President Trump's ban on transgender troops seems to have several origin stories, but the Daily Beast tells us that some of the impetus came from people who still seem to be fighting old battles in the culture war:
According to White House sources, Vice President Mike Pence has been pushing hard for this kind of policy shift in the military, as had senior officials such as chief strategist Steve Bannon....
Another White House official underscored to The Daily Beast how Trump’s latest announcement would play well “with his base” and social-conservative and Christian-right leaders, some of whom—including Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, who remains close with this White House—have advised the president and administration for months to pull the trigger on killing the Obama-era directive.
Mike Pence? Ralph Reed? These people go way, way back -- back to the days when putting an anti-LGBT referendum on a ballot was seen as a surefire way to increase Republican turnout. Those days are gone, a cultural shift that seems to have escaped notice at the White House:
Here is how one administration official justified the move in a quote given to Axios’s Jonathan Swan:
This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin to take complete ownership of this issue. How will blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for reelection in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaigns?
Really? Even Heidi Heitkamp, a Democratic senator up for reelection in 2018 from a very conservative state (North Dakota), isn't sweating it:
Republicans -- and not particularly moderate ones -- are criticizing the ban: Senators John McCain, Joni Ernst, Richard Shelby, and Orrin Hatch, as well as Ken Buck in the House.
I don't want to downplay the contribution of Bannon, who, unlike Pence and Reed, seems to live in the present. When Bannon edited Breitbart, the site regularly targeted transsexuals:
“World Health Organization Report: Trannies 49 Xs Higher HIV Rate” A December 2015 article by Austin Ruse, using a slur for transgender people in the headline, argued that a public health study on sexual health in the transgender community was actually a warning about “how dangerous it is to become ‘transgender.’” The site called it a rebuke to “the ‘transgender’ narrative that is sweeping American culture.”
Bannon employed Ben Shapiro, whose shtick includes publicly baiting transsexuals. Bannon also employed Milo Yiannopoulos, who once outed a transsexual student during a campus speech. And on a Breitbart radio show in 2016, Bannon himself attacked Target for its stance on restroom use by transsexuals:
The program’s host, Stephen Bannon, contended that rather than being inclusive, Target is “trying to exclude people who are decent, hard-working people who don’t want their four-year-old daughter to have to go into a bathroom with a guy with a beard in a dress.”
This may be Bannon's own loutishness. It may also derive from a belief that transsexual-bashing appeals to the empathy-challenged young yobs who read Breitbart and back Trump. And Bannon may also be seeking to emulate homophobic Eastern Bloc role models such as Vladimir Putin.
But the other drivers of this policy seem to be living in an earlier era.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog