Homophobia Is A Bipartisan Disease, As We Just Saw Again-- This Time In North Carolina
I'll attribute it to bad staff work, but Friday night Rachel Maddow misled her audience into thinking the viciously anti-LGBT bill that the North Carolina legislature just passed, HB-2, was a strictly party-line vote. True, the leadership in both chambers of the legislature is Republican and true, the Republicans pushed this bill through from beginning to end. BUT, at least in the North Carolina House, the Republicans found 11 like-minded, bigoted Democrats to give them a hand.
Maddow: "The Republicans in the legislature did this all in the space of 12 hours, with such a small amount of debate, with so little transparency that the Democrats in the legislature simpy walked out in protest before the vote was even taken." Actually, Maddow gets a "Half True" on that. The Democrats in the Senate did walk out and refused to vote. The House, however, was a different story-- one that Maddow never alluded to.
"Governor Pat McCrory and Republican state legislators may be super-psyched," she offered, "about the fact that they got this done and they may be super-psyched that North Carolina cities are not allowed to prevent discrimination against gay and transgender people..." Look, I don't expect Rachel to know every single legislature in the country, but NBC has quite a large staff for this kind of thing. These are the 11 conservative Democrats who crossed the aisle and voted with the GOP for the anti-LGBT legislation:
• William Brisson, NC-22 (Bladen, Johnston, Sampson)Although none of them have endorsed Bernie Sanders, at least five of them are part of the Hillary Clinton North Carolina Leadership Team:
• Elmer Floyd, NC-43 (Cumberland)
• Charles Graham, NC-47 (Robeson)
• George Graham, NC-12 (Craven, Greene, Lenoir)
• Ken Goodman, NC-66 (Hoke, Montgomery, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland)
• Howard Hunter III, NC-5 (Bertie, Gates, Hertford, Pasquotank)
• Larry Bell, NC-21 (Duplin, Sampson, Wayne)
• Garland Pierce, NC-48 (Hoke, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland)
• Brad Salmon, NC-51 (Harnett, Lee)
• Billy Richardson, NC-44 (Cumberland)
• Michael H. Wray, NC-27 (Halifax, Northampton)
• Charles GrahamWhat does the affinity of these legislators tell us about Hillary Clinton, whose own record on the LGBT community was pretty dreadful until it became politically safe and politically expedient to support equality. I would imagine if these conservaDems had voted to authorize discrimination against women or blacks or Jews, Hillary would reject their endorsements, loudly and proudly. The gay community should ask itself why she hasn't done so with these homophobes. She takes umbrage-- or she did before she was in a primary with an actual progressive:
• George Graham
• Howard Hunter III
• Garland Pierce
• Billy Richardson
HRC (Human Rights Campaign, not Hillary Rodman Clinton), some cocktail-swilling establishment types in DC who make a living by purporting to represent the LGBT community, have given her cover with an undeserved and shameful endorsement. And how offended Bill and Hill were when gays on the frontline against bigotry pointed out that HRC is just another tool of the DC establishment.
HRC gave me a leadership equality award in 1997 and if you've been around DWT for a while, you may recall that I smashed it up with an ax when they endorsed Joe Lieberman. Last the time, I noted that their fancy new 8-story building symbolized their institutional self-perpetuating role inside the DC insider game and that it was clear that what HRC values is access to power. Friday, Michelangelo Signorile, a far more admired and trusted voice in the gay community than anyone involved with HRC on any level, spoke out of their latest outrage against the interests of the people they claim to support as they decided to help the GOP retain control of the U.S. Senate. Illinois incumbent Republican, Mark Kirk, a typical frightened, little DC anti-gay closet case, has a 78% score on the HRC scorecard and his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, has a 100% score, but HRC endorsed Kirk over Duckworth. If Kirk retains his seat, the violently anti-gay GOP majority will retain power in the Senate.
