Friday, October 16, 2009

The Top 3 Blogs for Gay Rights Advocacy

Summary: As the gay rights movement builds momentum, we ask "how are LGBT activists using New Media to advance their cause?"

As many of you are probably well aware, a swarm of LGBT rights advocates marched through Washington DC on Sunday in protest of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and in support of gay marriage.

When asked about the White House’s views towards the demonstrations, NBC Washington correspondent John Harwood said they view it as “the internet left fringe…[and that] those bloggers need to take off the pajamas and realize governing a closely divided country is complicated.”

Watch it here:

In fact, the blogosphere has been a widely used tool by the LGBT-supportive community - and they appear to be using that tool effectively. So we thought we would point out what we believe are the “Top 3 Blogs for Gay Rights Advocacy” - which we chose based on three determinants: 1) Building Sympathy for the Cause, 2) Supplying Ample Information on the Progress of Gay Rights, and 3) Organizing Support for LGBT Advocacy.


Written by a self-described gay Christian, he explains his blog as such:

"All my life, I’d placed an Asterisk next to my name. Nobody else saw my Asterisk, but I did. It was a constant reminder that both of the most important parts of me were mutually exclusive. That my difference made me a bad person…

…Nowadays, I don’t worry about my Asterisk. As far as I’m concerned it’s gone…

…And that’s what this blog is about; exposing the Asterisk, and with that exposure, removing it."

We chose this blog because of how it effectively and appropriately builds sympathy for the LGBT community - the blog is filled with heart-wrenching stories about discrimination against LGBT individuals. For example, his most popular post at the moment is about a lesbian who was denied her right to see her partner as she was dying in a southern hospital.

From the post:

We arrived shortly after 3:30 in the afternoon, around 4pm, a social worker came out and introduced himself as Garnett Frederick and said, “you are in an anti-gay city and state. And without a health care proxy you will not see Lisa nor know of her condition”. He then turned to leave; I stopped him and asked for his fax number because I said “we had legal Durable Powers of Attorney” and would get him the documents. Within a short time of meeting this social worker, I contacted friends in Lacey, WA, our hometown, who went to our house and faxed the legal documents required for me to make medical decisions for Lisa…

…A Hospital Chaplain appeared and asked if I wanted to pray and I looked at her dumbfounded as if I hadn’t already been doing that for over four hours. I immediately asked for a Catholic Priest to perform Lisa’s Last rites. A short time later, a Catholic priest escorted me back to recite the Last Rites and it was my first time in nearly 5hrs of seeing Lisa. After seeing her I knew the children needed to see her immediately and be able to say their goodbyes and begin the grieving process. Yet the priest escorted me back out to the waiting room. Where I was faced with the young faces of our beautiful children to explain “other mommy” was going to heaven.

You can access “Asterisk” at

Gay Rights Watch

You can consider this the Huffington Post of the gay rights movement. It is complete with opinions, news, commentary, and even the more light-hearted issues of LGBT advocacy. Based out of Portland, it is one of the most well-maintained blogs we’ve seen in a while

From the “About Us” page:

"Since March 2005 we’ve been bringing news regarding the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. At times we’ve been known as being a bit controversial and sometimes it even gets us in hot water namely with anti-gay lobbyists and legislators, but mainly we’re known as a great source of news for the GLBT community."

We chose this website because of the massive extent of information it provides on the progress of gay rights.

To try to give you a taste would be futile, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

You can visit Gay Rights Watch at

The Bilerico Project

Like Gay Rights Watch, The Bilerico Project provides well-rounded news, analysis, and light-hearted coverage of the gay rights movement. The only difference is that this website is more politically active.

From the “About Us” page:

"The Bilerico Project is the web's largest LGBTQ group blog with over 75 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and genderqueer contributors. The Project features LGBTQ activists, politicos, journalists, novelists, advice columnists, and video bloggers who are high-energy, inquisitive, eloquent experts in their professions.

