Right-wing activist Terry Schilling thinks he’s a clever guy with a fresh idea. But Schilling, who runs the conservative “think” tank American Principles Project (APP), is about to prove that he’s nothing more than a two-bit anti-trans tactician who’s trying to rehash a hackneyed GOP strategy from over a decade ago.
Schilling thinks he can revive Donald Trump’s reelection bid by sprinkling a bunch of transphobic hate-dust over the heads of the very suburban voters who are currently fleeing the Republican party due to Trump’s grievance-driven politics. But a quick review of the last four years of GOP fails on anti-trans campaigns proves Schilling’s an idiot, not to mention despicable.
In fact, Schilling’s strategy began with a failure. He tried to help Trump firebrand and Kentucky governor Matt Bevin win reelection by stressing his Democratic challenger’s “extreme” support for transgender rights. Instead, Bevin lost, Democrat Andy Beshear became governor, and Beshear now enjoys the support of 69% of Kentuckians for his handling of the coronavirus.
But Schilling’s taking his 0-1 record and shining it up for a run at the presidential contest. In Schilling’s retelling of the defeat, his firm’s six-figure investment in anti-trans messaging on transgender participation in sports “delivered nearly 13,000 new votes for Bevin.” Apparently, APP commissioned some kind of post-mortem on the election—no word on who conducted it or how they came up with that figure.
“Now, donors understand that although we came up a few votes short in Kentucky, this can still work. This is persuasive,” Schilling said.
What it is, is desperate. Trump’s tanking, he’s got nowhere to turn because he’s created such an epic mess of the pandemic that, unfortunately, keeps getting worse with no end in sight. And with the White House’s failure this week to strike a relief deal with Democrats—who would have provided most of the votes in both the House and Senate—the economic pain and the suffering experienced by average American households across the country is about to get exponentially worse.
But here’s the spoiler Schilling has planned, according to Politico:
Next week, APP will debut two ads in battleground Michigan that accuse former Vice President Joe Biden, who has generally used his platform to promote protections for LGBTQ youth, of endorsing “gender change treatments for minors,” including surgery and hormone therapies for transgender youth. One of the ads, featuring former drag queen Kevin Whitt, warns that children “need time” to develop a stable sense of their gender. “As a young teen, I felt I should be a woman,” Whitt says. “Seventeen years later, I felt I should be a man again. Treatments to change the gender of a minor are very dangerous and irreversible.”
Sorry, Schilling, get ready to crash and burn. The number one issue most suburban women cite to explain their disdain for Trump isn’t coronavirus, it’s usually his “law and order” message and his stoking of divisive racial issues in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. That’s exactly the conclusion from dozens of focus groups conducted with suburban women in the battleground states of Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Just on Thursday, Republican voter Katey Morse of East Grand Rapids, Michigan, told MSNBC she thought Trump’s “law and order” messaging was “ludicrous.” After reluctantly voting for Trump in 2016, she can’t wait vote him out of office. “We aren’t suburban moms, we’re not 1950s housewives anymore,” she said.
What’s similarly ludicrous is the idea that a voter like Morse is going to see an ad about a former drag queen and somehow think that’s relevant in an election where Trump has pushed racial divisions, gassed the suburban Wall of Moms in Portland, and presided over the nation’s most lethal public health calamity in a century.
In fact, just ask former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory how his embrace of the anti-trans bathroom issue worked out for him in 2016. It almost single-handedly doomed McCrory’s reelection bid on an election night when many if not most Republicans outperformed expectations and state and local GOP officials had a great night overall. But thanks to his transphobic bathroom bill that cost the state billions in canceled revenue, McCrory’s campaign went into a downward spiral. He never recovered.
Similarly, in Texas, the transphobic bathroom bill played so poorly for the state’s top GOP officials that after several years of getting clobbered, they all but washed their hands of it in 2019.
Anyway, Schilling apparently has the ear of some of Trump’s most deplorable confidants—Stephen Miller, Mark Meadows, and Trump Jr.
Frankly, they might be just daft enough to adopt the strategy—especially since they’ve really got nothing left to run on. It will ultimately be a strategic loser, but in the meantime the ad campaign will surely heap a lot of hate and derision on an unbelievably vulnerable minority—young transgender individuals. So perfectly repugnant, it’s certain to find an audience in Trump’s West Wing.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.