36 posts

Why 2012 Is Crucial for Democrats

Written by: Michael Baharaeen

The 2010 midterm elections brought to power a juggernaut of Republicans.  With the drastic influx of GOP legislators – more Republicans in offices across the country than at any time since 1928 – our country has seen unacceptable behavior from our government. We have seen these majorities impede progress and development, while simultaneously taking away rights that have been granted to the people for decades.  Democratic voters were found asleep at the wheel in 2010, and the past two years not only show the cataclysmic results from such an action, but they are also a teaching moment for progressives nationwide: 2012 matters.

Pundits and political operatives will often casually suggest every two or four years that “this election is the most important one in the last x number of years.”  While this eventually creates a numbing effect on the public who see these professionals as simply crying wolf, it has never been truer, at least in my lifetime, than for this year’s elections.  The decisions that voters make in November will have lasting ramifications for decades to come.



After November 2010, Republicans saw majority gains not only at the federal level, but also in governorships and state legislatures.  It is difficult for even the most ardent of GOP supporters to claim that these newly formed coalitions were not working in tandem across the country to implement very similar policies.  In addition to the growing suppression of abortion rights and the abdication of federal funds for high-speed rail lines by GOP governors (something that would help bring us further into the 21st century), the Republican Party compiled a checklist of destructive policies with which they began marching forward, state by state.


Drug testing for welfare recipients.  By doing this, one can only assume that Republican lawmakers are equating all poor people with drug addicts.  The claim has been that they want to ensure people’s hard-earned tax dollars aren’t going to feed a drug habit.  However, if they were truly interested in doing that, there would be a plethora of bills coming forward to drug-test very employee at the Wall Street firms that received TARP bailout money.  Have we seen anything like that?  No, and we probably never will, as the banks pay the campaign checks for the GOP1.  Leave aside the fact that even the ultra-conservative Drudge Report acknowledged that only 2% of Florida welfare recipients failed their drug test2, or that Miami Herald reported that these programs actually cost the state more money than it sought to save by depriving all of those purported druggies of their welfare checks3; from a moral standpoint, there should be no excuse to humiliate the poor in such a manner – singling them out for “obviously” having drug problems.


Tax cuts for the rich & balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class.  Naturally, the Republicans wanted to appear to care about fixing the economy, even though as most regular observers of politics know, it would be very politically convenient for them if the economy were still suffering in 2012 so that Obama could take the blame.  In states with Republican governors, the modus operandi has been to cut taxes so that the “job creators,” a convenient euphemism for the richest one percent of income earners, will be able to create more jobs.  But if this sort of trickle-down economics that Reagan advocated not so long ago had even a shred of efficacy, wouldn’t it be plausible to think that unemployment rates should be going down at a much quicker rate across the country?  It would be, but this is not what has happened.  Instead, the rich have received over 90% of the gains made since the recession, and yet unemployment is still over 8%.  However, these results have not deterred GOP governors one bit from continuing to press forward with these policies.  Even economic dilettantes should know that cutting taxes – taxes being revenue to the government – means that the government has less money to spend.  So how do GOP lawmakers solve this problem?  They end up targeting programs that are sacrosanct to the poor and to the working and middle classes, including Pennsylvania’s governor, who signed into law devastating cuts to higher education4.


Strict voter ID laws. One of the most basic rights to the citizens of this country, granted by both state constitutions as well as the U.S. Constitution, is the right to vote.  Efforts to encumber that right, while typically deemed unconstitutional, are nevertheless now pervading the country, with 180 of these bills having been produced in 41 states since January 20115.  And, unsurprisingly, they almost completely target Democratic voters – the young, minorities, and even senior citizens (who want to see their Medicare and Social Security protected).  What is the justification Republicans have given?  To stop voter fraud, of course!  Obviously, this problem must be rampant if so many state legislatures are bringing legislation forward to mitigate it, right?  According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the chances of lightning striking someone are greater than the chances of discovering voter fraud6.  Politifact.com corroborated the ACLU’s claim that in Florida, a state seeking these types of laws, voter fraud is less common than shark attacks7.  So what is the actual purpose of these laws, then, if there is no significant problem?  The answer is simple: if successful, key Democratic voting demographics will be disenfranchised, and therefore will not be able to vote.  This will have a nice buffering effect for the Republicans in 2012 as even with the growing outrage to their policies, the affected voting blocs will be unable to retaliate.


