America’s leadership is older than ever but its electorate is younger than ever. Will Gen Z turn out in 2024 for the elderly Democratic president?
By Gabe Fleisher | WASHINGTON – America’s political gerontocracy was on full display last week, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, appeared to experience a medical episode during a press conference and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 90, had to be repeatedly told how to vote on a key bill.
On the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, White House aides have been making changes to President Biden’s schedule and routine to adapt for his age. At 80, he is the oldest president in American history and one of the oldest heads of government in the world; meanwhile, the current U.S. Congress is the third-oldest in history.
But, at the same time as older politicians are making up a growing proportion of the government, younger voters are making up a growing proportion of the electorate. According to Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, in the four election cycles in which Generation Z has been eligible to vote, youth voter turnout has been up 25% compared to the previous nine cycles.
Largely due to that soaring turnout, in the 2018, 2020, and 2022 elections, the Gen Z vote was critical to the results, giving young voters a power over politics they have rarely wielded throughout history.
This fundamental mismatch — leaders grayer than ever and voters greener than ever — is at the heart of American politics right now. It will also be central to the next election: if Biden’s advanced age leads even a small percentage of young voters who supported him in 2020 to stay home or vote against him in 2024, it could be decisive.
As Harvard’s John Della Volpe recently noted, in this century, whenever Democratic presidential candidates have received at least 60% of the youth vote (Obama in 2008 and 2012; Biden in 2020), they have won the election. Whenever they have received less than 60% (Gore in 2000; Kerry in 2004; Clinton in 2016), they have lost.
Over the weekend, about 275 members of this sought-after voting bloc gathered at the famed Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., for a summit hosted by Voters of Tomorrow, a prominent left-leaning Gen Z group.
The speakers were a mix of young and old, and their tones varied dramatically by generation. Democratic Party eminence Nancy Pelosi, 83, a self-described “voter of yesterday,” was the first to address the group. “We cannot be fearmongers. We don’t want to go out there and say, ‘Blah blah blah blah,’” she said during her remarks, mimicking a nagging voice.
Pelosi was followed by New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, 47, who was greeted with a hero’s welcome. “Wassup wassup!” he said as he took the stage. While Pelosi’s speech closed with a paean to the national anthem, Bowman took a different tack. “As you know, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, they did great things, but they were fundamentally flawed,” he said. (Later, at a different session of the conference, when a speaker asked how many of the attendees described themselves as “patriotic,” only a scattering of hands went up.)
Ignoring Pelosi’s warning against fearmongering, Bowman focused his speech not on legislation, but on the ills facing the country right now. “A new American Revolution” is underway, he declared, led by Gen Z. Florida Rep. Maxwell Frost, 26, similarly invoked Gen Z as a bulwark against the “far-right-wing fascist movement growing in this country.”
Notably, unlike old-guard institutionalists like Pelosi, many of the younger speakers offered almost as many criticisms of the Democratic Party as they did Republicans. “People have been beaten down by our system,” Bowman said. “By design, by the way. And not just Republicans. Democrats have been guilty of this too.” The statement was met by loud cheers and applause from the largely Democratic audience.
“I used to joke with people, if I didn’t run for something else, I was going to leave the Democratic Party,” North Carolina Democratic Party chair Anderson Clayton, 25, said, adding that her goal is to “make people feel like this party gives a damn about them again.”
That skeptical attitude is shared among many young voters. Several of the conference attendees told me they felt much less attached to a political party than their parents. Polling bears this out as well: John Della Volpe, the Harvard pollster, recently wrote that his surveys show declining numbers of young Americans are identifying as Democrats, paying close attention to the news, or describing politics as a “meaningful way to create change in the system.”
Those metrics, he said, were some of the ones that indicated strong Democratic performance ahead of the 2018, 2020, and 2022 elections; now, he views them as “flashing red” warning signs for Democrats ahead of 2024.
“I think that Trump’s election in ’16 and the aftermath in ’17 showed the concrete ways in which politics can impact people’s lives,” Della Volpe told me in an interview. “And I think that for young people who aren’t paying as close attention to the news as others, I think they’re struggling to find similar concrete examples of government making a meaningful difference in their lives, and that’s driving the cynicism.”
“[Young] people are really apathetic right now to voting,” Clayton, the youngest state party chair in the country, told me. “They don’t believe their vote actually matters. And I think that part of what we have a job to do as a party is to ensure people know that we care about them again, because I feel like part of why people don’t vote right now is they’re like, ‘I don’t see myself represented in the Democratic Party.’”
Among young voters, views on the effectiveness of working through the political system to create change almost perfectly mirror views on the Biden presidency. In Della Volpe’s latest Harvard polling, 58% of 18-to-29-year-olds agreed with the statement “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing,” a 27-point increase since 2018. 61% of young voters in the same poll said they disapproved of Biden’s job performance.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the two metrics are moving in tandem. Biden, after all, is a 50-year veteran of elected office; he is as much an avatar for the political system, and the belief that change can be made through compromise, as anyone alive today. Supporting Biden also represents a compromise in itself for young Democrats, who overwhelmingly voted against him in the 2020 primaries.
As with any youth movement, pragmatists and idealists could be found in equal measure at the Voters of Tomorrow summit. One attendee joked to me that the more dressed-up someone at the summit was, the more you could tell they were planning to run for office one day (or that they were already officeholders). Mirroring the Democratic divide in which the party’s leaders are gung-ho for Biden 2024 while its voters are hesitant about him seeking re-election, I found these aspiring pols in suit jackets much more amenable to the president than their aspiring activist counterparts.
