During the mayhem we call election season, US political parties — at least the two big ones — drag out their gay cousins and use us shamelessly. One party is more likely to look at us and tout what they have done for us, from marriage equality to insurance coverage. This party will point to platform planks and UN speeches, AIDS drugs and senate hearings. The other party will point to us as part of an insidious plot to ruin their lives of comfort, a queer elite that was not really thwarted by Reagan and AIDS, just temporarily slowed down. This party pulls up the covers in the bed they share with so-called Christian Evangelicals, whispering in their ears that we bad folks are inconsequential and acceptable collateral damage. Their xenophobia is viewed as virtue.
While I am very unlikely to vote for Republican candidates in this lifetime, it is not because I am extraordinarily pleased with the opposing party. At times it feels to me like the DNC sees queers as friends with benefits. Sure, we get to go to the party, but we get screwed and have to pick up the tab when the lights come up. There doesn’t seem to be much helium in the balloons I was given at the celebration for marriage equality or a dismantled DADT. Their flaccid forms dangle from the strings in my hand in recognition that the SCOTUS and executive decisions halted policies (DADT and DOMA) installed in Democratic administrations.
Don’t misunderstand: I love some Democratic candidates even when I dislike their party campaign apparatuses. All the fake polls, daily requests for $3 donations, and forced bonhomie at political events get under my skin. It is really hard to find the candidates, their records, or their positions on issues in that morass.
Having been an active voter and fairly regular contributor to candidates, I am struck by the very limited interest I have found for my views in the political process. I am even more concerned about how election shenanigans are keeping me stupid about pressing issues in our time. For example, I am late to the party in understanding that the private sector prisons I oppose are publicly traded on Wall Street. A stereophonic chorus of the past and present chide me to wake up and smell the coffee. What part of this scenario makes sense? Commodifying “Justice”! Somehow I missed that these corporations are publicly traded and that they also manage refugee detention centers. This is beyond dangerous.
Should candidates or their campaigns actually ask me about my interests, I would advocate for the following (in no particular order):
- When private schools and universities receive government money, they should abide by all government policies, including Title IX.
- When hospital systems accept Medicare payments and are subsidized to do medical education, they should be required to provide a full range of reproductive health services without coercion of patients.
- When Medicare or Medicaid discovers health care system fraud (for example, billing patients based on where GPS shows a physical therapist’s computer is positioned), the system should be fined 10 to 100 times the billed amount.
- When pharmaceuticals are developed with support from tax dollars, their retail costs should have a ceiling. $500 epi pens are absurd.
- We need to get honest about the profits scammed through technologically skewed systems that bewilder older people and those with impairments. While health care issues are usually raised as examples, these practices are also common in telephone and cable services, sales contracts, credit, and senior housing.
- Roads and bridges are in terrible repair and sometimes quite dangerous, but their maintenance is viewed as too expensive in state legislatures that prefer pay-back contracts for those who construct new highways.
- In addition to a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, we need to overhaul health care coverage so that it comes with other job benefits OR we need a single payer system. We are currently wasting too many resources on billing and collections, emergency room visits and loss of work all to keep the insurance industry afloat.
- Education should not be privatized. Arts and electives need to be re-introduced into elementary and secondary education. We are not only training workers; we are developing citizens.
- Prisons, jails, and detention centers should not be privatized. We are conflating justice with profit and through this practice launching a social catastrophe. While progressive news sources decry how globally prisons are spawning jihadist movements, they ignore the disasters that are happening in families, among children, and within communities where a new jobless and homeless population is being created as a byproduct of the human fuel that feeds prisons.
- Out-of-school time (OST) holds the key to many solutions for social ills. This area needs to be better researched and supported with government funds now supporting prison expansion. While Democrats have championed OST, the diversion of taxpayer funds to prisons is also a nasty little Democratic darling.
- When public health problems are identified, we need fewer public health rules and more public health tools. For example, in the US we are told we need to get more exercise, but then lack the safe venues to assist in achieving that. In contrast in Great Britian, the National Health Service produced a couple of apps that move interested people from their couches to running 5K over an eight-week period. Our amazing FLOTUS models exercise and discusses nutrition. We produce comic books that show caricatures of people exercising. But we provide little in the way of skill development — that is left to for-profit ventures.
Policies, privatization, politics, and pandering — these are all concerning me as a gay man. If my Black transgender sisters cannot get health care except in jail, find jobs, complete an education, avoid arrest warrants, or use transportation safely, my ability to get married is worthless. To be viewed by either major party as being salved with an “I-got-mine” rationale for my political or financial support is as homophobic as calling me a fag — maybe more.
Disclaimer: I am not fed up with government or democracy. Tammy Baldwin, Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan, Tim Carpenter, Chris Larson, or Sandy Pasch.