Steyer's self-serving pitch
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Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer seems to have hit a nerve with his TV ads calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The commercials, starring, of course, Steyer, urge like-minded people to sign his online petition, and more than 1.7 million have. Still, reality must intrude - there is no way as long as Republicans control Congress that Trump will ever be impeached. His quixotic quest begs speculation on Steyer's true motivation, which is likely a run for senator in 2018 against Dianne Feinstein, or a run for president in 2020. He has long flirted with elected office.
Steyer is the latest in a long line of rich California business people who have tried to enter the political arena. Voters have been skeptical, rejecting many of these checkbook candidates for various statewide races over the years. In front of the soft-focus background in his ads, for which he is reportedly paying $10 million, Steyer calmly promotes his petition as an effective response to Trump. In reality it's only an easy and cheap attempt for voters to register their discontent.
But let's fantasize for a moment: say Steyer's petition is successful, Congress does obey the petition and draws up articles of impeachment, and Trump is booted from office. Then, we're left with Mike Pence as president. The consequences of a Pence presidency would be disastrous for the LGBT community.
As governor, Pence signed a so-called religious freedom bill that allowed business owners the right to refuse service to LGBT people. After an outcry and the threat of boycotts by allies such as Salesforce's Marc Benioff, Pence was forced to sign an amended version that stated the law cannot be used to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. At the time, in 2015, Pence was widely believed to be considering a presidential run of his own.
When he was in Congress, Pence supported the federal anti-LGBT marriage amendment. He said repealing the military's anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would turn the armed forces into a "backdrop for social experimentation," according to GLAAD, which compiled a detailed list of Pence's anti-LGBT extremism. In fact, he wanted to end DADT and have the military return to a full ban on open service.
He is an early backer of conversion therapy, whereby licensed mental health professionals attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of people, usually youth. This effort to "pray away the gay" has been derided as junk science by scores of medical professionals and organizations like the American Psychiatric Association. Its use on minors has been banned in nine states and Washington, D.C.
Since he has become vice president, Pence has been Trump's point person for social conservatives, and he has not disappointed them. He has been part of the administration that has supported rescinding protections for trans students. The administration has also sought to erase all mentions of the LGBT community and their health needs from the Department of Health and Human Services' upcoming strategic plan. He supports the administration's ban on trans military service. Earlier this year, Foreign Policy reported that Pence and his staff worked quietly to get Congress to roll back the Defense Department's year-old policy covering medical procedures for transitioning service members.
Pence's anti-LGBT record is a long one. We're not sure a lot of people outside the community know that. They're flocking to Steyer's website to sign his petition, while Pence hides his ruthless Christian conservatism behind a pleasant demeanor, playing the role of an establishment Republican. He doesn't revel in chaos the way Trump does, but make no mistake, Pence is a right-wing extremist.
Steyer is wasting everyone's time. He is cynically manipulating people's frustrations. Steyer is not doing LGBTs any favor with this effort. We're not sure if it's because he's not educated about the LGBT community or just doesn't care. If Steyer wants to run for office, he should announce his candidacy like anyone else. And he can spend as much of his money as he likes, but he shouldn't resort to the pipe dream of a Trump impeachment to boost his name recognition.