Madison and Chicago Mayoral Elections Good News For Gay Youth

Something very positive happened Tuesday following the spring elections.  In both Madison and Chicago gay candidates for mayor won office.  That may not seem like huge news to some, but in fact it is very impressive, not only for the cities impacted, but perhaps even more importantly for all the unseen young gay people who will read and hear the news.

Satya Rhodes-Conway scored a major victory over incumbent Paul Soglin in Madison.  In doing so she becomes the first gay mayor of the capitol city.  Over the state border, in the Windy City, a massive win by Lori Lightfoot makes her not only the first black woman to be Chicago mayor, but also the first openly gay person to serve in that capacity.

The message that these women are making is far broader than just about priorities for budgets, or better transportation systems, or more affordable housing.  Teenagers in rural places far from the urban centers where the mayors work will see that living authentically is just about the best thing one can do.   They will further understand being gay is not some burden to carry around, or something that needs to be buried away.

What Conway and Lightfoot have demonstrated is they are just like every other person.  They have skills and dreams and when employed have the exact same change of success as any other person.  Being gay does not limit the possibilities concerning what one can desire, or reduce the chances of winning.

Those rather simple precepts might seem trite to those raised in a city.  But coming from a rural conservative community I can attest to the need for powerful role models.  The victories that came from the ballot box Tuesday were not the kind I was able to read about as a young gay teenager.  But I can assure my readers that it would have had a powerful effect on me in Hancock, Wisconsin.

I recall that in 1980–the year I graduated from high school–Lucille Ball gave an interview which made for some headlines at the time due to her support for gay rights.

How do you feel about gay rights?

It’s perfectly all right with me. Some of the most gifted people I’ve ever met or read about are homosexual. How can you knock it?

That was uplifting at the time to read and hear about, but Hollywood was far away.  The impact of her message was a fleeting thing.   Had there been a gay mayor in Wisconsin, or a major city near-by, with a powerful voice and firm advocacy for equality and civil rights one can only imagine how it would have positively influenced young gay people.

Today we take much for granted with the legal progress regarding gay marriage and anti-discrimination issues.  But travel a few country roads in the far reaches of Wisconsin and there is still a fair amount of anti-gay rhetoric.  There is still a long way to go before many kids who are gay can just ask out who they wish for a school dance or a weekend date.  There is plenty of frustration, stress, and in some cases even legitimate fear of violence for wishing to live as openly as every other person their age in the community.

Which is why the wins of Conway and Lightfoot matter so much to those young people who might live many miles away and perhaps years from being able to vote.  Young people absorb more information and are more in-touch about issues than we are often aware of.  They may not talk about it at the dinner table or comment about it with friends.  But in their private thoughts as they walk near a creek in Northern Wisconsin, or drive a tractor in Southern Illinois they now will have more proof they are not alone, or different, or without hope to dream big.  And perhaps best of all they can be just a little bit more able to live authentically.

That would be the best outcome from the elections on Tuesday.

Mayor Pete Draws On Nation’s Desire To Be Better

I have been drawn, more and more, day by day, to Mayor Pete.   He is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.   Several weeks ago I listened to how Pete Buttigieg framed answers to diverse questions during a CNN town forum.  He was not just using words to fill time, but had rounded and insightful answers to questions ranging from international policy to domestic concerns.

When the hour was over he had proved able to converse as a candidate in ways that some who had been in the profession for decades still had not mastered.  It was a brilliant tutorial for those who wish to enter politics.  Since then I have been reading, listening, learning, and much respecting what I am finding in this candidate.

Today David Brooks weighed into the matter with a powerful opinion column in The New York Times.

What I firmly believe is that most people in this nation know what is happening to the social norms, institutions, and political culture.  They know what they see from Trump and his crowd is wrong and not in line with our national narrative, or our future needs and goals.  We need to revert back to our shared commonalities and decency.   And when they see Mayor Pete it strikes that chord about Main Street, a smart young man, our national ideals, and a hopeful approach to our politics.

The Trump era has been all about dissolving moral norms and waging vicious attacks. This has been an era of culture war, class warfare and identity politics. It’s been an era in which call-out culture, reality TV melodrama and tribal grandstanding have overshadowed policymaking and the challenges of actually governing.

The Buttigieg surge suggests that there are a lot of Democrats who want to say goodbye to all that. They don’t want to fight fire and divisiveness with more fire and divisiveness. They don’t want to fight white identity politics with another kind of identity politics.

They are sick of the moral melodrama altogether. They just want a person who is more about governing than virtue-signaling, more about friendliness and basic decency than media circus and rhetorical war.

Buttigieg’s secret is that he transcends many of the tensions that run through our society in a way that makes people on all sides feel comfortable.

First, he is young and represents the rising generation, but he is also an older person’s idea of what a young person should be. He’d be the first millennial president, but Buttigieg doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes that have been affixed to America’s young people.  

Young people are supposed to be woke social justice warriors who are disgusted by their elders. Buttigieg is the model young man who made his way impressing his elders — Harvard, Rhodes scholar, McKinsey, the Navy.

Young hipsters are supposed to flock to coastal places like Brooklyn and Portland; after college, Buttigieg returned to Indiana.

Young people are supposed to be anti-institutional, but Buttigieg is very institutional — his life has been defined by his service to organizations, not his rebellion against them.

Second, he is gay and personifies the progress made by the L.G.B.T.Q. movement, but he doesn’t do so in a way that feels threatening or transgressive to social conservatives. He has conservative family values; it’s just that his spouse is a husband, not a wife. He speaks comfortably about his faith and says that when he goes to church he prefers a conservative liturgy to anything experimental.

Third, he is a localist and a Washington outsider, but he carries no populist resentment and can easily speak the language of the coastal elite.

Buttigieg has spent his political career in Indiana, where pols are expected to go to county fairs and eat the catfish fillet and cheesecake on a stick. He wasn’t alive when the Studebaker plant shut down in South Bend, but he has the trauma of Midwestern deindustrialization in his bones. He lives in a house near his mother where the mortgage comes to about $450 a month. On the other hand, he was friends with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard, earned a first at Oxford and thrived as a corporate consultant.

Finally, he’s a progressive on policy issues, but he doesn’t sound like an angry revolutionary. Buttigieg’s policy positions are not all that different from the more identifiable leftist candidates. But he eschews grand ideological conflict.

Ugly Side Of Partisan Politics Shows Over Disaster Relief For Puerto Rico

There must be no place in our governing process where disaster aid can be limited due to the color of the skin of the victims.  Yet, that is what is taking place when it comes to disaster relief for  hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

The Senate on Monday blocked billions of dollars in disaster aid for states across the country as Republicans and Democrats clashed over Donald Trump’s opposition to sending more food and infrastructure help to Puerto Rico.

When it comes to Trump, and his relationship to Puerto Rico, it is painfully clear there is a lack of understanding.  He stated at the time of the hurricane that the territory was “an island sitting in the middle of an ocean — and it’s a big ocean, a really, really big ocean.”

Well, let us give Trump credit for knowing that the Atlantic Ocean is a thing and it is quite large, but Puerto Rico is by no means “in the middle” of it”.  Actually, the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t technically begin until the “eastern edge” of the Caribbean, which is roughly 550 miles east of Puerto Rico.  Trump never allows facts to deter him from talking.

When it comes to the needed aid package there should be only one concern.  How fast can we take action?

Our citizens deserve to know our government will be there when we need them, not pawns in a political quagmire.  Yes, Puerto Rico has undergone enormous devastation from one of the worst hurricanes it has ever confronted, and that is costly.  But that cost is not where we draw the line when dealing with our own.

And yes, our own! If these victims were in southern Texas or Alabama and lily white the aid would have poured in so fast that it would have appeared to be a green rain storm.

Trump tweeted that “Puerto Ricans “are great but their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess – nothing works.”   Had he thought about it longer while gazing in a mirror he very well could have added that their federal government certainly is rife with executive incompetence, too.

Along with nasty racism, too, as evidenced by the excruciatingly slow pace of making that territory whole.