Last Friday I discovered that the Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean had abolished the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) office of GLBT outreach. Like many, I was shocked and confused by this act not only as a gay democrat, but also as the DNC’s former Deputy Director for the DNC’s Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Outreach.
This is an affront to every progressive Democrat, GLBT or straight. After the 2004 election the Office of GLBT Outreach issued a report that clearly showed how the GLBT vote was essential to the success of many Democratic campaigns that year. Exit polling done concluded that more than 4.6 million self-identified GLBT voters cast ballots in the presidential, congressional, and state race an estimated 81% of these voters cast a vote for the Kerry-Edwards ticket that amounted to roughly 6% of the Kerry-Edwards total. The DNC’s GLBT outreach desk was instrumental in these numbers; the program increased the GLBT’s community vote from 70% to 85%. Because of the work of the Office of GLBT Outreach, our community’s vote grew more than by 400,000 and the Kerry-Edwards ticket won 7-11% more of the GLBT vote than the Gore-Liberman ticket in 2000. Because of our program, we were able to hire GLBT coordinated campaign staff (DNC & Kerry-Edwards staff) in 15 of the 21 battleground states helping us to secure victory in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. The program also had GLBT steering committees in all 21 of the battleground states which helped to boost GLBT voter turnout in those states.
One of the crowning achievements of the GLBT outreach program was the
creation of Pride at the Polls. DNC staff and volunteers attended more than
80 gay pride events across the country, including African-American and
Latino pride events, giving Democrats a visible and important role in the
community and allowing Democratic leaders a chance to interact with the
community and hear the concerns and desires of our diverse community and
then implement those desires into policies and programs. The GLBT Outreach
office also built an e-mail database of nearly 80,000 GLBT activists and
voters willing to help in Democratic efforts across the country. With the
elimination of the Office of GLBT Outreach these types of grassroots
activities will no longer exist.
Gays and lesbians serve the Democratic Party. We have been and continue to
be one of the biggest financial supporters of the DNC, contributing more
than 5 million dollars to the DNC in 2004 – money that was used, in part, to
help outreach efforts in our community. GLBT voters are also among the most
loyal Democratic voters, second only to African-Americans in their
allegiance to the Democratic Party. In return for our loyalty we are
rewarded with the elimination of the GLBT Outreach Desk. However, if that
was not enough to add insult to injury Dean has decided to maintain the DNC’s
Gay & Lesbian Leadership Council, which raises money for the party from gay
donors. In fact, Chairman Dean held a $125 a ticket GLBT fundraiser this
week in Washington, DC. Intentional or not, the message this sends is
simple: Our money may be good enough, but we are not.
Defending his move, Chairman Dean touts his new American Majority
Partnership, which stated goal is to integrate efforts to address the
concerns of minorities into all of the DNC’s departments and offices. I
fail to see how this will address the particular role of GLBT voters and
issues in the Democratic Party. Yes there are issues that unite us, but
there are also issues specific to our community that must be advocated for,
and trusting them to a bureaucratic roundtable trying to work with every
community will only slow things down – not speed them up. Dean’s approach is
a keen to a sending a dermatologist to perform a brain surgery it is the
wrong methodology to address the issue.
Some argue this shift at the DNC suggests that Chairman Dean believes gay
rights may have hurt the Democrats. If that is the case, Mr. Dean is wrong.
Democratic leadership, candidates’ wavering positions on gay rights, and
blatant political pandering hurt us in 2004 – not the struggle for equality.
In fact, according to exit poll data taken after the 2004 election, voters
opposed to marriage equality and other legal recognition, rights and
benefits was limited to a very vocal, minority within the Republican Party –
the majority of independent, swing voters did not base their vote on our
But what is even worse than what the DNC is doing to our community, is the
fact that Howard Dean lied. During his campaign to become Chair, Mr. Dean
Howard Dean stated in a questionnaire from the DNC Gay Caucus that, if
elected, he would retain the office of GLBT outreach. Howard Dean has
broken his word. Chairman Dean and his actions are teetering on the edge of
voiding the contract the Democratic Party and GLBT voters have shared for so
long. This GLBT Democrat is growing increasingly tired of political
cowardice and lies. Chairman Dean’s actions and others like his are
exhausting gay and lesbian voter’s patience and resolve.
I am and will always be a Democrat despite Chairman Dean’s actions. I truly
believe that Democratic values align with America’s promise of equality and
opportunity for all. However, until the Democratic Party can once again
find its moral compass and adhere to the principles that make me a Democrat,
I will withhold any financial support from the party and encourage all
like-minded Democrats to do the same. Until the Office of GLBT Outreach is
re-established we should send our contributions directly to fair
minded-candidates who share our values and champion our issues. As with
most things in politics money, and our silence will speak volumes until the
DNC is ready to listen to us again. We can not be complacent in our own
I urge you all to contact the DNC at 202-863-8000 and tell Chairman Dean to
reestablish the Office of GLBT Outreach
Ramon Gardenhire was former DNC Deputy Director, GLBT Outreach