Democrats Gearing Up for “Culture War” Following Trump’s Transgender Ban

“Many of the Democratic senators who face the toughest reelection bids in 2018 are in vulnerable Red districts with traditionally large conservative, Christian populations.”

Donald Trump’s surprise announcement that transgendered people would be banned from serving in the military caught many politicians, and apparently many within the Pentagon, off guard. Already, the move is stirring up a storm. Critics of the ban argue that it is discriminatory and devalues the worth of a specific group of people. Supporters have noted that the military should focus on readiness and argue that transgendered people serving will be a distraction.

Trump’s announcement has an already divided Republican party looking all the more unstable. Many Republicans in Washington and across the country are growing wary of some of Trump’s policy efforts. At this point, repealing and replacing Obamacare appears to be out of the question, and repeal without replacement is not going to happen. These efforts weren’t blocked by Democrats, but instead rogue Republicans themselves. Now, many Republicans are backing away from the transgender demand as well.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department is arguing that LGBT people do not qualify for protection under the landmark Title VII Civil Rights protections. Title VII prohibits the discrimination of people based on an individual’s race, color, religion, or national origin. While Title VII does not specifically mention sexual preferences, the protections have often been extended to the community regardless.

The Trump administration’s surprisingly forceful steps to restrict LGBT rights have stirred up a culture war at a time when Democrats are trying to move away from identity politics. Earlier this week, Democrats unveiled a new economic platform that largely eschewed “identity politics.” Many Democrats have blamed a supposed over-emphasis on identity politics as one of the chief reasons the Democratic Party has fallen out of touch with many Americans.

Just days later, Democrats find themselves facing yet another battle that may unfold along identity lines. And while many Democratic leaders continue to emphasize that they will focus on their economic platform, many have also been quick to criticize Trump and his administration’s moves against the LGBT community.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and Former Vice President Joe Biden have all come out and blasted Trump’s ban. All three have also been linked to the 2020 presidential race. Numerous other Democrat party leaders have blasted the Trump administration for the surprise moves as well.

As someone who supports full LGBT rights, I personally side with many of the positions and comments being put forward by Democrats. And yet, I also can’t help but wonder if this is a simple tactic by Trump to knock the Democratic party off-message.

Many of the Democratic senators who face the toughest reelection bids in 2018 are in vulnerable Red districts with traditionally large conservative, Christian populations. Voters in these areas will be more likely to punish politicians for standing up for LGBT rights. Democrats are going to have to learn how to walk a fine line. Identity-related issues aren’t going away anytime soon and will remain important. This is especially true for groups that are directly impacted by any rights restrictions.

At the same time, many on Main Street America have felt left out and that their own issues are being ignored. Broader economic messages and policies can address this, but it might also create tensions if Democrats and Republicans get locked in more narrow culture battles. So far, however, Democrats are confident that they can both engage in a culture war with Trump and also remain on-message regarding larger economic goals.

Brian Brinker

Brian Brinker is an OpsLens Contributor and political consultant. Brinker has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.

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