Facebook is a blessing and a curse for connected people. Decisions need to be made in a very overt fashion about whom you will and will not "friend". While a whole culture, including vocabulary and etiquette, has grown up around social networking phenomena, this method of connection is changing the face of American politics. To wit, the recent election of Annise Parker, as Houston's first out gay mayor, was won in the hearts and minds of the voters of that small Texas town, but viral marketing played a key role in getting a great official elected to her proper position.
There are several ways that political campaigns are fought these days. "Fought" is certainly an apt word considering recent election results and bitter disappointments for the LGBTI community in California and in Maine. The Victory Fund helps LGBTI candidates get a leg up in their local communities and provides support for candidates in elections across the country, so that interested people can help change local politics, and is well on its way to changing state and national politics. It's about time LGBTI people began to leverage our might, and a few dollars here or there can give moral support to candidates living a number of states away. It is an interesting way to bring about change, and great for those who cannot yet come out in their own hometowns. Prying eyes, however, could make for a different kind of outing.
Annise Parker did not glide on winged Victory to her place as Houston's mayor. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country with regard to population and my first knowledge of her came from Facebook-you thought I'd forgotten where I began, right?-where she or someone on her campaign had seen I am interested in LGBTI politics and asked to "friend" me. As I often do, in my innocence, I wrote back asking how we knew one another-quite obviously she goes to our Church, as my partner and I put it-and didn't get a response. Reading different newsletters however, I soon learned of her candidacy and started to follow what she was doing via Facebook.
Parker did not spring forth from the ether in Texas to run. She had served as City Controller for three terms, as well as for three terms on City Council. People who follow politics in Houston know who she is and she had a body of work to support assertions about what she could offer Houston as mayor. In a time when other Texans have espoused-pun intended-fiscal responsibility and not made good on their promise, someone who has shown she can refine finances had more than a little appeal.
Running on your record is great. If you are just starting out, then run on your qualifications for a local office and set your sights on your local council. A friend of mine did just that recently in his small town and the issue in his campaign was not so much that he was gay-another candidate had broken that barrier-but, rather, the health issues he had fought for and won. Even local politics may leave an oily aftertaste, but understand that the only way to win the way that Ms. Parker has, is to start locally and think globally. Each of us makes a difference-don't wait for someone else to step forward when you have the passion and the power to make things happen.
Step up, step out and make your voice heard. If you don't, you are not participating in the change you want to see, and have no right to complain.