A Rock and a Hard Place
As of this writing, we have 59 days of this insanely divisive campaign season to go. Not that the divisive views go away in 60 days, but at least the intensity will moderate. At least, one hopes.
As election time approaches, the amount of vitriol I’ve witness in on-line exchanges has increased to a near intolerable level. This isn’t entirely unexpected given the oft-documented circumstances, but it is certainly maddening to attempt to have reasonable discussions while so many around you are experiencing some kind of virtual Klingon style blood fever. People on the right have been conditioned to mistrust, if not outright hate, the Clinton’s for a quarter century (I used to run in those circles, I know what that’s like) and Mr. Trump seems to delight in provoking as many people to hate him as to love him. In any election there’s an element of extreme rhetoric but it almost seems like that vitriol has taken over the political conversation, and voters are either withdrawn into a defensive posture where they avoid all political discussion, or the rant at each other.
For trans, and other LGBQ people, things have gotten even more bizarre. Nothing is more surreal to me than watching trans and gay people passionately defend and support a man who’s kissed the ring of our most bitter opponents and pledged to sacrifice to them the one bastion of justice that we can turn to in order to seek civil equality despite pandering political opposition – the courts. But I see it every day. Which is not to say that I don’t have some understanding of how they get there.
I’m coming to this discussion as a person who spent decades as a passionate member of the right wing social conservative crowd. I graduated high school in the first year of Reagan’s administration and bought in to the “you can’t trust the liberal media” worldview pretty readily. This was all in conjunction with the lifelong religious indoctrination that had thoroughly trained me to hate myself and be ashamed of what I was. The internalized self-loathing went hand in hand with Traditionalist conservatism and by the time Reagan left office I was playing the role of a baptist preacher. Even though I came out to my spouse and accepted myself in 2008, it would be a few years even after that before I fully shook off the dissonance of supporting Republicans even though they wanted people like me to continue to be oppressed.
I can scroll back to my earliest Facebook posts (I joined just after I went full time at the end of 2009) and read my own words as I rationalized being “otherwise conservative” even though I had become pro-equality as justification for opposing Democrats. The rational being that “if the economy collapses it won’t do any good to have equality on paper.” I do not say that anymore, but I recognize that as the reasoning being employed by my conservative Republican trans (and gay) friends. To a certain extent, if the Republican nominee were, for example, John Kasich or Marco Rubio, I could still respect that even if I know longer believe that. But two things are specifically different.
First, Donald Trump is not just any Republican. His faults are so well documented that a recitation would be redundant but what’s so striking is that even many of his supporters readily acknowledge what a mess he is. They will concede virtually every charge, and still fall back on “Clinton is a murderer” (or whatever variation) and/or “he’s not a politician so he’ll shake things up.” Gotta tell you though, an earthquake shakes things up, too. Doesn’t mean we want to invite one. Moreover, if your goal is to “shake things up” there’s a high-quality third party candidate that every single voter has the chance to vote for without resorting to voting for someone who’s manifestly the worst nominee for a major party since at least William Jennings Bryan. Worse, because he’s such a loose cannon, you can even count on him to follow through on the unspecific salvation he’s promised. You literally have no idea what actual policy he’d like to enact except tax cuts.
Second, and for me this is crucial specifically for trans people, even four years ago and certainly before that, while the religious right Pharisees were certainly opposed to us in theory, they were not actively and obsessively making trans people the target of their agenda. Trump has made considerable hay out of the assertion that, since he is (allegedly) so rich, he has no need to take contributions from or do favors for rich contributors. But he still needs a machine, an organization will to drive voters in his direction while he’s professing to spurn traditional politics. That machine is driven by Tony Perkins and his ilk, and those folks expect payment. When the bill comes due, it will be in the form of judicial appointments. And therein lies the clear and present danger.
At this moment there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Three of the remaining eight will be 78 or older by the time the next president is sworn in. Any one, or all three might pass away, fall-ill, or retire in the next 4 years. Depending on who’s elected, two are virtually certain to. While the current opening is a seat held by arch-conservative Antonin Scalia, the three oldest justices are two liberals and the key swing vote. Typically a Justice will serve 20-30 years if not longer. If a Republican appoints 3-4 justices, and stacks lower courts as well, Trans rights in law will be stalled potentially for decades to come, conversely if Clinton get’s those appointments, the court will be a friend to civil equality for the next 20 years or more.
Now it’s true that the conservative voter is concerned about more than one issue when it comes to the courts. Particularly, it seems, gun rights. And some of these inspire great passion. But I find it astonishing that a trans person can be so invested in owning their semi-auto rifle or whatever, that they are willing to accept second class status in law for what in many cases will be the rest of their lives (given that conservative voters skew older – polls indicate that Trump is winning the 45+ crowd and losing the younger vote). I can’t conceive what issue would be so important to you that you would surrender to the Culture Warriors.
Again, if you are passionate about conservative economics and such, but rightly despise the Dominionist Pharisees that control the Republicans, there’s an alternative – you don’t HAVE to choose which of those is more important. In fact, if sensible conservatives rallied to Gary Johnson, possibly sensible Republicans would withdraw from Culture War politics (which, frankly, they don’t like anyway but the feel obliged to pander on) and we’ll get better nominees in the future.
Finally, to be clear, I’ve said nothing for or against Clinton so far in this post except that her party and position supports civil equality for trans people which is objectively true, whatever else you may think of her positions or her personally. I do not propose to suggest to you whether or not to vote for her because that involves wading into the fever swamp of charges made against he by her opposition. I don’t want to debate all that because no minds ever change. It’s also true that for the voter who abhors Trump for all that he is, there’s no point in debate, that mind isn’t going to change (as he said himself) if he shoots someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue.
BUT if you’re one of those who’ve resigned themselves to Trump because you can’t abide Clinton personally, or Democrat politics in general, and think you are stuck with him – you’re not. There’s another option. If there was ever a year to take it, it’s this one.
Photo by: Anthony Karanja