How Identity Politics Sunk Liberalism

The Washington Times editorializes on election winners and losers. Excerpt:

The most deserving loser of all was one Brad Avakian, the Oregon official who fined a baker and his wife $135,000 for declining to bake a wedding cake for two lesbians, because it would violate their Christian beliefs to participate in a same-sex wedding. The bakers offered to find someone else to bake the cake. Paying the fine drove them out of business, and Mr. Avakian counted on the publicity to assure him a career in higher politics, and he ran for Oregon secretary of state. He was trounced by an opponent who was the first Republican to win a statewide race in Oregon in 14 years. Not even a doughnut hole for Mr. Avakian.

This week of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for that outcome.

On a wider note, an op-ed in the New York Times by Trump critic Mark Lilla calls out liberals’ obsession with identity politics and division over the common principles that bring us together as Americans. He writes:

Hillary Clinton…tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals. …

We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another. As for narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)

It’s a nice idea, but I wouldn’t count on it happening.

Faith and Freedom Can Get Along Just Fine

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, writes:

Our laws can promote freedom from discrimination alongside freedom of religion. An extreme approach that believes one side wins only if the other side loses, that would veto any affirmation of existing protections, will produce nothing but discord and resentment. What we need instead is compromise and good faith, on both sides.

Sound a lot like what Jonathan Rauch has been saying.

I’ll note that this was written as the GOP took the presidency and maintained its majorities in the Senate and House, so no, it’s not an argument being made from political weakness.

[Added: I understand the response “Sure, now they want to compromise,” but activists have stated for 20 years that their goal was to pass sexual orientation (and, more recently, gender identity) nondiscrimination protections, and now there’s a GOP president who might actually support and sign a reasonable bill. So staunch opposition to religious exemptions and requiring that the existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act (signed by Bill Clinton) be excluded from applying to any such measure—as the Human Rights Campaign and others are demanding—is not a strategy that seeks to accomplish anything except to maintain the political standoff so useful in fundraising appeals.]

A win-win compromise—LGBT legal protections with reasonable and traditional exemptions for religious belief, especially among small, independent service providers—would be in the best interest of everyone except for activists whose power and prestige is based on perpetuating the culture wars.

Trump and LGBT Issues: Beyond the Fear-Mongering

Walter Olson, a former Independent Gay Forum contributing author, shares his expectations about what’s ahead for LGBT issues in a Trump administration—and, tangentially, on the obtuseness of left-liberal LGBT political groups. [Update: a slightly revised and more accessible version was published Nov. 13 in the New York Post.] Excerpts:

• Freedom to marry is not going anywhere. The Supreme Court, even after two or three Trump appointments, is unlikely to reverse the outcomes of Windsor and Obergefell unless public opinion itself turns against those outcomes, which I do not believe it will.

• The plans of organized gay groups for sweeping new legislation are largely a dead letter. They will not admit that it was a mistake to have pulled support for the possibly enactable ENDA in favor of the overreaching Equality Act. (For reasons I have written about elsewhere, I myself favor neither of these bills.)

• Following the ACLU’s lead, organized LGBT groups will go on refusing to acknowledge any legitimate role whatsoever for religious or conscience exemptions in discrimination law and will decline to enter any negotiations to amend, refine, or otherwise improve measures like the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). That will in turn increase the danger that Congress will pass some version that is bad, unfair, or impractical.

• There will be at least one surprise that would ordinarily be seen as positive, such as the first appointment of a gay person to a Cabinet or Supreme Court post.

I agree.

More. Walter adds in the Post version:

I was not a Trump backer in last week’s election, but you don’t have to support him to see the pattern. Since he began testing the political waters in the 1980s he has repeatedly and visibly distanced himself from the rut much of the GOP was mired in on this set of issues.

In his acceptance speech in August, when GOP conventioneers heartily applauded his pledge to “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression” of jihadist ideology, he departed from his script: “I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”

By now it’s part of his brand, and no one cares more about protecting his brand than Donald Trump. I suspect to do that he’ll prove quite prepared to rein in the unwise impulses of some of his appointees.

And on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, CBS News reports:

Trump said after the Supreme Court ruling last year it’s the law of the land — and that he is “fine” with that being the case.

“It’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law,” he said. “It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done … these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And– I th– I’m– I’m fine with that.”

This is only a surprise to those who got their news from the mainstream and LGBT media during the campaign, or read LGBT political groups’ dishonest fundraising appeals.

Look Who’s Shut Out Now

A fundraising email from Log Cabin Republicans’ President Gregory T. Angelo makes some salient points. Excerpt:

For the past three weeks, I’ve been in regular communication with the Trump Transition Team, the group tasked with organizing personnel and policy for our president-elect.

