For a candidate who usually benefits from foreign tragedy, Donald Trump sure drew the deuce yesterday. He was all set to announce Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate, but then a truck driver killed 84 people during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France. Newt Gingrich called on us to realize that we are at war with “people who seek to destroy our civilization,” which is about the level of insight he offers. Chris Christie refused questions from his front yard, after a storm knocked out his power and a former aide pled guilty to bribery charges. Similarly contending with forces beyond his control, Trump postponed his announcement of a running mate out of respect for Nice, then had to announce early this morning, apparently to beat Indiana’s deadline for gubernatorial candidates to withdraw from the race. Then he released the vaguely sexual logo above. Today is Friday, and even the luckiest people in the world get snakebit sometimes. Won’t you savor the comeuppance with me?
It’s been a long time since Montana was on the wrong side of a civil rights debate. Since 2014, when Attorney General Tim Fox withdrew his appeal of a circuit court decision that declared our ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, you hardly ever see Montana in lists of states that begin “Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi…” Fortunately, President Obama’s directive that transgender people be allowed to use the public bathrooms of their choice has given us a new civil rights issue to be wrong about.
Last week, Fox filed suit against the federal government over Obama’s directive, putting Montana in cahoots with a couple dozen other states whose governors and attorneys general are deeply concerned with
staking out territory on meaningless social issues during an election year freedom. Obviously, this is an issue that affects all of us, in the sense that we all have opinions about it even though it affects a small number of people. National estimates of the number of trans people in America are famously hard to come by, and estimates of the Montana trans population don’t exist. Here’s the New York Times on what we can glean from Social Security Administration data:
Since the Social Security Administration started in 1936, 135,367 people have changed their name to one of the opposite gender, and 30,006 also changed their sex accordingly, the study found. Of Americans who participated in the 2010 census, 89,667 had changed their names and 21,833 had also changed their sex.
Ninety thousand is probably a low estimate, since many trans people presumably do not officially change their names or genders with Social Security. Still, these numbers put the lowball estimate of transgender Americans at about .03% of the population. If we work from that estimate and assume Montana’s trans population is improbably identical to the national ratio, we can expect to find about 300 transgender people in the whole state.
And how many of them attend K-12? Fox’s lawsuit focuses narrowly on how Obama’s directive affects public schools. He may have taken the historically bad bet of using his state office to sue the feds over a civil rights issue, but at least he’s chosen an issue that is extremely minor. I think trans people should use whatever bathrooms they like, and I don’t mean to suggest that their rights are unimportant. But the effect of their rights on non-trans people is unimportant. I submit that transgender bathroom use is a purely theoretical idea for cisgendered Americans, particularly in Montana. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, in which I praise Fox for his bold action. It’s ironic. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.
Senator Charles Grassley is the most Iowa man in Iowa. He’s 82 and has aged in the Iowa manner, by looking like a child who fell into a food dehydrator. His Twitter is a delight. He is a Republican in the Chamber of Commerce tradition, representing that wing of the party whose ambition for government is to get it out of the way of farmers and insurance agents. This approach has gotten him labeled a Republican In Name Only, which is the kind of accusation people who learned about politics from Glenn Beck will level at a man who has been in the US Senate for 34 years. But despite the certainty that he will spend the rest of his life in office—or maybe because of it—Grassley displays the most Iowa quality: he wants to do a good job. Yesterday, he announced he might hold hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee after all. His decision may have something to do with this jeremiad in the Des Moines Register.
You don’t need to print the American flag on an AR-15. If you’re holding one—indoors, with your finger on the trigger, as former Navy SEAL and current representative from Montana Ryan Zinke is well trained to do above—people will know you’re American. Guns are an essential part of the American experiment. They’re what separated us from Britain in the 18th century, and they’re what separates a new generation of Americans from their faces in the 21st. The Second Amendment guarantees that we all get as many as we want. And despite juridical and popular disagreement over what the authors of the Constitution meant by “well-regulated militia,” I think we can agree it’s unconstitutional to regulate guns at all.
On Sunday, President Obama announced that he would be leaving a seat open at his State of the Union Address for the victims of gun violence. This morning, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced that he, too, would leave one of his guest seats empty, to protest abortion. “I have reserved it to commemorate the lives of more than 55 million aborted babies, the chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world,” he said, adding that he would not attend the address himself. In light of these changes, the updated guest list is as follows: