Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Jobs Bill: Learning From LGBT Rights

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | September 16, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Bob Casey, gay rights, Harry Reid, jobs bill, Jobs for Americans Act, jobs plan, LGBT rights, Mary Landrieu, President Obama

I support President Obama's Jobs bill, not only because it will create jobs, but because it is the most pressing issue faced in this country. If Democrats can't get their act together to pass this bill, it will spell P-R-E-S-I-D-E-N-T P-E-R-R-Y for all those swing voters who are wondering which party is going to get our economy going in the right direction.

But instead of solidly getting behind the bill, some Democratic Congressmembers are balking. Wait, this sounds familiar. Oh I know - it reminds me of the efforts to pass LGBT-related bills last year.

There too, there was wide public support. On ENDA, the hapless Employment Non-Discrimination Act, there were enough votes in the House, and it was very close in the Senate, but no vote was ever taken. Why? Ostensibly, because blue-dog "Democrats" were afraid of its effects on their re-election efforts. In fact, all of the LGBT-related efforts were deemed dead as of September 2010, including DADT repeal, DOMA repeal, UAFA (Uniting American Families Act) and federal worker domestic partner benefits.

But ultimately, Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal passed, revived at the last minute. How did that happen?

In the final analysis, DADT repeal did not happen just because there was public support. It didn't happen due to the lobbying efforts of advocacy organizations like SLDN and HRC. It wasn't the media stories about individuals affected by DADT generated by advocacy organizations like SLDN and Servicemembers United. It wasn't the public protests organized by individuals like Lt. Dan Choi or direct action organizations like GetEqual.

All those things were helpful and important, perhaps even necessary, but they were not sufficient. There were too many blue-dog Democrats and too few fair-minded Republicans, and the votes weren't there. But for both ENDA and DADT repeal, the votes were almost there. In addition, there are always two dozen major issues facing Washington, with thousands of others crowding behind. ENDA got crowded out. DADT repeal didn't. What made the difference between the failure of ENDA and the success of DADT repeal?

Ultimately, it came down to the decision by the White House to step in and intervene. The President and his Administration directly worked on recalcitrant blue-dog Democrats and interested Republicans. He cajoled. He traded. He threatened (politely, I'm sure).

In regard to the Jobs For Americans bill, President Obama has begun a nation-wide campaign to get this bill passed. That's a good start. But now we have blue-dog Democrats, like Senator Mary Landrieu, balking, and even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid preparing to bury the bill in Senate technicalities. Senator Bob Casey is backing off the bill.

I agree with this morning's New York Times editorial: "For Mr. Obama to win public support for this effort, Americans need to see him attack the Republicans' opposition and to forcefully get his party in line."

The President must keep up the public campaign, but, more importantly, he needs to start getting his too-timid Administration moving -- muscling the Dems into line and wooing fair-minded Republicans. This hasn't been the President's style, and his underlings are all too ready to feed him the "keep being reasonable" line. Our president is a pragmatist in most things. It's gotten him far. But in this, he needs a little of the wild-eyed radical. Keep on making speeches in various part of the country, sure. Engage public support, yes, definitely. Get people to start calling their Senators and Representatives, check.

But you have got to be willing to break some eggs to make an omelette. There is no way to be a reasonable pragmatist and get this bill passed. Democrats are by nature cowardly; Republicans are feisty. The American public is busy trying to keep its lives from falling apart. Most people aren't interested in government or its doings. If you want to create interest, you have got to shout, loudly and for a long time. But more than shouting is required. It means wrestling with the angel until daybreak, and angels fight dirty. They'll hamstring you and feel no remorse, and you'll limp for the rest of your days, like Jacob's fight with the Biblical angel. You're got to engage the media, and the bloggers, and the local Democratic committees. You're got to call out the Senators who are against jobs, and you've got to call them into the head office and read them the riot act and dangle a carrot.

That's what happened with DADT repeal. That's the only way the Jobs for Americans Act is going to get passed.

Get in there and fight, and we'll get your back, Mr. President. If not, you'll lose the bill, and the fickle public will pile on unmercifully. Then we'll have President Perry, and that will be the end of not only our economy, but an unwinding of all those LGBT rights that we gained under the Obama Administration.

I think it's time for LGBT rights advocates to get involved in the Jobs bills fight, and make their voices heard. I know that the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce has issued a statement in support. I'm starting a whip count here. (It'll be fairly empty until I can get info up this weekend. If you have any info on individuals positions, let me know and give me a websource if possible.) Where are your Senators and Representatives on this issue?

Readers, you can add your name in support of the bill here.

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