“They’re doing outreach, their messaging is doing very well… It’s not on all issues. We don’t agree with them on everything, obviously,” Quentin Colón Roosevelt, a 19-year-old local commissioner in D.C. and Theodore Roosevelt’s great-great-great grandson, told me of the Biden campaign. “But I think they’ve done a really good job so far, making sure we feel included in their campaign.”
“To paraphrase Milton Friedman, we’re all Bidenists now,” another office-seeking young attendee told me.
But over in the non-Milton-Friedman-quoting sector of the summit, Biden wasn’t quite so popular. “Definitely, in Gen Z, there is a lack of confidence in Biden’s capabilities to solve certain issues, particularly things like climate change,” Odessa Hotte, a 21-year-old student at Virginia Commonwealth University, told me. “There’s so many people saying, ‘Oh, he’s doing great, he’s doing great,’ and we’re sort of looking at it as, well, actually, there’s been some good things, but there’s also a lot that’s left to be desired.”
“I personally am not a huge fan of Biden, and I wasn’t when he was elected, either,” Hotte added, although she said she will “probably” support him in the 2024 election.
Asked if she believed young voters were enthusiastic about Biden, Anderson Clayton, the 25-year-old state party chair, said: “You know what’s so funny, someone earlier asked me that. They said, ‘I’ve asked every person at this conference and they’ve said no.’”
But Clayton, who is tasked with delivering the Democrats’ long-held hopes of flipping North Carolina, insisted that she is excited. “I think that Joe Biden is doing everything that he can right now and anything that a Democrat could do right now, honestly, to advance and move our country forward,” she told me.
Santiago Mayer, the 21-year-old founder of Voters of Tomorrow, acknowledged in an interview that differing “theories of change” and opinions on Biden existed among attendees at the summit. “I think that’s what’s so beautiful about this space,” he said, “that we can have all those differing philosophies, all those differing views, and still come together because we share the same goals.”
But at times, the differences commingled uncomfortably. With 12 million social media views and counting, perhaps the most viral moment from the summit — and the moment that best represented the generational divide in the Democratic Party right now — took place during White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s remarks.
Jean-Pierre, 48, was extolling Biden’s climate record when an attendee, 21-year-old Elise Joshi, stood up to interrupt her. “Excuse me for interrupting, but asking nicely hasn’t worked out,” Joshi said, before calling on the Biden administration to stop approving new oil and gas pipelines, an issue that has led to some of the biggest clashes between Biden and young voters.
“Let her talk, let her talk,” Jean-Pierre said when a conference organizer quickly approached Joshi. Eventually, when other attendees began to speak (“Declare a climate emergency!”) and snaps and applause broke out for the hecklers, Jean-Pierre ended the exchange.
“This is not a call and response. This is me actually delivering a speech to all of you,” Jean-Pierre said, adding: “This is a president who has had a climate change agenda like no other.”
“Promises kept, that’s all I’m asking,” Joshi said before sitting down.
Mayer told me that Voters of Tomorrow shares some of Joshi’s concerns, but that “we are very proud of President Biden’s climate record.” Jean-Pierre handled the back-and-forth “perfectly,” he added, expressing gratitude for the “administration’s partnership.” (Joshi is the executive director of her own youth voter group, Gen Z for Change. The group, notably, was founded with the name TikTok for Biden and has also worked with the White House in the past.)
In a sign of some of the same divergences in tone I noticed during their speeches, several young elected officials later tweeted in support of Joshi after the exchange. “We are running out of time,” Frost, the first Gen Z congressman, wrote. “We can’t afford to approve projects that will increase emissions. Every move should bring us to net zero. Our humanity depends on it. @EliseJoshi is a patriot.”
If there is any issue in which negative opinions about Biden and existential apathy about the political system intersect among young people, it’s climate change.
“I think it can feel overwhelming to feel like the burden is on our shoulders to solve all of these problems [connected to climate change],” Hotte said. “I think that’s maybe where some of that pessimism is stemming from, just from feeling like there’s so much to do and so little time.”
At one point in the summit, Generational Lab founder Cyrus Beschloss, 26, conducted an informal straw poll of which issue mattered most to the audience. More than half of the hands went up for climate change. No other issue garnered anywhere close to as much support.
According to the Harvard Youth Poll, in 2013, 29% of 18-to-29-year-olds agreed with the statement “Government should do more to curb climate change, even at the expense of economic growth.” 50% of 18-to-29s believe that today.
In political science, scholars refer to two types of political representation: “descriptive” and “substantive.” Descriptive representation is when an officeholder shares the identity of a certain group; substantive representation is when an officeholder shares the group’s views on policy.
I opened the newsletter by referring to an absence of descriptive representation, which young voters obviously lack from Biden and other elderly politicians. But without using the exact term, many young voters across the Democratic ideological spectrum told me substantive representation was more important to them anyway. The age of a candidate matters, but their policies matter a lot more.
It is these voters Biden will have to persuade in 2024 that he has done enough to satisfy their demands on climate and other issues — and that electoral politics are worth engaging with in the first place. “I think it’s been a challenge for an analog president to communicate with a digital generation,” Della Volpe, who advised the Biden 2020 campaign, said.
