LEFT, RIGHT AND IN-FIELD COMMENTS
It’s late May and the Baseball season is fully underway. (I can’t believe professional basketball and hockey are still being played.) School is soon to be in summer recess if not already as here in Arizona. Springtime is moving towards summer (In Arizona that means daily temperatures formerly in the 80s’s and 90’s to daily temperatures between 105 and 115 through the end of September) and yet the 24/7 news entertainment media never take a pause.
I am old enough to remember that for decades, very few things of importance in either American politics or economics ever happened during the next few months. Even though most of the 1980’s, things slowed down considerably during summertime. As a result of computers and the Internet that respite no longer exists.
Yesterday 2 widely-reported news stories exploded in domestic politics: (1) The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayer to the U.S. Supreme Court, and (2) The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriages. In addition there was the release of a report indicating a healthy increase in consumer confidence that lead to the Dow soaring ahead by over 200 points in New York. Despite all that important stuff, I blithely submitted an unrelated commentary on the fine job TMV is doing in covering all the major issues and then I turned to discussing income inequality and voter apathy.
I probably have to mention North Korea’s latest missile and nuclear bomb tests that have infuriated everyone on the planet. Unfortunately only China can realistically control or stop them. President Kim Jung Il is their raving lunatic – not ours. We still have the mess in Pakistan to deal with instead. That involves the unpleasant potential of extreme religious zealots getting a hold of real nuclear weapons from an ever-imploding country. Being the world’s policeman is no longer any fun.
I can always rest assured that TMV has many excellent contributors to handle subjects that are tangential to my major interests in infrastructure, healthcare, mass transit, tax policy, and the overall financial condition of the Federal and State governments. However, I do have some opinions on these major subjects that have been naturally influenced by other writers on TMV, and by my particular educational and professional background.
Getting back to the U.S. Supreme Court, elections do have consequences. Republicans lost significantly in 2008 and the U.S. elected a liberal Senator as President. Everyone knew this would result in liberal-leaning people being nominated to the Federal Judiciary. Republicans cannot expect a conservative white male to be on any top list. (Another Justice Scalia is not in the cards.) With a strong democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, Republican opposition to any Obama nominee seems to be an utter waste of time to those not particularly interested – and that includes the majority of U.S. citizens.
Across the country, Republicans lost Hispanics and Women by significant margins in the last national election. Now they plan to use every procedural avenue to oppose the appointment of the first Hispanic and only third women to the court because she is obviously liberal? How small does the Republican Party wish to be in the eyes of the electorate for the next decade or two? Having practiced law in Ohio, New York and Illinois, my inclination is to favor some counterweight to the already right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayer is fully acceptable to me philosophically within the confines of being just one out of nine votes.
I also feel a bit sad for General Colin Powell and other moderate Republicans (some of whom are very thoughtful and regular contributors to TMV). I’m a left-leaning Independent but could my moderate Republicans actually identify some of their own who actually hold major public offices? The Republican Governor of Utah Jon Huntsman is going to be the Ambassador to China for the Obama Administration. Governor Charlie Crist of Florida will run for the U.S. Senate, having appeared on the same platform with the President in favor of the stimulus bill. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is all over the place politically and economically. He and his state are pretty dysfunctional when coupled with its inept Legislature and disinterested general public – I hope it is not a harbinger for the rest of the country.
Back in the 1990’s, I personally knew and supported some moderate Republicans in Ohio (Governor & later Senator George Voinovich and Cuyahoga County Commissioner & later Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro) but they seem to have disappeared from the center of power in the Republican Party. What moderate Republicans exist today who will keep their public positions without challenges from the hard right conservatives? What faces and names will likely assume political office as moderate Republicans in the next 2 to 4 years?
It appears that Moderate Republicans are dreaming of people and political philosophies that simply no longer exist in the current Republican Party and they cannot be acceptable to those who decide who and what is a Republican today. Certainly the current Republican Leadership (1) in Congress, (2) in several Republican-led States, and (3) on the Conservative talk radio and television entertainment channels, essentially has said that “Moderate Republican” is an oxymoron. Moving is never pleasant, and that includes an individual, a household, a business, or a personal political history and outlook. I hope General Powell and others can find some new home as the current Republican Party joins the former Whigs and Federalists into the history books – to be found only Amazon’s Kindle or on Wikipedia’s Internet encyclopedia.
I discussed the gay marriage issue and DOMA not long ago in my post of 5/2/09. The California Supreme Court originally found in its State’s Constitution the right for gays to marry. Then voters passed Proposition 8 that essentially struck down that determination in favor of one-man, one-woman marriages. The CA Supremes changed their minds and realized that public referenda also carry the weight of law under the state’s constitution, and now gay marriage is not legal in CA.
Even with gay marriage or civil unions eventually approved in most states, the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is the real impediment towards equal treatment of gay couples. That is where the battle should be concentrated and the sideshow of various states approving, disapproving or ignoring gay marriage is essentially of little permanent legal significance for gay couples. Until and unless DOMA is seriously modified by Congress, most state battles will result in Pyrrhic victories. Both processes will take time and require more convincing of the majority of voters to eventually succeed. To become impatience, angry, or even insulting to opponents at this stage of the game is only counterproductive.
I would counsel my gay friends to end the pressure on those who hold strong religious feelings to the contrary and on the Obama Administration, which is only on record favoring civil unions and modifying DOMA. There are just so many other things of greater importance that affect all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation, i.e. continuing job losses, mortgage foreclosures, and worldwide financial instability all come to mind immediately. There arguably is a greater need for liberals, moderates and gays to have a Democratic Congress and President for more than the next 2 or 4 years. Therefore everyone has to take the longer view. Changing thousands of years of tradition will not take months but years. This modest advice comes from a married heterosexual friend of the cause.
Memorial Day always chokes me up in a quiet but profound way. My late father was a WWII U.S. naval veteran. Nothing comes close to the sacrifice many people have made in life and limb for our country’s freedom. Their past and continuing sacrifices around the world for our country’s ideals and for their fellow citizens are a special reminder of how superficial and silly some of our domestic debates have become. It is always important to never lose sight of the big picture and the major issues, and the small stuff will eventually fit into place.
5/27/09 – by Marc Pascal in Phoenix, AZ.