A season without credit

This piece in Roll Call treats Donna Edwards like a fully realized person, while Chris Van Hollen is reduced to a stick figure. The substantial support he received from black leaders in MD is treated as an obvious betrayal, with not a word spent on acknowledging his accomplishments or considering that anyone might have a non-contemptible reason for supporting him. He is not allowed to be a real person; Julianne Malveaux actually referred to him as part of the “Master Plan” in a FB post. Scornful reference to “The Establishment” is treated as magically vanquishing any argument. As with Clinton vs. Sanders, those of us who care about actually getting something done are treated as part of the problem, as sellouts, by definition. I should not have to point out that, in my 36 years as a DC voter (having moved here from the MD 8th District which Van Hollen now represents), I have supported and worked productively with a great many African Americans and women.

I remember attending a presidential forum in 2008 at the Bachelor’s Mill, a black gay bar, and being assumed by one colleague to be a Clinton supporter just because I was white. In fact I supported Obama, who at this point I consider the finest president of my lifetime–an assessment based on his leadership and accomplishments and his graceful handling of a poisonous political environment. The successful strategy for DC marriage equality, which I helped chart, was based on real, not token diversity. We have demonstrated as a community in the District how to build broad coalitions in service of achieving strong, sustainable victories.

Is the bitter perspective of an Adrienne Malveaux, in which no ally of the wrong color or sex can ever be trusted or given a shred of credit, really the right path? Yes, of course, there are valid historic reasons for that mistrust involving centuries of horror. If you lack imagination or familiarity with American history, you need only watch the Oscar-winning performance by Lupita Nyong’o involving a bar of soap for an indelible glimpse of that brutality and horror. But if we cannot overcome our differences and work together, we risk losing by default to the Trumps of this country and their openly bigoted, know-nothing followers. And they bear no resemblance to the liberal Chris Van Hollen. Please, let us find the grace to give one another a bit of credit. Not a ticker tape parade, not a Nobel Prize, for God’s sake, just a bit of credit. So much depends on it. And this is no time to reduce a serious topic to an opportunity for a facile cutting remark and mic-drop. As John Lewis has said, we came here on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.


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