HRC warns of the danger of a second Trump term

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“We have to take him at his word,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson told the Washington Blade Dec. 13 during a discussion about how LGBTQ Americans would be impacted if former President Donald Trump is reelected next year.

“They’re saying exactly what his plans are, out loud: Not only is he talking about a federal ban on gender affirming care, he’s talking about federal ‘don’t say gay or trans’ bills; he’s reigniting his work to stack the courts and federal agencies with anti-LGBTQ+ extremists,” she said. “I think we have to listen carefully to what he says.”

Robinson said this includes Trump’s remarks to Sean Hannity during an Iowa town hall last week in which he denied, to the Fox News host, the charge that he would return to the White House as a dictator, “except for day one.”

Trump is testing the waters to gauge Americans’ appetite for extremism, Robinson said. “This is dangerous, I think, when it comes to our issues — but also when it comes to the broader experiment of democracy,” she said, adding, “That is not a joking matter any way, shape or form to have someone in office that is willing to abuse their power for their own personal gain.”

If reelected, he would pose a fundamental threat to the safety and security of LGBTQ people, Robinson said, as evidenced, for example, by his actions during his first term in office and the officials with whom he would surround himself in a second term.

“This is the guy that supported an insurrection on the United States Capitol and is now facing 91 indictments; this is the guy that in Charlottesville, when there was a racist riot taking place, said that there were good people on both sides; this is the guy that has unabashedly supported the kind of violence — and actually, to be honest with you, unleashed so much of it on our community, due to his violent rhetoric and the rhetoric of his supporters and the people around him,” she said.

“He has unearthed an openness around bias, hate, and discrimination that we haven’t seen in a generation; he’s unearthed folks that are willing to go to Target with an AR-15 because they disagree with a T-shirt; he’s unearthed folks that are willing to call into places and threaten the lives of the people there; he’s unearthed folks who are showing up with guns to drag shows and to libraries because of some brunch and some books,” she said.

Robinson continued, “Because the other thing you’ve got to be clear about is, sure, Donald Trump is a scary, scary person to think of having as president of the United States once again, and the people that he surrounds himself with are equally terrifying.” Names like “Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller; folks that have a history of supporting the the very types of violence that you’re talking about are front of the line.”

“I can’t underscore how dangerous the administration he is contemplating could be,” she said.

Robinson also outlined some of the threats posed by Trump’s potential reelection to the work of government and to the federal judiciary.

Much of this would be perhaps an extension of his efforts during the first term to gut “these federal agencies then put in place extremists at the helm of them to either do nothing and dismantle their ability to be effective in supporting the people of this nation, or to actually do active harm,” she said.

Meanwhile, “he was able to stack the Supreme Court with basically anti-democracy justices that are starting to carry out their will,” Robinson said. “We saw the Dobbs decision come out of the court that he created, [which] overturned Roe v. Wade. We saw the 303 Creative decision that created a legal loophole for discrimination against LGBTQ+ community. We saw them come after affirmative action and student debt relief. They are showing us what they are planning to do.”

Robinson added, “You don’t have to look much further than the words of these very justices,” noting conservative Justice Clarence Thomas’s stated interest in revisiting the court’s protections for same-sex marriage and revocation of sodomy laws. “This is very serious,” she said.

The importance of strengthening democracy

Robinson highlighted multiple ways in which the collective power of the pro-equality majority can — and must — be leveraged in the face of these challenges, and repeatedly stressed the underlying need to strengthen American democracy moving forward.

She pointed to gerrymandered district maps that have awarded disproportionate power to far-right extremists in state legislatures, who are responsible for passing legislation targeting vulnerable communities like trans youth.

“The landscape ahead is rough, because we’ve got to do work to course-correct what’s happening at the state level,” Robinson said, while also doing “work to course-correct what’s happening in the federal government by ensuring that we keep a pro-equality majority.”

“We’ve also got to be thinking about the judiciary branch in a meaningful way,” she added.

Robinson stressed that “The people are on our side. Fundamentally, there are more folks that support human rights, common progressive values than there are that do not.”

“Every day, 2,200 LGBTQ+ Americans are turning 18,” Robinson said. “We’re living in a country where we are going to be a huge voting bloc, a huge constituency, politically — and at the same time, where the practices of a representative democracy might be impaired to the point where our numbers no longer influence our political power,” so, “We have to fix that to actually ensure that this is a representative democracy.”

In some ways, it seems anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian organizations are more powerful than ever. The Alliance Defending Freedom, for example, has close ties with Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson (La.) and backed cases like Dobbs and 303 Creative that delivered major victories for the religious right.

Robinson argued that while these groups “still hold an immense amount of institutional power,” which, for sure, presents major challenges, “when you look at our collective power, they are, in fact, on the decline.”

For example, she said, “the number and proportion of evangelical voters is actually declining, year over year” while “our collective power is increasing, which I think is what’s creating this very crisis that we’re in — you’re up against folks who have held power in this country for the last 400 years.”

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