With fewer than 80 days before midterm elections, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley ( IL-05 ) called on voters to get engaged in local politics and remain vigilant of LGBTQ rights.
Quigley spoke at the "Trans Talk" series at the Center on Halsted on Aug. 16;, Center on Halsted Director of Gender Equity Vanessa Sheridan moderated the event.
The congressman, who was first elected in 2009, underscored the importance of participating in the democratic process at a time when the country is polarized and the Trump administration's policies become increasingly autocratic.
"It's easy to be discouraged as we look at the situation now, but the worst thing we can do is give up," said Quigley, a founding member of the Transgender Equality Task Force and vice chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus.
"A lot of the victories happen locally," Quigley said. "Every governmental body can make a difference on ( LGBTQ ) issues: local school councils, state senators, aldermen, lawmakers in the county levels, townships. Don't give up on that ballot. Influence a generation of lawmakers."
Voters need to engage family and friends as well, Quigley said.
"One person can make a huge difference. We need people to train others, engage them, empower you and all those who come with you," he said.
Quigley said Democrats would likely win control of the House in November but indicated a "blue wave" isn't guaranteed.
"Don't believe when someone says there's going to be a wave. There are no waves. There are national influences on local races," Quigley said. "Both parties have the ability to shoot themselves in the foot. Every race is different, every race has different candidates, each race must be fought out as if there was no national influence there at all."
If Democrats don't win the House, Republicans "will be emboldened," Quigley said. "The worst of the worston all of these issues, in particular justice issues."
"That could be very discouraging," Sheridan said.
"Since the president took office, I feel like I've been doing group therapy, and reminded folks they need to feel better after the group session. I'm struggling with that. You have to be involved," Quigley said.
Even if Democrats win the majority, Quigley said voters must be vigilant of Congress' actions during the lame-duck sessionthe months following the election but before the next session of Congress.
"I think [Republicans] will attempt to do some extraordinarily bad things. And that will include immigration, I think it will include healthcare, I think it will include equality matters," Quigley said.
"When we separate families at the border and we ban Muslims and we build walls, we do all these thingsI hear people say, 'that's not who we are as a country.' My answer is: if we don't change things in November, that is it. That is who we are," Quigley said.
In addition to getting involved in the elections, Quigley stressed the importance of listening to others' perspectives.
"It's important to try to understand what is motivating those that you disagree with. Some of it is impossible: bigotry, hatred. But how do you get to those other folkshow do you build that middle ground?"
"If all we do is surround ourselves with people who solidly agree with us, we're not going to make the next stride forward. You've got to convince them that this is in their interest. Why should they care about gun control, climate change, better schools, injusticewe made strides but we made them [by]slipping into the skin of someone else."