The Gays are on to something good…

The current Atlantic Monthly has what I find to be a brilliant and informative article titled, “They Won’t Know What Hit Them.” Anyone who digs the intricacies of politics should read it for some of the insights it provides into how politics works in this age of campaign finance reform. The article focuses on how a small group of wealthy gay donors are working “stealthily” behind the scenes to make our country more “Gay-friendly.” On its surface this doesn’t have anything to do with South Asian Americans (unless they are gay), but by the time I get to the end you’ll see that it could have everything to do with us.

A tough loss can be hard to swallow, and plenty of defeated politicians have been known to grumble about sinister conspiracies. When they are rising stars like Danny Carroll, the Republican speaker pro tempore of Iowa’s House of Representatives, and the loss is unexpected, the urge to blame unseen forces can be even stronger–and in Carroll’s case, it would have the additional distinction of being justified. Carroll was among the dozens of targets of a group of rich gay philanthropists who quietly joined forces last year, under the leadership of a reclusive Colorado technology mogul, to counter the tide of antigay politics in America that has generated, among other things, a succession of state ballot initiatives banning gay marriage. Carroll had sponsored such a bill in Iowa and guided it to passage in the state House of Representatives, the first step toward getting it on the ballot…

Over the summer, Carroll’s opponent started receiving checks from across the country–significant sums for a statehouse race, though none so large as to arouse suspicion (the gifts topped out at $1,000). Because they came from individuals and not from organizations, nothing identified the money as being “gay,” or even coordinated. Only a very astute political operative would have spotted the unusual number of out-of-state donors and pondered their interest in an obscure midwestern race. And only someone truly versed in the world of gay causes would have noticed a $1,000 contribution from Denver, Colorado, and been aware that its source, Tim Gill, is the country’s biggest gay donor, and the nexus of an aggressive new force in national politics.

Carroll certainly didn’t catch on until I called him after the election, in which Democrats took control of both legislative chambers, as well as Carroll’s seat and four of the five others targeted by Gill and his allies. [Link]

As I read this article it got me thinking about some of the races and candidates that we’ve highlighted on SM in the past. Remember Durbin, Abraham, and Webb? I think in the case of Macaca-Gate, South Asian money did have some impact on the race. That effort had no real organization behind it, however. I also realize that unlike the gay community (to an extent), South Asian Americans aren’t necessarily a voting block, but are rather voting “icebergs” (a term I like to forward). Still, some of the ideas that Gill has put into practice could work very well for other groups.

Here is one particular gem:

Gill decided to find out how he could become more effective and enlisted as his political counselor an acerbic lawyer and former tobacco lobbyist named Ted Trimpa, who is Colorado’s answer to Karl Rove. Trimpa believes that the gay-rights community directs too much of its money to thoroughly admirable national candidates who don’t need it, while neglecting less compelling races that would have a far greater impact on gay rights–a tendency he calls “glamour giving.” Trimpa cited the example of Barack Obama: an attractive candidate, solid on gay rights, and viscerally exciting to donors. It feels good to write him a check. An analysis of Obama’s 2004 Senate race, which he won by nearly fifty points, had determined that gays contributed more than $500,000. “The temptation is always to swoon for the popular candidate,” Trimpa told me, “but a fraction of that money, directed at the right state and local races, could have flipped a few chambers. ‘Just because he’s cute’ isn’t a strategy…” [Link]

I’ve always hated the term “Think globally act locally,” because it seems to take too long to enact important policy, but the above makes sense to me.

Most antigay measures, they discovered, originate in state legislatures. Operating at that level gave them a chance to “punish the wicked,” as Gill puts it–to snuff out rising politicians who were building their careers on antigay policies, before they could achieve national influence. Their chief cautionary example of such a villain is Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who once compared homosexuality to “man on dog” sex (and was finally defeated last year, at a cost of more than $20 million). [Link]

So for ’08 I am going to keep an eye on candidates and measures that I find to be both for and against the best interests of a large number of South Asian Americans. It’s hard to point out what that means exactly, which is why I hope SM might serve as a good conduit to bring such issues and candidates to the attention of young and wealthy South Asians, a community that continues to grow. Eventually we’ll get more organized. I love the idea of some candidate doing a post-mortem of his/her campaign and seeing that a bunch of desi donors from all over the country had given to his/opponent in a small-time race.

