civil rights

Why the 2012 Election Matters More Than You Think

Source: Politico

It’s official. With Romney revealing Republican Congressman Paul Ryan as his Vice-Presidential pick, and a mere 86 days until election day, the election season is ramping up to fever pitch. This election is set-up to be one of the most significant in decades, but not for the reasons that most are talking about.

The economy sucks. There’s no doubt about that, and there’s a good chance it gets a lot worse before it gets better. The deficit is ballooning, and then there’s that buzz word everyone likes to throw around- the Fiscal Cliff. What does that mean, exactly? The Fiscal Times explains:

The “fiscal cliff” is what Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke has called the many major fiscal events that could happen simultaneously at the close of 2012 and the dawning of 2013. The events include the expiration of the Bush era tax cuts, the payroll tax cut and other important tax-relief  provisions. They also include the first installment of the $1.2 trillion across-the-board cuts of domestic and defense programs required under last summer’s bipartisan deficit reduction agreement.  At the same time, lawmakers may have to raise the debt ceiling once again, potentially triggering another standoff in Congress.

So there’s that. The problem is that Congress won’t tackle the issues in any meaningful manner until AFTER the election. The cuts in question are, at a minimum, controversial, and it’s much easier to run on fluffy talking points than actual policies. The economy, has, deservedly, become the focus of this election, but the reality is that, despite the focus, the campaigns aren’t actually addressing the concerns in any substantive manner, and the solutions that HAVE been presented aren’t all that great. Even with the sparse policies available for examination, the campaigns aren’t pragmatically discussing the pros and cons, relying on sweeping campaign rhetoric to guide public opinion.

With neither side presenting a great case on fiscal policy, other issues are of greater significance, but none more so than the battle over same-sex marriage. I’m pretty sure I’ve made my position on the issue abundantly clear by now. Its importance cannot be understated. If the Constitution says all humans born or naturalized in the United States are entitled to the same privileges under the law- and the tax benefits, survivorship rights and more associated with legal recognition of a marriage are privileges granted by the government- banning same-sex marriage, and access to the privileges therein, tells those in same-sex relationships that they are less than human. 

But why should anyone pay attention to the candidates’ positions on same-sex marriage? Typically, I’m not one to encourage single issue voting, especially since Presidents do not control the legislative process, but this time is different. Consider, via the Wall Street Journal:

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday declined to rehear arguments over a California ballot measure banning gay marriage, after previously upholding a district court’s rejection of the law.

The decision is the final marker before the case likely moves to the U.S. Supreme Court. […]

Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the group supporting Prop 8, said the ruling “essentially clears the way to where we ultimately knew this was going, which is the U.S. Supreme Court.” He said he would ask the Supreme Court to take the case. […]

Ted Olson, another lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said the Supreme Court would likely decide in October whether to hear the case, and if it does, would probably issue a decision by June 2013.

Mr. Olson said the case could head to the Supreme Court in the same time frame as a separate challenge to the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. A federal appeals court in Boston last week ruled that the federal measure, too, was unconstitutional.

The case would head to the Supreme Court at a time when public opinion on gay marriage is shifting. Polling analyses by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that in 2004, 60% of Americans opposed same-sex marriage and 31% supported it. This year, Pew said, 43% of Americans oppose gay marriage while 47% support it.

This issue is about to be heard by the highest court in the land, and the decision will either be the Plessy v. Ferguson or Brown v. the Board of Education on this subject. For those of you wondering why a pending decision by the judiciary has any bearing on a Presidential election, consider, via (begrudgingly) the Daily Caller:

The final reason for the especially high stakes is that the Court’s balance is up for grabs. Since Justice Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall 21 years ago, no president has had a chance to alter the Court’s precarious 5-4 conservative majority. But during the next administration, three justices — conservatives Kennedy and Scalia and liberal Ginsburg — will reach their 80s. Whoever wins the presidency likely will have the chance either to strengthen the Court’s conservative majority or shift the balance to the left.

The replacement of a single conservative justice by a liberal would produce a profound shift in constitutional law. Most important cases are decided by a 5-4 vote along conservative/liberal lines, encompassing such vital issues as property rights, campaign finance, school choice, federalism, the rights of criminal defendants, Second Amendment rights and constitutional limits on congressional power.

When the Romney campaign has made clear that they believe in a “traditional” definition of marriage, and gone so far as to express support for a federal law banning same-sex marriage, it’s not hard to consider the potential ramifications of their nominations on the Supreme Court. Of course, there’s no guarantee that such a nomination would occur before the issue of same-sex marriage hits the docket, but because there is a chance it does, potential nominations are of the utmost importance.

