Well, we've been away for two weeks, and those two weeks were just chock-full of political news, so we've got a lot to cover. The reason for the interruption in columns was, of course, our attending Netroots Nation, the yearly conclave of bloggers, Progressives, and all and sundry who like hanging out with them. Which brings us to this week's unusual title -- today's Friday Talking Points, for the first time ever, are going to be professionally-produced and focus-group-tested. More on this later.
Archive of Articles for June, 2013
They wanted 70, and they got 68. I speak, of course, of the "yea" votes in the Senate on the immigration bill this afternoon. In the political world we occupy today, that is nothing short of astounding. Not only did all 54 Democrats stand together, but 14 Republicans also voted in favor of the bill. That's 10 more than were in the original group which put together the proposal. Which, as I said, is truly astounding in this partisan day and age.
However, for a whole lot of gay couples, life will have gotten one whale of a lot better. Today's Supreme Court rulings are a giant leap forward along the path to fully equal rights. The federal government will now recognize marriages which their states recognize, and the barriers to equal treatment under federal law have disintegrated for good. That is indeed something to celebrate. Which is why I'm going to stop using the term "gay marriage" ever again in my writing. There is no "same-sex" and "opposite-sex" marriage anymore. There is just marriage, period. From now on, the phrase I'll be using is "marriage equality," because we're all now equal under federal law -- as we should be under state law, as well.
The Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision today, striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. In essence, the court told Congress to come up with a better formula to determine which jurisdictions will have to pre-clear changes to their voting laws (because the old formula is outdated). This has caused much consternation and outcry, but what was notable was that the court did not throw out the concept of preclearance itself.
This is an article about Paula Deen, racism, and the upcoming gay marriage decisions from the Supreme Court. But mostly it's an article about the long, slow road to true changes in American society. The beginning of this road always starts with the prevailing casual acceptance of bigotry and prejudice in everyday life, and the road doesn't end until society as a whole reaches the point of near-universal condemnation of a way of thinking which used to be widespread and unremarkable.
Arizona is a truly beautiful state. It has many spectacular sights, of which the Grand Canyon is the most awe-inspiring. But Arizona is also a state of forbidding landscapes -- much of the state is desert or near-desert, where the heat of the midday sun is a force of nature to be heavily respected, if not downright feared. But what has put Arizona into the news recently is its "forbidding" political landscape. Specifically, on immigration.
Does comprehensive immigration reform have a chance of becoming law in 2013?
We stand at the beginning of a grand debate on immigration. America goes through these grand debates every generation or so, and what remains constant is that both sides in the fight can be counted upon to accuse the other side of "playing politics" with the immigration issue. This has, indeed already begun.
Republicans are offering up a splendid display of doublethink on the issue, in order to be able to say: "Hah! We were right all along," no matter what happens. Republicans make two accusations, which are completely contradictory (which doesn't seem to bother them at all), that the whole thing is just a cynical political game: (1) Obama and the Democrats want to legalize 11 million people who will then immediately become reliable Democratic voters, and/or (2) Obama and the Democrats will somehow find a way to scuttle the deal because they really don't want to pass any law, they just want to use the issue to beat up Republicans, in election after election. As I mentioned, no matter what happens, they'll be able to fall back on one of these tropes. Democrats, however, are using the second of these (with slight modification) to explain their own wariness: Republicans just want to be able to say: "We tried something" during the next election, and they will find a way to scuttle the deal in the end while blaming Democrats for the legislative failure.
Call me biased, I suppose. Biased against ignorance, perhaps. To be less snarky, biased in favor of geography and Irish people. I am so biased in favor of Irish people, in fact, that I married one. So I guess I'm not the best neutral observer. But having fully admitted that, I still feel duty-bound to point out how last night's NBC News broadcast made a basic and truly ignorant geographical mistake, as anchor Brian Wilson read the lead-in to a story on President Obama's overseas conference with the Gang of Eight (no, not that Gang of Eight... meant to say "the G-8," sorry...) over in Northern Ireland.
Just for fun, today I'd like to use my column to skate perilously close to the edge of rampant paranoia. I'm really doing this to make an ironic point, at the end, but I can't deny that this type of thing is certainly fun to write. Especially when I'm stating up front that what we'll be exploring is territory only those in tinfoil hats usually set foot in.