How Politicians Scapegoat Gay People To Hide Their Failures

February 24th 2015

Ashley Nicole Black

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback overturned an executive order this month that protected LGBT state employees from being fired, harassed, or denied a job because of their sexuality or gender identity. While some states still deny LGBT people protections, it's pretty rare for a state to take away a right or protection that a group already had. It makes you wonder why Brownback would suddenly overturn a rule that has been accepted and in place for years. But if you've been following his tenure in office, you might guess that it's because Sam Brownback has been a pretty bad governor. 

I don't mean that he's a bad governor for putting hard-working state employees in the position of having to worry that they can be fired at any time just for being who they are. I mean, he's simply a bad governor, and he's hoping that if he gets us all talking about him denying protections to LGBT people, we'll forget what a bad governor he is. 

Kansas is in big trouble.

When Brownback was elected in 2010, Republicans won every federal and state office in Kansas. Brownback took this as a mandate to implement right-wing policies that normally would be mitigated by having to compromise with other parties. He enacted drastic tax cuts for the wealthy and for businesses, made it harder to get welfare, reduced regulations on businesses, rejected federal Medicaid subsides and privatized Medicaid, got rid of state agencies --eliminating 2,000 state jobs, and made huge, unprecedented cuts to education.

These polices are not working, and Kansas is not prospering. It has lost about 11 percent of its revenue ($687 million), and the state is now running deficits and had its credit rating downgraded. Also, the exact opposite of job creation has happened, the number of jobs has gone down.

Politicians want to distract us.

Considering the context, it's not surprising that he chose to take a shot at LGBT people. His economic policies aren't working, so he wants us to focus on social issues instead. Politicians do this to us all the time. They'll try to persuade the electorate to blame a minority group for their problems, creating an "us vs. them" scenario to get the "us's" votes. Pervasive negative stereotypes make minority groups easy scapegoats when politicians want to cover up their policy failures. When they use racially coded language to suggest that minorities abuse welfare, white people who need welfare vote for politicians that are going to cut it. When there aren't enough jobs, politicians introduce bills to curb immigration -- distracting us with the idea that it is immigrants, and not economic policies, that are slowing job growth.

Sam Brownback must think that enough Kansans dislike gay people so much that this executive order will distract people from his economic record. But what if Kansans identified by class? They could make one big "not rich" class and vote together for a candidate with economic policies that work for the most people. With the national economy making such a slow recovery, what if we all voted for candidates based solely on their economic plans and saved social issues for once the country has recovered? What if we just lived and let live and didn't legislate social issues at all? 

Politicians don't want us to do that. They want us to stay distracted with social issues so that we don't notice that a lot of their economic plans primarily benefit themselves...and the large corporations that lobby them. 

Sam Brownback tried a big economic experiment in Kansas, and he failed. Let's hope he also fails at his social experiment of trying to change the conversation away from the economy by attacking LGBT citizens. 

Check out John Stewart's take on Brownback's policy here: