Question of the Day

Do all the wingnuts who are shitting in their pants this afternoon following Obama’s announcement of support for same sex marriage realize that nobody is telling them to have a gay marriage? The point is to allow others to make that choice–a basic matter of individual liberty which the right wing has no understanding of. Hiding behind religion does not excuse bigotry.

Obama Becomes First President of the United States To Support Marriage Equality

Barack Obama’s view has finally evolved to the right position: “I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

This is important for reasons beyond this particular issue. Considering the importance of marriage status in so many areas of our lives, this is a fundamental issue of individual rights and liberty. With the Republicans pushing a social agenda of increased government intrusion in the private lives of individuals. I would like to see the Democrats be more consistent in taking a pro-liberty stance. (Now if Obama would stop those marijuana raids as he promised.)

Prior to this interview, I had been wondering if Biden’s statement that he backed gay marriage was a planned trial balloon as opposed to Biden running off at the mouth?

With the importance of this news, I reversed usual procedure and posted on social networks (where much of the blog discussion has moved) first while writing the full post. The discussion on Facebook shows enthusiasm for this decision, along with a warning that this might energize the base on the right. There is a danger that this might get some evangelists to vote who might have stayed home. However, it works both ways. This might also help increase turnout among the young, showing another clear distinction between the parties. Democrats are not going to win long term by shying away from principle. It is harder to accept a disagreement on basic principles as opposed to accepting compromises on other types of policy issues. For example, many who would have preferred a single payer system still appreciate Obama’s tremendous accomplishment with health care reform and recognize that a single payer  plan is not politically feasible in this country at this time. It is harder to justify taking the wrong position on a matter of individual rights of this nature.

In contrast, Republicans were victorious in passing an amendment to block same sex marriage in North Carolina last night. Just a reminder to Republicans: You are not a supporter of small government if you want to tell people who they may or may not marry. You are not a supporter of small government if you want the government to tell women whether they can use contraception or have an abortion. You are not a supporter of small government if you supported the war in Iraq or the Patriot Act.

Indiana Win For Tea Party Encourages Further Polarization and Gridlock

The defeat of Richard Lugar by Richard Mourdock in Indiana last might might have consequences far worse than changing one Senate seat from conservative to extremist right wing. I am, of course, assuming that Indiana doesn’t provide another shock as when this conservative state went for Barack Obama in 2008. Jonathan Chait has a warning as to what could be the most serious outcome:

The most important and alarming facet of Lugar’s defeat, and a factor whose importance is being overlooked at the moment, is one of the things Mourdock cited against him: Lugar voted to confirm two of Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. Obviously, Lugar would not have chosen to nominate an Elena Kagan or a Sonia Sotomayor. But he was following a longstanding practice of extending presidents wide ideological latitude on their Supreme Court picks. In the absence of corruption, lack of qualifications, or unusual ideological extremism, Democratic presidents have always been allowed to pick liberal justices, and Republican presidents conservative ones. That’s not a law. It’s just a social norm.

But the social norms that previously kept the parties from exercising power have fallen one by one. Under Obama’s presidency, Republicans have gone to unprecedented lengths to block completely uncontroversial appointments, paralyzing the government and using the power to paralyze government to nullify duly passed laws. It is bringing on an approaching crisis of American government.

The social norm against blocking qualified, mainstream Supreme Court nominees is one of the few remaining weapons the Republican Party has left lying on the ground. But if Republican senators attribute Lugar’s defeat even in part to those votes for Kagan and Sotomayor, which seems to be the case, what incentive do they have to vote for another Obama nominee? And then what will happen if he gets another vacancy to fill – will Republican senators allow him to seat any recognizably Democratic jurist? Especially as the Supreme Court interjects itself more forcefully into partisan disputes like health care, will it become commonplace for the Court to have several vacancies owing to gridlock, for the whole legitimacy of the institution to collapse?

Not to mention the most blatantly political and unjust action by the Supreme Court since dominated by conservatives–blocking a recount and choosing the president in 2000.

The outcome is certainly not clear. Republicans have gotten away with seriously hindering the Obama administration by blocking nominees without justification, but a Supreme Court Justice is a far more high profile position. People who are unaware of how much the Republicans have obstructed progress are more likely to notice this and perhaps begin to realize how unreasonable the Republicans have become in recent years. The Republicans very well might pay a political price if they repeatedly filibuster moderate liberal Supreme Court nominees, and this might also lead to changes in Senate rules. This might not even be limited to the Supreme Court. Would anyone really put it past the Republicans these days to filibuster replacement appointees for members of the Cabinet who choose not to remain in Obama’s second term.

