Over the course of the last 39 months, a recurring theme in many of my friends and my conversations has been how we struggle to find our balance of keeping abreast of the news while maintaining our mental health. So much both does and does not happen in any given week, it’s hard to stay engaged. The biggest cliché of the past three years has been that this administration’s goal is to inundate us with so many appalling things that we become numb to the horror of it all. And then there are the days when another major news site, not having learned any lessons from 2016, spends an entire article with a clickbait headline up top to tell us it’s possible that Kamala Harris could potentially be thinking about just maybe endorsing Joe Biden, but actually she hasn’t said anything on this topic and doesn’t plan to any time soon (but hey that hasn’t ruled out the possibility of that Biden endorsement, right?).
Autostraddle’s political news roundup is a new weekly series where we will watch the world burn down together and try, in our way, to put out one small fire. This is a space where Autostraddle writers will come together to discuss the latest current events and why we think they’re important. Every Friday we’ll share the best articles we can find on the issues that have us most concerned for our communities and each other. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments with your thoughts and your own article recommendations.
Himani: Impeachment was the moment so many of us had been waiting for. Justice — to right the wrong committed three years ago and every single day since. But we all knew that impeachment wasn’t the end, that the best we could hope for was a Pence presidency (truly an alarming prospect), and with Mitch McConnell leading the Senate there was no hope for even that.
One week after his acquittal, Trump has ratcheted up the authoritarianism and the corruption. Last week he fired witnesses to the impeachment investigation, and earlier this week Bill Barr (his most compliant Attorney General) lightened the sentence against Roger Stone. Who is Roger Stone? Great question, I had to look him up, too. Stone was indicted in November for making false statements, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering related to the House’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Simply put, Trump is going after people who aren’t loyal to him and bending the law to keep his convicted friends out of prison.
It’s horrifying when I read about it and yet… I feel utterly numb to it all, which is exactly Zack Beauchamp’s point in this article. What’s happening is galling and somehow it feels removed from our lives. But it’s not. It’s this corruption that keeps Trump and the most craven parts of the Republican party in power to execute orders and impose laws that deny so many people’s humanity. Authoritarianism, after all, is both consolidating power and doing whatever the fuck you want with it.
Rachel: Months ago, Yvonne wrote for Autostraddle about what Trump’s border wall would destroy, including the grave sites of indigenous people of the area: “Trump’s border wall was proposed to go through [the 154-year-old Eli Jackson Cemetery], and with it came the possibility of exhuming graves and razing the cemetery. Tribal chairman Juan Mancias says he is distantly related to some buried in the cemetery and believes it contains unmarked graves of Indigenous people.” This week, the possibility of further violating the sovereignty and dignity of the US’s indigenous people in service of the border wall unfortunately became a reality — portions of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument were destroyed to make way for the US/Mexico border wall; it contains burial sites of the Tohono O’odham Nation, which was not consulted. It’s yet another harrowing example of the Trump administration’s M.O. of quietly invalidating laws meant to protect the rights and sovereignty of indigenous peoples in the US, as well as preserve land and ecological stability whenever convenient for them.
In more uplifting news related to the rights of indigenous peoples in the US, the Spirit Lake Nation and Standing Rock Sioux have won a four-year legal battle to have their tribal IDs recognized as valid voting ID in North Dakota: “Under the GOP-backed law, North Dakota residents were forced to present identification with a street address in order to vote. However, many Native Americans in the state live on reservations that do not even have residential addresses, thereby disenfranchising them from the ability to vote.” Obviously barriers to voting like lack of access to transportation, voter suppression and disinformation, and overall levels of poverty remain, but this hard-fought battle is a step forward.
Kamala: In case you hadn’t heard, the state of South Dakota is hell-bent on making life more unreasonable and unsafe for LGBT folks, particularly trans people. This bill, HB 1057, was written to make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide gender-affirming medical care to young people under 16, including the use of puberty blockers — which allow young people to defer puberty while they consider transitioning, and which have been shown to reduce suicide rates by 15% among people who use them — as well as hormone therapy and surgery. After being passed by the South Dakota Senate, the House heard testimony from many trans activists and allies from all over the country.
In a 5-2 vote on Monday, the bill was voted down, meaning, for now, young trans people’s healthcare is protected. However, HB 1057 is just one of several anti-LGBT bills in South Dakota, and across the country, that threaten the rights of queer and trans people, especially youth, to access healthcare, privacy, saftey against conversion therapy, to use the bathroom they choose, and many other regular-ass life things, that for some reason, cis poeple get a say in.
Natalie: We’re seeing, in 2020, with anti-trans legislation what folks saw in 2004 with gay marriage prohibition…legislators attempting to use LGBT issues as wedges to curry favor with conservative voters. Sydney Bauer has a great piece over at The New Republic which details where HB 1057 came from: a one-day event co-hosted by the Heritage Foundation and Family Policy Alliance (formerly known as “Focus on the Family”). Soon you’ll see exact replicas of HB 1057 attempting to make its way through legislatures in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.
Natalie: There have been a lot of pieces written about Pete Buttigieg’s inability to connect with queer voters…and many of them tend to veer towards chastising the former mayor for being insufficiently gay. Dave Beck’s take on Buttigieg for The New Republic — in which he called Buttigieg “the gay equivalent of Uncle Tom” (among other choice phrasing) — was perhaps the most notorious and the backlash towards it was so fierce, TNR ultimately took it down. Eventually Buttigieg grew so frustated with the attacks that he lashed out at LGBT media for them, despite the fact that none of those attacks were coming from LGBT media spaces. Those pieces were frustrating to me…in part because they sent a damaging message to young people about the right way to be gay, but also because it allowed the legitimate issue — Buttigieg’s disconnect from the LGBT community — to go unexamined.
Jim Grossfeld’s piece for The American Prospect does as good a job as anything I’ve read of framing that conversation in political terms. One thing that Grossfeld bumps on — that far too many have overlooked in my view — is Buttigieg’s visit to Cosmopolitan. While there, he’s asked about the Supreme Court and he shares his plan to restructure the court and then touts Anthony Kennedy and David Souter as model justices. It was bizarre thing for Democratic candidate for president to mention — endorsing a justice who voted for Citizens United and the Muslim ban — but it makes sense if you consider that the entirety of Buttigieg’s view of LGBT politics is done through the lens of marriage.
+ Roger Stone prosecutors quit case as DOJ cuts Trump ally’s recommended prison sentence