It’s easy to feel disillusioned with politics, especially against the backdrop of everything happening right now in our system of government. The current impeachment inquiry has dragged on for months, first in the House between closed and open sessions of testimony across two separate committees, and now it is moving to the Senate.
This column is not about impeachment, but it is precisely the reality of what’s happening in the news that should inspire us to be more diligent in our scrutiny towards the 2020 election cycle, so that we may be rewarded for the strength of our convictions and the assiduous nature of the processes our eventual nominee will have survived. With that focus in mind, here are just a few of the many reasons to be passionate about the elections coming up this November.
First, we can seize the opportunity to expand all of the good legislative work done in the House of Representatives during this term. The House has passed nearly 400 bills this term alone, ranging from bills desperately needed by the LGBTQ community, like the Equality Act and the Violence Against Women Act, to more mundane but crucial legislation like anti-corruption or governmental reforms and comprehensive, bipartisan background checks on gun sales.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in particular has outright refused to bring many of these bills up for a debate. In fact, McConnell is so proud of this dearth of legislative progress in stonewalling the democrat’s attempts to legislate that he has adopted the nickname “the Grim Reaper” of the Senate, inferring that’s where democrat-led bills go to die. By electing progressive, democratic politicians across the country, we have an opportunity to push this momentum in the other direction and help our legislators do the important work of governing the country.
Second, we can elect a president who represents a much wider segment of the U.S. population, instead of our current president, who selectively represents the rich and most affluent among us. This year, he refused requests to display an LGBTQ pride flag from U.S. embassies all around the world, an unequivocal statement of support that was unopposed under the Obama Administration. Recently, Trump didn’t even mention our community in the World Aids Day proclamation, even though trans people are at particular risk of contracting HIV, and gay or bisexual men are most likely to be affected by the virus.
This is not new, of course, as the Trump administration has refused to mention us in any of the past three World Aids Day proclamations, despite standing on stage at the Republican Convention and waving a rainbow flag around. We are just that to him: a prop. With our votes and active participation in this upcoming election cycle, we can help shift that tide to ensure more of our country receives a seat at the table in the new administration’s priorities, and that our needs are met, too, instead of becoming casual lip service like we have been for the past three years.
Third, we can ensure all Americans are provided the opportunity to proudly serve our country in the armed forces without fear of discrimination or the requirement to hide who they really are. The Trump administration has been particularly harsh on the transgender community, rolling back extensive work done by President Obama to ensure our military is open to and inclusive of trans people. These actions, which now require anyone enlisting to serve specifically as the gender listed on their birth certificates, make no sense when all available data shows this kind of policy actually hurts military readiness more than it could ever help unit cohesion.
Contrary to many of Trump’s claims, a long-term study conducted by the RAND Corporation concluded that while there are some monetary costs to providing gender-affirming care to service members, the benefits of doing so far outweigh any reported disadvantages. Instead, allowing enlisted, transgender people to serve proudly in uniform as their true selves helps bolster military readiness by having tangible effects on unit cohesion.
This makes obvious sense: our military units perform better when our service members aren’t concerned about hiding things from the other members of their unit for fear of being dishonorably discharged, not to mention the very real benefits in fighting depression and suicidal ideation that often accompany gender dysphoria. We can take a stand in this election cycle to ensure everyone can be afforded the opportunity to serve openly as who they are, without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Finally, we can use our voices and our votes to stand up for the Latinx community, many of whom have also withstood continued abuse from the Trump administration. From separating families at the border to putting children in cages, these policies do not promote quintessential American values of fairness, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. With the revocation of DACA, many queer, Latinx people have been forced back into hiding out of the very real fear that living openly might result in their deportation to a country where they face certain dangers like assault, rape, or murder for their identities. Trans woman Roxsana Hernandez, due to a lack of sufficient care in detention, died in ICE custody; her autopsy report showed signs of physical abuse.
There is certainly a lot wrong with the way our country operates today. The best news and advice I can give is that elections are our most powerful opportunity to do something about it. Politicians and interest groups can spend many times more dollars on an election than there are people in the country, but that does not change the reality that is our system of democratic governance. No matter which particular candidate you back this November, remember that they will represent you whether you vote or not.