Winter is coming: Reflections on the frightening power of demagoguery

Jones, Arnold WayneI still remember, with amazing clarity, my middle school’s race for class president. Two candidates stand out: Brian Koehr and Paige Apple. I was friendly with both, although not close friends with either. Brian was happy and enthusiastic; Paige was quiet and studious. Going into their candidate speeches, I honestly didn’t know who I was going to vote for. I seem to recall being favorably disposed toward Brian.

To this day, the essence of their speeches stays with me. Paige’s was along the lines of, “Here’s my plan for what we all need to do to make this a better school;” Brian’s was along the lines of, “Pizza day every day in the cafeteria!” I voted for Paige, and hoped for the best.

Brian won by a landslide.

That was my first experience with the nature of politics, and the power of the vote.

The truth was, who became class president then didn’t matter. There’s probably no more toothless job in America. Brian, Paige… They were both going to do the same thing — give a speech at homecoming, pick a theme for the school dance, get their faces in the yearbook smiling back. Memories. It was all for show, a gesture toward citizenship, a lesson learned.

And it did instill in me — and probably everybody in school that day — the awesome power of demagoguery: A candidate who will say what the people want to hear has an edge over one who speaks hard truths. That’s not always the case, of course. Sometimes the hard truth is resonant and the pandering rings false. Voters can surprise you.

And certainly they surprised us all Tuesday night.

Brian Koehr was a nice guy in a powerless position who made meaningless promises that had no lasting impact beyond the insulated microcosm of eighth grade. That is not the same with Donald Trump. He is not a nice man. He is not powerless. He is not benevolent. And soon he will wield as much power as any human ever has.

His agenda is chilling. Among his campaign promises: Repeal the Affordable Care Act (and replace it with…? He won’t say); appoint ultra-right-wing justices to the courts, including the Supreme Court; build a wall between the United States and Mexico, whatever the diplomatic cost; impose a ban on, and even deport, Muslims, irrespective of their citizenship status; overturn marriage equality.

I know Trump supporters who allay my concerns about what his presidency will look like by saying, “Don’t worry — he’s not going to do all the things he says.” Then why in the world did you vote for him? Anyway, those are just some of the things he has publicly advocated. What about the ones he hasn’t even thought of? If even half of these come to fruition, it would be devastating for every single person I know.

Even if you can’t trust what he says, what will America under Trump look like? Presumably, it will be one forged by Mitch McConnell and others in the Republican Party who will exploit Trump’s inexperience with the political system to their own end. In many ways, I’m more afraid of a Mike Pence presidency then a Donald Trump presidency. Pence has core values, however twisted, and political experience. He can actually get an agenda through.

What will Trump do? That’s what has me as scared as I have ever been about the future of my republic.

And I’m about as “safe” as you can get. I am a middle-aged, middle-class, white male. Aside from not being Christian or straight, I’m as mainstream as a person can be in this country today.

Still, as a journalist, I feel vulnerable. Donald Trump has waged a war on journalism, encouraging disparagement and violence against the journalism pen at his rallies. If I feel that way, imagine how it must feel to lesbians recently married who now wonder whether their entire union could be overturned by the stroke of a pen? Imagine what it feels like to be a DREAM Act-er concerned over deportation, or a Muslim, or a disabled person, or someone with health insurance for the first time.

I fear for them. I fear for them much more than I fear for myself. And they are my friends.

Twelve years ago, I asked a colleague: If he could hand-pick the nominees of both parties, but could have absolutely zero say in the outcome of the election, who would he choose? My very liberal friend grinned widely and said, “Easy! Hillary for Democrats. And Mike Huckabee for the Republicans. He’s a nut job. He could never get elected. In the bag.” I said, “Sure, it’s nice to think that, but what if he did win? Could you live with that?” My colleague brushed away my concerns. “Never happen!” he assured me. “Voters couldn’t be that badly fooled.”

I was not as confident as he was back then. I couldn’t imagine living in a world in which the presidency of the United States was run by someone who honestly believed that the earth was 5,000 years old and that Adam and Eve played with the dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people,” H.L. Menken opined.

Mike Huckabee concerned me, but at least a right-wing fundamentalist is predictably nutty; not so much an inexperienced businessman with multiple bankruptcies, shady business dealings, a disastrous personal life and temperament more akin to a mentally unstable toddler than a statesman. Huckabee may have been dangerous, but even he was manageable. He had limits. I wonder how manageable Donald Trump will be, from the left or the right. I suspect even diehard Republicans, when they are done cheering for their victories in the Congress and their defeat of the much-hated Hillary Clinton, will brush the sleep from their eyes in a few days, and realize what their policy hath wrought.

