E.J. Graff

One View of the Brown-Warren Race

Last spring, I wrote for The Nation on the Elizabeth Warren campaign for U.S. Senate. At the time, I would've bet against her winning. This month, I checked in to see how the campaign is doing—and came away, to my surprise, believing she may very well eke out a victory over Brown. She's got three things going for her: a well-organized ground campaign that is deploying a flood of volunteers effectively and in coordination with the local, state, and national Democrats; her calm and personable performance in the debates; and the fact that many Massachusetts voters who might otherwise have ignored the Senate race are enthusiastic about reelecting President Obama. For more, I hope you'll take a look at my reporting for The Nation— before you come back here, of course!

It’s Just Unbelievable to Be Freed

(AP Photo/Joel Page, File)
I regularly get all giddy and Tiggerish about how far lesbians and gay man have come from the bad old days of, say, the late 1970s when I came out. Back then, most of the mainstream didn’t quite notice we were human. I do remember the moment I first realized that I wanted to kiss a girl, and my stomach fell out of me with fear: I didn’t want to be one of them. It’s hard to convey to you all how different things are and how far we’ve come. I’ve been thinking about this because, on her Bloggingheads show last week, Sarah Posner asked me whether, ten years ago, I would have imagined we’d be as far along as we are on marriage. Ten years ago, yes. In 2002, it was pretty clear what path we were on. But in the 1970s, marriage was simply beyond conceivable. If you want some evidence, you can find it in an old All in the Family episode in which Edith loses her beloved cousin Liz —and learns that the cousin’s “roommate” was in fact her partner. I looked back at it recently when Dan Savage...

Hope in Maryland for Marriage Equality

I’ve heard from many folks in the Maryland and D.C. area who really, really want to win marriage equality at the ballot this November 6. And I deeply hope that you will—more profoundly than I can express. But I don’t like how the numbers look at this particular moment. Going into the balloting with only 52 percent in favor is very close; historically, we’ve lost a few points from the public polling once people get in the voting booth. In the past, 52 percent just hasn’t been enough to cut it. Of course, for many reasons it could be different this time, as I’ve been pointing out here and here . Listen, back in 2000, when California's LGBT community was fighting the Knight Initiative—a first statewide mini-DOMA vote—I wrote, here, in the Prospect , that we had a chance of winning California. We were crushed. That happened again with Prop. 8 in 2008, although the margin of loss was much, much smaller. And yet we are going to win California. It might even be this year. Sarah Posner and I...

Does God Want You to Be Raped?

You gotta love these heartland Republicans. From a Blue state point of view, the kinds of things that Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, et al . have been saying are so eye-rollingly over the top that they seem designed precisely to keep Comedy Central and MSNBC in business. You know what I’m talking about, right? Akin started our heads spinning when he mansplained that if a woman gets pregnant, it couldn’t have been legitimate rape—because a woman’s bodies can only wash in those little swimmers if she was hot to trot to begin with. In this week’s installment of repro rights funnies, Mourdock explained on television that he was against abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest because: I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. ... And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen. The choking-on-thin-air sounds started immediately from women all over...

Marry Me in ... Maine?

The sixth in a Prospect series on the 174 ballot measures up for a vote this November. Last week, I announced my caution about the chances of winning same-sex marriage at the ballot in Maryland . Just after I wrote that, a Washington Post poll showed that voters are leaning 52 percent to 43 percent in favor of upholding the marriage-equality law there. I got a lot of pushback, based on that poll. Look, that’s better than the reverse. But those of us who have watched same-sex marriage get voted on—and voted down—32 times since 1996 have learned a few basic things: The spread is meaningless. All undecideds vote against us. Our side loses two to five points at the ballot. We end up where we started before the campaign. I don’t think that voters lie to the pollsters. I think that most people don't think about lesbians and gay men very much. If they don't give the issue much thought, they vote for the status quo: marriage as they've always known it. Faced with the sentence “marriage is...

