Barney Frank is a hero of mine. He has hero status by dint of his accomplishments for the LGBT community and the nation. He authored and succeeded in passing Dodd/Frank legislation, which helped to reign in Wall Street. You would think Sen. Bernie Sanders would respect that but alas he is now attacking Frank’s character and questioning his ability to be fair.
The same Sanders who was welcomed into the Democratic primaries even though he isn’t a Democrat. The same Sanders who is losing and keeps whining about things being rigged and unfair rather than admit he is losing because three million more Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton than for him and she is nearly 300 pledged delegates ahead. If he were in elementary school he would be labeled a crybaby — instead he comes off as a whiney old man.
Even as an unabashed and passionate supporter of Clinton, I have always given Sanders credit for beginning his campaign with grace and focus. He brought the issues of affordable college and income inequality to center stage in the debate.
His latest attempt to attract attention to his flagging campaign was to send a letter to the Democratic National Committee asking that Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and Barney Frank be removed as co-chairs of the Rules Committee. The DNC responded quickly and in essence told Sanders to “go fly a kite.”
People can say many things about Frank but never that he isn’t honest and fair. I have known him for many years and like many brilliant people he can be cantankerous at times. He often finds it hard to make small talk. He has a reputation of not abiding fools and finds it hard to listen to people who don’t get to the point.
Frank is of my generation having grown up in era when being “out” was a clear way to guarantee you weren’t going into elective politics. He made a conscious decision to stay in the closet and devote his life to improving the lives of others and helping other elected officials behind the scenes. He was eventually convinced to go into elective politics himself and won time and again because constituents understood how smart he is. When he finally came out they continued to support him knowing there was no one better to represent them.
Frank always tells the truth. He was speaker at a Town Hall in D.C. It was surprising to see his name on the program as he rarely did this kind of thing. He was his usual funny and slightly testy self as he began his talk. He answered a number of good questions and then an elderly woman asked if he did these kind of town halls often in his district. Barney thought a moment, looked at her and said, “Of course not, why would I do that and listen to people who know less than I do question me? They get their chance every election to throw me out and so far they think I am doing a pretty good job for them.” People roared with laughter.
There were attacks on him when in 2007 he brought an ENDA bill to the floor without including transgender people in it. He spoke passionately about the bill on the floor to his colleagues and for the first time ENDA passed the House. He felt it was an important statement to make and including transgender individuals in it at that time guaranteed it would fail. He took the heat for that. Looking back that debate was another galvanizing point for moving the LGBT community forward. It spurred the transgender community and their allies to begin to organize and in the long run it pushed groups like the Human Rights Campaign to make strong commitments to transgender civil rights.
We are living in a different world today than we were in 2007. Barney Frank has a lot to do with this brave new world where same-sex couples can marry and where the LGBT community and our allies are more united than ever moving us toward full civil and human rights.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist.