It’s Barney Frank, so it’s unlikely anyone is going to be shocked when he says something a bit “out there.” And since he’s retiring, and this was his last Democratic National Convention as a member of Congress, maybe he felt even more free than usual. Whatever he was, or wasn’t, thinking, his remarks regarding the Log Cabin Republicans have certainly gotten attention. He made the comments while addressing the LGBT Caucus, and, according to Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed, Frank had made similar remarks earlier, on Michelangelo Signorile’s radio show.
From Geidner’s article, “LGBT Groups Distance Themselves From Barney Frank’s ‘Uncle Tom’ Charge
‘When they tell us that they’re happy to be Republicans because they’re getting acceptance and civility, I gotta say that I am again inclined to think that they’re called the Log Cabin club because their role model is Uncle Tom,’ Frank said …, prompting a mixed reaction from the crowd. …
Among those “distancing themselves” were Chad Griffin, who heads HRC:
‘That’s certainly not my perspective. The Log Cabin Republicans are good people doing good work.’
Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, went further, saying, ‘At the Task Force, we would never say something like that. …
Even the head of National Stonewall Democrats, a group that Frank helped form, took issue with the comments.
‘It’s definitely not the best language to use,’ executive director Jerame Davis said. ‘ … That is definitely not the position of Stonewall Democrats.’
Davis did hit back against LCR a bit, adding, ‘The truth is that they do play a certain role of kowtowing to the Republican Party in a way that borders on inappropriate itself.’
Which sort of sounds like “I have to say I don’t like the words but I actually like the sentiment.”
From LCR executive director R. Clarke Cooper:
‘We understand that Barney has earned his protected place within the Democrat Party by being their attack dog on gay rights issues, demonizing Republicans and undermining efforts at bipartisanship that would actually improve LGBT Americans lives. … ’
If you ever had the slightest doubt that LGBT politics are very, very similar to politics in general, you should now be disabused of such notions.
More, first from Matt Comer at Bilerico:
‘Frank calls us ‘Uncle Toms’ and pretends that Log Cabin hasn’t been on the front lines of the fight for equality,’ added (LCR’s) … Cooper. ‘The truth is, by speaking conservative to conservative about gay rights, Log Cabin Republicans are doing some of the hardest work in the movement, work that liberals like Barney are unwilling to do and couldn’t do if they tried.’ …
‘(Frank) has faced nearly 40 years of unspeakable hatred and persecution for being the most prominent and outspoken openly gay elected official in the country,’ Stonewall Democrats’ … Davis said … . ‘The true bullies are the hate-mongers in the GOP who want to strip us of our rights and shove us back into the closet. And ‘cowardly’? Cowardly is making pathetic excuses for the backward and misguided anti-LGBT policies of your Party. …
Also from Bilerico, E. Winter Tashlin writes:
The reality is that LGBT people operating within and on behalf of the Republican Party are giving their support to an organization whose own platform is radically opposed to equality for our community. Moreover, by remaining visible and vocal supporters of the GOP, they give the party social and political cover for their discriminatory positions. …
I won’t deny that Republican LGB(T) groups (the LCR is trans* inclusive …), and the Log Cabin Republicans in particular, have done some good and even invaluable work for our community. …
So Barney Frank made a hyperbolic (and somewhat racially charged) slur against LGBT Republicans. It wasn’t nice and it wasn’t entirely accurate, but the Democratic National Convention is his party … and if he wants to play the role of the old uncle who can’t keep his mouth shut about his cousin’s terrible taste in men, he’s earned the right to do so.
I don’t think it’s accurate to reduce “Uncle Tom” to a “somewhat racially charged” slur. I’m also not sure that the “old uncle” role necessarily means you get a pass on not “keeping your mouth shut.”
Finally, from Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin:
Last night, while Barney Frank was resting up in preparation for trashing Log Cabin Republicans before the DNC’s LGBT Caucus, the Los Angeles chapters of Log Cabin Republicans and Stonewall Democrats were co-hosting a fund raiser for Minnesotans United for All Families. And this, I think, illustrates a real difference between the old school power-broking party boss mentality and today’s pragmatic goal-focused community. And I, for one, am happy to be beyond Barney Frank.
About the general question of working from within both legacy parties, my perspective remains the same: there are people within each doing good work. There are also people, across the political spectrum, doing equally good work from outside the two party system.
Barney Frank has done amazing work on behalf of LGBTs. It would be silly, and disingenuous, to deny that. Barney Frank, however, had to learn to change his own perspective. For a big example, he initially, and for quite some time, refused to include transgender persons in ENDA. And, well before he could fit an “old uncle” role, to use Tashlin’s term, he made various remarks that were certainly as controversial as the “Uncle Tom” language. That doesn’t undo all his good, hard work, but neither does the good, hard work give him a pass to make comments that make coordinating efforts (as with the repeal of DADT, in which LCR played a significant role) more challenging than they already are.
(Barney Frank photo via FrankHouse.gov)