Ken Mehlman, Do Something Useful: Speak Truth to Power.

Posted on 30 Aug 2010 at 7:44am

I'm not privy to what Ken Mehlman did or did not do secretly while working for the Republican Party and the White House.  Nor am I privy to his soul.  And I'm not privy to hearts of those he caused agony, suffering, depression and anxiety to, or to those were were fired or beaten up partly as a result of the campaigns he waged.  And I have no idea what, if anything, he could possibly do for those hearts to forgive him.

Still, Mr. Mehlman claims that “he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage.”.  That's pretty vague, and seems to consist of doing a fundraiser to support further litigation in the Proposition 8 trial.  Kerry Eleveld and I have a better idea.  As she put it on Friday:

… instead of crucifying Mehlman, let’s hand him a pickax and a shovel and let him get to work on dismantling the hate he and his cronies helped heap upon a vulnerable and undeserving minority.

Or, in my less eloquent opinion, if Ken Mehlman really wants to demonstrate a commitment to equal rights, he should forecefully employ the political talents he is famous for.

Below the fold for my two ideas.

Mr. Mehlman was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007.  He was also a very important political operative working in the Bush White House before that.  Hell, the American Association of Political Consultants named him the Campaign Manager of the Year in 2005. He's given large sums of money to various Republicans who currently hold positions of responsibility.  It's safe to say he knows lots of Republicans.  Very Important Republicans.  In Washington and everywhere.

The battle for equal marriage rights in California isn't going to be won or lost because Ken Mehlman does or does not co-host a fundraiser.  The arguments have been made, the Ninth Circuit and perhaps ultimately the Supreme Court will render their verdicts.  But there are two hugely important political battles that Mr. Mehlman might, just might, be able to effect to the point that he could actually change the outcome.  What might those be?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA):  It's not marriage equality, true.  But it's as fundamental to full equality.  ENDA is nearly dead, largely because there aren't enough votes in the Senate to invoke cloture (there are at least 51 votes for passage).  Could Mr. Mehlman convince two or three Republicans other than Senators Snowe and Collins (who are sponsors of the bill) to support it?  Hell, he doesn't even have to do that.  All he has to do is convince a few Republicans to vote for cloture.  They don't have to vote for the bill itself. If there were five Republicans ready to do that, might Harry Reid just get a spine, round up the 55 Democrats he needs, and push it through?

Marriage equality in New York State:  At some point in the not too distant future, the New York State Senate is likely to again take up marriage equality.  Last year, in a truly dismal result, the Senate voted 38-24 against, with all Republicans voting nay (the Assembly had passed the bill by 89-52).  But there were indications that some Republicans (and some Democrats) might have been willing to vote in favor of the bill if their vote meant it would pass.

With a newly elected Senate in 2011, and with it a different cast of characters, could Ken Mehlman (now a New York State resident) employ his considerable political savvy to convince some Republicans in the Senate to support a bipartisan effort to pass marriage equality in New York State?

I have no idea whether someone of Mehlman's stature could pull off either of these.  Perhaps Republicans in office are unmovable on these issues.  Perhaps he has become persona non grata to the very people he would need to influence.  But if Ken Mehlman was truly thrown from his horse expensive automobile on the road to Damascus Chelsea, wants to do something important, and wants to have a real impact, these two battles might be good place to start.

And, if he's successfu at the latter, he could get married…
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