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Looking to 2020

Democrats need coherent message, younger candidates to win

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Democratic Party, Democrats, election 2020, gay news, Washington Blade

Democrats need a coherent message and younger candidates to win in 2020.

The midterm elections are finally over and people can begin to breathe again. The results are as many anticipated, the Republicans held on to the Senate and Democrats took the House.  Not what I hoped for but half a loaf is better than nothing and seeing so many more women elected is something to cheer for.

What Democrats need to do now is show the electorate what they will do if they retake the Senate and the White House in 2020. We will need a national platform to run on and it has to be able to be delineated in a few short sentences.

It is clear the electorate is still divided and we still have a disgusting despot in the White House, a man who sees good in white nationalists and Nazis. One whose ex-wife once said he had a book containing the speeches of Hitler in his nightstand.

So there is a complicated dance about to play out in the Congress. Democrats need to cobble together legislation on infrastructure, immigration, taxes and gun control as well as some fixes to the ACA, pass those bills and send them to the Senate. If they die a slow death there at least Democrats will be able to say in 2020 “If you elect us and give us the entire Congress and the White House this is what you can expect.”

The question for some Democrats is can we move beyond the call for impeachment? Can we focus instead on oversight of federal agencies and hold to account the sleaze that Trump has brought into the administration to run his agencies? That kind of action makes sense. We have to do it smartly not with rafts of subpoenas but with intelligence.

The Democrats have a good lineup as chairs of each committee. My choice for speaker is Nancy Pelosi. While there is some discussion and concern about her age and representing the past, there is not another man or woman in the House today that is being spoken of as a serious alternative. Pelosi has proven she is a brilliant strategist. But I would like to see Pelosi take the position and immediately begin to develop a young leadership team that is diverse and strong and look to handing over the speakership to one of them in 2020 when she will turn 80.

Feel free to call me ageist. While not having chosen a candidate I will support in 2020 my choice is a ticket with candidates under 70. All we have to do is look at our history of winning the White House to see it replete with young vibrant candidates: Kennedy, Carter, Clinton and Obama.

The search for the next candidate officially begins now. We must as a party ensure a fair hearing for women and minorities in the mix of candidates we choose from during the primary season. My desire for a younger leader on the ticket means I don’t want to see Biden, Sanders, Kerry, Clinton or Warren on it. It is time Democratic elders use their experience, wisdom, and fundraising prowess to help the next generation. When we win, the next Democratic president should definitely consider them for Cabinet positions, ambassadors and use them as advisers; but it is time for them to step off center stage.

If we want to continue to generate interest among millennials and those who have sat out previous elections we need to find the candidate that with their knowledge and campaigning ability excites the electorate. I have no doubt we will find that person in the next year and a half as they are forged by getting through a tough primary campaign. After his close loss to Cruz in Texas, Beto O’Rourke must be in the mix.

The criteria for a Democratic primary candidate must be that they are a registered Democrat. There will be candidates who campaign on a more moderate platform and others on a more progressive one. Some will think the way to go is to promise things that can’t be accomplished. It will be important the candidate is someone who clearly understands our government works on compromise. That we can and should have lofty goals but also understand it often takes one step at a time to reach them. As President Obama has said, “Better is good.”

My belief is that candidates like Stacey Abrams in Georgia (whose race is still to be decided as I write this) and Andrew Gillum in Florida, who lost, represent our winning candidates in the future — candidates who can expand the electorate.

I want to congratulate some of the winners: Muriel Bowser on her reelection as mayor and Elissa Silverman on her reelection as Councilmember-at-Large in D.C.; Jared Polis, the new governor of Colorado; and Tammy Baldwin on her reelection to the Senate. Congratulations also to my friend Kathy McGuiness for her win as state auditor in Delaware. There are many races still undecided as I submit this column but my congratulations to every LGBTQ+ candidate, both those who won and those who put themselves out there and may have lost, you all deserve our thanks.

 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Opinions

Trump and his MAGA cult just got scarier

GOP platform, selection of Vance reinforce his extremism

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) attend the Republican National Convention last night. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump and his MAGA cult getting scarier, but they just did with his naming of Ohio Sen. JD Vance as his running mate, and approval of the GOP platform.

