As the scandal and furor surrounding ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his ties to both the Turkish and Russian governments increasingly ropes in President Trump, it appears more and more likely that Trump knew of those illicit ties. Additionally, there's the other information that Trump revealed to the Russians during an Oval Office meeting -- that by firing FBI director James Comey, he had sought to end any investigation into his ties with Russia and its efforts to destabilize American democracy. With these nonstop bombshells and the ongoing investigations -- which now include a special counsel -- it appears that Trump is almost certainly involved in the scandal and possibly guilty of impeachable offenses. If Trump were clever enough, he would resign well before impeachment proceedings begin, and indeed, it has been revealed that the White House counsel has begun researching the articles of impeachment (Trump also just hired a lawyer to deal with the exploding Russia probe). With this on the horizon, we should begin to take a look at Mike Pence, the man who will take Trump's place should he get the boot.
Vice President Pence has historically been no ally of the LGBT community. During his time as governor of Indiana he signed an act to allow businesses to deny services to LGBT people. He also defunded his state's Planned Parenthood facilities, which resulted in a massive outbreak of HIV, as they were centers for HIV information and testing. In the past, he has advocated for conversion therapy, a practice that has been outlawed in many states and other countries. While this is certainly frightening to LGBT people, I truly believe that Pence is doing it because he believes in some twisted way it's what's best for America. Emphasis on twisted.
But it turns out that Pence is almost certainly lying about not knowing anything about Flynn's contacts with Russia and Turkey. Apparently while Pence keeps implying that no one tells him anything, it's also reported that he regularly advises Trump on all major decisions. So it looks like Pence may be going down too. That would mean we get the speaker of the House.
Paul Ryan, the current speaker, has also been no ally of the LGBT community. During his time in Congress he has voted to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, opposed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," and voted against LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes legislation. Before we go any further, it turns out there's an audio recording that proves Ryan knew early in 2016 that Trump was possibly getting paid by Russian President Vladimir Putin and did absolutely nothing about it, and may have worked to suppress those rumors in an effort to get his libertarian policies passed by Trump. So Ryan is vulnerable too. OK, who's next?
Orrin Hatch, currently the president pro tempore of the Senate. This is insane. Are we seriously pondering the LGBT stances of the fourth person in line to be president? We haven't worried about this stuff since nuclear war with the Soviets was a regular concern (disturbing coincidence). Really, though, we're at this point? Our fundamental governmental institutions are so broken we're looking to the fourth-string president? The Republican Party is so corrupt and amoral that we're actually at this point? It just seems to me that worrying how an 83-year-old man -- that would be Hatch -- in a largely ceremonial role would affect the LGBT community as president is like caring about equal access to first-class berths on the Titanic. I know, I know, this stuff is important to the LGBT community, but you know you can't really fight for rights in a country whose government is so broken you're not even sure who's going to be in charge in a month. It's that whole "stable government" thing people keep harping on in civics class.
Of course, LGBT rights are important and something we should never stop fighting for, but this is one of those times when sweating the argument about wedding cake toppers and bathroom access is a real case of fighting over a tree in a forest. The core fight in LGBT rights in a country always starts with a government that works, and in this case, it's ensuring that our institutions aren't so corrupt they're rotten beyond repair. No, this is not a time for you to harp on how "Bernie would have won."
What this means is we must hold the line in the states and push back against anti-LGBT laws being passed while we dogpile on every member of Congress we can and get them to abandon Trump and throw him the hell out. No, I'm not saying we abandon the fight for LGBT rights in our country -- stop thinking that, and don't say I'm doing that in the comments either. I'm saying that our country needs to function as a healthy democracy as part of our pursuit of rights.
The fact that we are even entertaining the idea of going all the way down to the fourth in line for president means that something bigger is broken. It's time we start holding our elected officials accountable, even if they are from a different political party and ideology. Just because your local politicians might represent the opposite of your own morals, it doesn't mean your only interaction with them is snide comments on social media or none at all. You need to turn into a creepy stalker and call them constantly, harass them every time they set foot in public, and scare the crap out of their friends. By friends, I mean their large campaign contributors.
It's time for us to start caring about what our politicians are doing behind closed doors, where their money is coming from, and who they're accountable to. Yeah, yeah, we say we have been doing that, but have we really? How effective have our clever social media memes been so far? We need to really, truly start caring about who is leading our country and shaping our democracy, because there are other folks out there who do, and they don't care who you're having sex with because they're out to screw all of us.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.