The emerging likelihood that Hillary Clinton will be our next president confirms the political paradox that has always surrounded that storied family.
The 1990s was the era when Americans in large numbers came to accept lesbians and gays. The social issues that had elevated Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to the presidency began shifting away from the Republicans’ advantage. Change did not happen overnight, but these trends became pronounced under President Bill Clinton.
The first President Clinton fueled the war on drugs and allowed states to offer no welfare whatsoever, creating an underclass living on less than $5 a day. He created the poisonous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy and signed the Defense of Marriage Act. His neo-liberal policies repelled large numbers of the “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party,” but whatever his policies, Americans during his two terms in office turned decisively more liberal.
George W. Bush’s razor-thin 2000 victory did not alter that shift; in fact, W’s anti-gay marriage reelection campaign in 2004 pushed many Democrats to recognize that marriage equality represented a cutting-edge political issue. What was a very scary moment for the LGBT community ultimately boomeranged on the Republicans and culminated in the 2015 Supreme Court decision recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry. “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of that law,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote of the plaintiffs in the case. “The Constitution grants them that right.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president represents another historical watershed in this two-decade evolution. Trump is crowing, “White men matter more.” As recorded in a recent New York Times video, his jubilant fans boisterously shout their opposition to diversity: “Fuck political correctness.” They push protesters around yelling, “Get out of here, fag,” and scream at the mention of President Barack Obama’s name, “Fuck that n****r.” They proudly wear Trump that Bitch T-shirts. Campaign events ring with chants of “Build the wall” One man in the video called Trump the “last chance to preserve the culture I grew up in.”
“Make America great again” reeks with nostalgia for the days when homos existed as fags, there to service their heterosexual betters. A time when men shared a knowing grin after saying, “That lesbo chick needs a stiff dick.” An era that believed if white men are to prosper, then black and brown must be underfoot. Women may work if they bring the men their coffee. That mythic America would bring back nightstick justice and mean no chance of punishment for cops shooting minorities.
Trump’s popularity has scared the nation: if whites without a college education became truly energized and their turnout rises to unprecedented levels, the Donald could get elected.
That isn’t happening. The Democrats are coming together, and the Republicans recognize the danger. The situation is grave, say GOP officials especially from the Bush era: it is time to choose country over party. Mike Coffman, an ex-marine who is a Republican congressmember from the Denver suburbs, is running a TV ad insisting that country comes first and pledging, “I will stand up” to Donald Trump. Other GOP donors and former GIs are repeating that message.
A gap now separates Trump from many veterans and experts in the military industrial complex. Republican women are endorsing Hillary in growing numbers, including Meg Whitman, the Hewlett Packard CEO who is a former GOP candidate for governor of California. It is nearly unprecedented for people of such eminence in a political party to desert it.
These are signs that Republicans will not turn out for Trump and he will lose in a landslide. That is an outcome we should all hope for and vote for. Hillary would be the first woman president, and could become the knight that slays the now awoken dragon of overt racism and homophobia.