WEHO Mayor: Election Postmortem

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“There are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.”
– Benjamin Disraeli

The talking pundits on television are annoying me, which isn’t hard to do since I am generally a restless and irritable person. Many have opinions about what the election results mean, and what the Tea Party means, and what the mistakes were that the Democrats made, and so on ad infinitum, ad nauseum. To me, the results just mean the playing field has changed though the game remains the same. I would use a football analogy here about a green field or a muddy field, but since I can neither throw nor catch a football, I will skip the sports analogy.

Long before I became Mayor of the Munchkin City (West Hollywood, CA), I was a gay tenderfoot passing out flyers and registering voters in the gay bars in the late 1970s and 1980s. I would move on to money politics and PACS later inlife, and eventually run for and win public office. So,I guess over the past 30 years, I have served in the trenches as a foot soldier and played commanding general (What? And now a military analogy?). I think it is fair to say that I have picked up a few hard knock lessons along the way.

Let me start by saying I am a liberal Democrat. I do not, however, automatically assume that political party affiliation guarantees support or opposition from fellow politicians. Granted, over time, more Democrats have been helpful to me than Republicans.But there have been true profiles in courage from members of both political parties when they took risks to help our politics.And, I must add,politicians in both parties have angered and disappointed me. Iwas one of those whoraised $1 million in gay money at the Hollywood Palacefor Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign in 1992 when I was a member of ANGLE (Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality). And then was arrested one year later in front of the Clinton White House when he signed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” President Clinton gave me incredible hope. He also gave me incredible pain.

In some ways, the betrayal by political friends is far more hurtful than the stingsof political enemies. But let’s face it, our political system is imperfect. And the women and men who serve in that system are also imperfect. So dashed expectations and anger are inherently based on the systemic flaws rather than just the politicians in charge at that time. To expect principles to prevail over pragmatism in the legislative processis naí¯ve. But short of a Revolution or Constitutional Convention this political process of working to change laws is the only game in town, and it is a game I choose to play. I often feel like one of the animals in Lewis Carroll’s Caucus Race in Alice in Wonderland, running around and around in circles trying to dry off. Over years and sometimes decades ofcircling, feeling like I am back where I started again and again,change does, in fact, happen.

Yes. The GOP has the House, and I am not talking about moderate Republicans (Who is really left in the moderate wing of the GOP?). The right wing of the GOP will do nothing to advance our rights as American citizens. The Democrats still control the U.S. Senate and the White House, which means we should be able to stop the more destructive forces within the Tea Party fromimposing theirright wingextremism. So, for the next couple of years, Washington D.C. will appear to be stagnant and at an impasse.

But that does not mean we rest? Absolutely not. There are many other playing fields. There are still 50 State Capitols where state laws on discrimination, marriage, anti-bullying and health care can be changed and LGBT issues advanced. Such was the courseof history for racial and gender equality. Washington D.C. was the last stop, not the first.Like the abolitionists, suffragists and minority advocates before us, change first happens in the social laboratories of the 50 states long before a Presidential pen is utilized. And like those before us, we should not hesitate to use the judicial branches of our government to advance the LGBT cause in both state and federal courts.

But there is NO room to water down our principles and seek partial justice or liberty. That is the path for the weak-hearted. I remind you that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” Yes. I am quoting the late Barry Goldwater who got it right that permanent interests like the LGBT community should always advance our cause in the purist form without exception or compromise. The flawed system that we participate in will moderate our cause all by itself , so we need not assist. We stick to our principles knowing that we are grounded in the same spirit of the Renaissance and Enlightenment that inspired our Founders over 200 years ago: Liberty. Equality. Justice. Three pure words that lose their meaning when diluted.

Oh, and by the way, all this time I have been struggling, playing on the political fields of our country, I failed to see that there is in fact a second arena apart from politics that will change our lives for the better: arts, entertainmentand culture. But I will save that analysis for another day…

Hon. John J. Duran
West Hollywood, CA
The Emerald City USA

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