Monthly Archives: December 2019

Skylar’s Naughty and Nice List 2019

naughty and nice 2019

It’s the time of year when we deck the halls, don our gay apparel, and kiss under the mistletoe. Yes, from carol singing to your one drunk relative getting a little out of hand, Christmas is a time rife with tradition. One of my favourite traditions is my annual naughty and nice list. After a year away, I’m back, ready to judge the fuck out of people, which is what Christmas is all about.

naughty

Lindsay Graham

It’s really hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment Lindsay Graham sold his soul to the devil, but it was sometime in 2017. Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, used to deride Donald Trump as someone who “lacked the temperament or judgment to be commander in chief,” but now he’s besties with the mango Mussolini. “I have made up my mind on impeachment,” he recently said, adding “I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror” in the president’s soon-to-come Senate trial. From principled leader to spineless Trump acolyte, Lindsay Graham’s descent into the hell that is Trumpism has been remarkably sad to watch.

Rudy Giuliani

Named Time Person of the Year in 2001 for his response to the 9/11 attacks, it has likewise been a swift fall from grace for the man once hailed as “America’s Mayor.” Whether going on Fox News and spreading what can only be called state-supported propaganda for Donald Trump or running a shadow State Department in which he conducts the president’s nefarious business dealings with foreign governments—including, yes, Ukraine—Rudy Giuliani has cemented his place in history as exactly what Saturday Night Live portrays him as: a vampiric villain willing to suck dry the lifeblood of American democracy.

Boris Johnson

An unlawful proroguing of parliament. Having the police called following an angry and allegedly violent row with his girlfriend. The fact that he has a girlfriend yet is still married. Hiding in a fridge to escape journalists. A refusal to sit down for an interview with that notorious lefty… Andrew Neal. You’d think Boris Johnson had a bad year, yet the man just won the biggest Conservative majority in parliament since Maggie Thatcher. He’s going to singlehandedly drag the UK out of the European Union next year, which is what he’s wanted forever since he discovered he could hitch his wagon to racism and xenophobia and end up in Number 10. Bully for him, I guess.

Jo Swinson

Much like a Tinder date, Jo Swinson started out promisingly but quickly fizzled to the point I was asking why I even bothered. Elected leader of the Liberal Democrats in July, she started by positioning herself as a prospective Prime Minister and finished the year as not even a Member of Parliament when the voters of East Dunbartonshire sent her packing—for the second time. Lots of things led to Swinson’s swift downfall, including her promise to rescind Article 50 and end Brexit which most voters found patently undemocratic. She will be most remembered, though, as a woman who was pathologically incapable of explaining what a woman even is.

Jeremy Corbyn

No one deserves more credit for the Tories’ recent electoral victory than, ironically, the Leader of the Labour Party. Whether it was watching gleefully as his acolytes vilified and purged the party of anyone to the right of Marx, turning a blind eye to antisemitism within the Labour membership and party apparatus, failing to articulate a coherent Brexit policy, or ignoring warning after warning that he was going to lose yet another election, Jeremy Corbyn has consigned the United Kingdom to five more years—at least—of Conservative rule. Well done, Jez. You royally screwed us all.

Dishonourable mentions: Justin Trudeau, Kanye West, Matt Gaetz

nice

Gina Miller

There are few public figures on either side of the Atlantic as tenacious as Gina Miller. Once again dragging the Government to the Supreme Court—this time to make sure Boris Johnson couldn’t unlawfully prorogue Parliament to force through his Brexit deal—Gina Miller has continued to be the most vocal and effective champion for parliamentary democracy. It’s ironic, really, that an arch-Europhile has become Parliament’s biggest cheerleader considering parliamentary supremacy is supposedly what Brexit is all about. But then, this entire decade has been an experiment in horrifying irony.

Taylor Swift

She dropped a banger of an album—her best since 2014’s 1989—including the instant classic “You Need to Calm Down,” which has become the newest LGBT anthem. It is her fight for artistic control and women’s rights, though, which has landed Taylor Swift on this year’s nice list. Taking on Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, who have control of the master recordings for her first six albums, took some serious guts. Swift didn’t even blink. A true role model and trailblazer, T-Swift has steadfastly stood up for the rights of artists, especially female artists, to control their careers and the work they produce. I look forward to hearing her new masters when she re-records her back catalogue in 2020.

