A gay president?

Is it wrong that one of the things I have loved about Buttigieg’s campaign is just how peripheral his gayness has been since the very initial “look, gay man running for president” phase.  He’s got all sorts of attention– mostly for his smarts and thoughtfulness and almost none of it for being gay.  To me, that’s huge progress.  He’s a bright, thoughtful guy and skilled politician, who just happens to be gay.  We don’t have to define him by that.  Sadly, for some they do.  Frank Bruni’s latest newsletter is great on this:

More on Mayor Pete
The debate about Buttigieg’s gayness arose principally from this column in Slate, which included the following paragraph:

“A marginalized sexual orientation can remain unspoken and unnoticed for as long as a queer person desires. A gay man who conforms to a critical mass of gendered expectations can move through life without his sexuality attending every interaction, even after he comes out. Buttigieg, for instance, would register on only the most finely tuned gaydar. Most people who are aware of his candidacy probably know he’s gay, but his every appearance doesn’t activate the ‘Hey, that’s that homosexual gentleman’ response in the average brain. That doesn’t mean he’s not gay enough — there’s really no such measure. It just means that he might not be up against quite the same hurdles that a gay candidate without such sturdy ties to straight culture would be.”

The author is asserting that Buttigieg, 37, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., doesn’t come across as particularly gay, meaning . . . what? That he lacks stereotypical mannerisms? That his voice isn’t high-pitched? I’m kind of floored, because I and other gay people around my age (54) or older spent most of our lives educating people about the bigotry and inaccuracy of those very stereotypes and trumpeting the message — the truth! — that gay people can be every bit as buttoned-down and strait-laced as, well, Pete Buttigieg! Now his divergence from those stereotypes is deemed remarkable and in need of dissection? Strange days indeed.

Also, I guarantee you that Buttigieg’s adherence to “a critical mass of gendered expectations” and failure to “activate” the homosexual-alert siren don’t mean that being gay has been incidental to his life and is incidental to his perspective. That he didn’t come out until he was 33 is all the proof you need that he wrestled privately with his sexual orientation and with fears about how the world would respond to it and to him.

And when I first met and interviewed him nearly three years ago, this is how he argued that Democrats should reclaim the word “freedom” from Republicans, who have tried to reserve it for their brand:

“You’re not free if you have crushing medical debt. You’re not free if you’re being treated differently because of who you are. What has really affected my personal freedom more: the fact that I don’t have the freedom to pollute a certain river, or the fact that for part of my adult life, I didn’t have the freedom to marry somebody I was in love with? We’re talking about deep, personal freedom.”

He sounds sufficiently gay to me. His powers of empathy seem plenty informed by his sexual orientation. And we need to stop making assumptions about how well someone can understand and address what minorities go through based on his or her looks or vocal inflections or anything of the sort. That’s the quintessence of prejudice. And it’s the antithesis of enlightenment.

Also, just yesterday my wife asked me if I thought we could actually have a gay president.  I would say “it depends” and if we were to, it would surely be somebody like Buttigieg, who clearly does not put his gayness front-and-center (and, really, do most straight people put that front and center?).  Anyway, some pretty interesting polling data on this from NBC:

A majority of Americans say they’re just fine with a gay candidate.

A combined 68 percent are either enthusiastic (14 percent) or comfortable (54 percent) with a candidate who is gay or lesbian.

What’s more, that jump isn’t just due to increasing tolerance among the younger voters whom Buttigieg, a millennial, can claim to represent.

The share of those younger than 35 who say they’re enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay candidate increased by 28 percentage points between 2006 and now, jumping from 47 percent to 75 percent.

And, while seniors are more likely to voice reservations about gay candidates, a majority (56 percent) now say they have no objections. That’s up from just 31 percent in 2006.

Honestly, I suspect those numbers are inflated by social desirability bias, i.e., in 2019 America some people will be reluctant to express anti-gay thoughts, regardless of their actual beliefs, but nonetheless very interesting.  Also, would love to have seen these numbers broken down by party.

And, no, I don’t think Buttigieg will be the nominee, but this is a man with a real political future.

