Netroots Nation, an organization dedicated to providing progressive voices with a national forum, recently held its fifth annual convention, during which Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about ENDA and her thoughts on its eventual passage. “I can’t give you a time. But I can tell you that it is a priority and it had been our hope to do it this year. We have to finish Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hopefully we can do both this year.”
That was July 24th, 2010. As momentum builds for a November election, the Democrats find themselves in danger of losing their majority while the mainstream GOP simply rests on its heels as the Tea Party enjoys a terrifying surge. Meanwhile, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act loses precious momentum by the day, at risk of becoming just another unfilled campaign promise to the LGBT community. Let’s face it: while Democrats fight to retain their majority, it’s increasingly unlikely that at-risk Democratic candidates will throw themselves behind an inclusive ENDA this fall.
I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news but with the midterm elections now just nine weeks away, we need to be realistic and understand what we could be facing. The American Political Science Association recently gathered for their annual conference and forecasted significant losses for the Democrats. (See “Political Scientists Forecast Big Losses For Democrats In 2010 Midterm Elections” by Mark Blumenthal, The Huffington Post) Three of the five forecasts predict that Republicans will gain majority control of the House of Representatives, and with that will go our chances for an inclusive ENDA. John Boehner could very well be the next Speaker, and if we lose one of our greatest allies, Speaker Pelosi, it could spell disaster for an inclusive ENDA and LGBT rights in general.
Let’s look briefly at what we are facing this election: Carly Fiorina, who has called for overturning Roe v. Wade. Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky who assail landmark laws against discrimination, such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. Florida’s Marco Rubio and Alaska’s Joe Miller want to end Social Security. Another extremist seeking renewed exposure is discredited anti-abortion and antigay activist Alveda King (MLK’s niece) and her play on antigay sentiment in hopes of turning out enough votes to win tight elections for the Right Wing. (See, “Extremism, the Makeover, and Election 2010” by Hans Johnson, The Huffington Post, September 3, 2010.)
As a Lesbian and as co-chair of Alice, I know how important it is to advance our rights. As much as I practice that each day, I think now is the time for us to go back to basics. November’s election is about preventing the Right Wing from moving this country backwards. Now more than ever it is important to keep Democrats in office, especially since with the completion of the census and reapportionment now upon us, we need to ensure that Republicans cannot remap crucial election districts so that it’s even more difficult to vote them out of office. So as much as all-inclusive ENDA and the repeal of DADT are important goals, for the next nine weeks, the LGBT community should concentrate its efforts instead on keeping Democrats in power and donating time and money to various Democratic campaigns across the country to empower our party to retain control of our country.
Bentrish Satarzadeh, Co-Chair
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club