While Log Cabin Republicans was working to have a relationship with our nation’s incoming chief executive, the LGBT Left was busy demonizing Donald Trump and fundraising off of bogeymen. …

After working for decades against Republicans rather than with them and putting all their faith into the failed candidacy of Hillary Clinton, purportedly “non-partisan” LGBT advocacy groups now face GOP majorities in the House and Senate, and a Republican in the White House….

Collectively, LGBT advocacy organizations on the Left have staff in the hundreds. Budgets in the millions. And yet, they don’t have a single point of contact in the incoming Trump administration. …

While LGBT liberals were breathlessly lamenting this fact to the New York Times, Log Cabin Republicans was quietly working behind-the-scenes to ensure the advances in LGBT freedom we have made thus far remain secure and continue in a Trump administration. No one else is doing this.

If interested in donating, here’s a link.

The New York Times article referenced above reports:

The election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency sent panic through much of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, which for the first time in eight years will face an administration hostile to its civil rights goals and a president-elect who has expressed a desire to reverse many of its political gains.

Jay Brown, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, said its office had received calls throughout the day on Wednesday from frightened people who wanted to know what the election results might mean for them.

And yet:

Mr. Trump has no reputation for personal animosity toward gay people, and the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian political organization, congratulated him on his victory. He employed gay people in the Trump Organization, spent most of his life in socially liberal New York City, and surprised some Republicans this year when he said transgender people should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate,” a view held by few others in the party.

But many L.G.B.T. leaders said they were unmoved by accounts of Mr. Trump’s personal tolerance.

Of course they were.

More. Given that the big LGBT political lobbies, which officially say they’re nonpartisan but operate as Democratic party auxiliaries, are now sending out their own fundraising appeals around their opposition to all things Trump and Republican, it’s worth repeating this observation from a recent post:

For more than two decades the Human Rights Campaign has failed to pass its signature legislative goal, which for most of that time was the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and is now the Equality Act. This includes periods with both a Democratic president and Democratic congress (under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), and periods with a Republican congress but enough GOP support to push ENDA through. What happened? Every time the measure was poised to pass, activist groups would insert some new provision that would lose majority support (adding transgender protections most prominently, and now the expansion to include public accommodations). Or, as with ENDA under Harry Reid’s Senate and Nancy Pelosi’s House, the Democrats would strangely fail to move the bill out of committee, with nary a protest from HRC—until Republicans were back in charge.

The Price of Liberal Smugness

All else aside, I think there’s much to be said about how the liberal-left has alienated itself from middle/working class, non-urban mid-America. In this Vox piece by Emmett Rensin, The smug style in American liberalism, I couldn’t agree more with this bit:

“Over 20 years, an industry arose to cater to the smug style. It began in humor, and culminated for a time in The Daily Show, a program that more than any other thing advanced the idea that liberal orthodoxy was a kind of educated savvy and that its opponents were, before anything else, stupid. The smug liberal found relief in ridiculing them.”

As I wrote in a Sept. 10 post on Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” speech at an LGBT fundraiser with Barbara Streisand:

Trump supporters, to a large extent, see failed Democratic policies on the economic and international fronts, and while many believe Trump to be flawed, they view him as a better choice than Hillary when it comes to reviving economic growth and defending American interests. But progressive Democrats can only see the world through a self-justifying lens of rote identity politics, so if you don’t believe in bigger, more intrusive government chipping away at economic prosperity and expressive freedom, you’re a bigot.

And as I noted in a follow-up post, “In the end, however, Hillary’s LGBT smugfest with Barbra may turn out to be one hell of a costly fundraiser.” I think clearly it was.

Related. Robby Saove at has some pertinent insights:
Trump Won Because Leftist Political Correctness Inspired a Terrifying Backlash:

I have warned that political correctness actually is a problem on college campuses, where the far-left has gained institutional power and used it to punish people for saying or thinking the wrong thing. And ever since Donald Trump became a serious threat to win the GOP presidential primaries, I have warned that a lot of people, both on campus and off it, were furious about political-correctness-run-amok—so furious that they would give power to any man who stood in opposition to it.

And post-election observations from “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance on Life Outside the Liberal Bubble. He writes, “To suggest that Trump voters are worried about anything real is to invite scorn from certain corners of the mainstream media.”

Furthermore. Victor Davis Hanson writes:

Finally, the more Clinton Inc. talked about the Latino vote, the black vote, the gay vote, the woman vote, the more Americans tired of the same old identity politics pandering. What if minority bloc voters who had turned out for Obama might not be as sympathetic to a middle-aged, multimillionaire white woman? And what if the working white classes might flock to the politically incorrect populist Trump in a way that they would not to a leftist elitist like Hillary Clinton? In other words, the more Clinton played the identity politics card, the more she earned fewer returns for herself and more voters for Trump.

And Joan C. Williams writes in the Harvard Business Review:

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite. The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables.

The Change

Stein’s Law holds that “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” We don’t know what the era of Trump will mean but the status quo was stifling for too many Americans and it will no longer go on.

It’s easier to discuss what a Clinton victory could have meant: four more years of lagging economic growth, bad regulatory policy, union-dominated public education, a misguided and interventionist foreign policy. And, with Clinton, four years of abject political corruption because that is who she and her husband are and always have been.

With Trump, we’re already seeing a market meltdown [well, that didn’t last very long; back up by Wednesday afternoon!]. Trade will suffer, and that will be bad. But the hope is that saner regulatory and tax policy will again unleash America’s entrepreneurial spirit.

For the record, I voted for Gary Johnson despite some policy disagreements and with regret that his running mate went renegade. It was a message that both parties had nominated unacceptable choices. Nevertheless, I think Clinton would have been at least as bad or worse for the country than Trump, although she’d be better on LGBT issues. But by “better,” I also mean more likely to stoke the culture wars by using the regulatory state to force small business owners to provide expressive services to same-sex weddings in violation of their religious convictions, which is something I adamantly oppose and believe will eventually be viewed as a stain on the gay rights movement.

As for judges, Clinton’s left-liberal big-government advocates would have been worse for the country than Trump’s conservatives—and the idea that Trump’s justices would overturn marriage equality was far-fetched at best. He is not, and never has been, a social conservative and while his initial Supreme Court appointment will probably be in the Scalia mode (because the late justice’s textualist perspective deserves to be represented in court deliberations), there were also names on Trump’s prospective list of future judicial appointments that lean libertarian.

Of course, there’s the larger issue: The white lower-middle and working classes have been through the wringer not only economically but as the object of left-progressive contempt, whether they were denigrated for clinging to their guns and religion, or dismissed as despicable and irredeemable for rejecting the tenets of big government progressivism and the rule of the bureaucrat kings. If your party keeps kicking half of the population in the shins, eventually that half is going to take control. That’s now happened.

More. The LGBT and liberal mainstream media did a good job of promoting the “Trump is anti-gay” meme. NBC’s exit polling shows that Trump got 14% of self-identified LGBT votes, down from Romney’s 22 percent in 2012—and Romney supported amending the U.S. Constitution to block marriage equality (which Trump, by the way, does not).

As NBC (now) reports, “Clinton’s strong support among LGBT people comes in spite of Trump’s direct attempt to court the group this year with targeted appeals in speeches and even campaign merchandise, an unprecedented move for a GOP presidential candidate.” But those efforts went mostly unreported by the LGBT and mainstream media while the campaign was underway.

LGBT Tribalism and Orthodoxy

As I noted in an update to the prior post, Chad Felix Greene has penned a thoughtful essay at HuffPost on LGBT political orthodoxy that’s well worth reading, I’m Gay, But I’m Not ‘LGBT.’ Here’s Why. A few excerpts follow:

The LGBT movement has always been tribal, but until fairly recently it was defined by its great diversity of ideas and ferocious demands for celebrated individuality. …

Cultures either evolve or they become ferociously tribal. The left in the last decade has encouraged tribalism in all minority groups, rejecting cohesive assimilation at any cost. In the wake of equality and social normalcy, the LGBTQIAP+ movement has chosen to follow this path. Unfortunately this has created an almost cult-like environment.

Gays today live with so much freedom, equality and social acceptance the worst thing they seem to imagine is a Christian might hesitate when asked to write ‘Support Gay Marriage’ on their wedding cake. This is what happens when society changes so quickly. … Teenagers fighting for recognition of their identity and causing controversy for taking their same-sex date to prom went to college and learned about advocacy. … But by the time they got old enough to be in charge, all the injustices were gone – but the passion and the narrative remained. Today we have an entire generation of gay people in their 30’s who have not left high school in their minds. They are still fighting Ellen’s 1996 battle. … They are still arguing against Falwell and raging against Reagan. Still trying to prove homosexuality isn’t a choice or sinful. …

Where once the gay movement defined itself by open and welcoming love and support for everyone, including non-gay people, today one can be exiled for dissent. As I have written about for years now, the gay left has become absolute in its authoritarian approach to what is appropriate to believe as a gay person. Where it was once fairly understandable to question why a gay person would be a Republican, today there is actual hatred directed towards individuals perceived as traitors for choosing this affiliation. The gay movement once defined itself as almost ridiculously diverse. Today it holds a single political affiliation: LGBT are Democrats. There are no other options. Even non-conservative alternative parities are targeted.