Another One Bites the Dust

The cognoscenti have been telling me that the Supreme Court won't officially decide whether or not to take a DOMA case until after the election, lest they influence our voting one way or another. But today we got yet another clue that they will have to—and which way they will almost certainly decide. That's because today the Second Circuit Court of Appeals announced that it finds DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional, in yet another decision written by a conservative Republican-appointed judge, as was true in the Massachusetts cases decided by the First Circuit. The case: Edie Windsor, a widow who had been with her wife for 40 years—legally married, of course, only for a few years at the end—was suing the federal government for taxing her wife's estate as if they were legal strangers. A New York federal trial court judge decided summarily that was unconstitutional nonsense—as has every federal court that's heard such a case, in now ten opinions. The Second Circuit today upheld that, saying...

Voting While Trans

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Here’s the thing I loved about talking with Mara Keisling this week: her flat-out declaration that transpeople are winning their civil rights and cultural acceptance battles. I’m crazily Tiggerish on lesbian and gay issues: we’ve come so far so unbelievably fast, over my lifetime, that some days I bounce with glee. But given that the trans part of the LGBT coalition got started about 15 years later and has had very different challenges, I was still an Eeyore about their efforts. So it made my day to hear Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality executive director, declare a coming victory. “Science is on our side, first of all,” she explained. “Common sense is on our side. Decency is on our side. When you get that combination, you win every time.” But of course, winning is not the same as has won— which is why we were discussing the right to vote, and whether transpeople will be able to exercise it this year. Until NCTE launched its “ Voting While Trans ” initiative, it...

Marry Me in Maryland?

(Flickr/mdfriendofhillary)
(Flickr/friendofhillary) In all probability, Marylanders for Marriage Equality will be disappointed by November 6th's referendum results. This fall, opponents of marriage equality will lose a much-beloved talking point: that in every state in which same-sex marriage has gone on the ballot, voters have rejected it. On November 6, the freedom to marry someone of the same sex is up for a vote in four states: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Each state's initiative and situation is quite different, but in at least one (Maine), and possibly three (Maine, Maryland, and Washington), voters are going to offer marriage licenses to their lesbian and gay neighbors. Let's start by looking at Maryland. The backstory: In February, the Maryland legislature passed, and on March 1, Governor Martin O'Malley enthusiastically signed, a marriage-equality law. Named in jujitsu fashion, "The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act" explicitly addressed the canard that allowing civil...

Are Women Better Off Than We Were Four Years Ago: Take Two

The story so far. Last week I objected to the question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” I object to the idea that my well-being can be reduced purely to economics, or to few things that the president can affect. (One colleague wrote: My 90-year-old mother would certainly say she’s not better off than she was four years ago, but that’s more about her health than about her wallet!) So I’m going to hijack that question for my own purposes and ask: Are women better off than we were four years ago—not just financially, and not just in ways affected by President Barack Obama’s administration, but overall? Last week we checked in on our financial well-being, given that finances are indeed important. But there’s more to life than our checkbooks and retirement plans. So welcome to Episode Two: Our Bodies, Our Well-Being. There’s some good news and some bad news. As you know, this past year, some prominent menfolk have been deeply distressed to learn that we believe that...

Brown Versus Warren, Round III

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Unless you live in Massachusetts—or maybe even if you do—you probably missed the Elizabeth Warren/Scott Brown debate last night. That’s too bad, because it was a kick-ass debate—a model for political debates—run by Jim Madigan, from Springfield, Massachusetts’s public television station. (I know, I know—like Big Bird, he has to be careful, lest Romney fire him.) Here’s the truly groundbreaking part: Madigan actually moderated. He asked substantive questions about policy, drawn from those voters sent in. He kept the candidates to strict time schedules, giving them 20 seconds here and 5 seconds there, forcing them to articulate their beliefs quickly and crisply. He actually cut Brown off mid-sentence as Brown meandered around one point. Imagine that! As the debate went on, they started speed-talking to beat the clock. There was no time for Scott Brown to hurl his ludicrous accusations about Warren’s ancestry, although he did go ad hominem as often as he could. But we actually heard...

