The Human Rights Campaign announced Tuesday that it was endorsing Hillary Clinton and, as Chris Johnson reported, the Sanders camp blasted the LGBT organization for doing so.
“It’s understandable and consistent with the establishment organizations voting for the establishment candidate, but it’s an endorsement that cannot possibly be based on the facts and the record,” said Sanders campaign spokesperson Michael Briggs.
Without dwelling too long on which Democratic candidate has the better record, Dominic Holden has a point here:
Naturally, Bernie supporters argue he'd be a better equality advocate, while Hillary supporters say the same of their candidate. As far I'm concerned, Hillary and Bernie aren't all that far apart on LGBTQ issues and either could serve as a strong advocate for equality. In fact, Clinton was a very solid advocate at the State Department and arguably President Obama's most aggressive cabinet member on the issue during the early years of his administration.
That said, what the heck is the Human Rights Campaign doing? One of the best things that happened to LGBT activism in 2008 was that our largest organization didn't endorse until AFTER Hillary Clinton bowed out of the race. That helped heighten the urgency of each of the candidates as they worked for LGBT votes during a hard-fought extended primary. And the harder they worked, the more promises they made—so much so that Obama's pledge to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" was permanently lodged in the memory of every mainstream reporter that covered him by the time he took office.
I watched firsthand from the White House briefing room as his administration struggled to explain their total inaction on that promise in the first year of his presidency. And that promise, as I have written elsewhere, became one that he couldn't ignore through a combination of inspired grassroots activism and smart advocacy.
HRC should want both Hillary and Bernie to work as hard for its endorsement as possible, but instead the leadership has given it away before a single vote has even been counted.
Their bargain, of course, is that Hillary will get the nomination and they'll have better access than they otherwise would (that’s surely the promise that was made behind closed doors). It’s a promise that several other progressive organizations have recently embraced, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL, which likely upped the pressure on HRC.
But if you're interested in how well that worked out last time around, just ask NARAL. The group endorsed Barack Obama in May of 2008 (before the pitched battle was over) and took a ton of heat for it. Turned out, they bet on the right horse but still got shafted by the administration early on when President Obama signed the infamous abortion compromise on healthcare in March 2010. So whatever access to the White House that endorsement gained NARAL, it certainly wasn’t any more persuasive than Obama’s high-profile pledges on LGBT issues during the primaries.
Unfortunately, our largest LGBT group just managed to give away the community's biggest leveraging point at the very moment that this race is getting really interesting. That's political malpractice, full stop.