Republican defeats are just the first step in turning the nation around. Plus, the constitutional imperative of gay marriage.
ELEPHANT HUNTING: The Democrats must now educate the public about the depth and breadth of the Republicans' perfidy
The national political news is good for a change. As we go to press, the Democrats have clearly regained the House of Representatives and have a chance of nudging into control of the Senate. But whatever the ultimate outcome in the Senate, the Republican’s autocratic hold on Washington is now fractured.
The first lesson of this election is easy to read: President Bush and the Republicans lost their political edge because independent voters lost faith in the president and rejected his disastrous and shameful war in Iraq. For the most part, it was independent voters’ swing away from the GOP rather than any inherent strength among the Democrats that punished Bush.
When the Democratic win (or, perhaps more accurately, the Republican loss) is looked at from a national point of view, the picture is clear but the implications are not clear-cut. Simply put, so-called blue states got bluer and — for the most part — the red states remained depressingly red. The Democrats’ strength is concentrated on the two coasts with significant — but hardly revolutionary — gains scored in the political battlegrounds of the industrialized Midwest.
These distinctions, these qualifications, are important to note because the nation remains as polarized today as it was two years ago when Bush squeaked by with his narrow popular win. The power shift will be real, but the Democrats’ mandate is elusive. That is so because a sizeable number of the Democrats elected to the House are more conservative or moderate than the coastal-friendly House leadership.
If the Democrats are to consolidate the gains they scored in this election, they are going to have to educate the public about the depth and breadth of the Republicans’ perfidy, not only in Iraq, but on a wide array of issues that hit average people hard: tax policies that favor the rich, retirement policies that favor corporations, drug plans that boost profits for pharmaceutical companies, student loans that do little for students and their families other than saddle them with outsize debt.
When television commentators discuss the Democrats’ regained power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas, they are talking in insider’s shorthand about the ability to instruct and teach. With their newfound strength as the majority party in the House, the Democrats need to launch a series of hearings on a wide range of issues to show the nation — especially the red states — just how wrongly things have gone. It’s a challenge of political imagination even more than it’s a test of political will. The next two years will be crucial if the hope for a truly compassionate and sophisticated White House is to be realized in the 2008 presidential election.
If the national party is looking for a model, it could do no better than to look toward Massachusetts. The election of Deval Patrick and the tone he set in his upbeat but realistic acceptance speech shows that political life can be high-minded while being tough-minded. The hard work, which will surely be frustrating at times, will begin in earnest next year. This election is about more than glimpsing light at the end of the tunnel; it’s about the promise that — to borrow a biblical phrase — the children of light can triumph over the children of darkness.
Settling same-sex marriage, once and for all
A poll released last weekend indicates that a clear majority of Massachusetts residents oppose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. State lawmakers, convening at today’s Constitutional Convention, may use this information as convenient cover to move the latest version of such legislation forward, to let the people defeat it by popular vote. They should not.
The proposed constitutional amendment would take away the right to marriage that the Supreme Judicial Court recognized in its landmark 2003 Goodridge decision. It would also rule out civil unions. If allowed to go to the floor for a vote today (November 9), the gay-marriage ban is expected to get “yes” votes from fewer than half of the 200 state senators and representatives — but it would easily reach the one-quarter needed to move the amendment forward to a second ConCon, where another 25 percent vote would put the measure on the ballot.
The new State House News Service poll found that nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts respondents would vote against the amendment, with just 31 percent still favoring the ban. That’s good to know, and it’s a credit to the people of this state.
It should also serve as a lesson to the rest of the country, that two and a half years of gay weddings have left people more accepting of it, not less.
These poll results might ease the conscience of legislators, who can forward the marriage amendment this week knowing that voters will probably prevent it from ever marring our state constitution. Some might even argue that letting gay marriage win at the ballot box is the best course toward finally ending the controversy.
That last hope is wishful thinking — the gay-bashers, like die-hard racists, show no sign of ever stifling themselves on the topic.
Nor are there signs of anyone stifling them. John DePetro was recently fired from WRKO for insulting Grace Ross, but not for his ceaseless hatemongering on gay marriage. And DePetro is tame compared with Howie Carr — who in turn is mild compared to the thousands ranting at home, unencumbered by FCC regulations.
Allowing this amendment process to continue would only encourage such poison.
More important, it would validate the shameful premise, openly stated by the amendment’s supporters, that gay rights should be subject to majority vote.
Who would make that same argument, if the legislature were presented a constitutional amendment this week excluding homosexuals from, say, holding government jobs or exercising free speech? Who would complain about the procedural method used to kill it? Nobody but the pig-headed.
We call upon the legislature, and in particular Senate president Robert Travaglini, to use those procedural methods to toss the gay-marriage ban into the State House dustbin. And we call upon newly elected governor Deval Patrick, a defender of same-sex marriage on the campaign trail, to endorse the move. It’s exactly what the bigots deserve.