The challenge is made harder by Gen Z’s nuanced political identity: more likely than adults to hold left-leaning political views, but less likely than adults to identify with the left-leaning political party. Unlike their more politically tribal parents, many young voters view themselves as proudly unmoored from any candidate or party. At one point, Clayton, a Democratic Party official, described the Democratic Party merely as “the party we find ourselves in,” suggesting more of a temporary alliance than permanent membership.
“I really care that the Republicans don’t win the White House,” Grace Wankelman, a 23-year-old recent graduate of the University of Denver, told me, “but I also don’t want to just blindly support the other party… We’re gonna vote on issues that matter to us and make sure that the politicians that say they support these issues, that they follow through and actually show up and do what needs to be done.”
Gabe Fleisher is an award-winning journalist and editor-in-chief of Wake Up to Politics, a non-partisan political newsletter that he founded in 2011.
The preceding post was previously published by Wake Up to Politics, and is republished with permission.
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Megyn Kelly pushed extreme anti-trans positions as moderator
While voters have registered their relative lack of interest in trans policy, the former Fox News host has made it a personal priority
By Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – In the December 6 Republican presidential primary debate, podcast host Megyn Kelly used her role as moderator to challenge former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over his opposition to a federal ban on transition for minors — part of a pattern by the former Fox News host of attempting to further radicalize the GOP field on the already contentious issue.
In a lengthy exchange, Kelly first asked Christie, “Aren’t you way too out of step on this issue to be the Republican nominee?” The candidate replied that his opposition to medical bans stemmed from a belief in parents’ rights.
Kelly followed up with an accusation that Christie signed legislation in 2017 requiring schools “to accept a child’s preferred gender identity even if the minor’s parents objected” and stating “that there is no duty for schools to notify parents if their son or daughter changes their gender identity.”
From the December 6, 2023, Republican presidential primary debate, hosted by Rumble:
Christie’s answer was poorly received by right-wing media figures; Daily Wire personality Matt Walsh called him a “stupid coward” and a “disgusting degenerate.” “Disqualifying,” added Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik.
Christie did sign two pro-trans laws in 2017, including a law to protect transgender students, as Kelly accused him of doing. “As he did with the conversion therapy ban, Governor Christie took a stand for LGBT youth in New Jersey by signing this important legislation,” Garden State Equality wrote in a statement at the time. But as Christie said in the debate, the guidance mandated by the education law was not issued to schools until 2018, after Christie had left office.
Kelly’s prompting was not necessary to get the candidates to wade into vile anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis started with a speech about his record on trans issues, and he went out of the way later to accuse Al Qaeda terrorists of wearing “man dresses,” showing his dedication to ensuring everyone around him is dressed the way he would like them to be at all times. Vivek Ramaswamy bizarrely accused former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley of making a launch video that “sounded like a woke Dylan Mulvaney Bud Light ad.”
It has been 249 days since Bud Light sent Dylan Mulvaney one (1) can of beer with her face on it pic.twitter.com/SoQDR7Laqk— Ari Drennen (@AriDrennen) December 7, 2023
Nor was the debate light on big candidate promises to constrain the rights of trans people. Haley called trans women in women’s sports “the women’s issue of our time,” suggesting that she would take on legislation to ban trans sports inclusion, while Ramaswamy promised to hold federal highway funds hostage if states do not ban medical transition for minors.
This is not the first time that Kelly has challenged GOP candidates to take more strident positions against equality for trans people. In a September interview, the podcast host, famous for declaring that Santa “just is” white, attempted to push former President Donald Trump on the question of whether a man “can become a woman.”
Kelly has a long history of anti-trans extremism, saying that accepting trans children causes “confusion” for other children, calling gender-affirming care “a weird form of conversion therapy,” and laughing at the appearance of a transgender inmate.
The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.
Endocrine Society corrects mis-info about gender affirming care
The Endocrine Society, the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the clinical practice of endocrinology
WASHINGTON – The Endocrine Society, the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the clinical practice of endocrinology, released a statement correcting misinformation about gender affirming healthcare that was spread at the fourth Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday night.
The group said comments in which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) characterized care for transgender and gender-diverse youth as child abuse and genital mutilation “do not reflect the health care landscape” and contradict “mainstream medical practice and scientific evidence.”
“Pediatric gender-affirming care is designed to take a conservative approach,” the Endocrine Society wrote. “When young children experience feelings that their gender identity does not match the sex recorded at birth, the first course of action is to support the child in exploring their gender identity and to provide mental health support, as needed.”
The statement continues, “Medical intervention is reserved for older adolescents and adults, with treatment plans tailored to the individual and designed to maximize the time teenagers and their families have to make decisions about their transitions.”
Notwithstanding the remarks by DeSantis, other debate participants, and moderator Megyn Kelly, “gender-affirming genital surgery is rarely offered to anyone under the age of 18,” the statement says.
Additionally, “More than 2,000 scientific studies have examined aspects of gender-affirming care since 1975, including more than 260 studies cited in the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guideline.”
Other major scientific and medical groups like the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are “in alignment” with the Endocrine Society on “the importance of gender affirming care,” the statement notes.
Further, research shows it “can be life saving for a population with high suicide rates.”
Fourth GOP debate sees return of transphobia, anti-LGBTQ+ hate
“Transgenderism is a mental health disorder,” Vivek Ramaswamy said, before pledging support for bans on gender affirming care until age 21
TUSCALOOSA — The fourth debate of Republican presidential candidates on Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala., saw a return of transphobic and anti-LGBTQ messages, practically from the outset.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used his introductory remarks to go after former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is also a former South Carolina governor, for saying during a recent interview with CBS Mornings that “the law should stay out of it” when it comes to the options available for minors experiencing gender dysphoria.