24 thoughts on “The Gays are on to something good…

  1. Since I’m clueless Canadian, I don’t know answer to this. But is there a limit on how much money a person can donate to a political canididate in election for congress or the sentate. Is it the same for someone outside of there home state.

    I have some uncles, aunts and cousins who live in California who are in good finanical shape who give money to there favorite canididate. Half of my family is for the GOP and the other half is for the Democrats. Expect for one of my uncles who give money to both parties in local elections. He said this way he always wins!!

    On a side note I guess Danny Carroll and Rick Santorum if they run for office again can get money from NBA legend Tim Hardaway.

  2. ofcourse, the gays are onto something good! This is all part of the secret “gay agenda” that you’re privy to, once you join the gay brotherhood.

    2 on our agenda : popularize anal sex.

  3. gays are mobilized and organized cuz they have ever major issues which are important to them on the plate, and they are (were?) excluded by legal fiat from the mainstream of american society (gay sex acts were even criminal). i think the analogy with brownz exists, but it is weak because we aren’t nearly as oppressed within american society and can not remediate the oppression we do experience through the legal/political system to the same extent (i.e., there are generalized civil liberties issues, but these are salient to many groups).

  4. Suede, you forgot to mention the toaster ovens…

    Oh yea, those too. Shhhh….lets not give it all away.

    Btw, all minorities (gays, blacks, desis, latinos etc) share the brunt of being a minority. Gays have it worse, and if you are desi+gay or black+gay etc, then you’re twice fucked over.

    So, yea, the gays with their expendable income are a lot more open to donating money for things that matter to them. Gays have always been good about mobilizing and advertizing about their cause(s). Which other minority has a parade, for christ’s sake!

    Also, in the instance of the AIDS crisis (which is not a gay thing, but affects them more than the rest of the population), they’ve been great in bringing about awareness, and change, and support. Breast Cancer related orgs have often mimicked AIDS orgs and have openly said this.

  5. Which other minority has a parade, for christ’s sake!

    Boricuas!

    I guess they realized early that “the gays are on to something good…” :-)

  6. Which other minority has a parade, for christ’s sake!
    Boricuas!

    In some places every minority has a parade, even mermaids.

    Also:

    young and wealthy South Asians, a community that continues to grow

    Where are these people? ;)

  7. suede,

    “So, yea, the gays with their expendable income”

    I wonder how much the prevalence of the “DINK” (dual-income no-kids) lifestyle among gay couples helps create expendable income.

  8. I’ve always hated the term “Think globally act locally,”

    I totally disagree with this sentiment. Over the past 100 years, the power of state governments has been severly curtailed, but many important issues (education and housing, to name two) are still regulated at the state and local levels. The vast majority of people I know have no clue who their representatives are in the state legislature. These are people who have a lot of power with respect to a citizen’s day-to-day life and unlike federal politicians, it’s actually possible to get face time with state level and local politicians. If you want to start a nationwide desi political force, I believe the best place to start is an organized plan to influence state legislatures.

  9. Which other minority has a parade, for christ’s sake!

    Chinese New Years? Cinco de Mayo? Puerto Rican events?

    Some places must have more than others. Chicago has a parade commemorating basically every independence day on the planet. Including this one!

  10. Which other minority has a parade, for christ’s sake!

    The Irish, the Italians, the Indians, the Pakisanis, the Chinese, the Mexicans …

  11. These are people who have a lot of power with respect to a citizen’s day-to-day life and unlike federal politicians, it’s actually possible to get face time with state level and local politicians.

    Exactly right. If you look around you, a lot of those small things that make your life just a little better are probably the direct result of local and state legislation. There is a lot less gridlock in local politics, and therefore, a lot more consensus. Ultimately, that equals real results.

    I highly recommend getting to know your local government officials. It’s a great introduction to grassroots political activism. And who knows? You might discover your councilman leaves on the same stree that you do!

  12. I wonder how much the prevalence of the “DINK” (dual-income no-kids) lifestyle among gay couples helps create expendable income.

    Not as much as you’d think. Do you have ANY idea how expensive weekly orgies are to throw? ;)

    Toaster ovens, bah. Designer oven mitts and no-carb recipes are where it’s at.

  13. BTW..its pahrade. OK?

    I am always proud of how politically aware my gay friends are. It is not very common for a random sampling of American to discuss op-eds in the NY Times. Or the ownership of the Tribune group. Or build shrines to Maureen Dowd or give Frank Rich a bear rating. But, seriously, with opression comes the need to be on the look out. Its instinctive.

