The culture wars are back and this time the left is winning.
More than anything else, the rapid growth in support for gay marriage illustrates the changes in American culture and politics. We are living in a completely different society than we were in the 1980′s and 1990′s. The boomers are on their way out, taking their conservative stands with them, and the millennials are proudly marching in, progressive views in hand.
There was a time when Democrats lived in constant fear of “Guns, God and Gays.” Now it’s the Republicans’ turn to worry as larger numbers of Americans support gay marriage, immigration reform and gun control. The GOP will have to come up with a new formula to win campaigns or the party will become irrelevant. Adapt or die!
Now it’s time for Republicans to fear the culture wars just as Democrats did in the 1980′s and 1990′s. Last week, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio switched his position to support gay marriage. Even Democrats in red states like Jon Tester of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Kay Hagen of North Carolina have seen the light and now support same-sex marriage.
In 2003, according to an ABC News/Washington poll, a majority of Americans opposed gay marriage by a margin of 58 percent to 36 percent. Ten years later, most Americans are onboard with same sex nuptials and the numbers are exactly the opposite of what they were in 2003. In the new ABC News/Washington Post poll, four of every five (81 percent) Americans under 30 favor gay marriage. As the millennial generation becomes a greater and greater proportion of the population and the electorate, opposition to gay marriage will get even smaller. In a CBS News survey of American Catholics, three out of five (62 percent) of the faithful support gay marriage.
A majority of Americans now support gun control and immigration reform. In the new ABC News/Washington Post survey, nine in ten Americans (91 percent) favor background checks on gun purchases and a clear majority (57 percent favor to 41 percent oppose) supports a ban on assault weapons. A new survey by the Public Religion Research institute indicates at six in ten (61 percent) Americans want undocumented aliens to get legal status.
The left may be winning battles on most of the fronts in the culture wars, but there is one issue that has put progressives on the defensive. Public support for Roe v Wade remains high, but state governments in the West and in the South have made it more difficult for women to make decisions about their own bodies.
According to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute a clear majority (56 percent legal to 38 percent illegal) of Americans want abortion to be legal all or most of the time. The states of North Dakota and Arkansas have both enacted laws that strictly limit abortions. Both laws violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and federal courts will probably nullify them.
It will be difficult for the GOP to cope with the new social order. Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus has been beat up by conservatives since he released a study last week that called for the GOP to moderate its issue stands to become politically effective. This week, Priebus felt the heat from the extremists in his party and he backtracked and said the GOP will still have the same agenda which was the party platform adopted at the 2012 national convention.
If the chairman was referring to the platform that calls for outlawing all abortions without any exceptions, the GOP will be spending the next generation in the deep freeze of the political Arctic.
By: Brad Bannon, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, April 1, 2013
Jonylah Watkins died on a Tuesday.
She was with her father, who was sitting in a minivan in Chicago on the night of March 11 when someone opened fire. Doctors worked 17 hours trying to repair what a bullet had done to her body, but to no avail. She died the next morning. Her funeral was about two weeks ago. She was six months old.
Antonio Santiago was seven months older when his mother put him in a stroller and took him for a walk in their Brunswick, GA, neighborhood. Sherry West says they were accosted by two teenagers demanding money. She told them she didn’t have any. West says they shot Antonio in the face and killed him. This happened two days after Jonylah’s funeral.
An Associated Press reporter was on hand a day later as the boy’s father tried to comfort his child’s mother. “He’s all right,” Luis Santiago told her, smiling for her benefit. “He’s potty training upstairs in heaven.”
Which is, of course, the very foundation of faith, the belief that even tragedy will work ultimately for the good, that in the end, the bitterest tears transmute to the greatest joy. That is, in essence, what is commemorated this Easter week. It marks the morning when, we Christians believe, a carpenter turned itinerant rabbi overcame death itself, rolled a stone aside and walked out of his own tomb.
In the King James Bible, in the book of Matthew, the rabbi — Jesus — is quoted as saying, “Suffer little children and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
When I was a kid, that always confused me. I wondered why children were commanded to suffer. But, as later translations confirm, the word was used in its old English sense, meaning: to permit or allow. Let the children come to me, He is saying, for they are the essence of grace. Love the children.
Two thousand years later, a singer named Marvin Gaye turned that command into a stark plea: Save the children.
As a nation, as a people, we have failed at both.
Nearly 100,000 people will be shot this year according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Seventeen thousand will be younger than 19. So almost 5,000 kids have been shot since the Newtown massacre in December, the one that was supposed make us finally get serious about gun violence.
That toll speaks unflattering volumes about our seriousness. As does a Politico report that support is softening for laws that would expand background checks and impose other common-sense restrictions on gun ownership. A Florida state legislative panel just voted to support a bill allowing teachers to bring guns to school. Once again, the nation endorses the Orwellian logic that would “solve” the problem of too many guns by adding more guns.
How do you suppose we would explain that to Jonylah or Antonio? Which of the gun lobby’s inane platitudes would we use to justify our failure to keep them safe? Jonylah, guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Antonio, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun …
This year as every year, foes of abortion publicly mourn the loss of babies who could have been. But they — we — remain silent on the loss of babies who actually were, who died because we could not get our act together, because ours is a nation that does not simply enable private gun ownership, but that worships and fetishizes it to the point where sensible restriction — even sensible conversation — seems impossible.
As a result, we are a nation where what happened to Jonylah and Antonio has become grimly, sadly… routine. That fact alone starkly illustrates the insanity to which we have devolved, and the challenge that faces faith this Easter week.
We keep crying the bitter tears. We are still waiting for the joy.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, March 31, 2013
We’re still legislating and regulating private morality, while at the same time ignoring the much larger crisis of public morality in America.
In recent weeks Republican state legislators have decided to thwart the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in “Roe v. Wade,” which gave women the right to have an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy.
Legislators in North Dakota passed a bill banning abortions after six weeks or after a fetal heart beat had been detected, and approved a fall referendum that would ban all abortions by defining human life as beginning with conception. Lawmakers in Arkansas have banned abortions within twelve weeks of conception.
The morality brigade worries about fetuses, but not what happens to children after they’re born. They and other conservatives have been cutting funding for child nutrition, healthcare for infants and their mothers, and schools.
The new House Republican budget gets a big chunk of its savings from programs designed to help poor kids. The budget sequester already in effect takes aim at programs like Head Start, designed to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children.
Meanwhile, the morality brigade continues to battle same-sex marriage.
Despite the Supreme Court’s willingness to consider the constitutionality of California’s ban, no one should assume a majority of the justices will strike it down. The Court could just as easily decide the issue is up to the states, or strike down California’s law while allowing other states to continue their bans.
Conservative moralists don’t want women to have control over their bodies or same-sex couples to marry, but they don’t give a hoot about billionaires taking over our democracy for personal gain or big bankers taking over our economy.
Yet these violations of public morality are far more dangerous to our society because they undermine the public trust that’s essential to both our democracy and economy.
Three years ago, at the behest of a right-wing group called “Citizen’s United,” the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in politics by deciding corporations were “people” under the First Amendment.
A record $12 billion was spent on election campaigns in 2012, affecting all levels of government. Much of it came from billionaires like the Koch brothers and casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson —seeking fewer regulations, lower taxes, and weaker trade unions.
They didn’t entirely succeed but the billionaires established a beachhead for the midterm elections of 2014 and beyond.
Yet where is the morality brigade when it comes to these moves to take over our democracy?
Among the worst violators of public morality have been executives and traders on Wall Street.
Last week, JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, was found to have misled its shareholders and the public about its $6 billion “London Whale” losses in 2012.
This is the same JPMorgan that’s lead the charge against the Dodd-Frank Act, designed to protect the public from another Wall Street meltdown and taxpayer-funded bailout.
Lobbyists for the giant banks have been systematically taking the teeth out of Dodd-Frank, leaving nothing but the gums.
The so-called “Volcker Rule,” intended to prevent the banks from making risky bets with federally-insured commercial deposits – itself a watered-down version of the old Glass-Steagall Act – still hasn’t seen the light of day.
Last week, Republicans and Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee passed bills to weaken Dodd-Frank – expanding exemptions and allowing banks that do their derivative trading in other countries (i.e., JPMorgan) to avoid the new rules altogether.
Meanwhile, House Republicans voted to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act in its entirety, as part of their budget plan.
And still no major Wall Street executives have been held accountable for the wild betting that led to the near meltdown in 2008. Attorney General Eric Holder says the big banks are too big to prosecute.
Why doesn’t the morality brigade complain about the rampant greed on the Street that’s already brought the economy to its knees, wiping out the savings of millions of Americans and subjecting countless others to joblessness and insecurity — and seems set on doing it again?
What people do in their bedrooms shouldn’t be the public’s business. Women should have rights over their own bodies. Same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
But what powerful people do in their boardrooms is the public’s business. Our democracy needs to be protected from the depredations of big money. Our economy needs to be guarded against the excesses of too-big-to-fail banks.
By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, March 25, 2013
When I read the headline of the AP story—“Dems slam Cuccinelli comment on slavery, abortion”—I wondered what ol’ Cooch had done to gussy up that ancient RTL chestnut. So I read on:
Nearly eight months before election day the Democratic Party of Virginia released video from last June that shows Cuccinelli addressing a small gathering of religious conservatives meeting in Williamsburg. It continues the Democrats’ strategy of portraying the socially conservative attorney general as too extreme for a swing state.
“Over time, the truth demonstrates its own rightness, and its own righteousness. Our experience as a country has demonstrated that on one issue after another. Start right at the beginning — slavery. Today, abortion,” Cuccinelli said in remarks recorded by a Democratic Party tracker at a Family Foundation event on June 14, 2012.
“History has shown us what the right position was, and those were issues that were attacked by people of faith aggressively to change the course of this country,” he said. “We need to fight for the respect for life, not just for life but for respect for life. One leads to the other.”
Okaaaay. So Cuccinelli had reached into his files or his memory banks and flogged the false analogy between slavery and abortion—and hence between abolitionists and anti-choicers—that’s been utilized offered by anti-choice pols every day for forty years. So why the news flash?
Then I realized: just because I, as a paid connoisseur of right-wing memes for quite some time now, found this stuff familiar didn’t mean the non-anti-choice-activist public did. There’s a reason this sort of thing is so often called a “dog whistle.” When during the 2004 presidential candidate debates George W. Bush said he’d never appoint a Supreme Court Justice who would condone the Dred Scott decision, he was talking about abortion, not slavery, though an awful lot of viewers—even journalists—didn’t seem to get it.
So Virginia Democrats are right to draw maximum attention to this habit, particularly among African-American voters who might not be aware that the anti-choice forces have been referring to themselves as “the new civil rights movement” for ages. Indeed, it’s a good bet that pols like Ken Cuccinelli have rarely if ever made any reference to the struggle for African-American emancipation and equal rights in any context other than as an analogy for the battle to repeal reproductive rights. So to hell with dog whistles: let’s hear it loud and clear!
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 20, 2013
Outlawing abortion doesn’t make it go away, it only makes it dangerous
To understand what the country would be like if we outlawed abortion we need to look no further than the 136 countries where abortion is still illegal in all or most circumstances. In Africa, 14 percent of all maternal deaths are attributed to unsafe abortion. In Latin America and the Caribbean, one million women annually are hospitalized for the complications of unsafe abortions. In South Africa, where the abortion law was liberalized in 1997, the annual number of abortion-related deaths fell by 91 percent by 2001.
The countries where abortion is illegal have significantly higher abortion rates than countries where abortion is safe and legal. Outlawing abortion doesn’t make it go away, it only makes it dangerous.
Women in these countries are fighting for recognition that their lives have value. That women deserve full futures. That women should have the right to personal and political agency. That a women should be the one to determine what her family will look like. That a woman deserves the right to decide what happens with her body without the fear of risking her life to exercise that right.
We have the luxury in this country to be able to ask ourselves whether abortion should be legal while we enjoy the freedom to choose what’s right for ourselves, even if it makes someone else uncomfortable. A person in this country who faces an unintended pregnancy has the legal right to make the best decision for herself and her family without having to fear that her decision will land her in jail or worse. That is not something I am willing to give up.
I am not interested in an America that takes away these most personal rights. The world is becoming more complex. We have big issues to solve. Let’s not spend our energy, our time, and our creative minds restricting and removing rights from our citizens.
The decision about whether and when to become a parent is the most intensely personal and important decision that many will make in life. Let’s have respect for those decisions and the lives that are making them.
By: Kierra Johnson, Washington Whispers Debate Club, U. S. News and World Report, January 22, 2013