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Howard Dean and the 2006 Elections November 9, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in bush administration, politics.
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With Sen. George Allen’s concession speech today, the Democrats have officially taken over the House and Senate. The Democrats were able to pull off wins in many red states that were wrote-off in 2004: Virginia and Montana to name a couple. No single person deserves more credit for this victory than Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

Governor Dean had faced harsh criticism for his “50 State Plan,” which hoped to make the Democrats more competitive in states considered to be solid red. Dean began building grassroots infrastructure in all 50 states to the ire of many beltway Democrats who wanted more money for close races. Dean was stubborn… and it paid off.

Although Dems were optimistic even a few months before the election, they had failed to predict kicking out many of the Republican incumbents who were ousted on Tuesday. Without Dean’s infrastructure already on the ground in these conservative states, it is entirely possible that the party would not have realized the potential to pick up these states and districts until it was too late to catch up. Because the personnel was trained and on the ground, the grassroots could kick into action instead of spending weeks on administrative organizing. Many of the Democrats in the conservative districts won by a very narrow margin… would they have pulled it off without the “50 State Plan”?

Other Democrats deserve a lot of credit also, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi. But it was the vision of Howard Dean (and the other architects of the “50 State Plan”) that helped create such a healthy Democratic margin in the House, and he most likely set the Democrats up to succeed in 2008. With Democratic governors now in the majority, the party will have great infrastructure in place for the presidential election.

It has been an extraordinary couple of days. Optimism has returned to us alienated progressives! It’ll be nice talking about health care, minimum wage and ethics reform instead of the Federal Marriage Amendment, English as the official language and a flag burning amendment. What a joke the last Congress was. Now let’s hope both the Democrats and Bush can work together to get something done.

Check out my earlier post which talks more about Dean’s “50 State Plan”.

Anti-Gay Amendments: Media Recognizes Measures as Unnecessary October 28, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in amendments, anti-gay activists, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, media, public opinion.
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As progressives prepare for what might be the most exciting election year since 1992, campaigns in eight states are fighting to keep their state constitutions free of discriminatory amendments. There has been much optimism over the potential to defeat anti-marriage equality amendments in two states, Wisconsin and Virginia, but with only a week left it is looking like an uphill battle.

Fair Wisconsin has waged a smart and effective campaign that emphasizes the amendment’s far-reaching consequences… not only would it ban marriage, it would ban civil unions and possibly other forms of same-sex relationship recognition. The message seems to have played well over the past year or so, but as it comes down to the wire, there is still a sizeable gap between supporters and opponents. A St. Norbert College Survey Center poll released last week shows 51 percent of likely voters supporting the amendment, compared to 44 percent who are opposed. Support for the amendment has been pushed by conservative churches, most likely with the help of national organizations such as Focus on the Family.

The Commonwealth Coalition in Virginia has also run a promising campaign that has faced a more skeptical public than Fair Wisconsin has. In July of this year, 56 percent of Virginians supported the amendment and only 38 percent were opposed. Today that gap has narrowed by 8 percent, with only 52 percent of Virginians supporting the amendment and 42 percent opposed. The Commonwealth Coalition has been able to sway Virginians using a number of tactics, one of which asserts that Virginia’s bill of rights was a model for the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Right, and that changing it would be fundamentally misguided (see ad here).

The passion that flamed anti-gay sentiment in the 2004 elections seems to have calmed a bit, and newspaper editorial staffs now seem to be able to see through anti-gay rhetoric and analyze the amendments for what they truly are.

Of the seven mainstream Wisconsin newspapers that have run editorials on the amendment, only one has supported banning same-sex marriage (the Green Bay Press-Gazette). The state papers with the largest circulations (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times) have all opposed the amendment.