    What would South Asians rally around? Aren’t most of the influential ones wealthy Republican? Looks like we have some house cleaning to do first.

  14. I know I’m not typical but I’m a man who with my male partner has been raising straight family members kids for eight years now – the adults concerned had their kids removed by social services. We’ve had up to seven at once! Disposable income? I WISH!

  15. I wonder how much the prevalence of the “DINK” (dual-income no-kids) lifestyle among gay couples helps create expendable income.

    I heard that lesbians spend all their disposable income on potlucks, cats and herbal tea.

  16. Aren’t most of the influential ones wealthy Republican?

    Unfortunately true. But the important word is ‘wealthy’ and thus ‘influential’. I wonder, would I ever be rich in that case :-(

  17. Remember Durbin, Abraham, and Webb? I think in the case of Macaca-Gate, South Asian money did have some impact on the race. That effort had no real organization behind it, however. I also realize that unlike the gay community (to an extent), South Asian Americans aren’t necessarily a voting block, but are rather voting “iceberg” (a term I like to forward). Still, some of the ideas that Gill has put into practice could work very well for other groups.

    I guess your saying “(to an extent)” in quotes accommodates for the quibble I have with calling the “gay community” a voting bloc, but since you’re encouraging a South Asian analogy, and since I’m not sure what exceptions you had in mind, I thought I’d elaborate on the one I have in my mind:

    I think the present-day queer community is also comprised of icebergs, one of which is TheGays (TM). TheGays (TM) are the queers that the mainstream audience knows best and assumes represent the rest of the queer community. In a sense, they are the queer parallel to the “model minority”. These guys are usually rich white men who are very, very, comfortable being rich and white and male in the ways that capitalism/materialism, white privilege, and binary male-female gender roles have always operated… except, of course, in their sexuality :)

    TheGays (TM) iceberg is huge. It is powerful. I’m not saying it doesn’t do a lot of good for the queer community; it most certainly does, and that is why the rest of the queer community rallies around them, making it all look like one big, monolithic political (and even cultural) bloc. But ask a poor, genderqueer, Chican@ immigrant or a poor, gay, black sex worker only a few generations removed from slavery — or shit, even a poor white lesbian with dependents — what he/she/ze has in common with guys like Gill, and, apart from coming together against oppressive heteronormativity, I doubt any would be able to come up with much.

    So while the entire community might be a one voting bloc on the legality of homosexuality, gay marriage, and “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, they go their separate ways on other issues. Of course, to most outside of the community (and certainly to many within it), these race, class, gender, ideology, etc. distinctions are trivial, if not invisible. Baby steps, I guess…

  18. I heard that lesbians spend all their disposable income on potlucks, cats and herbal tea.

    Funny, I heard it was barbells, nipple rings and crotch rockets.

    At least, in my necka da woods you can have them all.Of course, we are the home of the Nubian Queens MC. ;) (That’s MC as in motorcycle club, for you acronym impaired types :)

  19. Perhaps the unity that exists is the recognition that, at the very least, most gay people understand that heteronormativity exists and is a problem.

    Consider some of the arguments that periodically rip through sites like Sepia Mutiny over even the term “South Asian”. The gay community is incredibly diverse, but (as far as I know) it doesn’t really have a Dinesh D’Souza figure who denies that oppression. Many South Asians are still denying the existence of a defined community encompassing all the nations and religions of Southern Asia. Some even question whether racial and religious discrimination is really a problem for us in the USA.

  20. Abhi,

    “On its surface this doesn’t have anything to do with South Asian Americans”

    Even beneath that surface it has a weak, tenuous link to being about desis, at best. But I don’t think that matters because I’ll admit even though it’s not news about desis, it is news for desis – well, some. I think SM can learn from the /. motto “news for nerds”. Replace nerds with desis – the predicate is anyways flexible. The important part is the preposition ‘for’ instead of ‘about’. News for desis will correlate highly with news about desis, but they’re radically different near their peripheries. You’ll find that news unrelated to desis may still be suitable news for desis – this part SM is good at, at times, like with this article. You’ll also find that news about desis may not be suitable for desis – this part SM struggles with, often.

  21. Know what i love, how everybody here is so casual, liek most of the guys that read mutiny blogs are jsut to carry on a conversation with a college chick to get laid because what they said had meaning but its all ripped off, the mutineers arnt here supplying that, they are trying to plant a seeed so that somday someperson will actully read one of these and try to make a difference, llol, makes me wonder who will, these jokers