The Lack of Thoroughly Progressive Politicians

There is a distinct difficulty which arises for people who work from a place of intersectionality when it comes to talking about or voting for politicians.

I’m going to use former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire as an example of this.

She was great for LGBTQ rights. She supported and signed four bills that resulted in same sex marriage being legalized in Washington state. In doing so she sacrificed being allowed to take communion at St. Michael’s parish, a Catholic church where she was a door greeter. (1) This she can be considered an ally to LGB people and, if you squint and turn your head sideways, maybe trans people as well.

However, she was really bad for incarcerated people. While she was in office, education programs for people in prison were cut back to the absolute bare minimum. GED, ESL, and a small handful of other program that were able to fly under the radar were all that survived. Personal clothes were taken away. Incarcerated people were no longer able to simply order pre-approved items from mail order catalogs or have our people mail us care packages. Instead everything had to be purchased through Access Secure Pak. Release readiness programs were eliminated and the WA DOC was encouraged to use every opportunity to fear-monger and make life in prison ever more oppressive. Mail censorship increased dramatically. Mandatory minimums were repeatedly increased, more prisons were built, and tough on crime was the order of the day. These were not simply things that happened under her while she happened to be governor, these were a result of her leadership and the stated agenda of her office. (2)

Looking at her vastly different positions for different groups of oppressed people makes it complicated to think about the possibility of having a new governor (or other elected official) like her in the future. This gets complicated even further when I think about all the various topics I care deeply about, and how a politician like her seems to jump rope between being helpful or baleful to them depending on if we are talking about race, education, LGBTQIA2+, (dis)ability, healthcare, feminism, indigenous, mass incarceration, immigration, religious freedoms, freedom of speech, or poverty. Literally all the things (at least, all the things I can remember right now). Sometimes I feel like when someone is first starting out as a politician they are secreted away to some weird initiation where a set of coin flips determines what things they will be for, and what they will oppose. It just seems so arbitrary. How can someone be for racial equity, but be against restorative/transformative justice? Or be for LGBTQ people, but against giving sanctuary to immigrants who are fleeing their own deaths? For universal healthcare, but against birth control and abortion? For green reforms, but against helping homeless people and those living in extreme poverty? How are these things not interrelated? Some more directly than others.

This is something I don’t understand and I hope it is something that we, as a society, will refuse to stand for the next time elections come around.

1) Lillian Faderman (2016) “The Gay Revolution” pg. 596-601
2) Personal experience.


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