It seems like every election in recent memory has been called “the most important election of our lifetime.” That’s not just because the media likes hyperbole. It’s because the stakes keep getting higher and higher. And when you consider what’s at stake for the LGBT community – as well as women, people of color, people with disabilities and workers of all stripes—you can see that this truly is a make-or-break existential moment for our Nation.
After the Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality, I intellectually understood that a future Court could overturn the precedent. But in my heart, I didn’t believe that those rights would ever seriously be threatened. But an emboldened Republican Party that makes Mike Pence it’s second most important official is a Party willing to go any lengths to invalidate my marriage to Michael—and yours too. And that same Republican Party would think nothing about passing humiliating, transphobic bathroom and other laws. They would think nothing of allowing states to ban LGBT couples from adopting. They would think nothing of repealing the hate crimes law that bears Matthew Shepard’s name. And they definitely would think nothing of passing laws expressly permitting the firing of an employee because they are LGBT and it conflicts with the owner’s “morals.”
And that’s just what’s at stake for LGBT people.
In addition to those policies that will directly target LGBT people, the indirect consequences of a Republican triumph this November will be equally devastating. LGBT people are far more likely to live in poverty than their heterosexual peers. But LGBT people who have the protection of a labor union earn the same wages, enjoy the same benefits, and most importantly, have ironclad workplace protections to keep them from being fired simply for being who they are. Union rights, already under a furious assault, might very well be erased altogether with just a few more years of Republican rule.
The hard-won gains of people of color in our society are already threatened. Voting rights are being sharply curtailed. Education, healthcare and job opportunities will worsen. The systemic injustices in our prisons, jails and courtrooms will become far worse. Immigrants from Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, and of course, Mexico, Central and South America, will be subjected to the arbitrary and often cruel abuses of ICE.
People with disabilities will lose the legal protections that have been in place for a generation opening the world up to them. Those laws – often attacked as an inconvenience for businesses large and small – ensure that people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of our society. The prospect of repealing those laws, which protect a huge number of LGBT people as well, is simply cruel.
As Chair of the California Democratic Party, I am more than willing to point out the long and tragic list of areas where Republicans are totally lacking in morality and basic human decency. But it’s not enough that voters know the harm Republicans can and will inflict if the electoral restraints on their impulses are removed. Democrats must be clear about OUR BOLD VISION for the country – what we stand for and how we will lead and succeed.
A Democratic Congress will stop the Republican assault on our community and offer a powerful contrast to Trump’s politics of division with a powerful, uplifting agenda that will make a profound difference in the lives of LGBT and so many other Americans. On issue after issue, we are fighting to bring dignity and opportunity for every person in our country.
Our approach to healthcare alone will be transformative in the lives of all people, especially LGBT people. A truly universal, single-payer system will ensure that every one of us receive comprehensive, high quality healthcare. Our community has a unique set of chronic health concerns, and adequately treating the conditions LGBT people are more likely to suffer from can be incredibly expensive, even with (inadequate) insurance plans.
The California Democratic Party has called for the Medicare-for-All approach for years and Democrats running for high office in states as diverse as Florida and Pennsylvania are promoting the same platform. For Democrats, universal and high-quality healthcare is both a right for every person and an obligation of our society.
We believe a college education should be tuition free. California’s commanding presence on the world stage is directly tied to the fact that we invested in tuition-free college for any student who worked hard in high school, though we’ve reneged on this promise in recent years. Despite the gains we have made, there are still far too many LGBT kids who get kicked out of their homes after they come out. For these kids, college affordability is critical to simply avoiding a lifetime of poverty and deprivation, by allowing a young person to receive a college education or career training.
And most importantly of all, a Democratic Congress will treat our community—women, people of color, people with disabilities, people of different faiths and people with different backgrounds—as full and equal citizens. With a reality TV personality in the White House who celebrates white supremacists and regularly expresses his sexism, xenophobia, racist tendencies and his homophobia, and a Supreme Court dominated by an extremist, straight white male majority, a Democratic Congress is more than just a vital check on this unprecedented threat to our democracy—it is democracy’s salvation!
A Democratic Congress will be a statement that we are and will never cease to be, fully equal, fully patriotic, fully devoted Americans. That is the most important reason for each and every LGBT person vote this November. This is the moment where, to paraphrase the phenomenal Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, we can reclaim our time—and our country.
Eric C. Bauman, RN, is Chair of the California Democratic Party.