DeSantis said Haley “caves anytime the left comes after her, anytime the media comes after her,” noting that “I did a bill in Florida to stop the gender mutilation of minors.”
“It’s child abuse and it’s wrong,” he said. “She opposes that bill. She thinks it’s fine and the law shouldn’t get involved with it.” The governor added, “If you’re not willing to stand up for the kids; if you’re not willing to stand up and say that it is wrong to mutilate these kids, then you’re not going to fight for the people back home.”
Haley responded, “He continues to lie about my record. I actually said his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill didn’t go far enough because it only talked about gender until the third grade. And I said it shouldn’t be done at all — that that’s for parents to talk about. It shouldn’t be talked about with schools.”
“You didn’t respond to the criticism,” DeSantis said. “It wasn’t about the Parental Rights in Education bill,” using the name of the actual law that is more frequently dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”
“It was about prohibiting sex change operations on minors,” he said. “They do puberty blockers. These are irreversible.”
Gender affirming healthcare is supported by every mainstream scientific and medical society with relevant clinical expertise.
Later, moderator Megyn Kelly asked former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, “you do not favor a ban on trans medical treatments for minors saying it’s a parental rights issue … aren’t you way too out of step on this issue to be the Republican nominee?”
“As a father of four I believe there is no one who loves my children more than me,” he responded. “There’s no one who loves my children more than my wife. There’s no one who cares more about their success and healthy life than we do, not some government bureaucrat.”
Gender affirming care, Christie said, “is not something I favor. I think it’s a very, very dangerous thing to do. But that’s my opinion as a parent, Megyn, and I get to make the decisions about my children. Not anybody else.”
“Transgenderism is a mental health disorder,” entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said, before pledging his support for bans on gender affirming care until the age of 21.
DeSantis and Haley then sparred over their positions on “bathroom bills” that prohibit transgender people from using facilities consistent with their gender identity.
Not in attendance for this or the previous three debates was former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican frontrunner, who is supported by 59.6 percent of likely GOP primary voters according to FiveThirtyEight polling averages as of Wednesday.
He is trailed by DeSantis, who is in a distant second place with 12.7 percent support. They each gained only about three percentage points in the polls since the first Republican primary debate was held on Aug. 24.
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy calls it quits
Rep. Matt Gaetz who filed the motion to take the Speaker’s gavel from McCarthy, posted one word minutes after the news broke: “McLeavin'”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was dethroned from the speakership by ultraconservative members of his party in October, announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday that he will resign from Congress at the end of this month.
The congressman pledged to “serve America in new ways,” writing “I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office,” adding, “The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.”
The move puts additional pressure on Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who was elected following McCarthy’s ouster and who is now charged with leading a fractious GOP conference that was already operating with a razor-slim majority.
Now, House Republicans might have only three votes to spare before they must seek help from Democrats to pass measures.
Far-right U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a McCarthy ally who has repeatedly criticized her colleagues for toppling his speakership and, last week, for voting to expel disgraced former GOP congressman George Santos, posted about Wednesday’s news on X.
Well..— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) December 6, 2023
Now in 2024, we will have a 1 seat majority in the House of Representatives.
Congratulations Freedom Caucus for one and 105 Rep who expel our own for the other.
I can assure you Republican voters didn’t give us the majority to crash the ship.
Hopefully no one dies.
Meanwhile U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Republican firebrand congressman who filed the motion to take the Speaker’s gavel from McCarthy, posted one word minutes after the news broke: “McLeavin.'”
McCarthy has served in the House since 2007.
Behind the scenes: LGBTQ staff working on Biden’s re-election
“We who work in politics feel like this is a choice between, most likely, Donald Trump & President Biden and Vice President Harris”
(Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series profiling senior LGBTQ staff working on President Biden’s re-election campaign. Part one was published on Nov. 21 and part two was published on Nov. 29.)
WILMINGTON, Del. — Last month from campaign headquarters, the Washington Blade spoke with Sergio Gonzales, senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris and the Biden-Harris reelection campaign, along with senior campaign adviser Becca Siegel.
On the importance of LGBTQ representation in the presidential campaign, Gonzales said, “When it comes to policies that affect the lives of millions of people in our communities across the country, having people who have that experience and that background really does matter.”
Moving into next year, he said, the team is working “to ensure that we have people from across the spectrum of America who are able to both bring their own personal experiences and lives into these roles, but also bring a lot of relationships across the country and being able to engage with the community, talk to the community, persuade the community, turn out the community.”
Gonzales has worked for Harris since she was elected to represent California in the U.S. Senate, and he said her record supporting and defending the LGBTQ community throughout her career was one of the major factors leading to his decision to join the campaign.
“Especially when it comes to issues related to LGBTQ rights and freedoms, this is something [Harris] has such a long history on,” he said. “She has always — both in her office and externally — formed these strong relationships with people in the LGBTQ community and those relationships have always been very, I think, important in not only ensuring her office and the work that she has done reflects the various things that we as a community need, but also just in the way she supports people of color and LGBTQ folks who have worked for her.”
In an election where, as the vice president says, so much is at stake for our fundamental freedoms and rights,” Gonzales said, “that is especially true for LGBTQ Americans. If you look at the number of attacks by GOP leaders at the local, state, and federal level across the country, so much is on the line in this election.”
