Donald Trump violated the emerging Republican orthodoxy on Thursday by declining to denigrate trans people’s humanity during a televised town hall. Asked about a new North Carolina law that excludes trans people from certain bathrooms, Trump implied that bathroom bills may be unnecessary. “There have been very few complaints the way it is,” the candidate noted. “People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble.”
This divergence from the GOP party line spurred Ted Cruz to release a creepy, underhanded attack ad. “Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use a women’s restroom?” the ad asks over an ominous droning synth. “The same restroom used by your daughter? Your wife?” (This line invokes the deeply insulting bathroom predator myth.) Then we hear a snippet of Trump’s comment and learn: “Donald Trump thinks so.”
“It’s not appropriate. It’s not safe,” the ad concludes. “It’s PC nonsense that’s destroying America. Donald Trump won’t take on the PC police.”
Cruz is clearly looking to position himself as the GOP’s reigning culture warrior, painting Donald Trump as a trans-friendly pushover with New York values. Although Trump does not appear to be deeply bigoted toward LGBTQ people, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cruz ad pushes him to reverse his position on bathroom bills. As my colleague J. Bryan Lowder noted, Trump seems likely to hop on the anti-LGBTQ bandwagon as soon as he concludes that doing so will help him pick up a few more votes. Cruz’s new ad makes Trump’s anti-trans conversion even more inevitable.