Republicans really do want to take your health care away

And it’s kind of amazing because that is so politically unpopular.  So their solution has generally been to just lie, lie, lie.  Seriously, I know that sounds harsh, but that’s the reality.  Every time a Republican politicians goes out there and says that they are for protecting pre-existing conditions but refuses to actually support any of the related complex policy that makes that policy possible, they are flat-out lying.  But they do it time and time again (in large part, because so many journalists really don’t understand policy and let them get away with it).  And, some are telling themselves that they aren’t really lying because they support regulations that protect your pre-existing conditions if you move directly from one insurer to another with no breaks.  And only then.  But that is certainly not how most Americans understand pre-existing condition protection.

Anyway, Krugman is good on this:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and Republican claims about health care.

O.K., it’s not news that politicians make misleading claims, some more than others. According to a running tally kept by Daniel Dale of The Toronto Star, as of Monday morning, Donald Trump had said 4,682 false things as president.

But G.O.P. health care claims are special, in several ways. First, they’re outright, clearly intentional lies — not dubious assertions or misstatements that could be attributed to ignorance or misunderstanding. Second, they’re repetitive: Rather than making a wide variety of false claims, Republicans keep telling the same few lies, over and over. Third, they keep doing this even though the public long ago stopped believing anything they say on the subject. [emphases mine]

This syndrome demands an explanation, and I’ll get there eventually. Before I do, however, let’s document the things that make G.O.P. health care lies unique…

But Mulvaney’s pre-existing conditions lie, along with his lie about nobody losing coverage if the lawsuit against Obamacare succeeds, was normal by G.O.P. standards. Which brings me to the second reason this particular form of lying is exceptional: Republicans just keep telling the same lies, over and over. Again and again they have promised to maintain coverage and protect pre-existing conditions — then offered plans that would cause tens of millions to lose health insurance, with the worst impact on those already suffering from health problems…

So what’s behind the persistence of R.H.L.S. — Republican health care lying syndrome?

Well, public opinion here is clear: Americans want everyone to have access to health care. There isn’t even that much of a partisan divide: An overwhelming majority of Republicans don’t believe insurance companies should be allowed to deny coverage or charge more to those with pre-existing conditions.

But there are only two ways to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and both are anathema to conservative ideology.

One is to have taxpayers pay the bills directly, which is what Medicare does.

The other combines regulation and subsidies. Insurance companies must be prohibited from discriminating based on medical history — a prohibition that must include preventing them from issuing bare-bones policies that will appeal only to those in good health — but that won’t do the job by itself. Healthy people must also be induced to sign up, to provide a good risk pool, which means subsidizing premiums for those with lower incomes and, preferably although not totally necessary, imposing a penalty on those without insurance.

If the second option sounds familiar, it should. It’s what countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland do; it’s also a description of, you guessed it, Obamacare.

But Republicans cannot admit that the only way to protect pre-existing conditions is to emulate Democratic policies. The party of Eisenhower, or even the party of Nixon, might have been able to do such a thing, but the party of Fox News cannot.

Nor, however, do Republicans dare admit that they have no interest in providing protection that a vast majority of voters demands. So they just keep lying.

You may, by the way, have heard talk about G.O.P. members of Congress opposed to Trump’s new health care push. But they share his goals; they’re just questioning his timing. The whole party still wants to take away your health care. It just hopes to get through the next election before you find out.

In all the recent reporting on Trump’s most recent lies about giving us better health care, what really frustrates me is how the reporting doesn’t basically scream out “he said this already and we got nothing with a Republican Congress.  The idea that now Trump and Republicans have something better than ACA for less money cooked up is as fantastical as the idea that wind turbines cause cancer.  And it should honestly be reported as such.

Where Congress is really unrepresentative

So, I was covering religion and public opinion in class yesterday and was somewhat surprised how little my students knew about Evangelical vs. mainline, etc., but it proved to be a great teaching opportunity that led to some really good class discussions.  One of the big take-aways was the growth in the number of secular Americans with no religious affiliation.

Anyway, somewhat randomly last night, then, I came across this Pew Report that looked at the religion of those in Congress versus the American public.  And, whoa, are Christians way over-represented and unaffiliated way under-represented:

Christians overrepresented in Congress

Also, for what it’s worthy I strongly suspect a good number of those “Christians” (especially of those “unspecified/other”) are actually “unaffiliated” but have decided that they best be “Christian” for running for office.

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