Friday, November 08, 2013

The Gays Won


Someone's got to have the best voting record in Congress, might as well be Mark!

Wednesday I got an e-mail from the Gay And Lesbian Victory Fund with the subject line "What a Night!" And what a night it was for them! They had helped 56 candidates from the LGBT community win their races, including 2 crucial women in Texas, Annise Parker, who won a third term as mayor of Houston, America's fourth largest city, and Celia Israel, who advanced to a run-off in North Austin to replace our old pal Mark Strama, giving voters the chance to elect a second LGBT voice in the state House.

They celebrated these two wonderful candidates with the same enthusiasm they expressed for the new mayor of Seattle. "Ed Murray," they wrote, "will become the next mayor of Seattle, defeating a well-funded incumbent and shattering a historic barrier." Down with the bad guy and up with the good! Right? Well, no, not exactly. As Paul Constant explained in The Stranger, Murray was very upfront about running as the anti-progressive. "I am not running," he boasted, "to be a progressive mayor of Seattle." Constant wrote that he was "disappointed that Murray would use the words progressive and liberal like they're pejoratives" in his victory speech.
Last night, in his halting, stiff victory speech at the Crocodile, Ed Murray said two things that I found to be very troubling. First, he announced that to make Seattle work, "we need to bring liberals and moderates together." Second, his speech's big money shot was this line: "I am not running to be a gay mayor of Seattle. I am not running to be a progressive mayor of Seattle. I am running to be an effective mayor of Seattle." I want to be perfectly clear, right up front, that what I'm about to write has nothing to do with Mike McGinn. This post is about the fact that I feel that Murray's speech profoundly misjudged the character of Seattle politics. And that speech made me feel disappointed in Ed Murray.

Seattle is the liberal heart of a state that last year led the nation by voting to legalize marijuana and legalize same sex marriage. Could anyone seriously tell me that those are not progressive causes? Last night, roughly a third of all primary voters decided to send a socialist to the general election vote for city council. Let me ask you again, in a slightly different way: Do you really think that this is a moderate city?

We don't live in Old Seattle anymore; this is not a city for NPR tote-bag liberals who put the Clinton/Gore bumper stickers on their cars and then quietly vote down every property tax that crosses their ballots. This is not a city that can continue to wait patiently for conservatives to come around to our way of thinking on transit. Seattle is—Seattle wants to be—the progressive testing ground for the rest of this country. We're sick of kowtowing to moderates, the craven imbeciles who tell us to wait on gay marriage until the national mood deigns to approve of it. We want to lead the way, and force the national mood to change. We start debates on the minimum wage and fast food workers' rights here in Seattle that inspire conversations around the rest of the country. We are the bluest of blues, and we're not likely to change any time soon. We're tired of having to wait for the dumbest kid in the class to catch up to us so that we can move on to the next lesson. We want to write our own goddamned lesson plans. We want to make our own world. And to do that, we need a mayor who doesn't shy away from the word "progressive," and we definitely don't need a mayor who insists that liberals have to capitulate to "moderates" in order to get stuff done. That may have been Seattle fifteen years ago. It's not Seattle now. It's not the city that Seattle's going to be.
I follow politics carefully and by 2008 I and already met Barack Obama several times and knew exactly what he was, economically a neoliberal and ideologically a moderate. I voted for him anyway, primarily for two reasons: better of two evils and for the symbolism and inspiration of electing an African-American president. (That's why I also would have voted for the equally-- if not even worse-- Hillary Clinton: the symbolism and inspiration of electing a woman president. In 2012 there was no chance I would have voted for Obama again. And a lot would have to happen-- none of which I expect-- before I would consider casting a ballot for Hillary Clinton.

On the ProgressivePunch page that shows the relative lifetime voting records of every Member of Congress, the #1 most progressive is Mark Pocan, a gay man from Madison, Wisconsin. Gays can feel proud of that if they want to. But if you surf down the the bottom of the Democrats, to the place where conservative Democrats and even worse Republicans compete for rankings, you find the Democrat with the worst voting record. It isn't homophobic reactionary Blue Dogs Pete Gallego (TX), John Barrow (GA) or Mike McIntyre (NC). Nope, the worst Democrat in Congress has a perfect progressive record on LGBT issues. He's just atrocious on everything else, especially economic justice. And that's Sean Patrick Maloney, a gay man. The third-worst is a self-described bisexual, Kyrsten Sinema. She has a great record on LGBT issues too (and women's issues). But on all the other issues that separate the progressives from the conservatives, Sinema, like Maloney is an embarrassment.

In his first book, Crashing the Gate, Markos Moulitsas warned of the danger of narrow identity politics. It took me a few years to fully, viscerally, understand what he was talking about. When E.J. Dionne looked at the results of Tuesday's election and wrote America Shifts Left, it wasn't to celebrate identity group politics. It was to celebrate the election of politicians who stand for progressive values and principles. We need more Mark Pocans and fewer Sean Patrick Maloneys and Kyrsten Sinemas. Evana corrupt corporate hack and machine politics bagman like Terry McAuliffe has a place in that shift.
Terry McAuliffe may have won in Virginia as a middle-of-the-road, business-friendly champion of “jobs.” But he was also firmly liberal on gay marriage and abortion, and cast Ken Cuccinelli, his opponent, as a social troglodyte.

More than that: McAuliffe was outspoken against the National Rifle Association and in favor of a variety of gun-safety measures, including background checks. McAuliffe did not shrink from his F-rating from the NRA. He boasted about it.

His outspokenness was rewarded. He won the suburbs outside of Washington, D.C., overwhelmingly and built a large margin among women. The power of the gun-control issue should not be lost in the sometimes foggy talk about centrism. This should embolden supporters of sane gun laws.

…Republicans would be wiser to pay attention to the fact that McAuliffe recreated the coalition which twice elected Obama. When Democrats lost Virginia in 2009, Obama supporters stayed home in large numbers. This time, the electorate was significantly more Democratic, and the African-American share of the vote rose sharply. In next year’s midterms, Republicans cannot count on the sort of Democratic demobilization that was so helpful to them in 2010.

To say that this election nudged the nation leftward is not to claim a sudden mandate for liberalism. But it is to insist that the center ground in American politics is a long way from where it was three years ago-- and that if there is a new populism in the country, it is now speaking with a decidedly progressive accent.

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At 5:36 PM, Blogger CNYOrange said...

As the great Bob Somerby pointed out white woman went for the republican by a wide margin. This is astonishing considering how bad cuccinelli was on women's issues.


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