Jess Phillips

Jess Phillips has been one of the most sensible voices in Labour since she was first elected to Parliament in 2015. Her blunt analysis of Labour’s defeat, written for the Guardian, is essential reading for anyone wondering just what went wrong with Corbynism. “I can’t help but think that the fact we saw only a tiny swing away from Labour in my seat was because of our ability to disagree well, with good humour and a shared vernacular,” she wrote earlier this month, adding that “you don’t have to agree with every word someone says if you have good faith in their intentions.” Phillips’ calls for Labour to stop talking down to the working class and her call for civility in political discourse—especially on social media—is a breath of fresh air and one that should be heeded by all sides of every debate on both sides of the Atlantic.

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and Dr. Fiona Hill

There were a lot of heroes to arise from the Ukraine scandal, including the as-of-now anonymous whistleblower and former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Vindman and Hill share one trait in common, though, that makes them both unique among those who testified about Donald Trump’s abuse of power—they’re both immigrants. Lt. Col. Vindman immigrated from Ukraine to the United States as a child, while Dr. Hill, originally from the North of England, became an American citizen in 2002. Listening to these principled national security experts and erstwhile presidential advisers detail the corruption within the Trump Administration while espousing their own patriotism was inspiring, especially at a time when the President and his supporters demonize immigrants.

The Hong Kong Protesters

At a time when democracy is under threat around the world, it is inspiring to see a movement for freedom accomplish so much and sustain itself so well. It started back in June over objections to a bill allowing extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China, but it has mushroomed into a movement for democracy, including universal suffrage and an end to police brutality. China, an authoritarian state which does not tolerate dissent, has responded by gassing protestors and labelling them terrorists, but these freedom fighters are not backing down. Obviously the issues at play here are far more complicated than I can explain in one blog, let alone one paragraph, and I encourage you to check out Lausan, a website dedicated to bringing the voices and perspectives of protestors to the wider world—and support them any way you can in 2020 and beyond.

Honourable mentions: Wes Streeting, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Cuomo

Who made your naughty and nice list this year? Tell me in the comments below! And from my blog to yours, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you in 2020!

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer focusing on UK and US politics. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. He lives in Tennessee.

Why I’m voting for Mayor Pete

Mayor Pete Buttigieg at an event in Iowa City, Iowa on July 14, 2019 (Photo: Flickr/Pete For America)

Way back in 2017, I wrote an article for the Independent in which I lamented that neither Jehmu Greene nor Pete Buttigieg was elected Chair of the Democratic National Committee. “I just hope that we’ve not seen the last of Buttigieg or Greene, and that maybe party elders will start allowing them to lead us into the future,” I wrote at the time.

Well, the time has come for one of them. Pete Buttigieg has surprised almost everybody—but not me—by seemingly rising from obscurity to the top-tier of Democratic candidates for president. To anyone who familiar with Buttigieg before he sought the party’s nomination, though, there is nothing surprising about this. We’ve long known Pete Buttigieg was a rising star.

I have been continually impressed with him since he declared his candidacy in April. It was a brazen move for the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana—population 101,000—who had lost the only statewide race he ever ran. Many were, and are, sceptical that someone so inexperienced could or should be president.

I made similar arguments against then-Senator Barack Obama as a Hillary Clinton supporter and doorstepper in 2008. Over his eight years in office, Obama—who when elected was only four years removed from the Illinois legislature—proved that experience holding high public office is not a requirement for being an effective, even excellent, president. In 2016, the election of Donald Trump solidified the fact that Americans are willing to vote for someone with little or no political experience.

Of course, Trump also shows that a lack of experience is not itself a qualification. What Buttigieg lacks in elected experience—and what Trump lacks entirely—he makes up for in knowhow. As mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg cut unemployment by 6.6% (the second highest of any city studied in a recent report by Business Insider), an impressive figure given the economic stagnation occurring in much of the Rust Belt. Under his mayoralty, a Studebaker plant which had been decaying for half a century was turned into a state-of-the-art call centre. He thought about closing the city’s utility pay centres until he realised how many unbanked people relied on them—showing an ability to change course when presented with compelling new information and also an understanding of the real economic struggles of working-class Americans.

None of this is to say that Pete Buttigieg is a perfect candidate. There are plenty of areas where we disagree. “Medicare for all (who want it)” sounds good, but I worry about the political will—both in the short- and long-term—to adequately fund a federal programme that competes directly with private insurers, an issue you don’t have with simply “Medicare for all.” Still, I recognise that many Americans are deeply distrustful of “Medicare for all,” and getting such a policy through even a Congress completely controlled by the Democrats would be nearly impossible, as Obama discovered in 2010.

Similarly, I disagree with Mayor Pete on his plan to cap free college tuition for households who make $100,000 a year or more, thinking that like public schools, libraries, and fire departments, every American—regardless of income—ought to be entitled to a college education should they desire it. Most Americans aren’t as left-wing as me though, and I am nothing if not a pragmatist. I worry that a failure to meet American voters where they are could risk a backlash similar to that experienced by Jeremy Corbyn in the recent British election.

And then there is the issue of race. Mayor Pete’s lack of any real support among Black voters is concerning. There are real questions about his record on gentrification and policing in South Bend, ones he has yet to adequately answer. Goldie Taylor laid these issues bare in an essay for the Daily Beast, one well worth reading.

Still, getting out of my big blue bubble in Chicago and moving to North Carolina in 2018, and then Tennessee last month, I’ve realised that many of the people who voted for Trump aren’t foaming-at-the-mouth racists (though they definitely didn’t let Trump’s foaming-at-the-mouth racism stop them). They’re hardworking people hungry for a change. We need with speak to them, not over them and not down to them, and to let them speak to us if we have any chance of winning the crucial swing states we need to win—and more importantly, effecting real change that can help workaday Americans live easier, better, and happier lives.

South Bend’s remarkable comeback has been because Mayor Pete has a vision for his city and country not rooted in the past, like Donald Trump’s “Make American Great Again.” He understands that the challenges facing American in the 21st century will not be met with 20th century solutions. “We propelled our city’s comeback by taking our eyes off the rearview mirror,” he said in a video upon launching his campaign, “being honest about change, and insisting on a better future.”

This honesty about change, and what is required to move forward, is the cornerstone of why I support Mayor Pete for President. “We’re not going to be able to replace this president if we think he’s just a blip, just an aberration. It’s going to take more than that,” he said in September. It’s a stark, and blunt, statement of reality that Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause, of a deep malaise within the American public (particularly the American white public).

This means healing the divisions in the country without sacrificing core progressive principles like racial equality, women’s rights, and an immigration system that welcomes rather than demonises those looking to make America their home. Overall, Mayor Pete gets this, and he’s shown he’s able to win and govern with these principles. He seeks to unite Americans of all stripes rather than continue the bitter divides which have stymied any consensus-building or change over the past several years.

Despite some stumbles and some unanswered questions, Mayor Pete joins together a progressive agenda with a pragmatic roll-up-your-sleeves, can-do attitude vital to tackling the major issues of our time. Pete Buttigieg has demonstrated a vision and ability to move America forward while bringing a bitterly divided nation together. It is why I will vote for him for President of the United States.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

On Pete Buttigieg, my Independent column, and whether I hate myself for being gay (spoiler: I do not)

Image may contain: 8 people, people standing, beard and outdoor

The author, centre, participating in a gay rights march in Lakeview, Chicago, in 2013. Photo: Brittany Sowacke/Redeye

On Friday, the Independent published an think piece I wrote entitled “If one more polyamorous coastal ‘queer’ tells me Pete Buttigieg isn’t gay enough, I’ll scream. He is – and so am I.” This article was in response to a few different “Pete’s the wrong kind of gay” articles I’ve seen over the past year, but the one that I used as my news hook was the most recent, by Buzzfeed’s Shannon Keating. I took issue with her views on Mayor Pete being an insufficient representation of the “queer” community, implying that “orgy attending, polyamorous Brooklyn bottom queens” (her words) are somehow more radical or more appropriate representations of the LGBT people than a boring old cis gay man like Mayor Pete.

The response has been largely positive. There are a lot of people out there who were clearly hungry for someone to state the obvious—that there is no right or wrong way to be gay, that being a “queer” doesn’t make you better than someone who just identifies as “gay,” and that Mayor Pete is and always has been gay enough.

Others disagreed. Some did so in good faith, and I had some respectful debates and constructive conversations both publicly on social media and in DMs. Others were cruel, telling me to throw myself off a freeway overpass or hoping I choke to death. Somewhere in between there lies the people I’m going to address in this blog—the people who decided that because I’m sick and tired of a certain subset of the LGBT community deciding who is and isn’t sufficiently “queer” I must be a self-loathing gay man with oodles of internalised homophobia.

Before we get to that, though, I want to make explicit what this blog isn’t going to address. I am not going to discuss Pete Buttigieg’s politics or policies. They are worth debating, but another day. I am not going to offer a treatise on the word “queer” and my thoughts on it. Again, that’s worth discussing, but this is not the time. And I am not going to call anyone out by name, as that would serve no real purpose.

I do want to briefly discuss a few points—and when I say briefly, I do mean briefly, because it is Sunday and I have zero desire to litigate these ad nauseum again—which have been brought up over the past 48 hours.

  • Am I a self-hating queer with internalised homophobia? To begin with, I don’t identify as queer, I identify as gay. That is important to me, because I have spent most of my life fighting to live openly and proudly and without fear as a gay man. I came out at 15, in 2001, which means I have spent more of my life out of the closet than in the closet. I experienced a crucible of homophobia every single day of high school, being called “faggot,” “fudgepacker,” “homo,” and, yes, “queer.” Far from internalising that homophobia, I rejected it and toxic masculinity to became even more unabashedly myself.
  • You criticised people for being too gay. No one can be “too gay,” because the only requirement for being gay is same-sex attraction. But if we’re talking about being camp, well, I have long worn makeup, had long hair—I went through an unfortunate phase where I thought teasing it was a good idea (“higher the hair, the closer to God”)—and have even been known to squeeze my ass into some women’s capris or baby tees because why the fuck not, they’re cute. I will rock out to some Cheryl or Kelly Clarkson or Steps. I have no problem living my authentic self and camping it up.
  • You hate queer culture. Do I enjoy all aspects of “queer culture?” No. I’m not a big fan of nightclubs in general, and no, I have never been in an orgy (though I’m not sure that is really a unique part of queer culture as straights can do this too). I don’t watch RuPaul’s Drag Race (though I have, and I enjoyed it) and I’ve not seen the reboot of Queer Eye. I prefer country to techno. I am at best a casual fan of Carly Rae Jepsen. These are all superficial markers of what it means to be gay, though, and if this is what the people who have said I hate “queer culture” means, well, I don’t hate it, but it’s not my cup of tea. I’m still hella gay, because I sleep with men. That’s it. That’s the only reason.
  • You used homophobic language. I didn’t. I was riffing off Shannon Keating’s own language, specifically the part where she refers to “typical orgy-attending, polyamorous Brooklyn bottom queens.” It is interesting that no one took exception to a woman (I assume a “queer” woman, but I don’t know that) using this language, but when a gay man snarkily uses nearly similar language to counter the notion that these people are somehow the moral or political arbiters of gayness—no one is, not them, not me, not even Sir Ian McKellan—I am pilloried. I find many (not all, and maybe not even most) people who made this comment read my article in bad faith and used it to make a political point or discredit me without engaging in my broader point, which is that no one gets to decide who is and isn’t doing homosexuality right.
  • You are insulting anyone who isn’t gay like you. That was not my intention, and I’m sorry if it came across that way. I could have made clearer I was sarcastically using Keating’s own language in my article. I accept that point. But let me make it clear that no one should judge anyone for their lifestyle, presuming they’re not hurting anyone else. Identify how you want, live how you want, sleep with who you want, and snort what you want. I don’t care. Just don’t think any of those things make you a better gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person who doesn’t.
  • You don’t represent queer politics. This is true. I do not represent queer politics. I do not wish to represent queer politics. I think if you asked 30 different people what queer politics are, you’d get at least 15 different answers. I represent me, and my body of work speaks for itself. You are more than welcome to read it here at this website or at Muckrack, where my portfolio goes back several years.
  • You’re not radical enough. I’m a socialist. I want nationalised healthcare free at the point of access (not just “Medicare for All”). I want open borders. I want to nationalise utilities and end the fossil fuel industry. I want every American woman to be able to get an abortion if they want. I want to completely restructure the racist institution of policing if not abolish it and start from scratch. I have been championing these issues for years now. I also want to get married, maybe have kids, and live a quiet life with my family and my writing. I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive. If you do, that’s your problem, not mine.

This is by no means an exhaustive or all-encapsulating list, nor is it everything I want to say on the subject or think about certain issues. But it’s enough for now. I will start referring anyone who calls me self-loathing, or accuses me of having internalized homophobia, to this blog. Because here’s the thing, folks—by assuming that I’m self-hating because I wrote one piece in which I told you to stop telling people they’re not gay enough, you’re proving my point. Not every gay man likes the same things you do. That doesn’t mean they’re not properly gay.