July 16, 2018
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Trump’s transgender bathroom common sense challenges the GOP

Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to an answer his wife, Melania, gives during an interview on NBC's 'Today' show in New York on Thursday, April 21.
By The BDN Editorial Board

Donald Trump never fit the role of Republican Party standard bearer well. To start, his campaign has been all about him and not at all about the party. Policy-wise, it’s skimpy and incoherent.

But from that incoherence occasionally springs common sense — common sense that serves as a real test for the Republican Party. Does the GOP line up behind North Carolina’s newly passed and discriminatory transgender bathroom law and laws like it popping up in legislative bodies throughout the South (and in South Dakota)? Or does the party decide it should move beyond a focus on stigmatizing and discriminating against a particular class of people?

Speaking Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, Trump adeptly fielded a question about his thoughts on the North Carolina law, which requires people on public property to use the bathroom consistent with the sex on their birth certificate, even if they’re living their lives with a different gender identity.

“There have been very few complaints the way it is,” Trump said. “People go. They use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble. And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic — I mean, the economic punishment that they’re taking.”

When host Matt Lauer asked Trump if any transgender people worked for him, the candidate’s response was more revealing — and it demonstrated the absurdity of Sen. Ted Cruz’s hyperbolic and inaccurate characterization of transgender people.

“I really don’t know. I probably do. I really don’t know,” Trump said.

That’s because transgender people are people. They’re normal. They don’t fit Cruz’s ugly characterization of “grown adult men, strangers … alone in a bathroom with little girls.” One doesn’t necessarily notice when the person in the next stall going to the bathroom is a transgender person. A transgender person going to the bathroom is just like anybody else going to the bathroom. That explains why, as Trump said, there have been few complaints and problems with bathrooms set up as they are.

Online magazine Slate described Trump’s comments as a “rare moment of lucidity.” Trump demonstrated that he sees the humanity in transgender people in a way Maine Gov. Paul LePage does not.

To be sure, Trump’s moment of lucidity does not crown him the candidate of inclusivity. Trump, after all, is the candidate who suggested banning all immigrants who adhere to the world’s second-largest religion. He characterized Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and one of the few consistent planks in his policy platform is the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border — paid for by Mexico. Trump also has brought the Republican primary to a low point through his failure to fully disavow the support of white supremacist David Duke and through his sexist behavior.

But Trump’s comments Thursday on the North Carolina transgender law further illustrate that he has little regard for the policy convictions of the Republican Party. He’s perfected the art of a campaign based on personality and anger at an ill-defined elite class. When he challenges policy views considered dominant in the GOP, he demonstrates that support for Trump doesn’t translate into support for Republican policies.

 


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