On the right, Gonzales said, “We have a lot of leaders and a party in this country who are doing their best to try to attack fundamental rights and freedoms of a lot of different folks, including people in the LGBTQ community — and, in some ways, who are trying to turn back the clock on a lot of the progress we’ve made.”
Voters are aware of the fact that, for instance, Republicans elected “a new Speaker of the House who has a very, very alarming and disturbing record of attacking people in our community, including trying to outlaw you know, being gay,” he said.
“Both as senior adviser and personally as a very openly and proud gay man,” Gonzales said, next year’s election “is one of the most important if not the most important election of our lifetime,” because “I see what sits on the other side; I see all of these different states who are trying to attack our rights, who are banning books, who are passing ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws, who are attacking trans people and trying to undo gay marriage, who are — both through policy and through rhetoric — making the country more dangerous for people like me and our community.”
“I’m glad and proud to work for a principal and work for a campaign that is about continuing the progress and ensuring we don’t turn back the clock and we don’t go back on these things,” he said.
Gonzales noted the Biden-Harris administration’s appointment of record-breaking numbers of LGBTQ folks in senior positions in the White House and across the federal government, but stressed that the commitment to equality runs deeper.
“This administration is an administration that has ensured that not only is there representation for the LGBTQ community, but also has actually driven multiple policy wins, both through the executive level and through Congress, that ensure and afford greater rights and freedoms for people in our community,” he said.
Helping voters see the contrast between this and what Republicans — like the party’s frontrunner, former President Donald Trump — would do if elected will be an important part of the campaign’s work moving into next year, Gonzales said. “As things become much more clear and what we are up against, and Donald Trump comes more into focus, I truly believe that we’re going to see a lot of different parts of the country start to engage in this election,” he said.
Voters will also remember “the specific things that [Trump] did in his last administration,” Gonzales said. “They tried to erase LGBTQ people from the census. They imposed a ban on transgender individuals in our military, which this administration undid. They undid protections for LGBTQ Americans, including transgender individuals, in the workplace, and more broadly,” so, “this is not just bluster.”
And the Biden-Harris administration “has so much to run on” with respect to LGBTQ matters, Gonzales said, “whether we’re talking about health care, whether we’re talking about the Respect for Marriage Act, whether we’re talking about, you know, some of the ways that we’ve addressed bullying in schools — these are very real policy wins for our community.”
Like Gonzales, Siegel has “worked on many presidential campaigns.”
“Your whole life is here when you’re working on a campaign,” she said. “This is your work, but also your social life and your friends,” so “if you are not bringing your whole self to this community, you’re not bringing it anywhere in your life.”
Our job is to persuade and engage with voters,” Siegel said, “and we have to have a campaign that reflects the voters we are trying to engage with.”
“Core to my approach to this work is respect and empathy for voters,” she said. “That’s what we should think about every day. I think we are much better prepared to do that when we have a staff that looks like those voters.”
Siegel added, “It’s not just so that you walk into the office and it looks like it is a diverse place to work. That’s important, too. But it’s actually about the work.”
With respect to her individual role within the campaign, she said, it comes down to “let’s take that strategy” of using data to find a pathway to victory “and then make sure we are executing a campaign that reflects it.” When it comes to “travel, comms, which radio stations we’re on, what our TV ads say, where we’re allocating our money, where we’re hiring staff — do those things align with the strategy to get us to 270 electoral votes?”
The importance of representation, LGBTQ and otherwise, may not seem self-evident in data-centric roles, but Siegel noted, for instance, the persistent challenge of combatting bias within datasets.
Like Gonzales, Siegel stressed the contrast between the Biden-Harris administration and campaign and those run by the Republican opposition. “LGBTQ rights feel more under attack now than they have in the past,” she said, “and so that rises to the top of concerns for voters — and our policy and position on this is really far away from the Republicans’.”
“That’s a clear contrast between us and the opposition,” she said, adding, “It’s at the top of people’s minds. It’s something they care about, and we have a pretty unimpeachable record on it compared to the opposition.”
It is not necessarily so simple, however.
“We who work in politics feel like, of course, this is a choice between, most likely, Donald Trump and President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Siegel said, “but voters, especially the voters who are most persuadable, don’t feel that way right now, necessarily.”
The choice voters will face will crystalize and the contrast between the campaigns will deepen moving into next year, she said.
On lots of LGBTQ issues, Americans are on our side. And when it becomes a choice between, ‘there’s this version of America and then there’s Trump’s version of America,’ — then, that is really clear,” Siegel said.
The campaign is working to reelect the president and vice president to represent the people, the voters, who “have day-to-day things that prevent them from, like, reading Politico,” she said. “They have kids, they have to pay their bills, they have to worry about all kinds of things.”
Siegel added, “I have a lot of faith in voters. They care about their families. They want a good life. They care about people who are different than them. I think most people care about other people.”
For those working on the campaign, she said, “it’s really on us” to make sure to “explain and show and demonstrate to them what you are getting from this administration, from these candidates.”
“We get to run on issues that help people and are popular,” Siegel said. “That’s a great place to start from.”
Johnson to headline gala whose leader defended Josh Duggar
The gala is hosted by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a group led by former Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will deliver the keynote address Tuesday night for a gala hosted by the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a group led by former Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, a vocal defender of convicted sex offender Josh Duggar.
Johnson is slated to speak at 9 p.m. at the Museum of the Bible in D.C. His office did not immediately return a request seeking comment on his relationship with Rapert, who, like many far-right figures in the speaker’s orbit, proudly calls himself a Christian nationalist and has expressed extreme views, such as by comparing LGBTQ advocates to Nazis.
