Needed Now: Sustained, Patient, and Persistent Protests and Political Engagement

BY ERIC RADER

Elections have consequences. If the last eight months have not proven this adage to be true, nothing ever could. The United States is witnessing an incompetent and ultra-conservative administration, led by a man whose mental stability is in serious question, inflict damage on the American people every day.

During his campaign in 2016, candidate Donald Trump proclaimed that he would be better for the LGBT community than his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. It becomes clearer by the day that this statement was as false as so many others he's made.

Trump has no core convictions or principles, other than winning. As a New York businessman for many years, Trump had gay friends and associates in his circle. On a personal level, it is likely that Trump is not particularly opposed to rights for LGBT folks. However, when it comes to his actions in office, this president has been a disaster for our community. In his normal cavalier manner, he announced via Twitter that he was rescinding former President Barack Obama's policy allowing transgender Americans to serve openly in the military. He has reversed the Obama administration's legal argument that federal civil rights protections against gender discrimination include LGBT citizens. Soon after taking office, Trump's Education Department reversed the Obama administration's order to public schools requiring they allow students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The president appointed an anti-gay ideologue to the Supreme Court, filling the seat that opened under President Obama with a justice who will likely sit there for 25-30 years or longer. The Trump administration is filled with far-right religious fanatics who believe that there is something morally wrong with LGBT people.

During last year's election campaign, Trump infamously held up an upside down rainbow flag in a futile effort to demonstrate his support for our community. In his toxic acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, Trump announced his support for the LGBT community, stumbling over the letters as if he were a young child learning his alphabet for the first time. For some moderates who were reticent to support an inconsistent and unpredictable candidate, Trump's "inclusion" of gay people in his first major speech was enough to convince them that he would not align with radical fundamentalist types in the GOP. Many others held their noses and voted for Trump, believing that his focus would be on dealing with the economic problems facing Michigan and many other states, even as the overall economy has improved. And of course, a significant number of Trump's supporters were bigots, fully expecting that he would cater to their racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia.

A large number of voters could see Trump for who he has always been--an unprincipled bigot. Unfortunately, the LGBT community is now a prime target of Trump's bigotry, which is being used for his own political expediency. Now the question is how our community should respond. One easy way to counter the Trump administration's noxious actions is to vote in upcoming elections. Far too many people do not participate in American democracy, leaving a vacuum into which charlatans like Trump can leap. Nonparticipation is part of the reason the president won Michigan in last year's election.

While there are no federal elections in 2017, there are a host of local ones taking place in November. We all need to participate in these elections and ensure that equality can expand around our state. Heading into 2018 and beyond, we must continue to hold our leaders accountable. The Obama years saw great leaps forward in equality for the LGBT community. While some of these gains may be halted or even reversed under the Trump administration, the reality is that a majority of Americans now support equal rights for all of us.

That means Trump and his coalition are on the wrong side of history, just as segregationists were in the 1950s and 1960s. The LGBT movement can learn from the efforts of the Civil Rights movement as we procced in our own struggle to make our rights permanent. There will be setbacks in the coming few years, but they need not be irreversible. Sustained, patient, and persistent protests and political engagement is our best response to Trumpism.

Work your tail off to elect candidates who will check Trump and get involved in our own civil rights movement. History shows that political engagement is the key to social progress, and this is a lesson we must learn and apply at this perilous time for our nation.

Eric Rader teaches political science at Henry Ford College and loves talking politics. Connect with Eric at ewill4651@yahoo.com, or via Twitter @RaderEric.
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