Hey, can we do one more election post-mortem? (I know, I know.)
Since last week’s elections, a lot of progressives have been taking victory laps: Phew! Well, that’s over.
We did re-elect a president more LGBTQ-friendly than any U.S. president in history—even if we (and his own vice president) had to drag him there, sometimes.
Same-sex marriage made gains in four states, and more women were elected to the U.S. Senate than ever before, including Tammy Baldwin, our first openly gay senator. As Sue noted, it was a historic ass-kicking. And how did we do this? Our side turned out voters. According to this survey, 90 percent of LGBTQ voters went for Obama. (Hat tip.)
But foes of LGBTQ equality and feminism won’t go away quietly, which means we must keep turning out voters, and putting up candidates for offices—which means every office. (This goes for people of color, immigrants and children of immigrants, and people of religious minorities, too, all of whom are under-represented in our government—although generally speaking race, national origin and religion are protected categories under existing laws, while LGBTQ protections are often tenuous at best.)
I mean, do we really think Butler County’s state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is going to be chastened by this year’s election results? I wouldn’t bet on it. (According to Chris Potter, Metcalfe is making noises about “voter fraud.” Metcalfe ran unopposed for his eighth term this year. Seriously, WTF, Cranberry Township?)
Demographics are turning against people who would roll back rights and protections, but even as their numbers shrink, they remain determined and extremely well-organized—fanatical, even.
Sometimes I listen to fringe preachers on Sunday morning radio in Pittsburgh. (I know, I’m a weirdo.) You should try some time, too, if you dare, or maybe surf some “traditional values” blogs. Heck, you could even put on your good Sunday duds and drop in on a fundamentalist mega-church. What you hear, right here in Pittsburgh, might stun you.
In my neighborhood, our local unaffiliated conservative church regularly gets 1,000 worshippers every weekend, and Sunday after Sunday, their pastor rails against “radical homosexual agendas” and “radical feminist agendas.” (Seriously, in fundamentalist churches, feminist-bashing is as popular as it ever was in Phyllis Schlafly’s glory days. After all, anything effeminate is devil’s work, don’t we see?
(Meanwhile, nearby liberal mainline Christian churches—ones not hostile to women clergy and openly gay people—attract maybe 50 people to services.)
Battling equality for women and LGBTQ people has become an obsession for far-right religious fundamentalists, and I think we can safely call it their holy war.
From their point of view, stopping feminism and gay rights is God’s work, and they vote their beliefs in every election. (“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”)
Progressives stayed home in droves in 2010, and it was an absolute disaster for our side—Tea Party-backed candidates gained control of 23 state legislatures and 29 governor’s mansions.
Worst of all, since redistricting happens every 10 years, conservatives redistricted Pennsylvania and those other states, locking in majorities through 2020. Philadelphia Weekly reports 2.7 million people voted last week for Democratic congressional candidates, versus 2.6 million votes for Republicans. If seats were awarded proportionately, Pennsylvania might have nine Democratic and nine Republican congressional representatives, or 10 D’s and eight R’s.
Instead, we have five Democrats and 13 Republicans.
(I don’t think this should particularly be about D’s versus R’s, since plenty of Democrats have done things hostile to women and gone “squishy” on protections for gender identity and sexual orientation. But Republicans who vocally support LGBTQ causes seem almost invisible away from the coasts, and they certainly don’t hold power in their national party.)
Older, conservative voters also show up at off-year elections that don’t get much advertising or media attention for municipal and school board offices, and those offices can make life miserable for women, minorities and LGBTQ people by flat-out refusing to protect our families and our property and employment rights.
If we pay attention to these offices, it’s not when people are running, but after the fact—when school boards won’t allow gay-straight alliances or forbid teachers from discussing so-called “sensitive” topics, or when town councils refuse to protect gays and lesbians from employment discrimination.
Obama will (I hope) appoint judges and cabinet officials who will protect and expand hard-earned rights for which women and the LGBTQ community have fought for decades.
But Obama’s victory only affects federal offices, and it’s just one battle in a long (maybe endless) war for our opponents.
They live their beliefs. We need to live our beliefs, too, and next year and every year, candidates for local offices who support LGBTQ equality should get our vocal support—all the way down to mayors, borough councilors, township commissioners and school directors. Women and LGBTQ candidates should run for those offices, too. And we need to run get out and vote in every election, not just national elections. Ninety percent of LGBTQ people voted for Obama this year, which is great. How about 90 percent of LGBTQ people voting, period, in 2013?
Voting and running candidates—that needs to be our real “radical agenda,” I think.