ON TIMING, OPPORTUNISM, AND PRAGMATISM

I'm supposed to be impressed right now at our President's change of heart / Evolution / newfound enthusiasm for same-sex marriage. It's great news if for no reasons other than that A) it's fundamentally correct and B) it guarantees us a solid week of pure, unalloyed, hysterical pant-shitting from the right, which is always fun to watch. That aside, I'm not terribly impressed, as I tend not to be impressed by things that are cynically crafted to impress me by marketing professionals. This campaign-year announcement reads like the annual deluge of Oscar-baiting dramas, usually about mentally handicapped people, released into theaters every January – it comes off less as a genuine expression of belief and more as a Karl Rovian appeal to an issue that will fire up the base and receive absolutely no attention after the election.

If something is a right, or more importantly if one understands it as a right, it shouldn't take 15 years into one's political career to express support for it. We don't have to be wildly enthusiastic about things that are rights; I recognize that white supremacists have a right to publish their beliefs, and believe it or not I'm not wild about white supremacists. So if Barack Obama believes that marriage is a right that belongs to same-sex couples, his "personal beliefs" or however the carefully crafted press release phrased it are not relevant. If a right exists according to the Constitution and the law, then your and my personal beliefs about it are irrelevant.

These things are always patiently explained as a matter of pragmatism, of political reality. Americans are ambivalent or worse about SSM, so a candidate who endorses it openly is unlikely to get elected, so the candidate who secretly kinda supports it but doesn't say so is superior to the Republican who will outright oppose it, because Supreme Court nominations &ec &ec. I understand a thing or two about how politics and elections work. Perhaps, however, there is some respect to be won and political support to be enjoyed from being forthright and honest about one's core beliefs. In this era of deeply cynical politics, it's plausible that a Jimmy McMillan-style "You wanna marry a shoe? I'll marry you to a shoe. Next question." position might appeal to the overwhelming majority of people for whom gay marriage is not a political issue of the utmost importance. At least the stance would not come off as an expression of opportunism carefully timed to disrupt what was becoming a dangerously Romney-centric news cycle for the past few weeks.

There are many things that People dislike about politics, and the idea that our elected officials and candidates simply tell us what we want to hear is among the most repellent. Very few of us enjoy a good, solid pandering. It's possible that a "Yeah, I believe a right to marry exists and applies broadly" Obama loses in 2008, but I doubt it unless he happened to make it the dominant issue in the campaign (which, of course, he would not have). Despite the fact that it is extremely important to some of the loudest voices in the Beltway chorus, particularly on the right, the bottom line is that most people don't spend much time thinking about it. Though many people will express support or opposition to it when asked, even those in opposition would gladly vote for a candidate who appeals to them on other, more significant issues. The people most likely to flip their lids – religious conservatives – aren't voting for him anyway. So what was there to lose?

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he said what he said. There is little chance it will produce any policy or substantively different outcomes – this one's eventually going to be decided in the courts, after all – but I guess it's nice to hear. It would be even nicer, though, to hear what the candidates think sooner than four years into their term when the disaffected electorate needs a little firing up. Absent your willingness to buy the contrived, silly "I just had a change of heart, never mind the timing" cover story, this is just another in what will be an unbroken string of campaign stunts on the candidates' part over the next few months. If you're wondering "How can it be opportunistic if it has the potential to cost him support?" consider both the intended audience – the left wing base – and the timing of the announcement and the motives become much clearer.

But, you know, hey, the legal argument for gay marriage is pretty obvious. So I'm glad he finally supports it.

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70 thoughts on “ON TIMING, OPPORTUNISM, AND PRAGMATISM”

  • Middle Seaman says:

    Obama has caused enormous damage in four years as president. He weakened labor, further enriched the filthy rich, continued and started wars, devised a demonic health care reform that enriches the health insurance companies, damaged the Israeli/Palestinian progress towards peace by totally mistiming and mishandling it and deepened the hole for the poor.

    I'll vote against Romney and puke on the Diebolt voting machine.

  • I agree that it was a politically expedient announcement that fires up the base while giving us front row seats to the newest bout of pant-shitting on the right. But even more entertaining than the right-in-general's reaction is going to be Mitt's reaction. Obama has forced him to take an unpopular position with his two constituencies. Does he play his severely conservative card, and alienate the mushy middle, or does he placate theishy middle and deflate his base? Can't forget where Mitt's church stands on this (funding anti-gay marriage campaigns across the country and, notably, in California).

    I'm glad Obama "came out" like this, for whatever good it'll do (not much in the short term). To use a war analogy, it was a decisive victory in this battle. It was red meat for the base, and it's delicious.

  • Question: My access to US news isn't as good as yours so could someone confirm something I read recently? I read that during the interview where Obama endorsed gay marriage, he also said something about how this matter should be left up to the states, or something to that effect. Does anyone know what he said in regards to this? Because if what I read is true, it means Obama is basically taking a position that is often advocated by hardcore conservatives as well as libertarians like Ron Paul. They know they are stronger in the states than at the federal level, and this will allow them to do what North Carolina did.

  • I had kind of the same reaction. Thanks for finally getting there, but this was a political announcement. I was thinking more in the lines of "Obama Progressive For 21st Century" vs. "Romney Neanderthal for 19th Century". Anything he can do to draw the distinction between himself, and the absolutely repugnant state that is the republican party, the better.

  • Has Obama decided to give up the ghost and just quit?

    Whoever thought it was a good idea to let Biden and Obama do this should have their eyelids cut off and forced to watch as the country descends into the Handmaid's Tale future. Hope they're excited to watch the Mall become the new Nuremberg as books are burnt outside the Smithsonian and Library of Congress. As Mittens rubber stamps all of Grover and ALEC's policies.

    Why they didn't (literally) just go shoot themselves and let us scramble for a new candidate is beyond me.

    The man can't even get pieces of his Jobs bill passed (a function of the composition of Congress I know, but how did the T-baggers get there in the first place?). With all of the new Jim Crow's it's not going to help matters.

    I can see this more as a deal breaker for many socially conservative Democratic and Independent voters, than a winner for moderate and liberal minded Republicans. Believe me there are a number of them out there who are sick of the Repuglican't games and BS. They're as annoyed with bad schools, collapsing bridges, and the war on women as we are. They'll grudgingly go with abortion thing, but the gay thing… now you've lost them.

    All Biden had to say is "it's an idea who's time has not come". Leaving the door wide open for 2016 and either his or Fiengold's run.

    The only thing that will motivate the base right now is a resounding victory in Wisconsin, because Obama sure as hell won't.

    I'll vote for Obama with a sense that I've wasted the effort. I'll probably throw up into my absentee ballot envelope.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Leon, I agree with you 100%. Romney's head is going to implode, the anti-human rightwingnuts are going to collectively tantrum, and it's going to be fun to watch.

  • ladiesbane says:

    What bothered me about Obama's "evolving" position was that it devolved for some time before returning to the pro-SSM opinion that he had back in 1996. Strategically, it's a good idea to take away something in order to give it back later, but I still feel raw about the political footballing.

    At least Obama will go out on the correct note, even if he fails to get reelected — unlike Clinton. Gays fought to get Clinton elected, then stood up for him in the Lewinsky scandal (even though defending an adulterer was a blow to the family-friendly effort, when we tried to show straight people that not all gays are extremely extreme extremists from Jesse Helms's Pride Parade clip show.) In return, Clinton was kind enough to give us DOMA and DADT. Thank you, Sir, may I have another?

    When Obama made that comment about pink socks having to wait for his second term, I gnashed my teeth, but saw the wisdom. But what is gained? Most of the gay people I know are Democrats, and Obama's the best Republican President we've had in decades. But I guess the freaked out right wingers weren't going to vote for him anyway, so why not bait the left with hope that he'll act like a Dem in his second term?

  • c u n d gulag says:

    In all fairness to Obama (who said he was FOR gay marriage when he was an IL State Senator), over the past 20 years, Mitt's taken EVERY position possible on the issue of Gays.

    He's been on top of them, on the bottom – practically kneeled to them when running against Ted Kennedy.

    Now, he's trying to avoid his former positions, and is reaching around them – to stroke the Evangelicals.

    On a more serious note, while Obama's position has evolved, Mitt's has devolved.

    Still, there's plenty of video evidence of his former positions.

    If I had a D Super PAC, I'd run an ad showing video of Mitt's different positions on gay rights.
    And, at the end, have one of those guys with the deep, stentorian voices, say:
    "On the one hand, in the 90's, Mitt said he was adamantly FOR gay rights.
    One the other hand, Mitt NOW says he's AGAINST gay rights.
    So, Mitt was for gay rights before he was against gay rights?
    When you reach out your hand to pull the lever for him, are you sure which Mitt you're voting for? On ANY position? How can you really be sure?

    This ad has been pair for by the 'Mitt Has More Positions Than a Hooker on an Around-the-world Tour Super PAC.'"

  • Major Kong says:

    To be fair, it doesn't take much to cause pure, unalloyed, hysterical pant-shitting from the right these days. They're pretty much spring-loaded to that position.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Major Kong,
    I need some financial backing for a booth selling "Depends" at the Republican National Convention.

    We'll make a fortune in just 3 days!

  • anotherbozo says:

    Ed, I woulda been more interested in a parsing of the North Carolina vote on marriage this week. What's with that? And the vote was 60%-40% or something? Even granting that the country is schizoid on this issue, their voting to preserve the status quo rings pretty retrogrrade. Like they were seceding from any national consensus.

    Unless it was just the triumph or big money in league with devious psychology (vote YES! = no). I mean, I'm from CALIFORNIA, God help us, and this surprised me.

    If any of you in the commentariat have insights on this, I'd be interested. I think it's on topic.

  • Not to be an asshole, but most of what's being said, both in the original post an in the comments, reads to me as "if only we could de-politicize politics!" If you want the political contortions espoused by your elected leaders to be more in line with your view of The Way Shit Should Be(tm), you need to work on changing the debate. Had there not been an ongoing debate about gay marriage driven by the right, this particular contortion could have been avoided.

    Not saying I'm happy about the fact, just that I'm not particularly worked up when politicians politic.

  • @c u n d gulag: I suspect much of the actual presidential campaign will involve putting up video of Romney contradicting himself on everything from abortion to gay rights to healthcare to whether it is proper for the toilet paper to be on the roller coming over the top or dropping down from behind.

    In the end, it will matter less what Obama stands for (because he's either a moderate who leans right on national security and left on social issues or he is "the most radical president in the history of our great nation" depending on your attachment or detachment from reality) and more that Romney stands for nothing. And this will only matter in the 7 states that are in play because the other 43 are already pretty firmly locked in for one candidate or the other.

    Love the Super PAC name, BTW.

  • Major Kong says:

    Now now. I wouldn't say that Romney "stands for nothing".

    I'm sure that for the right price he'll stand for pretty much whatever you want him to stand for.

  • Wow. Obama who is routinely criticized for being too cautious takes a position that would not seem to win him any new votes in what looks to be a close election year. He does so immediately after the voters of a state he narrowly carried in '08 routed the idea of marriage equality.

    And all he gets is a "meh" and a "whatever" from you guys?

    Seriously?

    As far as "what does this really mean"? Well, not as much as repealing DADT or refusing to defend DOMA in the Courts, but it's a symbolic stand. And if Obama wins in November, it might prompt a Circuit court or even the Supremes to take up DOMA.

  • Ubu Imperator says:

    John Cole already addressed this point over at Balloon Juice, but I think it's worth noting that it's Obama's actions on the issue of LGBT equality that matter more than his words. And his actions (or those of his administration), in all fairness, have been remarkable.

    http://www.equalitygiving.org/Accomplishments-by-the-Administration-and-Congress-on-LGBT-Equality

    I fully expect to be disappointed by the Chief Executive, whoever he or she is; it's simply a question of degree. But bitching about this statement, whether politically motivated or not, seems rather ungenerous, considering that even 10 years ago it would've been Game Over for almost any serious candidate for higher office. I don't see this as hurting him; anyone on the fence for Obama who is pushed off by this was either a) going to find another reason not to vote for him or b) not really on the fence to begin with.

  • I agree, Mr. G&T. But I'm less confident that I can point out the bs this is, without providing ammunition to the bigots who oppose same-gender marriage.

  • Death Panel Truck says:

    "(a function of the composition of Congress I know, but how did the T-baggers get there in the first place?)"

    Because sane Americans dared elect a president the insane consider to be a blackity-black-black Muslim Kenyan socialist black man.

    SATSQ.

  • Did Obama really need a big boost in college towns? Most of the left seems to embrace him as a necessary evil. It's easy to bitch about these two empty suits right now, but everyone whining about sitting this one out, on either side, will shut up and pull their guy’s lever if it gets close.

    Maybe those war crimes are eating at Barry. Hell, even George Ryan managed to do one ethical thing before his last march.

  • I have a completely different take from the rest of you. I do not think the federal government should endorse gay marriages. I do not think the federal government should endorse straight marriages. I do not think the federal government should be in the marriage business whatsoever. Marriage is a religious institution and the bright line between church and state says to me that governments should not be in the business of endorsing religions. Remember that marriage as we know it is a relatively recent institution. (Think Solomon and his wives, for instance.)

    Family contractual relationships (i.e., the part of "marriage" that concerns government) is important. Who has default inheritance? Who has power of attorney? Who has custody of children? The recognition of a spouse equivalent is important. The religious blessing of that spouse identity is not.

    Now, given that Obama is a constitutional scholar I cannot believe he hasn't considered what the role of the federal government and "marriage" might be. I'd be very interested in his view of "civil unions" which I think is what the government's role should be. I suspect it's close to mine in that there is none. And that in order for the states to actually recognize each others laws there must be a common ground for terms defined in those laws. For example, "Marriage" can be defined any way North Carollina wants it to be provided North Carolina is not in the marriage business.

    Obama has never said what is meant by his "evolving" point of view. We've all interpreted that on our own. I suspect the evolution of his point of view is how government can disconnect itself from a religious institution but he's too smart to say so.

  • Marriage is certainly not a religious institution; it exists separate of religion and certainly existed before Christianity, which makes Christianity's hysterical attempt to hijack it just pathetic.

  • Has anyone considered the possibility that Obama, like millions of other Americans, came to this decision gradually, lately, and having to overcome years of social and religious barriers in his own upbringing to do so? Yes, the timing is about politics, but might it also just be that he was genuinely squishy on the idea until very recently? And I'm with Ubu (and John Cole): this administration has been FAR AND AWAY the best for gay rights of any administration, ever. Endorsing gay marriage is purely symbolic, and arguably beyond the capacity of the federal government to meddle in, anyway. Why not just celebrate that symbolism, hand out kudos for actual policies, and move on?

    BTW, I don't buy the argument that this hurts or helps Romney, and I don't think that there is anyone who would have voted for Obama for whom this is now a deal breaker, at least not in numbers that will have any effect on the election.

  • I was feeling upbeat this morning until I read this post and some of the comments. Just proves my grandmother's old adage, "Some people aren't happy unless they're miserable."

  • Would an Obama who is not running for re-election and needing to appeal to his base which he ignored for the past three years have said this? Biden and the Amendment One thing kinda forced his hand. After the election, will he not just continue his policy of following the money and capitulating on his stated opinions?

  • Saul T. Nutts says:

    I agree with Ed on this one. Although it is the right position to take, it isn't going to cost Obama any votes. The people who think gay marriage is icky were never going to vote for him regardless of what his position is.

    The thing that gets me is that he said he personally supports gay marriage but thinks it should be left up to the states to decide. It's a very mealy-mouthed take on the whole situation, although it's also a position that could be supported by the Constitution. If you want to interpret it that way, the President is saying that the Constitution neither acknowledges nor denies the right of same sex couples to marry, therefore the decision is in the hands of the states. I personally don't think that's what he's saying or what he even intended, however, if that is the position he is taking, he is also implying that states have the right to deny certain segments of the population rights that other segments of the population have, which violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

  • I could imagine a President who was intuitively pro marriage equality throwing up his hands after the minor VP kerfuffle, and deciding to just come out with the position that he was already assumed to have had. (A deeply cynical person might see the VP's 'misstatement' as a test balloon.)

    I could also imagine some campaign strategist deciding that making such a statement might energise the ground troops, especially those youngish activists who've had the shine knocked off them by four years of 'bipartisan' appeasance, as well as shaking some Hollywood dollars/endorsements loose.

  • I just don't see how letting gays marry takes anything away from my marriage.

    It's not like there's a fixed amount of rights to go around and if we let the gays have some there won't be enough for the rest of us.

  • The best politicians (Lincoln comes to mind) adopt a severely pragmatic strategy to achieve idealistic ends. Doing the right thing at the wrong time inevitably does damage to the greater good; however much it may feel good to take a moral stand, consequences be damned, it's the consequences that matter. So a wise politician always waits for the right time to do the right thing.

    I'm not equating Obama with Lincoln. But if Lincoln deliberately withheld the Emancipation Proclamation until such time as it would have a maximal chance of popular support, as well as reshape the general view of the war, does that diminish the virtue of the Proclamation? I think not.

    Democratic politicians cannot legislate solely by personal conviction–nor even by an objective awareness of the virtue of their cause. They must always, always legislate with an eye towards a different ideal: an absolute responsibility to legislate for the entirety of their constituents, and not simply the ones they disagree with. Like all ideals, this is impossible to achieve, but it must take precedent over personal convictions, or we lay the groundwork for tyranny.

    This fact means that political decisions and actions by elected officials are usually half-measures, and come far later than they should. It means that the stupidity and backwardness of the majority is indulged, to the cost of the suffering minority. It sucks, in short, and it produces a deeply frustrating, unsatisfying, cynicism-inducing political experience. But it is an inevitable consequence of government by, of, and for the people, and the alternative is a precedent that begins with Caesar and ends with Caligula.

    We are entitled to be dismissive of Obama's motivations. We are free to mock the opportunistic nature of his words. But for pity's sake, we took a step forward because he said them. Not enough of a step. Not nearly enough–it's not the end of the debate, it's not a cure for the ill that plagues us–it was small, and it should be treated as such. But it was a step in the right direction, spoken to a divided nation by a man who swore an oath to both sides of the issue. Better that the words be said. And better that we remember the limitations of democracy before we start to demand things that it cannot provide, and risk losing it.

  • I just don't see how letting gays marry takes anything away from my marriage.

    Opposing the state facilitation / requirement / endorsement of equal marriage is only a consistent position if you are a) a theocrat; and b) also oppose civil opposite sex marriage, or any marriages (same sex or opposite sex) conducted by any other religious body outside the boundary of your orthodoxy/orthopraxy.

    I think it's entirely reasonable (for some definitions of reasonable) for individual religious bodies to not conduct same sex marriages, and to want to be protected from the requirement that they do so. They should just get their tanks off everybody else's lawn.

  • I see a moral question here, if the various god-botherers think that homosexuality is a ticket to damnation, shouldn't that be enough?

  • Maybe conservatives think gay marriage would be mandatory.

    If conservatives are against gay marriage, does that make them in favor of gay divorce?

    On a serious note, would gay marriage be an issue if the US had Universal Health Care? From my perspective I see a lot of this being driven by health care/ insurance. Is same sex marriage on the agenda overseas? I realize that there are other factors, but isn't health care/insurance a huge issue?

  • @sluggo: On a serious note, would gay marriage be an issue if the US had Universal Health Care?

    Yes.

    I mean, health insurance is a big deal. But when I got opposite-married, it wasn't for the health insurance. It was, you know, to be married. Love, etc.

  • I'll try to be less snarky.

    I think people are forgetting how fast the country has moved. Just because you personally may have been on the right side of this issue for awhile, doesn't mean that supporting marriage equality is a political no-brainer.

    When the Hawai`'i Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 1991, it was considered quite radical. Twenty years later, a slight majority of Americans now favor marriage equality, with young people overwhelmingly in favor. That's a fast shift, historically speaking. So yeah, Obama dragged his feet on this a bit. But in the big scheme, yesterday was still significant. (Pop quiz: What other sitting U.S. president has come out in favor of same-sex marriage?)

    Some people on the left were also dismissive about the repeal of DADT. The logic went something like: The need to repeal it was so obvious, that repealing it did not take much political courage. But just because something is obvious does not make it unimportant.

    And remember that DADT was considered relatively liberal when it was enacted in 1993. Of course, we all knew it was still discriminatory. But knowing and having the political momentum to do something about it are not the same thing.

    Or look at this way: In North Carolina, people were willing to take health insurance away from children, just to preserve the "sanctity" of marriage. So, it's a big deal to those people, no? But people here are all, "meh, whatever."

  • Major Kong says:

    @sluggo: On a serious note, would gay marriage be an issue if the US had Universal Health Care?

    There are also issues with hospital visitation. Often when one partner is sick or dying, the other partner can be denied visitation rights.

  • If he did indeed say it should be up to the states, he's essentially proposing the conservative/libertarian(e.g. Ron Paul) solution which will inevitably benefit conservatives. One need only look at North Carolina or all the insane anti-abortion laws which have been proposed in states like Arizona to see what happens when you leave it up to the states. Remember that many of segregation's biggest defenders hid beneath the banner of "states rights."

  • @oiojek: "Marriage is a religious institution"?! Not to put too fine a point on it, but baloney! Marriage may be solemnized by religious rites, but it has always been a social and cultural institution. Civil Unions are a far more accurate reflection of the traditional role of marriage than any particular religious rite. The religious bit, in my opinion, was merely there to make sure that the two people involved (who rarely had any say in the matter, traditionally) realized that they had to take it seriously or risk Eternal Damnation. Also, it made a great excuse for a party. Anybody who claims that marriage is a religious institution might as well hold that marriage has always been all about recognition of True Love.

  • Is same sex marriage on the agenda overseas?

    Yes.

    Per Wikipedia, there are ten countries that have nationwide same-sex marriage: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden.

    Same-sex marriage is on the parliamentary (or equivalent) or Government agenda of more countries: Australia, Finland, Denmark, Colombia, Luxembourg, Nepal, UK (for England and Wales), and Scotland (which has the power to legislate on same-sex marriage itself).

    Civil partnerships (called a range of things), which confer some subset of the rights that adhere to marriage, are to be found in: Andorra, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom (including Scotland and Northern Ireland), and Uruguay.

    In the case of the UK (and Scotland, which is part of the UK, but has the devolved competence to legislate on same-sex marriage for itself, and is therefore undergoing a separate consultation process, with Government minded to implement religious and civil same sex marriage), there is, arguably, no significant impact on benefits of any kind that would be introduced with same-sex marriage. (There is an exception in the form of historical pension liabilities that would affect an older cohort of same-sex couples.) It is unlawful to treat someone who has a civil partnership less favourably than a married person.

    The arguments, such as they are, against same-sex marriage have fundamentally boiled down to 'same-sex marriage is an attack on the traditions of marriage' and 'will no one think of the children?'

  • Question: My access to US news isn't as good as yours so could someone confirm something I read recently? I read that during the interview where Obama endorsed gay marriage, he also said something about how this matter should be left up to the states, or something to that effect. Does anyone know what he said in regards to this? Because if what I read is true, it means Obama is basically taking a position that is often advocated by hardcore conservatives as well as libertarians like Ron Paul. They know they are stronger in the states than at the federal level, and this will allow them to do what North Carolina did.

    He did, indeed, say that actual policy regarding legalizing or not legalizing gay marriage should be up to the states. Which is why I am, frankly, not too impressed by anything he said. As entertaining as all the hysterical caterwauling by the right, sparked by this announcement, is, what he said doesn't actually do anything much. Over half of the states have already done what North Carolina just did, and that is a firm step in the direction of what the social conservatives at the federal level want to do, to get a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage.

  • ladiesbane says:

    @JohnR: whoops, there; marriage is indeed a religious institution. That's not *all* it is, of course, particularly to apostates such as yours truly, but I seem to recall the Council of Trent made marriage a sacrament no less endowed with grace than the Eucharist or Holy Orders — which have strictly religious significance. Unlike marriage.

    My gripe are those people who don't allow that marriage can exist (and be called such) outside of their church-themed definition. Vows said before God are religious matters; legal marriage contracts affecting rights, privileges, and inheritance are a separate issue.

  • @Mike and Sluggo: hospital visitation is but a nice icing flower compared to issues such as transfer of assets upon death, child custody etc. not to mention things like who would receive payouts for 401Ks. Do spouses become recipients of SS benefits upon death?

    These are the real concerns. Even progressive countries eg Sweden have problems with these issues in de facto relationships. See the Steig Larsson case.

  • How is it that so many people can be so blase about the danger to Obama's reelection chances from his statement? Am I the only one here who remembers that one of the swing states just voted by a 20-point margin to make gay marriage illegal with a constitutional amendment? You know, the thing that literally happened the day before Obama's statement?

    Do people honestly think that none of the votes for Obama in 2008 came from people who oppose gay marriage? That this is such an obvious and safe position to take that Obama really doesn't deserve credit for making it? That it was pure cynical calculation, since the chances of his stand on gay marriage hurting him are so fantastically low that, really, supporting gay marriage is the safe position? Do people honestly believe this crap?!

    Also, anyone who acts disappointed when the President turns out to be a politician rather than the human avatar of all things right and just is way too naive to be a political commentator. Yes, the President schemes and calculates, because if he didn't he wouldn't be the fucking President in the first place. You don't get elected in America for taking brave stands of controversial issues. Every president beloved by the left schemed and dissembled as well: Lincoln, FDR, LBJ, they all lied, and they all threw some constituencies under the bus and they all did horrific things. And I'm supposed to look at Obama, who's done far far less evil that any of those three men, as somehow worse than them? Even though he's accomplished as much as any of them with far less congressional and public support in one term?

    The far left in this country doesn't know how good we have it with Obama. But then, I suppose blaming Obama for what's really our failure to shape our culture and society makes the sting of that failure a little weaker. Somebody asked earlier where the Tea Party came from, implying that it was Obama's fault that they existed. And that's sort of true, seeing as the TP crew in congress was elected on a platform of putting a stop to Obama's radical socialist agenda of not cutting taxes on the rich further and passing extremely business friendly health care reform. But guess what, the American people have to take collective responsibility for that. Trying to say that Obama is solely responsible is nothing more than passing the buck. It's making the President a scapegoat for our cultural failings.

    Take some responsibility, America. We caused our problems, not Obama.

  • Reading this is like hearing someone come back from a Springstein concert: "he didn't do anything new or original. just played his old songs. I guess the crowd was into it, which was cool."

    Why the pessimistic tone? Are we so cynical about politics that we can't appreciate a moment that LGBT movements have been hoping for years to see? Of course it would have been great for this sort of thing to happen earlier in Obama's presidency — just like it would have been beautiful if he gave a long soliloquy on the dangers of global warming.

    I'm sure every positive moment in history has been met by its share of tired cynics. There's a tendency when reading a lot of politics or doing political science to forget that change can happen, even if it needs to be watered down and made palatable. If the moment sounded unexciting, it's because Obama decided to announce his position more subtly than having a huge gay marriage bash. And Obama's administration has been a good one for gay rights, regardless of how often he's really stuck his neck out.

  • "Take some responsibility, America. We caused our problems, not Obama."

    This.

    While it seems I personally stand well to the left of Obama on just about everything, I realise I am not in the majority. In the reality we currently inhabit, does anyone seriously think that any Democrat leader could be more Left-y than Barry? 'Cause if you do, I'd like some of whatever you're on.

    And as for this particular issue, might I remind y'all that the world extends beyond the borders of the USA. So does the influence of the POTUS. Obama's little 'evolution' was just beamed across the freaking planet. That matters. His statement helps legitimise the gay rights fight in all sorts of places and situations most of us never have to think about.

    Did he time it to his own advantage? Probably. He also possibly did it when he thought he could get away with doing it. That's life, that's politics. Next!

    Some Americans on the Left really need to get some perspective on this guy. He might not be perfect, but he's pretty fucking good, and he's better than anything else on offer, by a stretch.

    When the right is going bananas, spouting shit about him being [insert random scary thing here], and the best progressive voices can do is "Meh. He could do more", does anyone think (the Left) we night have a case to answer RE: The state of the public conversation?

  • Obama does something positive(like saying something): It's Obama's accomplishment.

    Obama does something bad: (Sucks up to banks and corporations, authorizes indefinite detention, assassination of American citizens without trial, overthrows sovereign nations and leaves them in the hands of terrorists who lynch blacks, expands the war in Afghanistan, etc.) It's OUR fault.

    Obama couldn't do all those things he promised(and some of the things he never promised) because of Congress(please forget about that supermajority Democrats had in 2009).

    If Romney becomes president, he will have absolute power and not be checked by a Democratic congress.

    Obama may very well go to war on Syria or Iran.

    This would somehow be worse if Romney were doing it.

    Obama said he's in favor of gay marriage, but he wants to leave it to the states(just like Ron Paul and many conservatives). HOORAY!

    He had to do it because Biden "forced his hand." Ignore.

    Obamabot logic.

  • He had to do it because Biden "forced his hand."

    If so, that's the most policy influence Biden has had in four years.

  • Yes Arslan, it is, collectively, our fault as Americans. Americans are hateful, warmongering people. Americans just love it when they hear about furriners being blown up. Is that really so hard to accept? Do you think Americans would suddenly be all about sunshine and brotherhood if only we could replace Obama with [insert nonexistent perfect leftist who wants to be president here]?

    All this screeching about Obama from the left is pathetic. Maybe I'd have more respect for you guys if you actually tried doing something about our messed up culture besides bombing Youtube comments with pro-Ron Paul messages. Nope, the only possible solution is to get Romney elected, because that will fix everything.

    Do you have any solutions for the country's problems beyond getting rid of Obama? What happens after we let the Republican win? What's the next step, bitch about it on the blogs some more?

    Again, let me reiterate: about half of Americans think Obama is a radical leftist. That's what we're working with here. While you're throwing a hissy over Obama being more fascist than Mussolini, the rest of the country thinks he's Che Guevara. And you think you can get somebody to Obama's left as president? That's ridiculous.

  • Jrod, why is it you Obamabots have such difficulty forming an argument without childish insults and strawman tactics. It's also interesting that you people like to call yourselves leftists when it's convenient, but then when the real left appears you suddenly sound like AM radio jocks. Let me correct your numerous errors here.

    "Yes Arslan, it is, collectively, our fault as Americans."

    No, no it is not. Do Americans run the media collectively? No. Do Americans take part in the decisions of their government? No.

    " Americans are hateful, warmongering people. Americans just love it when they hear about furriners being blown up."

    Interesting how both parties love blowing up foreigners. I like how you pull the typical astute liberal "Oh look at me, lamenting the failures of American society," but regardless of what you say if you endorse Obama, you are endorsing the murder of more foreigners.

    "Is that really so hard to accept? Do you think Americans would suddenly be all about sunshine and brotherhood if only we could replace Obama with [insert nonexistent perfect leftist who wants to be president here]?"

    Here comes the first strawman- The we leftists want some perfect candidate. We don't want new candidates, we want a new system.

    "All this screeching about Obama from the left is pathetic."

    Actually I'd say your slavish, hypocritical devotion to Obama despite the fact that he is the most conservative Democrat in the last few decades(excluding Joe Liberman, maybe) fits the definition of "pathetic." Or maybe how you take on the tactics of the right in slandering real leftists is pathetic. Either way, the fact is you want to be called progressive but you don't want to back it up with actions.

    " Maybe I'd have more respect for you guys if you actually tried doing something about our messed up culture besides bombing Youtube comments with pro-Ron Paul messages."

    Since you're a typical politically illiterate liberal, it is my duty to inform you that Ron Paul is not a leftist, but a right-wing populist promoting the right-wing snake oil known as Austrian school economics. And if you didn't have your lips superglued to Obama's ass maybe you could look around and see that we ARE working to change the culture, via films, books, music, and pretty much every medium. But of course to you we're all just idealistic hippies.

    " Nope, the only possible solution is to get Romney elected, because that will fix everything."

    And he NAILS the Obamabot strawman argument! The judges are impressed! See folks- Obamabot logic.

    Here's a newsflash- it doesn't matter whether Romney gets elected or Obama gets reelected. I know you think it does, but as we have already established, you're a politically illiterate party cheerleader with no sense of history. Both Obama and Romney represent the interests of the ruling class. Even if you reelect Obama, you're only going to buy yourself four more years before an even "crazier" Republican gets the White House.

    Do you know why? Can you even think that hard? Let me explain it to you.

    1. Obama gets elected, proceeds to move to the right.

    2. Simultaneously, Republicans call him a Communist and an extreme-leftist.

    3. Anyone to the left of Obama becomes "beyond the pale" by default, ie if Obama is a wacky radical "socialist" than anyone who is to the left of the actual Obama is a batshit insane bastard child of Karl Marx himself. And this allows Republicans to move further to the right, thus shifting the whole political system ever rightward.

    4. You are living proof of this process in action.

    "Do you have any solutions for the country's problems beyond getting rid of Obama?"

    I'm sorry was I proposing getting rid of Obama(I mean in terms of electing someone else, as opposed to getting rid of the whole system)? Nope.

    " What happens after we let the Republican win?"

    Liberals like you suddenly remember you are against foreign wars, torture, the erosion of civil rights, etc. That's what happens.

    "What's the next step, bitch about it on the blogs some more?"

    Sorry you must have us wacky leftists confused with your fellow liberals. I'm guessing the only people who are going to be bitching are the true believers like you when Obama does the same thing he did in the last four years and you whine and complain about him disappointing you.

    "Again, let me reiterate: about half of Americans think Obama is a radical leftist. That's what we're working with here."

    Oh god forbid RADICAL LEFTISTS be in politics. I understand now. Obama WANTS to be progressive but for the time being he has to out-Bush Bush so that he can complete his grand-strategem that he's been hiding all this time.

    "While you're throwing a hissy over Obama being more fascist than Mussolini,"

    Huh, weird- I don't remember writing that.

    " the rest of the country thinks he's Che Guevara."

    So we should just accept people's bullshit assumptions?

    " And you think you can get somebody to Obama's left as president? That's ridiculous."

    Who said we wanted another president? But again, you have just proved my point. Obama goes to the right, giving the Republicans space to move further to the right. The next Democrat will be even more right wing, and they'll be calling him Stalin 2.0.

    Look I hope Obama gets elected because I want to hear all your collective crying when he pounds you believers in the ass for another four years. War in Iran or Syria? Indefinite detention of American citizens? Internet censorship? More police brutality? Gay marriage left to the States? I'm buying my popcorn ahead of time.

  • Jrod, why is it you Obamabots have such difficulty forming an argument without childish insults and strawman tactics.

    Says the guy who calls me a warmonger who loves dead brown people. But only when a Democrat kills them, of course. Yes, I'm gonna be lectured on civility by you.

    Good luck breaking down the whole system. I'm sure that will turn out great for everybody, since history shows that civil strife and uncertainty always lead to socialist utopia.

    Not that you folks are actually doing anything along those lines, of course, so at least there's no need to worry about you morons pulling another Spartacist Uprising, getting a bunch of us social democrats killed and helping solidify right-wing rule. No, for the modern uber-leftist it's all about posturing. "I am the true liberal! The fact that I'll never accomplish anything politically is proof of my purity! The rest of you are unclean! Unclean!" Meanwhile, Florida's governor was elected despite being convicted of the worst case of Medicare fraud in history because he promised to crack down harder on welfare and food stamp recipients. That's undoubtedly Obama's fault too, somehow.

    P.S. Are you honestly telling me that there aren't a bunch of self-proclaimed leftists shilling for Ron Paul? I guess all those people I've met who do exactly that were putting me on. I guess I always suspected that reality was a giant practical joke played against me…

  • "Says the guy who calls me a warmonger who loves dead brown people. But only when a Democrat kills them, of course. Yes, I'm gonna be lectured on civility by you."

    Sorry did I complain about a lack of civility? I was complaining about a lack of logic.

    "Good luck breaking down the whole system. I'm sure that will turn out great for everybody, since history shows that civil strife and uncertainty always lead to socialist utopia."

    YES, Mr. Beck, I WILL read Hayek's Road to Serfdom right away! We should never challenge the established order, as it is eternal and just. We must leave change to our natural betters, unless of course they don't want change, in which we will wait patiently.

    Oh and yet ANOTHER strawman- "socialist utopia."

