Obama tells voters sitting on sidelines in 2018 ‘dangerous’
By JULIE CARR SMYTH
Friday, September 14
CLEVELAND (AP) — Former President Barack Obama delivered a simple message Thursday headed into the fall midterm elections: Vote.
Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand in Cleveland, Obama said the consequences of sitting on the sidelines during November’s midterm elections “are far more dangerous” than in the past.
Without mentioning Republican President Donald Trump by name, Obama said, “This is not normal what we’re seeing. It is radical.” He said a continuation of Republican control in Washington would threaten Medicaid, affordable health care, even democracy.
“On November 6th, we have a chance to restore some sanity to our politics,” Obama said. “We can flip the balance of power back to the American people. Because you are the only check on bad policy, you are the only real check on abuses of power. It’s you and your vote.”
Obama was in closely divided Ohio to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, running mate Betty Sutton, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and the party’s statewide slate. Cordray, who was Obama’s appointee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is locked in a tight contest for governor against Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich is term-limited.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, was in the state Thursday to raise money for DeWine and Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, who is seeking to unseat Brown in the Senate.
In Cleveland, Cordray pledged to the crowd that he and his party would fight for decency, tolerance, inclusion and respectfulness if elected, declaring, “Change is coming.”
Obama drew a contrast between Cordray’s polite — some say boring — style and the president’s. He said many Ohio farmers “have money in their pockets” because of Cordray’s work at the consumer bureau.
“He didn’t try to take credit for it. He didn’t tweet about it. He just did it,” Obama said. “And if you elect him your governor, he will keep working like that — on your behalf.”
Obama said this fall’s elections are more important than any he can remember. “Each time we move in the direction of greater freedoms and greater prosperity for all people, the status quo pushes back. The powerful and the privileged oftentimes want to keep us divided, work to keep us angry and cynical, because that helps them hold onto their power and privilege.”
Republicans rejected Democrats’ arguments.
“2016 is over, but President Obama continues to dismiss the millions of voters across Ohio who rejected a continuation of his policies in favor of President Trump’s plan for historic tax cuts, new jobs and soaring economic growth,” said Mandi Merritt, Ohio spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. “Richard Cordray, Obama’s former regulator-in-chief, would just be more of the same of the outdated Obama-era policies that hurt Ohio families.”
The migration of same-sex couples to the suburbs is shaping the fight for LGBT equality
Assistant Professor of History, The Ohio State University
Clayton Howard does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The Ohio State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the most important case involving same-sex marriage since it became legal in all 50 states.
On its surface, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case looked like it was a contest about discrimination and the meaning of religious liberty.
But the circumstances of the case may actually be more important than the decision.
My research on the history of the postwar United States indicates that Americans should also see this conflict as a consequence of the growing sexual diversity of the nation’s suburbs.
The conflict that led to the case did not just happen in the abstract realm of the law or the court of public opinion. Rather, the conflict happened in a particular place: Lakewood, Colorado, a suburb outside Denver.
Since the 1960s, many Americans have associated openly gay life with urban neighborhoods such as San Francisco’s Castro District or Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
But same-sex couples and transgender people are increasingly living outside of these traditional “gayborhoods.” Many of the national battles over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights have grown out of everyday conflicts between these new suburbanites and their straight-identified neighbors.
The movement of openly gay couples away from older cities defied the perceived connection between heterosexual family life and the suburbs that dates at least to the 1940s.
The federal government played a particularly important role in defining the suburbs as “family friendly” places after World War II. Officials at the Federal Housing and Veterans’ administrations pushed banks to give mortgages to married men with children and forbade them to lend to Americans they suspected of “sexual deviance.”
The 1944 G.I. Bill was the first law in U.S. history to specifically exclude homosexuals from federal benefits, including mortgage assistance.
Realtors promised homebuyers a chance to live in safe neighborhoods away from urban vice. During the 1950s and 1960s, planners and builders designed new communities with few bars or other “moral hazards” and which provided ample space for churches.
Making suburbia ‘family friendly’
Lakewood is in Jefferson County just west of Denver, and it first incorporated as an independent city in 1969.
At the time, local businesses and homeowners worried about attempts by neighboring communities, including Denver, to annex new land. Many middle-class residents of Jefferson County saw themselves as defenders of a particularly suburban way of life that was threatened by annexation from the central city. They identified that lifestyle with low taxes, good schools, racial homogeneity, happy marriages and, above all, the well-being of children.
