Saturday, December 11, 2021
Nearly two decades have passed since that night. Bounce closed in 2017, and hundreds of other gay bars have shut down, too. Just 21 lesbian bars remain open nationwide, according to the Lesbian Bar Project. Still, Pike hasn’t forgotten what it felt like to be safe and attractive for the first time. The number of queer bars may be dwindling, but for many LGBTQ people, Pike knows, those spaces are still needed.
Early next year, Pike and partner Jo McDaniel plan to open As You Are Bar on Barracks Row in Southeast Washington. It’s one of a handful of queer spaces set to open in coming months. A group is planning a lesbian and queer “clubhouse” in Los Angeles, and an “old-school gay girl” in Norfolk plans to reopen the lesbian bar she founded four decades ago. A nonbinary performer is also raising money to open a lesbian bar in Queens. Pike and McDaniel know opening a bar during a pandemic may be risky, but they say they’ve learned one thing from years of visiting and working in other queer establishments: If they want to survive, they first have to build a better and more inclusive bar.
The gay bar was long the main, and sometimes only, space where queer people could gather. A few opened quietly in the early 1930s, then after World War II, hundreds more began serving gay men and women. By the 1980s, more than a thousand existed across the United States, according to Greggor Mattson, an Oberlin College professor who spent two years creating a database using listings from the Damron travel guide of LGBTQ-friendly spots. About 200 of those catered to lesbians.
Some, like Hershee Bar in Norfolk, opened when their states had laws that prohibited bar owners from employing gay people or creating gathering spots for them. Annette Stone, who opened Hershee as a lesbian bar in 1983, said the law emboldened police and other law enforcement agents to raid her business. One year, officers came 60 times in 90 days, Stone said. Still, Stone found a way to hold on. A judge deemed the law unconstitutional in 1991, and for years afterward, Stone hosted weddings and the occasional funeral. She mentored foster children whose parents had kicked them out, and every Thanksgiving, she threw a dinner for people whose families didn’t accept them.
By 1987, Norfolk had four or five gay bars, and the number nationwide peaked at more than 1,700. Many stayed open through the 1990s, but in the early 2000s, hundreds of gay bars started to close. Those serving lesbians and people of color were hit hardest.
A host of reasons led to their demise, Mattson said. Gentrification pushed some out of big cities, while depopulation and deindustrialization left bar owners in the Midwest unable to stay open. Still, Mattson has found two prevailing factors — the rise of dating apps and a growing acceptance of gay people.
“Gay bars were never just hookup places, but they were places to meet other LGBTQ+ people, and now that you can meet them from your bedroom or while you’re waiting for the bus, that has taken away some of gay bars’ monopoly on being the place where you find other LGBTQ+ folks,” he said.
Gay bars are also no longer the only place some queer people, especially White and cisgender men, feel safe. “I think this is highly uneven,” Mattson said, “but for gay, White, middle-class people like myself, any bar feels like a gay bar if you show up with six friends.”
Mattson has interviewed 120 bar owners in 35 states for a forthcoming book called “Who Needs Gay Bars?” and found that many endured by becoming more inclusive of the most marginalized groups. Lesbian bars, for instance, began to welcome nonbinary and trans patrons — people who may not feel as safe as cis White men do in straight bars. For some bar owners, Mattson found, that’s just economics, but for a new generation, “lesbian” and “gay” don’t capture their full and fluid identities.
Drawing on their years of bar experience — and Pike’s master’s in business administration — the couple broke ground in November on a 4,000-square-foot Capitol Hill space a few blocks from where the iconic lesbian bar Phase 1 operated for more than 40 years. (McDaniel also worked at Phase 1 before it closed in 2016.) Their bar, which they call As You Are, will be more than a nighttime party spot. They’ll have a dance floor, but they’re soundproofing it, and they’re retaining the downstairs for a cafe where people can co-work during the day or meet a date in the evening. They’re also building a room upstairs where people can play video games or watch football on Sundays.
“Our goal with that is to be family oriented,” McDaniel said. “I think people age out of the dance floor. We’ll have brunches where you can bring your kids. We might have book club meetups. Whatever your queer looks like, it belongs here.”
Pike and McDaniel know that some people think the gay bar era is over, that spaces like theirs are no longer needed, but people who say that tend to have more privilege, McDaniel said. Many trans people, for instance, have IDs with pictures and names that don’t accurately reflect them. A bouncer at a straight bar might turn them away, but the security managers at As You Are won’t.
“The people who say that are saying they don’t need them,” McDaniel said. “They feel safe going anywhere. And that’s not everybody’s experience.”
Stone, the owner of Hershee Bar in Norfolk, considers herself an “old-school gay girl,” but she’s rooting for the next generation of queer bar owners. She kept Hershee open for more than 35 years, and when Phase 1 closed in D.C., Hershee was, for a time, the oldest lesbian bar in the country. Some years were tough, Stone said. Norfolk is a Navy town, and when the Gulf War began and sailors shipped out, Stone’s bar emptied overnight. She lost customers to dating apps and breweries, but she noticed long before many others that trans patrons needed a place, too. Hershee remained a lesbian spot, but Stone put the word out, and soon the bar stools were filled with trans and nonbinary people, along with many straight cross-dressers.
“They felt safe there with us,” Stone said. “We wanted them to feel safe. We wanted to wrap our arms around them. We held on all those years, but you can’t be in it for the money. You have to be in it for the love of community.”
In nearly four decades of serving people, Stone met thousands of people who felt the way Pike did when she first stepped into Bounce all those years ago. Many still write to Stone saying they have nowhere to go, so this summer, Stone decided to reopen. She’ll have to find a new location — the city broke ground two months ago on a civic plaza at the old location — but Stone has hired an architect, and she hopes to open the new Hershee next year.
“I don’t care if I have to go there in my walker, I want us to have a safe space that we can call our own,” Stone said. “My family still needs a place to be together. And we’ll still be called a lesbian bar. I’m claiming it forever.”
Friday, December 10, 2021
We now believe that Congress must expand the size of the Supreme Court and do so as soon as possible. We did not come to this conclusion lightly.
One of us is a constitutional law scholar and frequent advocate before the Supreme Court, the other a federal judge for 17 years. After serving on the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court over eight months, hearing multiple witnesses, reading draft upon draft of the final report issued this week, our views have evolved. We started out leaning toward term limits for Supreme Court justices but against court expansion and ended up doubtful about term limits but in favor of expanding the size of the court.But make no mistake: In voting to submit the report to the president neither of us cast a vote of confidence in the Supreme Court itself. Sadly, we no longer have that confidence, given three things: first, the dubious legitimacy of the way some justices were appointed; second, what Justice Sonia Sotomayor rightly called the “stench” of politics hovering over this court’s deliberations about the most contentious issues; and third, the anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian direction of this court’s decisions about matters such as voting rights, gerrymandering and the corrupting effects of dark money.
Those judicial decisions haven’t been just wrong; they put the court — and, more important, our entire system of government — on a one-way trip from a defective but still hopeful democracy toward a system in which the few corruptly govern the many, something between autocracy and oligarchy. Instead of serving as a guardrail against going over that cliff, our Supreme Court has become an all-too-willing accomplice in that disaster.
They operate to entrench the power of one political party: constricting the vote, denying fair access to the ballot to people of color and other minorities, and allowing legislative district lines to be drawn that exacerbate demographic differences. As a result, the usual ebb and flow that once tended to occur with succeeding elections is stalling. A Supreme Court that has been effectively packed by one party will remain packed into the indefinite future, with serious consequences to our democracy. This is a uniquely perilous moment that demands a unique response.
None of the reforms that have been proposed precisely fit the problem that needs remedying. Term limits cannot be implemented in time to change the court’s self-reinforcing trajectory.
And while much can be said in favor of the narrower repairs the commission addressed — such as increasing the transparency of the court’s proceedings, reducing its discretion over its docket or imposing constraints on its use of emergency procedures (“the shadow docket”) — none is adequate.
Offsetting the way the court has been “packed” in an antidemocratic direction with added appointments leaning the other way is the most significant clearly constitutional step that could be taken quickly. Of course, there is no guarantee that new justices would change the destructive direction of judicial doctrine we have identified; respect for judicial independence makes that impossible. Of course, successive presidents might expand the court further, absent an unattainable constitutional amendment fixing its size at a number such as 13. But the costs are worth the benefits.
Though fellow commissioners and others have voiced concern about the impact that a report implicitly criticizing the Supreme Court might have on judicial independence and thus judicial legitimacy, we do not share that concern. Far worse are the dangers that flow from ignoring the court’s real problems — of pretending conditions have not changed; of insisting improper efforts to manipulate the court’s membership have not taken place; of looking the other way when the court seeks to undo decades of precedent relied on by half the population to shape their lives just because, given the new majority, it has the votes.
Put simply: Judicial independence is necessary for judicial legitimacy but not sufficient. And judicial independence does not mean judicial impunity, the illusion of neutrality in the face of oppression, or a surface appearance of fairness that barely conceals the ugly reality of partisan manipulation.
Hand-wringing over the court’s legitimacy misses a larger issue: the legitimacy of what our union is becoming. To us, that spells a compelling need to signal that all is not well with the court, and that even if expanding it to combat what it has become would temporarily shake its authority, that risk is worth taking.
Thursday, December 09, 2021
Wednesday, December 08, 2021
Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden. That's according to a new analysis by NPR that examines how political polarization and misinformation are driving a significant share of the deaths in the pandemic.
NPR looked at deaths per 100,000 people in roughly 3,000 counties across the U.S. from May 2021, the point at which vaccinations widely became available. People living in counties that went 60% or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.78 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates.
In October, the reddest tenth of the country saw death rates that were six times higher than the bluest tenth, according to Charles Gaba, an independent health care analyst who's been tracking partisanship trends during the pandemic and helped to review NPR's methodology. Those numbers have dropped slightly in recent weeks, Gaba says: "It's back down to around 5.5 times higher."
The data also reveal a major contributing factor to the death rate difference: The higher the vote share for Trump, the lower the vaccination rate.
The analysis only looked at the geographic location of COVID-19 deaths. The exact political views of each person taken by the disease remains unknowable. But the strength of the association, combined with polling information about vaccination, strongly suggests that Republicans are being disproportionately affected.
"An unvaccinated person is three times as likely to lean Republican as they are to lean Democrat," says Liz Hamel, vice president of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think tank that tracks attitudes toward vaccination. Political affiliation is now the strongest indicator of whether someone is vaccinated, she says: "If I wanted to guess if somebody was vaccinated or not and I could only know one thing about them, I would probably ask what their party affiliation is."
It was not always this way. Earlier in the pandemic, many different groups expressed hesitancy toward getting vaccinated. African Americans, younger Americans and rural Americans all had significant portions of their demographic that resisted vaccination. But over time, the vaccination rates in those demographics have risen, while the rate of Republican vaccination against COVID-19 has flatlined at just 59%, according to the latest numbers from Kaiser. By comparison, 91% of Democrats are vaccinated.
The vast majority of deaths since May, around 150,000, have occurred among the unvaccinated, says Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
While vaccine hesitancy exists in many different groups, Hotez suspects that the deaths are "overwhelmingly" concentrated in more politically conservative communities. "How does this make sense at any level?" he asks.
The consequences for individuals are real. Mark Valentine still remembers when his brother called him to tell him he had contracted coronavirus. Valentine is a trial consultant in North Carolina. His brother Phil, 61, was a well-known conservative talk show host in Nashville, Tenn., who often expressed skepticism about vaccination. . . . . Phil Valentine died in August about five weeks after he announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Misinformation appears to be a major factor in the lagging vaccination rates. The Kaiser Family Foundation's polling shows Republicans are far more likely to believe false statements about COVID-19 and vaccines. A full 94% of Republicans think one or more false statements about COVID-19 and vaccines might be true, and 46% believe four or more statements might be true. By contrast, only 14% of Democrats believe four or more false statements about the disease.
Perhaps the most pernicious pieces of misinformation have to do with the perceived severity of COVID-19 itself. The most widely believed false statement was: "The government is exaggerating the number of COVID-19 deaths."
Hamel says that underestimating the severity of COVID-19 appears to be a major reason why Republicans in particular have fallen behind in vaccination: "We've seen lower levels of personal worry among Republicans who remain unvaccinated," she says. "That's a real contrast with what we saw in communities of color, where there was a high level of worry about getting sick."
Despite the media coverage, Phil Valentine didn't believe COVID-19 was serious as long as you were healthy: "He said, 'The likelihood of me getting it is low. In the unlikely event that I do get it, the likelihood that I will survive it is 99-plus %,' " Mark Valentine recalls.
Vaccine researcher Peter Hotez . . . . He thinks the elements of the Republican Party that are endorsing anti-vaccine ideas need to take a big step back. "I'm not trying to change Republican thinking or far-right thinking," he says. "I'm trying to say: 'The anti-science doesn't belong; it doesn't fit. ... Just stop it and save lives.' ''
As I have noted many times, we are witnessing Darwin's theory at work. I am dumbfounded as to why Republican elected officials view killing members of their base as a political positive.
Tuesday, December 07, 2021
Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader and presidential candidate, died on Sunday at age 98. The media was filled with encomiums, which was understandable even for those who opposed much of what he stood for.
