A Question That Should Have Been Asked

Sara Whitman, over at Bilerico, on Tammy Baldwin’s capitulation on Barney Frank’s political hate crime against trans people (a/k/a ENDA 3685):

I appreciate and support Congresswoman Baldwin- she was true to her beliefs. She also voted Yes to ENDA without her amendment, because, “The importance of non-discrimination laws cannot be overstated. Substantively, they provide legal remedies and a chance to seek justice.” If I were on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday? I would have voted Yes, too.

It would have made me sick. But I would have done it.

Well, that makes me sick.  No amount of rationalization justifies evil.

To be fair to Sara, I kinda like how she ended the piece (except for her reiteration of support for Baldwinism):

In 1987, Massachusetts passed a gay and lesbian civil rights bill. Twenty years later, we still have no gender identity protections. The only state in the country with legally recognized gay marriage and no protections for gender expression.

As a community, we need to reframe where we are. It’s not about making chicken salad out of chicken shit, which implies making due with what we have. It’s about creating a calculated, thoughtful strategy for moving forward, building on what we have. It’s about making stone soup. I believe that’s what Congresswoman Baldwin was trying to do. Regardless, I am going to support her because I am unwilling to throw anyone under the bus.

Here’s a lesson in physics: You can’t throw someone under the bus if you’ve already been thrown under the bus yourself.  Pull, perhaps; but not throw.

Even though I briefly held out hope that Baldwin might be sincere – and might succeed – I no longer believe that it was anything more than an act.

Sara, I’m glad you mentioned Massachusetts’ gay-only law.  Several years before Massachusetts committed that hate crime against trans people, Wisconsin did the same thing.

You know – Wisconsin, the state Tammy Baldwin represents in Congress now?

She wasn’t in the Wisconsin Legislature in 1982, but she did serve several terms in that body prior to being elected to Congress almost a decade ago.

Did Tammy Baldwin lift a finger to rectify her state’s political hate crime against trans people?  To the best of my knowledge, she did not.

If not, then why not?  And, if not, why should she become a transgender insta-hero?

Even then, was she eyeing bigger things, such as Congress?

Now, unlike the purveyors of Aravosisism, I can admit when I’m wrong.  I could be wrong about Rep. Baldwin.  However, unless there’s something significant in her professional political history about which I’m unaware, I don’t think I am – and that lil’ bit o’ theater Wednesday afternoon should properly be referred to as Tam’s Sham.

6 Responses to A Question That Should Have Been Asked

  1. Gender identity inclusion was not in her consciousness when she was in the Wisconsin legislature. Even if it had been, like she is junior to Barney now, she was way junior to that state’s civil rights bill’s definitely Barney-esque (if not worse) titular gay rights bill author (who would’ve had to have been kowtowed to to make any adjustments to it then.) In other words, it wouldn’t have been her call in Wisconsin, either. One thing’s for certain, in her district, it wouldn’t have been an obstacle to her Congressional aspirations.

    I get the sense that she, like many activists and politicians I’ve known, has been evolving — particularly in the new millenium — and that her conciousness then is far different than it is now. Is it good enough? I’m not entirely certain that her vote here provides enough evidence to judge.

    For one thing, I know that she and her staff were cut out of the decision-making loop on SPLENDA by Pelosi and Frank when the HRC was, instead, solidly in it. I speculate that the only thing left she had to trade with was her vote and that she traded it for getting her amendment approved for the calendar in Rules — and may well have originally intended to get a record vote on it and had to trade that as well in a last-minute doublecross from her leadership to get even the few minutes they gave her/the amendment even then.

    Would I have done that? It’s a tough call. There was merit in getting the issue of gender identity on the floor — and it preserved whatever chances Baldwin might have in the future to act on our behalf and that of her constituents — but was it worth the price to her integrity and her soul?

    I, for one, am glad it was not my choice to make. Either way, I think she was trying to do the best she could with what she had to work with which, thanks to the Frank/the HRC/Pelosi cabal, wasn’t much.

  2. One more thing…
    I suspect, too, that her timing on calling for the amendment’s withdrawal was no accident. She used up all her time without getting in the withdrawal request, knowing full well that Souder had retained some of his and that he was representing people who did want to force a record vote on that issue when (and no doubt because) it was obvious from all the hateful crap the cabal had been pulling that Pelosi and the DCCC wanted to avoid one at all costs.

    Baldwin had to know that Souder could legally request the vote and would get that request in prior to her getting recognized to withdraw — and that the chair would have to expose ON THE RECORD for all the world to see just how far it would go to keep that record vote from taking place, including undertaking a highly illegal ruling to do so.

    Yet Baldwin was able to preserve her plausible deniability in the process. The more I think about it, the more respect I’m developing for that sweetly innocent-faced young Congresswoman from Wisconsin!

  3. translegalhistorian says:


    I *truly* hope you’re right about Rep. Baldwin. If so, I’ll be the first to acknowledge it.

    I still, however, am looking for a mea culpa from those who could have – and should have – done something when they had the chance to alter the gay primacy orthodoxy before it got out of control.

    Even if she is what she’s presenting herself to be now, I think trans people are owed an explanation as to why she didn’t do anything at the state level in the 1990s. It is one thing to say, ‘I think inclusion is right – now.’ Its another to say, ‘You know, exclusion was wrong then.’

    I liken it to the passage in Lawrence v. Texas where Justice Kennedy says that not only is Bowers v. Hardwick wrong now, it was wrong the day it was decided. Trans people are owed not just inclusion – but an apology for the wrong-headed philosopo-strategy that allowed something like Black Wednesday II to take place.

  4. dyssonance says:

    In careful analysis of the situation surrounding tammy baldwin and her actions, I have to really strongly support her, as bad as that sounds.

    She was the *only* person to come forward and sponsor that amendment. Frank wouldn’t until someone else signed on to it — and he wrote the damn thing.

    She willingly — and not without a lot of ignorance about where it would put her — took on the role of a voice for us that no one else in the history of the house has ever done.

    I do NOT fault her — or, really, most other Dems — who voted for the bill. And you know, lol, quite well, I’d expect, how I feel about it.

    I don’t fault them becuase they were blackmailed. HRC is still the largest and most influential PAC for LGB(t) rights. It will take several years to bankrupt[pt them and establish a new organization.

    And it will be very difficult, as you can be sure they’ll bad mouth anyone who comes close (look at what they said about the other 350+ org of UnitedENDA).

    Only now they will do it the way they did it in ’04.

    Tammy’s actions, however, did do one thing., They gave *her* a better position, since Frank *is* moving out. This was his day in the sun, and now he’s on the decline. She showed she’s willing to both stand up for a principle and also be recognized by the Dem leadership without sacrificing herself on a sword that would have wrecked her ability to influence in other ways that she’s obligated to do.

    Frank is a senior member, He’s more than capable of screwing over a Junior congresswoman like herself, and she’s not LGBT.

    She is a huge voice for us, and she can readily be used as an in that wont be possible otherwise. Her future actions will still have the shadow of this, and she’ll have to work harder than some to gt recognition, but what she did I think is a thousand times more brave than anything Frank has *ever* done.

  5. Sara Whitman says:

    I appreciate the argument but don’t you see how we are completely screwed if we don’t find a way to pull together and work on the next incarnation?

    Yes, this round was lost.

    Yes, HRC needs to be replaced as the ‘go to’ force in Washington, DC.

    It’s not Baldwin’s fault. Fury is appropriate but let’s not bite the hand that tried to help. She’s a junior rep and she either took on barney and pelosi or she was used as a toy. Either way, we can’t give up on her yet.

    And calling the vote, and my admission I would have voted yes evil is an understandable reaction but it’s not going to get us anywhere. Carving out those lines amongst supporters of an inclusive ENDA- and if you’ve read any of my other posts on this calling barney frank out- is okay today, okay tomorrow, but by next week? we have to start working together again.

  6. Bil Browning says:

    “Frank is a senior member, He’s more than capable of screwing over a Junior congresswoman like herself, and she’s not LGBT.”

    Tammy Baldwin is the only openly lesbian member of Congress.

    I completely agree with Sara’s post, btw. It would have been an extremely difficult decision that I’m very happy I didn’t have to make. I don’t think there were any winners. But Sara hits the nail on the head when she says, “As a community, we need to reframe where we are. It’s not about making chicken salad out of chicken shit, which implies making due with what we have. It’s about creating a calculated, thoughtful strategy for moving forward, building on what we have. It’s about making stone soup.”

    We’ve started that dialogue on sites like the Bilerico Project and here on ENDAblog. Now we just have to do our jobs so the Congresspeople can do theirs…

    Keep up the good work.

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