Some are among the top LGBTQ pundits and leaders in the country; others have made their mark in their state or local communities. Each brings a unique perspective and background to their work, offering analysis and opinion on almost every aspect of LGBTQ politics and culture. They spark creative and productive conversations among our growing readership. Our goal is to foster those conversations in order to strengthen us as individuals and as a community.

At Bilerico Project, we don't break the news. We shape the news."

We chose this blog because it does a great job at advancing the gay rights movement via organizing support for LGBT advocacy. For example, they have an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) Targeted Legislator of the Day, who they put pressure on to support the yet-to-be-passed bill.

And one recent post looked like a fundraising email:

Once again, a generous donor and Bilerico reader has offered to match donations to our ActBlue Maine Page up to $1000 to help protect marriage equality for all families! The deadline is in six hours!

We need your help, though! Our donor will only match if at least 12 people contribute. After all the excitement of the National Equality March, let's come out in strong support of Maine and help us meet our goal!

Donate to No On 1/Maine marriage equality via Bilerico's ActBlue page and your donation will be doubled! You have to act fast though - state law cuts off contributions for this reporting period at 11:59pm tonight! Donate now to get twice the benefit!!

If 1/4 of our RSS subscribers alone gave $5, we'd be able to give Maine an extra $6000 at the last moment when they need it most. If you can't do much, can you give $5?

To access The Bilerico Project, visit

Other good pro-gay rights blogs include Queers United, The Mad Professah Lectures, and From the Left.

To try to undermine the impact these blogs have on public opinion - and even the future of public policy - would be unwise. Just as the online network of Tea Party activists and other conservatives seems to have shifted public opinion on economic concerns lately, the online network of gay or pro-gay bloggers appears to be affecting the social debate.

Support for gay rights - including gay marriage - is at an all time high. If these bloggers can upkeep its relevancy and continue building sympathy for the cause, providing extensive coverage of gay rights progress, and organize activism, the goals of the gay rights movement are sure to be met in time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Will Young Voters Continue to Help Democrats?

Summary: The progressive Millennial generation appears to be less engaged since 2008 - is there any way for the Democrats to turn that around?

Politico today has a potentially troubling article for Democrats looking forward to next year’s midterm elections.

From the article:

In New Jersey, about 377,000 of the 560,000 young voters who showed up at the polls supported Obama. In Virginia, about 373,000 out of 621,000 young voters backed Obama.

But some young Democrats say that energy surge has begun to dissipate and student political involvement for the 2009 races has returned to normal — before the Obama phenomenon seemed to transfix young voters.

At the University of Virginia last October, political signs plastered dorm room walls, and campaign volunteers saturated the campus.

Now, volunteers canvassing first-year dorms report that many students have no idea who [Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh] Deeds is.

The article points out, however, that this is not exactly a phenomenon.

Historically, gubernatorial races suffer from low voter turnout across all age groups. Experts already expect less than half of last year’s electorate will cast a vote in either state. And young voters are often one of the first age groups politicians lose in an off-year election, making it vital for Democrats to round up a solid showing, according to Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement…

…New voters haven’t entirely dropped from the political process. A number of college Democrats say their membership numbers are steadily climbing and that more students are likely to become interested in the races during the final weeks. Those who are tuned in to the campaigns say they’ve been impressed by the extensive outreach both campaigns are making on social media forums including Facebook and Twitter, and by the campaigns’ grass-roots efforts on campuses…

…The [Deeds] campaign is also relying for additional outreach on a television ad aimed at college students.

In the ad Priority, Deeds tries to relate to the financial struggles of college students.
“Growing up, we didn’t have much. But education was always a priority,” Deeds says in the ad. “My mom sent me off to college with just four twenty-dollar bills, so I know good schools are the best investment we can make in our children’s future.”

In New Jersey, Corzine recently tailgated with hundreds of Rutgers University alumni and students before the school’s homecoming game. Despite last-minute advertising, only 30 of the campus Democrats’ nearly 300 members showed up, according to Rutgers University Democrats President Alex Holodak.

