When I moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1994, I rented half of a historic house in Sailboat Bend. At the time, the neighborhood was already a cliché: Neglected by straight folk, taken over by gay folk.
My landlord Peter lived in the other half. He worked for the city, and he was a Log Cabin Republican. Peter avidly supported a party that not only opposed gay marriage but even civil unions — and would’ve been quite pleased if the previous owner of his home didn’t want to sell to someone like him.
When I asked Peter why he voted for politicians who hated him, he replied, “It’s business, not personal.” He wanted to buy more property, quit working for the city, and make lots of money. He believed Democrats would burden him with more taxes and regulation.
I pointed out a financial irony he’d already considered: If Republicans controlled all levers of government, wouldn’t it become harder for a gay man to become a millionaire? Tax breaks won’t help if rich bigots refuse to do business with you.
But Peter had a plan: Keep buying property in gay-owned neighborhoods like Sailboat Bend in liberal cities like Fort Lauderdale. In other words, vote for Republicans, but live amongst Democrats.
Trump’s double bump
I thought of Peter this week when I read that President Trump doubled his share of the LGBT vote — from 14% four years ago to 28% now, according to The New York Times.
Gay media outlets were shocked. Out Magazine said it was “frightening to see,” while LGBTQ Nation called it “astonishing.” But it makes sense.
It makes sense for the same reason Trump also gained among Black men, picking up 2% from 2016. They might have their own Peter Plan.
We need one more data point to know for sure: Where are these LGBT and Black voters? My hunch is they live in liberal places. They can vote Republican because they feel safe in Democratic strongholds.
The Peter Plan’s Republican pickle
If that’s true, this is good news — for Republicans and Democrats.
Obviously, Republicans are picking up voters. Bully for them. Maybe, just maybe, it moderates the inherent bigotry of the party’s rightest wing.
Even if it doesn’t, Democrats probably don’t need to worry much. If these voters do indeed live in culturally progressive neighborhoods, they’re likely in deep-blue states. That doesn’t help Republicans in the Electoral College. So Democrats might be shedding some voters, but it won’t matter where it really counts.
And while it’s not much of a consolation prize, Democrats can take pride in this: They’ve made their cities safe enough for marginalized groups to consider not voting for them.
Finally, Democrats have an opportunity to win those voters back. I don’t know what happened with Peter, or if he ever became a millionaire. But at the time, he was an aspirational Republican. In other words, he didn’t know for sure that Democrats would overtax and overregulate him. He was just starting out as a real estate mogul, so he was guessing. Democrats can easily make the case they’re not communists.
Thus, while Republicans are rejoicing over these results — the conservative Washington Examiner gloated Thursday that Trump “sent left-wing identity politics into a death spiral” — they should probably thank Democrats for their gains.
Michael Koretzky is editor of Debt.com, an elected leader with the Society of Professional Journalists, and volunteer adviser of the student newspaper at Florida Atlantic University.