The world looks at America, wondering if it has gone mad. The great bastion of human rights, compassion, and ethics has fallen behind a curtain of bigotry and inconsistency that caused not a few to reiterate the words of Irish Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, saying, “America has just elected a fascist – and I don’t use the word fascist lightly.”1
Pogroms, sometimes in the names of “religion” and “decency” have long been known to accompany Fascism, activities which in the Summer of 2017 may only be beginning with Trump’s ban on transgender troops and the Civil Rights Uniformity Act in House committee.2 The crisis not only exists for the trans demographic and the nation, it’s a crisis within Conservatism as well.
Senator Jeff Flake [R] AZ, is in the process of releasing his book, Conscience of a Conservative. In it he declared a crisis in Conservatism with the 2016 election, and stated that waited till after the election to release the book. He decried how badly the GOP it has strayed from the values that had given strength to Conservatism while denouncing the current trend as destructive. Senator Flake thereby has come on record to seek party reform.3
The need for reform is clear. But like many ideologues, Senator Flake may run the risk of damaging his position in an already schismatic Republican Party.
Wait, the GOP is in schism? Impossible! Ridiculous!
It’s not as farfetched as one may think. In fact this writer observed it in 2008. Evangelical Dominionists have long sought any means possible to enforce its brand of Conservatism. By 1980 we saw a concerted effort to make the GOP the party of the blessed, at least in terms of their own bestowal of “blessing”. That took the form of the leadership of the Evangelical Alliance in the person of Rev. Jerry Fallwell. But virtually every politician since that time has had to cowtow to the Evangelical Alliance and to give at least an appearance of religiosity. In fact much of the social consciousness of the GOP before Fallwell was also instilled by the churches.
It’s a mistake to think that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was only a Democrat issue. Not a few Republicans were on board as well. It passed in a spirit of bipartisanship. The reason was simple. Extending civil rights to Blacks and other minorities was a matter of conscience, not partisan expediency.4 But since that time, the principle driving voice of conscience, America’s churches, has been going through a transformation of its own.
It came with the rise of the megachurch and its most significant examples were in Southern California. This part of America faced a rapidly burgeoning post-war population with new subdivisions of homes being sold for $25,000 in Orange County. Southern California already knew large assemblies of churches like Angeles Temple run by Aimee Semple McPherson. Every year some religious organization would hold a mass convocation at a stadium or convention center, whether it consisted of a Billy Graham Crusade, Campus Crusade for Christ, or any denomination eager to make a splash in their area to assert that they’re here. But a new movement would be underway in the wake of years of Vietnam War protests thanks to the Jesus Freaks, an Evangelical band of hippies endemic to the beach communities.
A Methodist minister, Chuck Smith, responded, his work eventually coalescing in Costa Mesa in the form of Calvary Chapel. It was a hippie chapel back then, holding Christian rock concerts virtually every week. That entity was also quick to cooperate with other large entities rising at the time like Ralph Wilkerson’s Melodyland Christian Center, the Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, and other large entities that would develop in the 1980’s. But Calvary Chapel rapidly expanded, often building churches in deteriorating supermarkets, thereby reversing suburban blight and ultimately gentrifying neighborhoods. Many other groups would rise as well, adopting the Calvary Chapel model.
It had media help too. Paul and Jan Crouch developed Trinity Broadcasting Network, an ambitious system that eventually suffered damage from scandal in the 1990’s but spawned numerous other stations specializing in religious broadcasting.5 Tune a non-cable antenna in Orange County today and most of the over 60 stations feature religious programming.
And virtually every one of them were staunchly Conservative. By the time of Fallwell it was easy to match the new “superchurches” with the radio ministries endemic to the South and Midwest. And, by gum, they could offer their own favorite son from the Disciples of Christ, the “politically pristine” Governor Ronald Reagan.
In time many of the Southern California superchurches would fund and build Trinity Law School in Santa Ana. Trinity’s admission policy was much more open than other law schools in that one wouldn’t need a Bachelor’s degree to be admitted. One could sufficiently pass his LSAT exam for that to happen. A Juris Doctorate from Trinity Law School could be secured in 3 years, but the campus prides itself on integrating its students into legal practice as early as possible including the anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute for whom they dedicated an office on its first floor, conspicuously visible from the lobby.
The union of Southern California superchurches with Southern and Midwestern ministries also would mean aligning with their Dominionists and sympathizers of the Ku Klux Klan which, till David Duke, waited like sleeper cells. Those sympathies began to seek a more common expression after the massacre of the Branch Davidians at Waco. That happened in 1994 when President Bill Clinton had selected Janet Reno as Attorney General. Waco was perceived as religious persecution and persecution of those who sought to assert their 2nd Amendment rights by a conspiratorial government of Democrats; and a woman standing behind the mayhem was perceived as abominable as well.
One who sought revenge for Waco was Timothy McVeigh. His bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1996 was seen by some as part of the uprising against a government that had grown too large and oppressive. McVeigh had become a hero to what would become the Arian Brotherhood who would also ally with the Ku Klux Klan. These would form the core of what would be called, the “Alt-Right”, to use a term introduced by Breitbart, a far Right Internet magazine that did much to stir popular paranoia and who enjoyed respect from the rising Fox News.6
The 2008 election saw the rise of Senator John McCain as a Centrist candidate to run against Democrat Senator Barack Obama. McCain rode high into the Republican National Convention. But not all were eager to accept Governor Sarah Palin for his running mate. Some analysts blamed the Palin nomination for the loss of the White House in 2008.”7 The selection of Governor Palin appealed to Centrists, but not to the Far Right whose support represented not so much acceptance of Governor Palin, but rejection of Senator Obama who was not only Leftist but Black.
Senator Obama won in a Populist reaction against the failed presidency of George W. Bush. But the division among Republicans was palpable. The Centrist, more Libertarian position led by McCain didn’t represent those on the far Right who after the 2008 election rallied behind commentators like Rush Limbough, to build the Tea Party. Initially, the Tea Party represented a broad spectrum of mostly Republicans that included those Libertarian-minded and those who were Ultra-Conservative. The marriage wasn’t a happy one, however. The Tea Party which approached becoming a full bonifide political party in its own right, eventually ostracized the Libertarians.
But in subsequent elections the Dominionist voice gained prominence in the GOP with people like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum. Libertarian Republicans rallied behind Governor Mitt Romney. But his loss made the GOP appear impotent against issues like Obamacare and Common Core. Neither Obamacare nor Common Core represented an overriding issue to the churches.
What did represent an overriding issue was the Democrat support for LGBT rights, the overturning of Proposition 8 in California by the 9th Circuit and the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Obama Administration guidelines for greater acceptance of transgender people brought a popular outcry from Conservative churches who consider LGBT people categorically an abomination whom they wanted to deny the right to exist. LGBT issues became a lynchpin for the rise of voters in the Alt-Right.
Libertarian Republicans like Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Lindsay Graham faced a new trend in 2016. Dominionism was flexing its muscles. Passion and innuendo mattered more than fact if candidates could sling mud as loudly and as often as they could. Nobody understood this better than Donald Trump. His tenor eventually became the tenor of other candidates Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Mike Huckabee. Senator Marco Rubio initially appealed to Centrists, but later adapted the tenor of the Trump campaign as a feature of his own, though doing so backfired.
But 2016 brought another current from Matt Staver of Liberty Council and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Network. Their work focused upon suppression of same-sex marriage and criminalization of transgender people. Liberty Council particularly, sponsored anti-transgender bills in many states, the first to pass being HB 2 in North Carolina. Both worked to put anti-LGBT language in the 2016 Republican Platform.8
Libertarian Republicans faced a similar suppression with the 2016 election like they had in the Tea Party. With Donald Trump, that platform has manifest in much of his policy, but without the carefulness of Centrist rhetoric. Bipartisanism in 2017 largely died. In the Republican mind, what has counted for success or failure of any action has been the cohesion of the GOP. No issue has tested that cohesion as much as civil rights.
