And Here We Are…

The U.S. presidential election stunned a lot of my friends.  It stunned me.  There was no way I could see an openly xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic candidate actually being elected the President of the United States.  Indeed, that is exactly what has happened.  It is a small salve, to me, that he did not win the popular vote.  But it is equally sobering that the vote shows a very polarized nation.  And now we have to wait and see what happens, like the rest of the world.

I pondered this election for many a sleepless night and have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you.  I’ve been voting since 1972.  I’ve watched a lot of elections.  I actually remember elections as far back as Johnson vs. Goldwater in ’64.  But this has been one of the craziest elections I’ve ever seen. Being an armchair amateur of U.S. politics and elections, I will attempt to write about what I see, in retrospect, that might help explain what we’ve all just witnessed.  Perhaps it will bring solace and hope.  Perhaps not.  Either way, take it with a grain of salt.

Without further adieu, here are my thoughts:

  1. Hillary (and her hubby Bill) couldn’t escape the baggage of the now forgotten Democratic Leadership Council which proposed a “Third Way” of mixing conservative and liberal ideas together to create a new economy that would offer benefits to business and workers back in the late 80’s to early 90’s. This was the beginning of the Corporate-Friendly Democratic Party.
  2. The move toward corporations for support of Democratic goals changed the Democratic goals, as evidenced first by NAFTA, and the embracing of free trade agreements.
  3. The move toward big money for funding campaigns made the corporations, celebrities, and other rich folks much more influential in setting priorities for the Democratic party. Worse still, the voices of the working class were eventually ignored while the leadership chased dollars of the rich and famous.
  4. The free trade agreements decimated factories, which decimated the working class.
  5. The free trade agreements required concessions from labor to keep their factories open, which again decimated the working class.
  6. The rise of automation had an incalculable effect on the working class.
  7. And the love of money, celebrity, and status became the Democratic Party’s, the Clinton’s, and Obama’s eventual downfall due in large part to the plight of the working class not being addressed.
  8. Have we all forgotten that Obama, when in the Rust Belt some years ago, mentioned how the folks there, the working class who were no longer working, “cling” to their guns and their bibles? Well, what else did they have?
  9. And no one can forget Hillary’s “deplorables” statement because, while partially true, it also was aimed, again, squarely at working class whites. (Nothing like kicking ‘em while they’re down.)
  10. The Democratic Party leaders embraced corporate crony capitalism with the goal of bettering all citizens. I have no doubt they believed this was the best way.
  11. But in so doing, the Party left its roots behind: the working class.
  12. Working class whites rebelled. They gave into fear and hate of that which is different. For they had 35 years of continued economic erosion.
  13. Working class people of color are rebelling due to the Democratic Party not keeping it’s promises to create better lives for all people who have not known economic opportunity.

And here we are.

Hillary, who makes more in a speech than I do in several years, trying to convince voters, and the working class, that she cares about them. I believe she does. But her ties to corporate influence, celebrities, and rich folk appeared more important than issues of the working class.

Obama tried. But he too was consumed by his own “celebrity” status and loved coming to my city, Los Angeles, for fundraisers. Gawd, he and Hillary and myriad other Democratic leaders flew in to L.A. so often to raise money from the rich and famous that it became a running joke every time traffic was jammed on the 405 freeway!

Would that they had spent more time flying in to Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, and Ohio to commiserate with the working class as often as they went to fundraisers. Just to let them know they care and they are trying.

I’m sure Democratic leadership cares. But then again, I think Republican leadership cares. But I’m also sure they didn’t try very hard to address the issues of the working class.

To me that’s the lesson. Jettison the corporate fundraising, the corporate approach to influence, and get back to your roots, the Working Class, now!

If not, we’re all in for a very rough ride from a charlatan who took advantage of human suffering without having a lick of sense on how to alleviate it.

But hope is not lost.  Perseverance and patience are the order of the day.  Human kindness is still the biggest salve on the planet for bettering ourselves and resolving issues.  Don’t forget, behind all these phobias that are now being expressed; behind the bullying and the hate speech are people who are basically fearful, not knowing their place in society, and in the future.  They’d rather “burn it down” than face an unknown future.  That’s what they’ve told us, in my opinion.  Give them hope.  Give them an economy that does allow them to provide for themselves and those they love.  And, finally, give them compassion even when it is very difficult to do so.  It is our only way forward.

(Clarification: I am not a member of any political party)


How Gender Identity May Determine the Right to Vote in 2012 []

by Brentin Mock /

American companies are born as private commercial entities, but thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, suddenly they can transition to human status for the purpose of influencing an election with millions of dollars. Meanwhile, thousands of actual human citizens, who’ve only transitioned gender identity, may have less influence over elections—or no influence at all—because they’ll now face heavy burdens under strict photo voter ID laws. It’s an obscene paradox.

Over 25,000 transgender American citizens may face stiff barriers to voting in the November 2012 election, according to the report “The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters,” released last week by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s law school. This is, by any measure, the portion of the electorate that is among the most marginalized and stigmatized, and hence probably most in need of the right to have a say in who governs their lives. But discussions on both sides of voter ID laws tend to leave out transgender citizens in discussions about who would be most adversely impacted.

I’m including myself in that critique. I briefly mentioned that transgender citizens would be impacted in myfirst Voting Rights Watch blog, but have failed to consistently talk about their burdens in subsequent blogs. We often talk about black and Latino voters, elderly and student voters, women and those with low incomes as having trouble satisfying new photo voter ID mandates, but many transgender voters will have an incredibly tough set of challenges before them if they are to have their vote counted in November. The cost of getting the appropriate ID to vote in some jurisdictions will be as high as getting surgery.

