Donald Trump’s tweets promising that America will neither “accept or allow” transgender people to serve in the military put him on the extreme right of his own party, with Republican senators like John McCain criticizing the policy shift. Trump’s move should also remind us that during the last election, he made a concerted attempt to portray himself as a more socially tolerant Republican—and many in the media took the bait.
On April 22, 2016, the Times ran an article by Maggie Haberman with the headline, “Donald Trump’s More Accepting Views on Gay Issues Set Him Apart in G.O.P.” The article all too credulously used stories of Trump’s personal tolerance as a window into his policy views:
But it is his views on gay rights and gay people that most distinguish Mr. Trump from previous Republican standard-bearers. He has nurtured long friendships with gay people, employed gay workers in prominent positions, and moved with ease in industries where gays have long exerted influence, like entertainment.
“He will be the most gay-friendly Republican nominee for president ever,” said Gregory T. Angelo, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that supports gay rights....
And Mr. Trump, who has inflamed tensions with almost every group, from Hispanics to women to African-Americans, has avoided attacking or offending gay men and lesbians during the campaign.
The problem with this argument are obvious. Trump’s personal views have no bearing on his polices because he’s utterly cynical, driven only by a will to win. So whatever he might feel about LGBTQ people in his heart, he’s more than happy to sell them out if that will please the religious right that is his political base. It was silly to ever expect otherwise.