Union busting.  Continuing the theme of dismantling Democratic supporters and foundations across the country, Republican governors and legislators in several states have moved forward with swift union-busting measures.  Unfortunately, they have been largely successful.  Subsequent to the passage and implementation of anti-union legislation in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Tennessee and Maine, among others, union membership has drastically declined.  Since 1954, union membership nationwide has gone from 39.2 percent of workers to a dismal 11.9 percent (in a country of 300 million people, that difference is much larger than it may appear at first glance).  In Wisconsin the AFSCME, the second largest group of public sector union workers, saw its membership plummet from 62,818 to 28,745.  Similarly, the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin lost 6,000 members, almost 35% of its membership8.  Keep in mind: these losses came within ONE YEAR.  So why is this such an anomaly among Republican-controlled states?  As the Center for Responsive Politics has shown, three of the top ten groups who spent the most money in 2010 were unions, the only sect in the top ten which gave to Democrats9.  Suffice it to say that the less power this Democratic stronghold has, the less money will be able to be given to the Democratic Party come election time.  It is an ingenious plan, and if successful will have reverberations throughout the Democratic community for possibly decades. I have written extensively on the benefits of unions and how much they empower workers10.  Organized labor is an institution which needs and deserves all the protection we can afford to it.



A Brief Note on the Presidency


As many who know me are aware, I have several qualms with President Obama.  While I think he has made great advances for the country in some areas, I have been dismayed at his conservative tendencies in others.  However, I plan on voting for him 2012, as should every individual (particularly Democrat, even the disillusioned ones) who wants to maintain some sort of mitigating figure in power to prevent the Republicans from exacerbating even further the problems they have caused.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the more liberal Supreme Court justices, has mentioned that she only plans to remain on the bench for another three years.    Should President Obama lose, there is a possibility that the Supreme Court could go from a 5-4 conservative tilt to a 6-3 configuration.  If this happens, mark my words: first on the docket will be a challenge to Roe v. Wade, followed by anything from reinstituting school prayer to English as the national language.  It would be paradise for conservatives, but detrimental to the country.

The other glaring reason for reelecting the president is because there is no guarantee that Democrats will either regain control of the house or maintain control of the Senate (the foregoing section of this piece was an attempt to relay to voters the gravity of the situation and prevent the Congress from being completely Republican-controlled).  However, should that indeed happen, Obama would be the last roadblock to streamlining the Republicans’ wish list of conservative policies.  Some political observers have suggested that even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, he will make an inexorable shift to the middle.  But the question should be asked, will he be willing to wave a veto threat at a Republican-controlled Congress over policies he thinks might be too radical?



I have laid out the evidence.  Citizens of states which were drastically impacted by the Republican ascension in 2010 realized the consequences of their lethargy and immediately sought to remedy them.  There is no guarantee, though, that long-lasting damage has not already been inflicted upon our country.  Whether or not we want to believe it, 2012 could potentially shape the direction of our country for the next century.  Democrats, progressives, and anyone interested in moving our country forward need to see the past two years as a teaching moment and prepare to fight back.



1. http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/08/10/wall-street-donations-shift-to-gop-amid-financial-reforms/


2. http://www.drudge.com/archive/147680/only-2-fail-scotts-welfare-drug-test


3. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/20/2758871/floridas-welfare-drug-tests-cost.html


4. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42018121/ns/us_news-life/t/pa-governors-higher-ed-cuts-draw-protests/


5. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/#47512867


6.  http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/policy_brief_on_the_truth_about_voter_fraud/


7. http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2012/mar/02/aclu-florida/shark-attacks-are-more-common-voter-fraud-florida/


8. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/#47512867


9. http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2010&chrt=V&disp=O&type=P


10. http://tsudems.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/in-gop-we-trust-how-americans-voted-against-their-own-interests/


Same-sex Marriage and Gay Rights: Some Instructive Links

Written by: Matt Seyer

Readers of “Surprise!  New York Is Not On Fire!” have asked that I give a more serious take on the issue of gay rights.  The following is a group of videos, cartoons, and images concerning the issue.  They range from the silly to the uplifting.  I’ll hopefully write a more thorough piece eventually, but for now let this serve as a transition post from complete satire to slightly serious.

We’ll start with the silly.  Here’s a very clear illustration of what gay marriage would and would not entail:

How Gay Rights Is Nothing Like Legalizing Bestiality

Next, we’ll indulge in some more satire.  First, we have a faux representation of opposing arguments:

Ten Reasons Why Gay Marriage Should Be Illegal

Second, The Partisans tell us all about what’s natural in the wonderful world of sex.

