Last week, Brian Bond (White House liaison to the LGBT community) met with state-level LGBT equality organizations. At one point, Morgan Meneses-Sheets of Equality Maryland urged that we need the President to support full equality, full inclusion on ENDA and marriage.
Bond agreed, but expressed frustration at the often intense criticism levied, particularly by bloggers, against an administration that is “99 percent supportive of your issues.”
I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to see the point of view many of us hold – that promises were made, quite publicly to the community to both garner votes and generate cashflow, and now the bill has come due and we are seeing all sorts of shenanigans by those in charge. The delays and slow-go on DADT repeal that ends in a poor compromise and a freepable, embrarrassing “study”; inaction on ENDA, tossing the hot potato between the WH and Congress as to whose responsibility it is to take the lead; Gibbs having amnesia and feeble follow up skills at the podium. Come on. If you’re 99% supportive, that is a helluva 1% left over.
Mediaite chimed in on the story, but posed the question of whether the White House should care about bloggers’ umbrage:
While bloggers may have an outsized-role with other activist groups that the White House wants support from, there may be little downside in questioning the role of activists/bloggers and touting the administration’s perceived successes outside of the LGBT blogosphere’s echo chamber-like voice.
This seems a bit uppity for Mediate, given that Mediate is, itself, a blog, and one that’s actually geared more toward the media industry. It should not be surprising that LGBT blogs have similar messages; they’re similar blogs. One thing I’ve noticed though is that everyone in the LGBT blogosphere does have a different take on things. In fact, I think we do a good job (myself included, I hope) of offering different perspective and coverage on different issues, even if we sometimes arrive at the same conclusions. Yes, I quoted other blogs (that’s what we do as good bloggers), but now I will add my own thoughts. We’re part of a movement, we have to have some cohesion, and the fact that we do is not cause to dismiss us as an echo chamber that doesn’t ever represent the sentiment of the greater community. To assume that the community has a singular opinion on anything is foolishness anyway.
Quite to the contrary, something‘s working if we have the White House’s attention.
So let’s stop for a second and consider: what can we actually learn about how the White House perceives us from Bond’s comment?
I think any or all of the following could be true based on what he said (even those that contradict each other).
» The White House sees the LGBT blogosphere as a threat to its messaging.
Pam suggested as much by referring to “THE LIST” that is surely kept somewhere. Which blogs does the White House read? They must read enough to be frustrated by what they see.
» The White House appreciates that a significant number of LGBT people read LGBT blogs.
Why would the White House be frustrated that blogs are criticizing the administration if people aren’t reading and spreading that criticism? They wouldn’t.
» The White House cares more about talking points and PR than reality or equality.
Oops! This is me piling on criticism of the White House. Don’t be surprised. In many regards, this administration hasn’t been much different than administrations in the past. It’s the same bone-throwing philosophy we’re used to (gnaw on that for a while). Unfortunately, the blogosphere is no longer interested in bones, and arguably has been an effective force in dismissing the bones members of the LGBT community might otherwise be content to chew on. Job benefits for unmarried partners of federal benefits? A memo against hospital visitation discrimination? Good, but not good enough. Like Pam said, the President asked us to hold him accountable, so the President should be frustrated if we are too.
» The White House does not think or care that a significant number of LGBT people read LGBT blogs.
This would be an easy thing for the White House to believe, especially since the LGBT group with the most access is the Human Rights Campaign. This is a real conflict within the community, as many feel HRC speaks for them and many don’t, but HRC is unabashed in proclaiming that they are the biggest LGBT org (by way of most supporters) and thus do speak for the community. I would argue that the bloggers who regularly criticize both HRC and the Obama administration have speak as much on behalf of the LGBT community as HRC claims too, but the influence HRC has might suggest otherwise to the White House.
» The White House does not really care what the blogs have to say.
If they did, we wouldn’t have been repeating ourselves for the past 18 months. Obama would have spoken to LGBT press outlets. They’d answer our questions directly. We wouldn’t have bad “compromises” about the fate of our equality. They would try to engage us instead of ignore us. Even if we frustrate them at times, we can’t mean all that much to them if they’ve never bothered with us.
» The White House does not care about having the LGBT blogosphere’s support.
This seems to be the most important conclusion. We may be annoying, we may get in the way of their messaging and their tactics, but they don’t see us as vital. Pam’s description of us as “mere gnats on the political landscape” seems apropos, in that it’s how the White House wants to see us. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any political equivalent for citronella oil. They will continue to just work around us. They’re frustrated, but not enough to do anything about it.
The bottom line is this: the administration wants control. They want to determine their LGBT strategy. They want to act like they know what’s best for us. They want to reserve their political capital. It’s all a power thing. If there’s one thing to be learned from Brian Bond’s comment, it’s that we do have an influence. We don’t go unnoticed.
We just have to up our game.