It is the nature of Americans to be optimistic, to hold out hope for the best in people and make lemons out of lemonade. Fight the good fight, and win or lose, move onto the next one. There is honor in the battle, whatever the outcome. I suspect we will all do that, if not tomorrow, eventually. Maybe not all of us, and maybe not soon. I have serious doubts now for myself.

There has never been a more somber, sobering and frightening time in my adult life. Not the Cold War. Not 9/11. Those were forces from outside that seemed to threaten our survival.

These threats — those of fellow citizens endorsing a hollow candidate with no concrete, constitutional ideas — come from within. Millions of our fellow Americans watched as Donald Trump mocked the disabled, made inane promises, threatened his opponents, disparaged women, committed sexual assault, lied about everything from anti-American protests to his taxes, bred race-hatred and McCarthy-esque suspicions about our fellow Americans.

And they voted for him. They said, “We trust you.”

I have my doubts about that. I don’t think this was about trust. I think this was about animosity toward the opposition. Hillary Clinton didn’t lose this election last night — she lost the moment Obama won in 2008, when the GOP resolved to undermine him at every turn and sow seeds of contempt and conspiracy, mount racial divides and whisper campaigns. They spent eight years priming the pump for a coup. And they won while we all looked on, mouths agape, cattle in the abattoir, lining up brainlessly, uncomprehending of what was happening.

The small bright spot seems to be that Clinton apparently received more popular votes than Trump. That’s cold comfort (ask Al Gore), but it does give me a pinhole of light to stare at. Sometimes you have to experience the scourging to appreciate the salvation.

I still believe in hope. I have to. But I’ve never felt such ennui about my fellow citizens. “Apres moi, le deluge,” the monarch said.

Better grab a towel.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

City of Orlando buying Pulse nightclub


In this photo from the Orlando Sentinel, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lays a bouquet of roses at the makeshift memorial to the Pulse victim, shortly after the shooting.

The city of Orlando has reached a deal to buy the Pulse nightclub and will turn the site into a permanent memorial to the 49 people killed and 53 injured when a gunman walked into the club in the early morning hours of June 12 and opened fire with a semiautomatic, assault-style rifle.

The massacre was the deadliest mass shooting committed by one person in U.S. history. The gunman was killed by police.

The city has agreed to pay $2.25 million for the club, and Mayor Buddy Dyer told the Orlando Sentinel the city won’t be rushing to change the club, which has become a gathering place for mourners — both locals and visitors.

“There are lots of people that are making a visit to the site part of their trip, part of their experience of Orlando, so I think 12 to 18 months of leaving it as-is would be appropriate,” Dyer told the newspaper.

Many of those who have visited the site since the shooting have left behind photos, notes, stuffed animals and more. The Orange County Regional History Center has collected many of the items to preserve them. A black chain-link fence had surrounded the club since right after the shooting. The city removed that fence in September, replacing it with a new barrier placed further back from the road and wrapped in a screen featuring images created by local artists.

The mayor also said city officials will be asking the community for ideas on what form the memorial should take, and that they haven’t ruled out the possibility of leaving at least some part of the site intact — for instance, the roadside sign bearing the “now-iconic” Pulse logo.

Dyer said the ultimate goal is to “create something to honor the memory of the victims that are deceased [and] those that were injured, and a testament to the resilience of our community.”

The sales contract with the city was signed Friday by Rosario Poma, who owns the club with his wife, Barbara. Orlando’s City Council, which has the final say on the deal, will weigh in on it next week. Barbara Pomo opened in the bar in 2004 and named it Pulse in honor of her brother, John, who died of AIDS in 1991.

Below is video from the city of Orlando website of Mayor Buddy Dyer explaining the decision to buy the site:

—  Tammye Nash

Early voting starts today


As of the morning of Thursday, Oct. 13 — two days after the cutoff to register to vote on Nov. 8 — 15,015,700 Texans were registered to vote, according to Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos. That is, Cascos said, about 78 percent of Texas’ estimated voting age population of 19,307, 355 people (a population estimate that includes people not eligible to vote, such as non-citizens and convicted felons who have not fully discharged their sentences).