Show Me The Money: Correction

Last week, I launched a series simultaneously attacking and hijacking the quadrennial question: Are you better off than you were four years ago? For the first one, I reported on how women are doing economically compared to four years ago. But one of my sentences confused readers—apparently because I myself was confused. For my correction, let me simply quote what Heidi Hartmann of IWPR, one of the labor economists I cited, wrote me: I do have a little trouble with this sentence though because I’m not sure what you were trying to get at. If I said something like this I was not very accurate: Elderly women have fared a little better, because older people who live on Social Security haven’t lost much. They weren’t as affected by the drop in housing prices or the evaporation of pensions, since they hadn’t had jobs to begin with. It might be better to phrase it slightly differently: Elderly women have fared a little better, because older people who live on Social Security haven’t lost...

Shame on the Boy Scouts

Just in case the Boy Scouts hadn't hurt their reputation enough, they just told a longtime Boy Scout in California that he can't be an Eagle Scout—because he came out as gay, according to Yahoo. Yes, it's stupid to screen out adult gay men as Scoutmasters, but at least you could assume that, once upon a time, the Boy Scouts did that because they genuinely (if mistakenly) confused gay men with pedophiles. If all you hear in "homosexuality" is the "sexuality" part, and if you want to protect boys from predators, that mistake can be explained. The problem, of course, is that by looking for predators in the wrong group, the Boy Scouts let the real molesters slip back in again and again. But the only heart you break, there, is that of an adult who can get a little perspective. It's nasty, too, to tell a stay-at-home mom that she can't be the den mother of her son's Cub Scout pack because she's a lesbian—even though the other parents drafted her for the volunteer spot. But at least Jennifer...

Where's the Policy?

Like so many people—most, I would argue—I don’t so much listen to the presidential debates as watch them. As the words drone on in the background, I watch how they stand, where they look, what they emphasize. You’ve already read Bob Moser’s and Robert Kuttner’s detailed critiques of the President’s debate performance, and you don’t need my echo. But what I saw last night—whether accurately or not—was this: An exhausted President Obama isn’t completely sure he still wants the job. I’m not saying that is true; I am saying that that’s how he looked. Sure, he might have been preoccupied with the fact that, yesterday, Turkey made a preliminary foray into war with Syria—the man does have a demanding day job—but my fellow spectators on Twitter were crazed as Obama failed to make the case for his continued presidency. Someone tweeted, “Does Canada make you self-deport? Asking for a friend.” Others urged Team Obama to send Bill Clinton in as his designated hitter for the next two debates,...

Are Women Better Off than We Were Four Years Ago?

(Flickr/Lekere)
Last week I confessed that I don’t like presidential election season. I don’t like the trivialized reportage, the horse-race-ification of serious subjects, and the narrowed vision that settles in on policy folks during these months. I especially don’t like the question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” This suggests two things to which I object: first, that the president is in charge of how well-off I am, when all of us know that American politics and global economics are far more complex. Second, that “better off” or “worse off” can be reduced to my current income and immediate financial prospects, even if those were dependent on the president. So I’m going to hijack that question for my own purposes and ask: Are women better off than we were four years ago—not just financially, and not just in ways affected by President Barack Obama’s administration, but overall? Episode one: Show me the money. Despite the fact that I dislike the reduction of life to finances,...

"One Thing I've Learned: We're All Vulnerable."

You want another reason I hate presidential campaign season? It obscures real problems, the very problems the election is about . Okay, so that’s the same gripe I had yesterday . So let me introduce you to someone who's not just griping, but is doing something about it. Harold Pollack is a health policy analyst who, despite his terrifyingly smart and accomplished credentials , has an extraordinary ability to see social policy the way ordinary humans do: as a series of needlessly frustrating encounters with indifferent bureaucratic machinery. Over and over, he tells the stories of how ordinary human beings of limited abilities or limited means get dropped by the systems our society set up to help them. His stories have a liberal heart—in the sense that he clearly believes societies have a responsibility to help the weakest and most vulnerable—but contain no apologies for system failure. He lets the stories speak for themselves. And that is an extraordinary skill. For quite some time,...

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