And Where They're Going...

Shifting Expectations: Where Gay Democrats Stand Now

Politics can be a meticulous business. There are voters to analyze, boxes to be checked, heads to be counted and put in a row. Well organized electoral campaigns require a certain amount of numeric dissection. And, as with any game, numbers matter, especially when discussing potentially divisive social constituencies, like the gays.

It’s with that in mind that the National Stonewall Democrats this week released glowing data on the state of gay convention goals, like the fact that there are 27% more homos this year than there were four years ago.

According to the NSD’s unofficial tally, there are 358 LGBT representatives headed to Denver this month, 48 states are sending pink participants and 36 states increased their gay inclusion. Gay Democratic leaders also emphasized during a conference call this week that those numbers may get an unsuspected boost during the actual convention, when previously identified gay participants will show their true colors.

These are all promising statistics, yes, but they may be equally misleading. NSD makes very clear that they’re numbers are unofficial, for only the DNC can release final convention statistics, which they hope to do by next week.

Official stamp aside, the NSD numbers don’t accurately reflect gay delegate goals for another reason. The 27% increase and estimated 358 participants include delegates, standing committee members and interns, none of which are counted by the DNC. NSD Communications Director John Marble tells us that while the numeric goals are the same, NSD did add about 25 extra participants who identify LGBT, a fact that has some gay Democrats crying “foul.” One insider jeered, “If it looks like padding and smells like padding, it must be padding.”

Washington Blade today put the numerical skewing into starker contrast:

While 47 states and D.C. established the goals for gay delegates, committee members and other participants, fewer than half of the states met the benchmarks through delegates alone.

Stonewall numbers released this week show 21 states and D.C. met their goals based solely on their delegate count. Seven other states met their goals by adding committee members and alternate delegates to their totals.

Padding or no, the NSD and other gay leaders are playing a very sophisticated game. And the stakes are high.

Rather than presenting the cynical, less uplifting facts – gays only represent 6% of the total delegate count – these activists are looking to shift the gay voters eye. Once gay Democrats have a wider perspective, that’s when they can, as NSD executive director Jon Hoadley says, “change the face of the Democratic party.”