Before Congress took off before the Christmas break, they actually managed to do something productive and pass the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” act, which banned open gays and lesbians from serving in the U.S. military. Unfortunately, the DREAM Act, which would have allowed undocumented students brought to America as children to obtain a path to citizenship through higher education or military service, did not pass (MEXICANISTS!!! AAAIIEEEE!!!!). To me, there’s a very simple lesson from this: if you don’t make the Democratic Party miserable, they won’t do what you want.
If you followed the tactics LGBT activists used, they were confrontational.
They called out the White House and the Democrats, held their ground, and, most importantly, withheld votes and cash for Democrats. The gay press was vicious at times. Organizations that called for compromise, such as the HRC, were likewise criticized and not supported (contrast that with the national branch of NARAL rolling over and playing dead). They didn’t care if the White House or institutional Democrats claimed they were hurt the Democratic Party. I imagine, since some LGBT activists first cut their teeth during the AIDS battles of the 1980s–and those who didn’t had a ‘cultural memory’ of that struggle–the accusations by the professional Democrats just didn’t even register. They realized they were going to have to be mean and hard.
And by doing so, they won an important step in a long march towards legal equality.
Meanwhile Latino groups, did they threaten to pound Democrats if the DREAM Act didn’t pass (and several ‘conservative’ Democrats defected, allowing the Republican filibuster to be upheld)? Nope. During the health care fiasco, NARAL capitulated on Stupak-Mills. That worked out well in so many ways. Labor rolled over and played dead, and now they have a ‘free-trade’ agreement that costs ~150,000 jobs and still no card-check legislation (EFCA). That will help raise wages.
Playing nice doesn’t work with Democrats, since most of them, even if their hearts are in the right place, don’t want to take any risks. The other lesson is that too many organizations, although often not their putative rank-and-file, were seduced by proximity to power. The appropriate response when political leaders tell you that they need you to cooperate for the sake of the big picture (which is usually just their political survival)–that is, stop fighting for what you need–is not to agree and go along. I’ll admit that it can be tempting: you’re in the inner sanctum, you’re steering things, you’re a player. You delude yourself into thinking you’re one of them, that they’re your friends. And then you betray those who count on you.
Instead, this must be the appropriate response:
We. Don’t. Fucking. Care.
Then you add another demand, just to
fuck with them teach them a lesson. It’s what conservatives do, and, on many fronts, they have been spectacularly successful (albeit in an evil way).
Martin Luther King, a proponent of the philosophy, not tactic, but philosophy of non-violence understood that justice is something that has to be taken, not politely requested:
Now the other thing is that nothing is gained without pressure. Don’t let anybody tell you to go back on your job and paternalistically say, now, “You’re my man, and I’m going to do the right thing for you if you’ll just come back on the job.” Don’t go back on the job until the demands are met. Never forget that freedom is not something that must be demanded by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed. Freedom is not some lavish dish that the power structure and the white forces imparted with making positions will voluntarily hand down on a silver platter while the Negro merely furnishes the appetite.
If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it. Now, you know what, you may have to escalate the struggle a bit.
Republican propaganda notwithstanding, it is not violent or ‘warfare’ to confront those who are in the wrong, to demand what is just and right. As unpleasant, and even risky, as it can be, it is often necessary.
That’s the lesson of DADT for me.