Trump's campaign outreach to LGBTQ voters is all a sham

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It's all posturing, advocates say, pointing to the Trump administration's 175 separate attacks on LGBTQ people.

Eric Trump bragged about his father's supposed LGBTQ support during a Fox News interview on Tuesday.

Fox News host Ainsley Earhart had just described an unidentified lesbian Trump voter who New York Times columnist Bret Stephens said he interviewed for his latest opinion piece. Earhart asked if Eric thought his father expected this kind of "secret voter" to turn up at the polls on Election Day.

"I’m telling you, I see it every day, the LGBT community, they are incredible and you should see how they’ve come out in full force for my father every single day," the younger Trump responded.

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"'I’m part of that community and we love the man and thank you for protecting our neighborhoods and thank you for protecting our cities,'" he added, paraphrasing those supporters.

Eric Trump's comments are just the latest by key Trump allies over the past few months to assert strong LGBTQ support for the president, despite his administration's 175 attacks on the LGBTQ community. These attacks include reversing or attempting to roll back safeguards for homeless transgender people, transgender studentstransgender patients, and allowing contractors and subcontractors to enjoy broad religious exemptions that could result in discrimination against LGBTQ employees.

Experts reject the idea that Trump, his supporters, his campaign, or the GOP generally are concerned with getting votes from members of the LGBTQ community or about the concerns of LGBTQ people in general.

On Tuesday, Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, responded in a tweet to Eric Trump's comments. "The LGBTQ community is indeed incredible, but the Trump Administration's record on LGBTQ issues is shameful and abysmal," Ellis said. "The Trump family and their surrogates lie about widespread support in our community. LGBTQ voters will not fall for it."

Instead, some LGBTQ advocates say Trump and those who support him want to be seen as attempting to court their vote for strategic reasons.

Attitudes about LGBTQ people and LGBTQ rights are changing. As of last year, 61% of Americans supported marriage equality and 31% opposed it according to Pew Research polling. In 2004, 60% opposed it and 31% supported it. A majority of Americans now support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people as well, according to a 2019 Public Religion Research Institute poll.

Moreover, the Trump campaign doesn't have good reason to be optimistic that they will gain many LGBTQ people's votes. According to a Morning Consult poll released in June, Joe Biden leads Trump among LGBTQ voters by an average of 43 percentage points. Among LGBTQ Republicans, 12% said they would vote for Biden.

During the 2018 midterms, LGBTQ people made up 6% of the electorate. An overwhelming percentage, 82%, voted for the Democratic option in the House of Representatives.

LGBTQ people also showed up at the polls earlier this year on Super Tuesday, with nearly 1 in 10 voters identifying as LGBTQ. A Williams Institute report on the 2020 LGBTQ vote found that 50% of LGBTQ voters said they identify most with the Democratic Party compared to 38% of non-LGBTQ voters.

The GOP focus on the LGBTQ community was kickstarted back in June, when the Republican National Committee published a brief on its website titled, "President Trump Has Taken Unprecedented Steps To Protect The LGBTQ Community."

The listed achievements included Trump's claim that he would protect LGBTQ people, which was made at the Republican National Convention in 2016 to stoke anti-Muslim sentiments; his appointment of Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, to acting director of the Office of National Intelligence; and an HIV/AIDS initiative that aims to end the epidemic by 2030.

Earlier in September, Trump quote-tweeted, "Great!" in response to an informal poll by the social media company Hornet, that said 45% of gay men supported him.

In response to Trump's tweet, however, Hornet later stated, "In effect, the only thing truly measured by Hornet’s results are the opinions of those Hornet users who chose to take the survey, not the broader Hornet user base, not gay American men, and most definitely not the broader American LGBTQ community."

In a statement last month to the New York Times, on Trump's sudden so-called outreach efforts, a White House spokesman claimed that it could "not be further from the truth" that LGBTQ people's rights were threatened under the Trump administration.

Still, administration officials told the New York Times that Trump was largely unsure of what political rewards the LGBTQ community could provide him and was more concerned evangelical voters.

The Trump campaign has powered forward with it's strategic plan regardless.

In late August, long after Pride Month had ended, the campaign announced Trump Pride, a coalition focused on outreach to LGBTQ people. The Trump Pride website says that Trump "stands in solidarity with LGBT citizens by supporting and enacting policies and initiatives that protect the wellbeing and prosperity of all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans."

The launch coincided with Grenell, the co-chair of Trump Pride, working alongside the Republican National Committee as a senior adviser for LGBTQ outreach.

That same month, Grenell appeared in a video, which was filled with inaccuracies and misleading claims, for the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBTQ group. In the video, he claimed, "President Trump is the most pro-gay president in American history."

Grenell never mentioned transgender people, on whom the Trump administration has focused many of its discriminatory attacks.

Mara Kiesling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund, called these sorts of statements "posturing" and said they were "ridiculous."

"As vicious and cruel as the administration has been toward trans people, this kind of weak claim isn’t going to win people over," she said. 

Some LGBTQ advocates say Trump's campaign is attempting to snag the votes of people they believe are sympathetic to LGBTQ rights issues and who they believe would be turned off by Trump's actual record.

Lucas Acosta, deputy communications director of politics for the Human Rights Campaign, said that much is clear and that he doesn't see real outreach to the LGBTQ community.

"Rick Grenell got a really nice job at the RNC where he's making some money and cutting some videos, attempting to target LGBTQ people, but what he’s doing is appearing on Fox News, living in the Twitter-sphere and what that is not doing is actual outreach to LGBTQ people," he said.

Acosta added, "I take that to be less of a strategy actually about getting the votes of LGBTQ people and more a strategy of attempting to get those equality-adjacent voters, people who don’t like supporting candidates who are anti-LGBTQ, and trying to give them a little bit of breathing room."

Recent polling from the Human Rights Campaign and Hart Research have found that in key states, including Michigan, Florida, and Pennsylvania, there is widespread support for the Equality Act, a bill that provides federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Trump voters who said they supported the bill exceeded Trump supporters who were against it by 10 percentage points in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.

When asked whether knowing that an elected official was opposed to LGBTQ equality would make them less favorable toward them or more favorable, most Republicans said it did not matter to them either way. However, the results showed that among Republicans who had an opinion, "far more say less favorable than more favorable."

Thirty-two percent of Republicans in Arizona and 31% of Republicans in Pennsylvania said it made the candidate feel less favorable to them.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.