“To be honest, it’s been a rough year. Even though the race is getting more interesting minute by minute, it’s more difficult to get people engaged this year,” said Holodak. “I feel like the overall morale of people is like, ‘We already elected the president,’ and that’s it.”

We’ve mentioned before how young voters are dramatically shifting overall public opinion, but without a strong effort to turnout the youth vote, they probably won’t help shift public policy.

One reason that young voters are less likely to be engaged during midterm elections - which the article only briefly mentions - is that college students often do not attend a school in their home state. As a result, they feel less invested in the outcome of a statewide election than they do in a national one.

In a presidential race, most everyone on campus knows the outcome of the election could likely affect them personally. Even foreign exchange students understand it is important who the president of the United State is. That cannot really be said of a gubernatorial race.

The Deeds and Corzine campaigns are right to invest in targeting young voters through new media and grassroots outreach. As Lauren Gilbert - President of the James Madison University Young Democrats - said, “there’s still a lot of potential here.”

Depending on the outcomes of those efforts, they could serve as an important lesson for Democrats in 2010.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Historical Revisionism and the GOP

Summary: Has the GOP revised history on their new website for their own political gain with minorities and women? Did they go too far or are we going to see a new GOP?

The Republican National Committee launched their new website last night - Politico today reports that the launching was riddled with problems, in part due to unexpected traffic.

But beyond the flashy new tools available to Republican activists - including a variety of New-Media devices - there was one curious page on the new website titled “Republican Accomplishments.”

The page lists 37 accomplishments by the GOP since 1860. Of these, an incredible 23 have to due with the rights and acceptance of women and minorities in the political realm.

Among their claims to fame:

• The first Hispanic Governor was a Republican
• Republicans Freed the Slaves
• The First African-American Senator was a Republican
• Republicans Outlawed the Ku Klux Klan
• A Republican Wrote the 19th Amendment
• First Women Mayors in the United States
• A Republican President Appointed the First Jewish Cabinet Secretary
• Republicans Passed the Indian Citizenship Act
• The First Asian-American Senator was a Republican
• A Republican Wrote the Brown v. Board of Education Decision

In fact, following the Brown decision, President Eisenhower (a Republican) was to have said that his nomination of Chief Justice Earl Warren was the greatest mistake of his presidency. That fact - for obvious reasons - was ignored.

And the “accomplishments” in the Civil Rights Era seem to get even more convoluted. Okay, it might not be outright Revisionism (a term often used to explain Holocaust denial) but the claims are certainly misleading.

For example, they brag about Republican involvement in the 1957 Civil Rights Act as such:

“During the five terms of the FDR and Truman presidencies, the Democrats did not propose any civil rights legislation. President Eisenhower, in contrast, asked his Attorney General to write the first federal civil rights legislation since the Republican Party’s 1875 Civil Rights Act.

Many Democrats in the Senate filibustered the bill, but strong Republican support ensured passage. The new law established a Civil Rights Division within the Justice Department and authorized the Attorney General to request injunctions against any attempt to deny someone’s right to vote. The GOP improved upon this landmark legislation with the 1960 Civil Rights Act.”

Of course, many of the Democrats who opposed the legislation were southerners (or “Dixiecrats”) who were often at odds with their fellow party members in the north and would later leave the Democratic Party for the GOP. The most notable example is Sen. Strom Thurmond, who spoke an astounding 24 hours alone in an effort to filibuster the 1957 bill and became a Republican in 1964.

This picking-and-choosing of facts is not exactly atypical of politics, but the extent to which it is used here seems almost unprecedented.

But the way the GOP is trying to focus on their accomplishments of integration and acceptance of women and minorities is not without reason. This is part of the vision of RNC Chairman Michael Steele (a minority himself) for a “new GOP.”

Ultimately, however, the Republican Party cannot hope for more women and minority support by touting their historical achievements, they must make some today. After all, parties do not get elected, individual candidates do. And can Chris Christie or Bob McDonnell really take credit for freeing the slaves?

