Let it not be said that the GOP doesn't know it has a problem. As Senator Lindsay Graham said last year, "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term." And in the November election, that became vividly clear. Mitt Romney lost Latino voters by 44 points, Asian-American voters by 47 points, and voters under 30 by 23 points. So in the months since, the Republicans have been racking their brains to come up with ways to appeal to voters who do not happen to be older white men.
One of the main reasons so many members of Congress become lobbyists after they leave office is that there just aren't that many high-level opportunities available to them where they can use what they learned in office. After you've spent a bunch of time learning the ins and outs of Congress, and somebody's willing to pay you half a million dollars a year or more to put that knowledge to use, it seems to make a great deal of sense. But what if at the end of your political career, you've become, to most people, a laughingstock? And what if you're not a lawyer, so you can't practice law, and you're known for being erratic, so no one would hire you to run their interest group, and in truth you really have no marketable skills at all? Then you're in a quandary, which is where Sarah Palin found herself four years ago. And you have to hand it to her: she fashioned a post-campaign career that manages to continue on no matter what setbacks she encounters, from getting her reality shows cancelled to getting dropped by Fox News.
If there’s anything that’s always struck me about the GOP’s response to Barack Obama, it’s the extent to which conservatives have grossly underestimated Obama’s political prowess. It seems obvious to me that the first African American president would be a terribly effective politician, but it’s a lesson Republicans are only beginning to learn—four months after Obama won a second term in the White House.
Conservative writer John Podhoretz has a skewed view of Obama’s priorities—he calls the center-left Democrat a “statist” who holds an “anti-exceptionalist” view of America—but he understands the extent to which Barack Obama is a formidable opponent that Republicans underestimate to their peril:
If you want to produce change, make politicians as terrified as this sandwich. (Flickr/Sakurako Kitsa)
As the effort to enact new gun legislation hobbles along, liberals have noted over and over that in polls, 90 percent or so of the public favors universal background checks. In speaking about this yesterday, President Obama said, "Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change." Then Jonathan Bernstein explained that opinion doesn't get political results, what gets results is action. I'd take this one step farther: what gets results is not action per se, but action that produces fear. I'll explain in a moment, but here's part of Bernstein's argument:
Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins has a great examination of the Republican Party’s renewed attempt to reach out to minority voters. In short, it’s not just that the GOP needs to recruit nonwhite candidates—it also needs “to overcome is own overwhelming whiteness” as an organization. “There is not a single racial minority among the 20 most senior officials who run the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee,” writes Coppins. And absent any connection to nonwhite communities, it’s difficult to make genuine inroads.
The very first people to be protected by the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which guaranteed 18-year-olds the right to vote, will be 62 by the next presidential election. It’s time to extend the franchise again. And Takoma Park, Maryland, may just be on the frontier of that expanded democracy. The Washington, D.C., suburb is apparently considering lowering the voting age to 16. That proposal would only apply to local elections, but there’s no constitutional prohibition stopping any state from lowering the voting age for state or federal elections as well (the Constitution prohibits raising the age, but not lowering it). A handful of similar efforts have been floated in recent years, although the only successes have been allowing 17-year-olds who will be 18 the next November to vote in primary elections occurring before their birthdays.
Outside of the Supreme Court this week—where the nine justices were hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of California's ban on same-sex marriage—a young woman and an old woman were arguing.
"If you put all the gay people on an island," began the older woman, who looked to be in her fifties.
"See, this is why people think you guys are like the KKK!" interjected the young woman. "You're talking about rounding us all up—"
"Let me finish! If you put all the gay people on an island, in a generation there would be no gay people. They would die out."
"That's not a realistic scenario. We all live in this country together."
In the 1930s and '40s, George Murphy appeared in a number of movie musicals. He later became involved in politics, first as president of the Screen Actors Guild, then as chairman of the California Republican Party, and finally as a U.S. Senator. When Murphy took office, the idea of an entertainer serving in the Senate was outlandish enough that satirist Tom Lehrer wrote a song about it. "Oh gee it's great," Lehrer sang, "at last we've got a senator who can really sing and dance!" A year later, Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California, and suddenly it wasn't so funny anymore.
