I smothered election night. For months, every waking and sometimes dreaming moment not devoted to my work was consumed by the image of democracy slipping like water between my clenched fists.
The historical imperative of the midterm elections called for a MAGA Republican tsunami victory akin to the tidal wave in Tea Leoni’s “Deep Impact.”
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping us of our basic right to bodily autonomy and threatening to overturn marriage equality and recriminalize homosexuality – which met with the same kind of tisk-tisk backlash to decimate the Voting Rights Act – the path ahead seemed littered with more bodies of murdered and mutilated women, people of color and LGBTQ people who couldn’t fit in a gold glass closet.
Alarmed that the Democratic Party is not reaching out to our many intersectional LGBTQ communities for money, engagement and votes as they have in the past, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to do something thing and persuaded my friend Max Huskins, an equally panicked millennial ally, to create an LGBTQ-targeted YouTube series of candidate interviews and expert political predictions that we would produce in partnership with the Los Angeles Blade.
We didn’t know if our Race to the Midterm series would make a difference – but at least me and Max weren’t.
We interviewed a range of amazing people who immediately understood our mission and wanted to be part of it: our chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Marc González; Palm Springs gay candidate Will Rollins (here and here); Executive Director of Equality California Tony Hoang; major ally candidate Christy Smith (here and here); President of the Victory Fund Annis Parker; Candidate for California Assembly Rick Chávez Zbur; [email protected] coalition CEO Bamby Salcedo; U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-California); Deputy Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition Victoria Kirby; and black, gay, and HIV-positive Dallas candidate Venton Jones; gay military veteran candidates Shawn Kumagai (California Assembly) and Joseph Rocha (California Senate); and the US senator who made history. Alex Padilla (D-California) for closing arguments. (See our series, with additional “advanced”, and the Blade’s political coverage here.)
Regardless of the outcome, I knew we had to have knowledgeable experts explaining what it all means. I asked Drexel Heard, a former black gay executive director of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party who is now a Democratic political strategist, and Kipp Mueller, who ran for state senate in the Santa area. Clarita Valley alongside Christy Smith in her run for Congress in 2020, to share their insights with us after the dust has settled a bit.
I met Kipp while working on Senate Bill 1149, the Public Right to Know Act, co-sponsored by Public Justice and Consumer Reports, led by attorney and professor of legal ethics Richard Zitrin , Kipp’s mentor.
Little did I know that the dust settling mid-run was choking the MAGA Republicans and allowing me, Max, Drexel and Kipp to exhale, exhale, deep breathe, exhale and laugh. At the time we recorded our Zoom session, Democrats seemed likely to retain the Senate and maybe, maybe, if California breaks right – retain the House. What the hell! HISTORY was made in defiance of the Trump cult.
“My honest conclusion is that the GOP is completely lost,” Kipps says in our latest episode. “My honest conclusion is that, despite all the odds being in their favor, they fumbled. It’s amazing to me. And I have some unsolicited advice for the GOP: First, banish Trump. He’s a loser. He loses every time. He lost the popular vote in 2016 when he managed to win the Electoral College. And since then he has lost horribly – every time. And the fact that they don’t see that on the wall blows my mind. He’s a total loser.
“And the second,” he continues, “is to start defending things. To your point on what we can take from this (California Assembly) speakers negotiation and work on it. Well, I have conditions on that. I’m open to that with Republicans. But I have certain conditions — to start proposing solutions; stop being a part of weird scaremongers about litter boxes in school bathrooms. And because they’re not going to survive the 21st century being a bunch of 20th century lunatics, what do they even want? What do they represent, apart from tax cuts for the rich? We know who they don’t like. We know who some of them hate. But what do they even want? I can’t even answer that…
“They are just bullies with no vision right now. And it’s only going to get worse because they might get a slim majority in the House and then they’ll have to bow down to Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Trump. And they will still lose horribly. So my unsolicited advice is to get back to normal.
Max felt that “hopefully the future is looking brighter than expected, at least from our perspective here, because of the millennial turnout and the turnout of Gen Z was pretty damn strong. . Young people showed up at the polls and showed up to vote on important issues that affect all generations.
Their most pressing issue, aside from student loans and climate change?
“Women’s right to bodily autonomy, of course,” says Max. “I think that was one of the drastic social issues we’re facing this time around, that people were motivated to go out and vote.”
“Taking down Roe was a huge motivation for Democrats to come out, for Independents to come out and vote,” Kipp says. But (gay pollster) Nate Silver found that in states where people felt these rights were better protected, it had a less direct impact on turnout and who showed up.
I pointed out to Drexel that Mark Gonzalez and Tony Hoang advocated strongly for Proposition One, which would codify reproductive rights into the California Constitution (it passed).
“I think a lot of people pushed Prop One to take a national stance because California is going, so is the nation,” Drexel says. “So if California takes the big step, it will be at the forefront of voters’ minds. One of the things I’ve said not only on Prop One is about our Democratic message since Dobbs (the case the Supreme Court used to overturn Roe and abortion rights) made it an economic issue, not just an issue of reproductive freedom… We cannot separate Roe v. Wade of its impact on the economy.
“Women make up a large part of our workforce,” he explains. “Obviously, reproductive freedom has a huge impact on how people — how women — are impacted in the workforce, and few other states have family policies like California. “I think we frame the choices. We forget how impacted choices are, not just “Hey, I’m not ready to parent because I’m not ready to parent.” But why aren’t you ready to be a parent? And it’s, in many cases, an economic issue,” impacting a single mom’s life trajectory, like going to college or working and paying for childcare.
These are just a few of the issues we raised in our casual, free-flowing conversation about midterms and what might happen next. My thanks to Drexel and Kipp for the clever fun.
But after finishing the interviews, Max mentioned an Oregon initiative I knew nothing about – Measure 112, “an amendment to the state constitution, removing language that for more than a century has allowed slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime,” according to opb.org.
Wait what? But here is the big problem: since November 13, Measure 112 adopted by 55.53% of the votes, against 44.47 percent opposed. Translation: 945,075 Oregonians voted to remove the language of slavery from the state constitution – but 756,779 Oregonians voted for it DUNGEON the language of slavery!
“Removing language referring to slavery from the Oregon Constitution is a good thing and is long overdue,” state Rep. Travis Nelson (D-Portland) told the OPB. who won the election on Tuesday as the state’s first black and openly LGBTQ lawmaker. “That’s a big number…it’s troubling to me.”
“It was a state that was supposed to be a white utopia and didn’t welcome people who weren’t white,” Nelson added. “Given Oregon’s history, the results of Measure 112 are disappointing, but not incredibly surprising.”
“We have conversations all the time about our Oregon values, and now we know there’s a segment of the population that views slavery as a form of punishment,” said Jennifer Parrish-Taylor, director of advocacy and public policy at the Urban League of Portland. , which supported Measure 112, told the OPB. “It’s a tough conversation, but I think it also reflects the broader national conversation that we’re seeing just in terms of this rise of white nationalism, racial hatred that’s happening, people are feeling more and more isolated and disconnected from each other.”
Democratic Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley has introduced legislation that would address language in the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that provides similar exceptions for slavery as a criminal penalty. “This horrible flaw in our Constitution is a moral abomination that launched the mass incarceration that we see continuing to this day,” Merkley said at a press conference. “[T]there should be no exceptions to the prohibition of slavery.
I know some people in the Deep South still love their Civil War Confederate soldier monuments. But it never occurred to me that so many Northerners would find an excuse for any exceptions to an outright ban on slavery.
We have so much more work to do.