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate acknowledged the “long game” HRC may be playing in backing GOPers who vote pro-gay, but nonetheless drew the line at allowing the terribly anti-gay GOP leadership to retain the Senate this year, observing that HRC “does not seem to grasp...simple reality.”
At The New Republic, Eric Sasson rightly pointed to HRC’s “serious diversity problem” per an internal report that leaked, and to the optics of backing a white male Republican with a meager score over a woman of color and a combat veteran who lost both of her legs in the Iraq war-- and who has a perfect score. Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed had obtained the internal report last year, which called HRC “exclusionary,” “sexist,” and “homogenous.” This endorsement certainly lent more credence to that.
The simple truth is that in 2016 in Illinois we don’t need Mark Kirk-- he needs us. Kirk is in a deep blue state and he absolutely must support full LGBT equality in order to win. His coming out for the Equality Act is not brave; it’s about his own survival. And the first vote he’ll take upon winning back his seat will be a cowardly one to make the anti-gay McConnell (with an HRC score of 0) the Senate Majority Leader again.
There’s no question that the Democrats’ path to taking back the Senate very much includes defeating Kirk, who is in the bluest state among those where GOP senators are embattled. So HRC’s action does raise questions about how committed the group really is to seeing the Democrats take back the Senate, and if it perhaps has conflicting interests. Daily Kos’s David Nir surmised that HRC’s Kirk endorsement is all about keeping “donations flowing from corporations and wealthy gay Republicans,” and he may be on to something.
One only has to look at the website where Chad Griffin posted his response to get a feel for HRC’s aims. Rather than posting the response on its own website or on a progressive or LGBT site (or on Medium, where Griffin later posted a response to the North Carolina debacle), Griffin wrote his defense of the Kirk endorsement on the Independent Journal Review, which was founded by former Republican Party staffers Alex Skatell and Phil Musser, and has been described by GOP consultant Alex Castellanos as a cross of “RedState with BuzzFeed.” The New York Times described it as having “a steady stream of articles critical of President Obama and other Democrats.”
Skatell, now 30, started the first Facebook page for the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) when he was 22. One major donor to the RGA is the GOP New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer-- who also happens to be a major donor to HRC. Singer’s foundation and the Daniel S. Loeb Foundation committed $3 million to the group, incurring criticism because Singer makes a lot of his money from a “vulture fund“ that sues poverty-stricken countries for their debt.
Singer has a son who is gay and worked on the push for marriage equality in New York, credited with helping persuade four Republicans to vote with Democrats to pass the bill. But Singer has his priorities: He bankrolled the campaigns of some of the most anti-gay GOP Senate candidates who won in 2014, like Joni Ernst of Iowa and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, and he became a key fundraiser for the presidential campaign and super PACS of anti-gay Marco Rubio, who promised to overturn the Obergefell ruling. In 2016, Singer’s firm, Elliott Management, is the third largest contributor to the RGA, which is working this year to re-elect none other than Pat McCrory, the North Carolina governor who this week signed the most anti-LGBT law we’ve seen.
Singer also has been among those leading the anti-Trump effort among Republicans, which doesn’t look very promising right now. Looking at the possibility of Donald Trump winning the GOP nomination, it’s no secret that GOP leaders have focused on putting all of their efforts on retaining the Senate. Surely Paul Singer will be critical in that effort, bringing hard and steady pressure to bear wherever it is necessary. It’s not a surprise, then, that the American Unity Fund, which Singer founded, has been tweeting and retweeting support of HRC for its endorsement of Mark Kirk, in what seems like an attempt to counter the many LGBT people who are expressing their anger and to whom HRC believes it is not answerable.
If HRC is not answerable to LGBT people, however-- and its president, Griffin, rarely even gives interviews to LGBT media, while speaking often in the larger media-- exactly to whom and what is it answerable, and what are its true priorities? One thing is clear: HRC doesn’t speak for the LGBT community, and the sooner that politicians and those in the media grasp that, the smarter they will be.