— Jim Messina (@Messina2012) April 17, 2014
Politico’s Dylan Byers managed to get an email from Jo Becker on her book. Here’s what she sent back (and it’s the same response she gave to HuffPo):
Many people have contributed to the success the movement has experienced. I have the upmost [sic] respect for all the people who contributed to that success. My book was not meant to be a beginning-to-end-history of the movement. It’s about a particular group of people at an extraordinary moment in time, and I hope that people will be moved by their stories.
My italics. It’s interesting that rather than defend her insane core thesis, she just lies about it. She claims that her book never pretends to be a beginning-to-end history of the marriage equality movement. And yet the book starts thus:
This is how a revolution begins … It begins with a handsome bespectacled thirty-five year old political consultant named Chad Griffin … on election night 2008.
Does she think we cannot read? The title of the book is “Forcing The Spring.” Not plucking the fruits of autumn. And if you think I’m just grabbing a few sentences, here’s how Becker introduces Evan Wolfson, the architect of the entire movement, just pages after she begins her cringe-inducing hagiography of Griffin. She frames him as an old, out-of-touch obstructionist who just never got it, unlike Hollywood’s Dustin Lance Black (!):
Hours earlier, Black had been confronted in the hotel’s courtyard by Evan Wolfson, the fifty-two-year-old founder of a group called Freedom to Marry and the primary author of the cautious state-by-state strategy that the gay rights movement had been pursuing. Wolfson had berated the younger man over his Oscar speech, explaining as though to a willful but ignorant child his on-going twenty-five year plan to build support for marriage equality nationwide. Twenty-five years? Black had practically gasped.
Get the picture? Black had to shove the cautious, delaying, hide-bound oldie, Wolfson, out of the way for the “revolution” to “begin”. And look at the contempt in the notion that he had spent a quarter century building support and winning equality in several states by 2008. The movement before then – which had achieved extraordinary results against enormous odds – was marked, Becker has a colleague of Griffin say, by “political ineptitude and dysfunction. It was filled with impassioned activists, but what it needed, she believed, was skilled political operators like Chad.” If that’s respecting those who contributed to the success of the movement, what would be disrespect? And if she truly respects those who contributed to the movement’s success, why did she not call us and ask for our perspectives? Evan Wolfson and Mary Bonauto – critical figures in this struggle – got one brief call each. I got none.
And as the book continues, this framework of dissing the people who did the real work only deepens:
Wolfson was quietly seething. The idea that this newcomer thought his strategy timid and incremental infuriated him … “Chad was saying ‘Oh my God, we are going to be loathed and hated.” … If Griffin and Black proceeded, they would do so in the face of the full-throated opposition of the gay rights community. It was not the best of outcomes, but neither was it a real deterrent. They did not need the gay establishment. They had already put in place an organization with the wherewithal to go it alone.
If you don’t recall the “full-throated opposition of the gay rights community” to the Perry case, you aren’t alone. I don’t either.
They got $3 million via David Geffen in an afternoon, after all. Is David not part of the gay rights establishment? Yes, there were divisions about the timing of such a move. But there always were with every legal case. Picking the right one in the right state with the right plaintiffs is a very difficult thing to get right in a moving landscape. Personally, I was thrilled by the case and said so at the time. But again, those who believed that Perry was not a panacea turned out to be correct, which guts the entire premise of Becker’s argument. The Perry case only affected California, and did not give us the federal breakthrough Griffin had promised. But for Becker, there was no marriage movement until Perry and Griffin.
She then ascribes to Griffin the idea that the marriage movement had to be bipartisan. Seriously. Griffin is quoted in the book as saying that Olson would go a long way “in terms of recasting same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, rather than a partisan one.” Griffin and Becker seem utterly unaware that one of the remarkable features of the movement from the late 1980s onward was its bipartisan cast and its insistence on the civil rights rubric. Among the most aggressive advocates from the get-go were conservatives like me, Bawer, Rauch, or Log Cabin. And throughout the 1990s and 2000s, gay and straight Republicans and conservatives had risked careers and obloquy to make the conservative case. We were ridiculed as “Homocons” for our efforts. Yet again, in Becker’s telling, we didn’t exist. In fact, it was only after Griffin hired Olson, in Becker’s account, that the movement, including Evan, started “to borrow from Chad’s bipartisan playbook:”
Chad’s unique ability to leverage the legal proceedings into front-page attention and rebrand a cause that for years had largely languished in obscurity … had gone a long way to bringing the establishment gay rights community around.”
If you really believe that the marriage equality movement had languished in obscurity for years by 2008, then you might appreciate this book. If you woke up after a long sleep in 2009, and suffer from total memory loss, it makes some sort of sense. But if you know anything about the subject or any history before 2008 or know anyone in the movement before then or even now, this book is as absurd as it is stupid. And no lies and spin from Becker about what she actually wrote will change that.