Meanwhile, the Republican caucuses in Congress opposed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act - which would help limit gender discrimination in pay - and almost opposed the extension of the Voting Rights Act just a few years ago.

Despite what they think a new website will do to bring in support from the demographics they are not strong with, actions still speak louder than words.

Top Stories: 10/14/09

Politico takes a look into the 5-member "President's Club" and its activities.

One Florida political blog says that the recent resignation of Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) could start a "Democratic free-for-all" in his district.

The Huffington Post picks up a story (video included) on how even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is not safe from Tea Party protesting at town hall meetings.

Maureen Dowd contemplates a Cheney consulting firm in her New York Times Column.

Nate Silver discusses what he calls the "price of party unity" in an interesting post.

And these were last night's political jokes:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do You Need to be Thin to be a Politician?

Summary: Tensions are high in the New Jersey gubernatorial race as Corzine hints that Christie is too fat!

The gubernatorial race in New Jersey has been about as dirty as we expected it to be, but it appears to be hitting a new low.

Governor Jon Corzine (D-NJ) recently released this seemingly harmless attack ad (as far as attack ads go) about his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie:

But then a post on reviewed the ad and said that by using the line “threw his weight around” Corzine was pulling the “weight card” on Christie, who is notably overweight.

Even if it was intentional, meant to invoke a subconscious response from the voters, it would be impossible to prove. But then Corzine was asked about the ad.

From an interview with the Press of Atlantic City:

"People who flash their credentials or use their offices to accomplish something, people say 'people threw their weight around,'" Corzine said.

Asked directly if he thought Christie was fat, Corzine touched his bare head, smiled and said, "Am I bald?"

There is a lot to say about this new development - particularly what it says about our culture and (more importantly for this blog) America’s voting habits. Nate Silver at - however - stole our thunder.

From his recent post:

This, insofar is it goes, is true: Chris Christie is a large man. And one thing that's certainly true of Americans is that they don't elect very many fat governors. Running through pictures of the 50 sitting governors, I come up with only about 10 (20%) who are distinctly overweight, and only 3 (6%) -- Haley Barbour, Bill Richardson, and Sonny Perdue -- who are clearly obese. This compares with percentages on the order of 65 percent and 30 percent for the U.S. adult population. The skinny on the numbers after the jump.

At this point, Silver lists each governor in the country and humorously comments on their physical stature.

He continues…

Now, some of the cases are debatable -- my classifications are probably a bit conservative given that overweight is the new normal in America. Perhaps someone like Brad Henry or Oklahoma or Tim Kaine of Virgina would meet the clinical definition of overweight, along with a few others. Still, it's clear that overweight governors are considerably underrepresented as a percentage of the U.S. population. As an electoral handicap, it probably doesn't rival being atheist or (avowedly!) gay, but I'd probably bet on the skinny woman before the fat man, all else being equal.

It would take a lot of work to figure this out, but I'd guess that this is a relatively recent phenomenon. We've elected quite a few fat Presidents ... William Howard Taft, Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt -- and Bill Clinton really, though he wore it well. And those men (with the partial exception of Clinton) were elected at a time where being obese was far less typical than it is today.

Certainly, you can see where the Corzine campaign is hoping to go with this one. Let your mind run wild with the not-so-subtle implications: Christie is a fat slob who is underprepared for the pressures of office, a fat cat who will sell out to the special interests, etc. Undoubtedly, their crack research staff uncovered some evidence that Christie's weight is a vulnerability, or at least could be associated with other negatives about him.

But it's one thing for your opponent's weight to be a vulnerability, and another thing to point that out to the voters without looking like an a-hole.

There have been many, many campaigns waged over the years that deftly (or not-so-deftly) implied that the opponent was a closet homosexual, Muslim, communist, or atheist. But being fat isn't like those other things: it's something that everyone can see for themselves. There is no plus-sized closet for fat people, so to speak. And our nation's relationship with obesity and obese people is complicated. Although fat people are perhaps by default objects of disdain, it doesn't take very much to turn them into everyman-ish Bubbas -- objects of sympathy.