Your vote could determine whether the courts adhere to the Constitution or regress to the pre-Civil Rights era. The economy may be the most immediate challenge we face, but in a world where neither side is offering a solution, it’s time we pay attention to the issues upon which they can and will act. Quit hiding behind the rhetoric of tax rates and breaks that are being misconstrued and abused on each side, and hold these candidates accountable for their influence on the most critical civil rights issue of our generation.


Thanks, Josh

I’ve been pondering this blog post for the past week, and after some particularly fantastic conversations with some of the forensics crowd at the Fiesta this weekend, I’ve decided it’s time to put pen to paper…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several months and/or the landslide of worthless drivel known as popular culture, you know that last week witnessed the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy- or DADT.

The repeal of DADT warmed my heart. Yes, it was the removal of structural discrimination against a group of people who had nothing to deserve the targeting. Yes, it was a historic movement toward broader equality. If that wasn’t enough to bring me to grateful tears, I’d have questioned by humanity, but I’ll be frank- the story behind the change is what has moved me the most.

Members of the parliamentary debate circuit are well-acquainted with one Joshua Seefried. A debater at the Air Force Academy, my first encounter with him was freshman year. I didn’t know him, and I sure as hell didn’t know anything about debate yet (what’s the difference between offense and defense, again?), but from the minute he opened his mouth, I knew he was smart. I don’t remember who was on what side or who won (probably him, at that point), but I do remember the manifestation of instant respect.

I won’t pretend that I was best friends with Josh- it’s not accurate or fair to this story. We were friendly (though I can recall a few times where I’m sure he didn’t care for me too much), and those initial feelings of respect never dissipated- especially once rumbles about his sexual orientation began to pop up.

I didn’t care. I don’t really know of anyone who did. The reason the rumbles were of any consequence was because Josh was in the Air Force, and they certainly did care. I remember thinking that he was immensely brave. He was so dedicated to protecting America that he was not only willing to risk his life in battle, but his livelihood at the hands of an unjust policy.

As members of the parli community, we discussed a wide range of political, social and economic issues, and DADT was frequently included. Maybe it was just me, but those debates always made me slightly uncomfortable. I prided myself on being able to attack or defend any argument, regardless of my personal beliefs, but knowing that on one side of this debate was a good person being forced to live a lie- a good person for whom one rumor spoken too loudly could spell out the end of a career- brought the debate a little too close to home.

In 2010, the Facebook group “1,000,000 Strong for Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was born under the guidance of Citizens for Repeal- led by a group of debaters from the parliamentary circuit. Most of us on the circuit joined these groups. Citizens for Repeal became Outserve- one of the driving forces behind the repeal.

The leader here was an ambiguous JD Smith. JD had no profile picture, but was suddenly requesting the friendship of many of us. I remember, at one point, another girl on the circuit warned all of us to be wary of this “JD individual” as she couldn’t find a single person who could say they’d met him.

JD, as the world found out last week, was Josh.

Yes, this story is really cool, and yes, this repeal is monumental. We are all indebted to Josh, but even if you’re not a supporter of the movement he belongs to (in which case, you should probably read this post and then not talk to me anymore), you still owe him. Why?

Most of the people who will read this are members of the Millennial generation. We’re young, and we confuse the heck out of our predecessors. Initially, there were major concerns about our ability to be part of a workforce. Members of older generations could not wrap their heads around our social work style, confounding hours, and approach to productivity. Where they saw chaos, we saw opportunity, and have, over time, proven the results we’re capable of generating. They’re pretty impressive.

Unwilling to admit they were wrong, critics of the Millennial generation went on to question our ability to lead. Yes, we were creative, and yes, we could get things done, but could we take on greater responsibility, including the management of those below us? As time marches on, we’re seeing this play out in real time. Zuckerberg, Google’s execs… the list goes on.

However, the final frontier, in many ways, was whether or not we could lead a people. I wondered about it myself after reading an editorial (which I spent hours trying to find again, to no avail) earlier this year about a potential solution to the then all-consuming debt ceiling crisis. Their suggestion? Lock a bunch of Millennials in a room and don’t let them out until they’ve reached a solution.

It seems as though, generally speaking, Millennials are seen as idea people- solution people- without the ability to mobilize a population. Whether it was because they’d lost faith in government officials or the system as a whole was up for debate, but that perceived apathy was causing many to conclude that Millennial leadership would be lacking.

Josh, much to my delight, is proving them all wrong.

He is the first of our generation to have such a substantial impact on public policy, and he did it with seemingly effortless grace, sincerity, and integrity. He paired Millennial technological prowess with reason and persistence, and the result was explosive. He isn’t just an inspiration because of the nature of the changes he made, but because of who he is and how he did it.

I don’t know what Josh’s plans are moving forward, but he’ll forever be in my peripheral. It wouldn’t shock me to see him continuing to kick ass and take names. Josh renewed my faith, not only in humanity and our country’s ability to embrace equality, but in my generation and the future we face.

Thanks, Josh. We owe you.