Trump isn't even faking support for LGBTQ rights this time

Richard Grenell, Trump's gay puppet, appeared silenced on gay rights at the RNC. Trump is cowering in the face of slipping evangelical support.

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Last week, New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman appeared to be trying to undo what she’d done in 2016 when she set an enormously damaging media narrative in place with a shallow, low-on-evidence story she wrote in April of that year, headlined, “Donald Trump’s More Accepting Views On Gay Issues Set Him Apart in the GOP.”

As noted at the time, Trump had already made bold promises to anti-LGBTQ crusaders by that point; Haberman’s entire story was a fallacy.

Now she’s written a new story, headlined, “After Three Years of Attacking L.G.B.T.Q. Rights, Trump Suddenly Tries Outreach.” But even that story last week turned out to be partially wrong, as the outreach she implied didn’t materialize.

Part of the focus of the piece was Richard Grenell, Trump’s former ambassador to Germany, former acting Director of National Intelligence (for a brief moment) and right-wing gay puppet who claims Trump is pro-gay, even as Trump has stripped or fought LGBTQ rights over and over again.

Grenell, now working at the Republican National Committee doing “LGBT outreach,” had done an ad for the Log Cabin Republicans — which endorsed Trump’s re-election in a mind-boggling, pathetic action (which I rebutted in The Washington Post.)

But the timing and topic of Haberman’s piece, published on the day Grenell was to address the Republican National Convention, suggested Grenell would be championing Trump on LGBTQ rights at the RNC when he spoke:

Mr. Grenell, whom Mr. Trump likes in part because he declassified material related to the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russian officials in 2016, appeared in a video released by the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that “represents L.G.B.T. conservatives.” Mr. Grenell, whose praise for Mr. Trump and criticisms of Mr. Biden’s record were deemed dishonest by the Washington Post fact checker, is expected to speak at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.

And yet, if Grenell was set to speak on Trump’s supposed LGBTQ rights achievements, he or someone else decided against it at the last minute. Unlike Black and female speakers who were used to try to soften Trump’s image regarding women and people of color by speaking about Trump supposedly championing their issues, Grenell mostly promoted conspiracy theories about unwarranted surveillance against Trump by President Obama. He also peddled the boilerplate nativist and racist ideas of Trumpism, lauding Trump’s “America First” policies and expressing that he was proud of “being called a nationalist.

But oddly, nowhere in the speech by the man who preposterously championed Trump in the Log Cabin video as the “most pro-gay president in history,” did he state he was gay, let alone say anything about Trump and LGBTQ rights on the stage. This was a far cry from Trump’s 2016 convention, when Peter Thiel, the gay billionaire and Paypal founder, who was used by the RNC to convey an inclusive message, was very clear:

Of course, every American has a unique identity. I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American.

Thiel, who attacked “fake culture wars” and said he disagreed with the GOP’s viciously anti-LGBTQ platform, even took on transgender bathroom bills:

When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?

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Thiel of course made a complete fool of himself because transgender people would in fact become the main target of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ animus. And the line about defeating the Soviet Union is enormously embarrassing in retrospect, considering that Trump has become Vladimir Putin’s apologist, most recently bowing as Russia has reportedly put bounties on the heads of American soldiers.

Nonetheless, that speech was quite a contrast, as was the fact that Trump in his 2016 convention speech pledged to “protect LGBTQ” Americans from a “foreign ideology.” Even though that was in the service of attacking Muslims — Trump was referencing the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, in which the mass murderer was Muslim, though there was no evidence he was connected to any terror group — Trump won plaudits by some sectors of the media and certainly gay Republicans merely by using the term “LGBTQ.”

With Trump behind in polls and needing every vote he can get, you’d think he’d at least be doing the same amount of meager, empty pandering to LGBTQ people. Yet, he didn’t even send out a tweet during Pride month, as he had last year. And as of now he’s not unfurled a rainbow flag at any event, as he did a couple of times in 2016.

These kinds of gestures of course aren’t actually meant for LGBTQ voters as much as they’re meant for suburban women and others who might not feel comfortable voting for a bigot. Trump’s certainly trying to target those voters, including by trying to make them think he’s not really racist because he put so many Black people on the RNC stage.

But Trump is now in a box on discussing LGBTQ issues. Earlier in the summer, several polls showed Trump’s huge support among evangelicals, staunch opponents of LGBTQ rights, beginning to slip. His abominable response to coronavirus had an effect on many, who tend to be older and disproportionately affected by the virus. Some were even shifting to Joe Biden.

Even if, as expected, most of the waverers get behind Trump in the end, a few of them staying home could cost him the election. And there’s evidence that the percentage of voters who are evangelical is actually shrinking. Pew Research told The New York Times the share of these voters has declined by 2 percentage points since 2016, to 15% of the electorate. (And let’s also not forget that Trump has lost his number evangelical hypocrite, Jerry Falwell Jr., to a sex scandal, which could further demoralize evangelicals, causing some to sour on politics at least for a little while.)

So Trump likely believes he can’t even fake support for LGBTQ rights this time around; he’d risk bleeding more evangelical support. Of course, that could all change as this impulsive, unstable man becomes more desperate.

But it’s better if it doesn’t. We don’t need the empty gestures. And American voters should always clearly see the unvarnished hatred of Donald Trump.