Full disclosure: I voted against Prop 8 in California, think that gays should have big fat Greek weddings, and that their marriages should be recognized as such by the state. That's not the issue. The issue is whether gay marriage is the most pressing concern for this country at this time, right before an election which will decide many things—culturally, politically, and economically—for the next couple of decades. Although I don't think it is, gay marriage does figure into my thesis. Follow me, if you will.

1. THOSE DAMNED BROWN MESSICANS, and other demographic problems

The estimated Hispanic population of the United States as of 2009 was 48.4 million. That constitutes 16 percent of the total US population. By 2050, 132.8 million Americans will be of Hispanic origin, making up 30% of the projected population. Latinos will be the deciding voting bloc of the future, as whites of European descent lose their majority status.

And, yes, they will be a "bloc" for the foreseeable future, thanks to current GOP policies. Mitt Romney could have been brave and stood up to the nativist wing of his party. Even Newt Gingrich knows that the Republican obsession with immigration will doom his party to electoral irrelevance. California's transformation into a reliably Democratic bastion began with Prop 187, in which the Republicans decided to go to war against Latinos, rather than crafting a program that might attract us to their party. What it did instead was drive the majority of Latinos to 1) get citizenship, and then 2) vote Democratic. The same trend will hold true in Arizona with its anti-immigrant policies.

The GOP wasn't taken over solely by Dixiecrats incensed by the granting of equal rights to blacks. It was also invaded by nativists of all sorts, who saw "their" America being changed irrevocably by immigration. They joined the GOP thinking that by doing so, and by gaining power, immigration would be curtailed severely. But immigration is the engine of the US economy; our businesses couldn't survive without the steady stream of immigration we've had since the 1960s. So the GOP, as usual, used white angst for electoral gain, but did nothing to address their concerns, merely continuing to stoke their resentment. It's a classically cynical GOP maneuver, and has worked for the past 40 years. But immigrants eventually become citizens, and they remember who welcomed them and who used them as scapegoats. The GOP base is shrinking, the Democratic base is expanding, and that spells a world of trouble for the Republicans.


Citizens United and its favoring of unlimited campaign expenditures was viewed as a savior for the GOP and a deathknell for democracy. Now, I'm far from making light of the decision's pernicious effects. I don't like the idea that secret cabals can now attempt to buy American elections.

But, let's consider this: with all the feces thrown against him in the hopes that it will stick, President Obama at this moment has a positive job approval rating, and even better favorability ratings.

While the GOP political base is the angry white male, wondering what happened to "his" country, its financial base consists of the super-wealthy and the corporations who have lived fat off the teat of favorable tax policy enacted by successive Republican governments. With the Paul Ryan budget likely to become law in the wake of a GOP victory this fall, it's no surprise that the 1% are, for the most part, all in for the Republicans. The money which will flood Super PACs will be truly extraordinary, unseen in American political history.

So what do we have going for us? Well, organizing, which is the only thing that can counteract right wing attack ads. From yesterday's NY Times:
After months on the sidelines, major liberal donors including the financier George Soros are preparing to inject up to $100 million into independent groups to aid Democrats’ chances this fall. But instead of going head to head with the conservative “super PACs” and outside groups that have flooded the presidential and Congressional campaigns with negative advertising, the donors are focusing on grass-roots organizing, voter registration and Democratic turnout.
The 1% have only 1% of the actual votes. Sure, the money they pour into the election will sway some voters. But the Democrats and allied liberal groups aren't going to fight them on their own turf, but on a battleground of their choosing: mostly, getting people registered to vote and to the polls, in spite of the anti-voter laws passed in the wake of the GOP victories in 2010. More from the article:
The departure from the conservatives’ approach, which helped Republicans wrest control of the House in 2010, partly reflects liberal donors’ objections to the Supreme Court’sCitizens United decision, which paved the way for super PACs and unbridled campaign spending.

But in interviews, donors and strategists involved in the effort said they also did not believe they could match advertising spending by leading conservative groups like American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity, and instead wanted to exploit what they see as the Democrats’ advantage in grass-roots organizing.
The GOP fealty to the 1% and the economics thus espoused will be, like their losing demographic share, another Achilles' heel in their armor. A party cannot cater exclusively to the rich to the detriment of everyone else and remain viable, no matter how much money is poured into the election. And democratic money is going to voter registration and education—an education that entails telling people just what GOP economics mean for the vast majority of citizens. Catering to the 1% will lose you most of the 99%. The GOP is gambling that it won't. It's a gamble they'll lose.


