You fight it on the ground: register, remind people to vote, help them get to the polls, and be ready to challenge voter suppression
But later in the evening, I peeked at my main twitter feed. And then I went the FiveThirtyEight.com’s live coverage. I skimmed through their updates (and wonky math-y talk about polls and margins). When I reached the point when they were calling it for the Democrat, Doug Jones—calling it with a margin large enough to avoid a recount!—I started crying.
A lot of people are going to try to say that this is only because of Moore’s sexual scandal. And while it was a big factor, I think this win in a deeply red state with a well-documented history of suppressing the vote of African Americans and other demographics believed to favor Democrats is a sign. So, how did they do it?
Propelled by a backlash against Mr. Moore, an intensely polarizing former judge who was accused of sexually assaulting young girls, Mr. Jones overcame the state’s daunting demographics and deep cultural conservatism. His campaign targeted African-American voters with a sprawling, muscular turnout operation, and appealed to educated white voters to turn their backs on the Republican Party.
“We’re trying to work all angles,” said Patricia Mokola, spokeswoman for the Alabama NAACP. “We’re trying to reach not only African Americans, we’re trying to reach millennials as well. They will be instrumental in this election … We’re not telling people who to vote for, but their vote is their power.
“We have got to find a way to come together, and we need leaders that are not going to divide us, and separate us, and cut us up, and dissect us, and stand in judgment over some, and lord over others,” [New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory] Booker said at a canvass kick-off in Birmingham on Sunday. “We need someone that is going to remind us of the calling of patriotism, the calling to love, and so this is the moment now. There are consequential moments in our American history, and this is one of them.
Jones’ victory is all the more remarkable in that it didn’t rely on many Republicans defecting to the Democratic side. Less than one in 10 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for Jones. But Democrats – who overwhelmingly favored Jones – came out in stronger numbers, trailing Republicans in vote share by just six percentage points. And Independents – who make up just one in five voters in this highly partisan race – also favored Jones by nine points: 52 percent to 43 percent.
They mounted a massive get-out-the-vote campaign and sustained it for months. They registered people to vote. They put out leaflets everywhere reminding people when election day was. They called. They went door-to-door. The campaign spent a lot less on TV ads and more putting up billboards in neighborhoods that had lower turnout in the 2016 general election. They funded programs to give people rides to their polling places. They put out information on social media, pamphlets, posters, and signs explaining what kind of ID you need to have to vote, and a phone number to call if a poll worker refused to let you vote. They had observers at polling places. They had teams and lawyers available to respond to those voter suppression issues at the polling places.
Exit polling showed that white voters overwhelming went for the pedophile, but they also showed that Trump’s approval rating even among them has gone way down, and their enthusiasm for the candidate they voted for was lukewarm. Meanwhile, the African American vote (especially women) overwhelming went to the Democrat. And because of the way that the state has reduced the number of polling places in Black communities, and reduced the number of voting machines at those few polling places, it means that those African American voters were more likely to have to stand in line for hours and hours just to vote—and they did!
The ground game—registering voters, reminding them when election day is, reminding them what they have to do to vote, offering them rides, and so on—is how we got results in leaning-blue Virginia, and it’s how we won in deeply-red Alabama. It’s the new strategy of the Democratic National Committee. It’s not the way they fought in 2016. One of the journalists I saw tweeting about this last night summed it up: less money on TV ads, more money to help people vote.
That’s a strategy that can turn the midterm elections.
We can do it! We can do it!
Weekend Update 9/17/2017: Juggalos, Hillary book signing both outnumber Trump “mother of all rallies”
But just a few blocks away there was a bigger rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial: Pro-Trump Rally Dwarfed By ‘Juggalo’ Demonstration In D.C.. So fans of Insane Clown Posse were able to muster a much bigger crowd the the Make America Great Again people. But it gets worse! On the same day, Hillary Clinton was doing a book signing at a Costco in Brookfield, Connecticut.. guess what? Hillary Clinton Book-Signing Draws More Than 1,000 To Brookfield Costco. Hillary’s book signings are drawing larger crowds that the Trump supporters can muster!
