Amy Hunter

Why This Year Matters, Part Two

Filed By Amy Hunter | October 19, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell, election 2010, ENDA, Tea Party, voting

Part One of "Why This Year Matters" was a semi-humorous look at the mood shared by many of this year's electorate. It is indeed "scary out there". Your_Vote_Counts.jpgDespite the attempt at humor, please do not misunderstand; I am completely serious. This year matters, perhaps even more than most.

A large portion of progressives, disaffected and feeling abandoned by their president and legislators, are jumping ship and will vote republican in two weeks - if they vote at all. Significant numbers of gay and transgender voters too, may fail to show up at the polls this November. Feeling justifiably angry by lack of progress on signature issues, not voting at all seems, to many of us, a reasonable course of action.

It's not. Refusing to vote is a really, really, bad idea.

Some reasons why, after the jump.

While it may feel good to act out of anger, the merits of doing so are questionable at best. Personal discovery has taught me the hard way that when frustration overwhelms reality, no matter how much reality sucks, eventually, I regret it. Frustration and anger, when scaled up to a cultural phenomenon, puts us in danger of succumbing to irrational groupthink, or more colloquially - herd instinct. If we aren't careful, we could stampede ourselves right off a political and social cliff.

No matter how frustrated I've become with democrats and, believe me I have, the alternative is much, much worse.

After months of listening to talking heads prattling on about republicans being interested only in fiscal conservatism, these last few weeks have seen a crystallization of the truth; the "new right" hates progressives and, in particular, they hate us.

Sweeping political reform rarely occurs within America's dysfunctional political system, there is simply too much money handed around and no good mechanism by which the electorate can force a systemic referendum. Resorting to "throwing the bums out" in today's hyperpolarized political and cultural climate carries with it huge risks. Turning over power to revanchists bent on rolling back progressive legislation gives effective control of social policy to ultra-conservatives. Once in power, will these extreme right fear mongers really be able to "take our country back"?

Not entirely; many of the promises embodied by their rhetoric aren't readily doable, nor are they expedient. I don't believe the seventeenth amendment will be repealed. I do not think healthcare reform will be completely gutted. Most likely Social Security and Medicare will survive.

Could they push through an amendment to the U.S. constitution prohibiting same sex marriage? Probably.

Strangle social welfare funding to states? Yes.

Radically restrict reproductive rights for women? Maybe.

Criminalize abortion? They will try.

De-fund HIV/AIDS programs? Yep.

At the very least, there will be no repeal of DADT in the foreseeable future; absolutely no chance of an ENDA; DOMA further institutionalized; more chipping away at what little financial and environmental regulation there is after the Bush years.

The list is endless and years of slow, yet inexorable progress for gays, women, transgender people, the disabled, and the disadvantaged could be scrapped, or evaporate altogether.

The scenario above is not some kind of psychotic wakeful dream. It is a real possibility. Moreover, what is a certainty is that the socio/political narrative in this country will continue to become increasingly homophobic and transphobic as the country is pulled further to the right.

There is much more to consider, including what we can expect at the state and local level if we forfeit our right to vote.

I'll explore these topics and suggest some solutions to the long-term problems with our politics in "Why This Year Matters", Part Three.

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Sorry but you are doing what the Democrats want us to do run in fear. Let's disect your arguments. First amendment to ban same sex marriage, you do realize that it has to be a 2/3 majority of both houses of Congress to get there. Now unless the Democrats sell us down the river the Republicans will not have anywhere close to the number of votes to accomplish it. Argument FAILED.
Strangle social welfare funding to states, radically restrict reproductive rights, criminalize abortion, defund HIV/AIDS program? Well it's interesting the Senate has this interesting little feature called a filibuster, maybe you have heard of it. The republicans sure have and if Democrats have any backbone they would use the same threat. Also the president has something called veto power. Now i know Obama has been pretty spineless but if he doesn't use it it just shows he shouldn't be president. Plus by most accounts Democrats will keep the Senate.
I am sick of the Democratic Party holding the GLBT community hostage. We act like battered wives. We need to stop coming back for the same abuse over and over again. My belief is if the candidate has supported us in word and deed they deserve our vote. I am very fortunate because both my Congressman and Senator have been very very strong on GLBT issues and they get my vote. But I refuse to give money to a party who support people like Blanche Lincoln, Ben Lincoln, and Mark Pryor. At a local level for both governor and state legislature I am voting Green for the first time ever.
STOP BUYING INTO THE FEAR!!!! Fear is what has gotten us to where we are. The world won't end if a Democrat doesn't get elected and it shows a clear message that we aren't battered wives.

