The 2016 Virginia primary should scare Virginia’s LGBTQ and ally community
While its debatably a good idea to draw too much this early in the game, the numbers coming from the 2016 primary, compared to years past, show a pretty terrifying trend for those concerned with LGBTQ rights here in the Commonwealth.
If you look back to past primaries, you notice a kind of trend in voter turn out, mainly the numbers never get above 1 million votes cast for either party. Take a look for yourself with graphs via VA Department of Elections:
2008 Republican Primary:
2008 Democratic Primary:
Notice 2008 had the spike in total candidates for the Democrats and an increase in voter turn out reflected that – obviously controversy and a hot contest helps bring out voters.
Then the 2008 final election rolled around and…
Obama wins by about 234K votes, or about 6% of the total turn out.
Then we get into 2012, and interesting year because Obama ran unopposed which meant no Democratic primary and therefore no data to compare.
But the Republicans did hold a primary and the numbers turned out like this:
The turn out was pretty sad, with Ron Paul running on the back-burner as a half Republican/half Libertarian. Either way, turn out was dismal.
The general election itself showed a similar total turn out as 2008:
Finally we get to this year and things take an unprecedented turn:
2016 Republican Primary via VPAP:
With a grand total of about 1,024,000 votes, that’s about 1/4 of total General Election turn out. These numbers beat past year’s by 500,000 or 750,000, a MASSIVE jump in turn out which, to political analysts, shows a great interest in one of two outcomes – making sure Trump loses the seat, or making sure he WINS the seat.
“You should be [terrified],” said Ravi K. Perry, an Associate professor of Political Science at VCU, when asked what this could mean for LGBTQ citizens here in Virginia.
Perry is a long time political junkie and noted Virginia, alongside Ohio and Florida, are some of the most important states to watch because they are swing states, or states that have a microcosm of the rest of the country inside their boarders. These states usually have strong progressive communities in urban areas, but equally powerful conservative populations in the rural regions.
The incredible turn out during the primaries this year, according to Ravi, comes from a number of reasons and none of them look promising for sexual or ethnic minorities.
“It can’t be understated that the wave of higher voter turn out in Republican primaries is directly linked to race in America,” he said. “You have two of the leaders of the birther movement from the last election and 2008, where both Cruz and Trump worked vigorously to show Obama was not a legitimate candidate for president.”
Indeed Cruz and Trump both spent some time sounding the horns against Obama’s birth certificate (which was eventually released proving he was a US citizen). Either way, in Perry’s eyes, the root of the birther issue comes from intolerance around race, and that issue, and both candidate’s history propagating the issue, have inspired a certain swath of Americans who have never voted before.
“Most are caucasian, undereducated, significantly poor, and they are a large number of the American public who think they have been shut out by the current president, but also the last one,” Perry said.
Adding to the Poli-Sci professors concerns is the lack of involvement from the often overlooked conservative members of the LGBTQ community. He said the quest for marriage was spearheaded by largely white, middle class gay and lesbian individuals who have since become less interested in issues which continue to plague LGBTQ people of color and others who are not as well off within the community.
“There’s a correlation there, if a LGBTQ person leans conservative, then many of them leave the activist circle because for them, that’s all that mattered,” he said.
While conversations around LGBTQ issues have dropped significantly during this election cycle – for better or worse – the three remaining Republican candidates have all made clear their lack of approval for the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage and have often gone further in their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric (see below).
Suffice to say, there is little hope they would continue the pro-LGBTQ policies undertaken by the Obama Administration such as promoting LGBTQ equality domestically and abroad, appointing LGBTQ members to high ranking positions, and creating an LGBTQ liaison within the White House.
Perry said those who are concerned with equality for LGBTQs and people of color should be “very, very, very concerned.”
But not all is lost; Perry thinks the increased recognition of racism and playing on xenophobic tendencies is not sustainable, at least in the long term.
“In order to win the presidency, you have to compete in the general election, and in order to win the General election, you have to bring in new voters who are increasingly of color, highly educated, and higher income and those demographics do no spell well for the republican party in 2020, 2024, 2028,” he said. “The country becomes more diverse, and that does not speak well to their future if they continue down this path.”
Finally, Perry said the only way to beat Trump is to increase voter turnout on the left. “When Democrats come out and vote and in large numbers and when Republicans don’t come out and vote in large numbers, Democrats win,” he said. “Republicans always win when there’s low voter turn out.”
Combine high Republican voter turn out with a less-than-thrilled Democratic base around Hillary, and this could spell a disastrous four years for LGBTQ Virginians. But you can play your part – get out and vote this November.
“Follow your dreams, don’t ever get scared, and know that everything takes time.”May 23, 2017
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