"Stuck in the Middle with You" - Stealers Wheel
Articles like this make me happy that I missed Netroots this year. It's a description of a panel consisting of Jane Hamsher, John Aravosis, Dan Choi, and Felipe Matos denouncing the Obama Administration for being insufficiently zealous in its support for gay rights and immigration reform. In light of what has gone on since the 2010 elections -- a plethora of anti-immigrant and anti-gay initiatives in places where the Republicans have gained control of state governments -- I find this a bit astonishing. Not to mention the fact that Republicans stand in the way of gay marriage legalization in New York, Maryland, and New Jersey, as well as DOMA repeal. It also seems more than likely that the Republican Platform and any successful presidential nominee will call for restoration of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But heaven forbid that practical concerns should stand in the way of our righteous panel members.
Now Choi and Matos can be excused for this foolishness I suppose, given the fact they are both political novices and deeply personally affected by these issues. Hamsher and Aravosis, on the other hand, should know better, but that would require them to possess intellects larger than their egos. Aravosis is quoted as saying "I would probably vote for the president in the end, but I'd also do everything I can to shame him" and that "we always say we simply expected what he promised - the White House would rather not engage at all, at least with the big stuff. We were told that he would be a fierce advocate, and he's not been fierce at all, and not much of an advocate."
So the President who systematically laid the ground work to get the military brass to endorse Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal and helped steer it thorough a Senate filibuster, who had his Administration withdraw from legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (signed into law by Jane's good friend Bill Clinton) in courts across America, and who has undertaken a variety of other gay-friendly initiatives is not worthy of support. The excuse now seems to be Obama's failure to embrace gay marriage -- now I think the time has come for this step -- but the fact is Obama never promised any such thing and he has more than followed through on the things that he promised. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton made a tactical error in the way they positioned themselves on gay marriage in 2008 -- neither wanted to embrace something that they saw as a political loser, after the issue was viewed as being instrumental in helping George Bush beat John Kerry in Ohio. But rather than stake out the position that "marriage is between a man and woman" they would have been better off characterizing it as an issue to be determined by the states. I know, not exactly profiles in courage stuff, but a dodge with a whole lot more wiggle room to adjust to changed circumstances. And circumstances have changed, with lightning speed really.
It seems pretty clear to me that Obama is moving toward a pro-marriage equality stance. In the meantime, though, he has done more than enough to earn the spirited support of the gay rights community. However, even if you don't agree, a quick look at where the Republicans are on these issues and it seems to me that this should generate a sense of compelling urgency. Instead, you have someone like Aravosis pretending that there is some realistic tactical alternative to going all in for Obama and the Democrats. It's as if in 1964, the leaders of the civil rights movement were disappointed because LBJ had delivered only the Civil Rights Act and not the Voting Rights Act, and so, even in the face of Goldwater, decided to grudgingly and half-heartedly back Johnson, all the while diminishing the enthusiasm to vote of their followers.
As for immigration reform, I think a similar analysis follows. As I have written before, I believe that the Obama Administration made a major tactical mistake in not trying to get immigration reform through early in his term. But there were a whole lot of competing priorities at the time and, sadly, a lot of overconfidence in the ability to get things done in a methodical fashion. Again, however, one simply has to look at the agenda of the other side -- see, e.g. Arizona and Alabama, among others -- to know that there is no choice here but to back the President and the Democrats to the fullest, because there is literally no alternative.
Most importantly, Hispanics, unlike gays, have sheer numbers in strategically located states that if they will get out and vote in proportion to their numbers in the population, they can, in the end, force the Republicans to change their positions or face annihilation. If Hispanic voters turned out to vote in huge numbers in 2012 in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina -- and they voted 70-80% Democratic, they would deliver a landslide to Obama and serve notice to the Republican Party that they bash immigrants at their peril. If they do so to the point where Texas appears to be in imminent future play, a state that the Republicans simply cannot win the presidency without, then some fairly prompt reassessment of Hispanic-bashing (it may take a couple of election cycles) by Republicans will have to happen.
In other words, with enough patience and a strategic campaign aimed at a huge and concentrated vote for the Democrats, immigration-reform advocates hold the cards to bring about what they want.
Pro marriage equality advocates are on the cusp of a similar demographic wave -- in this case, in the person of younger voters, who overwhelmingly favor their position. If these young people can be motivated to go out and vote in large numbers and to support pro-gay rights Democrats in force, marriage equality will sooner, rather than later, be the law in a large number of states.
If, however, people like our holier than thou panelists, convince Hispanics and young people and other progressives that there is no real point in backing Obama and other Democrats, then we can revel in our purity while watching a repeat of what is going on in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, et al. on a national scale.
Update: One of the FDLers does a parody of what I am talking about. And the comments -- Sweet Jesus are these people stupid. Jane should be very proud of the fucking loony bin she's created over there.