The National Association of Christian Lawmakers is funded by right-wing groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom, where Johnson worked as an attorney before running for public office. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the organization an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
Duggar, who starred with his family on the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” worked for another far-right, anti-LGBTQ outfit with close ties to Johnson, the Family Research Council, until 2015 when a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Duggar, while a teenager, had molested his younger sisters.
Along with Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rapert, who had featured Duggar at campaign events and was photographed at the family’s home, was one of the first who “rushed to defend” him.
Duggar is now serving a prison sentence following a child pornography conviction in 2021.
Following his election as speaker in October, Johnson’s extreme anti-LGBTQ record drew renewed interest. Among other revelations were arguments he made in an op-ed that, “If we change marriage for the homosexual activists, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles and others will be next in line to claim equal protection.”
Missouri: 21 likely anti-LGBTQ+ bills on first day of pre-filing
Missouri has seen several new bills introduced that promises to be contentious around LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people
By Erin Reed | JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – On December 1st, Missouri’s legislature commenced a period known as pre-filing, where legislators can start submitting bills to be considered in the 2024 legislative cycle.
Often, the first day of pre-filing provides insight into the legislative priorities for the upcoming session, which begins on January 3rd, 2024. For LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies, the first day of pre-filing revealed that the Missouri Republicans’ assault on queer and trans people is nowhere near over.
Notably, at least 21 bills specifically targeting LGBTQ+ people, with a particular emphasis on transgender individuals, were filed on the very first day. These bills aim to ban bathroom access, books, medical care, public drag performances, classroom topics, and more.
Individuals proposing these bills are likely recognizable to those who followed Missouri’s 2023 legislative session, which targeted transgender people heavily. For instance, Senator Mike Moon (R-29SD) has filed several bills in the 2024 session focusing on transgender people. He gained notoriety as the primary sponsor of the state’s gender-affirming care ban, leading to many trans youth losing access to their medication.
Furthermore, Sen. Moon infamously defended child marriage in a video clip that captured national media attention. Representative Mazie Boyd, who last year proposed one of the most restrictive drag bans in the United States, is also involved.
In a hearing last year, she declined to confirm that a daughter painting her father’s fingernails would be acceptable when directly questioned about her bill.
This year, Missouri has seen several new bills introduced in a legislative session that promises to be equally contentious around LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people. One bill, HB1574, would defund libraries that refuse to ban books. Another, HB1405, would force teachers to use the wrong pronouns for trans students who are not out to their parents. HB1543 would charge teachers with a crime for the distribution of what the law defines as “sexually explicit material.”
We know from debates over book bans in 2023 that many LGBTQ+ books in red states often get judged as “sexually explicit.”
See this excerpt from HB1574, which would remove funding from libraries that refuse to ban books or ban drag reading hours:
Many more bills focus on LGBTQ+ topics in schools, including a SB1024, a “Don’t Say Gay Or Trans” bill. Currently, Missouri is not among the 16 states that impose restrictions on LGBTQ+ discussions in schools. These restrictions are frequently referred to as “Don’t Say Gay” bills and often extend to targeting transgender teachers, potentially leading to their firing for using different pronouns or honorifics in class. This push for anti-trans school policies by Republicans is significant, given their unpopularity in the 2023 school board elections, where over 70% of candidates supported by Moms For Liberty were defeated.
One particularly bad bill is HB1520, which modifies the state’s current gender affirming care ban for trans youth and incarcerated adults passed in 2023. The original bill allowed those who were already getting care to continue to get care, and also set a sunset date for the law to August 28, 2027, ostensibly to wait for “further research” on care to be released. House Bill 1520 removes both of those exceptions, meaning that the gender affirming care ban would become permanent, and those already receiving care due to being grandfathered in would be no longer allowed to continue receiving care.
See this excerpt from HB1520, where those provisions are crossed out:
Missouri has seen the introduction of new bills this year aimed at “online obscenity.” Although the full texts of several bills seeking to ban youth from accessing “obscene content” online are not yet available, there is a history of similar legislation being used to target LGBTQ+ individuals. For example, in Montana, a bill of this nature was almost amended to include “acts of transgenderism.”
On a national level, the Kids Online Safety Act, intended to regulate social media content accessible to minors, has encountered obstacles. A key stumbling block has been lead sponsor Republican Senator Blackburn’s statement that the bill would target transgender people. In Missouri, these proposed measures include HB1426, which seeks to prohibit “material harmful to minors” without age verification, and SB1084, an obscenity bill applicable to online websites.
Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.
Follow her on Twitter (Link)
Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/
Former Rep. Liz Cheney’s “dire” warning against reelecting Trump
Cheney believes blocking Trump and preventing a Republican House majority in the next election is “the cause of our time”
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Former Republican Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney says that voters have become increasingly numb to politicians warning of looming dangers to democracy, so in her new book, “Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning,” she lays out the case for the threats to the Constitution posed by Donald Trump should he regain the White House.
Cheney talks with CBS News’ John Dickerson about how the leading GOP candidate’s own words reveal his plans for a second term, and why she believes blocking Trump and preventing a Republican House majority in the next election is “the cause of our time.”
House Republican member grills USCG admiral over drag shows
Gautier graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1987. This is the admiral’s 37th year in the Coast Guard
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Operations, Vice Admiral Peter W. Gautier, appeared in a hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security on Thursday to answer congressional questions regarding U.S. Artic operations and planning strategies.
