A Congressional Breath of Fresh Air from Detroit

A Congressional Breath of Fresh Air from Detroit

Kudos to newly elected Detroit Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for telling it like it is. Tlaib’s now famous “We’re gonna impeach the motherfucker!” induced Michael Moore to proclaim her a “breath of fresh air.” For the first time in American history we have elected a Muslim woman to Congress. In fact, we have two in the wake of the November election. What Tlaib said is simply what each and every one of us is thinking every day. Some members of Congress said they disapprove of her language. Perhaps they should stay home and listen to Mozart.

Some of the people criticizing Tlaib also say we can’t have an intelligent discussion about impeachment until the Mueller report is concluded — a viewpoint that is as ridiculous as it is condescending. Sixty-six members of Congress voted to allow a vote for impeachment to move forward, including New York City’s Adriano Espaillat, Yvette Clark, Hakeem Jeffries, José Serrano, Eliot Engel, and Nydia Velázquez, as well as such progressive Congressional icons as Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Maxine Waters, Keith Ellison, and Al Green. These members of Congress had intelligent discussions and came to an intelligent conclusion.

As a Michigan state senator, Tlaib worked aggressively in support of LGBTQ rights and, notably, reported no backlash from the Muslim community for her stance as a legislative ally.

Former Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein, the erstwhile leader of the Independent Democratic Conference who was voted out of office last year, received a consolation prize recently by being hired by the Mercury Public Affairs, a firm with known Republican ties. As many will always remember, Klein and his cohorts sabotaged our chances of passing pro-gay and other progressive legislation. It’s no surprise he has now been made a partner in a firm founded by ex-Republican Governor George Pataki staffers.

Another Bronx Democrat working for Mercury is former Borough President Fernando Ferrer. In 2001, when progressive Democrat and long time gay rights supporter Mark Green was running for mayor, Ferrer closed down the Bronx County machine on Election Day — handing billionaire Republican Michael Bloomberg the mayoralty. Ferrer and Bloomberg celebrated over breakfast the following morning. As a result, Ferrer helped elect a mayor who appealed a State Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage. Klein, Ferrer, and the Pataki Republicans deserve one another. It’s better than having them in public office claiming support from our community only to sell us down the river.

While on the subject of Bronx sleazeballs, Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz is facing a lawsuit alleging that one of his staffers blocked low-income children of color from attending a Bronx public school in his district. Dinowitz said in a deposition he couldn’t remember ever hiring a black person while being an assemblymember. Will this kind of racist behavior stop the Bronx Boss Tweed crew from supporting Dinowitz in the future? Don’t bet on it.

The presidential race is already taking off with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren being the first officially announce an exploratory committee, one step before an official announcement. Warren deserves and will garner significant LGBTQ support. Other candidates also see themselves as worthy of our support.

I have yet to speak to anyone who supports Kirsten Gillibrand. A former conservative member of the House, Gillibrand has developed a cadre of wealthy gays who will carry her water. Other than at gay fundraisers thrown for her by these wallet-stuffed Wall Street tycoons, who love access to power and the ability to land jobs for friends, she has rarely made herself available to our community. Grassroots gays are looking elsewhere — as they should be.

Most of the people I know will not forgive Gillibrand for destroying the career and reputation of former Senator Al Franken. Franken may be guilty of being an asshole and of inappropriate behavior years ago, prior to being a forceful and effective member of Congress. But he was an effective fighter for women and the LGBTQ community, as well as a credible voice in the efforts to bring down Trump. Is society better off with Franken out of the Senate? Are women better off? Is our community? Of course not.

Gillibrand savaged a dedicated public servant — all while Trump remains in the White House. People also see how she allowed the Clintons to campaign for her and support her earliest runs for office only to recently declare that Bill Clinton should have resigned from office over the Monica Lewinsky affair. With Gillibrand willing to change her mind in such drastic fashion, would you trust her with your wallet?

Since 2010, I have been visiting the women’s Bedford Correctional Facility in the hopes of achieving clemency for inmates who have paid their debt to society. Governor Andrew Cuomo has the ability to grant clemency to anyone convicted of a crime. We had numerous meetings with the governor’s chief counsel, Alfonso David, the highest ranking out gay person and black man in Cuomo’s office. In 2015, Candles for Clemency had a meeting with David, along with formerly incarcerated people and family members of those currently in prison. David made a commitment the governor would issue clemencies on a quarterly basis.

That never happened. Last month, the governor granted clemency to 29 people — only three currently serving time, all men. Most received pardons for drug-related and other minor crimes. Is that because Cuomo doesn’t consider compassionate clemency for elderly inmates a “progressive” cause? If so, David should do what former Defense Secretary James Mattis did when Trump ignored his advice: resign.