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Political insanity is making us crazy

Growing estrangement from parties and increasing distrust of media is result

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National politics are making us crazy.

Sensible people have simply begun blocking out the incessant screaming on the airwaves or in publications, and that’s not a positive development. It’s difficult, though, to blame anyone for doing so when personal sanity is at stake.

The rancor is a cause of the alienation between voters and parties, and is intensifying a long-festering disaffection. While political party affiliation has been declining for a number of years, the most recent Gallup national survey last month indicates only 27 percent of Americans self-identify as Democrats and only 29 percent as Republicans. A clear plurality, averaging 43 percent nationwide over the past four months of polling, identify as independents not aligned with either party.

Also significant is that nearly half of the country, comprising 47 percent of all likely voters in an annual national poll, believes neither faction in Congress is “the party of the American people.” That number is six points higher than the previous year. Only a third, at 35 percent, disagree with that assessment.

Amidst this deepening disassociation, the two major political parties have become dual sides of the same coin – either dysfunctional or dystopian. Determining which is which is now essentially nothing more than an inkblot interpretive choice among a majority.

The bulk of voters, situated at a moderate policy center both parties have abandoned, are dismayed by what is increasingly expected to be an extreme binary choice on the presidential ballot more than 14 months from now. Many worry more, however, about stabbing their eyes out long before that moment eventually arrives.

What some are touting as “the most consequential decision in history” seems to many Americans the equivalent of a massive food fight in an elementary school cafeteria. It’s a brawl that’s become starkly ugly and nasty, too.

The commonplace name-calling, invective hurling, and motive questioning of ordinary voters is now wholly pervasive. Tuning-out or shutting-up has become the preferred personal strategy for preserving internal wellbeing or protecting external reputations.

Have we really entered an era when everyone is either a racist or a socialist, or similar and worse? Are we actually neutering such disparagements and rendering them meaningless by casual application to those with whom we happen to disagree?

People don’t like being maligned as motivated by evil, particularly when the defamation is unwarranted or unjustified. It’s certainly not the route toward successfully building a coalition of the dominant disaffected.

If Democrats want to emerge victorious in an election only they could fail to win, party officials might consider dumping as much cash as it might take to convince CNN to switch to televising movies all day and night. The network, by becoming just another blatantly transparent partisan co-conspirator undermining fair-minded news delivery, is hurting more than helping. They’ve devolved, in a ratings contest for viewers, to merely mirror the longstanding opinionated ploys of oppositional FOX and MSNBC.

Political pundits, news analysts, and even the nominally objective traditional journalists across the spectrum have largely abandoned any semblance of straightforward reporting or unbiased analysis. Most humorous are those mocking the media pursuit of the next contrived rabbit unleashed – while spotting another one and immediately taking chase.

The behavior of politicians, parties, pundits, and the purported purveyors of news are discouraging engagement and are diminishing faith in the political system, news media, and civic institutions. There’s a ‘resistance’ building, but it’s one of opposing the constant barrage of barbs and slurs directed towards ordinary citizens or the casting of political aspersions and personal slanders at entire swaths of people.

The vast majority of Americans, including within the LGBT community, live outside of highly insular right-or-left bubbles reflexively seeking their next outrage “fix” like convulsing junkies.

Our national politics have become too exhausting for too many, and the continuing growth in political estrangement is the real danger to democracy.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at [email protected].

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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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Opinion | The importance of marching for Black trans lives

Youth deserve to see their allies help create change

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I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and an ally to the trans community. Identifying myself as an ally, rather than a member of the trans community is important to note. I could never assume a position of resonance, or complete understanding of the struggle and strife of trans folks. 

As the program manager for BSH, I have witnessed countless justifications, and matter-of-fact necessity, for the Black Trans Lives Matter marches. While escorting my clients to meetings with multiple institutions and organizations, I have often witnessed, even after the first correction, serial misgendering. My clients are young adults between ages 18-24. I fear that the resentment that surely multiplies, both internally and externally, with each misgendering experience, is likely to result in depression and anxiety. 

To dismiss one’s identity is to erase their existence. It is my duty as an ally, and a leader, to confront these scenarios head on, by identifying and educating misguided professionals, while setting a threshold of accountability during subsequent encounters. 

Trans youth deserve to know and feel allyship; they deserve to see an ally create change on their behalf. All trans people, including the youth of the community, have the fundamental right to exist and be recognized for who they know themselves to be; visibility matters beyond a community level. 

This year we lost one of our trans sisters in a cold city jail cell. Kim Wirtz’s life mattered. She was a Black trans woman who had not seen the likes of a courtroom but was sentenced to death, without the allowance of exercising her right to a trial. She was a sister, a daughter, an aunt and a friend. 

We march for reform, so that our sisters will never be forced into unsafe housing. We need reform and we need it now! No trans woman deserves to be forced to appear male because she is incarcerated. We march for those who started this work before many of us were born. We march in the legacy of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. We march for the youth so they can grow up and be free to be themselves without shame.

 I ask that you march alongside us, as we inspire and create positive change, and as we churn the oceans of reform on behalf of our trans brothers and sisters, and subsequently, on behalf of all of us.

Tashi-Kali Acket is program manager for Baltimore Safe Haven.

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