During the course of the hearing, Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ), a member of the House GOP’s far-right Freedom Caucus opened a line of inquires, not related to the hearing’s focused agenda, which included questioning the admiral’s length of service in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Crane aggressively questioned the admiral over retention and recruitment, which Gautier responded at one point that the ongoing long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic could possibly be factored into recruiting new personnel. “Why do you think you’re, across the military, having so many recruiting issues?” Crane asked and added, “You believe that COVID-19 the main reason the military is having its recruiting issues?”
Gautier responded saying “I’m an optimist sir so when you hear these things about eligibility because of weight and pharmaceuticals and stuff, is lower than average in the young population- that there isn’t this propensity to serve. I heartedly disagree. I think that there are a lot of great young Americans that just don’t know about the Coast Guard. That if they knew that we are law enforcement; we are military; that we clean up the environment; that we serve the American people I think you know that we will have a lot more folks coming in.”
After thanking him for his answer Crane then asked the admiral: “To follow up on that, Do you think it might have anything to do with what you regularly hear as being described as some of the “wokeness” within the military such as CRT [critical race theory] training, DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] training, drag shows on base, things like that. Do you think that has anything to do with it? Then he flatly stated: “You’re kind of a loss on the focus of what the military is supposed to be about.”
Clearly frustrated by Rep. Crane’s position and attitude, Gautier responded: “You know, I just don’t see that in the United States Coast Guard, what you’re referring to and um our work force is the best workforce that I have seen in my 36 year career. The people that are in the Coast Guard today are better than ever before. A lot of them have college educations, a lot of them have had professional careers that want to do something different and better and that come to us. So I don’t think so.”
Crane then challenged the admiral: “You haven’t seen any of that?” Gautier responded, “No.” The congressman then asked: “You haven’t seen a change in the culture of the military? How long have you been in admiral?” Gautier replied: “37 years.” Crane then flatly stated: “With all due respect I find that hard to believe sir.”
Crane, elected in 2022 after defeating incumbent Democrat Tom O’Halleran, is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and co-founded Bottle Breacher, a company that manufactures bottle openers made of 50-caliber shell casings. This past October, he was among the eight Republican members who voted to remove then House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
During a heated debate on the house floor last June regarding one of his proposed amendments to the annual defense budget and policy bill that would prohibit the Defense Department from requiring participation in training or support for “certain race-based concepts” in the hiring, promotion or retention of individuals, Crane angered Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) when he said:
“My amendment has nothing to do with whether or not colored people or Black people or anybody can serve, okay? It has nothing to do with color of your skin… any of that stuff.”
Beatty, a distinguished Black lawmaker, who had previously served as the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, immediately asked that Crane’s offensive words be stricken from the House record.
“I am asking for unanimous consent to take down the words of referring to me or any of my colleagues as ‘colored people,'” she said.
Crane at first tried to amend his remarks to “people of color” before Rep. Beatty interrupted and again said she wanted his words stricken. When no one in the chamber objected, the chair ordered it stricken by unanimous consent.
CBS News later reported that Crain said he “misspoke.” “In a heated floor debate on my amendment that would prohibit discrimination on the color of one’s skin in the Armed Forces, I misspoke. Every one of us is made in the image of God and created equal,” Crane said in a statement.
Beatty however wasn’t having it. First on Twitter posting:
“I am still in utter and disbelief that a Republican uttered the words ‘colored people’ in reference to African-American service members who sacrifice their lives for our freedom… I will not tolerate such racist and repugnant words in the House Chamber or anywhere in the Congress. That’s why I asked that those words be stricken from the record, which was done so by unanimous consent.”
Later in an interview with CBS News, the Ohio Democrat said she doesn’t accept Crane’s explanation that he “misspoke”.
“He didn’t misspeak,” Beatty said. “He said clearly what, in my opinion, he intended to.”
She said some lawmakers intend to hold a special order hour on Monday to address the issue through a series of speeches on the floor.
“It shows us directly why we need DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion),” Beatty explained. “DEI is not about just hiring a Black person or putting a person in the military or in college. It’s about having diversity of thought.”
“It’s very frustrating to have to fight the battles on the United States House floor,” she added.
Vice Admiral Peter W. Gautier assumed the duties of Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations (DCO), in June 2022. Previously, he served as Deputy Commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area, and from 2018 to 2020, he served as Commander, Coast Guard Eleventh District in Alameda, California, where he directed all Coast Guard missions in California and the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Gautier graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy located in New London, Connecticut, as a member of the Class of 1987. This is the admiral’s 37th year in the Coast Guard.
Meet the LGBTQ staff working on Biden’s re-election campaign
Tolliver, Flores on importance of diversity in government
(Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series profiling senior LGBTQ staff working on President Biden’s re-election campaign. Part one was published last week and Part three will be published next week.)
WILMINGTON, Del. — From the team’s headquarters here, the Washington Blade spoke with the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s director of operations, Teresa Tolliver, and Rubi Flores, special assistant to Campaign Manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez.
Tolliver came to the campaign from the Democratic National Committee, having previously worked in the White House Presidential Personnel Office and then at the U.S. Air Force under Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones, who was nominated by President Joe Biden to become the first lesbian and first woman of color to serve in the role.
It was at PPO “where I learned more about Gina and then was like, ‘I want to work for that person,'” Tolliver said, adding that while she was always interested in national security, the chance to serve in the Pentagon with the Air Force’s new lesbian undersecretary was too good to pass up.
