Trump’s Unsettling Proposal for Gay People and Women

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Who wouldn't give up some silly nanny-government protections in exchange for security against terrorism?
Photo: Darren Hauck/Getty Images

The strangest of many strange aspects of Donald Trump’s new, improved position on how to keep “bad” Muslims out of the United States is that this favorite of homophobes and misogynists is promising to protect LGBT folk and women from terrorists. One of his louder supporters, the anomalous gay voice of the alt-right, Milo Yiannopoulos, wrote about this at his perch at Breitbart.com, arguing that Trump is offering LGBT Americans the only thing that matters.

[D]ecline to bake a cake for some lesbians and you are a heinous bigot. Murder 50 fags and injure 50 more and you’re a tragic victim, probably reacting to islamophobia, whose dad will be invited to stand behind Hillary Clinton at a rally.
There’s no diplomatic way to put it. In this historic announcement, Donald Trump has dramatically overtaken the chronically Muslim-friendly Democratic Party on gay rights…. The right is quickly realising that, thanks to the silence on Islam, it is they and not the left who are destined to safeguard women, gays, and minorities from the barbarians of the East.

As you contemplate this argument, recall that the recently adopted platform of Donald Trump’s party denied LGBT folk any right to marry or adopt children, be guaranteed access to public accommodations and services available to everyone else, or even (in the case of minors) to resist being subjected to the inhumane hoax of “gay conversion therapy.” The GOP depends heavily on a Christian-right constituency group that more or less officially considers LGBT people an abomination to the Lord, and their claims to equality a hated “homosexual agenda.” That’s the party that would control the entire federal government and soon the Supreme Court if the 2016 general election went the way Team Trump wanted it to go. But hey, there’s a silver lining: A President Trump wouldn’t let any of that “equal rights” nonsense get in the way of keeping gay-hating Muslims — apparently, as a matter of probability, more likely than gay-hating Christians to actually kill people — out of the country. That’s the bargain Trump is asking LGBT Americans to accept: Throw away your claims to freedom and equality and I’ll protect you from being murdered, at least by Muslims.

When you think about it, that’s sort of the same bargain Trump is offering women and minorities, too: Throw away “the left’s” paltry support for mere rights and privileges in everyday life in exchange for security against Muslims.

Donald Trump is the nominee of a party that adamantly denies women reproductive rights, legislative mandates for equal pay, or anything like an Equal Rights Amendment; that won’t lift a finger to restore key elements of the Voting Rights Act; and that is fighting a scorched-earth battle to restrict voting opportunities for minorities in the name of the phantom menace of voter fraud. Trump himself has promised to create a Supreme Court that will make the spirit of Antonin Scalia the supreme law of the land. He inflames racial fears at every opportunity, and rejects any accountability for police who murder the people they are supposed to protect just as he rejects any limitations on the use of torture by military or CIA interrogators. And most of all, Donald Trump rejects small tokens of respect for women and minorities as “political correctness.”

In a broader sense, it’s the bargain Donald Trump is offering all of us: more of one thing you want in exchange for giving up freedoms you can probably do without. As my colleague Jonathan Chait recently noted, Trump provides all sorts of Americans with the age-old temptation of authoritarianism: It can protect you from certain threats quite effectively — for instance, in the case of rich people, the threat of redistribution — so long as you don’t mind giving up, or forcing other people to give up, certain rights and democratic norms.

The most maddening thing in Trump’s case is that what he offers most insistently, absolute security against terrorism, is a chimera. No one can with 100 percent assurance promise to “stop” a lone-wolf terrorist with access to high-powered weaponry and a suicide wish from taking innocent people along with him to the afterlife. As Steven Brill put it in an exhaustive analysis of post-9/11 security:

We can’t be right 100 percent of the time. The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces have stopped between three and five dozen plots since 9/11, depending on one’s definition of a plot. [FBI Director James] Comey’s ‘well-oiled anti-terror machine’ has indeed improved our defenses. And the TSA, Customs, the air marshals, and other DHS units have undoubtedly deterred attacks. But we can’t catch everything.

But, in a grand irony, that observation, which any homeland-security expert would quickly echo, is the most “politically incorrect” statement of them all, in the sense that politicians just cannot say it. It is the illusion that absolute security is possible that Donald Trump is exploiting — the hope that enough violence and discrimination against other people will keep Americans absolutely free of the fear of more “breaking news” of a terrorist attack.

That this assurance is inherently fraudulent should be as plain as the fact that revoking legal protections for gay people and women and minorities including Muslims affects everybody’s rights. But Donald Trump has gone very far in presidential politics pretending otherwise. It’s amazing how many people for varying reasons are willing to gamble their country on the proposition that the whiff of authoritarianism emanating from Trump’s campaign is actually a breath of fresh air.