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Panic early and avoid the rush!

Liberals, don’t be spooked by the right

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Democrats, gay news, Washington Blade
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) questions Attorney General William Barr at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1.

Pardon me, dear reader, but after thirty months of misrule by a cruel, reckless, morally treasonous sexual predator, I am sick of being told that it is Democrats who are extreme.

A colleague tells me that the top four democratic presidential candidates are a clown car, ignoring all the rest, despite the party conventions still being a year away. Excuse me, but I’ve been to the circus, and four people do not a clown car make. Four people are a carpool. Bad metaphors are devouring our brains. But I digress.

One alleged clown is Sen. Kamala Harris, whom I consider one of the most impressive people running—smart, tough, likable, quick on her feet—but she is dismissed as an unelectable extremist because my colleague says so, his preferences being father to his analysis. Who knows how Kamala will fare in the campaign? Plenty of smart people were wrong in 2016. A little intellectual humility, never abundant in political circles, can steer us around our blind spots.

What is the supposed extremism? Universal healthcare? Reproductive freedom? Compassion for migrant families who behave like many of our own ancestors? Trump treats four progressive congresswomen of color as if they were space aliens, like the moon rocks in Apollo 18 that turn out to be alive. I hate to mention it, but the moon rocks already run the government. What sense does it make to be so spooked by a few sketchy policy proposals that you’re ready to run into the changing rooms at Bergdorf’s with Donald Trump?

Unlike 1960, when Kennedy decried a fictional “missile gap” and Nixon waxed bellicose over obscure Chinese islands Quemoy and Matsu, Democrats in this election cycle are addressing real problems. No, I don’t support taking away people’s private health insurance. We’re looking at the menu, not pushing candied cockroaches in your mouth.

Let’s discuss extreme policies. Why should the working class subsidize tax cuts for plutocrats? Why should we privatize corporate profits while socializing losses? How can any conservative or patriot admire a leader who coddles murderous dictators? Why is a white domestic terrorist treated to Burger King by police while a black motorist with a broken taillight is killed? Is “Turn off the camera” our new national motto?

As D.L. Hughley says, “Your nostalgia is our nightmare.” When we say, “America is better than this,” we ignore our history.

The professed Christians backing Trump have exchanged the Gospel for a primitive tribalism. Core teachings of Christ like the parable of the good Samaritan and the call to welcome strangers are cast aside. Their God is an agent of revenge—or scapegoating.

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” 45 declares. He is not trying to persuade his critics or the press, but playing to supporters he successfully gaslighted. They are unlikely to be persuaded by anything Robert Mueller tells Congress.

When Trump describes immigrants as animals, he echoes Hutus demonizing Tutsis in the run-up to the Rwandan genocide in 1994. When he incites “Send her back!” chants, he promotes violence.

A local right-wing troll treats me like an imbecile online, then comes up and speaks pleasantly at a cafe. I consider this deranged, but also fascinating. Maybe I’ll draft better insults for him, as upperclassmen used to do at the political union in college. Recently I saw Tucker Carlson referred to as a latter-day William F. Buckley. The writer was aware of the absurdity; alas, much of what calls itself the conservative movement nowadays is not.

In this environment, restoring reality to public discourse is an uphill battle. At least we can keep learning from people of different backgrounds and perspectives, and not surrender to the mob or to lectures from those who do not share our concerns and will suffer the fewest adverse consequences of our losing.

Brit Hume says Trump’s “go back” comments “were nativist, xenophobic, counterfactual and politically stupid,” but not racist. What a comforting assurance for a woman of color to receive from someone who is not so targeted.

Do not succumb to panic. Make a daily vow to keep it as real as you can. You will have less to regret afterward.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at [email protected].

Copyright © 2019 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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Opinion | Pride is more than a rainbow

Companies should create year-round approach to the LGBTQ consumer

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Pride season is here. Tens of thousands of ATMs across the country will sport rainbow adornments, Target and H&M will devote sections of their stores to a panoply of rainbow trinkets and garments, companies from nearly every business segment in America will wish the LGBTQ community a “Happy Pride.” Rainbow flags will be festooned across storefronts nationwide and then disappear.

What many companies fail to realize is this annual ritual known as ‘rainbow washing,’ can have unintended negative consequences. Pride is 24/7/365 and companies that relegate their LGBTQ outreach to one month a year are often perceived as pandering and “tokenistic.”

What forward thinking marketers understand is the need for brands to talk to the LGBTQ consumer on a year-round basis. So time to move off of the Pride-month-only strategy.

