Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Hold your applause. As milestones go, this one is disappointing.

It is, at best, half a milestone. Or a down payment on a milestone. If you are of a more cynical bent, you might even call it an effort to forestall a milestone.

Whatever you call it, last week’s decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay Scouts, but not openly gay Scout leaders, to join, is unlikely to please or appease either side of the gay rights struggle. Predictably, that shrinking coterie of individuals for whom homosexuality and Satanism are synonymous greeted the decision with howls of anger and pain. Matt Barber, an attorney and blogger, accused the Scouts of having “betrayed its own constituency, mission, oath and law.” John Stemberger, an Eagle Scout and anti-gay activist, predicted the Scouts will “probably be destroyed” by this decision.

For the record, the Girl Scouts have no policy limiting lesbian involvement. Indeed, according to its website, Girl Scouts of the USA has embraced diversity and inclusion from the beginning, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt that group any: It has 3.2 million members and recently celebrated its 101st anniversary. So Stemberger’s prediction that the boys are doomed for doing what the girls have done for years seems nonsensical at best.

But again, there is little reason this should be celebrated by the rest of us, either. The Boy Scouts’ decision to split the difference — allow gay boys, ban gay men — does not exactly smell of Solomonic wisdom. Rather, it is marked by reasoning that is cockamamie even if taken on its own terms.

If, for example, you buy the notion there is something about male homosexuality that renders men unfit to be leaders, why doesn’t that same flaw render boys unfit to be followers? And if you buy the idiotic canard that every gay male is a pedophile in waiting, then how do you countenance allowing gay teenagers as old as 17 access to boys as young as 10?

Worse, what kind of message does all of this send gay boys? You’re acceptable until you aren’t?

It is, of course, a mistake to seek logic here. This isn’t about logic, but about a conservative group doing what conservative groups always do when social change comes. Meaning, they bring up the rear, the caboose on the freedom train lurching belatedly to where the rest of us have already been.

It happened with racism, happened with sexism, happened with anti-Semitism, all of which conservatism loudly and proudly embraced long after the rest of us came to see them as evil and wrong. It is happening now with homophobia.

The problem for the Scouts and other conservative groups (paging the GOP!) is not simply that this change has been definitive (a record 59 percent of all Americans now find gay and lesbian relationships morally acceptable, according to a Gallup poll). It is not simply that this change has been swift (12 years ago, only 40 percent of us approved). No, it is also, maybe even primarily, that this change has been driven by young people, a whopping 70 percent of whom, ages 18 to 29, now believe same-sex marriage should be legal — up an also whopping 18 percentage points just since 2010.

Hello?

The momentum and trajectory are unmistakable: Gay rights are the future. The organization that fails to understand this sabotages its own future credibility. So there is little reason to celebrate the Scouts’ half-hearted attempt to compromise with change. Might as well attempt to compromise with a locomotive.

Last week’s decision is a mere way station en route to a destination that seems increasingly inevitable. One day, and it probably won’t be all that long, the Scouts will concede this. On that day, this absurd decision will fall and scouting will be open to all boys and men regardless of sexual orientation.

That will be a milestone worth clapping for.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]