People attracted to others of the same sex have always lived in the suburbs, but discrimination often meant that most openly gay men and lesbians in the 1940s and 1950s had no other option than to live in older cities.
In the two decades after World War II, urban centers across the country attracted sizable LGBT communities. Nevertheless, life in cities was not necessarily easy, as police in urban centers like Denver tried to close gay bars and clamp down on LGBT life.
This divide between city and suburb started to break down in the 1970s and 1980s. Many Americans in the late 20th century delayed their marriages. States like Colorado made it easier for them to divorce. Government officials also prohibited discrimination in lending to unmarried people.
Sensing an opportunity, developers marketed new apartments to single residents and diversified the suburban housing stock.
In 1970, the number of Americans living in suburbs exceeded the number in central cities for the first time. Places like Jefferson County no longer looked like the suburban stereotypes of white nuclear families and cookie-cutter houses. Whereas, according to the U.S. Census, over 60 percent of households in Lakewood were “married couple” households in 1980, only 41 percent of them were “married couple” households in 2010.
Openly gay and transgender residents were a part of this new suburban diversity.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the gay rights movement challenged many medical, religious and criminal restrictions on homosexuality. This activism opened the door for same-sex couples to legally raise children and, eventually, marry.
After these victories, a largely white, middle-class group of openly gay men and lesbians began moving to the suburbs for many of the same reasons as their straight counterparts.
In 1979, The Advocate, a gay magazine, profiled two men who lived together in a Denver suburb and who finally felt comfortable speaking publicly about their relationship. The magazine noted that the gay couple enjoyed “puttering” around their spacious home and socializing with a group of lesbians from their neighborhood.
This history provides important context for the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
Christian faith versus gay rights
The case involved two men, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who married in Massachusetts in 2012 and organized a reception for their family and friends in their home state of Colorado shortly afterwards.
The couple met with Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, who told them that his religious beliefs prohibited him from designing a cake for gay wedding celebrations.
While Colorado prohibited same-sex marriages, Craig and Mullins filed a formal complaint with the state Civil Rights Commission alleging that the baker had violated a Colorado law that protected citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The commission told Phillips that if he made cakes for opposite-sex weddings, he would need to make them for same-sex couples too. Phillips fought the decision in state court and later appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which this past July ruled in his favor. The court’s majority said that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not respected Phillips’s Christian faith and had not given him a fair hearing.
Cultural collision in suburbia
At the time of their wedding, Mullins and Craig lived in suburban Westminster, Colorado. They would be hosting their reception in a restaurant in nearby Lakewood.
When they got married, Lakewood boasted at least one LGBT-inclusive church and openly gay realtors. In 2011, the census reported that Lakewood had the fourth-highest number of same-sex couples in the state.
Not everyone, however, liked these changes. Studies have shown that same-sex couples and transgender people have faced significant amounts of housing discrimination across the country, and some LGBT people moving to the Denver suburbs have faced violence or harassment.
In 2015, a lesbian couple that included a transgender woman tried to rent a townhouse with their two children in Gold Hill, Colorado, a small town approximately 25 miles outside of Denver. Although the owner initially agreed to lease the home to the couple, she later rescinded the offer after neighbors complained about the possibility of the two women moving in next door.
Phillips, the baker, has described himself as someone who has lived in Lakewood “since before there even was a Lakewood.” He turned away the business of five other same-sex couples before he met Craig and Mullins, including Stephanie and Jeanine Schmalz, who lived in nearby Littleton. Phillips also found support among suburban churches such as Littleton’s Calvary Chapel South Denver.
The confrontation at Masterpiece Cakeshop, therefore, reflects more than a showdown over abstract notions of discrimination and religious liberty. It also reveals an ongoing struggle to define suburban life.
As areas outside central cities grow increasingly diverse, the seemingly trivial setting of wedding cake shops have become important battlegrounds over the meaning of belonging and respect.
Barriers for transgender voters ahead of the 2018 midterm elections
Timothy R. Bussey
Assistant Director for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Kenyon College
Timothy R. Bussey does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Recently, there have been a number of historic firsts for transgender political candidates.
In 2017, State Rep. Danica Roem of Virginia became the first openly transgender person to be elected to a state legislature, and just last month, gubernatorial candidate, Christine Hallquist of Vermont, became the first transgender person to win a major party nomination.
While these accomplishments are a significant sign of change in American politics, transgender people still face challenges in the political arena. One of these challenges is access to ID cards, like a driver’s license or passport, with a correctly updated gender marker (i.e. “M,” “F,” and in some states, “X”), instead of the gender marker that was assigned at birth.
