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Post-Election Round-up: What Went Wrong

Nov. 15, 2016
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On Nov. 9 we woke to shattered glass. Sadly, it wasn’t the glass ceiling of women’s rights turned to shards, but our LGBT glass house. Ironically, it was the anniversary of Reichskristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” when, in 1938, Nazis destroyed Jewish synagogues and shops in a wave of destruction that people once thought would never happen. 

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of blame going around. On our side, here in Wisconsin, the real shock was the electorate’s failure to vote. Of all places, Wisconsin, especially Milwaukee County, was a key battleground. But we managed only a low voter turnout. And, yes, Hillary Clinton may not have been the best candidate, but we really weren’t voting for the individual but for the progressive movement and the future she represented. On the Republican side, beyond their appeal to white Christian racism, misogyny and Islamophobia, there was voter suppression as well as the machinations of Wikileaks, Russia and our own FBI. Still, for that Clinton won the popular vote and we should never forget that.

Our LGBT community failed as well. The first parade of Republican candidates should have been the wake-up call. Donald Trump’s nomination should have warned us of the impending storm. His selection of Mike Pence as vice presidential candidate should have called us to arms.  I suppose our LGBT organizations might claim “as 501(c)(3) organizations, we can’t be political advocates.” Fine, then at least educate people! And there were many opportunities long before the election. PrideFest with its 33,000+ attendance, the Pride Parade or the myriad of smaller events should have collectively mustered a “get out the vote” campaign or at least hammered home the message of all that was at stake: Everything from marriage equality to federal funding of LGBT causes could be lost. One would have thought those on the forefront of the struggle for our equality would have had the forethought to vehemently defend it. They didn’t. 

And, we let ignorance prevail. We’ve grown immune to ignorance. I recall PrideFest entertainers, who, for tens of thousands of dollars, spewed expletives and insults for the duration of their appearances. For that they got a laugh. When a vulgar presidential candidate did the same shtick, we laughed, too. And some of us even voted for him. Perhaps we were blinded by our successes under President Barack Obama. So much so that some decided they needn’t vote at all. So, with reasoning ranging from the naïve to the narcissistic, our voice was silenced. 

Of course, people point to Trump’s gay billionaire buddy, venture capitalist Peter “Who Cares” Thiel, as the cloud’s silver lining. He’s not. As we witnessed locally, money transcends everything. (By the way, Thiel would still be in the closet had he not been outed to many who did not know by Gawker back in 2007.)

To its credit, Milwaukee Pride listed crisis hotline phone numbers on social media after the election. No other organization did, although a Unitarian church held a prayer ritual to comfort the traumatized. Rapper David Banner rationalized “[Trump’s victory] may be the best thing for black people” because it forces them to react. I hope it does the same for us and that the reaction endures beyond the next drink special.

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