Monday, May 07, 2012

Things That Matter, and Things That Don't

Today seems to be the day for everyone to slam the President's position on marriage equality. And by 'everyone', I mean not just liberals but the Washington press corps and the chair of the RNC (Dave Weigel eviscerates Priebus' idiocy).

And somehow, lost in this discussion is the single most important point: it doesn't matter.

The President's 'opposition' (whether sincere, halfhearted, or feigned) is inconsequential in the most literal sense of the word: it has no consequences. It does not affect marriage equality either way.

With one big glaring exception, marriage laws are entirely the province of the states. The President of the United States has no authority over them. It matters what governors think about marriage equality, or what state legislators think, or what the voters in North Carolina and Minnesota think (this election cycle) and what California voters thought in 2008 (and will think next time it's on the ballot). It does not matter what the President thinks.

The big glaring exception, of course, is DOMA, which creates a Federal barrier to marriage equality. (Limited-government conservatives consider this an impermissible usurpation of states' rights by the federal government perfectly okay.) Unlike state laws, DOMA does fall within the administration's purview. So what are they doing about it? Declining to defend it against legal challenges, that's what.

It is possible that marriage equality will be federalized in the not-too-distant future, because of a Federal-court challenge to a state law. That's a matter for the judicial branch, and (again) not within the President's authority to affect one way or the other.

And yeah, in theory, Congress could pass a law mandating marriage equality, or Congress and 38 states could pass a constitutional amnedment, but really: naga happen. Which means the President's opinion on these hypotheticals (whatever it is) is about as consequential as his opinions about unicorn sex.

Of course, the President is free to comment on state-level marriage laws. Which he has done, opposing anti-marriage-equality initiatives in North Carolina and Minnesota. Just as, four years ago, he opposed Proposition 8. So, y'know, there's that.

So it comes down to this: the one thing the President has the latitude to do that would have a concrete, practical impact on marriage equality, he has done. And where he doesn't have the authority, he has taken a stand. (Maybe not as forcefully or as frequently as some people would like, but he has taken a stand.)

This is a thing that drives me nuts about 'progressives'. This obsession with posturing over governing, with symbolic gestures over practical impact. There are legitimate complaints about the President's record on LGBT rights (e.g., not issuing an executive order mandating non-discrimination by Federal contractors); there is also the perspective that the President has done more for LGBT rights than any previous president, while Romney has committed to aggressively moving things backwards. When the conversation is about what he says about an issue that is largely out of his control, both of these points are lost.

And when the focus on the inconsequential crowds out the things that have a practical impact, we lose. Progressives lose, liberals lose, Democrats lose, everyone who wants to have a fact-based discourse loses, everyone who wants government to solve real problems loses.

Keep your eye on the ball. Everything depends on that.


Victor said...

But... but... GITMO!

That's another pet peeve of the Obama's not a real Liberal git's.

Never mind that it was the craven cowards in Congress, Democrats included, who were SOOOOO afraid of the Moooooslim super-powers of the incarcerated drivers, delivery boys, goat-herders, and, then teenage sons of other tribes, amongst some possible read terrorists, and their supernatural powers to go through steel-reinforced concrete walls, that denied these accused people of having free and open trials on the mainland, like every other suspected terrorists for over 30 years, that we still have this stain on our nation operational.

I can't take the (frequntly single-issue) 'Purity Police' Liberals and Progressives who can't see the big picture, and say they'll sit-out the November elections.

Does it occur to many of them that the reason Obama couldn't, or didn't, do more, was because they either didn't vote in 2010, or didn't work to try to GOTV, in House and Senate races.

Let's see where their and our, precious gay and civil rights end up if Mitt's the President, with a Republican Congress.
My guess is somewhere before Stonewall on gay rights, and somewhere before the Civil Rights Acts of '64 and '65.
And you think they're spying on everyone now? Just wait!

I, too, wish Obama was "purer."

Give him a Democratic Congress with less Red Dog D's, and let's see what he can do.
'Til then - stfu!

Feckin' idjit's!

Steve M. said...

But what is Obama's position on unicorn sex? We don't know! That's because the LIE-beral media won't tell you! OBAMA HASN'T BEEN VETTED ON UNICORN SEX!!1!!1!

Victor said...

I think Obama's been very clear on the issue of unicorn sex.

It doesn't matter to him one way or the other. That's a privacy issue, and not one of interstate commerce.

It's what he thinks about banning unicorn marriage - which is naturally, the next step for two unicorns (unicorni? unicorney?) after they've had their sex, that counts:
He's FOR civil unicorn marriage.

Basically, he says - it's up to the states.

But if Congress passes a law banning unicorn marriage, he'll veto it.
And if Congress overrides his veto, he won't enforce it.

Whassamatta hew?
Took a week off, and didn't look at the TV news, or read a newspaper?

Did you at least know that Joe Biden said this past weekend, that he's ok with unicorn marriage?

You're a well-known blogger who's quoted on other blogs. Even the great Charles Pierce gave you a shout-out.
Such stunning ignorance doesn't speak well of you or your readers and commente...
Hey, wait, that's ME!
I'm one of 'em!!!

Brush-up on the issue of unicorn marriage, lest you make us, your readers and commenters, look like fools. Ok, Steve?

Louis Nardozi said...

Chairman Reince Priebus violated RNC Rule 11 when he declared Romney the "presumptive nominee" and shattered it entirely when he said, "It's beyond an endorsement. It is a complete merger wherein the RNC is putting all of its resources and energy behind Mitt Romney to be the next president of the United States."

If the RNC does not abide by ITS OWN RULES regarding nominee selection, in what way is this election not a complete farce? We've all seen the anti-Paul bias first hand, but now to disobey their own rules? By the CHAIRMAN? If Paul "has no chance", what do they fear? If Romney IS "presumptive" why hasn't HE spoken up about this disgraceful breach of rules, which at best will hand him a nomination that is completely dishonest and subject him to ridicule by the Democrats?

Register YOUR protest using the petition at

BH said...

Wow, Steve, now the Paulbots are appearing in your comments.

I just want to say a loud "amen" to your & Victor's views. I'm plumb worn OUT by the ostensible-left demands for empty spectacle and posturing. Let 'em watch TV wrestling.

I expect that kind of looniness from our opponents, but damn, I'd hope for better from those supposedly on more or less the same side as the Prez.