When Trump was shot, Vance said, “Today is not just some isolated incident. The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs. That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.” In essence, because Biden told the truth, it’s his fault. Vance is a radical MAGA Republican.

Then the platform was passed on the first day of the Republican National Convention. It protects white Christians, attacks transgender people, and says states can make any anti-abortion laws they want. It is an agenda that will hurt everyone who isn’t white, straight, and Christian.

Then, on the same day, the Trump classified documents case was dismissed by MAGA judge Aileen Cannon. The only thing good one can say about Judge Cannon dismissing this case, for a reason all legitimate legal scholars say is nonsense, is she proves beyond a doubt she is in Trump’s pocket. While I am sure this will eventually be overturned, the only way to ensure it gets tried is to defeat Trump, and all his sycophants, at the polls. Between the Republican Supreme Court, and unqualified judges like Cannon, the country must understand what re-electing Trump would do in the long run. It will destroy our democracy, including our judicial system.

The time for decent, democracy-loving people, to stand up is now, before it is too late. I am reminded of history when the German people believed Hitler could be dealt with, and they didn’t believe what he said he would do. Many Jews, and members of the LGBTQ community, believed they could get by and survive him. They were wrong. Here in America Trump has already proven he will go after women, and the LGBTQ community. He brought out troops to shut down Black Lives Matter protests. He has pledged to deport millions of immigrants, and make life intolerable for the young as he denies climate change. He asked to be bribed by oil executives so they can drill for more oil. The only way you could be OK is if you are white and rich. He will give you more tax deductions. He threatens more widespread tariffs, which will increase inflation, falling heavily on the poor and middle class.

His advisers are pledged to enact Project 2025, which among other things, does away with the Federal Deposit Insurance Program, so your bank accounts will no longer be insured. He commits to getting rid of the Department of Education. He doesn’t support relief for any college debt, and will continue the absurdity of not allowing college debt to be included in a bankruptcy, all things that will make life even more difficult for young people. Believe it will happen, just believe what Trump and his acolytes say. Read Project 2025 and believe what you are reading. Believe when Trump says he will be a dictator, and use federal agencies to get back at his enemies. And you are the enemy if you are not white, Christian, and straight. Remember when Trump was president, you woke up every morning afraid of what he dreamt up during the night. Those rantings will now appear on Truth Social, his media company, each morning.

He will feel free to call out the troops to the border, or to stop any demonstration he doesn’t like. He admires Hitler and Putin, and wants to be like them. Does reading this scare you? Good, it should, as it’s the truth. Even if you only think half of what I write is the truth, that should be enough to frighten you away from Trump and Vance. His appointed Supreme Court has now given the president carte blanche to do as he pleases, without worrying about ever being held to account. Know that Trump will use all that power, and make our lives hell.

If you don’t feel attacked now, just remember a poem written by German clergyman, Martin Niemoller. Its idea is appropriate today. It reads: “First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Commentary

Hurricane Beryl: The need for an LGBTQ-inclusive disaster response in the Caribbean

Category 5 storm devastated southern Windward Islands, Jamaica

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Hurricane Beryl damage on Union Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (Screen capture via Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation/YouTube)

Editor’s note: Outright International has allowed the Washington Blade to republish this op-ed from its website.

On the heels of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States held in Antigua and Barbuda in May 2024, Caribbean countries are confronted with a historic event. Described as the earliest Category 5 hurricane to develop in the Atlantic, Hurricane Beryl tore through the Caribbean during the first week of July 2024. Hurricane Beryl caused catastrophic damage in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, and Jamaica, as well as varying degrees of damage in St. Lucia and Barbados. Hurricane Beryl follows an increased number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the region, the most recent being Category 4 Hurricane Ian (2022), Category 5 Hurricane Dorian (2019), Category 5 Hurricane Maria (2017), and Category 5 Hurricane Irma (2017), and Category 5 Hurricane Matthew (2016). These hurricanes resulted in the loss of lives, displacement, disruption in livelihoods, destruction of vegetation and infrastructure, uninhabitable areas, and grave economic loss. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the Caribbean, climate-related disasters exacerbate the vulnerabilities and pre-existing inequalities that they face.