A 2018 report from the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law examines the impact of strict voter ID laws in the upcoming midterm elections. Their analysis reveals that such laws could disenfranchise up to 78,000 transgender people in eight states alone.
To add to this concern, accusations of voter disenfranchisement have already emerged in some high profile races, like Georgia’s gubernatorial election. As such, the crucial question of who is able to cast a ballot looms over this already heated midterm election cycle.
As a scholar of LGBTQ+ political issues, I’ve explained two broad ways that transgender voting rights may be undermined ahead of the 2018 midterms.
Fear of discrimination
Data show that people in the trans community have high levels of civic engagement. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s annual “U.S. Transgender Survey,” over 75 percent of their 27,715 respondents were registered to vote in 2014. Of these, nearly 55 percent voted in the last midterm election.
In comparison, 65 percent of Americans reported they were registered to vote in the 2014 midterm election. According to PBS, only about 33 percent of the general population actually voted.
Yet, for many transgender Americans, the threat of discrimination can create a fear of voting and, in some instances, even registering to vote. This discrimination often takes the form of misgendering (using the wrong pronouns for someone) and deadnaming (using someone’s previous and incorrect name).
In the aforementioned survey of transgender Americans, 3 percent of respondents said that they did not register to vote because they wanted to avoid harassment by election officials. Of those who were registered but didn’t vote, another 3 percent said they wanted to avoid that same situation.
Finally, some people – less than 1 percent of non-voters who were registered – actually reported that they were not allowed to vote, because of their gender identity. These individuals were turned away for one reason or another. Such occurrences could stem from a concern of “voter fraud,” because the picture or gender marker on their ID may no longer be accurate.
Barriers to accurate identification
The trans community face a number of pervasive barriers to obtaining correctly gendered IDs, as shown by the National Center for Transgender Equality’s robust national survey.
For survey respondents who weren’t registered to vote, some reported not having an ID. Others had IDs and social security cards with non-matching names. A small number also thought the state’s voter ID law would stop them from voting. Overall, a total of about 5 percent of respondents didn’t register to vote, because of some issue regarding their identification.
For those who were registered but still didn’t vote, some people had IDs that didn’t match their current name or gender. Others had either a name or gender on their ID that didn’t match their voter registration forms. Finally, some people simply didn’t have the ID card they needed. As such, 5 percent of registered voters didn’t vote, because of these ongoing issues with their identification.
ID laws for transgender people vary by state, and they often involve numerous hurdles. This ranges from restrictions in state law to bureaucratic obstacles involving complex layers of medical, state or federal paperwork. An analysis by the Transgender Law Center shows that fewer than 10 states have laws that allow people to change their gender markers without cumbersome amounts of paperwork and documentation.
For instance, Georgia requires people to submit paperwork detailing specific medical procedures, before they can apply for a correctly gendered ID. In addition to being highly intrusive, this policy is problematic, because each transition is unique and may not include surgical procedures or hormone replacement therapy.
Even when correctly gendered ID cards are available, acquiring one can be too costly. For states that require proof of certain medical procedures, the actual cost of a correctly gendered ID is far more than just a one-time fee. In reality, it encompasses doctor’s visits, prescriptions, and possibly medical procedures. Additionally, access to trans inclusive and competent health care is nonexistent for many, so this may not even be a viable option.
Furthermore, the poverty rate in the trans community is more than twice that of the general adult population, making access simply impossible for many trans people. This cycle of poverty in the trans community can be difficult to escape, as other societal factors like workplace discrimination and harassment impact many in the community.
Why this issue matters
Some of the statistics mentioned above might appear small at first glance. However, it’s important to remember that this large, national survey highlights issues that many in the trans community know too well – that voting while trans can be difficult.
Additionally, the data from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Williams Institute demonstrate just how pervasive this problem actually is. This is especially true, when we consider that there are an estimated 1.4 million transgender people across the country.
To put this into context, the Williams Institute estimates that Georgia alone could disenfranchise about 20,000 transgender voters this November. This alarming estimate is the result of the state’s strict voter ID laws and restrictive policies regarding correctly gendered IDs.
Finally, issues of access to correctly gendered IDs are getting even more attention of late. Just last week, the Department of State created a panic relating to passports for transgender people, and this was preceded by reports that some transgender women were having passports retroactively revoked earlier this summer.
For the trans community to overcome this and other issues, they need more fair and equitable access to the both accurate ID cards and, thus, the polls.