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LGBT Activists Plot Grassroots Campaign to Confront Obama Over Anti-Discrimination Executive Order

Since the White House dropped an expected executive order preventing workplace discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors, I was wondering how the gay rights community would react. They didn’t sit on their hands when the Administration tried to slow-walk Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal past the 2010 elections, and their efforts arguably got the White House to change course and hastily pass the repeal during that lame duck session. Now, activists have commenced a “We Can’t Wait”, campaign, co-opting a slogan the White House has used in recent executive branch announcements.

One prominent liberal donor said he would spend $100,000 to fund a “We Can’t Wait” campaign targeting Obama, a takeoff on the president’s own slogan for his efforts to use administrative actions as end runs around what he has termed an obstructionist Congress. The donor’s money will be used to fly victims of discrimination at federal contractors to Washington to confront Obama and his aides and gin up public attention […]

“This isn’t a broken promise President Obama can blame on Congress,” said Jonathan Lewis, son of billionaire Democratic benefactor Peter Lewis and the funder of the new effort to pressure the White House on the executive order.

“He has not been able to provide a single valid reason for why he is now refusing to sign the executive order protecting LGBT workers,” the younger Lewis added, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “It has become increasingly clear that this decision is based on cowardice rather than principled leadership.”

The only reason why I believe this will not work as well is that it feels very top-down. Jonathan Lewis was not involved with GetEqual or the other groups that organically sprung up to challenge Obama during the DADT debate. Those groups didn’t have any money, but they had the will to confront the President wherever he went. Springing for $100,000 to fly activists around the country won’t necessarily make a difference unless it’s paired with a savvy media strategy.

Clearly, the Administration’s arguments for delaying the order are ridiculous. With a sharp grassroots strategy, I would consider this a winnable fight for the LGBT community. Certainly the Obama campaign doesn’t want this kind of headache, especially when they are relying on gay fundraisers to donate lots of money to the re-election.

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David Dayen

David Dayen