And they’ll never see the irony of declaring themselves champions of diversity and enemies of intolerance.

Poll: 12% of Gay Voters for Trump

As I’ve noted before, I am not a Donald Trump supporter, finding him unfit by dint of his positions on immigration, trade and civil liberties, as well as due to his hair-trigger personality. I am also not a Hillary Clinton supporter, given her long history of corruption and dishonesty, and her awful positions on taxes, spending and regulation. [Not to mention her rolling foreign policy disasters as Sec’y of State.]

That said, if there’s one thing good about Trump, it’s that as the GOP presidential nominee he has reached out to, as he puts it, “LGBTQ” Americans. In response, the LGBT political activists who are basically an auxiliary of the Democrat party, and LGBT media of which the same is true, have promoted the lie that Trump is anti-gay.

I think it’s a good thing for gay people who find Trump’s politics and personality acceptable to be supporting him. The Washington Post reports that:

If the only gay voices you hear are Trump foes and Clinton boosters…you could easily assume that all LGBT voters are in the Democratic presidential nominee’s camp. Well, think again. A Gallup poll released Wednesday reports that 12 percent of LGBT adults view Republican nominee Donald Trump favorably. Granted, that’s compared with the 55 percent who have a positive view of Clinton, but it’s still a surprising number. Even more eyebrow-raising, the poll found that fully 21 percent of older (55+) LGBT people gave Trump a favorable rating.

[That’s a 12% favorable rating; the actual gay vote for Trump is likely to be much larger.]

The newsite buzzfeed joins the fray with a post that’s dismissively headlined Donald Trump’s Top “LGBT” Supporters Are Largely Gay White Men. The story notes that:

On Sunday night in Greeley, Colorado, Donald Trump spotted something he wanted in the crowd. He gestured to a supporter, who handed a wad of rainbow fabric up to the stage. Trump unfurled it for the fans and cameras — a pride flag scrawled with the words “LGBTs for Trump.” He strutted stage left, grinning and nodding to the audience with a literal sign of his diverse support.

Despite buzzfeed’s snark, it’s a startling photo of the likes we’ve never seen from a GOP presidential nominee, and shows why Trump’s gay support isn’t crazy.

More. Commenters have pointed to Chad Felix Greene’s deeply thoughtful essay at HuffPost, I’m Gay, But I’m Not ‘LGBT.’ Here’s Why. It’s long but well worth reading. Toward the end he addresses what has now become the Trump flag controversy:

#GaysforTrump supporters handed Donald Trump a rainbow flag they had written a supportive slogan on at an event which he held up for the cameras. The act was completely mundane in that Trump has never been hostile towards gays and he tends to be enthusiastic about all of his supporters, often showing open public support for them. Trump holding the flag was simple, it wasn’t staged, and it wasn’t a planned photo-op at a gay event to pander. It also wasn’t done with political biting-of-the-tongue because he had to. Trump was handed the flag by supporters and he did what he always does, he held it up and smiled.

Zack Ford, the LGBT editor for, tweeted that “Putting a slogan on a flag is considered desecration. Also, the flag was upside down (red goes on top). What am I supposed to respect here?”

To which Greene responded:

The LGBT media instantly pounced on the idea that the flag was ‘upside down’ and Ford ranted endlessly, clutching multiple strands of pearls at once, about ‘desecration’ of what is now, apparently, a sacred flag. This is cult-like behavior. Its tribalism. The flag is usually presented with the red stripe at the top but there has never been a question of a correct side. The notion it is being held ‘upside down’, especially with the implication given to say an upside down cross, is nonsense. Gay people wrote on the flag, it wasn’t desecrated. I find the sudden treatment of this symbol as holy disturbing.

Indeed. Some might even say it’s crazy.

Furthermore. Trump’s holding up of the gay flag happened last Sunday. Not a word about it in the following Friday’s weekly Washington Blade, the strongly pro-Clinton LGBT paper in the nation’s capital.

The city’s conservative paper, the Washington Times, ran a supportive op-ed titled “Donald Trump holds high the flag for gay equality,” which indicates that conservatives may be more comfortable with a gay-inclusive GOP than the LGBT establishment is.

