On Thursday’s “Today” show, Donald Trump surprised people by expressing opposition to North Carolina’s “bathroom law.”
That’s the new law restricting use of bathrooms in government facilities to people of the same biological sex, meaning that many transgender people will have to use bathrooms that conflict with their expressed gender.
Trump’s stance shouldn’t have been a surprise. If you were expecting Trump to just take whatever was the most hateful position available, you’ve misunderstood him.
First, you need to remember that Trump has almost no core ideological views. The only deeply held opinion he has about bathrooms is that they should be coated in marble and brass.
What Trump does care about is winning. He likes winners, he hates losers. And it’s abundantly clear by now, with companies announcing cancellation of their expansion plans in the state, that the North Carolina law is a loser.
“They’re paying a big price,” Trump said of North Carolina. “There’s a lot of problems.”
Indeed. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory did not deal from strength, and he got crushed.
Trump doesn’t like losers, but he does like deals. And I’m sure he’s convinced that, if he were governor of North Carolina, then he would have made a great bathroom deal that made everyone happy. In Trump’s North Carolina, there would be so much peeing, people of all genders would be bored of peeing.
The most interesting lesson from Trump’s statement today is this: Maybe trans panic doesn’t have the currency with Republican voters that social conservatives hoped and LGBT advocates feared.
From the president’s birth certificate to the Mexican government sending us its “rapists” to Muslim 9/11 “celebrations” in Jersey City, Trump is happy to play to people’s unfounded fears. Yet he doesn’t think appealing to bathroom panic is a good play.
“There have been very few complaints the way it is,” he said, basically arguing that North Carolinians should chill if they’re afraid that creepy men are going to use transgenderism as a cover to sneak around to watch women and girls pee.
That’s a sentiment shared by South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican who vetoed a similar bill on the grounds that there was not “any pressing issue” of bathroom conflicts. But it’s not shared by Ted Cruz, who says that it’s “stark-raving nuts” to let people who were born male “be alone in bathrooms with little girls.”
Trump must have known that Cruz would hit him on this. We’ll see if he’s right in his apparent judgment that his voter base is motivated by fear of Muslims and resentment of Mexicans, but view transgender people as a non-threat, and wouldn’t want to risk the economy by picking a needless fight with them.
So far, he’s been a pretty accurate reader of the average Republican voter’s id.