Friday, August 10, 2007

Howard Dean Plugs Dems' Core Values At Fire Island Pines

Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean's appearance in the Fire Island Pines each August remains something of a political rite of passage for island politicos and those who enjoy to report on them as I wrote in the New York Blade and others for EDGE and the Fire Island News this week. The decision to bar reporters from the fundraiser was irksome in the context of previous coverage but it remains a politically and financially savvy decision for Dean to appear in the wealthy gay resort. The DNC clearly wants to court pink donors and potential LGBT voters as they seek a triumphant return to the White House next November. Their prospects remain well in light of growing GOP opposition due to President Bush's continued policies in Iraq and an overall malaise with his administration and his party. Politics remains, if anything, a game. Dean's appearance in the Pines is simply yet another move in that evolving strategy of pink courtship.

With the 2008 presidential campaign heating up faster than New York in August, Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Howard Dean made his sixth-annual Fire Island Pines pilgrimage on Sunday, Aug. 5, to headline a DNC fundraiser at philanthropist Brandon Fradd’s bayside home.

The Fire Island News and other media outlets had covered previous events, but this year, reporters were barred.

At the fundraiser, Dean reiterated his party’s support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and other LGBT-specific legislation to the more than 75 people who paid $250 to attend the event.

The former Vermont governor and 2004 gubernatorial candidate said that Democrats need to talk about equality and other universal values that would resonate with straight voters.

“We’re developing a core message that we can run on anywhere in the country based on our core values of fairness, toughness and fiscal responsibility,” Dean told the Blade in a pre-fundraiser interview.
Dean used this platform to further highlight the DNC’s 50 State Strategy. The plan seeks to help Democrats win local and statewide elections during this election cycle. Dean also applauded Democratic presidential candidates who he maintains continue to support LGBT rights in comparison to their Republican counterparts.

“They are putting into action our party’s commitment to promoting equal rights and protections for every American,” he said. “You don’t see that kind of leadership from Republicans in Washington or many other places.”

Dean criticized President Bush and the majority of GOP candidates for their continued support of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would define marriage as between a man and a woman, despite Congressional inaction on the proposal last June.

The DNC’s platform opposes the FMA but calls upon each state to define marriage.

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska remain the only two candidates among the crowded Democratic field who have endorsed same-sex marriage equality.
Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle and other LGBT activists have criticized U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and other Democratic front runners’ failure to support gay and lesbian nuptials.

National Gay & Lesbian Task Force executive director Matt Foreman opined in a blog earlier this month that Clinton, along with U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, remain largely silent on marriage and other specific LGBT issues.

Dean did not respond directly to these criticisms. Instead, he pointed out that the Democratic presidential hopefuls continue to uphold the DNC’s platform on the campaign trail.

“The fact is every single Democrat running for president supports expanding real, specific rights for LGBT people,” Dean said.

The DNC’s Pines fundraiser is the latest indication of the party’s active courtship of LGBT donors and potential LGBT voters at this relatively early stage of the campaign.

The Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are more than four months away but New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and dozens of other LGBT politicians and activists have already made their allegiances known.

Foreman conceded that Democratic presidential candidates support LGBT issues more than the majority of those from across the aisle. He added that a fundraiser in the Pines allows Dean to connect with a historical constituency within the Democratic Party.

Foreman concluded, however, LGBT donors have a responsibility to hold the candidates responsible for their positions. “They can look them in the eye and tell them what they expect,” he said. “We don’t have to wait until after the election for a candidate to deliver.”

Dirk McCall, a gay political activist based in Astoria, Queens, agreed. He applauded Dean’s efforts to reach out to LGBT Democrats since he took the DNC helm in February of 2005.

McCall concluded that Democratic White House hopefuls need to take stronger positions if they hope to expand their support among pink voters and donors.

“They can’t be wishy-washy on our issues,” he said. “We deserve better than that.”

Dean maintained his core messages of equality, fairness and change. He said that Pines residents and other LGBT New Yorkers will continue to play a pivotal role in this current election cycle as the DNC seeks to return a Democrat to the White House in 2008.

“We are raising money to elect a Democratic president,” Dean said.

No comments: