI was, am and will be critical of crummy work, laziness and poor outcomes. I can't help it. My parents were whip-crackers. As a child, if I promised to do something, and didn't do it, I would be up a creek. A creek made of poo. If I did something poorly--for example, mowing the lawn, but made it look like a one-legged drunk blind man was at the helm of the mower--I would have to do it over again.

Apparently this was not the work ethic that many in Washington were raised with.

But let's look again at this word I used. "Many." What does it mean? Does it mean all? Does it mean none? No. It means some but not all.

LGBT turnout at the polls was abysmal this year. Moreover, the party that can usually count on an endless cornucopia of queer votes, kissed many of those supporters goodbye.

I'm sorry if those posts where I held the leadership accountable and pointed out the mistakes our elected officials were making could be interpreted as blanket statements about the party, about the progress we've made and about voting. That was stupid.

On both our parts.

I knew there was a communication breakdown via Facebook as the election approached. I have many many friends on Facebook, and many were getting fired up and preparing for the election--as was I. Some of that preparing meant pushing for action on the LGBT promises that DC leadership had made but not yet kept. That was good.

At some point, however, it became quite obvious to me that many of my friends had very simplified versions of the problem. It was black and white.


Well, you see, its not quite as simple as all that, is it. However, perhaps it was my responsibility, as a writer, to really flesh that out more. Instead, I thought we could be intelligent. I thought we could understand the shades of gray here. Not all Democrats had let us down on the hill by any means. In fact, there were plenty up there that were putting a quite disproportionate amount of time into trying to push our agenda.

Of course, this being an uphill battle, and this being Washington, these efforts got little traction. Efforts by true allies like Patrick Murphy, Jarrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Ellen Tauscher, Russ Feingold and Joe Sestak.

The general idea was: hold the leadership accountable so they pick up more slack, and help push these things the rest of the way.

It's complicated

I wasn't clear enough, however. Many of my peers, caught up in their anger, began placing hexes on the Democrats. All Democrats were fair game in this demonization--Democrats who had done the right things and voted the right way like Phil Hare, Bill Foster, and on and on. All Democrats were suddenly the enemy.

In the weeks leading up to the election, I could see the writing on the wall. The LGBT community was, by and large, uninterested in saving the Democratic Party from an epic loss, albeit one brought on by the party leadership's general bobbling and bumbling on a number of fronts. I began to panic and try to give my peers more to think about than the black and white "DEMS GOT TO GO, DEMS BAD!"

But the effort was too late. The damage was done: we bloggers, in an effort to galvanize our readers into action, had galvanized many in the opposite directions--believing in a vast Democratic conspiracy to keep us down a large group stayed home and felt justified in doing so based on the words I had written, things I had said. So allies like Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy, Phil Hare, Bill Foster and Russ Feingold are going home, despite their best efforts on our behalf.

Punished by the sins of their leadership, who are, consequently, still going back to Washington in January.

I don't think that LGBT folks staying home are the only reason for a lot of these losses, but I know these same conversations were happening in other Progressive niches as well: from immigration reform activist circles to environmentalist groups. Collectively progressives stayed home. And a big part of that progressive coalition are the LGBT voters. We can't ignore the fact we had something to do with it.

"But Phil," you ask, "How can you ask me to go back and vote for party that let me down?"

Aye. There's the rub. The party didn't let you down. This particular incarnation of the party leadership let you down. However, you can't vote on the leadership. You can't vote on the party. You can only vote on the candidates, so sticking it to them made many folks feel like they were sticking it to the real culprits.

However, that's not how it works.


There was a huge down-ticket effect as well. All over the nation Democratic legislatures were replaced with Republican and Democratic governors were replaced by Republican, in this redistricting year. So progressives have not only now lost any chance of passing progressive legislation in the House of Representatives for the next two years; things may end up so badly gerrymandered that we won't see progressives have much of a say in anything in either federal chamber for years to come.

Not to mention that with a Presidential election on the horizon with Republicans hungry to take the White House back there's no doubt Rove-esque strategies will be used to add scary anti-gay ballot measures to the ticket to draw out crazy hermit conservatives that only come out to vote if their vote makes someone else's life miserable. Some of these ballot measures might have a tougher time getting on the ballot with Democratic AGs and legislatures. However, now that the nation's state legislatures and top spots are practically one big red dot, you can bet you'll be seeing something.

Oh, think your state is immune because you've already got a marriage amendment? What about ballot measures overturning employment protections, or outlawing adoption, or ending GSAs for high schoolers. I bet with enough time, the right can cook up plenty of ways to put us uppity queers back in our place.

If you took what I wrote criticizing the leadership as a call to boycott progressive candidates or not vote, then I'm sorry. That doesn't mean I shouldn't have wrote all I wrote, or that I will stop, at any time, holding the leadership responsible. I'm not a party patsy. I may wish for the electoral success of the progressive wing of the Democratic party, but that doesn't mean I'm going to slant my coverage of the party's misdoings in their favor, ignore blatant slip-ups or zip my lips when it might make the party look bad.

It only means I need you to be a more critical reader. I need you to understand when I criticize leadership for another fumble, I'm not endorsing the opposite party, I'm not telling you to boycott the election. I'm just trying to shine a light, that's all.

Maybe I'm giving myself too much credit. After all, I wasn't the only outspoken critical blogger. My efforts to galvanize voters in the weeks before the election were met with silence. Maybe it wasn't even me in the first place. After all, I have no idea if anyone even reads these posts at all!

But if anything I said may have swayed you not to vote, I apologize deeply for causing you to do something so terribly irresponsible.

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I appreciate your explanation (again), but I must take exception with this idea that we (or any other group) can punish politicians. Politics in America is limited to about one-third of the adult population and two-thirds simply don't waste their time. It's a game - an unfair and unreliable game.

The two-team, "right and wrong" dynamic is hurting our community more than it is hurting Democrats. We are being used as a polarizing "issue" and that will continue until we work together and rise above "politics" and take our struggle directly to the "people." We need people to stand with us for one simple issue: equality. That simple human principle shouldn't be compromised or negotiated because of political party, religious persuasion or other beliefs.

I think we need to extract ourselves from the ongoing (and un-winnable) political argument(s). If we focus on one issue we can effectively educate, enlighten and enroll. We have gone from demonizing Republicans to demonizing Democrats. What's next Independents?

We need people to join us and stand with us - to accomplish that conversation always beats confrontation.

I'll just point out that we don't know that LGBT people voted Republican any more than any other year and that even if they did we don't know why that was. I think that's important now since The Advocate seems to have taken the election results to mean "GOProud and LCR are in charge now." Now whether LGBT Democrats stayed home is another question, and it probably true that they did more than in 2008. Then again, so did straight Dems. Whether we did more than straight Dems did is another unknown.

What we do know is that midterms usually see losses for the president's party, and this one was no exception. Lots of those really excited voters Obama got out to the polls in 2008 were there for one reason, Obama, and weren't going to come back in 2010 no matter what the Dems did. According to certain models, that accounts for about 3/4 Dems who lost their House seats. The other quarter might be gerrymandering from 2000, bad Democratic campaigning, the Dems not defending their own policies, the economy that hasn't magically recovered (someone should have told the Dems that they couldn't leave that to chance), etc. LGBT legislation is probably a reason for some people, but I'm doubting it accounted for much.

Sorry Alex but I disagree with you. Many of those voters came out in 2008 and voted for him because of what he claimed to stand for. He gave many great speeches and many of us were taken in by them. I was no fan of Hillary and when I heard President Obama speak I felt like he was the right man for the job. For one of the first times I was excited about voting for someone instead of voting because someone was a little better than the other. Than as many of watched the 2008 election results and saw Democrats getting huge majorities we thought finally.
Then reality set in. President Obama proved to be a great speech giver but not so much on leading. The signs were early especially within the GLBT community. Having Rick Warren at the inauguration and throwing Bishop Robinson in at the last second to appease the GLBT community the writing was on the all. If President Obama had been the leader candidate Obama had promised to be the base would have been energized. Instead we saw him and the Democrats back down time and time again. I still think we would have had losses but not the bleeding that happened this time.
It takes a lot to deflate me and make me angry but this has done it. I didn't vote Republican and in races where the Democrat was a trur progressive I voted for them. Where they weren't I voted 3rd party or wrote a name in. I am sick of the Democrats thinking they get my vote automatically.

I couldn't have said it better.

Obama gave you "hope." Kinda sucks to find out that politicians never actually deliver.

That's politics. You ONLY get "hope."

Gays continually support Democratic candidates simply because they say they are our friends. All the "red flags" are clearly present to indicate that these individuals are not supportive of the Gay community.

They attend churches which are extremely
anti-Gay, surround themselves with their bigoted ministers or pastors yet Gays will mindlessly support them.

I agree with you Tim. I was taken in by Obama and should have known better. He is, after all, a Chicago politician. I like him and his policies but he had no executive experience. He had slight experience as a U.S. Senator. He surrounded himself with Chicago politicians, not a good sign. He was concerned with long term solutions and the big picture, which is a good thing. But he and his team were too elitist too aloof from the average person in need of a job now, or just hoping to keep their job. He's proved to be a poor leader. I'm all for bi-partisanship, he said he was but he didn't follow through. Even with large majorities most initiatives were watered down. Being from Illinois I couldn't stomach voting for our corrupt and incompetent Dem or GOP candidates any longer. I voted Green for all state and federal offices. Far from perfect but probably not corrupt. Just tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. Would have love to have been able to vote for Feingold and others, alas we had Giannoulias and Quinn.

Your post kind of infuriates /disgusts me. Stop helping the Dems toss the blame on the GLBT community for their losses. If the Dems wanted to win so badly they could have done more to ensure that. If GLBT voters happened to be so angry that they decided to write in, vote independent, or not vote, well, that's their right too.

I went out and voted, and I voted Dem b/c the Dems in my area deserved my vote - but if they hadn't? I'd have been writing in someone I think Did.

It's bad enough when the President tries to scapegoat our community and toss blame at our feet. It's another thing entirely when it's coming from our own community.

Spend more time writing articles showing us all the lovely wonderful things that Dems across the country are doing for us - turn your pen (keyboard) to the positive things that should garner our votes, and you wouldn't feel so guilty that you need to blame your own community.

One thing that stands out to me. You said that "many" Democratic politicians sucked on our issues. "Many" of them (especially the Blue Dog caucus) got voted out of office.

The loss of true progressives like Russ Feingold and Patrick Murphy is a huge blow to LGBT rights. But the removal of some of those Blue Dogs put us in a better position.

After 38 years as a Dem. I felt my vote was being used to support programs, which I didn’t support. I searched around the landscape & registered Libertarian. It was difficult at first. “Your 3rd party vote will allow a Rep. to win,” etc. etc. As elections came & went I became more comfortable as a 3rd party Gay man. I watched in horror as one insane social program or another environmental program became the leading Dem platform. Little or no consideration was being given to the costs of these hair brained politically correct laws. I found comfort in being a Libertarian as the dems found a new cash cow in the smoking tax. I smoke and pay about $100 per month in cigarette tax. I recently retired and sold my heat & air conditioning business just as it was socialized due to the hyped horrors of FREON. At 70 I’m still Gay- just not a party voter.