Some folks are pointing to the news stories about former Trump supporters burning their Make America Great Again hats and this rally as indicating his support is slipping among his hardcore. I’m not sure that’s anywhere near the whole story. I think another important part is just how many fake accounts (twitterbots and such) make up the online Trump supporter crowd: Trump Twitter bots, numbering in millions, could be used to blanket internet with weaponized false info (by the way, that headline should read “is already being used to” not could be). A similar problem exists on Facebook, though because of some of the company’s policies, it’s a lot harder to determine just how many fake Americans Russian hackers manufactured to spread fake news and amp up membership on Pro-Trump pages: The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election. So I think one reason the organizers were expecting bigger crowds is they just haven’t figured out how many of their supportors online are fake accounts.
Besides, the Trump supporters burning their hats? They’re doing it for very racist reasons: Trump Supporters Are Burning Their MAGA Hats: They’re not happy about his prospective deal with Democrats to protect DACA recipients. That’s right, the hardcore supporters are angry because undocumented people who were brought to this country as children might, might be given a path to citizenship. You know, that thing the Trump supporter keep angrily asking why the Dreamers and such haven’t already done (because legally they still can’t)?
One more thing: all of those supporters burning those hats? They may want to think about the little American flag on that thing: I Wonder If Angry, MAGA Hat-Burning Trump Supporters Know They’re Burning a Tiny American Flag, Too. Since the pro-trump/anti-semetic/pro-gun demographic (i.e., most of his supporters) is also historically the same people who scream bloody murder if someone burns a U.S. flag as a protest.
But then, you can’t expect consistency from people who define the Statue of Liberty as a non-patriotic symbol, and reduce Christianity to hating queers.
I am really getting tired of seeing headlines about Trump voters who are having buyer’s remorse. And I am absolutely disgusted that we still keep seeing headlines and op-eds urging us to try to sympathize with his voters. We already have plenty of proof that the thing his voters have in common is bigotry. Poor and working class people overwhelming voted against Trump. So stop trying to make a case that people flocked to him because of financial distress.
I’m also really tired of bigots and their apologists trying to argue that any criticism of their hatred and bigotry proves we’re just as intolerant as they are. It’s not a new argument by any means. I’ve had people throwing that one at me personally since the 70s, and it’s been around a lot longer than that. Karl Popper called it the Paradox of Tolerance: that the only way to have a tolerant society is not to tolerate the intolerant.It’s a false equivalency, in any case. Let’s look for a moment at the transgender bothroom bills as an example. The bigots who push the bills make a lot of noise about sexual assault (despite the fact that many states have had laws allowing transgender people to use the bathroom the matches their gender identity and there as never been a single case of someone using the law to try to commit assault), or the religious freedom argument. But all of that is just smoke and mirrors. Look at the actual impact of the laws banning transgender people from using a public bathroom that matches their identity. The practical upshot is that under such laws, transgender people cannot safely use any public bathroom. At all. If they try to go into the bathroom that matches their gender presentation, they are violating the law and risk arrest. If they try to go into the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth, particularly if they don’t look like they belong there, they risk being harassed, beaten, and worse. The effect of the law is to make it impossible for transgender people to exist in public places, work places, and so forth. And that isn’t an unintended consequence. The people pushing the laws don’t think transgender people have a right to exist at all.
What’s another word for “you don’t have the legal right to exist”? Genocide. Murder. Take your pick.
But what is the other side of this debate? The other side is saying that transgender people have the right to exist, and therefore other people can’t force them out of existence with the power of the law. The other side is not saying that people who wish transgender people didn’t exist are themselves subject to execution. It simply says that they have to let the other people exist. The bigots aren’t going to be assaulted for thinking unpleasant things about some of their neighbors. The only penalties they will face depend on their actions, not on their mere existence. Yes, if they state their opinions, they might get called a bigot. If they try to act on their opinions, they may face other penalties. But no one is saying they don’t have a right to exist.
Donald’s campaign promises consisted of contradictory statements and a boatload of racist and other bigoted dog-whistles. He didn’t just appeal to the intolerant, he promised that if they acted on their intolerance he would help them get away with it (what do you think the real message of that “I’ll pay your legal bills” was?). It is no accident that certain types of hate crimes went up after his election. It is no accident that some of these hateful people, when they assaulted (or attempted to assault) people of color or queer people and so forth, shouted things like “this is Trump’s country now!”
Besides being unfit for office, Donald campaigned on hate and implied genocide. It isn’t just ludicrous to ask people to empathize with his supporters, it’s suicidal for a free society to do so. So stop giving us those headlines.
I keep saving various images to possibly use to illustrate a Friday Links post or a political commentary, then wind up using only a fraction of them. We have another busy weekend of hauling things to Value Village and cleaning out the old place, so no time to do much writing or commenting on anything that’s happened since I put together this week’s roundup of links, so, here are some of my recently collected images/memes/what-have-you:
About a month ago a political scandal reared its head in Seattle. An anonymous man filed a lawsuit against Mayor Ed Murray—our fist openly gay mayor, a man who served many years in the state legislature as an openly gay man—alleging that decades ago when the plaintiff was 15 years old, Murray had paid him for sex. Because of the age of the plaintiff at time, if the allegations are true, it would have been consider sexual assault, child rape, et cetera because the younger man was below the age of consent.
It was difficult to know how to respond to the allegations. The lawsuit was filed just six weeks before the filing deadline to run for mayor. The law firm representing the plaintiff is headed by a notorious anti-gay activitist. False accusations of sexual predation on underaged boys are lodged against gay men all the time. The lawyer handling the case has since behaved as if this is a crazy PR stunt rather than a case. For example, going online on local news sites to make long and very unlawyerly comments on stories about the case, or filing “motions” with the court that have nothing to do with the case but contain long press release-style recounting a of rumors about odd things that have happened around the mayor.
Three more accusers have stepped forward, two of whom had tried to make similar allegations some years ago, but were unable to convince police in Portland, Oregon in 1984 to file charges, and more recently even the local Republican-leaning paper felt there wasn’t enough evidence to print their story of being abused in a group home where Murray worked in the 80s. The paper rushed to publish the 9-year-old interviews as soon of the law suit was filed.
To be clear, among the reasons I leaned toward thinking the allegations are probably false is that in 1984 police in Portland, Oregon were not exactly known for being pro-gay, neither was the Multnomah County Prosecutor. At the time, Murray was an openly gay man with a degree in Sociology working with troubled youth. Not exactly the sort of person you would expect the police or prosecutors to go easy on in regards to charges of child rape. That led me to think that in the 1984 investigation it wasn’t merely a lack of corroborating evidence, but that there was actually evidence refuting the charges.
On the other hand, my own experience of surviving physical and emotional abuse from a parent, and how people didn’t believe me (even people who witnessed some of the abuse), as well as the many accounts of survivors of various kinds of abuse whose allegations are dismissed out of hand, the stastistics about rape victims being disbelieved, and so forth, made me reluctant to leap to the conclusion that the allegations were false.
But then there was the way Murray chose to defend himself. Rather than simply deny the allegations and say that he was looking forward to his day in court (the statute of limitations for criminal charges is long past, so it’s a civil lawsuit), Murray and his lawyer initially attacked the two non-anonymous accusers for their criminal records and drug histories. He suggested that the lawsuit was being filed for political purposes, and questioned why the plaintif was suing anonymously and waited so long to file.
Attacking the credibility of accusors is a classic abuser tactic. It doesn’t prove that Murray did it, but if he was able to dispel the scandal this way, it would have a chilling effect on abuse survivors who have less-than-perfect pasts.
The original plaintif then revealed his identity and explained that he had remained quiet all of these years because he didn’t want his father to know that he had worked as a prostitute during his teen years. His father having recently passed away, the plaintiff felt free to come forward now.
Certainly the attorney’s odd behavior (which has actually provoked sanctions from the judge) makes one wonder what his motives are for taking this case on contingency. Murray isn’t fabulously wealthy, so I’m not sure any judgement earned is going to justify the months of work the lawyer will undertake between now and the trial date (scheduled for next year). Since the initial filing of the case came off as a mini media circus, he clearly wasn’t hoping for a quick settlement to make the scandal go away. But no matter how impure the lawyer’s motives may be, it doesn’t mean the underlying allegations are false.
The four men in question have far from spotless records. But the other thing they have in common is that all four were, as teens, in very bad situations. It isn’t unexpected that coming from such a background they would find themselves turning to crime and drugs just to get by. And it is very difficult to break out of such a cycle once it is started. Vulnerable people, particular vulnerable teens, are exactly the sorts of victims certain types of abusers seek out, precisely because “respectable” people are disinclined to believe them.
On yet another hand, Murray is notoriously thin-skinned. He’s infamous for shouting at people who disagree with him, not to mention shouting at his own staff members when things don’t go his way. That means he’s exactly the sort of person who, if he is innocent of the charges, would react by attacking his accusers. But routinely shouting at people who work for you is also indicative of a particular kind of abusive person…
Fortunately, many prominent people were willing to make public statements about how the Mayor’s defense tactics cast a chilling effect on abuse victims and rape victims and so forth. The calls for him to at least drop his re-election campaign all focused on that, leaving the truth or faleshood of the allegations for a jury. So, yesterday he announced that he won’t seek re-election, though he plans to serve out his term.
If the allegations are false, it is sad that a man who has devoted so much of his life to furthering the cause of civil rights for queer people has had his career ended by them. If the allegations are true, it’s sad that his victims weren’t believed and that they felt unable to come forward publicly sooner. And it’s going to be infuriating when (not if) the usual anti-gay a-holes use this as an example that queer people are evil.
I hope the charges aren’t true, but if they are, I hope that a jury figures that out and that at least some form of justice is served. Because everyone, no matter their class, status, or past, deserves justice.
It seems so reasonable. Simple. Just talk. Listen to their side. We always argue for tolerance, right? Listen to their side of things. Maybe we’ll learn something. And once they see we’re willing to listen, they can be persuaded to see things from our perspective.
Seriously, I’m a queer man in my late 50s. I grew up in tiny rural communities attending Southern Baptist Churches. You think I haven’t heard at least a billion times the perspective of the people who think religious freedom means a right to discriminate against me? You think I haven’t heard millions of times why queers don’t deserve civil rights protections? You think I haven’t heard millions of times how they perceive black people, brown people, people with accents, people who don’t attend the same churches as they do?
I have had no choice but to listen for decades!
You cannot talk someone who doesn’t think you’re their equal into accepting your right to autonomy. They may claim that they respect you. They may call you their friend. They may think of you as an exception to the truth they hold deep in their hearts about the inherent inequalities of different types of people. But the only thing that’s going to do is that you will be the person they trot out as proof that they aren’t prejudiced when someone else calls them on it. I know because it’s happened many times to me, personally.
Sure, when I’ve argued that queer people need to live their lives out and proud (if they can safely do so), I have cited the studies that show that actually knowing queer people makes other people more likely to support our rights. But it makes them more likely. It isn’t a magic formula that is guaranteed to change any specific person’s mind.
My evangelical upbringing is especially relevant to this particular argument. Despite making fun of a disabled person, talking about pussy-grabbing, and openly calling for violence against people who disagree, Donald got 80% of the evangelical vote. That’s better than George W. Bush every managed!
And those folks are absolutely convinced that they don’t hate anyone. They will angrily tell you just how much they love you in the same breath that they say that if your rights are protected, that will offend god so much that he will destroy America. They don’t see the contradiction between those statements. When it comes to things like women’s rights and racial issues, they just as emphatically insist that they aren’t bigots. They just know, because they think it’s in the Bible, that women are meant to be subservient to men, and that brown people are meant to be subservient to white people. If they aren’t quite willing to say that last part out loud, what they will fall back on is the separate but equal dodge on race, because god intended the races to be separate, they say.
It’s a weird theological argument: god wouldn’t have made you a woman, or a African-American, or Latino, or whatever, if you weren’t meant to fulfill certain roles in life. Maybe he sees inherent moral weaknesses in your soul. It isn’t at all logical, and most of them can’t articulate it beyond the notion that they believe it’s in the Bible. But that’s what you’re up against: god said it, god did it, god intends it. And no amount of talking or listening or being friends with people whose life experience belies that is going to shake their resolve. They may feel doubts. They may even confess to you that they realize you are a good person despite being in a category they have been taught is inherently not. But they will then shrug, say it’s god’s doing, and they’ll cheerfully vote for any candidate who affirms their ideas.
Even if that candidate also says a lot of things that completely contradict the teachings of their church. Because once they decide that a candidate is god’s choice, they can hand-wave everything away with the old “he works in mysterious ways.”
It’s an exhausting battle.
So, yes, be kind and civil. If you have the time and energy to attempt to be friends with someone, you can. But don’t kid yourself that doing so is more effective than calling your congressperson, or going to a protest, or joining a boycott, or going to town hall meetings, or donating to organizations that protect our rights. And please, don’t let the people in your life who think it’s okay to take away your rights think that you endorse those ideas.
Because you’re just empowering them to hurt others.
There’s also been a lot of churn generated over the fact that several Democratic congresspeople are not attending the inauguration. I say churn because the truth is that every inauguration has been skipped by a bunch of the congresscritters. One of Washington state’s Democratic reps admitted this week that he’s only attended two during his 20 years in office. Many have announced that they’re not attending specifically as a boycott. And the person who has been getting the most criticism for that is Georgia Representative John Lewis.
Lewis had previously skipped George W. Bush’s first inauguration. It was particularly hilarious watching trump supporters calling Lewis out on Martin Luther King Jr Day. See, Lewis worked with King, back in the day. Way back in 1960 he was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders. By 1963 he was involved in the leadership of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an early African-American civil rights organization. He participated in King’s marches. He organized marches of his own. He endured beatings, survived firebombing, and more.
So to see clueless white people, particularly clueless white D-list celebrities, try to lecture him on what Martin Luther King would do or say if he were alive today (or to see them lecture Lewis of all people in what it takes to win civil rights battles) went beyond both hilarious and pathetic.
I do agree that we shouldn’t spent too much time and attention on who is boycotting the inauguration and other symbolic acts. Symbolic acts are important, but much more important is to fight for our rights. We need to get more people doing more than just tweeting, even if some of it is satisfying in a gallows humor sort of way: Dismayed Trump voters tweet about losing their Obamacare benefits and GOP Congressman, Overwhelmed by Constituents Concerned About ACA Repeal, Sneaks Out of Event Early. And then, of course, there’s this: Donald Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare.
Of course, that’s only one of the dozens of fronts that the Republicans are hoping to roll back people’s rights, take money and benefits away from ordinary Americans, and give massive tax cuts to a very small number of people and corporations that are already mega-rich.
But, part of the fight is going to involve getting Trump riled up. We can’t use ordinary tactics to deal with him. He doesn’t respond to reason, to polls, or to the usual forms of political persuasion and leverage. A couple months ago when I was having a very difficult time finding any aspects of the election outcome to be hopeful about, I re-tweeted someone’s comment about impeachment, which started a conversation with a friend who made the assertion that Trump is a control freak who will resist being manipulated by the Republicans as much as he resists other things. I think that is a serious misunderstanding of Trump’s personality.
He is absolutely not a control freak.
Control freaks work hard. Yes, I am speaking for personal experience. Control freaks actually need to be in control. Control freaks need to micromanage every aspect of things in their lives. Abusive control freaks monitor the people under their control constantly, and yes get really angry if they feel they’re being manipulated by the people who they expect to obey them. Trump is not a control freak, because all that paying attention and monitoring and micromanaging takes time and effort that Trump doesn’t want to expend. It takes effort and attention that I think he is fundamentally unable to focus on.
Trump is an attention whore who takes credit for other people’s work.
That’s a very different dynamic. There’s a reason that Trump’s son approached the various vice presidential possibilities with an offer to be “the most power veep in history” because the vice president would be in charge of all domestic and foreign policy while the president was busy “being in charge of making America great again.” Trump will make pronouncements. He loves making pronouncements. He loves barking out orders and expecting other people to do the hard work to make it happen. He loves belittling people. He loves getting applause. He really loves it when people fear him. So he will make threats. He will fire people. He will try to turn the full power of the presidency on completely outmatched targets out of petty vindictiveness. He’ll be inconsistent. He’ll change his mind on something a half dozen times.
But he’ll sign off an anything and everything that he doesn’t perceive as interfering with his real goal: which is to get all the attention he can get, while looking for ways to enrich himself. He has no shame, no empathy, and no sense of decency. He is dangerous, as much for the kinds of people he enables and empowers as for his own capabilities. He will never take the high road.
So it’s okay to feel happy when things don’t go his way. We just can’t stop at the feeling.
