If these reliably Democratic voters choose to sit out the election, it could mean Democratic losses in tight races, including the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois, where many members of the gay rights outfit Equality Illinois told volunteers phone banking on behalf of the organization that they “won’t vote or will vote against incumbents, regardless of their party affiliation or stance on gay issues.”
And while such gay organizations as Equality Illinois and its counterparts in other states across the nation, as well as the national organization, the Human Rights Campaign, have been pushing hard for Democratic candidates, many gay voters, as Equality Illinois’s volunteers have found, are not very enthusiastic about supporting the Democrats.
There seems to be a divide between the gay organizations, which many gay people believe have become little more than mouthpieces for the Democratic Party, and the gay “grassroots.” While gay conservatives have long been critical of these organizations, gays on the left are becoming increasingly critical — or at least the rise of blogs has made it easier for disgruntled gay liberals to get their message across.
Left-of-center lesbian blogress Pam Spaulding takes the groups to task for failing to take a hard line with the administration. She says that Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and former executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, “muzzled” gay groups from discussing the “DADT legal cases” at a recent White House meeting. She added in an email to me: “It’s terribly hard to see how there’s any leverage these people [gay groups] have. Honestly, when are they going to step away from [White House Deputy Chief of Staff] Jim Messina and [White House senior advisor] Valerie Jarrett and say, ‘No deal — you made your promises, now march up to the Hill and deal.’”
And this failure to deal may well cost the Democrats some votes on the gay left.
Longtime gay activist and San Francisco-based blogger Michael Petrelis told me in an email that he’ll actually be voting Republican for Congress, opting for GOP candidate John Dennis over Nancy Pelosi. He says he’ll be doing as he’s “always done … voting my conscience.” While he will be voting for two Democrats, he says he’s “proud” never to have
been a “battered gay Democratic Party voter” who gets bashed or ignored by that party, which in my adult life has never delivered much on gay issues, other than to say, “the GOP is worse.” I will not now become such a voter. Democracy is too important to waste a vote on Democratic Party candidates I don’t believe in.
Now, to be sure, Petrelis has never toed the Democratic line, but other gay bloggers who worked hard to elect Barack Obama two short years ago aren’t showing as much enthusiasm for his fellow Democrats in this year’s congressional elections as they did for him in the presidential contest. While some will make it to the polls and vote for the Democratic candidate either out of party loyalty or animus against the Republican opposition, others just won’t feel voting is worth the effort this time around.
In close races like Illinois — and maybe even California — they could make the difference.
Should gay Democrats make up a lower share of the electorate than they have in years past, then perhaps Democrats should reconsider their strategy of avoiding gay issues out of fear they might offend swing voters.