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Hillary’s Not Our Mom, and She’s Not Judy Garland

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BY PAUL SCHINDLER | In a recent New York Times article, which was titled “Hillary Clinton’s Gay Rights Evolution” and explored her connection to and, to a lesser extent, her detractors among LGBT voters, longtime activist David Mixner got the last word.

Arguing that lesbians and straight women were among the most committed activists during the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, Mixner — who was once close to the Clintons but also had a famous break with them early in Bill’s presidency — asserted, “There’s a very strong bond between the feminist community and the gay rights community.” He then added, “It’s a real symbiotic relationship and it diminishes it to say we’re supporting her in some Judy Garland way.”

Well… yeah.

How this statement found its way into a story about a politician might be explained in part by the fact that it ran in the newspaper’s Fashion & Style section.

But it may also be an appropriate closer for the article because some of the highest profile people quoted seemed to suggest something uncomfortably close to precisely that.

To be sure, the article cites the difficulty Clinton had explaining to NPR’s Terry Gross the way in which she “evolved” on marriage equality and away from some of the Clinton presidency’s black marks — including the Defense of Marriage Act and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And it cites critics of Clinton, such as blogger Andrew Sullivan, on those points.

But much of the article is given over to praise for Clinton — and it often doesn’t reflect well on our community’s political savvy.

“People see her as a survivor and someone who despite her many, many gifts and blessings, survived some personal and political setbacks and persevered in the face of them,” said Richard Socarides, who was a Clinton White House hand.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, is quoted saying, “The LGBT community is, in some respects, very forgiving. We’ve seen our own family and friends evolve around us so it’s not out of context to see a politician evolve as well.”

Most cringe-worthy, though, was the statement from the Human Rights Campaign’s lead spokesman, Fred Sainz: “We get her like we get our moms. We’ve seen the travails she’s been through and the fact that she’s not just a survivor but a conqueror.”

If Hillary Clinton is our next president, it won’t be important if she has suffered as we have or if she reminds us of our mom or some other family member. The global human rights vision she laid out at the State Department will. That she now supports marriage equality will. And whether she would push for comprehensive nationwide civil rights protections for every LGBT Americans is a question we must have her answer before November 2016.

This other stuff is trifling BS.

For several weeks after the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, Clinton failed to say anything publicly about it. Last Monday, the Reverend Al Sharpton called her out on that silence, something I know about because Doug Robinson, a longtime New York gay activist, alerted me that he was putting his earlier support for Clinton on hold pending her response.

Three days after Sharpton spoke up, Clinton herself did.

There’s no doubt that if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, Sharpton would prefer her to any of the Republicans who might possibly run against her. But you won’t hear him talking about how Bill, with all his Southernisms, was really “the first black president.” Or how when Hillary suffered a head injury late in her tenure as secretary of state, it reminded him of an aunt who bounced back after a fall.

If we expect to be taken seriously as a political constituency, we have to stop addressing politics like it’s all about feelings and wonderful moments of personal identification. We need to focus on all the business that remains undone, despite our recent successes. And we might think about not answering questions from Fashion & Style reporters about the most powerful office in the world.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

J. F. Mulligan says:
Hillary Clinton also marched in the bigoted NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade. She was well aware of the longsatanding Democratic electeds boycotting the parade because of its anti-gay and hatelful messgae. Clinton has a track record of throwing queers under the bus for her politcal opportunism. She has yet to apologize for a list of slights to our community.
Sept. 5, 2014, 9:39 am
Doug Robinson says:
To Paul Schindler: Thanks for this thoughtful, as well as, truthful article. Indeed, the alternatives to Hillary Clinton are pretty slim to none at this point. I am speaking of candidates that can win. Having said that, it is important that all progressives including our LGBT brothers and sisters, always hold candidates' feet to the fire. Hillary should not be treated any differently than any other candidate. When it comes to the many critical issues facing our nation, I want to have a president who can make sound decisions in a timely fashion. As a gay man of color and a parent, the killing of an unarmed teenager by the police in Ferguson, Missouri touched me deeply, as it did for many Americans thru out the country. Hillary should have known that this issue was important to Americans. The fact that she took so long to respond, could be an indicator of how she would handle other issues as president. She has to do MUCH BETTER, if she wants my support!
Sept. 5, 2014, 5:15 pm
Pauline Park says:
It's important to point out that Hillary Clinton stridently defended the recent Israeli genocide in Gaza that killed over 2,100 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians and over 500 of whom were children; and she has consistently defended the Israeli apartheid regime that governs the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Israeli state has illegally occupied since 1967. Paul Schindler is right: Hillary isn't your mother (unless you're Chelsea Clinton) and she isn't Judy Garland; if she's running for president, we need to evaluate her candidacy on the basis of her domestic and foreign policy positions and record and not on the basis of a superficial identity politics or misplaced anima projection.
Sept. 8, 2014, 7:51 am
David Ehrenstein says:
She's not our Mom. She's Not Judy. She's not Grace to our Will either. She's the Evil of Two Lessers.
Sept. 15, 2014, 2:01 pm
LittleBearNYC says:
Even though LGBT voters have proved time and time again that we are informed voters who care about the issues (witness former-Progressive now Bloombergian Christine Quinn's lackluster showing with LGBT voters in NYC) and yet we are still subjected to facile analysis such as the NY Times article. Like other informed LGBT people I know, we see through Hillary's 'support-when-the polls show a majority', war mongering stance, and neo-liberal, corporate loving economic policies and will not vote for her in any primary. At 60 years of age I am tired of holding my nose and voting for the lessor of two interests- even if one of them suddenly supports my rights as a gay man. I want a candidate who, like FDR in the past, has the courage of his/her convictions and a foreign and economic platform that does not favor the 1%.
Sept. 19, 2014, 2:36 pm
Doug Robinson says:
Amen to that!
Sept. 19, 2014, 11:22 pm

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