A $1 trillion spending engine, LGBTQ consumers are recognized as having the highest discretionary household income, estimated to be 23% above the national average. Recent surveys say that a whopping 20% of trendsetting millennials ages 25-34 identify as LGBTQ. The math speaks for itself.

The LGBTQ segment is not homogenous or monolithic. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, creating the need for nuanced outreach efforts. Fully, 61% of respondents in a recent poll found that diversity in marketing and advertising was highly important, positively impacting a brand’s bottom line. All aspects of marketing messaging can be customized and delivered to segments and subsegments of the LGBTQ consumer sector through multiple mediums.

LGBTQ consumers are highly enthusiastic, recognized as the earliest adopters and greatest influencers representing disproportionate control of a brand’s profitability. Brands should develop emotional connections. Qualitative research shows that ‘positive image enforcement’ leads to positive purchasing decisions. Oreo’s “Proud Parent” outreach and commercial is an of-the-moment illustration, making this connection. This community responds favorably to the perception of being treated equally, as friends or family, rather than as outsiders. 

Savvy marketers must carefully navigate a fine line, necessitating tactile communication, devoid of stereotypes, while staying laser focused on brand messaging. LGBTQ relatable lexicon and imagery should be employed, wherever possible, to create a stronger bond between a brand and this consumer. This consumer understands sincerity and authenticity. 

Not to be underestimated is the power and outsize impact of social media ‘influencers’ on brand building and purchasing decisions. LGBTQ influencers have surged on all main platforms, including Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. More than 92% of those aged 18-34 respond that they seek recommendations from a trusted source. Choosing relatable influencers that connect with consumers on emotional levels is key. Impactful LGBTQ ‘champion’ Tyler Oakley, reaching more than 7.5 million followers, connects daily with core consumers’ values and aspirations.

The pandemic has forced companies to be creative in their marketing outreach. For example, many alcohol companies are hosting online happy hours and dance events with prominent DJs. A prime example is Jack Daniels’ drag queen hosted virtual entertainment parties. 

Recently, companies such as Budweiser, Walgreens, IBM and Microsoft, to name a few, have launched consumer specific campaigns representing the ‘world around us.’ Geico’s affectionate portrayal of a male couple is another example of how these slice-of-life moments are all encompassing, reflecting a melting pot of the USA.

Sponsorships are also highly effective ways to bond with the LGBTQ consumer. Molson Coors’ Vizzy Hard Seltzer’s $1 million sponsorship of the Human Rights Campaign is extremely visible, as is Kellogg’s collaboration with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) on its “Together with Pride” cereal launch.

When Pride season comes to an end, farsighted companies will cease the 11-month hibernation, and will use 2021 to create a holistic approach to the LGBTQ consumer, talking to them throughout the year. One thing will become crystal clear: These visionary companies will jump over the rainbow into a pot of gold.

Andrew Isen has more than 30 years of experience in brand engagement with LGBTQ consumers and has helped more than 1,000 companies target these consumers and create valuable relationships. He is the founder and president of the award-winning marketing firm WinMarkconcepts.com.

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Opinion | Biden administration working for equity in the workplace

Celebrating our victories during Pride while continuing fight for change

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Pride month is a chance for LGBTQ+ people to be proud and visible in a world that tells us not to be. Pride month is a chance to celebrate and honor the work of LGBTQ+ people as we fight every day for equity and inclusion in society, in the law and in our workplaces. 

Thanks to the tireless work of advocates, we’ve had many recent encouraging wins at the national level:

Last June, in Bostock vs. Clayton County, the Supreme Court affirmed that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

In January, President Biden issued Executive Order 13988, Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, and another executive order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the federal government, which includes LGBTQ+ persons. He also rescinded a 2020 executive order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping that had a chilling effect on diversity and inclusion training programs among federal agencies and contractors.

The Biden-Harris administration has stated strong support for the Equality Act, which would amend existing federal civil rights laws to expressly include non-discrimination protections on the basis of sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), providing security and equality to LGBTQ+ people in accessing housing, employment, education, public accommodations, health care and other federally funded services, credit and more.

In March, President Biden became the first U.S. president to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility.

In the past year, anti-racism protests have sparked important conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Department of Labor has recommitted to being an inclusive workplace, and continues to offer trainings related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including those related to the use of gender-inclusive language and pronouns. I’ve been proud to provide these trainings and support those efforts as a vice president of Pride at DOL, an affinity group for the department’s LGBTQ+ employees and contractors and our allies.

