If you don’t like politics, or could care less about HRC, you shouldn’t read this column.
HRC came to Philadelphia this week. HRC, sometimes called Human Rights Champagne Fund due to its high-priced dinners that only the well-heeled can afford, came to town and had an event to endorse Gov. Tom Wolf for re-election. Wolf should be supported and endorsed by the entire LGBT community; he’s been a great ally. HRC’s event was immaculately planned with young people behind the podium, HRC logos everywhere and speakers including the brightest rising LGBT star of Pennsylvania elected officials, Malcolm Kenyatta, the first OUT person of color (nominated and will be elected in November) to the state House.
HRC’s decision to involve itself in Pennsylvania politics and spend a little of that money it has taken over the years from those dinners might seem commendable. The one thing I’ll hand to HRC: They know how to set up a photo op. Sounds good, right? The problem is, they did it in Philadelphia.
And I bet you most likely didn’t even know it happened. Note, it didn’t appear in the Inquirer, Daily News, PhillyVoice, any TV news show (even social media was light), or even this publication. That’s the fault of HRC, not the Wolf campaign. But that is not the real oversight.
Any one of you, my brilliant readers, who knows the slimmest of information about politics knows that the LGBT vote is strong in urban areas such as Philadelphia, but not as well-organized in the suburbs and rural areas. In Philly, there is always LGBT news; in rural areas, very rarely. Simple point: Why waste your major endorsement/P.R. here? That’s Politics 101. In a rural area, the LGBT community will be empowered and maybe even help them to organize, rather than have a major event in a city that has been the bastion of LGBT rights in the state for 50 years and where the media are used to LGBT events. A mainstream newspaper in Altoona or Johnstown is not. That is the real work that is needed.
Philadelphia, which is at the top of HRC’s municipal (city) index, doesn’t need a high-profile event to get out the LGBT vote. This should have been somewhere in the state where LGBT people have never seen a governor be endorsed by an LGBT organization. Their next stop was Allentown, another safe place with a major OUT LGBT community thanks to Adrian Shanker, who has created a strong community thanks to the cornerstone of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.
When are they going to go where they might be able to do some good — places where the local LGBT community never sees a high-profile event, places where we need stronger LGBT voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns, such as Scranton, Hazleton, Johnstown or Altoona? The base in places like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Allentown are already in resist mode. They are already organized and don’t need HRC. Of course there are those elites in our community who do like to get in a tux or gown and sashay around the ballroom at their fabulous dinners. But the hard political work is done locally by organizations like Liberty City Democratic Club and by national organizations like the Victory Fund.
Now, I understand it’s easier for HRC to come into a place that has been out, proud and organized for years, but groups like Liberty City Democratic Club in Philadelphia have already done the heavy lifting. Registration drives, collecting signatures, poll-watching, scoring the candidate, raising funds for endorsed candidates — they’ve done the heavy lifting. You cannot add to that great work. Look at the numbers from the last election: LGBT wards had the highest numbers.
So why is HRC playing it safe and only going to the big cities? Are they shilling for their future fundraisers? Seems so, since they only seem to concentrate on the urban areas where they can grow their dinners and bring in funding.
So I called HRC and asked about their Philadelphia dinners. They refused to give me any information about the dinners, but did tell me about their plan to organize primarily in eastern PA, an area where their help secures their dinners more than an election. Word on the street is that they have been declining. If this is true, please don’t use and waste one of the most important elections in our lifetime as a photo op for your fundraising.
The reality is, PA is a large state. It has been a leader in LGBT rights for almost 50 years — ask the people who are currently planning a museum-quality exhibit on LGBT rights through the years. The only parts of PA not organized is rural PA. With the funds available to HRC, that is where they should be working if they wish to be an addition to our state rather than a distraction.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.