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Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Arkansas Gays to Sen. Blanche Lincoln: Don’t Ask (For Our Vote)

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The Stonewall Democrats in Arkansas are not happy with Blanche Lincoln.

In fact, members of the group feel like they have “egg on their face,” according to one e-mail after Lincoln’s vote Tuesday on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Lincoln and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor were the only two Democrats who joined all 40 Republicans in voting to block the bill. The Democratic majority needed 60 votes to break a filibuster and begin consideration of the bill — which would repeal a law preventing gays from serving openly in the military — but fell short 43 to 56.

On Tuesday night, Arkansas’ Stonewall Democrats, a Democratic Party GLBT caucus that has about 300 members statewide, had planned a fundraiser for Lincoln at a private home in Little Rock. On Monday, she called the event’s organizers to say that she had to cancel her appearance in order to return to Washington to be part of a historic vote, said Debbie Willhite, a political consultant and a member of the Arkansas’ Stonewall Democrats.

“She said she was going to Washington and hopefully be the 60th or 61st vote to move ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ forward,” Willhite told Politics Daily. “It’s very disappointing. I think she took a position on the procedure like she did on health care. She didn’t do the right thing that she seemed to indicate to us that she was ready to do. If it was just a battle of whose procedural rules were going to carry the day, it seems to have been intuitive to vote with the Democratic leadership.”

Lincoln said she voted against the measure on procedural grounds.

On Wednesday, she told Politics Daily in an e-mail: “I’m disappointed that some believe this procedural vote alters my support for allowing the military to repeal DADT. This is not true. This issue was taken hostage by election-year politics. I voted against this procedure because of the lack of an open amendment process; in fact, I had eight amendments to improve the quality of life for our troops that could not be considered. Yesterday could have been a bipartisan show of support for repealing DADT, but the procedure that was chosen made that impossible.”

In the past, Lincoln said she would support a repeal, but only when military leaders say it’s time.

In a statement released on Tuesday after the vote, she said, “I am a cosponsor of the DREAM Act, and have stated that I will support the Lieberman compromise, which would repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy when our military commanders say it is appropriate for our military readiness and national security.”

She added, “I think the stalemate we find ourselves in today is an example of Congress’ failure to appropriately deal with issues of critical importance to Arkansans and the American people, and that is why people are so angry.”

Lincoln also blamed both parties, saying “they are too focused on how they can embarrass one another and we are no longer doing what our constituents expect us to do – work together to find common ground and move our nation forward.”

Progressives have not been happy with Lincoln, a Blue Dog Democrat, for many reasons.

During her primary against Lt. Governor Bill Halter, unions and progressive groups like MoveOn.org supported her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. Lincoln has been in the cross-hairs of environmentalists for myriad issues, including her support of Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s effort to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

For some gays and lesbians in Arkansas, Lincoln’s reasoning for her “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” vote doesn’t wash, especially when top military leaders have said it should be repealed.

In an e-mail thread, one gay Lincoln supporter said that the senator showed her “true colors” with her vote. Many have said that they will not donate to her campaign. They are urging others to donate instead to an October Stonewall Democrat fundraiser, which will help support progressive candidates at the state level, that will feature comedian and actor Leslie Jordan.

There are no current plans for the Stonewall Democrats to reschedule a fundraiser for Lincoln.
Chris Kell, an organizer for the October event benefiting the Stonewall Democrats, said this week’s fundraiser had been planned for a little more than a month.

“It was a horrible vote for the Stonewall Democrats, but the only good thing to come of it is that Lincoln has raised awareness of the issues that the Stonewall Democrats care about,” Kell said.

For many in Arkansas’ liberal base, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the one issue that they hung their hopes on with Lincoln. Polls show Lincoln trailing her Republican opponent, Rep. John Boozman, by margins ranging from from 17 points to 27 points. She was to appear in Boston Wednesday at a fundraiser with Vice President Joe Biden, but she canceled due to a scheduling conflict.

At home, Lincoln has her work cut out for her in trying to woo back the Stonewall Democrats and their allies before Election Day.

“Hopefully there’ll be a vote between now and November 2 and she can show us what her real intentions are,” Willhite said. “She needs to do something affirmative. Many of us stuck with her through the primary. It’s very disappointing and sad.”

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Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 9:46 pm

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