It’s not just that he was a war hero, or that he reminds us of an era in which the two parties were willing to work together in the national interest. His life story also reminds us of a time when public figures were supposed to show some sense of responsibility — to possess basic decency, to admit to mistakes when they made them, even to put their lives on the line in time of war. Human nature being what it is, many people who pretended to have these virtues were hypocrites. But at least that was the ideal, and being an obvious crook, liar or coward was politically disqualifying. Not anymore.
As it happens, Dole’s death came just a few days after we learned what Donald Trump did after he tested positive for the coronavirus last year. He not only concealed the result but also proceeded to put hundreds of people at risk by continuing his normal activities while refusing to wear a mask or practice social distancing. And when he came down with a life-threatening case of Covid, he suggested that he might have caught it from Gold Star families he had met with after his positive test — that is, he blamed people he himself had callously endangered.
At some level, nobody is surprised; we knew that Trump was malignant to a degree never before seen in high office. But what does it say about the state of modern America that nobody expects him to pay any price for this revelation? The loyalty of his base won’t be shaken; he’s still the favorite for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Nor has he paid any price for other character defects that would once have been considered damning. . . . . And Trump seems to have set the standard for many of his devotees. Many of the rioters who tried to overturn the election on Jan. 6 seem to be very sorry — for themselves. Kyle Rittenhouse wept on the witness stand, not because he felt remorse over killing people but over the pain of being put on trial. The Crumbleys, who gave their son the gun with which he shot up his Michigan school and killed four students, also seemed very upset — over having been arrested.
All this from a movement obsessed with the idea of masculinity. Weren’t real men traditionally supposed to be strong, silent types who took responsibility for their actions and accepted burdens without complaining?
It didn’t start with Trump. We’ve been heading this way for a long time. Back in 2006, in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses and the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, I wrote about the “mensch gap” — the unwillingness of the people then running the country to accept responsibility for their own failures, their eagerness to blame others when things went wrong. Later, during the Obama era, it was striking how many critics on the right refused to acknowledge error when their predictions of runaway inflation or the abject failure of Obamacare failed to come true.
But now the transformation of American conservatism — the same movement that complains about liberal “snowflakes” — into a collection of malignant whiners seems to have reached apotheosis.
I’m not entirely sure why this has happened; the degradation probably began decades ago, maybe as early as the Vietnam years. But there’s no question that it has happened. At this point there are no grown-ups left on one side of the political aisle.
My home at birth was a three-room house. I grew up during the Dust Bowl, when so many of us helplessly watched our livelihoods blow away with the wind. I have always felt humbled to live in a nation that would allow my unlikely story to unfold.
Many nights during my time as majority leader, I would step out on my office balcony overlooking the National Mall and be reminded of what made my journey possible. Facing me were monuments to our nation’s first commander in chief, the author of our Declaration of Independence, and the president who held our union together. In the distance were the countless graves of those who gave their lives so that we could live free.
That inspiring view came back to me as I watched the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol. I imagined the view of those monuments and headstones obscured by clouds of tear gas. I thought about the symbol of our democracy consumed by anger, hatred and violence.
There has been a lot of talk about what it will take to heal our country. We have heard many of our leaders profess “bipartisanship.” But we must remember that bipartisanship is the minimum we should expect from ourselves.
America has never achieved greatness when Republicans and Democrats simply manage to work together or tolerate each other. We have overcome our biggest challenges only when we focused on our shared values and experiences. These common ties form much stronger bonds than political parties.
I always served my country best when I did so first and foremost as an American. I fought for veterans benefits not as a Republican but as someone who witnessed the heroism of our service members firsthand. I advocated for those with disabilities not as a member of the GOP but as someone who personally understood the limitations of a world without basic accommodations. I stood up for those going hungry not as a leader in my party but as someone who had seen too many folks sweat through a hard day’s work without being able to put dinner on the table.
When we prioritize principles over party and humanity over personal legacy, we accomplish far more as a nation. By leading with a shared faith in each other, we become America at its best: a beacon of hope, a source of comfort in crisis, a shield against those who threaten freedom.
Our nation’s recent political challenges remind us that our standing as the leader of the free world is not simply destiny. It is a deliberate choice that every generation must make and work toward. We cannot do it divided.
