The importance of a budget deal and the potential implications of not reaching one are very real to many in the LGBT community. Whether you own a business, are receiving government assistance in one form or another, are involved in theater or a health care nonprofit, work for a food bank, live with or care about fighting HIV/AIDS at home or across the world or want to guarantee your civil and human rights, you have a stake in the results of keeping the nation from falling off the "fiscal cliff."
The outcome of the negotiations between the president and Congress and what the president is able to accomplish in this lame duck session will set the stage for what he will be able to do in his second term. The success he has in reaching his goals in the budget fight will portend what he will be able to accomplish and whether he will be able to move forward the issues crucial to the coalition that helped elect him, including women, Latinos, African Americans and the LGBT community.
We all have things we want the president to do. The LGBT community wants him to take an active role in passing an inclusive ENDA and signing an executive order banning discrimination by government contractors. The Latino community wants him to fight for a fair and far-reaching immigration bill. Women look to him to continue to support their ability to control their own health care and protect, with Supreme Court appointments, Roe v. Wade. But as history tells us, the first crucial battles of a second term set the tone for the rest of it.
So while we want him to move on our issues, we first need to join with a broad coalition to pressure Congress to accept that this election really did make a difference and was not the status-quo election some would like to believe. We need to fight so that any budget agreement ensures the long-term viability of Medicare and Social Security, and so that education and research funding are protected and programs like the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program continue to exist and are adequately funded. We need to maintain the focus, however small it may be, on arts funding, for the arts are where so many earn their living, and we need to protect funding to fight HIV/AIDS around the world.
Supporting these programs doesn't mean we can't compromise, and we need to accept that the president will have to make some compromises in order to protect funding for those programs. We need to accept that there has to be a concerted effort to cut the debt, but that that effort must include added revenue, so we all have to put pressure on Congress to support the president when he asks the wealthy to pay a little more, and we must let them know that our votes in 2014 will reflect our firmness on that matter. As a coalition we are stronger than the Tea Party, and if some in Congress are afraid to offend them in an election, then they should understand that they have to be more concerned with us. We need to make Congress understand that those who underestimated our strength in the last election shouldn't do it again.
We need to demonstrate how wrong Paul Ryan was when he blamed his party's loss on a big "urban" vote, as if he didn't understand what people voted for. That big "urban" vote will continue to come out and vote against Ryan and his policies because they oppose them, and if Republicans ever want a chance to make inroads in that voting bloc, they will have to change what they stand for. We need to show Congress that it wasn't Obama's "gifts" to key demographics, as Mitt Romney calls it, that lost Romney the election but the policies he espoused.
We need to join together and spend the lame duck session fighting for a shared goal: the fiscal solvency of the nation. That solvency must be reached based on the terms under which President Obama won the election. If obstructionists in Congress don't want to lose many more seats in 2014, they must understand that they have to compromise because we support the president and his policies.
We need to go door to door, friend to friend and family member to family member and ask them all to call their congressperson and tell them that we believe that fairness is what this is about and that the president's plan for keeping us from falling of the "fiscal cliff" is the right one.
This piece first appeared in the Washington Blade.