Well, he’s done it! Businessman and reality television star Donald Trump is now the de facto Republican nominee, after defeating 16 rivals in the Republican primaries and caucuses. Now the general election match-up is all but finalized between Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Most Americans, including LGBT people, are engaged and ready to participate in what promises to be an epic campaign between two political and cultural giants.
A poll released this week by Whitman Insight Strategies showed that 84 percent of LGBT voters are supporting Clinton, while 16 percent support Trump. That 16 percent support for Trump is much less than past Republican nominees have received from LGBT voters. According to CNN’s past general election exit polls, John McCain received 28 percent of the LGBT vote in 2008, and Mitt Romney garnered 22 percent support in 2012.
Will Trump make efforts to win over more LGBT voters before November? It’s not likely, because he’s focused on uniting a fractured Republican Party, which is an untenable coalition that includes the anti-LGBT industry and voters who oppose equality. Those voters make up a significant portion of the GOP. The Whitman poll showed that only 15 percent of LGBT voters identify as Republican, which accounts for a tiny fraction of the party.
Now that Trump has beaten Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas and the favorite candidate of the anti-LGBT industry and those voters who make up the antigay, culturally conservative segment of the GOP electorate, Trump will take great pains to keep from offending them for fear that they will stay home and not vote on Election Day. He needs their votes in November, and he’ll owe them if he makes it to the White House.
I’ve met Donald Trump. The organization for gay conservatives I cofounded, GOProud, played a role in facilitating the invitation for Trump to give his first speech as a potential candidate at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011. I honestly don’t think that he’s got a problem with LGBT people. He’s certainly not a homophobe. Heck, his property in Palm Beach, Fla., Mar-a-Lago, was the first private club in the area to offer domestic-partner benefits for its employees. While he might not be anti-LGBT, we do know that he is, first and foremost, pro-Trump. He’ll do what he has to do to benefit himself, and he’ll do what he has to do to win the votes of those forces of intolerance in the GOP.
LGBT voters have already seen that first hand. Before the Iowa caucus earlier this year, Trump reaffirmed his outdated position in opposition to legal civil marriage for same-sex couples and stated that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would support overturning the Obergefell decision that made marriage equality the law of the land. He did that to pander to the intolerant antigay voters in the Republican coalition.
Recently, he articulated a mainstream position that transgender people should use the restroom they are comfortable using. Then a day later, after being met with backlash from the intolerant GOP forces, he backtracked his position to say that it was appropriate for states to legislate restrictions in that area. That backlash was a perfect example of what a Trump White House would face on a daily basis.
Those issues specifically affecting LGBT people aren’t the only things our community bases our votes on. In fact, very few voters are single-issue voters, and that’s especially true when it comes to presidents. The vote for president is more personal and more emotional than other votes. It’s for the person we trust to put in charge — the man or woman who deals with all the issues that frighten us and the ones we don’t even know about yet. That personal trust and connection is usually the deciding factor in our votes, and Trump’s personal and political style is a major turn-off for most LGBT voters.
Trump’s brash politics of division and pitting some Americans against others is something the LGBT community has been fighting for decades. Nobody knows what it’s like to have their lives used as a political wedge like we do. So when Trump demonizes and marginalizes some groups of Americans, we have a sense of empathy and solidarity with those groups. In Trump’s America, we’ll deport the Mexicans, ban the Muslims, and end marriage for the gays. Then America will be great again!
Trump and his voters reject our modern multicultural reality, while Hillary Clinton and most Americans embrace it. Most of us, especially LGBT Americans, know that our diversity is what makes America great.
This election presents us with a choice between two very different visions of America, one that includes everyone and one that doesn’t. At the end of the day, most LGBT voters, including me, will cast their votes for Hillary Clinton’s inclusive vision for our future.