North Dakota. Can you smell the freedom? (Flickr/Gadi Golan)
The Mercatus Center, an independently funded free-market think tank housed at George Mason University, just released its annual "Freedom in the 50 States" rankings, and the results, showing whether you live in a Randian paradise or a soul-crushing statist hellhole, are getting a lot of ridicule on Twitter. Liberals may laugh that this kind of thing is pretty silly, but it's conservatives who ought to find the results deeply unsettling. Because if "freedom" as conservatives define it really does determine the quality of one's existence, then they all ought to be packing their bags to move to the most free of all the states. Which, according to the Mercatus Center, is North Dakota. You can see the problem here.
As I sat in the press gallery off to the side of the Supreme Court yesterday morning, waiting for the justices to file in and begin hearing arguments about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I had that sickly excited feeling that you get when the roller-coaster car is climbing the first hill. The day before was easier for me: I didn’t want the Court to take Perry, the Prop. 8 case, to begin with. I was relieved when very quickly we all could hear that the justices had no appetite for a broad ruling. But the DOMA case—and here please let me confess that I’m terribly human—the DOMA case is about my marriage. As regular readers will know, I’m married to my wife in Massachusetts, but because DOMA bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states, I’m not married in the United States. The justices were going to discuss whether to end that split identity. This morning, it was very personal again, as it hasn’t been in awhile.
By now you've heard from the various news sources that, in this week’s Supreme Court arguments on California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, a majority of justices expressed skepticism over both. So it's imaginable—even probable, if you believe the news—that we will find ourselves at the end of June with DOMA in the junk pile and marriage equality back on the books in California.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee—who at the moment is a talk radio host—gave an exclusive interview to Newsmax TV where he warned of doom (and gnashing of teeth, presumably) if Republicans back away from their opposition to same-sex marriage. When asked if he thought the GOP might pivot away from opposition to marriage equality, he said, “They might. And if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk." He later elaborated, explaining that “Politicians have an obligation to be thermostats, not just thermometers.
A gay lion prepares to set upon a group of Christians.
With all this talk of gay people marrying one another, some people on the right are starting to bleat about how they're being oppressed for their Christian beliefs — so oppressed, in fact, that they're starting to feel like "second-class citizens." Here's CBN's David Brody lamenting the sorrows of Kirk Cameron and Tim Tebow. Here's Red State's Erik Erikson predicting the coming pogrom ("Within a year or two we will see Christian schools attacked for refusing to admit students whose parents are gay. We will see churches suffer the loss of their tax exempt status for refusing to hold gay weddings. We will see private businesses shut down because they refuse to treat as legitimate that which perverts God’s own established plan."). Here's Fox News commentator Todd Starnes on the oppression that has already begun ("it’s as if we’re second-class citizens now because we support the traditional, Biblical definition of marriage"). And how is this second-class citizenship being thrust upon them back in the real world? Well, people are...strongly disagreeing with their position on an issue of public concern! It's awful, I tell ya.
In a post yesterday, I said that it would be absurd for the federal government to produce its own brand of cola, not because doing so would make us all less free, but because there's just no need. Well lo and behold, today I find out that the state of Pennsylvania, where I used to live, has its own brand of mediocre wine, called Table Leaf. It's manufactured by a winery in California, but sold through state-owned Pennsylvania liquor stores. Does that seem nuts? Well, it starts to make sense when you recall that in Pennsylvania, the state has a virtual monopoly on liquor sales through the stores run by the Liquor Control Board. So in addition to making it incredibly inconvenient for you to buy a bottle of wine or other booze, they also are able to market their own house brand (at apparently inflated prices). In the decade I lived in the state, I never met a single person who thought the state monopoly wasn't ridiculous (polls show support for privatization to be strong, albeit not universal).
Here's a contrast: At the same time the Supreme Court held oral arguments on a case that could legalize same-sex marriage, North Dakota lawmakers passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation. It's a sign, argues Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post, that the two have decoupled as issues of controversy, "Younger Americans have become increasingly supportive of gay marriage in a way that hasn’t necessarily happened for abortion rights."