We saw that test in the failure of the Prohibition of Department of Defense Medical Treatment Related to Gender Transition, an amendment sponsored by Representative Vicki Harzler [R] MO to go into the Defense Spending Bill. But in July 2017 the amendment died, mostly due to Secretary of Defense James Mattis lobbying against it. But another bill, the Civil Rights Uniformity Act went to subcommittee the same month, a bill specifically designed to strip civil rights provisions from transgender people.9
So in the Summer of 2017 the GOP faces a struggle within itself with transpeople caught in the middle as pawns. On one side is the Evangelical Dominionists’ dominion led by Trump and Pence. On the other is the Neo-Goldwater ideologues whom Senator Flake may well turn out to lead, especially if he proves to demonstrate the stability the religionist Far Right does not. Even if Senator Flake fails to win re-election in 2018 his potential impact among Republicans may turn out to turn many back to the relative Centrism known under Reagan. The real question for us as transpeople is how much of our blood might be shed in this pending partisan war in the meantime. That is a major unknown. We could conceivably find ourselves backed into such a wall, we lose nothing by a Second Stonewall Uprising. Or we might easily find ourselves singing in the spirit of Don McClean’s American Pie:
Those were the days we lived before
The Summer of Seventeen.
They won’t allow transgender troops,
Or any Libertine.
You’re fodder for the brutal force,
Thanks to MS-13;
When scientists are “terrorists”,
“No good” Politi-Green.
Regardless of what may happen after the Summer of Seventeen, transpeople will continue to exist as we have since prehistory. We will continue to exist because the trans experience has always continued as a part of the nature of human societies and spiritualities. Political movements come and go. Religious movements begin with a man, become eventually machines that degenerate into monuments to bygone days. The current madness must pass. Trump must pass. So must other Dominionist politicians. We have throughout our history been like the moon that waxes and wanes, ever brilliant in the darkness of summer nights.
Unless otherwise noted, the author relies upon her own recollections as a Non-Partisan voter since 1974 and a longtime resident of Orange County CA who is also familiar with many of its religious organizations.
1. (n.a) St Patrick’s Day can’t just be a parade, it has to be a stand’: Senator goes on US TV to rally against Trump (March 14, 2017) Web: The Journal: http://www.thejournal.ie/senator-aodhan-o-riordain-msnbc-irish-stand-3284206-Mar2017/ . Retrieved July 31, 2017.
- Stuart, Lynnea Urania. Conservative Disgrace: Old Innuendos In Trump’s Transgender Ban (July 29, 2017) TransMusePlanet Magazine: http://thetmplanet.com/conservative-disgrace-old-innuendos-in-trumps-transgender-ban/ . Retrieved July 31, 2017.
3. Brooks, David. Jeff Flake Plants a Flag (July 28, 2017) Web: New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/opinion/columnists/jeff-flake-plants-a-flag.html . Retrieved July 31, 2017.
- Stewart, Alicia and Escobedo, Tricia. What you might not know about the 1964 Civil Rights Act (April 10, 2014) Web: CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/10/politics/civil-rights-act-interesting-facts/index.html . Retrieved July 31, 2017.
- Peralta, Eyder. Paul Crouch, Co-Founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network, Dies (November 30, 2013) Web: National Public Radio: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/11/30/247959496/paul-crouch-co-founder-of-trinity-broadcasting-network-dies . Retrieved July 31, 2017.
- Baker, Al, Eisenstadt, Dave, Schwartzeman, Paul, and Ball, Keren. Revenge for Waco Strike Former Soldier Is Charged in Okla. Bombing Waco Strick Revenge For (April 22, 1995) Web: New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/revenge-waco-strike-soldier-charged-okla-bombing-waco-strike-revenge-article-1.678876 . Retrieved July 31, 2017.
- Mason, Jeff. Why John McCain lost the White House (November 5, 2008) Web: Reuter’s: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-mccain-idUSTRE4A47Z020081105 . Retrieved July 31, 2017.
- Republican Platform 2016 (August 2016) Web: RNC Communications: https://prod-cdn-static.gop.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL-ben_1468872234.pdf . Retrieved July 31, 2017. 11, 35.
- Stuart, Lynnea Urania. July, the Federal Roller Coaster (July 25, 2017) Web: Transpire: https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/july-the-federal-roller-coaster/ . Retrieved July 31, 2017.