I’ve written a couple of articles about Republican weaknesses in the upcoming election over the past few weeks. Despite favorable polling at the moment, the abortion issueremains an Achilles heel for the party and Donald Trump’s recent resurrection of the effort to repeal Obamacare may turn out to be a similar weakness.
That doesn’t mean that Democrats will cruise to another election victory, however. The Democrats have problems of their own that the party must deal with and that voters will have to consider.
There’s also immigration. The border has been a perceived weak area for President Biden, but this weakness might be somewhat offset by a proposed deal that would tie border security funding to a Ukrainian aid package.
Aside from the economy, there is one big issue where Democrats are out of the mainstream in the same way that Republicans are swimming against the tide when it comes to abortion and gun rights. The big weakness for the Democrats is their position on treatment of transgender children.
If the polling seems inconsistent, welcome to American public opinion. We can draw some broad conclusions, however. Even though most Americans believe that gender is a biological reality, most also believe that trans people should be respected and that they should not be discriminated against. The biggest opposition to the trans movement seems to be on issues that involve children, such as medical gender reassignment treatments on minors and in sports.
Transgender issues may provide an opening for Republicans, but it is an issue where they should tread carefully. Republicans should avoid attacking trans people directly but focus their efforts on regulating medical treatments and mandating that biological boys cannot cross over to girls’ sports.
It’s going to be tough to go that far and no farther though. The risk is that Republican firebrands will cross the line into overt bigotry and turn off moderate voters in swing states and districts. To some extent, I’d say that this isn’t a risk but a certainty. The question is how broad the problem will be.
This should be the focus of the Republican message. The party’s candidates and surrogates should stress that they have sympathy for the mental anxiety that gender confusion can cause but that scientific data has found that medically altering a person’s gender can make the problem worse. If possible, they should do this without uttering words like “pervert” or “groomer.”
Regulations and restrictions on medical treatments for minors have a long history, both in the US and Europe. Campaigning for a nationwide ban against the use of hormone blockers and sexual reassignment surgeries for minors is not fanatical, transphobic, or cruel.
It’s also reasonable to advocate that biological boys compete against other biological boys in school sports. No matter what gender is claimed, DNA and the male physical makeup create an unfair advantage for trans women over biological women.
Even though there are comparatively few trans people, the issue of transgender rights is a contentious one. Republicans currently have a more mainstream position on the issue so we’ll definitely see the topic come back up as the election nears.
Republicans should remember, however, that being a small minority does not mean that trans people lack humanity. The focus should be on helping them find the best medical and psychological help to navigate their condition rather than singling them out for harassment and ridicule.
The key is look to the scientific evidence and present it in a kind and caring way. In other words, don’t be a jerk.