Which brings us to the current kerfuffle over the culture wars.

From contraception to gay marriage, the GOP is on the wrong side of every cultural issue. The Baby Boomers are pretty much evenly split on them; my generation, Gen X, is generally socially liberal; and the Millennials look at opposition to gay marriage, contraception, and abortion rights as otherworldly—they just don't get why anyone would think them to be issues.

The Sandra Fluke episode is a perfect example of the GOP still being stuck in the 90s. An eloquent, attractive woman makes a case for contraceptive coverage in the ACA. Cue the usual blowhard contingent on the Right, thinking they could easily slut-shame her. But, much to their growing horror, it found that most Americans support women's health, and would be very cross at limiting access to contraception when things like Viagra are covered. In one fell swoop, the GOP alienated a good chunk of American women. (There are those, of course, who kowtow to the patriarchal model. They may be lost causes.) And, of course, it wasn't solely a funding issue: the GOP and the Right want to regress to a time when women were completely subservient to men, and anything that gives women freedom is anathema to them. The patriarchy must be preserved at all costs; the problem is, most Americans really don't want to do that.

Meanwhile, the other hot button issue: gay marriage. The latest, from Gallup:
(Reuters) - Half of Americans believe same-sex couples should have the same right to wed as heterosexuals do, slightly down from a year ago but marking the second year that a majority of Americans have supported same-sex marriage, according to a Gallup Poll survey released on Tuesday....

Gallup's survey a year ago marked the first time in the poll's history that a majority of Americans - 53 percent - said they favored legalization of same-sex marriage. Gallup first asked the question in 1996, when only 27 percent of respondents supported it.
As most Americans come to realize that the issue isn't about forcing your local parish church to marry gay couples, but to ensure that gay couples have the same legal rights honored by the state as straight couples do, then resistance to gay marriage plummets among the broad middle of the country. The GOP is going against the tide of history as far as gay rights are concerned. Most Americans like to consider themselves fair and broad minded; they do not like culture wars. They didn't like them in the 90s, and have even less tolerance for them now. This is the GOP's third glaring hole in its armor.


The right does have one thing that the left has always lacked: ideological unity.

Now, I'm not saying that progressives/liberals should march in lock step like the GOP does. That just wouldn't be us, and would dilute what makes the left's principles strong.

But there is something to be said for not being engaged in endless internecine fights over purity, or selling out, or not getting one's agenda attended to first before everything else. The right knows—or at least it did, up until this election cycle—how to keep its dirty laundry hidden and maintain a united face. A little bit more of that in-the-trenches mentality among the left would go a great deal towards relegating the right to the dustbin of history, or at least neuter them for a generation until they could reconstitute as something truly center-right, rather than quasi-fascist.

But, as this weekend's turmoil over gay marriage shows, the left never misses a chance to miss a chance. The useful reaction should have been: "We believe in the right of all adults to have the relationships of their choice acknowledged by the state. We recognize that the only party that believes the same is the Democratic Party. We will therefor put aside temporary differences and work to elect Democrats at all levels." There, that's it. Suffocate the media of oxygen, and turn the focus on the GOP's anti-gay agenda.

But it's the Left's kneejerk reaction to anything that smacks as not being duly deferential to a part of the liberal program has led us to several days of the media glorying in the narrative that Obama is losing a segment of his coalition, he's weak, he's vacillating, and so on. It's not helpful. It's detrimental to the prize, which is obtaining the power to effect change, for more than just an election cycle but for a generation.

If the GOP doesn't meet its demise from its inherent contradictions, it will be because the Left would rather fight among itself than go in for the kill. This is not a time for a civil war. This is a time for a full assault on the Right and its projects, because the Right will certainly not hesitate to pull the trigger. Gay marriage will come—and I wager sooner rather than later. (Let's see Obama's nomination speech, which I think might be something spectacular to bring all segments of the Left together.) But we have to be in the position to effect that change first.

Get power. Then work for change. Lather, rinse, repeat. Anything else and the Second American Civil War will continue, and most likely not to the benefit of anything that resembles a civilized human life.

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This is not about a funding dispute

2012 launch open thread