The Democratic LGBT Debate Is an Unhelpful Stunt

(Tyrone Siu/REUTERS)
The event is bound to be performative, not productive.

On March 19, news broke that Democratic presidential candidates will participate in a special debate exclusively focused on LGBT issues in October, right as the election heats up. According to progressive gay-news site The Advocate, this forum will focus on “on the lives and rights of LGBTQ people” and offer “a chance to educate the potential next president” on “the challenges still facing queer Americans.” This might sound nice to some, but it’s a miserable idea.

Like much of what’s pushed by progressive LGBT advocates, this forum is a purely symbolic gesture that exemplifies the natural consequences of identity politics run amok. Pleasant buzzwords aside, an LGBT-only presidential debate is entirely pointless and only serves to distract from more pressing issues. Worse, it inflates the reputation of hyper-partisan gay-advocacy organizations that often do more harm than good.

What exactly would be debated? It’s hard to imagine any potential Democratic challenger offering a dissenting viewpoint on issues like gay marriage or transgender inclusion in the military. If anything, this “debate” will likely devolve into a revolving cycle of virtue-signaling agreement, with each candidate competing to sound more sympathetic to the gay plight than the others. That’s not productive — it’s performative.

Indulging such identitarian excesses would come at a cost. After all, there is a finite number of debates to be had during a limited campaign season. So any debate dedicated exclusively to LGBT issues is a debate not dedicated to the opioid crisis, poverty, the national debt, or any of the other countless maladies plaguing our society. In a time when gay-marriage rights are settled law, assigning entire news cycles and presidential forums to “debate” the less significant LGBT issues still in contention seems, well, nonsensical.

Wouldn’t it be more important for Democrats to debate how they’re going to pay for the $93 trillion in “Green New Deal” proposals that many of the candidates have signed on to? Or perhaps they should discuss the merits of the barbaric and wildly unpopular practice of late-term abortion, which several Democratic challengers have recently refused to condemn? The Democratic base is actually somewhat divided on these issues, and could benefit from a debate that would clarify where each candidate stands.

Alas, such issues are certainly not what the party wants to draw attention to. Supporting this distraction disguised as an LGBT debate rewards that very misalignment of priorities that stresses identity politics over actual issues.

In reality, American issues are gay issues, because the biggest problems facing most gay people are the same problems facing most Americans. There’s something fundamentally paternalistic about the notion that gay people need their own special debate, as if the issues everyone else cares about aren’t at the forefront of our lives as well. This isn’t a precedent we want to set. Before long, we’ll have separate Democratic debates for every identity group under the sun — race, and gender, and so on. Will we eventually forgo talking about national issues altogether?

The (self-proclaimed) gay-rights organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC) will co-sponsor this debate, so the forum will also have the consequence of further legitimizing an objectionable group. HRC claims to be a neutral advocate for gay rights and human rights — a noble goal — even describing itself as “the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans.”

But in reality, the Human Rights Campaign is a hyper-partisan propaganda outfit that deserves to be disregarded, not rewarded with prime-time coverage. The group certainly advocates for some laudable causes, such as an end to the anti-gay abuses in Chechnya, Russia, that have seen the death and detainment of dozens. Yet the HRC is essentially an arm of the left-wing movement, outrageously smearing congressional Republicans as anti-gay for their stances on completely unrelated issues such as Obamacare, immigration, and Planned Parenthood funding. They’re so skewed that when the Trump administration unveiled its diplomatic initiative to fight the criminalization of homosexuality globally, the gay-rights group didn’t celebrate the rare moment of bipartisan agreement on human rights — they put out a Twitter thread slamming the president.

Does that sound like an organization that will fairly host an unbiased debate?

It doesn’t seem like that was ever really the intention, anyway. The entire idea of an LGBT-exclusive presidential forum is essentially a PR stunt, meant to signal the party’s supposed pro-gay bona fides without actually having to engage in meaningful debate. If Democrats were actually interested in meaningful conversation on LGBT issues, they’d reach across the aisle to conservative groups — or perhaps even right-leaning gay people — to sponsor a debate about the right way forward for a pluralistic society. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Most Popular


Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More
Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More

What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More
Politics & Policy

But Why Is Guatemala Hungry?

I really, really don’t want to be on the “Nicolas Kristof Wrote Something Dumb” beat, but, Jiminy Cricket! Kristof has taken a trip to Guatemala, with a young woman from Arizona State University in tow. “My annual win-a-trip journey,” he writes. Reporting from Guatemala, he discovers that many ... Read More
White House

Sarah Sanders to Resign at End of June

Sarah Huckabee Sanders will resign from her position as White House press secretary at the end of the month, President Trump announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1139263782142787585 Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, succeeded Sean ... Read More
Politics & Policy

On Painting Air Force One

And so it has come to this. Two oil tankers were just attacked in the Gulf of Oman, presumably by Iran. The United States and China are facing off in a confrontation that is about far more than trade. The southern border remains anarchic and uncontrolled. And Congress is asking: “Can I get the icon in ... Read More