This all assumes that Obama is reelected, but this is hardly certain (as James Carville warns). Lugar’s defeat will scare other Republican Senators into following the extremist Tea Party line. While Mitt Romney might prefer a more moderate course,  assuming he doesn’t mean much of what he has said this year, it is hard to see him standing up to the far right, forcing him to govern from the far right regardless of what he might prefer.

Leaving political office often does provide the more sane (or less crazy if you prefer) Republicans to say what they could not say while in office. Lugar has warned against the hyper-partisanship we are now seeing:

If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.

This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise.

Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don’t succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues.

John Danforth, who has often been a voice for reason after leaving the Senate, had this to say about Lugar’s defeat:

THINKPROGRESS: What do you think is happening here?

DANFORTH: An effort by some, and apparently a large number, 60% in Indiana, to purge the Republican Party and to create something that’s ideologically pure and intolerant of anybody who does not agree with them — not just on general principles, but right across the board.

THINKPROGRESS: Do you stand by your view that GOP is beyond hope?

DANFORTH: If this trend succeeds, yeah. What they will be left with, if indeed they want to purge the party of all but people who have a particular ideological slant… it’s not a way to win elections, it’s not political sustainable. It might make them feel good for a time but doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked. It didn’t work in Nevada or in Delaware in last election. They won nominations but couldn’t win elections. I don’t know how you win elections without getting 51% of the vote. I don’t see how you’re gonna get 51% of the vote if you make it clear that people in your own party, who don’t absolutely agree with everything you want to do, aren’t wanted.

Jennifer Granholm Tells Mitt Romney To Stop Lying About The Recovery of the Auto Industry

Jennifer Granholm, who was Governor of Michigan at the time of the auto bailout, responded to Mitt Romney’s lies as to where he stood:

Dear Mitt Romney:

There are politics, there are lies, and then there’s you. You take it to a whole ‘nother level.

OK, I admit that I have a particular animus toward you, as a guy that knifed us in the back when Michigan was on its knees, but you simply cannot be our president. It cannot happen.

As you know, Mitt, I was governor of Michigan during that horrible time, when the financial industry was melting down and the auto industry was in free fall. And you were running for president. You saw the polls about the unpopularity of bailouts and you lumped the auto industry in with the bank industry — the auto industry, where your father and so many of your family members had worked.

You raised your finger into the air, saw which way the wind was blowing, and followed it. Way to lead, Mitt.

You weren’t looking into the eyes of autoworkers getting laid off as factory after factory closed.

In the six month period surrounding the president’s inauguration, more than 1,018 Michigan companies had announced mass layoffs in response to the crash.

Our unemployment office was receiving more than 800,000 calls per day from people desperate for help. The auto industry was heading over the cliff, we were begging for help, and you were coolly standing behind us giving your home state a shove over the ledge. And now you have the nerve to claim credit for the auto industry’s rebound? It’s a joke, right?

Steve Rattner, who headed the president’s auto task force said it succinctly today when he said, “Mitt Romney is nuts.” If only that’s all it was.
So Mitt, here’s my request: Just stop it. Stop denying that you were pandering to a national audience when you wrote that Detroit should “go bankrupt” and then stop taking credit for the success of the Obama administration’s intervention to save the auto industry and more than a million jobs that went with it.

The Obama team wasn’t taking advice from you. So just. Stop. Talking. Just stop.

And to you, reading this in The Huffington Post — let’s be honest, most Democrats aren’t going to vote for Mitt Romney anyway. This latest example of his deception and distortion is just that, the latest example.

But to the Republicans and Independents who are reading this: Could you honestly see George H.W. Bush, or John McCain or Bob Dole, or even George W. Bush, demeaning the intelligence of the American people like this? Acting in a way so devoid of integrity?

It’s ironic that on a day in which we focus on the auto industry, we’re debating the merits of a guy who exhibits all the clichés we unfairly assign to used car salesmen.

America is not a business. It’s not about ROI. It’s not a trophy to mount on your wall.

America is an idea. And it’s the solemn responsibility of each “temporary” president to protect and nurture that noblest of all ideas — with integrity.

This man, Mitt Romney, has shown — not through his experience, but through his actions and words — that he is unqualified to carry out that responsibility.