The Rejection of Compromise: Take Two

The polarizing conflict between religious liberty (here without the delegitimatizng “scare quotes” so ubiquitous in LGBT circles) and gay rights/LGBT anti-discrimination law was addressed by Jonathan Rauch, a past Independent Gay Forum contributing author, when he spoke at the University of Illinois Law School recently (viewable here via YouTube, about 40 minutes).

Rauch starts by noting that to understand where we are in the discussion of gay rights versus religious liberty, consider two bills now before Congress:

One is called the Equality Act. It would grant [LGBT] Americans…protection from housing, employment and public-accommodations discrimination under federal law, which is something that we lack at present. It’s championed by Democrats and liberals.

The other piece of legislation is called the First Amendment Defense Act, or FADA. It would pre-emptively shield all those people who object to same sex marriages or who choose to discriminate against same-sex marriages…whether on religious or moral grounds…from any federal sanction or disallowance of benefit…. It is championed, as you would imagine, by Republicans and conservatives.

Though coming at the question from opposite corners, the two bills have something in common: each tries to take all the marbles and leave the other side with nothing, or at least with as little as possible. The Equality Act includes a provision revoking any protection which religious objectors might enjoy under the [federal] Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The First Amendment Defense Act shields the objectors from discrimination while leaving gay people wholly unprotected from discrimination under federal law.

If these bills are opening positions in a negotiation, then what should ultimately happen is legislative bargaining leading to the obvious compromise: protections for gay people plus exemptions for religious objectors.

That, however, seems unlikely to happen because advocates on both sides aren’t interested in forging a compromise—which, Rauch notes, is “emblematic of an unfortunate development: an issue on which a few years ago there seemed to be reasonably good prospects for reasonable accommodations…has hardened into legal and political trench warfare.”

To which I’d add, the polarization/compromise-rejection serves those who don’t actually want a solution because they profit from permanent cultural warfare. And that’s because ongoing cultural war equals (1) big money flowing to advocacy groups and (2) hot-button issues that the political parties can use to fire-up their respective bases.

No Compromise, Declare LGBT Activists

Buzzfeed takes a look at the growing split among LGBT activists groups about whether to pursue the achievable—additional state and perhaps federal legislation outlawing employment and housing discrimination against LGBT individuals—or oppose such legislation unless it also covers public accommodations, which would extend to everything from Christian bakers who don’t want to put two grooms atop a wedding cake to private businesses that want restrooms restricted to biological genders.

Reports Buzzfeed’s Dominic Holden:

One key player is the Gill Foundation…. Gill and several groups that receive its grants, including Freedom for All Americans and the National Center for Transgender Equality, contend this sort of compromise may be their only shot of winning civil rights for millions of LGBT people at the state level in the next decade, even if those gains are incomplete. Leaders of those organizations say they can return to these legislatures in the future to finish the job of passing public accommodations when the issue becomes more palatable.

But groups across the field, including the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign, have argued the short-term gain approach could amount to entering a box canyon. It may take years to pass laws that provide public protections in the future — if ever. And leaving them out may even send a message that discrimination in public is acceptable.

The ACLU sent a blunt letter to Pennsylvania lawmakers and organizations on June 10 detailing their objections to the compromise bill.

I think anti-discrimination laws are often misused and that applying local ordinances on public accommodations to persecute small business owners who, as a matter of their religious convictions, decline to provide creative services to same-sex weddings is gruesomely authoritarian. But I can accept workplace and housing statutes, and apparently so can a lot of transgendered people. As Buzzfeed notes:

In Ohio, LGBT activists shut down a bill this session that left out transgender people. However, Grant Stancliff, a spokesperson for Equality Ohio, told BuzzFeed News that a bill that includes transgender people, yet leaves out public accommodations, may be an appealing compromise to some activists.

“We have heard from transgender people that the biggest wound is in housing and employment,” he said. “So if we were able to secure that, the material benefit for a lot of people’s lives would be pretty big.”

One has to wonder how much of the “no compromise” intransigence is principled opposition on the all-or-nothing front, and how much is based on knowing that not passing anti-discrimination legislation at all is more likely to keep the base fired up and shelling out the bucks.

More. For more than two decades the Human Rights Campaign has failed to pass its signature legislative goal, which for most of that time was the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and is now the Equality Act. This includes periods with both a Democratic president and Democratic congress (under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), and periods with a Republican congress but enough GOP support to push ENDA through. What happened? Every time the measure was poised to pass, activist groups would insert some new provision that would lose majority support (adding transgender protections most prominently, and now the expansion to include public accommodations). Or, as with ENDA under Harry Reid’s Senate and Nancy Pelosi’s House, the Democrats would strangely fail to move the bill out of committee, with nary a protest from HRC—until Republicans were back in charge.