Corzine remains in a much better position than he was a month ago. But if this is his campaign's idea of an endgame, he's liable to send Christie's big, fat ass to Trenton.

Well said.

The only thing Silver seemed to miss was along the lines of one point he made: our politicians are mostly skinnier than they used to be.

One likely correlation is this: as food has become easier to produce over the past 100 years, overeating (and eating the wrong things) has become more common for the average American than it has for the rich American. In fact, wealthier Americans are more likely to be thin today because they can afford healthier meals, to get exercise equipment, and go the gym.

Malnutrition is just as serious for working-class Americans as it has ever been - the only difference is that malnutrition is no longer synonymous with hunger for them.

What this suggests is not that it’s necessarily easier for a skinny person to be elected because of their low weight (although it may), it could simply be that the skinny person is more likely to be elected because they can afford to self-fund their campaigns (like Corzine) or at least significantly help their campaign with their own resources.

It would be interesting for political scientists to study exactly what the effect of weight is on a candidate’s chances.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What Will Be the Political Impact of Obama’s Nobel?

Summary: Obama's Nobel - will it hurt or help Democrats in the long term?

As you all know by now, President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Since then, there has been a conservative firestorm of criticism for awarding it to the man within the first year of his presidency and with no especially major accomplishments.

On his Sunday talk show, former Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee told his audience “I think we ought to universally celebrate the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize for potential deeds, because this gives me hope. Since I’m a musician, I’d like to go ahead and get my Grammy now.” (See the video in this morning’s top stories).

Meanwhile, Liz Cheney - the former Vice President’s daughter - called the Obama win “a farce” in her Fox News debut yesterday.

Even M.I.A. - the musician who produced the catchy song from the Slum Dog Millionaire trailer - said Obama should have turned down his Nobel, tweeting “Obama winning the nobel peace PRIZE? he should give it back like john Lennon sent back his MBE.”

The Nobel victory seems to have caused the president more embarrassment than praise here at home. But there are several reasons why neither Obama nor the Democrats have any reason to worry about the award.

1) Few will actually blame Obama. Everyone who believes he didn’t deserve it (including the president, himself, according to his speech on Friday) will blame the Nobel committee. Furthermore, it’s difficult to expect him to actually turn down the award, as it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to say you’ve won the world’s most prestigious award.

2) No one will care come election time. In 2012, who is honestly going to criticize the Nobel win let alone remember it? The issues of the day change quickly, and while this is what everyone is talking about right now, it’s not going to be what we’re talking about three years from now. In fact, hardly anyone will be talking about it three weeks from now.

3) It will not disrupt what Obama is trying to accomplish. The legislative priorities the president is taking will not be hindered because no one will associate a Nobel Peace Prize with, say, healthcare reform. Furthermore, no Congressional Democrats will feel at risk because of Obama’s Nobel - voters simply aren’t going to tie them to the president’s victory. The only area in which the Nobel could get in the way - or, conversely, assist the president - is foreign policy, and even that seems a little unlikely in the long run.

So congratulations to President Obama for his surprise victory. Perhaps he didn’t fully deserve it (although progressives like myself have valid reasons to believe he did, to an extent) but at least the criticisms will die down relatively soon and the embarrassment will be minimal.

Top Stories: 10/12/09

The Wall Street Journal reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will be the "key" to the GOP's 2010 strategy.

Politico, meanwhile, reports that the Tea Party activists may not be so helpful for the Republican Party.

A blogger for the Washington Post comments on Rush Limbaugh's bid for the St. Louis Rams.

Nate Silver explains the reasons behind the health insurance industry's efforts to block healthcare reform.

The Huffington Post is currently holding a vote on the biggest political "game-changers" that have come from the online revolution.

And here are this weekends late night political jokes: