A bittersweet victory.
November 17, 2022
On Wednesday, the Senate advanced the Respect for Marriage Act to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. Advancing the bill to the floor required Democrats to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold, which Democrats did with the assistance of twelve Republican votes. A similar bill has already passed in the House, where forty-seven Republicans supported it. Absent unforeseen events, a “reconciliation version” of the bill will become law. See generally, Same-Sex Marriage Rights Bill Passes Crucial Senate Test - The New York Times.
Passage of the bill will be a singular achievement that will recognize the rights of tens of millions of Americans to marry the person they love. But it also leaves the rights of tens of millions at the mercy of the reactionary religious agenda of the Supreme Court and Republican-controlled legislatures in twenty-three states. The bill is a bittersweet victory because it demonstrates what is possible when Democrats control Congress—coming at the very moment Democrats have lost control of the House. Under a GOP Speaker, the bill would have never been scheduled for a vote in the House despite support from nearly a quarter of the Republican caucus.
Amid the glow of bipartisan support for the bill, it is also worth noting that 78% of House Republicans (166/213) opposed the bill, as did 74% of Senate Republicans (37/50). Strong GOP opposition to the bill in both chambers of Congress comes at a time when 70% of Americans support same-sex marriage. It is clear that congressional Republicans do not care what their constituents believe and are intent on forcing their religious views on all Americans. In an act of soulless partisanship, Mitch McConnell voted against a bill that would protect his marriage to Elaine Chao against future prohibitions of marriages between “whites” and “Asians”—prohibitions that existed in fifteen states as late as 1950.
The GOP’s stubborn rearguard effort to deny the rights of LGBTQ people is a warning of fights to come—and a reminder of what is at stake in every future election. It is also a reminder that the reactionary majority on the Supreme Court will continue to undermine personal liberties until we expand the Court and break the death grip of the conservative majority.
The Respect for Marriage Act is not perfect; far from it. But it represents the “art of the possible.” See Vox, The significance of the Senate’s historic vote on same-sex marriage. In short, if the Supreme Court overrules Obergefell, the bill will ensure federal recognition of same-sex marriages and require states to grant “full faith and credit” to same-sex marriages entered into in other states. But the bill does not force any state to allow same-sex marriages within its borders—an omission that would result in a patchwork of civil liberties similar to the protections for reproductive liberty.
But all of that is in the future. Obergefell remains the law of the land, and the Respect for Marriage Act is protection against a possible ruling by the Court that the right to marry is not protected by the Constitution because the words “marry” and “marriage: do not appear in the text of the Constitution.
For now, we should rejoice in the fact that only twenty-six years after Congress declared that marriage could only be “between a man and a woman,” it has reversed course and granted federal recognition to same-sex marriages. Progress is frequently halting and changeable—and is best measured with the benefit of perspective. From that vantage, the Respect for Marriage Act is both a major step forward and a bittersweet victory.
Biden’s steady hand in addressing the missile strike in Poland.
As Biden hinted on Wednesday, the missile that struck Poland was not fired from Russia but was instead part of Ukraine’s effort to protect itself from a barrage of Russian missiles. See NYTimes, ‘This Is Not Ukraine’s Fault’: Tensions Ease Over Missile Strike in Poland. Biden’s calm demeanor and steady hand in his remarks from Bali were exactly what was needed in a moment of crisis. Once again, Joe Biden was the right person for the job at the right time.
What the media is missing in reporting on Trump’s disastrous campaign kick-off.
There is nearly universal agreement that Trump’s campaign kick-off was a “belly-flop” of epic proportions. (I will let you dwell on the image for a moment.) The lackluster kick-off and the disastrous midterms have caused Trump’s former allies to abandon him with breathtaking speed—a fact that the media is documenting with glee. I won’t begrudge the media its moment of joy, but the effortless reversals by Trump’s acolytes who supported him despite impeachments, insurrection, and plague highlight troubling aspects of our political and media ecospheres that should not go unnoticed or unremarked.
Thomas L. Freidman has identified the core issue in his op-ed The Big Liar and His Losing Little Liars. While we should welcome the (temporary?) erosion of support for Trump, those who created Frankenstein’s monster should not be able to escape responsibility for their creation and his wanton destruction. Freidman writes,
Big Liar Trump, and all the little liars who surfed his scam for fun and profit — particularly Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and virtually the whole Fox crew — have done incalculable damage to our country. Shame on every one of you.
And Trump now has the gall, the rancid shamelessness, to stand amid this bonfire of lies, hate and broken relationships that he ignited and declare that he’s running for president again?
And now the Murdoch crew, after indulging this fraud for two years, has the gall to say, “Well, maybe we should move on to Ron DeSantis” — without any accounting for what they enabled? No, sorry. History will not be kind to you.
“History will not be kind to you.” Mark those words.
In the last forty-eight hours, the Murdoch media empire has treated Trump as a loser and a joke. Fox News listed thirteen possible candidates for the 2024 GOP primary but failed to include the only announced candidate for the nomination—Trump. And the New York Post relegated Trump’s presidential announcement to page 26 in a sarcastic article entitled, “Been there, Don that.” The article described Trump as a “Florida retiree” who has a “classified documents library” at his golf resort. Likewise, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial saying,
We warned about Mr. Trump’s character in 2016, but once he was elected we covered him like any other President. We owed that to readers, and he had many policy successes . . . .
But his character flaws—narcissism, lack of self-control, abusive treatment of advisers, his puerile vendettas—interfered with that success.
The reversals by Fox News, the NYPost, and the WSJ are stunning. Each was a staunch ally of Trump through two impeachments, insurrection, bribery and sex scandals, and Trump’s criminally negligent handling of the pandemic. The fact that each has changed its news coverage and editorial policy on forty-eight hours’ notice demonstrates that they are not independent news organizations. (Don’t laugh; I am making a stepwise argument.) Rather, the supposed “news organizations” are extensions of Rupert Murdoch’s ego and desire for personal power. It is a disservice to maintain the fiction of their legitimacy. It is a pretense that insults the democratic tradition of a free press.
So, too, with Trump’s major donors. The media is ticking off each announcement by a hedge fund billionaire or captain of industry who will no longer contribute to Trump’s campaign. See, e.g., Axios, GOP megadonor Stephen Schwarzman defects from Trump after 2024 announcement, and Fox News, GOP megadonors want to move on from 'three-time loser' Trump, look to back DeSantis in 2024 presidential bid.
It is shocking that billionaires are casually mentioning their switch in loyalties as if they are describing their preferences in wine or cigars. Their corruption of the political process is grotesque and yet they are unashamed and unrepentant for their role in funding a man who attempted a coup and incited an insurrection. No apology; no “Mea culpa;” just “Next!” As Friedman says, “History will not be kind to you,” especially if the lesson you learned from supporting an aspiring fascist is that you need a better-educated, more articulate aspiring fascist to support.
So, “No,” the current exodus from Trump is not the story. It is that the enablers and co-conspirators who nearly prevented the peaceful transfer of power have learned nothing—except that they can make more money and acquire more power by creating another Frankenstein’s monster. We cannot treat them as if they are legitimate participants in the political process. They are not. They are vultures looking for carrion. Remember that fact when you read the next story that gleefully reports, “Tee-hee! See which megadonor has dumped Trump.” That’s not the story—not by a long shot.
More on the polling debacle.
The Palmer Report makes a convincing case that the media was complicit—or duped—in spreading the Republican lie that there was a “big shift” toward the GOP in the final two weeks of the midterm campaign. I highly recommend this Twitter thread for your consideration: The big polling shift the final few weeks wasn't real - Democratic Underground. But if you can’t read it all (or can’t access it), here is the thesis:
Really important thread: We now know that the big polling shift the final few weeks wasn’t real. The polls were roughly correct before that final shift. Yet that fake shift set off a chain of events that may have directly cost the Democrats the House majority and 52 Senate seats.
The question is why. A few weeks before the election, legitimate pollsters panicked and began changing their polling sampling or methodology in a way that was much more favorable to Republican candidates, and made their work far LESS accurate than it had been. Again, why?
Did legitimate pollsters see all the Republican-commissioned polls showing huge (imaginary) last minute Republican gains, and panic about their own polls perhaps being wrong?
Did legitimate pollsters just hear “red wave” on TV too much like the rest of us, and fell for it?
The Twitter thread concludes with the warning that we cannot fall for this gambit in 2024. Indeed, we need to build defensive systems to prevent Republicans from manipulating the polls and deceiving the media at the last minute. And serious introspection by “respected” polling aggregators would be helpful. They were part of the problem—and should be willing to be part of the solution if they want to retain their respectability.
Trump’s current presidential campaign is a public relations stunt. He hasn’t named a campaign manager. He is simply trying to increase the pressure on Merrick Garland to appoint a special counsel. That would be a mistake of gargantuan dimensions. Garland must not compound his earlier delay by recusing the DOJ from the investigation and appointing a special counsel. That would reward Trump for pulling a P.R. stunt. The DOJ must not fall for the ruse.
Trump may be losing some of his grip on the GOP, but he will remain a threat to democracy until he is behind bars. The good news is that the hard work we put into the midterms went a long way toward inoculating democracy against future coup attempts by Trump. It would be good to get an assist from the DOJ to finish the task of neutralizing Trump’s political power. Let’s hope that indictments begin to issue shortly after the Georgia run-off has been completed. Democracy will be more secure when that day arrives.
Talk to you tomorrow!