On this week’s Real Time, Bill Maher made the argument that Donald Trump is such an existential threat to the country that we must all put our pet issues aside and just get Hillary Clinton elected. His focus was on transgender rights. He noted that in 2008, Obama was not publicly in favor of same sex marriage. Obviously, he was privately. Maher’s point was that Obama was being strategic. He didn’t want to torpedo his campaign for the sake of an issue that would bring out the crazy conservatives to vote against him.
Over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, Shakezula was not pleased. He particularly didn’t like the notion of transgender rights being a “pet issue.” I understand and sympathize. But I do think he grabbed onto that one statement rather harder than is reasonable. For one thing, Maher was talking about bathroom choice for transgender people. As with same sex marriage, I don’t think it is a particularly big issue. When LGBT people are still commonly beaten up and even murdered, these other worthy causes strike me rather more as easy and non-threatening things that the straight community can do until the descriptor LGBT itself because pointless.
But Is Trump an Existential Threat?
None of this means that I agree with Maher. The truth is that each presidential election is framed as an existential threat to our republic. Both parties do it, although clearly there is the stink of demagoguery in the Republican arguments that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were extremists. But there is a lesser bit of nonsense that comes from us Democrats. Certainly Trump would be a far worse president than George W Bush was. But then, Bush was a far worse president than his father. If Donald Trump becomes president, I guarantee you that the Republicans will offer up an even worse candidate than he.
None of this should come as a surprise. Richard Nixon is now seen as quite the reasonable politician except for that little paranoia problem. But he was responsible (with the aid of his inside man, war criminal Henry Kissinger) of extending the Vietnam War for at least four more years, leading to the deaths of at least 21,000 American troops. People now talk about Reagan’s willingness to raise taxes as some super-ability, as though the “no new taxes ever” philosophy of the Republican Party is normal in any functioning democracy.
Trump Would Be a Catastrophe — Like All Republicans
Do I think that Donald Trump would be a total catastrophe for our nation? Yes! Although like with George W Bush, I don’t think we would get a Trump presidency. For six years of the Bush administration, it was Dick Cheney running the executive branch. I have no idea who would be running the country under Trump, but I know it wouldn’t be Trump himself, because he has no interest in it. But the biggest problem with a Trump presidency would be that he would likely get to appoint two Supreme Court Justices — just like Bush. And good luck with transgender rights under those circumstances.
But that’s going to happen even if Trump dies on 9 November 2016 and we get “reasonable” Mike Pence as president. Or, for that matter, any nationally known Republican. The truth is that the Republican Party is simply terrible. Trump may be stupid, ignorant, and gauche, but he isn’t especially different from other Republicans. He’s the symptom, not the cause of Republican dysfunction.
Liberals Need to Be Liberals
So as liberals, now is not the time to panic. There is no more existential threat than usual. It is not the time to pretend that we aren’t liberals — to back off on transgender bathroom rights or anything else. If this election is an existential threat to our nation, then they all are. And that means that liberals should always be abandoning their beliefs to win this one election. And we’ve seen what this has brought us: a Democratic Party that is in the mushy middle and is too often unable to beat a party made up primarily of mad men.