This is what happens when Republicans are in charge of congress. This is what happened in the 90s and it can (and if the Repubs win, will) happen again.

Things can't get much worse than the House Republicans' welfare plan. In the "Personal Responsibility Act," the new House leaders declare that no one--no matter how desperate--is legally entitled to aid from the Government.

In particular, the bill excludes non-citizens (even if they're in this country legally), children whose paternity hasn't been officially established, and the children of unmarried teenaged mothers from programs that alleviate hunger, homelessness, and disease.

States will be required to spend the money "saved" in this way to set up orphanages, group homes, and programs that exhort women to stop having babies out of wedlock. Instead of food and shelter, the hungry and homeless will get seminars on morality.

For the first time, the Federal Government would also cap spending on Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled, as well as housing assistance and AFDC. When the money runs out, it would be up to the states to decide whether to reduce benefits or simply turn people away.

Among the programs the Republican plan would repeal are the Food Stamp Act of 1977, the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, the National School Lunch Act of 1946, and the Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983. Medicaid, child immunizations, school lunch and breakfast programs, maternal and child health care, and a number of other programs would no longer be available to millions of poor people who fall into the excluded group

Also, it passed.

And you did nothing to address my points. Nothing and I mean nothing radical can happen unless the Democrats let it happen. Even if Republicans take both houses they won't have enough to stop a filibuster or override a veto. So the only way bad things happen is if Democrats and Obama let it happen. Maybe they will finally grow a pair. If not we will know that the Democratic Party is a lost cause.

I understand your position and I get your passion too.

I want to point out a couple of things.

1) I talked about the scenarios as "possibilities". Perhaps I should have made that clear.

2) Political muscle comes from popular support and can last a lot longer than the actual mandate. Dems may be forced to vere even futher right just to limit damage to their initiatives, or give up resistance on certain bills to save others. Even those dems we can count on to support progressive measures could end up being Blanch Lincolns and Ben Nelsons if confronted with a larger republican minority.

3) Procedural rules are set with each new congress and sometimes even once a legislative session has been seated. Often as part of a deal.

I admire the fact that you are (still) going to vote. I disagree with your choice, but, your choices are not up to me. You participate, which is important. What has me frightened is that group of people who have decided NOT to participate.

I have advocated this as a year for surgical strikes as a viable option for GLBT advocates but I have seen little support on that approach. My premise is that this is a critical year and we should be encouraging large turnout but at the same time selectively target specific congress critters for defeat. I think 3 should be voted out and the GLBT community could actually accomplish it while at the same time defeating all the dire predictions of Conservative takeovers of the Senate and House. The 3 I pick are Pelosi, Miller and Frank. They should go simply because all 3 are out of touch and refused to use the power they held in the current Congress. They preferred to play that old con game of "I know better than you". Words of support was all they gave us and no real use of the power they held.

My approach, however, seems to have fallen on deaf ears. No traction.

I disagree with you on Pelosi. She got the DADT repeal passed and kept her people in line. It is Reid and the Obama administration that have refused to spend ANY political muscle. In fact they have rewarded people like Blanche Lincoln who voted against them on the Defense Authorization by having Biden campaign for her the next day. We are being played for fools by the Democrats but Pelosi isn't one of them. Although Angle is a pure nut I can't say I'd shed a big tear if Reid lost. Maybe we would get a Senate leader with balls.

You've been suckered IMHO. Pelosi should have pushed through repeal of DADT in 2009 when it had a chance in the Senate. She played timing games with it until she knew it had no chance of actually making it to the President's desk. She is slick and knows how to make it appear she is fully supporting GLBT issues while all the time working to see that they go nowhere.

It's about to be 1994 all over again. Let's hope we don't simply replay the last 16 years because we'll end up at the same place - without equality.

I don't think the mid-term massacre is entirely "the Right." Obama raised expectations to record levels and then didn't (or couldn't) deliver.

Everything you said about how ineffective and destructive it is to "express anger" is an important message. Besides not accomplishing anything, it actually makes our situation worse.