And today, those 15-million plus registered voters can start going to the polls for early voting.

When you vote early, you can go to any early voting location in the county in which you are registered to cast your ballot. Be sure to carry your photo ID and your voter registration card with you. But if you don’t have one or either of those items, go anyway. At least cast a provisional ballot.

In Dallas County, polls are open for early voting from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. today through Saturday, Oct. 29; from 1-6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, and again from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31-Friday, Nov. 4.

Over in Tarrant County, the polls are open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. today through Friday, Oct. 28; from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31-Friday, Nov. 4.

Live in Collin County? Ellis County? Johnson County? Kaufman County? Rockwall County? Denton County? Wise County? Parker County?

Wherever you live, your early voting locations and times should be posted online. If all else fails, check with the Texas Secretary of State.

And if you choose not to vote early, then vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Support your candidate. Vote your conscience. Vote.


The line at the Grauwyler Recreation Center polling location went out the door and around the building on Monday morning, Oct. 24, the first day to vote early in Dallas County. (Chad Mantooth/Dallas Voice)

—  Tammye Nash

WATCH: Chelsea Clinton discusses LGBT rights

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetThe Democratic National Convention ended last Thursday night with Hillary Clinton’s gay-inclusive speech, but that’s not the end of the discussion of how gay rights will figure into the election. Logo TV reporter Raymond Braun sits down with former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton to discuss her input into her parents’ evolution on gay rights. It’s just seven minutes, so settle in for some insight by clicking here. Or check it out below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: Tarrant County DNC watch party

Photos from the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats party watching Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech on Thursday, July 28 at Tommy’s on Camp Bowie.

—  David Taffet

History is made: DNC officially nominates Hillary Clinton for president


Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton

The Democratic National Convention has just made history, nominating former First Lady, former U.S. Sen. and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president of the United States of America. Fifteen votes from South Dakota put her over the top.

Clinton is the first woman to be nominated for president by a major political party.

The count ended with Sen. Bernie Sanders moving to suspend the rules and nominate Hillary Clinton by acclamation as the Democratic candidate for president. Final delegate count (not counting super delegates) is  Clinton, 2,842; Sanders, 1,865, with 56 delegates not voting. Go here to see how the final delegate count played out.

—  Tammye Nash

Video of protests outside the DNC

Michael K. Lavers of the Washington Blade is one of several LGBT reporters in Philadelphia this week covering the Democratic National Convention. Their coverage is provided courtesy of the National Gay Media Association to NGMA members. Below are two videos Lavers filmed on Monday, July 25, the first day of the convention.

Bernie Sanders supporters on Monday protested outside the Wells Fargo Center in which the Democratic National Convention is taking place.

Thousands of protesters on Monday marched from Philadelphia City Hall to the site of the Democratic National Convention, with Bernie Sanders supporters prominent among them.

—  Tammye Nash

Clinton, Sanders respond to 2016 presidential HIV/AIDS questionnaire

Bernie Sanders and Hillary ClintonIn February, a coalition of more than 50 AIDS and HIV service organizations, including AIDS Arms and Houston’s Legacy Community Health, sent a survey to presidential candidates from both parties to assess their stances on HIV/AIDS policies and initiatives. Candidates were question on their positions on HIV stigmatization laws, research funding and needle exchange policies.

Of the five candidates still in the race, only the two Democrats — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — have responded.

In general both support policies supported by HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention advocates. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of policy, Clinton shines.

On the issue of ending HIV criminalization laws, here’s Clinton’s take:

As President, I will work with advocates, HIV and AIDS organizations, and Congress to review and reform outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws — and I will call on states to do the sameI will continue to aggressively enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws to fight HIV-related discrimination. And I will ensure that my Administration releases the latest facts about HIV transmission and risk behaviors to counter unnecessary laws and work to educate prosecutors about the latest science of HIV to reduce unnecessary charges against people with HIV that are not scientifically valid. 

Here’s Sanders’ take:

We should continue and expand the policies that are working. The United States has clearly come a long way in its attitudes towards sexual orientation, gender identity, and health status, but there is still a long way to go. We must ensure that health providers, social services, law enforcement, and all other entities have proper resources and training to handle the varying needs of the community they serve. Schools must be giving students age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education. I echo the Strategy’s recommendation that all Americans should have access to scientifically-accurate information regarding HIV infection. For starters, I would direct FDA to update its blood donation policy. The recent update was a step in the right direction, but a blanket one-year ban is still not supported by science. I have joined other Members in asking FDA to implement a risk-based policy for all donors.

