Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hillary Clinton: Candidate of Last Resort

I would like to first express my condolences to the victims of the Boston bombing and their families. That event was a horrific tragedy, and it is also heart breaking that, through the ages, some human beings have continued to do such horrible things to one another. The main point of my post relates to the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton has stated before that she does not plan on running for president. My reaction to this is, “You promise?” Believe me, I would love to have a female president. But I don’t want it to be Hillary Clinton. I think either Margaret Hoover from the GOP or Elizabeth Warren from the Democratic Party, for instance, would be great. In fact, I believe that one of these days, Chelsea Clinton could make a great president, but I hope it doesn’t take that long to get a woman in the White House. But again, I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be president. There are several reasons for this. Those of you who know me well can probably guess that the biggest one is her record on marriage equality. President Obama and Vice President Biden both risked their reelection by reversing their previous stances and announcing that they supported gay marriage. Hillary Clinton waited until well after the election. If she never runs for another public office, the historical record will show that not once in her life did Hillary Clinton ever risk losing an election by supporting equal rights for gay people. If she runs in 2016, the record will show that she kicked back on the fence rifling off nonsense about civil unions while Barack Obama risked losing his presidency by supporting marriage equality, then changed positions once Obama proved a supporter of gay marriage could win and once the tide had clearly turned momentously. If Clinton runs in 2016, I am going to be reminded of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin puts his rubber duck in the bath tub “to check for sharks,” before getting in himself. In essence, it will look to me as if Clinton used Obama as a rubber duck to see if homophobic shark voters would devour him for supporting marriage equality. Furthermore, while I do not blame Hillary Clinton for  Bill’s homophobic policies, she has not done a good job disassociating herself from them and, in fact, took four years longer than him to support equal rights. In 2007, Clinton said she wanted to repeal Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act-instead of the whole vile piece of legislation. I could be wrong, but it is hard for me to imagine her fighting to repeal DOMA with the necessary amount of vigor, as it was her husband who signed it. Hence, she might feel that aggressively attacking the law as discriminatory and immoral would be repudiating her husband. And most people don’t like openly repudiating family members. I love Meghan McCain for her gay rights support, but she wasn’t exactly taking the fight to her Dad over his support of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The second reason I would prefer Hillary Clinton not become president is that as a Senator she sponsored an anti-flag burning law. The best that can be said of the amendment is that it would not have meant a blanket ban on flag burning. It would, however, have made flag desecration with intent to incite violence illegal, as well as making it illegal to intimidate someone by burning a flag or burn someone else’s flag (presumably without their permission.) There were plenty of problems in this proposed law. Neither Clinton nor her cosponsor, Senator Robert Bennett, saw fit to define what constituted an attempt at inciting violence. This would have necessarily been left to judges, juries, and district attorneys, and it is not far fetched to imagine many of them using the law to punish people ostensibly for intending to incite violence but really for the act of desecration itself. And since any act of flag desecration is likely to result in violence by angry bystanders against the person doing the desecrating, Clinton’s proposed law was particularly ripe for abuse. The intimidation clause was also so vague that it could have easily led to free speech violations. And, of course, burning someone else’s property without their permission is already a crime, so that part of the law was comically unnecessary. One of the things I most admire about the Democratic Party (aside from its CURRENT support for civil rights) is that although mainstream Democrats have frequently supported over-extensions of government power in areas like the Patriot Act and the War on Drugs, they have generally opposed anti-flag burning laws. Not so with Hillary Clinton. The third reason that I am not particularly enthusiastic about a Hillary Clinton candidacy is her record on the Iraq War. In 2002, Hillary Clinton voted for a resolution that authorized George W. Bush to use military force against Iraq at his discretion, without needing further approval from the Senate or the House. There is a popular claim going around that all but one Senator, or every single Senator, voted for the Iraq War. A quick trip to the public record will make it clear that this claim is not even close to true. In actuality, twenty-one Democratic Senators, one Republican Senator, and one Independent Senator voted against it. Russ Feingold, Jim Jeffords, Lincoln Chafee, Barbara Boxer, Mark Dayton,  Patrick Leahy, Daniel Inouye, and Ted Kennedy (yes, I know the last two are deceased), among others, would have something to say if you told them that only one Senator voted against the Iraq War. Then, we come to the House, where the “nay” votes numbered well over a hundred. My point is the “damn near everyone voted for the war” argument that was compelling with regard to Vietnam and Afghanistan really falls flat in the case of Iraq. Had Hillary Clinton been nominated in 2008, she would have had a very tough time criticizing the Iraq War during the campaign, since it would have seemed that she was simply bending to the will of the public. Barack Obama, on the other hand, had opposed the Iraq War at the beginning and hence had a much easier time criticizing it. It is true that Obama voiced support for the war in 2004, after it was already underway, but at least if he’d had his way, the war never would have started. Furthermore, I believe that if Hillary Clinton had been elected in 2008, we would currently have far more troops in Iraq than we do now. After all, she repeatedly refused to apologize for her pro-war vote and voiced support for maintaining a reduced troop presence in Iraq “for the foreseeable future.” Everything that I have said can easily be corroborated by a quick trip to Google. Now, since I believe in fairness, I am going to address an allegation made against Hillary Clinton back in 2008. During his primary battle with Obama, there were accusations made that she was racist. The lion’s share of evidence gives lie to this accusation. However, there are other potential candidates for president in 2016 who are also not racist, have significantly stronger gay rights records than Hillary Clinton, and would be better choices for president. If, Heaven forbid, the 2016 presidential contest is Hillary Clinton vs. Marco Rubio, then believe me, I will heartily support Clinton. Rubio’s gay rights record makes Hillary Clinton’s look downright phenomenal. But I am not and will not be excited about her candidacy if she runs in the primaries.

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The Backward Trio Must Go

Events in the past six months or so have convinced me that I was probably overly pessimistic about the amount of time it would take for the Gay Rights Movement to achieve its goals. One event that truly shocked me was when I discovered that bit by bit, as more and more Senators switched positions, we had managed to get a Senate majority for marriage equality. We have 50 Democrats, two Republicans, and two independents who support the legalization of gay marriage. As of this writing, there are only three Democrats left in the Senate who do not support gay marriage: Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, and Joe Manchin. Landrieu has stated point blank that she personally supports gay marriage but has to honor the will of the majority in Louisiana, which opposes it. For all practical purposes, this means she opposes gay marriage. Now, as far as Mary Landrieu goes, she is showing flagrant cowardice, but she is only doing it more blatantly than a lot of politicians. Olympia Snowe of a socially tolerant blue state was decent on other gay rights issues but didn’t announce she supported same-sex marriage until just a few days ago, a few months after leaving office. I suppose there’s a chance she had an honest change of heart that just happened to come shortly after she left office–a .0005% chance. Bill Clinton now says he supports same-sex marriage, but he left us with DOMA. However, I am a little bit taken aback by just how open Landrieu is that she is pandering to bigoted voters. In essence, she is saying, “I know discrimination is wrong. But I want to keep my job, so I’m going to pander to those who think discrimination is right, because my political career is more important than people’s civil rights.” I would really love to know if she has any limits to her, “Go with the voters” policy. Would she support segregation if the majority of her supporters wanted it? Slavery? Mark Pryor has described himself as an evangelical Christian, and it is well-documented that he opposed a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until as little as a month before the final vote on the legislation. He also stated during that time that homosexuality was a sin. And Manchin was the lone Democrat to vote against the final repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He, more even than Landrieu or Pryor, has been a thorn in the side to gay people in much the same way as his predecessor, Robert Byrd, was. It is certainly possible that these three Senators will change their stances. After all, just a few days ago, Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota was one of the “Final Four” Democrats opposed to marriage equality. But now, he has changed positions, causing me to refer to the group as the “Backward Trio” instead. However, I think that these three individuals will remain opposed to gay marriage for quite a while. As referenced earlier, Landrieu has basically said her actions are entirely dictated by majority opinion in her state, and Pryor and Manchin both have altogether too much of the Christian Coalition in them. So what is to be done with these three hold-outs? I propose that the Democratic Party refuse to support any of them in their bids for re election. Instead, the party should find three pro-equality candidates to run as independents. Given the fact that West Virginia, Louisiana, and Arkansas are all fairly conservative states–though each of them have some liberals–these three candidates should have moderate stances on many other policy issues. I believe that it is possible for these candidates to win if the vote is split relatively evenly three ways. In liberal Maine, socially conservative Tea Partier Paul LePage became governor with less than forty percent of the popular vote. Why? Because the sixty percent or so of Maine voters who lean left split their votes between an independent and a Democrat. I believe it is very likely that Louisiana, West Virginia, and Arkansas all have a large enough minority of same-sex marriage supporters to make this goal a reality, so long as the pro-gay marriage candidates appeal to them on other issues. If only people with over fifty percent of the popular vote won elections, we would probably not have abolished slavery when we did. Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in a four-way contest, garnering under forty percent of the vote. The majority of the country was unwilling to put even a moderately antislavery president in power, but one was put into power nonetheless due to vote splitting. There is a very good chance that the end result of my endeavor will simply be that there are three more Republicans in the Senate. However, it will mean that the Democratic Party is no longer culpable by virtue of supporting bigoted, cowardly candidates. Furthermore, without Pryor, Manchin, and Landrieu, we will still have a majority of Senators in support of same-sex marriage, and the continue presence of these three would still not give the magical sixty votes needed to break a filibuster in gay rights-related debates. Hence, there is no compelling reason to continue supporting the Backward Trio in hopes that they may some day change their minds or because their support is crucial to other gay rights bills. Furthermore, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Nevada, and North Dakota are all states where one Senator supports gay marriage, and the other does not. This indicates that it is feasible to elect another pro-gay marriage Senator in these states (as opposed to, say, Georgia, where it really would not be.) If this were done successfully, it would allow us to boot Pryor, Landrieu, and Manchin and still have a filibuster-proof majority for equal rights AND mean that all the Senate Democrats were united in support. Finally, the threat of losing the backing of Democratic leadership might be enough to frighten the Backward Trio into doing the right thing.

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