As part of the department’s efforts to implement the sexual orientation and gender identity executive order, our Civil Rights Center – a member of the Title VI/Title IX Interagency Working Group led by the Department of Justice – will serve on the Title IX and Executive Order 13988 Committee. This committee will serve to provide opportunities for interagency collaboration to advance EO 13988’s goal of protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ensuring the Bostock decision is applied to Title IX and other relevant statutes, and making federal agencies welcoming to LGBTQ+ people.

The department is also working to reverse the impact of the prior administration’s executive order on diversity training. Our Office of Federal Contract and Compliance Programs is examining promising practices for diversity training as one component of broader efforts to eliminate bias from employment practices. In addition, the department is conducting an equity review to better understand how well our policies and programs are reaching historically underserved populations, and launched a related data challenge.

But there is still more work to do, and our pride can come at a price. Being visible sometimes means being exposed to harassment, discrimination, and violence. This is especially true for transgender people, particularly those who are women and people of color. Equity and inclusion require creating an environment — through language, policies and practices — that not only tolerates but recognizes and affirms people’s identities and relationships. Only with this can employers create a sense of belonging and value in their organization.

So as we celebrate Pride month this year and every year, let’s recognize all the work that has been done and that is necessary to keep pushing forward.

B.A. Schaaff (they/he) is an attorney in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor and is vice president of Pride at DOL.

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Opinion | When did ‘moderate’ become a dirty word?

Like it or not, most Americans don’t identify as ‘liberal’

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When did the word “moderate” become a dirty word in Democratic politics? One definition of moderate in the Oxford dictionary is “(Of a person, party, or policy) not radical or excessively right- or left-wing.” To me that sounds like what was once called a liberal or someone who worked to get things done.

Our nation’s founders set up a government requiring compromise to get anything done — three branches of government with a system of checks and balances. Congress has its own system of checks and balances in that to pass laws and a budget there needs to be agreement between the House and Senate. We have found over the preceding two centuries the American people actually believe in that system often electing different parties to control the Senate and House and rarely have we seen situations where both the executive and legislative branches are controlled by the same party, even then the judicial branch acts as a balance to what they can do. In the long run this system has worked. It works best when people are willing to compromise moving forward at a steady pace without veering dramatically to the left or right.

Polling shows most Americans identify as either moderate or conservative, with a smaller share identifying as liberal. Those identifying more liberal identify as Democrats. Why is this important to know? It’s important because the future of what both moderates and progressives want will be determined by how those Democrats running for election in 2022 deal with this information.

To see the future we must look at how Democrats are voting in 2021. A column in the Washington Post titled, “Moderate Democrats are winning elections,” gave us an idea. It speaks to the winning ideas of progressives yet explains even Democrats who like progressive ideas end up voting for the more moderate candidate. “Virginia has been the single greatest state-level success story for the progressive agenda in America in recent years. And it happened while Ralph Northam, another establishment figure who beat out a more progressive candidate in his primary, has been governor.” It goes on to suggest moderates will still win. “Is McAuliffe going to be as aggressive as some of his opponents might have been in going even further in a progressive direction? Probably not. But neither is he going to reverse any of that progress; his actions will be constrained by the context progressives created. That’s true at the national level as well, if perhaps not quite to the same extent. But it’s not surprising that progressives are disappointed that the politicians they most support, those in the mold of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are often falling short, especially when they’re running in competitive races. When it comes time to cast their ballots, Democratic voters keep deciding that, although they like progressive ideas, it’s safer to go with candidates with reputations as moderates.”

The Democratic Party must face facts the majority of Americans don’t identify with the left-wing of the Democratic Party even if they do support some of their initiatives. They must realize Republicans have been able to use the words of the left to tag the entire Democratic Party as “socialist.” Is this nonsense? Of course it is, but is it fact? Yes! It was borne out by the 2020 elections. Many congressional candidates in swing districts and swing states lost having faced a backlash from the word “socialist” and from slogans like “defund the police.” They couldn’t overcome them. Joe Biden ran as a moderate. He reiterated often he was neither a socialist nor did he believe in defunding the police but he had the benefit of running against Trump and managed to win.

I grew up identifying as liberal. I was for universal healthcare when Hillary Clinton proposed it in 1992. I supported the Equality Act well before I came out when Bella S. Abzug (D-N.Y.) introduced it in 1974. I worked for human and civil rights and for the rights of persons with a disability. Today I am labeled a moderate by the Democratic left but I see myself as a pragmatic liberal supporting many progressive ideas but wanting to make constant progress and realizing it can’t be all or nothing.

We live in a difficult time with a Trump party, the old GOP, refusing any compromise. So we need to keep the House and add to the Senate in 2022. We need at least a few more moderate Democratic senators who will give us the chance to abandon the filibuster and open the door to real progress.

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

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