I do have hope that our country will rediscover its greatness. . . . . I grew up in what others have called the Greatest Generation. Together, we put an end to Nazi tyranny. Our nation confronted Jim Crow, split the atom, eliminated the anguish of polio, planted our flag on the moon and tore down the Berlin Wall. Rising above partisanship, we made historic gains in feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. To make a more perfect union, we swung open the doors of economic opportunity for women who were ready to rise to their fullest potential and leave shattered glass ceilings behind them.
We can find that unity again.
In 1951, when I was newly elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, a reporter asked me what I had on my agenda. I said, “Well, I’m going to sit back and watch for a few days, and then I’ll stand up for what I think is right.” In 1996, when I left public office for the final time, I announced the same plans, to sit back for a few days, then start standing up for what I thought was right.
After sharing these thoughts, I plan to once again return to my seat to sit back and watch. Though this time, I will count on tomorrow’s leaders to stand up for what is right for America.
I remain very afraid for the future and the possible end of American democracy given the current bankruptcy of the GOP. It is NOT the party I once supported.
Monday, December 06, 2021
Sunday, December 05, 2021
Senator Josh Hawley is worried about men. In a recent speech at the National Conservatism Conference, he blamed the left for their mental health problems, joblessness, obsession with video games and hours spent watching pornography. “The crisis of American men,” he said, “is a crisis for the American republic.”
The liberal reaction was flippant. A CNN analysis mocked the speech, contrasting the “decline of masculinity” with real issues like the pandemic and inflation. The ReidOut Blog on MSNBC’s website declared, “Josh Hawley’s crusade against video games and porn is hilariously empty.”
Mr. Hawley is not alone in sensing that masculinity is a popular cause; around the world, male politicians are tapping into social anxieties about its apparent decline, for their own ideological ends.
There can be a homophobic and fascistic component to such calls: China has also barred “sissy” men from appearing on TV; in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has said that masks are “for fairies”; and Mr. Hawley, in his speech, fueled anti-transgender prejudice by alluding to a bogus “war on women’s sports.” Nothing justifies this hateful nonsense. But Mr. Hawley, for all his winking bigotry, is tapping into something real — a widespread, politically potent anxiety about young men that is already helping the right.
American politicians have long fanned popular flames of masculine panic to advance their own agendas, and Mr. Hawley is a scholar of this tradition. In 2008, two years after graduating from Yale Law School, he wrote a smart, compelling book about a historical figure who also worried about masculinity. In “Theodore Roosevelt: Preacher of Righteousness,” published by Yale University Press, Mr. Hawley described how Roosevelt sought to imbue men with the fortitude the country needed to drive big national projects like war and territorial expansion.
Conquest would allow American men to shed the temptations of the “slothful life” and become a “more manful race.” Mr. Hawley seeks to carry on this tradition.
He is right about some things. Deindustrialization has stripped many men of their ability to earn a decent wage, as well as of the pride they once took in contributing to prosperous communities. Boys are sometimes overdisciplined and overmedicated for not conforming to behavioral expectations in school. And while more women than men are diagnosed with anxiety or depression, men are more likely to commit suicide or die of drug overdoses.
None of these problems are caused by liberals. But liberalism hasn’t offered a positive message for men lately. . . . As Mr. Hawley puts it, men are being told by liberals that “they’re the problem.” Our side — the progressive side — has struggled to articulate what a “nontoxic” masculinity might look like, or where boys might look for models of how to become men.
This has set up an existential crisis for the left, threatening its ability to win elections. For years, young men have been flocking to the far right, finding its messages and disgruntled virtual communities on YouTube and Reddit. In 2016, Donald Trump won the male vote by 11 percentage points. And with his attacks on pornography and video games, Mr. Hawley could appeal to mothers, too, who know that, in excess, these aren’t signs of healthy social adjustment.
Like Roosevelt, Mr. Hawley knows how to exploit the cultural anxieties of ordinary people to advance his brand of politics. But he hasn’t offered solutions to this “masculinity crisis” because neither he nor his party has any.
Men and boys need good jobs, affordable access to team sports, an education system sensitive to their social and emotional development, public parks, mental health support, access to substance abuse treatment and paternity leave. All of this requires public funding, which is far more likely to come from the left than the right. To thrive, many men also need the freedom not to be “men” at all, but rather to become sissies, scrawny historians or even women, a cultural evolution Mr. Hawley and his conservative ilk adamantly oppose.
He, after all, has opposed just about every common public project recently proposed, from the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the Build Back Better Act to the Green New Deal.
Meanwhile, the left will need to find a better way to talk to men; half of the population is far too many people to abandon to the would-be strongmen of the far right.