The GOP is mad. The Biden-Harris administration announced their student loan forgiveness plan on August 24 and Republicans just can’t stop talking about how terrible it is. For them.
The plan cancels up to $10,000 in student debt for federal borrowers who make less than $125,000 a year and $20,000 in student debt for Pell Grant recipients. Only low-income borrowers are eligible for Pell Grants.
GOP objections speak to who the GOP is: white, male, wealthy, racist, misogynist, anti-LGBTQ and, to quote President Biden, “semi-fascist.”
Republicans took to the immediacy of Twitter to voice their collective and individual outrage. Class warfare was their first gambit — an interesting choice given that the GOP’s December 2017 tax bill was the biggest corporate welfare scam in history. Republican House reps and senators concern trolled about working-class people having to pay for the college loans of snobby young coastal elites with “useless degrees.”
The White House Twitter account, now run by deputy director of platforms Megan Coyne, formerly social media director for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, fought back, racking up hundreds of thousands of likes.
Coyne countered with tweets citing GOP House reps and senators who had their pandemic Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans forgiven. Among them were the notorious MAGA homophobe and transphobe Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, accused sex-trafficker Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Pennsylvania’s own Rep. Mike Kelly.
Kelly tweeted, “Asking plumbers and carpenters to pay off the loans of Wall Street advisors and lawyers isn’t just unfair. It’s also bad policy.”
The White House replied, “Congressman Mike Kelly had $987,237 in PPP loans forgiven.”
It didn’t take long for class warfare to slide seamlessly into the anti-LGBTQ dog-whistling the GOP has been employing throughout the midterms. Greene’s MAGA bestie, Rep. Lauren Boebert, told Fox News, “Joe Biden is robbing hard-working Americans to pay for Karen’s daughter’s degree in lesbian dance theory.”
The prototype of a Karen invoking Karen as a meme is so meta.
The internet loves to drag Boebert, and drag her they did. We each took our turns at besting each other’s clever responses. I posted, “The Wife and I went to school together and we both missed lesbian dance theory.” My tweet querying “The only question now is how long will it take Ron DeSantis to ban Lesbian Dance Theory in the schools?” went viral. One queer pastor, Rev. E. Carrington Heath, did a little thread opining on the classes for Lesbian Dance Theory. Martina Navratilova tweeted, “Wow- to think she had to write this down. And this 65 year old lesbian has never heard of lesbian dance theory, but maybe it’s a thing. Lauren- you are grasping at straws darling. And I am really glad you are straight.”
But it wasn’t all fun and games. These commentaries may be amusing in the short term, but they are harmful, and that harm is cumulative.
Donald Trump Jr.’s partner, Kimberly Guilfoyle, said on Newsmax that the loan forgiveness plan was “Paying off loans for people they want to have some bizarre basket weaving degree and they want all of us to subsidize their laziness and their inability to even try to contribute to society.”
Yet Guilfoyle was paid $60,000 of taxpayer money to give a two-minute introduction to Trump on January 6th — right before he told the insurrectionists he would meet them at the Capitol as he tried to overturn the election. If anyone can be characterized as failing to contribute to society, it’s the Trump enclave.
The gendered and racialized commentary from the GOP is so on brand. Republicans are mad because those eligible for debt relief are disproportionately young, female and Black. Many are LGBTQ. Their income strata is households earning between $51,000 and $82,000 a year. The schools they are attending are overwhelmingly community and other small colleges. HBCUs represent another large swath of schools those eligible for loan forgiveness attended. Trade schools are also where Pell Grant recipients can be found.
While Lauren Boebert’s comment might have sparked some humorous rejoinders from queers on social media, her messaging to the Fox News audience stokes all their inherent fears of a “homosexual agenda” that electeds like Ron DeSantis have been parroting for months, while also making claims that gay and trans people are attempting to inculcate children with queer and trans ideology.
Thus Guilfoyle, who hasn’t worked a real job in years herself, using classic racialized buzzwords like “lazy” and phrases like “not contributing to society” feeds on the cultural resentments that Donald Trump, Fox News and Newsmax have long-promoted.
Ted Cruz made a similar statement, also invoking the “lazy” student. Cruz said on his Friday podcast, “If you’re that slacker barista who wasted seven years in college studying completely useless things, now has loans and can’t get a job, Joe Biden just gave you 20 grand.”
Moreover, the GOP mocking gender and queer studies in false narratives to attack the Biden-Harris student loan forgiveness plan is purposeful and part of their midterm strategy. Why else target “lesbian” dance theory? Boebert, who dropped out of high school due to a teen pregnancy, no doubt has her own resentments about college students — especially child-free lesbian college students with none of the patriarchal burdens a cis-het teen mother would have had. No doubt these are women who Boebert thinks have gotten something she feels cheated of, like going to college. And dancing, instead of being stuck at home with a baby in the prime of her youth.
Making the very real student debt crisis a culture war debate is insidious and damaging on a myriad of levels. It feeds the GOP narrative that LGBTQ people and people of color are not trustworthy and are undeserving — that they are not like “normal” heterosexual working people.
This reductive trope elides the reality of how much harder LGBTQ people struggle financially, as I have reported on extensively. While Guilfoyle posits queer students of aesthetics are lazy and unproductive, most LGBTQ people are scrambling for job equity. Queer and trans people are also far more likely to be blue- and pink-collar workers, regardless of education.
The loud internet laugh over Lauren Boebert’s Lesbian Dance Theory invention was fun for the moment, but her underlying message and that of her fellow GOP as they center queer people in their class and culture wars narrative is anything but amusing.