Trump lost popularity battle; signing FADA will lose him the war
Donald J. Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million. He loves to frame his electoral victory as an “historic landslide,” but the popular vote number is the one history will most remember. Hillary Clinton, the first woman on a general election major party ticket, received more votes than any non-president in history. Only President Obama, and only in 2008, earned more.
Some Trump supporters like to dismiss this inconvenient fact with a line about those voters all living in California and New York, as if Golden and Empire State residents are somehow less deserving of a say on election day. These critics get away with this line of thinking because our Electoral College system is what it is. However, no amount of spinning or hiding behind this uniquely American way of letting multiple popular vote runners-up become president will change that fact that more American citizens would prefer to see Hillary Clinton sitting in the Oval Office than they would Donald Trump. That is a fact. It will not change.
Let me also remind you that New York and California, while dismissed and even mocked by these newfound fans of the Electoral College, are highly influential power centers where many major companies make their biggest decisions, and from where much media is written, produced, and transmitted. This is also true of several major U.S. cities in other states (e.g. Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago, Austin) where the Democratic candidate dominated. While this great nation is filled with great companies, it’s not a controversial statement to say that the most recognized national brands are largely headquartered in our largest cities—and Trump lost most all of them (and by a large margin in most cases).
Which brings me to the First Amendment Defense Act, which, like most of the other “religious freedom” bills that anti-LGBTQ activists have proposed since marriage equality became the law of the land, would grant business owners a license to discriminate for no greater reason than a customer’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Over the years, I've had much to say about so-called “religious freedom” bills, including this one. For the purpose of this post, I don’t want to dwell on the obvious awfulness of this, a law that would nationalize the state-by-state discrimination that social conservatives have tried to enact over the past three years. NBC Out has a great post on the subject for those wanting more background on FADA’s considerable dangers.
I instead want to warn the incoming Trump administration, which is championing FADA, of the unprecedented wave of rejection that will greet the new president if he fulfills his promise to sign this highly discriminatory (and, likely, unconstitutional) attack on Americans lives. And I want to do so by reminding him of two things close to home:
- His sweeping popular vote rejection in the aforementioned power centers of America
- His own Vice President (elect)
First the popular vote rejection. I’ve already pretty much covered it, but it bears repeating: This president is coming into office more unpopular than any in recent memory. Not only is he coming in without a mandate, but he is also coming in with a massive amount of scrutiny, questions about his character, suspicions about his qualifications, fears about his inexperience, shock over his egregious statements and actions, and just more general messiness than any one who has ever come into this office. The burden is on him to turn this around. If he wants to prove himself as a careful and considered leader whose focus and temperament belie his campaign work, he is going to have to prove it through his earliest actions. This is true for any incoming administration, where the first one hundred days are always so crucial, but it is even more salient for a president whose popular vote loss is larger than the entire population of seventeen different states.
If Congress passes FADA and Trump moves forward with his vow to sign, the much louder national engagement will come from those of us who realize the discriminatory effects masked behind the far right’s carefully crafted “religious freedom” smokescreen. The major cities of America will have an outsized say because the major national businesses doing busy from them will understand and articulate the obvious dangers FADA poses to their ability to engage in fair commercial exchanges. The media will report accordingly. The outcry will be deafening.
Which brings me my other point: Mike Pence. If Donald Trump wants a taste of the outcry that would follow a federal FADA, he need look no further than his own choice for number two. When Gov. Mike Pence moved forward with a discriminatory “religious freedom” proposal in his home state of Indiana, signing it into law in front of a crowd of the Hoosier State’s most appallingly anti-LGBTQ activists, the nationwide response was the thing of infamy. In the weeks surrounding Pence’s misbegotten decision, one could not turn on a TV, be it a news or a comedy show, and not hear some sort of criticism of the obviously discriminatory idea that was taking hold in Pence’s Indiana. The usually fairly sleepy state was the headline-grabber in newspapers coast to coast. Virtually no one outside the usual stable of anti-LGBTQ activists could defend Pence’s proposal because it, like so many so-called “religious freedom” proposals, was so demonstrably harmful to both human and business interests. Ultimately, even Pence had no choice but to scale it back.
And keep in mind, Pence actually won his gubernatorial presidential election by a 3% margin. Unlike the President-Elect, Pence came into his office with the popular vote of his constituents. This didn’t prevent him from mass blowback. For popular vote loser Trump, the roar following a federal version of the same bad ideas would make Indiana circa 2015 sound like a quiet mouse by comparison. If Mike Pence, whose governmental experience far exceeds a boss who has none, is to be the counsel that many expect him to be, then the very first thing he should advise President-Elect is to stay far away from this backwards notion of turning away customers seeking goods and services simply because those customers were born differently than others. No one should know the reasoning better than Mike Pence.
The pure and simple fact is that championing the artfully-but-egregiously named First Amendment Defense Act would be among the worst ideas that an already-unpopular Trump could do in his early days of office. I don’t write this as some sort of ultimatum to the incoming administration, or as a smug city-dweller who believes his New York City home should get to dominate the national conversation. I’m simply conveying the facts, as they are, to an administration that seems far too reliant on fake news.
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