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Big T And The Democrats

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling addresses a rally and news conference with Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and fellow leaders from LGBTQ advocacy organizations before the House votes on the Equality Act May 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Good morning! Welcome to Impeachment Wednesday. Just so you know, I really don’t care. He’s not going anywhere until and unless voters kick him out next fall.

Along those lines, the NYT’s wonkery-based political columnist Thomas Edsall writes today about the dilemma faced by Democrats regarding transgenderism. Here’s how he frames it:

If you’re a Democratic strategist, what do you do to reconcile the moral power of your party’s arguments about the inherent dignity and civil rights of every American with the reality of an electorate that has not caught up with where the party has gone and is slightly — or more than slightly — adverse to it? How do you decide whether what is right is also what is wise?

As recently as 2004, proposed state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, particularly one in Ohio, may have cost the Democrats the presidency, so how do you handle President Trump’s calculated assault on transgender rights? You can’t tell people “oh just wait for your rights, they’ll be coming soon” — that has never worked for anyone — so I decided to ask philosophers, ethicists, transgender activists and others how the party should respond to Trump’s provocations.

Well, gosh, how do you think that round of questioning went? Call up academics and trans activists and ask them if the Democrats should pull back on their commitment to transgender rights to focus on defeating Trump — what do you think they’re going to say? You can’t fault activists for saying “slow down? never!”, because that’s what activists do. But academics? Could there possibly be a more out of touch class in America? (Quote: “Robin Dembroff, a professor of philosophy at Yale who prefers the pronouns they/them, wrote me that…”). Besides, in this persecutorial environment within academia, which philosopher or ethicist is going to step out and say, “We have to put getting rid of Trump before all other concerns. If pausing the push for trans rights is what helps us turf Trump out, then that’s what we have to do”? He or she would be monstered as someone whose lack of commitment means the blood of trans bodies on his hands!

In fact, Edsall found someone to speak to this side of the matter: Bill Galston, who does so with exquisite delicacy:

William Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings and former deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton for domestic policy, makes a different argument, in favor of more incremental change:

The task of decent politicians in a democracy is to move their country as far toward justice and fairness as the current state of public opinion will permit while doing what they can to improve the chances that public opinion will continue to shift in the right direction. This task requires judgment based on a solid understanding of public opinion and of the facts on the ground.

This is not an easy task, especially for a political party that supports challenges to the traditional hierarchy.

Galston went on:

As an elected official or aspirant for elective office, there is nothing dishonorable about defining one’s policy aspirations at any given point in response to what the public is prepared to endorse or at least permit at that time. The higher the stakes in the election, the more defensible this practice becomes. If, as many people believe, the 2020 election implicates not only policy disputes but also the future of liberal constitutional democracy in the United States, then it would be justified to subordinate any policy issue to the overriding goal of protecting our constitutional order.

OMG, TRANS PEOPLE ARE DYING, and Bill Galston has the nerve — the nerve! — to say that Democrats maybe shouldn’t be so quick to ballyhoo their support for a law — the Equality Act — that would force doctors to perform sex changes, force open the doors of women-only spaces (including girls’ locker rooms) to penis-havers, destroy women’s athletics, and so forth! What kind of right-wing spear carrier is he? Cancel him!

Trans is an issue on which the Democratic Party’s journalism auxiliary corps, its academic-activist shouty-boos, and its wokey-woke presidential candidates are Corbynizing the party going into 2020. Take a look at Megan McArdle’s column about the British election. She doesn’t mention transgenders, but think of this in light of Edsall’s piece:

The parallels between our two nations are inexact, of course, as such parallels always are. But the similarities are undeniable: a right-turning populist, hoovering up the white working class even as it sheds the educated and affluent, while its opposition is driven ever leftward by cadres of young activists. Brexit presaged Donald Trump’s election by five months, and it seems all too possible that Britain is once again serving as the canary in the coal mine. (One closed by Maggie Thatcher, destroying the economy of a constituency that is now nonetheless voting for her party, as though God really wanted to drive home just how shocking all this is.)

She’s talking about patriotism. This would be a good place for me to point out that Edsall’s newspaper is so far to the left that it has committed considerable resources and prestige to creating something called The 1619 Project, which claims that America was founded as a slaveocracy, and that this evil act is the center of American history. McArdle points to this amazing piece from Tim Adams, writing in The Guardian, in which he visits a traditional Labour stronghold to find out why people in this former mining community abandoned the party. Excerpt:

[Defeated Labour incumbent MP Phil] Wilson’s father was a miner in the Fishburn colliery. His own speech conceding defeat to Paul Howell, a retired accountant who also grew up in the constituency, could hardly have been more direct in apportioning blame.

“If you are on the doorstep and one person mentions Brexit, but five people mention the leader of the Labour party for being the reason they are not going to vote for you, then things need to change. I believe that the leader of the Labour party should not be resigning today, he should have resigned a long time ago.”

Any Momentum [Corbyn movement organization — RD] diehard who doubts the truth of that sentiment up here should come and talk to the Fishburn regulars. Arthur Hudspeth is playing the fruit machine in the social club. He recently celebrated his 91st birthday. He went down the pit at 14 in 1942 and worked in mines until his retirement at 65. The only two years he missed were for his national service: “first battalion of the Durhams” he tells me, looking me in the eye. He has voted Labour without fail in every election since Attlee’s victory in 1945, but not this time. He is ashamed to say he didn’t vote at all, but winces at the mention of Corbyn’s name and shakes his head. Why? “Rubbish. He’s not my kind of man. Not strong enough. He doesn’t understand us here.”

To start to unpack what Hudspeth means, you need to look in the dominoes room of the Fishburn Club. The symbolic decoration here is provided by the plaques and banners not of mines but of local regiments. It is this strand of the collective memory to which Corbyn, as Labour leader, appears to have had nothing to say.

What an interesting piece. For those working class British voters, it was all about patriotism, and the belief that the highly urbanized left-wing Corbyn has no feeling for his country and its traditions.

There will be some Republicans who try to push that on the Democrats in 2020, but with the possible exception of Sanders (who honeymooned in the USSR), there really aren’t any Dems who have Corbyn’s unique vulnerabilities on that point. This is a man, Corbyn, who refused to sing the national anthem at a memorial service for the Battle of Britain, after all.

But on the trans thing, there are parallels. The only thing standing between the radicalism of the Equality Act and it becoming law is a Republican Senate and Donald Trump. I strongly wish the GOP would do more to protect locker rooms and women’s athletics, among other things, but at least they serve in blocking capacity. That’s not nothing. My sense is that for better or worse, most Americans are pretty much okay with the LGB stuff, as a political matter. But the T — that’s a very big ask. Transgenderism is not even the same kind of thing as homosexuality. But the media are all so 100 percent gone on the subject that they never put the hard questions to Democratic candidates, who, as far as I have seen, have never had to explain their far-left stances in ways that factory workers in the Rust Belt could understand. The questions I’ve seen the press ask have been along the lines of, “Do you support full trans rights by tomorrow morning, or do you believe that we can wait till Friday?”

We, as a civilization, are rushing heedlessly into tearing down the most basic fact of our species, something that evolution has spent tens of thousands of years programming into our bones: the gender binary. In a single generation, the left is determined to destroy it, and call it liberation. And if you don’t agree with that, they will savage you. They’ve done it to distinguished physicians like Dr. Allan Josephson, who lost his career because he took a public stand as a doctor against the views of the trans activists. In my forthcoming book about lessons for us from life under Soviet totalitarianism, I have some quotes from a Soviet-born doctor who lives and practices medicine in America. He would not talk on the record to me about transgenderism, out of fear for his job. From the draft of my manuscript:

Wokeness on gender issues is causing physicians to aid and abet the mental illness of young patients, the doctor tells me. In many clinics and hospitals, it is a matter of formal policy for medical personnel to consent to treatments and interventions requested by patients – even if it violates the doctor’s judgment. The politicization of medicine by progressive activists, and the lies doctors have to sign off on out of fear for their jobs – it’s all making people sicker. It’s not just around gender issues, either. Medicine is undergoing a paradigm shift, replacing the old idea of “health” with “wellness.”

“One of the most important questions in medicine now is, how do we define ‘normal’?” he says. “Health is something based in objective criteria. Wellness is a patient’s subjective feeling of how he’s doing.”

A drug addict, for example, can report feelings of well being, even though his addiction is killing him. Listening to the doctor, I thought of how fear of the consequences of truth-telling compelled Soviet economists to lie to their political superiors. They hid the ugly facts about the decay of the Soviet economy, until the collapse was so far advanced it could not be arrested.

The physician is visibly anxious about the future. “If people don’t act now, if sanity doesn’t prevail, then I’m afraid of what’s going to happen. To maintain a family, you have to be normal. No matter how much wellness you can report, if you are incapable of functioning, you’re going to die.”

I remember that face-to-face conversation with this man, who emphasized that he cannot be identified in my book, because he would be fired. He said doctors like him are being forced to suppress their own best medical judgment to advance the trans agenda. This is the ideological corruption of medicine — and the Democratic Party supports this 100 percent. Under the Equality Act, which every Democratic House member voted for, and all the party’s presidential candidates back, that doctor above would have to surrender his medical judgment not just as a matter of hospital policy, as is the case now, but as a matter of federal civil rights law. 

This is not an invented “war on Christmas” phone button-pushing deal. This consequential war on biology, on women’s rights, on the English language (pronouns!), on sanity itself, is really happening, and it has taken over the minds of progressive activists, liberal journalists, and Democratic lawmakers — and presidential candidates.

Trump would be an idiot not to point out the actual facts of the matter. Trump is many things, a lot of them bad, but I don’t think he’s going to miss this opportunity. I want the Democratic nominee to go down to the mill and tell the men why the federal government should pay for their sons to have their penises removed, and why if they oppose their teenage daughters having their breasts cut off, or their girls getting beaten in high school athletic competitions by biological males fronting as girls, then they’re nothing but a pack of bigots.

UPDATE: I apologize — a couple of readers point out that Peter Singer, in the Edsall article, said that beating Trump has to take priority over trans rights. I read too quickly. Sorry about that.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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