Survival and viability of Caribbean islands threatened

Caribbean countries are experiencing the effects of climate change (Caribbean Community Climate Change Center, 2021). Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the region by 25-30 percent (U.S. Agency for International Development, 2018). As indicated by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes cause the most devastating impacts. The “increased frequency and ferocity of extreme weather events,” as evidence of the “rapid and adverse impacts of climate change,” represent the “greatest threats to the survival and viability” of small island states in the Caribbean (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2018, p. 83United Nations Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States, 2024, para 27.)

USD billion in damages

The financial toll of these disasters is distressing. The International Monetary Fund highlights that the Caribbean is “the most exposed region to climate-related natural disasters, with estimated adaptation investment needs of more than $100 billion, equal to about one-third of its annual economic output” (IMF, 2023). Despite this vulnerability, the Caribbean receives minimal private climate financing (IMF, 2023). The Caribbean has the highest average estimated disaster damage as a ratio to GDP globally, with some instances of damage exceeding the size of the economy (IMF, 2018). For example, Hurricane Maria resulted in $1.2 billion in damages to Dominica, totaling 226 percent of GDP (IMF, 2021). Hurricane Dorian resulted in $3.4 billion in damages to the Bahamas (estimated at 25-30 percent of GDP) (Inter-American Development Bank and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2022).

LGBTQ people are among those who are disproportionately impacted

LGBTQ people in the Caribbean continue to struggle with an unrealized vision of equality (Myrie, 2024). They are among the most marginalized in the region. They often experience discriminationeconomic and societal exclusionviolence, and the threat of violence, mainly due to the criminalization of same-sex sexual relations and the stigma associated with being LGBTQ. 

As a consequence of Hurricane Beryl, affected LGBTQ people in the Caribbean face increased housing and food insecurity, disruption in economic livelihoods, reduced access to community support structures, and increased exposure to harassment and violence. Recognizing the exacerbated vulnerabilities of LGBTQ people does not mean that they are at a greater risk of experiencing climate-related disasters. Rather, it is about appreciating that “in times of crisis those most marginalized tend to suffer disproportionately compared to the broader population” (Outright International, 2020). Further, where societal discrimination is strong, LGBTIQ people may have to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity to remain safe, making their suffering invisible to those providing assistance (Outright International, 2024). 

In the post-disaster context, LGBTQ people in the Caribbean may experience “discrimination in accessing emergency and social protection services and in emergency shelters” and “challenges integrating into their communities and earning a livelihood” (UN Women Caribbean, 2022). In the Bahamas, for example, post-Hurricane Dorian, some displaced LGBTQ persons were reluctant to stay in shelters for fear of violence. For those with sufficient resources, Hurricane Dorian was a catalyst for them to migrate (Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, 2020). 

In Haiti, LGBTQ people grappled with a heightened sense of insecurity during and after the 2010 earthquake. They reported being blamed for the earthquake and were at an increased risk of harassment and violence (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and SEROvie, 2011). Lesbians and bisexual women reported incidences of sexual violence and corrective rape, while gay and transgender men reported harassment and denial of access to healthcare, housing and food (IGLHRC and SEROvie, 2011). Affected LGBTQ persons shared that the earthquake “decimated the already limited physical spaces, social networks and support services available to them” (IGLHRC and SEROvie, 2011). 

Although LGBTQ people in the Caribbean tend to be disproportionately impacted in the response to their “recovery, reconstruction and livelihood needs and experience “poor recovery outcomes,” they are “largely absent from climate and mobility strategies in the Caribbean” (Bleeker et al., 2021).

Meaningful inclusion of LGBTQ people is necessary for an effective and equitable disaster response

International, regional, and local stakeholders must secure the meaningful inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Caribbean for an effective and equitable disaster response. This can be achieved by ensuring that LGBTQ people actively contribute to the planning processes and are engaged in all stages of the disaster management cycle. Meaningful inclusion allows for the full appreciation of the unique vulnerabilities of those affected and is critical for humanitarian actors to respond to their needs effectively. There must also be adequate safeguards to eliminate increased security risks and protect against discrimination, particularly in the provision of services and the distribution of resources. 

Finally, “to ensure that the humanitarian sector does not reinforce or generate new forms of discrimination and harm, humanitarian actors must approach relationship-building with LGBTIQ organizations with sensitivity and commitment to safety, security, and confidentiality,” centering local knowledge and the voices of those most in need of life-saving assistance (Outright International, 2024).

