U.S. Senate insta-candidate, Harold Ford Jr., may have survived a race-baiting 2006 election, a bonus-less 2009 banking season and the potential backlash of marrying a white woman -- but the real question now is can he survive New York City's angry gays?
"Ford's crossed a line and he cannot be allowed to become our senator", says Jon Winkleman, a longtime gay activist, former ACT-UPer and avowed Ford-foiler. "We're taking this man down," he declares, "by any means necessary."
As pale-faced as he is baby-faced, Winkleman may not exactly make for a modern-day Malcolm X. But his homo-liberationist ideology is quickly gaining traction among LGBT leaders who are mad as hell and aren't going to fake it anymore. Done with donating to do-nothing Democrats, stung by same-sex marriage setbacks and fed-up with fat-cat LGBT political groups, a new generation of queer radicals is now scaling their ire upwards. They're protesting politicians, targeting traitors and boycotting bigots with proven anti-Gay paper trails -- policy flip-floppers like Harold Ford.
"It's time to be taken seriously," said Robin McGehee, the co-director of last October's National Equality March in Washington, DC. She led a civil disobedience strategy session at the Lesbian and Gay Center last Friday evening, which was attended by more than two dozen "angry gay" activists; targeting Harold Ford, Jr. was their serious topic number one.
With his polished pedicure and shiny SUV, Ford may act all teflon tough. But let's hope his doorman is a little harder-core -- because these gays are coming to get him. "We've got his address in the Flatiron District and are planning a protest this week," confirms Corey Johnson, the boyishly bearded bad-ass , who got seriously face-to-face with State Senator Carl Kruger in Albany last month. Kruger's crime: On the record -- being one of eight Dems who voted against same-sex marriage last month. Off the record, at least according to Johnson, bachelor Brooklynite Kruger is a hypocritical closet-case.
Pretty and pedigreed, Ford, too, has a mild case of the gay face. But those emerald eyes will likely be of little defense against close-contact fighters like Johnson. Their beef seems to knows no bounds: Ford's dismal anti-gay voting record back in Tennessee. Two-faced Dems like Kruger and Bronx pol Hiram Monserrate here in New York. And nationwide frustration with Pres. Obama's foot-dragging on key campaign issues like Don't Ask/Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Vowing "not another one, not again," Gotham Gay leaders have made it clear that screw-over season is over -- especially for entitled arrivistes like Ford -- who is emerging as a test-case for LGBT battles to come.
"This is the worst place and the worst moment for an anti-gay carpetbagger like Ford," says activist John Aravosis, whose blog, AMERICAblog News, is leading a LGBT boycott of the DNC. "He's sort of like a perfect storm to stir up the protest pot."
The rapid-fire LGBT response to Ford confirms the potency of their furor -- and newfound commitment to taking on politicians deemed enemies of the gay state. But even armed with weapons like this recent anti-Ford PSA, whether that anger can actually translate into political damage remains to be seen -- particularly considering Ford's deep-pocketed patrons.
Yet, even at the primary level, a Ford win would be a big loss for Gay Inc. -- punked yet again despite such a clear moral majority and authority. Indeed, if Ford is to emerge as a Gay-power test-case, then Gay-power must prevail.
Less tested, meanwhile, is the role of race in this debate.
Ever since the defeat of Prop. 8 in California, an undeniable "blame-the-Blacks" undertone has infiltrated the marriage equality movement. Yet while White gay leaders insist Ford's politics -- and not his pigment -- are the only issues at play in New York, some gay Black leaders remain unconvinced.
"Ford could certainly receive a lot of the White gay anger directed at African Americans after the same-sex marriage defeats," says Kenyon Farrow, executive director of Queers for Economic Justice and no Ford fan. Ultra light-skinned and with scant Negro dialect, Farrow says Ford could "also emerge as a proxy target for Pres. Obama" -- a ballot-box rejection of yet another (supposedly) anti-gay Black man.
Yet even if the LGBT attacks do turn racial, it will be tough for a man like Ford -- fair-skinned, prep-schooled and married to his own Elin Woods -- to play the race card. "Ford must win the Black and Latino vote, so he'll make it about race, he'll insist 'the White gays are against me'," says gay Black-blogger Rod McCullom, who will soon launch a new anti-Ford website. "But I would love to see him dissing the White man at some rally in the South Bronx or out in Brooklyn," McCullom adds. "I would love to see him claim racism with his lovely blonde wife by his side."
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