As I wrote, the call was intended to give a preview how Edwards will approach tonight’s forum centered on Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Transgender issues. I think the opening statements from Eric Sterns and Steven Handwerk, two Stonewall Democrat leaders who are advising the campaign, laid out Edwards’ strategy clearly: Both of them focused on how their support for Edwards stems not specifically for his advocacy of gay rights, but from his general fight for “social justice,” of which LGBT rights are a part
of*. And, perhaps sensing the the wave of critical questions they were about to get regarding Edwards’ decision to back civil unions but not gay marriage, they both portrayed his stance on LGBT as measured and moderate and, ultimately, successful. Stern said he was himself a “pragmatist not a purist.”
When it came time for questions, I asked the advisers — and spokesman Jonathan Prince, who also on the call — how they thought the “other America” that Edwards wants to represent, “America’s disadvantaged class,” would feel having their struggles linked to the struggles of gays and lesbians.
Prince jumped in first, noting that I had mischaracterized the meaning of “two Americas.” One America, he said, is the “very, very rich” and the other America is “everyone else…99 percent of us.”
Okay, I said, how do you think “everyone else” would feel about having their struggles linked to the fight for gay rights? Sterns said that the notion that gay and lesbian Americans are “everyone else” is itself an important step forward and he’s glad Edwards acknowledges that: “There’s a stereotype that we’re all rich white men… we struggle with the same kinds of issues that everyday Americans struggle with… whether or children will be safe…whether we can afford to send them to college.”
The stereotype is certainly among us, and pointing out the commonalities of those in the “everyone else” category also lays out the core argument that most Democratic candidates will be trying to make to their other constituencies about their appearance tonight: The notion that gays and lesbians don’t want “special” rights, just the same rights.
*Whenever people say “bloggers don’t have editors,” I point out that I have dozens. Thank you for doing for free.