On one level I understand why during many election years so many Americans talk rather blithely of it being simply a choice of the lesser of two evils. Earlier this year Stephen Colbert and John Stewart incorporated it into a small skit in which they pretended that Stewart has spent all of his time since retiring from the Daily Show living in a cabin in the woods somewhere, and Stephen shows up at his door desperate for help with the election. Stewart says, “Don’t worry! I’m sure Jeb Bush will be fine!” Stewart says.
From the viewpoint of many people, it usually appears that the major parties have each nominated basically similar guys, who have some differences on particular policies, but both talk about opportunity and freedom and respecting the Constitution. Depending on what your personal priorities are, one might say more things you agree with regarding taxes, for instance, but the same candidate says just as many things you disagree with in the topic of medical care. The other one says stuff you disagree with on taxes, while saying things you agree with on law enforcement.
So superficially it can feel as if being asked whether you want a red napkin or a blue napkin with your meal. You’re still going to get a meal which contains some food you love and some you don’t, and the bill is probably going to be a little higher than you hoped in the end, so why should the napkin matter?
For some of us, it has never been like that.
I wasn’t out of the closet in 1980. I was still several years away from the moment I would say aloud for the first time, “I think I might be gay.” But I had had more than a few furtive experiences with other guys and had been wrestling with the conflict between my conservative Christian upbringing and the fact that no matter how much I pleaded with god, the feelings wouldn’t go away. And for several years I had been watching political campaigns to pass laws to make it legal for people to fire me, to deny me housing, to send me to jail, and much worse simply because I fell in love with other guys.
In 1980 one party had for the first time in history adopted a plank saying the people shouldn’t be discriminated against because of sexual orientation. The other party very clearly was in favor of not just discriminating, but actively persecuting people like me.
My ability to live freely was on the ballot the first time I was allowed to vote for a president.
By the time 1984 rolled around, people like me were dying of a then-mysterious and scary disease. I had sat in church with my head bowed and then felt the horror when the pastor unexpectedly thanked god for sending AIDS to kill queers. One party was still saying it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against me, and now the other one was encouraging the people who were explicitly saying I should be dead.
In 1992 the Democratic Presidential candidate didn’t just leave the rhetoric of protecting us from discrimination in the platform, he actively and frequently argued that not only should we be protected by anti-discrimination laws, and not only should we not be left to die if we got sick, but we should actually be allowed to serve openly in the military. That may seem like a little thing, but it was clearly a statement that we were full citizens deserving not just tolerance, but respect. This forced the other candidate to openly say what had mostly been implied by his predecessors: that queers didn’t deserve legal protections, that our very existence wasn’t just regrettable, but it somehow made America less safe.
By 1996 the same candidate who had pledged to help us had been maneuvered into a compromise that made the situation for queers in the military worse, but the other side, oh my goodness, the other side! In my local state the Republican party had planks in the platform that literally equated us with witches and demons, that literally equated tolerance for us with witchcraft, and that literally called for locking queer people up in medical facilities. Yes, the party had been hijacked by what we all thought of at the time the fringe, but our state wasn’t the only one. And plenty of Republicans all over the country were talking about us as dangerous, as needing to be locked up, and more.
In 2000 I found myself arguing with someone who I had thought of as a friend who lived in another state where she was enthusiastically voting for a candidate who promised to make it illegal for queers to work in medical jobs, in child care jobs, or as teachers, and wanted to create a system of “medical camps” where queer men would be “quarantined” for the safety of the rest of the public. While at the top of the the ticket Bush and Cheney both made conciliatory statements about tolerating gay people, they still opposed full civil equality. All up and down the ticket you could find plenty of their candidates arguing that the very existence of queer people was dangerous, that our physical relationships should be illegal (and in many places still were prosecuted as crimes), and so forth.
And then in 2004 the Republicans hit on the strategy of actively pushing for state bans and constitutional amendments to more deeply encode our persecution into the laws of the land! There were far more candidates on that side saying to recognizing us as full citizens would cause god to destroy America.
A lot of people try to make the lesser of two evils argument because in 2008 the leading democratic candidates were arguing for civil unions and against letting queer people marry. To do that ignores the folks on the other side who were still arguing that it should be legal to fire us everywhere (not just the 29 states where we lack antidiscrimination protections), who were angry at the Supreme Court for saying the laws criminalizing our relationships were unconstitutional, and thus were campaigning to make being queer a crime again everywhere. Again, one side thought we were people deserving at least basic rights, the other argued we were dangerous things that needed to be controlled.