While there is huge disappointment and frustration directed at Obama and Democrats, the truth is we still don't have 60 votes in the US Senate. We never have. Solving that will make more of a difference than anything else we can do - including voting or not voting or even protesting. If we want to invest heavily in politics we have to recognize the reality that we need 60 votes in the Senate. Without that there is little reason to play the game. It doesn't matter how "close" we get, 60 votes is the "finish Line."

Rick Sutton | October 19, 2010 2:33 PM

The 60-vote threshold is a rule. Which can change with every Congress, and frankly, could change within a Congressional session.

It's a clubby Senate old-boy-club type of rule. And I hope to God, if Dems lose the majority, they won't resort to it, just on principle.

But it could change like the wind. Instantly. Regardless who's in charge. It's a dumb rule.

Changing Senate rules requires two-thirds of the Senate or 67 votes, an even higher threshold.

Hmm... Ok, back to school for me. How did the 60 vote "rule" for typical legislation come into being?

Sorry but we will never had 60 votes and frankly it's just an excuse for the administration. Bush never had 60 votes but he got everything passed he wanted. It's very simple. If they threaten filibuster make them go through with it. Especially on an issue like DADT they will look like obstructionists not allowing other things to get accomplished. Merely caving every time they threaten a filibuster shows Obama and the Dems have no spine. Period. And you want us to continue voting for them??? Unreal!!!

It isn't necessarily "caving" when filibuster is invoked - it is a dead end. If you want to accomplish anything legislatively you need the 60 votes.

I would disagree that Bush accomplished a lot. He did pass the "partial term abortion ban," but Democrats - the ones from religious States helped him do that.

A President doesn't have any "influence" or "muscle" when it come to moral issues. Like it or not, we are still a moral issue.

Obama needs the Congress (especially the Senate) to make any progress on LGBT-issues. That means at least 60 votes. We are 4 or 5 shy of 60 and it's about to get much worse.

Solving the problem politically means getting the 60 votes. That isn't done with a magic "Presidential Wand," it is done by replacing Senators or changing the minds of their constituents.

It's really not very complicated. That doesn't mean it's easy, but it isn't complicated.

You really think they care if they look obstructionist? There are literally hundreds of House passed measures that the senate has obstructed. Hundreds of appointments with a hold on them by one or two republican senators. They don't care if they look obstructionist, they WANT to be dared to shut down the federal gov like Newt did.

To be honest about it, I am sick of being played by both parties. I have been sick of it for years. The problem is really campaign financing. The ruling by the Supreme Court this last year has pretty much opened the flood gates of corruption in the government. Sadly there is little interest on either party to fix that problem as they both profit from it. They prefer the gridlock they have because it works for both sides of the isle but it does not work well for the average person. That is why the Tea Party is out there. As far as the issues regarding LGBT Americans, do not look for the Republicans to do much for us. They are still courting the Religious Right, so they cannot retain their support and also support our rights. The Democrats however have also done little for us because once we have everything passed like ENDA and repeal DOMA and DADT, and perhaps even become added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they no longer have us captive. While the Democrats track record for LGBT Americans is pretty poor, it is better than the Republican side has on those issues.

Politics is a business. They need us as an issue. The only way to end that is to enroll the customers - the voters.

Great post, Amy. I really agree with your reasoning.

In the area where we live in the upcoming election for our representative to Congress, both the Democrat or the Republican remain completely
silent regarding any Gay issues. In addition, the Democrat is a member of an extremely homophobic church. This candidate is very verbally
about what important role their faith is in their life. If someone who is Gay were to vote in this area, who could they really trust?

First Google them and be sure to check back several pages. Increasingly, public figures are paying firms to "bury" bad or controversial information so it doesn't show in the top search results.

Barring any good indicators from a search. Call their campaign office and ask. I'm not kidding. You would be surprised at how unintentionally forthcoming a campaign staffer may be.

You bring up a good point in another regard; what if you don't have a clear choice on lgbt issues? Is the candidate pro-choice? Do they support any progressive causes? One group I work with will not endorse a candidate who isn't strictly pro-equality. That's the litmus test and I think it's too narrow. By defining ourselves as ONLY in support of demonstrably pro-equality candidates we may unintentionally throw another discriminated against group under the bus.