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Mara Keisling On The Trans Debate

Mara Keisling On The Trans Debate

Mara is a brilliant transgender rights activist and founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. I’m so grateful for her willingness to have a robust exchange of views on some issues, along with much agreement as well. Every few weeks, I hope to add another perspective to the debate over trans identity, a subject that has suffered from the mainstream media’s horror of open debate. Dana Beyer kicked the series off.

You can listen to the episode with Mara Keisling right away in the audio player embedded above, or right below it you can click “Listen in podcast app” — which will connect you to the Dishcast feed. To listen to three excerpts of Mara — on the tensions within the new Equality Act; on the conflation of sex and gender in public policy; and on the fairness of trans athletes competing with cis athletes — head over to our YouTube page.

Looking back, here’s a question from a reader prompted by our episode with Kmele Foster:

You expressed your frustration with terms like “whiteness” or “white values”, which mean nothing more specific than anything the speaker disapproves of at that moment. Whilst I agree, I’m not sure this is a new phenomenon. When I was at university, people on the left would use the phrase “bourgeois values” in the same way. Whilst the points of reference are rooted in identity politics rather than economics, and the underlying ideology is critical race theory rather than Marxism, is it not the same phenomenon? And, if so, do you believe they are interchangeable or is this generation’s activism significantly different?

My concern is associating a whole slew of characteristics to a single “race” and erasing all the variety and diversity within that population is, itself, a form of racism. Values are not black white; they are human, and available to all.

Last week’s episode with pro-Trump intellectual Michael Anton elicited the most email of any episode we’ve had so far. A reader writes:

I appreciated your discussion with Anton, as it can be useful to hear the best defense of even (and perhaps especially) those things one finds largely indefensible (allowing me to check my Trump Derangement Syndrome levels, and all that).

But boy, that sure didn’t move the needle. Anton’s defense of Trump boiled down to a combination of relentless whataboutism and what appeared to be, if we’re being extremely generous, highly selective “epistemological humility,” as he puts it. I came away with the impression that, whatever his rationalizations, what was driving him was largely the same motive driving my Trump-supporting relatives: a desire to own the libs/spite the elites/stick it to the Dems. Why that particular tribal motive is so powerful, and what can be done about it — in conservative and liberal circles alike — seems important to figure out if we’re to keep the republic chugging along.

Another reader focuses on our fiery exchange over the 2020 election:

Thank you for interviewing Michael Anton. I’d never before listened to a person espouse theories of voter fraud who actually has the mental resources and willingness to debate the topic, so the discussion was very revealing. 

I do wish that you, or someone, would ask him why he feels that our “loosey goosey” voter registration system (to use his words) is being massively exploited only by Democrats. If the fraud is not baked at the voting machine level (which Anton conceded) and is instead organic, then why does this organic fraud only cut in one direction? Anton casually asserts that half of the electorate (his side) is honest, while the other half is widely corrupt on an individual, person-by-person level: millions of people individually deciding to cheat the system.

Anton himself has written a response to his Dish experience. Check it out. Another reader is “disturbed by the ongoing ‘bad election’ narrative”:

As someone who has worked elections, may I suggest the doubters please work a poll? My experience is people of all political ideologies work together to make free and fair democracy happen. I am in Georgia. Workers here risked their health to open the polls. Then they spent long hours counting and recounting and recounting. Then they reset the whole thing for a 5 January run off. All this during the holiday season!

The Senate double run-off is proof Georgia was free and fair. Georgia — a state run by Republicans — spent $100 million between 2016 and 2020 buying new voter-verified paper and digital voting machines. If Senators Purdue and Loeffler had won reelection, the Democrats would not have challenged the result. They would had gone back to discussing why they get 48-49% but never crack 50%.

This next reader looks to other parts of the episode:

Two things that really stuck out that I would’ve loved to hear Anton address as he played his whataboutism rhetorical games with you:

  1. During his campaign in 2016, Trump promised to not only get rid of the budget deficit, but to eliminate all US debt within 8 years. This wasn’t a throwaway promise. It was on his website, and I know people who voted for him precisely for this reason.

  1. Anton grotesquely underplayed the entire attack on the Capitol. He did this by focusing solely on the deaths, but there have been hundreds of serious injuries to Capitol and DC police officers caused directly by the insurrectionists, and obviously plenty of videos documenting some of these attacks. I’d love to hear him defend these as well, as if this was some sort of fun lark and people went in because they didn’t know there was a Visitors Center (give me a fucking break!).

Anyway, an enraging but enlightening discussion. Makes me skeptical of any reconciliation any time soon.

Lastly, some much deserved praise for Anton:

I really enjoyed the episode, and Michael Anton has the kind of perspective I never really hear in my bubble, so I found it fascinating. While I think he was wrong about virtually everything over the first half of the podcast, he did have some insightful criticisms of the left toward the end. Thank you for your effort to provide fans of the Dish with some much needed intellectual diversity.

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