Click here to read Clinton’s complete response. Click here to read Sanders’ complete response.

For what it’s worth, the coalition is still happy to receive responses from remaining GOP candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, businessman Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. In absence of a response, however, the coalition reviewed campaign literature, speeches or other positions of the candidates but found no information directly related to HIV/AIDS issues addressed in the survey.

—  James Russell

Caitlyn Jenner: Hillary Clinton only cares about herself

Screen shot 2016-03-09 at 1.16.20 PMAnd here’s today’s news post from Caitlyn Jenner’s Fantasyland: The woman who just days ago was blathering on about how Ted Cruz is an intelligent, articulate man and a great constitutionalist, and she wants to be Cruz’s “ambassador” to the transgender community — is now making headlines for making sure we all know that Hillary Clinton doesn’t care about women.

According to MSNBC, Jenner got into a “heated argument” with “one of her peers” during the season premiere of her “reality show,” I Am Cait, and in that argument Jenner declared: “If we’re unfortunate enough to get Hillary as our next president, we need her on our side, [but] she won’t be. She couldn’t care less about women, she only cares about herself.”

I am pretty sure Hillary Clinton’s record on women’s issues speaks for itself. Democrats may be arguing amongst themselves about whether Sanders or Clinton is better on civil rights issues — including equality for women and for LGBT people — and about which one of them has the best policies on the economy, terrorism, world affairs, etc. But Caitlyn Jenner may very well be the ONLY person in the country who would say that Cruz is better than either Democratic on civil rights for anybody.

Let me just speak plainly: Before she transitioned, Caitlyn Jenner lived as a white man swaddled in wealth and privilege, famous for long-ago being an outstanding athlete and for currently being a part of that train wreck known as the Kardashian family. Nobody was chasing Bruce Jenner down to seek his political wisdom. Since her transition, Jenner is a white woman swaddled in wealth and privilege, famous for being a part of that train wreck known as the Kardashian family, for transitioning publicly and, now, for saying absolutely asinine things about politics and presidential candidates.

Everyone, including Caitlyn Jenner, is entitled to their opinion. But maybe if you are gonna put yourself out there as some sort of representative for a particular community or as a political pundit, you should educate yourself a little better. And I am talking about “real-world education,” not “privileged white Republican living in a bubble” education.

—  Tammye Nash

A report from the campaign trail

Sanders wins more primaries this week, but Clinton gets more delegates; Kasich waffles on ‘religious freedom’ laws


Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

The Democratic presidential candidate who appears to have the most LGBT support narrowly lost a major primary Tuesday, March 8, to the Democratic presidential candidate who boasts the most consistently pro-gay record.

The only Republican presidential candidate who has encouraged business owners to respect LGBT people appeared this week to back off that position. And to this mix, add the Republican frontrunner’s new rally feature: asking participants to raise their hands and “solemnly swear” to vote for him and saying, “Bad things happen if you don’t live up to what you just did.”

Wins vs. delegates

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders picked up a surprise win in the Michigan primary Tuesday, as did Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

Polls leading up to Tuesday gave Democrat Hillary Clinton the advantage in Michigan. She appeared to have had significant support from the LGBT community in Michigan. Gay philanthropist Jon Stryker, head of the Kalamazoo-based Arcus Foundation, contributed heavily to political action committees supporting Clinton. LGBT organizers in Royal Oak on Sunday hosted former President Bill Clinton. And Michigan LGBT newspaper publisher Susan Horowitz said she supports Clinton.

But of the six states that held Democratic balloting between Saturday and Tuesday, Sanders won Michigan and three others (Kansas, Maine, and Nebraska) and Clinton won two (Louisiana and Mississippi). That kept up a general trend, so far, of Sanders winning in the northeast and Midwest, and Clinton winning in the south.

Though Clinton won fewer states in the past week, she picked up more delegates (152 to Sanders’ 136) and is now more than halfway to securing the 2,383 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. Sanders is 24 percent of the way.

While Trump is the Republican frontrunner, he has only 37 percent of the 1,237 delegate votes needed to secure the nomination. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has 29 percent, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has 12 percent, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has 4 percent.

Unless Kasich and Rubio can pull off victories in their home states next Tuesday, March 15, the Republican contest could soon be a two-man race.