In 2012 the Republicans were spouting all the same anti-queer rhetoric even more vehemently because the other party was arguing that we should have all legal rights, including the right to civil marriage.
And in 2016? This year the Republican party platform is even more viciously anti-gay than the 1996 state platform I mentioned above. This year, a lot of other people feel (rightly) that their very right to exist is on the ballot. This year in the name of fighting illegal immigration and defending us from terrorism, one party is arguing that people of some religions don’t deserve civil rights, that people of some races are automatically suspect as criminals, that people who are poor deserve it, that women who want medical care should only get what conservative white men think they,, deserve, and so on and so on.
And while for a lot of people this feels new, it feels as if a sudden lunacy has seized one party—it’s not. I hate to break it to you, but Romney, McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan were all spouting equally racist, misogynist, sectarian, and homophobic policies and values as the most deplorable Trump supporters are now. Trump isn’t a disease that has suddenly surfaced, he’s a symptom of a decades-long movement in the party to fan the flames of fear, promote racial resentment, foster religious division, and encourage hate. The Trump supporters who call for lynching journalists, beating people of color, deporting non-Christians, scalping people who support same-sex marriage, burning black churches, who claim Hillary is a satanist, insist that Obama and Clinton are literally demons, aren’t the lunatic fringe of the Republican party. They are simply enacting the rhetoric that Republicans have been using to rally their troops for the last forty years.
- You may have thought that Reagan was talking about the Constitution when he argued for state’s rights at a speech in Nashoba County, Mississippi, but everyone in Mississippi who had lived through the previous decades of civil rights struggles knew that he was saying that in the matter of white privilege vs black civil rights, he was on the side of the white guys while the blacks were clearly the enemy.
- You may have thought that the elder President Bush’s frequent evocation of Family Values was just wholesome-sounding empty rhetoric, but the thousands of people at the Republican Convention holding up signs that said “Family Rights Not Gay Rights” knew he was telling the anti-gay bigots that he was on their side and the queers had no moral values.
- You may have thought when Bob Dole said that “disabled people is a group no one joins by choice” he was simply arguing for more rights for disabled people, but he was telling the anti-gay people, the Creationists, and the anti-feminists that queers, atheists/non-Christians, and feminists deserved to be discriminated against and worse.
- You may have thought that when George W. Bush said as part of a speech about racial equality that African Americans had earned opportunities that he was arguing for respecting everyone, but the Republican base knew he was saying that only some people of color deserved respect, and it is perfectly alright to mistreat any you didn’t think had earned it.
- You may have thought that when John McCain said “that both parents are important in the success of a family” it was empty pro-family pablum, but anti-gay and anti-feminist members of the Republican base heard him saying the queers who adopt are harming children, and so are single parents (including women fleeing abusive relationships).
- You may have thought when Romney said that employers should be flexible and let female employees “go home and fix dinner” for their kids instead of making them work late, that he was talking about personal compassion, but the Republican base clearly heard that women only deserved respect when they were mothers and taking care of their man.
I could find a lot more examples from the previous six Republican nominees where they said things that signaled to the racists, homophobes, misogynists, et al that people of color, queers, women, and non-Christians are less valuable than cisgendered heterosexual white Christian men. They have been cooking this nasty stew of hatred for decades.
It’s not just Hillary and The Donald on the ballot. It is also the right for Americans of all races, genders, orientations, and beliefs to live with equal opportunity and dignity in this society. And I don’t just mean the right to be free—for many of us, our very right to live is on the line.It won’t be enough for Trump to lose. He needs to lose decisively. And the politicians down ballot who support him and the policies that have brought him to us need to be defeated, as well. We need to send a message, yes. But we also have to extend hope and a promise that the American republic and the democratic institutions that protect our rights will remain intact. Because when Trump talks about “opening up libel laws” and “locking up” his opponents and “getting rid” of legal impediments to deportation and more, he’s talking about ending the checks and balances that have existed since this country’s founding.
It isn’t just an existential crisis for the queers, people of color, women, and non-Christians this time. It’s an existential crisis for the republic itself.
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