If this were a ballroom competition, most of the candidates would be chopped
On Sept. 20, the Democratic Party held the first presidential candidate forum on LGBT issues in United States history.
Democrats have never needed to court the LGBT vote. LGBT organizers gave up on the Republican Party in 1972, when activists decided they could only hope to influence the Democratic Party. Many of us have continued voting for Democrats even when they devised policies like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. Without a viable third party, the alternative was worse.
Plenty of LGBT activists remain nervous to speak ill of any Democrat. This forum was our first invitation to do so — to ask the candidates our questions, to judge their answers and read them for filth.
Let’s be honest: If this were a ballroom competition, most of the candidates would be chopped.
About half of the candidates tried to disguise their discomfort in front of LGBT people in vain. Joe Sestak said that he’s gay-friendly because he lived in close quarters with gay people during his time in the Navy. Amy Klobuchar began her statement by complimenting Pete Buttigieg for being gay. Marianne Williamson tried to show off by defining LGBTQIA+ twice and telling us just how “fabulous” she thinks we are. Then, she made claims about her role in fighting the AIDS crisis that rivaled Al Gore’s statements about inventing the internet. All three seemed overeager and ill-prepared.
Corey Booker was ready to talk policy, but he was a little too excited to share the stage with a queer man. Booker openly flirted with moderator Zach Stafford. What started as a warm moment between two black men ended up reminding me of that episode of “The Office” when boss Michael Scott kisses gay employee Oscar Martinez to prove he’s not homophobic.
Joe Biden talked down to moderator Lyz Lenz, appearing doddering and sexist. He refused to seriously discuss his record and defended calling Mike Pence “decent.” As Democrats tend to, he acted entitled to our support.
Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate for the Democratic nomination, spoke about the issues with the facility you would expect from a gay politician. His opposition to Medicare for All, however, underscored why I won’t be voting for him: He’s much less progressive than Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.
Warren was the only candidate who performed well. She began her statement by reading the names of the 18 trans women of color murdered in 2019. She created the rarest of all things in electoral politics: a moving moment.
The Democratic Party will be holding another debate on LGBT issues on Thursday, Oct. 10. There are still hard questions that must be asked: What would the candidates do to stop the murder of Black trans women? How would they stop the disproportionate incarceration of queer and trans people of color? What are their plans to end homelessness?
After this embarrassing evening, it’s clear that LGBT people must demand more from the Democrats. The primary season is no time to hold back.