Among other responsibilities at PPO, Tolliver said her work included “helping to place high ranking LGBTQ folks in the administration as well as in special assistant roles; everything up and down within the admin,” which has made history with the number and seniority of LGBTQ appointees serving across the federal government.
“Whether we’re looking at people of color, or whether we’re looking at, you know, LGBTQ folks, this is an administration that is now going to be a campaign that we want to look like America,” Tolliver said. The approach influences not just hiring practices but also choices over who will be interviewed for which roles and how they will be supported to be as effective as possible.
“We used to joke in PPO that it was a very queer team,” she said, with “a lot of LGBTQ folks,” so it was “very special for me to work during that time because I actually came out to my family when I was working.”
In 2021 on National Coming Out Day, observed each year on Oct. 11, Vice President Kamala Harris arranged a photo with LGBTQ folks serving in the administration (as she has done in subsequent years). “I ended up being dead-center next to her,” Tolliver said, “and I was like, ‘I should probably tell my parents.'”
Tolliver came out as a lesbian to her family, friends, and colleagues just as she began dating her now-fiancée. She said she considers herself lucky, “being able to work in an environment where I just felt open and comfortable and able to be myself so much that I then decided that it was time to come out.”
She and her fiancée were engaged in January, during which time Tolliver was at the DNC, and the couple decided to get married in August of 2024. While it is guaranteed to be a busy time, Tolliver said they wanted to be wed with Biden in office and in New York City, where “we will have a validated marriage” even if same-sex marriage rights are repealed or undermined. “There’s always the possibility that we do not win an election,” Tolliver noted.
The fight is personal. “We all have these very deeply personal reasons to be here and working here,” she said, “whether you’re here because you’re fighting for LGBTQ rights, or because, you know, abortion is something that you care deeply about, or immigration, or whatever the case may be.”
Tolliver contrasted her experiences working for Team Biden — “I feel like half of our wedding is people who I worked with on 2020,” as “campaigns give you these lifelong friendships” — with the casual homophobia she encountered at a bridal shop where she worked while in college.
“I remember not being out and my boss saying, ‘Oh, never hire a lesbian,’ or, ‘I could never hire a gay person because [they’re] gonna see women changing and everything in their bridal gowns,’ and I just remember kind of sinking back into the closet after that,” Tolliver said.
Flores, likewise, has encountered prejudice in previous workplaces and found a supportive home on the Biden campaign, as well as a mentor in Chávez Rodríguez who, like Jones, had broken barriers as the “first Latina campaign manager for a major presidential campaign.”
At the same time, “I don’t talk about my trans identity,” Flores said, “because it’s just too hard,” and instead “the way that I cope, in my life, is to just be exceptional in every other way I can.”
“Being Brown and an immigrant and being a trans woman present so many challenges in my life,” said Flores, who moved to conservative South Texas from Mexico City at age 10. “I’ve struggled a lot, being who I am, and especially when you’re a kid, you know, it’s just impossible.”
In the current political environment, where conservatives have fear mongered about the trans community and passed laws restricting their rights, Flores said the challenges are deeper than, for example, ensuring that youth can maintain access to medically necessary gender affirming healthcare — “it’s having the space to even imagine oneself as that.”
“When a child has no opportunity to imagine themselves as who they really are,” Flores said, “that just breaks my heart and and it’s unacceptable.”
Like many trans women, Flores said she has encountered employment discrimination in the past. “One of the things that, you know, growing up and making the decision, if you can call it that, to transition, is the reality that trans women can’t get jobs,” she said, adding, “it’s something that’s just absolutely real.”
Flores was on the policy research team at FWD.us, an immigration advocacy organization, when she was approached by the Biden campaign. “I knew it would be a tremendously difficult job,” but the primary draw was that “I had the opportunity to contribute to those things getting better and most importantly, in the context that we are in, to not make them worse.”
“The kinds of laws and policies that are being implemented by Republican administrations at the state level and that could potentially come into place at the national level if our opponents win absolutely terrify me,” Flores said. “They could upend my life.”
She continued, “If I was living in some of the states where some of these policies passed, I would have trouble securing care for myself.”
The work, therefore, is “being part of an administration and trying to reelect a president that is fighting to protect those rights – it’s not only an honor, but it’s a responsibility.” In terms of her decision to join the campaign, Flores said, “It’s not even tangential or something that comes to mind, it’s central to why I chose to work here.”
In separate interviews, Flores’s colleagues agreed with her that the hours are “incredibly long,” but “there’s a great culture that we have here and just the fact that we’re all in it together is huge.”
Several also echoed Flores’s statement that “there’s power in the fact that other people can see LGBTQ folks in our presidential campaign” to reelect a candidate who is working to protect and defend the community’s rights.
However, while these spaces have often been restricted for LGBTQ people in general, trans folks have often been wholly excluded from them.
“I’m just generally apprehensive to sound like, ‘oh, everything’s gonna get better,’ when there’s just so much work left to be done, specifically in trans issues and trans representation,” Flores said.
“I just could have very easily not be here. Not have the job. Not be alive. That’s just a possibility for many of us,” she said.
Flores also noted the unprecedented level of hostility directed at the trans community recently. “As hard as it was for me to be who I am and look how I look, there wasn’t this — I mean, there’s always been transphobia, but there wasn’t this sort of pervasive thing that automatically categorize[s] a trans identity as everything that’s horrible with the world,” she said.
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