We’ll make a slight shift to the serious now.  Here, Ellen Degeneres has a brief conversation with Senator John McCain.  The best Senator McCain can come up with is that they have a “respectful disagreement” that marriage is between a man and a woman.  Imagine a country where if a large portion of the population has a “respectful disagreement” about whether Jewish people should be allowed to vote, then the country declares that they cannot vote.  Sounds fair, yeah?  Because human rights can be thought of that way, I suppose.

Inspired by the Zach Wahls video (see below), this Iowa grandmother decided to give her views on gay marriage.  Her reaction to her son’s coming out is probably typical of most families.  Less typical is her change in perspective.

The Golden Girls give us a brief return to the humorous.  Despite the fun attitude, the message couldn’t be simpler or more poignant.

“For The Bible Tells Me So” is a documentary about the relationship between homosexuality and Biblical teachings.  This is a brief clip that demonstrates that homosexuality is not a choice.

One more piece of satire before the heavy-hitters.

On August 8th, 2010, Ted Olson — the conservative lawyer who represented President Bush in Bush v. Gore — appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss his recent victory in overturning Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in California. Throughout the interview, host Chris Wallace attempted to trip up his guest with a series of familiar Republican talking points, all of which Olson repudiated.  [Olson is featured prominently in the next post of this series.]

I’ve often heard that it’s only a matter of time for gay rights to become a reality; that the older generation will die out, leaving a more tolerant and accepting generation in its place.  Here, Senator Gronstal, from the Iowa state senate, comes to agree with that idea.

This Zach Wahls video has gone viral since its initial upload.  Mr. Wahls speaks to us about living with two mothers.  He offers us a unique perspective, a resonant and moving message, and proof that the sexual orientation of one’s parents has “zero effect on the content of [one’s] character.”

Diane J. Savino tells it like it is.  She gives an especially good response to those who would champion the “sanctity of marriage.”

The fact that it is appearing on a list of gay rights links will likely ruin the intended effect of this video.  Let me assure you, though, that I did not see that ending coming.  It makes you ask, “What’s the difference, really?”

Last but certainly not least, we have a preview for the documentary “Second Class Citizen.”  The documentary details the gay rights movement from its beginning as a reaction to discrimination to a widespread call for justice and equality.  I dare you to be unmoved after watching.

Perspective on Conservatives and Liberals: An Addendum

Written by: Matt Seyer

I have two more articles for all of you lovely people!  They both specifically talk about conservatives, so you won’t gain a whole lot in the way of a better understanding of liberals, but they’re still solid pieces.

The first is an older article from Forbes that was posted a few months ago.  I felt it deserved reposting simply because it fit the theme of conservatives and liberals.  The article asks why Republicans are embracing intellectually-subpar candidates for the presidency, and attempts to give an answer.

“Why Do Republicans Gleefully Embrace Idiots as Presidential Candidates?…The question naturally begs a larger question: How can a country, with the world’s highest national GDP, and absurdly complex systems regulating everything from credit default swaps to nuclear missile safety, possibly allow onto its national stage men and women of such transparently inferior intellect?”

The second article is a blog post written by Corey Robin.  It is a summary/introductory post that discusses the major themes of his book, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.  Robin takes a serious look at the claim that modern-day conservatism is some kind of radical strain of traditional conservatism, a notion endorsed by such public intellectuals as Paul Krugman, P.M. Carpenter, and Andrew Sullivan.  His conclusion: it’s really not all that radical.  This is a fascinating read: beautifully written, erudite, but fun all the same.

“I wrote The Reactionary Mind for many reasons, but one of them was to show—contra Carpenter, Sullivan, Blumenthal, Tanenhaus, Krugman, and many more—that today’s conservative is in fact conservative. She hasn’t betrayed the traditions of Burke, Disraeli, Hayek, Oakeshott, Buckley, and Reagan: she has fulfilled them.”


Written by: Matt Seyer

The theory of evolution is not a legitimate scientific theory.  9/11 widows are harpies who enjoyed their husbands’ deaths.  The Jewish religion is deficient and is in need of the perfecting grace of Christianity to make it whole.  Women should not have the right to vote, because they don’t vote in the country’s best interests.  Excess radiation acts as a cancer vaccine.  All terrorists are Muslim, and we should invade Islamic countries, kill their leaders, and convert the populace to Christianity.