Some highlights from Wisconsin editorials:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [from before the Assembly approved the measure]:

…the law of the land is secular, not sectarian. Moreover, we note that not everyone who claims religious faith has the same views on gays. And some note that the New Testament, at least, says much more about such virtues as charity, kindness and eschewing wealth than about homosexuality…

The other reason given for the amendment usually has to do with the “will of the people” or the need “for the people to be heard.” In other words, “we” can do this because there are more of “us” than “them,” otherwise known as “you people.”

We hope there are far fewer in this other editorial “we” than amendment backers hope. We’ve heard variations of this discrimination argument applied to other groups of people. It doesn’t sound any better this time.

The Capital Times:

This is not merely discrimination. It is cruelty. And it is a form of cruelty that will cause young people to leave the state, convince pioneering researchers to leave the University of Wisconsin and force responsible businesses to locate their factories and offices elsewhere…

Wisconsin is about more than its business climate, however. Even if the amendment did not pose such a clear threat to the state’s economic prospects, it would be wrong for Wisconsin.

Amending the constitution to require discrimination goes against everything that Wisconsin stands for. It breaks faith with the most fundamental of the values that have guided this state for all of its 158 years.

***

Editorials on Virginia’s amendment have often expressed little doubt that the measure will pass, but of the seven newspapers that have taken a clear stand on the amendment, only two have encouraged support for the amendment (Danville Register & Bee and the Washington Examiner).

Some highlights from Virginia editorials:

Daily Press:

But at the core the truth is that this amendment speaks of two things: A deep-seated prejudice against gays and lesbians.

The reality that there are among us, always, people who seek to use fear and prejudice for their own political advancement…

Make no mistake, this amendment goes beyond its stated intent of protecting marriage. It hurts gays and lesbians. It will hurt unmarried partners regardless of their sexual orientation. It will hurt us all.

Bristol Herald Courier:

Tampering with either state’s constitution in this manner is redundant. It reinforces an attitude of intolerance or hostility toward those who are different. It is a dangerous government foray into the realm of religion and a blow to individual rights.

In this nation’s history, most constitutional amendments have granted freedoms rather than taking them away – prohibition being the obvious exception. Virginia and Tennessee voters should think twice before altering these hallowed precepts to ban that which is already illegal.

A “no” vote is not a vote for same-sex unions. It is a vote to protect our constitutions and to respect freedom. We cannot think of a more traditionally conservative stand to take.

***

While the majority of media outlets seem to have taken a hard stance against marriage amendments, the American public has not quite reached that point. Fear created by the anti-gay right has fueled opposition to same-sex marriage, yet many who support the amendment still struggle to find a reason for the amendment beyond “protecting marriage.” Ask them how it protects marriage and their arguments usually hit a dead-end.

The recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, which requires the legislature to give all the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples (without forcing them to call it marriage), has renewed anti-gay rhetoric about “activist judges.” Although New Jersey did not ban same-sex marriage while all the states with proposed amendments do, anti-gay activists refuse to explain this to voters and have distorted the ruling for their own gain. Whether the New Jersey decision hurts efforts to defeat state amendments has yet to be seen, but with only a week to go, we can only hope that voters realize these amendments are unnecessary measures designed to bolster cynical election campaigns.

Let’s hope Wisconsinites and Virginians recognize the media’s fair analysis of anti-gay amendments while they enter the voting booths on November 7.

Visit the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for more editorials on amendments in the eight states with anti-gay ballot initiatives.

Political Activists, Not True Models of Christianity, At Liberty Sunday October 16, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in anti-gay activists, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, politics, religion distorted.
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Anti-gay Family Research Council held a “Liberty Sunday” event this last weekend in hopes of rallying social conservative voters by attacking gay and lesbian people and their lives. It seems ridiculous that spending over an hour attacking a small group of people would be considered as a way to mobilize voters, but anti-gay activists believe it is a tested and proven method.

I know it is almost cliche to say this now, but why are these allegedly Christian political activists focusing on attacking gay people when they could use those resources and platforms to fight for causes that are truly Christian: helping America’s poor, encouraging a fair health care system and providing relief to the people of Sudan. The Family Research Council was able to gather dozens of influential conservative Christians and politicians: Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, American Family Association’s Don Wildmon. When is the last time these conservative leaders gathered to support a cause that would actually help people, or a cause that truly lives up to Jesus’ teachings? It doesn’t happen… and it doesn’t happen because these men are political activists, not representatives of Christianity.

Included below are some statements from speakers at Liberty Sunday. With all the issues facing America and the world, do these leaders sound like Christians looking out for the betterment of God’s world? You can decide…

Bishop Wellington Boone, Wellington Boone Ministries:

My wife said to me, well okay then, if sodomites, because they are not gays, it’s a misnomer, they’re sodomites. There were sodomy laws all over this country from 1600’s and it was one time a capital offense, how could we make it a capital offense?.. The Bible! If God calls homosexuality an abomination, if he calls it a vile affection, if he calls it wickedness, I can’t call it inappropriate behavior. So, if this is just a small matter, then let two women go on an island. All women, if you’re a sodomite go on an island and stay by yourself, all women and then put all the men on another island… I called this whole idea of trying to get rights and trying to get on the African American’s side, I called it the rape of the civil rights movement.

Don Wildmon, American Family Association:

The day will come when they’re walking in your church and if you say one thing wrong or bad about homosexuality they will walk in your church and they will shut you up and you will be arrested for a hate crime. That sounds far removed, but it is the truth.

Kris Mineau, Massachusetts Family Institute:

The leadership in this state is beholden to the homosexual lobbyist. Homosexual money is flooding into the state to deny citizens the right to vote and to deny our freedom of speech.

Let me remind you, dear readers, that Focus on the Family alone has a higher budget than all the national LGBT organizations combined. It is absurd to think that the majority of lobbyist money flooding a state is from the LGBT movement… anti-gay activists have a tremendous financial advantage in every way.

Just as David Kuo, author of the new book Tempting Faith, worries: “the name of God is being destroyed in the name of politics.”

Same-Sex Couples Increase by 30% October 15, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in lgbt Issues.
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A Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy study (PDF) released Wednesday shows the number of same-sex couples in America has dramatically increased since 2000. The study, based on the Census Bureau’s new American Community Survey (ACS), shows a 30 percent increase in same-sex couples between 2000 and 2005 — nearly five times the six percent growth rate of the U.S. population. The increased numbers are most likely not from a greater number of gay people beginning relationships, but the increased willingness of same-sex couples to identify as such.

When the census statistics were being collected in 1999 and 2000, it was still illegal to have gay sex in several states (until the Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws in 2003). It had been a little over a year since Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence in rural Wyoming and several years before same-sex marriage was believed to be a realistic goal for equality. But in the years between the 2000 census and the most recent ACS survey, much happened that has radically changed LGBT people and their role in society. Gay and lesbian relationships have been used by presidential and Congressional candidates as a weapon for mobilizing anti-gay voters. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in Massachusetts and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay and lesbian people in Lawrence v. Texas. These events have encouraged same-sex couples to live their lives more openly and honestly, which is part of the reason we see the tremendous increase in same-sex couples between 2000 and 2005.

In six of the eight states with anti-marriage equality amendments on the November ballot, the number of same-sex couples has increased more than the national average of 30 percent. The number of same-sex couples in Wisconsin has increased by 81 percent since 2000, Colorado by 58 percent and South Carolina by 39 percent. Although these numbers are unlikely to dramatically affect the outcome of these ballot initiatives, they could make moderate politicians reconsider their positions on these amendments. Support for anti-gay amendments will alienate a larger number of people than the 2000 statistics would suggest, and in close races, it could make a difference in whether a politician wins an election.

The Williams Institute study estimates there are 8.8 million gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) Americans and that there are same-sex couples in every Congressional district in the United States. Although the study shows GLB people make up only 3 percent of the U.S. population, the actual number is likely higher because of the number of GLB people who are closeted or did not identify as GLB in the ACS survey. These numbers can make an important voting bloc in elections that are growing increasingly tight in recent years.

As statistics on gay and lesbian people continue to become more accurate, the impact of sexual orientation and gender identity issues on elections will become increasingly evident. While the average American voter feels less threatened by the possibility of same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian people are continuing to come out and become an influence in American politics.

Howard Dean’s Vision October 4, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in politics.
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While Sen. John Kerry stumped around blue states with a rather bland agenda during the 2004 Democratic primaries, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean had captured the imagination and idealism of America’s youth. His no bullshit, less pandering approach convinced the more liberal Democrats that it was time for change… that speaking out against President Bush’s failed and corrupt policies was both good politics and morally sound.

This excitement and hopefulness came to an abrupt halt, however, because of a momentary rush of excitement that was over-analyzed and unfairly treated by the media. Dean’s now infamous ‘yelp’ had officially ended his campaign for the presidency. Despite my disgust over voters who feel a one-time shriek is less forgivable than lying to put American troops into combat, most of us young liberals were thankful for the time Dean shared with us.

Little did we know that Howard Dean would reenter the national scene so quickly. Just a few short months after the 2004 elections, in February 2005, Howard Dean was selected as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (despite reservations from many of the Washington elite). His new position at national headquarters would include a function beyond fundraising and handshaking… he was setting out a new vision for the Democratic Party.

Upon taking office, Dean criticized the Party’s focus on Blue and Purple (swing) states at the cost of completely ignoring Red states. Because copious amounts of money was poured into battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin, states like North Carolina, Louisiana and Colorado were rarely if ever visited by Democratic presidential candidates and received little help from the DNC.

In comes Howard Dean and the “50 State Plan”. Dean realized, and continues to understand, that many poor white southerners are voting against their own interests because they somehow see the GOP as the party of GOD. Absurd as it seems, Dean and his allies realize that overturning this ill-conceived notion of Republicans-as-Christ could go a long way towards rebuilding the party in the South and West. After-all, does it really make sense that rural southerners are voting for the Republicans who gave tax-cuts to the super-rich, billions of dollars to a failed Iraq war policy and botched both response and recovery after Hurricane Katrina?

Howard Dean and his allies realize southerners should not be voting Republican, and that issues like same-sex marriage, flag-burning and English as the official language should not outweigh issues that promote the health and well-being of their families and country.

Southern states are most definitely winnable, but it will take a vision that extends beyond 2006 and 2008. As a recent New York Times Magazine article points out, Howard Dean’s 50 state vision is quite controversial among Democratic insiders. Dean has his allies, but he also has his enemies (or opponents, to put it more tactfully). His opponents ask why Dean is providing funds for additional campaign staff in Alaska when there are much more competitive districts in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. On its face, it seems to make little to no sense, but Dean truly has a vision for the party.

His vision includes building a Democratic party that may be willing to take minor setbacks right now in order to strengthen itself for the future. Democrats may not win Alaska in the next few years, but with a strong ground campaign they could succeed in 2012 (especially if Republicans remain as arrogant as they currently are). Although his critics believe it is important to win elections to build the party, the Clinton era proved that winning big elections means nothing to the long-term success of the party. America currently has a federal government dominated by conservatives – the legislative branch, executive branch and even the judicial branch (look at Bush v. Gore, for example). And this is right after one of the Democratic party’s most popular presidents left office (so much for party-building via winning elections).

Howard Dean wants to prove that the Democratic party is the values party, not Republicans. While GOP tax cuts help the rich, middle and lower class Americans continue to struggle with rising healthcare costs and the threat of “privatized” social security. It is time for Democrats to stand up to the Republican party’s claim on so-called “values”, and in the long-term Democrats can win the reddest of the red states. It will take time, and defeat could be a temporary result, but the Democratic party will never return to its heyday unless it plans for the future instead of just the next election.

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