    "Not that you folks are actually doing anything along those lines, of course, so at least there's no need to worry about you morons pulling another Spartacist Uprising, getting a bunch of us social democrats killed and helping solidify right-wing rule."

    Yes, we working class people are so stupid. Behold, the Democrat shows his true colors. This is just going to be all the more hilarious when Obama disappoints you for another four years and the best you can do to console yourself is imagine that Romney would have unleashed some kind of Sturmabteilung on society.

    "No, for the modern uber-leftist it's all about posturing. "I am the true liberal! The fact that I'll never accomplish anything politically is proof of my purity! The rest of you are unclean! Unclean!"

    Yawn. Are you finished yet?

    "Meanwhile, Florida's governor was elected despite being convicted of the worst case of Medicare fraud in history because he promised to crack down harder on welfare and food stamp recipients.That's undoubtedly Obama's fault too, somehow."

    I don't know what this red herring is supposed to be about, but you bring up a good point, unwittingly of course. The point is that while obviously Obama isn't responsible for the governor of Florida being elected, his being president(or his reelection) isn't going to change that. It's probably not going to change the batshit insane laws being proposed in Arizona, nor will it change the law in North Carolina. Remember, Obama said it should be left to the states, the mantra of conservatives, libertarians, segregationists, and of course, Paultards.

    "P.S. Are you honestly telling me that there aren't a bunch of self-proclaimed leftists shilling for Ron Paul? I guess all those people I've met who do exactly that were putting me on. "

    There are, but these people are merely ignorant(or politically illiterate, to put it more correctly). Ron Paul is a right-wing populists but as the name implies, populists deliberately tailor their message to reach a broad spectrum of people. When a Paul supporter denounces the wars, complains about the erosion of civil rights, and decries the bail-out and "big corporations"(Austrian school economics teaches that big corporations exist mainly do to government regulation, really), many leftists, especially new initiates, get interested. I have found that many of these people know little about Ron Paul's real views, nor have they ever heard of Austrian school economics.

    In any case, I have never been a Ron Paul supporter, nor have I ever considered it.

  • Look, Arslan, despite your constant repetition that everyone who disagrees with you is "politically illiterate," I promise you I'm not. But most Americans are, and they vote.

    Until we can solve that problem, then Obama is the best possible President this country will elect. In fact, it's a damn fluke that we got someone as far to the left as him. I don't expect it to happen again in my lifetime.

    If you chose to interpret my making the best of the bad situation that is modern America as a love of jack-booted thugs, be my guest. I'll continue working to make things a little better and working to change people's minds. You can continue with the important work of telling those nasty Democrats how evil they are.

  • "Until we can solve that problem, then Obama is the best possible President this country will elect. In fact, it's a damn fluke that we got someone as far to the left as him. I don't expect it to happen again in my lifetime."

    Wait, now he IS to the left? How? And I don't see how it is a fluke at all considering 8 years of Bush. On the surface he appeared to be the opposite of Bush in many ways, and he did make many promises. However, some of us pointed out long before he was even nominated that there were many things he was not saying.

    As I said, you're only going to buy yourselves four more years of a right-wing Democrat. During that time the right will continue to rally its forces while Obama continues to disappoint his base. They will go all out and in 2016, they will run an even more conservative figure than Bush. And why will they be able to do that? Well first they are to the right of Obama(though he is to the right of many right-wing figures in Europe), but they are calling him a left-wing radical. So if Obama can be a left-wing radical while following what is essentially a right-of-center line, then surely someone to the right of him isn't going to seem beyond the pale. In other words, right-wing extremism has become more and more mainstream in the last few years, and it will continue to do so as long as they can portray a conservative Democrat as a far left radical.

    "You can continue with the important work of telling those nasty Democrats how evil they are."

    Funny, if a Republican were doing what Obama has done(seeing as how you have no disputed any of the things I have brought up about him), I have a feeling you'd be telling people how evil Republicans are. You know, like the thing Democrats were doing for nearly 8 years under Bush.

    Now finally I understand what the drive to reelect Obama is all about. 8 years of protesting gets tiring for the fair-weather anti-war activist. When a Democrat is doing the killing, it's no big deal, so another four years merely extends the mental vacation of not caring about imperialism, capitalist exploitation, and all those other things which only seem to matter when the perpetrators have R's after their name.

  • @Arslan-

    You started the name-calling and straw-manning this time around: "Obamabots argue (a), Obamabots are always (b)". Just sayin'.

    "Change the system?" Seriously? Good luck with that. Seemed to work well for you Ruskies last time 'round.

    Obama gets plenty of blame when he fucks up (not least, here). When he does good, we should say so. That doesn't make anyone an automaton.

  • Who knows why anybody does anything; even anybody himself?

    I learned in therapy that it was unhealthy to speculate on people's motives: If someone doesn't acknowledge you across a crowded room, they probably didn't see you. They probably don't hate you; they probably don't think about you much at all. It's just good mental hygiene.

    Later, I read Luther's Small Catechism, and his take on the Eighth Commandment (Thou shalt not bear false witness) included an admonition to always assume the best of intentions in other people's actions. So this sort of speculation is a sin! Eek!

    That said, I did some speculation of my own: Is he getting it out of the way early, before the proverbial Labor Day kickoff of the "real" campaign? Because everybody knows it's true, anyway?

    But you have to take the man at his word, because what else have you got? Nothing—until he or someone credibly close to him writes a memoir.

    All we have is his action, and it is A Good Thing. A Historical Thing. And that should be enough.

    Shorter me: Who died and made you The Amazing Kreskin?

  • No, no, no, the fact that Obama said something we all agree with is horrible, no good politicking. The end.

  • ""Change the system?" Seriously? Good luck with that. Seemed to work well for you Ruskies last time 'round."

    Yes it did work well, when you compare pre-revolutionary Russia to the Soviet and post-Soviet eras. But what works in Russia in 1917 doesn't work in the US IN 2012; any Marxist would tell you that.

    In any case, did you notice if any of my statements about Obama were disputed at any time? I'm talking about issues like NDAA, assassination of American citizens, expansion of the war abroad, etc.

    The standard Obamabot response is that yes, these things are bad, but they will somehow be worse when a Republican does them.

  • "Change the system?" Seriously? Good luck with that. Seemed to work well for you Ruskies last time 'round.

    Oh, honestly.

    A glance around the rest of the world will be persuasive of the fact that constitutional settlements can and do change, that electoral systems can and do change, and that regulation of elections can and does change.

    It isn't, and has never been, a straight choice between what you currently have and Stalinism.

    And you think you can get somebody to Obama's left as president? That's ridiculous.

    I don't know if you followed the French presidential election primaries, JRod, but the mood among the left (and I'm not sure I agree with your suggestion of who the left is) was grim. DSK's apparent felonious misogyny having ruled him out of the running, there was left a field of contenders depleted by previous power struggles, unsuccessful campaigns, and the taint of the unconscionably dirigiste.

    That the nation that elected Sarko would elect François Hollande was by no means certain, and yet that's what happened.

    He ran on a platform that some, perceiving the direction of European economic travel to be full-steam towards untempered neoliberalism, felt to be unwise. On 26 January he outlined a full list of policies in a manifesto containing 60 propositions, including the separation of retail activities from riskier investment-banking businesses; raising taxes for big corporations, banks and the wealthy; creating 60,000 teaching jobs; bringing the official retirement age back down to 60 from 62; creating subsidised jobs in areas of high unemployment for the young; promoting more industry in France by creating a public investment bank; granting marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples; and pulling French troops out of Afghanistan in 2012.

    I doubt Arslan thinks this is changing the system, but it suggests that the public mood with austerity is impatient. It will be interesting to see the results of tomorrow's North Rhine-Westphalia election, which is being parsed as a vote of confidence, or otherwise, in Merkel's pro-austerity positioning.

    I guess my point is that change is unachievable by those who defend the status quo, and see no possibility for difference. Political activism on the ground is dull, repetitive, and a somewhat thankless task. It's what works, though. Hollande reaped the benefit of DSKgate, but he also reaped the benefit of years of patient, steady work in his local area, building a power and confidence base that no one would have imagined would be so valuable.

  • Interesting how when it comes to the change the Democrats and Obama promised, we have to wait and reelect him just to see anything. But when radicals talk about changing the system, we have to do it instantly otherwise we're just a bunch of hippies dreaming of a socialist utopia. Incidentally one of the major things which is holding back radicalization is the large number of dupes who still think a Democratic candidate is going to get them what they want.

  • ""Change the system?" Seriously? Good luck with that. Seemed to work well for you Ruskies last time 'round."

    Arslan, you're right. That was a stupid thing to say. Sorry. In my defence, I can only offer that it was early Saturday morning here.

  • Apology accepted. Here The government turned our Saturday into TUESDAY! And last Saturday was MONDAY!

  • Arslan,
    My comments were interested in the immediate to short term. Ie this election-cycle.
    The current system is so fubared, that in the next 6mos we've got to work with what we've got. The system's so broken that we accept a pounding, but at least he uses lube! The suppression of ows highlights these facts.

    Independents? Not with CU, and politicians for sale. Though TBaggers primarying their own incumbents shows how frustrated the entire electorate is. As for the ndaa, if I lived in the electorate of the douche Dem, who co-sponsored that beauty, I'd be primarying him. Besides we tried an Independent and look how that turned out for us. And if you're thinking Nader, guess again, think Anderson who helped deliver us to evil.

    Somewhere in the 80s the left lost its organisational skills. Things that got Civil Rights done. Most likely with the breaking of the air traffic controllers. Then when we finally did get back into office we had the "best Repuglican't prez ever", thank you Slick.

    So at the moment the challenge is to regain the States. Which is why I said if there's anything that will motivate the base, it will be Walker losing by double digits. Yes, I'll vote for Obummer, I won't be happy about it, but we need to pave the way for better.

    As for my situ here, what the Hell can we do for ourselves Eau? Big Ears in his budgie smugglers is frightening, but Jules is proving as bad as Obummer.

  • i always bemused at those that call Obama Left of Center. Obama is Bush in Democratic cover.

    well that's the most absurd thing, Obama being a Democrat, i've heard outside of allowing "real" guns to the Republican Convention, and banning water guns.

    that kind of logic, is what makes Republicans win.

    Obama is a Republican in all but name. every deed is to suck up to the Center Base, not the Left.

    we, the Left, will have to wait till someone from the Left appears. i won't hold my breath til then though.

    and to hear people call Libertarians "left". ignorance is a many splendid thing when used to hide stupidity, isn't it!

  • @Xynzee – I guess that's where my call for perspective came from. I think Obama is more like Rudd, except Rudd actually attempted to go against his party and their corporate backers to deliver on the promises he ran on. Big mistake, apparently. As for Gillard, I'm not her biggest fan, but there are reasons we have a caretaker period during elections. One is that you can't effectively govern while running a campaign. The media (and public) allowing Abbott to run a never-ending campaign is forcing the Gov. to choose: govern, or campaign. Their attempts to do both have, predictably, failed. There's more, of course, but the TL,DR is: We're fucked. Welcome to Tony Abbott's Australia. By which I mean Clive Palmer's Australia.

    My frustration with the Aus. public's inability to recognise how well first Rudd, then Gillard, have navigated the gfc and other massive shocks that have smashed big holes in Europe, Asia and the US definitely informs my feelings that Obama is doing OK. Not great, just OK. If he went harder Left, I believe the Dems would be looking at the kind of electoral devastation that Labor is, come next year.

  • @eau: someone once told me that for the avg Australian as long as the political discourse doesn't affect the flow of beer at the barbie or the running of the Melbourne Cup, they're yours.

  • @Xynzee: My Dad said that to me, pretty much word for word, just this morning.

    Another of his favourites is "Both of 'em are lying to us, that's the only thing we know for sure. Might as well pick the lies you like."

  • Just wanted to blurt this out –
    My husband and I are legally married in the eyes of the State of California (metaphorically speaking). To me, at least, it matters a HUGE FUCKING DEAL that I can say that. When the State was offering domestic partnerships, sure, yeah, we signed up. But we knew it was ersatz.

    I can't make it any plainer. To me, it makes a difference. Clearly, it also makes a difference to the people who would deny me That Word. They say we can have any and every right of marriage – but we can't call it that. I feel just as strongly about it, just on the other side of the mirror.

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