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Congressional Women’s Softball Game comes hours after anti-LGBTQ votes on Hill

We must not forget the threats to queer lives that reappear once players leave field

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As a lesbian working on the Hill, I was thrilled to hear about the Congressional Women’s Softball Game. Though I’ve never played the sport, I knew the game would be my Super Bowl, the queer political event of the year — never mind the White House Pride Reception taking place the very same night. 

So, on June 26, I put on my baseball cap, tightened my overalls, and enjoyed seven innings of congressional softball at Watkins Recreation Center. The ice cream was free. Typo the border collie threw out the first pitch. Everyone, donned in their C-Span hats, was thrilled to watch their representatives dive for first.

Yet, in the face of this intimate, community-based event, I couldn’t brush off the political tension undergirding the entire evening. The game felt more authentic, definitely more queer, and more dedicated to its charities than the Congressional Baseball Game that took place just two weeks earlier, but it was nonetheless plagued by the same sentiment of political escapism, a momentary distraction from the severity of American politics today. I’d come from work, where I’d been reviewing Project 2025 and hearings where homophobic rhetoric was a staple. So the irony of lawmakers—who had voted just hours earlier to pass appropriations bills packed with anti-LGBTQ riders—playing softball was not lost on me. Ultimately, there is a space for comic and communal relief within politics, but such moments like the Congressional Women’s Softball Game cannot distract us from the very real threats to queer lives that culminate once the players leave the field and return to the halls of Congress.

Started in 2009 by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, and Sen. Susan Collins, the annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game sees Republican and Democratic congresswomen face off against their rivals: the Washington, D.C. press corps. The tradition began when Rep. Wasserman Schultz announced her battle with breast cancer and has now raised more than $4 million for the Young Survival Coalition. Though it is young, the game is an annual force of good.

The Congressional Baseball Game, however, is far older. Dating back to 1909, the annual event pits Republicans against Democrats at Nationals Park. This year, the annual game saw the GOP win 31-11, hosted 30,000 fans, and raised $2.2 million for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, Nationals Philanthropies, and The Washington Literacy Center. 

And though this year’s games felt entirely different—one was an event for charity, the other for Pride—there were still numerous startling similarities. Countless police officers with assault rifles lined the outfield and the rooftops. Corporate sponsors like McDonald’s and Spotify provided snacks and merchandise. A dog caught frisbees between innings (which both sets of fans loved). And, most importantly, there was a tension between the levity of lawmakers diving for fly balls and the political power in their hands. At one point during the game, my girlfriend and I cheered for a representative responsible for a double play, before realizing she was one of many Republicans on the field to have voted against the Respect for Marriage Act. We were further surprised as the Republican outfielder high-fived and laughed with teammate and lesbian Rep. Sharice Davids. 

I was reminded that—despite the seeming bipartisanship and strive for a greater good—events like these can and should not distract us from the threats facing queer—and especially trans—people in appropriations bills, upcoming Supreme Court decisions, and the November election. In fact, more anti-LGBTQ bills than ever were introduced this year, each motivated by partisanship and individualistic thinking that one softball game cannot erase. The day after the game at the House’s Pride month special order hour, lesbian Rep. Becca Balint described Republican representatives approaching her in the halls of Congress, saying they “didn’t mean [her]” when they voted in favor of numerous anti-LGBTQ amendments and bills.

In the face of all this, it is difficult to reconcile light-hearted events like the Congressional Softball Game, the Congressional Baseball Game, or even Will on the Hill. Of course, there is a time and place to make light of our political circumstances, to find avenues for queer joy. Without humor and optimism in politics, congressional offices would go unstaffed; it would be impossible to live a sane day under our government. But we must remember that these events are only momentary Hail Mary’s to forget the seemingly downward spiral of our democracy. We must not forget what is at stake, despite the good and bad distractions, whether we are winning or losing the battle for equality. 

Perhaps last month’s softball game did just that. It was an intimate show of community building, motivated by an issue we can all get behind: the fight to end breast cancer. It was intent on its mission, and not once did it fear decomposing into a brawl for political party pride. But we cannot think ourselves safe, especially when politics becomes light-hearted. Instead, we must remember to fight for the values of bipartisanship and the common good that these events embody.

Camille Cypher is a student at the University of Chicago and an intern in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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