HRC Defends Itself By Reinforcing The Very Criticisms It Received

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Earlier today, I wrote about the way that HRC and other organizations have a certain amount of proprietary strategic control over our movement. I invite you to peruse that post before reading this addendum.

The Human Rights Campaign issued a response to the Congress.org article I referenced numerous times in my post. Fred Sainz makes four points in his response, each of which confirms an aspect of the various concerns that were raised. Pam Spaulding also points out that absent from the response was “any dispute regarding what those who were on the inside said.”

Let’s take a look at the response:

Your recent piece failed to give any perspective of the political or legislative climate in which the repeal of DADT is being considered.

A few points that were missing:

1. Completely absent from your analysis is how far this legislation has come this year. The White House brokered compromise language with the Pentagon and Congress. Following that, the bill successfully cleared the House and a key Senate committee with the language now part of the underlying bill. The Senate Majority Leader has said that it will be scheduled for a vote after the November elections. There are plenty of progressive movements that would like to have this problem.

Note that in a few short sentences, Sainz claims two different setbacks as victories. First, the compromise language was just that: a compromise on our equality. It created more doubt about when discharges would end and was the consequence of President Obama not standing firm on his commitment to repeal. Secondly, as Kerry Eleveld points out today, it’s unlikely we’ll see DADT repeal during the lame-duck session. Yet, it seems that HRC thinks it’s a good thing that the last chance we have for passage will be in an environment that will be politically more toxic than the one in which it already failed.

Apologetics at its finest.

2. No piece of legislation is an island considered solely on its own merits. Bills are considered by our legislators as part of a bigger political picture with a lot of outside factors impacting the legislation. Your piece falsely gives the impression that getting repeal done should have been an easy lift. Nothing in Washington is easy – nothing. Folks thought the passage of hate crimes legislation was going to be easy; it wasn’t. The unfortunate reality is that the repeal of DADT remains a hard lift for many. Washington is hardly ever a leading indicator of social change. Most often, it is a lagging indicator. Forty-five days before an election, and with a procedural skirt to hind behind, Senate Republicans made it impossible. I refer you to the release we issued last Friday regarding Senator McConnell’s motives.

I’m assuming he is referring to this one.

If Republicans were going to make it impossible, they were going to make it impossible whenever it was put up for a vote. It was put off for months such that we only got one chance before the election. Republicans aren’t the only ones to blame. If HRC can’t successfully push a vote that has support from a hefty majority of Americans, then there’s something wrong with the tens of thousands of dollars being spent on its campaigns. President Obama spoke of repeal in the State of the Union, and nine months later we couldn’t get a lousy compromise passed. Either HRC doesn’t have all the political influence they claim to have or they care more about keeping it than using it.

Either way, their proprietary control of lobbying efforts bears an awful lot of responsibility for this setback.

3. Senate Democrats don’t have 60 votes. If Senator McConnell decides to hold together his caucus for political reasons, there is little anyone can do.

Again, just placing the blame elsewhere. In fact, it’s a fairly patronizing response, as if nobody should have even bothered trying. Sainz might as well have said, “It was never going to pass, but at least we tried.” This defeatist attitude speaks to the bias toward incrementalism embedded in the movement. If HRC isn’t optimistic about the equality they claim to work towards (and spend millions of our dollars “working” towards), then they don’t deserve the equals sign as their logo.

4. It certainly won’t get done in the lame duck unless all activists push like hell to get it done. This is no time for circular firing squads that are wholly unproductive especially when many of the allegations are warrantless and uninformed. There’s no doubt that this will be an uphill climb and that’s why we need to be solely focused on the goal.

Actually, it sounds like they were very well-informed criticisms, unless of course Jarrod Chlapowski and all the other insiders are just liars. Given that HRC seems completely unconcerned about hearing any criticism from the community at large, which is more likely? Besides, Jarrod is just as ready to push like hell as HRC seems to be.

This is a cheap dismissal we should not tolerate. It’s just another version of the “Victim” meme our opponents use against us all the time. It’s retaliatory, an attempt to reassert control: We know what’s best. Fall in line.

Apologetics, lack of accountability, incrementalism-inspired pessimism, and trying to play the victim and shut down dissenters? Sorry HRC, you might have the might, but you definitely don’t have it right. Until you see that, you’re essentially holding all of our rights hostage to your whims.

Is that really the kind of movement we want to be a part of?

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