But Trump continues to lead in most of the remaining polls — including in Florida and Ohio — and maintains the lion’s share of media attention.

That continued this week when Trump began asking rally participants to swear an oath to him, unleashing open discussion of a concern that Trump’s rhetoric and tactics are reminiscent of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Trump has also had security personnel to remove protesters from his rallies.

Abraham Foxman, a former head of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Times of Israel, “As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America.”

Trump called on his audience to make the pledge in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, March 5, and Concord, N.C., on Monday, March 7. Photos from the events show some people holding their hands up in a classic pledge pose, with their forearms perpendicular to their upper arms. But many held their arms straight out from their bodies in a pose reminiscent of Hitler’s salute.

Asked about it by various television news reporters, Trump said the oath was just “for fun” and that his audiences were beckoning him to “do the swear in.”

Kasich waffles

Republican Party leaders are distraught over the seeming likelihood that Trump will win the nomination and many have been throwing their support behind Rubio and Kasich. Anecdotal information suggests LGBT Republicans are getting behind Kasich, too.

Many LGBT Republicans were pleased with Kasich’s remarks during a Feb. 25 debate in Houston about the refusal of some to do business with same-sex couples.

“If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with — OK, ‘Today, I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced’.

“If you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce,” Kasich in Houston. “That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave [the shop] and hope they change their behavior.”

But during the latest debate on March 3, Fox News reporter Bret Baier said “some faith leaders got nervous about that answer” and asked Kasich “Do gay marriage dissenters have rights?”

Suddenly, Kasich seemed to waffle. After rambling about trying to be “a man of faith every day as best as I can,” he then restructured the conflict into one that gay couples were causing.

“Look, you’re in the commerce business, you want to sell somebody a cupcake, great, OK? But now they ask you to participate in something you really don’t like — that’s a whole ’nother issue, OK? Another issue,” Kasich said.

He reiterated that he didn’t agree with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage and that he favors “traditional marriage, a man and a woman.”

“If you go to a photographer to take pictures at your wedding, and he says, ‘I’d rather not do it,’ find another photographer. Don’t sue them in court,” said Kasich. “You know what the problem is in our country? In our country, we need to learn to respect each other and be a little bit tolerant for one another.”

“…At the end of the day, if somebody is being pressured to participate in something that is against their deeply-held religious beliefs, then we’re going to have to think about dealing with the law,” Kasich said.

At that same debate, Baier then asked Cruz, “Do you believe a gay couple should be able to adopt?” (This was four days before the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order that said Alabama had to accept an adoption approved in Georgia for a same-sex couple.)

Cruz said, “Adoption is decided at the state level, and I am a believer of the 10th Amendment in the Constitution. I would leave the question of marriage to the states. I would leave the question of adoption to the states.”

On Monday, a voter in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., confronted Kasich about his revised position. According to the Washington Post, the voter “asked if the governor would stand for the rights of gay people to be served just as Lyndon Johnson had stood for the rights of black people.”

The Post said Kasich “tried to pull [the voter] over [to his side] by portraying the religious liberty fight as one good people could agree not to have.”

“Don’t make laws until you think you need to,” Kasich said, according to the Post. “Let’s take a deep breath and see if we can get along. … If common sense doesn’t prevail, we can pass a law.”

He did not, apparently, identify which law he would want to pass.

Reacting to Kasich’s remarks, the Clinton campaign Twitter feed posted a graphic of a smiling Clinton against a rainbow background with the message “Marriage equality is the law of the land — Deal with it.”

Coming up

The race for the nomination in both parties now rushes into the District of Columbia (Saturday, March 12) and five delegate-heavy states: Illinois, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri.

The Clinton Twitter feed, @HillaryClinton, has been posting numerous LGBT-related messages. A March 4 post says, “Today, nearly 100 #LGBT leaders from all across Illinois announced their support for @Hillary Clinton.”

The list includes State Rep. Kelly Cassidy; Chicago Aldermen James Cappleman, Ray Lopez, and Deb Mell; Community Leader Bernard Cherkasov; long-time activist Rick Garcia; and NGLTF Creating Change Co-Chair Kenny Martin-Ocasio.

A March 5 post says, “We should be supporting LGBT kids — not trying to change them. It’s time to end conversion therapy for minors.” And a March 6 video showed same-sex couples together, with Clinton saying that “I’m running for president to stand up for the rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans.”

© 2016 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  Tammye Nash