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Count This Voter Out
in Presidential Election 2000

By Thomas Scott Tucker

Don't Tread on Me: Or What Happens When Queers Rattle More Than Our Chains?

elec2kgb.jpg - 14.76 K One vote counts? Count me out in the next presidential election. True, I am only one queer democratic socialist with no loyalty to either the Republicrats or the Demopublicans, and I have no illusions about solitary acts of resistance. But one plus one plus one begins to add up, and every big effort has to start small.

David Mixner-- the guy who in 1995 said the gay movement was playing "battered wife" to Clinton's "abusive husband"-- just joined 1,000 other gay social climbers in California and handed him $850, 000. Yup, count the zeroes. Mixner has previously raised millions for the Democratic president who gave us escalating military witch-hunts and signed D.O.M.A. into federal law.

Gay Democrats pride themselves on "pragmatism"-- which ought to mean rewarding friends and punishing enemies. But what poker game is being played here and just who cashes in the chips? Job Opportunities in the Democratic Party, anyone? Now the right-wing Knight Initiative in California makes D.O.M.A. a ballot issue-- ammunition that was handed to our enemies by our "friends" like Bill Clinton and by "progressives" like Paul Wellstone.

If Wellstone had voted for a law that forbids intermarriage of Jews and Christians, or of blacks and whites, no one would dare say the word "progressive" in the same breath as his name. Are queer citizens so abysmally subservient that we must make excuses for these rank opportunists? Every time a Democrat votes for the death penalty, for "welfare reform," and for bigotry enshrined in law-- will we go on claiming that "the devil made him do it?"

In cloud-cuckoo-land, queers can wait for some critical mass of straight folks to give up their own material and social investment in marriage. But that is quite simply Pie In the Sky "coalition." Down here on the ground, regardless of any critique of marriage, the issue is a potential steam-roller.

The "left" of the gay movement has kept its hands so clean of marriage that it barely bothers to criticize Clinton when he marches to the bipartisan altar on this issue with a critter like Knight. I know the socialist and feminist critiques of marriage as well as the next queer radical, but I also know that some theorists have no practical political judgement at all.

Marriage is like abortion in one sense-- in a decent society, if you don't want one, then you don't have one. Furthermore, legal marriage would then carry no special benefit or penalty, only the legitimate responsibilities of any human relationship.

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But when the state steps into personal life with public policies that explicitly set us aside as a class of people with unequal rights and choices, that is a fighting issue. And here I part company with some of my own friends and comrades.

NGLTF, HRC, David Mixner, and indeed much of what passes for "the gay left" has covered itself in shame for failing to make our votes expensive; for our failure to bolt from both parties and to support local progressive electoral efforts; and for our failure to call to account the leaders of national gay organizations.

Politicians won't bother buying us the first drink before giving us a raw fuck-- if we continue to vote by rote. I recommend "spoiling" carefully selected, close call elections. But that does not go nearly far fairly enough. We must also have real campaign finance reform to break the grip of corporations on both parties, and we must have proportional representation in our electoral system.

Lani Guinier (among others) has proposed that last idea, which is why Clinton dropped her nomination and left her behind like roadkill. Genuinely independent and progressive candidates deserve our votes, especially at the local level, and the Democrats have no claim to our undivided loyalty.

You still want to vote for any possible Democrat if only to stop any possible Republican? Do so if you must, but do something more and something else entirely. Start building a movement to break away from bipartisan business as usual. Above all, it is within your power to resist the calls of gay Democrats to "Get Out the Vote" for the usual party hacks and reckless careerists.

If queers cannot find this much self-respect, then we bring nothing of value into any coalition whatsoever-- and then we will also not demand practical electoral solidarity from many folks who claim to be allies.

ebirch.gif - 5.61 K Elizabeth Birch It makes no difference now whether Elizabeth Birch, David Mixner, Kerry Lobel, and a host of other gay public figures "criticized" Clinton on marital and military issues, because their criticism was not backed up by any credible consequences.

It is grotesque for HRC and NGLTF to call themselves "non-partisan organizations"-- that is a legal fiction that may preserve their tax-exempt status but obscures reality. Both groups are firmly committed to bipartisan business as usual, and have missed major opportunities to build strong links to independent electoral efforts.

The Labor Party and local Green campaigns deserve our votes and dollars, our time and energy, not because they are perfect creations but because they are sites of resistance. If you can tolerate the open sewer of bipartisan and corporate politics, then why demand purity from independent radicals?

If Urvashi Vaid wishes to call herself a "radical," I am likewise free to call myself Moses. And who would really care one way or another? But the really important questions are specific, not categorical.

For example, will queer citizens make our votes expensive in the next election? We will never do so if the next election is treated like the edge of the earth, after which we drop into a void. A break-away electoral effort means thinking precisely beyond the next election, and not only about Barney Frank's or Robin Tyler's careers.

The propaganda of the Log Cabin Republican Club is no more thoughtful than the press releases the gay Democratic clubs recycle from the Democratic National Committee. Overwhelmingly, the folks who are busiest meeting and greeting in those party fundraisers and caucuses are people who are ever composing their own resumes.

For queer radicals to call an electoral strike would simply give that bipartisan crew a collective heart attack. They'll get over it when the rest of us force them to face new political realities. One of the most important actions we can take is to put "None of the Above" onto all ballots for elected public officials. And to back up that negative with positive electoral efforts in other directions.

The right to form kinship freely-- in monogamous marriage, in some polygamous Mormon sects, in lesbian communes, in Buddhist monasteries, in queer sexual cultures, or to be a stubborn loner-- is a human right even more precious than the legal right to vote.

As Hannah Arendt noted years ago, anyone on the "left" who cannot grasp these essentials may understand all about social opportunity, "but knows nothing about human dignity." This is not an argument for purism, since no one gets out of life pure. But in the time we have between birth and death, why not make our own declaration of independence?
Thomas Scott Tucker is a former Mr. International Leather and is the author of The Queer Question (South End Press)

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