Desperate GOP viciously targets LGBTQ people for 2024
Running out of issues and facing energized Democrats, Republicans are further demonizing queer Americans, in the states and nationally, including in the promotion of Project 2025.
The more desperate the GOP becomes, the more it turns to dangerous, hateful rhetoric and policies. That’s why, even when they’re weak, you can never underestimate Republicans and the MAGA cult.
We see that right now in the focus on immigration, complete with white supremacist ideology pushed—replacement theory—and harsh, extreme policies that most Americans do not support. And it’s the same with regard to LGBTQ rights, with a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills—275—already introduced in the states in January alone.
The desperation is clear heading into the 2024 elections: the economy is booming, so they’ve lost that talking point; abortion rights and the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe are powering Democrats, as is the threat to democracy and the horror of January 6th; and Donald Trump has problems within his own party coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire, with Republicans divided and at least half of those who voted in those contests viewing him as extreme, while Nikki Haley fights on.
The ramping up of the immigration issue never works for the GOP in a general election. Indeed, it backfired on Trump and the GOP in 2018, in 2020, and in 2022. It only makes their rabid base more rabid, and that fires up the opposition further. Nonetheless, it is horrible rhetoric that demonizes people and leads to violence. We’ve seen it all too often.
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Similarly, with marriage equality supported by the majority of Americans and with most Americans favoring rights for transgender people, attacking LGBTQ people is not a winning formula in the end.
The most recent proof of that was the crashing and burning of Ron DeSantis and his “anti-woke” agenda. Not only did Moms for Liberty-backed candidates—running on the policies of book banning, anti-drag laws, and attacks on trans teens that emanated from the now-crumbling Florida-born movement—lose races across the country in 2023, but DeSantis himself couldn’t get traction by attacking “wokeism” even within the Republican primary race, eventually dropping out.
But as we’ve seen with the GOP always coming back to Trump even when he loses elections for them, Republicans just can’t quit hate. They’ve got nothing else. And, with gerrymandering having grabbed them a lot of power but coming with the price tag of keeping them straightjacketed by their base, GOP lawmakers have to do what the most extreme Christian nationalists who elected them demand.
An analysis by the ACLU reports that a record 510 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in the states in 2023. Democrats, LGBTQ activists, and progressives did an enormous amount of work fighting against them, and only 75 of those bills became law, including 21 that restricted gender-affirming care for youth. (And many of the bills were struck down in federal court, including the anti-drag bills.) But that is 75 too many, targeting an oppressed group, harming kids, and using them as a political football, spreading disinformation. And again, it leads to horrendous violence, as we saw in the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs in 2022.
Already, the whopping 275 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced this year, only one month into 2024, has broken a record, and most are targeting transgender people:
“Transgender people across the country are enduring a historic and dangerous effort to control our bodies and our lives, fueled by extremist politics with the goal of erasing us from public life,” ACLU attorney Harper Seldin said.
“Taken together, these proposals are a blatant effort to deny transgender people the freedom to be ourselves at school, at work, and the support of the medical care many of us need to live,” he said. “We at the ACLU and our nationwide affiliate network stand ready to defend our freedoms and our families from this baseless assault.”
Republicans in the U.S. House also passed anti-LGBTQ restrictions in 2023 and cut funding to vital programs affecting LGBTQ Americans, including seniors. With their tiny majority in just one chamber, their federal “don’t say gay” bill was dead on arrival in the Senate, but don’t think that they won’t push this hate again in 2024 as they pander to the Christian nationalists who control them and who they need to turn out for Trump.
Trump himself is certainly energizing Christian nationalists on these issues in his backing of Project 2025, the sweeping plan created by the Heritage Foundation and other think tanks as a document for Trump to use in cementing a dictatorship. (LGBTQ activists protested at the Heritage Foundation’s Washington, DC, headquarters over the weekend, letting it be known that there would be a fight.) He needs the Christian nationalist movement to turn out full-force if he has any chance of winning a presidential election. That’s even more clear now that he’s looking weak with other elements of the GOP. As I wrote in November, Project 2025, a blueprint for autocracy that covers all areas of politics and culture, is clear in its intent:
As an example, on sexuality, gender, and LGBTQ issues, Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation, states in the Project 2025 introduction:
“Children suffer the toxic normalization of transgenderism, with drag queens and pornography invading their school libraries.
Pornography, manifested today in the omnipresent propagation of transgender ideology and sexualization of children, for instance, is not a political Gordian knot inextricably binding up disparate claims about free speech, property rights, sexual liberation, and child welfare. It has no claim to first-amendment protection.
[Pornography] purveyors are child predators and misogynistic exploiters of women. Their product is as addictive as any illicit drug and as psychologically destructive as any crime. Pornography should be outlawed. The people who produce and distribute it should be imprisoned. Educators and public librarians who purvey it should be classified as registered sex offenders. And telecommunications and technology firms that facilitate its spread should be shuttered.”
Even if the majority of Americans reject the hate, we have to remain alert and vigilant as the GOP seeks to rule from the minority and pass these detrimental bills, and as Trump will do anything, including promoting violence, to save himself from losing the election.