It’s rare when so many bizarre and abhorrent views are held by one person.  But such persons exist, and Ann Coulter is one of them, and she’s pretty proud of that fact.  She’ll be at Truman tonight, and she’s being sponsored by the College Republicans (CRs).

I’m not mad.  I’m not going to go protest the event.  I’m sure Ms. Coulter won’t be speaking about any of the above views in her talk (though the Q&A is wide open to such topics).

More than anything, I’m confused.

I know a few of the CRs.  We’re not bosom buds, but we’re respectful to each other, friendly even.  For the most part, they’re kind and intelligent people.  They recognize the fringes of both the right and the left, and they detest and/or dismiss such extreme points of view.  Last semester, they brought another speaker, S.E. Cupp, who, though I disagreed with her on almost everything, was not…well…a nut.  She said her bit, fielded questions, and fairly accurately represented modern-day conservatism.

Ms. Coulter is an entirely different story.  Sure, she holds all of the usual views: gays and lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to marry; climate change is a farce, etc.  That’s not what bothers me about her.  It isn’t what has me confused.  What bothers me about Ann Coulter is that she embodies the worst kind of attitude imaginable: she’s mean and she loves it.  What confuses me is the notion that anyone would want that attitude and those fringe and often cruel views to come to Truman and to represent their organization and their ideology to campus.  It eludes me that the CRs whom I know would want to put this woman up in front of everyone and say, “When you think of a Republican, when you think of a conservative, think of her.”  I genuinely don’t get it.

When the College Democrats held our Exec retreat, we deliberated on the best speaker to bring to Truman.  We had a long list that included many popular and less well-known names.  One of the potential speakers was Bill Maher.  Lofty, I know; he’s not cheap.  It wasn’t very likely that we would bring him.  But I very loudly (too loudly) protested, going so far as to say that if we actually decided to bring him then I would actively fight against the decision and do everything I could to keep him from coming (ask someone who was there…I made an ass of myself).  Why?

Because Bill Maher is a prick.

I don’t care that Maher probably agrees with me on almost everything in terms of my ideology.  If we’re going to bring someone to represent our organization and our viewpoints to campus, we damn well better bring someone who is honest, fair, and respectful.  I don’t want mean people.  I don’t want to bring people who take pleasure in making fun of others, who value mockery and ridicule above careful discussion and serious inquiry, who find it more productive to be stubborn and insincere when dealing with those who disagree with them, who think the truth is something to be treated casually.

But maybe that’s just me (actually, it WAS just me at the retreat).

For me, bringing a speaker isn’t about having someone shout my views to campus.  It’s about showing my peers that there are decent and fair people out there who share my views and the views of the College Democrats.  It’s about starting a conversation.  It’s about opening new areas of discussion with those with whom I disagree.

I somehow doubt that Ms. Coulter will accomplish any of these things.

Ann Coulter isn’t a Republican.  She isn’t a conservative.  She isn’t to the right of the extreme right.  She’s just mean, and she enjoys it and uses it to sell books.  I have no idea what happened to her in her life to make her so spiteful, but whatever it was, I feel very sorry for her.  It baffles me that the College Republicans want to implicitly or explicitly tell Truman,

“This here, this is a Republican.”

Case Closed: Same-Sex Marriage and Proposition 8

Written by: Matt Seyer

If you don’t already regularly listen to Bill Moyers, you should.  The range of topics and the variety of people with whom he converses is staggering.  Moyers is pretty clearly liberal, but he makes a point of being fair and honest with his interviewees.

In this particular interview, Moyers sits down with lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson.  You may or may not remember that these were the lawyers arguing against each other in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case which secured the 2000 election for President Bush.  They are on complete opposite ends of the political spectrum but have somehow found a way to come together on an unlikely topic of agreement: same-sex marriage.  Boies and Olson are currently working in concert to overturn Proposition 8, a ballot initiative which banned same-sex marriage in California in 2008.  They discuss their case as it stood back in February 2010 (the time of the interview).  In the process, they make an incredibly compelling argument for marriage equality for gays and lesbians; an argument that essentially amounts to knocking down any and all objections to marriage equality from the ridiculous to the very ridiculous.  The strength of the argument derives from its lack of partisan affiliation and from its constitutionality; it’s something we should all be able to get behind.

I was going to write a longer, more substantive piece on the case for same-sex marriage, but then these guys decided to do me a favor and do a video on the subject.  I can’t think of a more fitting conclusion my quasi-series on same-sex marriage.  Enjoy!

Olson and Boies on Same-Sex Marriage