A Harvard study in 1996 showed that when women and minorities are promoted to the upper echelons of large corporations, it usually results from a crisis hitting the company. Often a discrimination case is lost or some financial calamity engulfs the “traditional” white male that’s been groomed for leadership, leaving the “diverse” candidates free to ascend. This hypothesis certainly holds true for politics. Obama was elected to the US Senate, where not one but two of his campaign rivals were caught in sex scandals, and the economy was in full free-fall in 2008. America didn’t come together and decide it was time for a black president, but rather Obama – in addition to being talented, handsome and ethical – was in the right place at the right time to make history.
Trump’s Crisis May Be Ru’s Opportunity
Like many progressives, I view Trump’s candidacy as the most existential crisis to affect this country in a generation. His corruption, incompetence and pettiness create crisis after crisis, putting our country at risk. Despite the threat, progressives are mobilized in a way that was unimaginable a year ago. And for the solid blue states, it’s time to think the unthinkable. States like California should run candidates who are so outrageously progressive that it leaves absolutely no doubt that they are giving a massive middle finger to President Trump. I can think of no one better to embody the new America that progressives are championing than RuPaul Charles, whom I would urge to run for US Senate next year (or potentially Lieutenant Governor).
“No establishment Democrat can risk alienating the black vote and the gay vote and still hope to have a future in Democratic politics”
The (Non) Arguments Against RuPaul
Some will argue that RuPaul has no political experience, but neither did Ronald Reagan when he was elected governor of California in 1966. Moreover, people are tired of career politicians – the momentum of both Trump and Bernie Sanders proves that. Sending a random Congressman to the Senate isn’t a symbolic victory; it’s just more of the same, which makes most voters yawn.
Others might warn that RuPaul’s candidacy will be a rallying cry for social conservatives keen to oppose gay rights. True, but they’re already mobilized and passing any and all laws they can to enshrine “religious freedom.” North Carolina’s bathroom bill was passed long before this op-ed. And this argument is always used when a diverse candidate runs for high office. Bill Clinton allegedly told Teddy Kennedy that America wasn’t ready for a black candidate; he was wrong. These things always seem impossible, then, years later, people pretend as if these accomplishments were never monumental. But even if Senator Charles will never speak from the world’s greatest deliberative body, a solid campaign alone will change thousands – if not millions – of hearts and minds regarding how America views gay people, paving the way for future queer political leaders. Simply put, before you can have President Obama, Jesse Jackson must run first.
Also, it will be hard for establishment Democrats to maintain a sustained offensive against RuPaul for the same reasons Hillary couldn’t get tough with Bernie Sanders in last year’s primaries: attacking the insurgent candidate in the primaries can risk depressing your base in the general. No establishment Democrat can risk alienating the black vote and the gay vote and still hope to have a future in Democratic politics, giving RuPaul the freedom to run a campaign on the issues and not get bogged down in the usual mud slinging.
The biggest issue I see is that RuPaul may not wish to put himself into a brutal, grueling campaign. To which, I would plead, “If you’ve campaigned for an Emmy, honey, you’re ready for politics. That golden statue demonstrates you know how to glad-hand, back-slap and massage big egos with the best of them. And in making Drag Race a global phenomenon, you’ve proven that you’re a successful entrepreneur, a skilled grassroots organizer and a powerful communicator. You have the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to succeed in politics.” So by all means, lets draft RuPaul for 2018. It will be fierce, fabulous and will provide hope to a community that desperately needs it.