The photo voter ID laws are already unnecessary intrusions into the lives of many people of color. Those intrusions become an epic accumulation of burdens, though, for transgender people of color. According to the report, two particular races—American Indian/Alaskan Native and African-Americans—are most likely to lack identification documents (46 percent and 37 percent, respectively) that reflect their accurate gender identity.

Jody L. Herman, author of the report, used data from the Brennan Center for Justice report on voter ID laws and the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (she also co-authored) to paint a picture of what voting access will look like for transgender citizens in the nine states with strict voting laws. She found that about 88,000 transgender Americans are eligible to vote in those states in November, but roughly a third of those face possibly getting ostracized due to lacking proper ID and the crazy complicated process of obtaining ID if the government questions your gender status.

This goes beyond just trying to get ID for voting purposes. Transgender citizens have problems obtaining and updating their identification cards for any reason, especially when dealing with the government. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey—the largest survey on transgender issues in the nation—shows that 22 percent of respondents said they had been denied equal treatment by a government agency or official, with another 22 percent saying they had been harassed or disrespected in the same setting. Respondents without ID reflecting their correct gender: 41 percent. That’s also about the same percentage who said that when they presented their non-gender-matching ID when asked to show it (at a bar, airport, etc.) were harassed afterward—3 percent said they were attacked or assaulted.

When government agencies that are supposed to serve the public aren’t safe spaces for transgender people, then routine citizen activities—like getting a license—become an albatross rather than an accomplishment. Registering to drive and vote are supposed to be proud moments, but for too many transgender people, it’s something to suffer through. And then consider that some government agencies require “proof” that you actually are the gender that you say you are—in some places that means getting gender reassignment surgery, whether it’s desired or not.

“There are a myriad of state and federal laws that govern whether or how transgender citizens can update their IDs, and some of these requirements are very difficult to meet and incredibly costly,” Herman told me in a phone interview. “Not only is there the emotional and psychological aspects, but also onerous requirements, such as the requirement to have had a certain kind of surgery, and some transgender citizens can’t afford it because it’s not covered by health insurance, while some simply don’t want it.”

But if they want to vote in certain places, they may have to do it. Such surgery typically costs between$40,000 and $50,000—that’s probably the largest poll tax ever. And when the percentage of transgender citizens most likely to lack proper identity documents are those who make below $10,000 a year, for many it’s plain impossible.

These are, no doubt, discussions that went missing among policymakers as they dreamed up and passed these laws. It probably never occurred to the almost-all-white-male voter ID chorus (plus black former Alabama Representative Artur Davis) that people who lack their race, gender and sexual privilege might have troubles with these rule changes. Or maybe it did occur to them, since there is a belief among conservatives that those who aren’t heterosexual aren’t citizens worthy of basic institutions like marriage and voting. Transgender people are the “irresponsible,” who won’t get in line and fly straight, and hence don’t deserve the franchise. I mean, such people might vote for a president that bans LGBTQ housing discrimination or something.

One of the first persons I thought of when I read this report was Janet Mock. We’re not aware of any relation despite sharing last names, but I hope we are related. She’s been great at spreading awareness as a transgender advocate and writer, and I was curious of her thoughts on the report both as a transgender advocate and an African-American. She grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she tells me she had no problems in terms of changing her gender marker on ID documents and birth certificates (ironically, our nation’s first black president also grew up in Hawaii and is constantly challenged on his birth certificate). However, she says she’s had plenty of other friends in other states who’ve had problems having their gender changed on ID documents.

Says Mock:

It’s this patchwork of state laws concerning documentation that hurts trans people everywhere and limits our opportunities to not only vote but to avoid discrimination when looking for a home or a job. What I find interesting about this type of voter suppression is that it’s obviously against everything we stand for as Americans and a society because it oppresses groups of marginalized Americans, telling us through these added barriers to vote, that our voices do not matter and that we do not have a say. It’s sad that the fundamental democratic right to vote and be heard is something trans people have to add to our laundry list of civic duties taken away from us simply because we choose to live our lives most authentically.

A Transgender Candidate Is Hoping to Make History []

by Kate Taylor /

Zoning. School overcrowding. The design of New York’s transportation system.

These are just a few of the subjects that Mel Wymore, a candidate for City Council on the Upper West Side, brought up in an interview before addressing the elephant in the room: that, if elected, he would be the first transgender member of the Council.

“I’m not running because I’m transgender,” said Mr. Wymore, 50, who was born female but now, after testosterone therapy and top surgery, identifies as transgender. But, he said, that “doesn’t mean that being transgender doesn’t bring a certain perspective.”

Although gay men and lesbians have broken many electoral barriers — serving as mayors, state legislators and members of Congress — the same is not true of the transgender community. Only a few, including a Democratic district leader in Westchester County and a former member of the Hawaii Board of Education, have been elected to office around the country.

“I think there is a feeling that there is too much difference there,” Mr. Wymore said. But he said he believed: “This is the seat. This is the community that’s ready to go forward.”

The race, for the Sixth District seat occupied by Gale A. Brewer, who is term-limited, is competitive and has drawn a number of candidates, including Marc Landis, a district leader; Helen Rosenthal, a former chairwoman of Community Board 7; and Ken Biberaj, a vice president of the Russian Tea Room.

Melissa Sklarz, a transgender woman, said that the race was full of worthy candidates, and that as president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, she could not make an endorsement. But she described Mr. Wymore’s candidacy as “an opportunity for transgender people everywhere.”

“He’s a great representative,” Ms. Sklarz said. “Many people only know of transgender, I guess, from watching Chaz Bono on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ Mel Wymore brings a much different, broader experience.”

Click to read the rest of the story…