Saturday, January 08, 2005

Rossi's Revote, Part Two

The Seattle Times reports that Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi has filed suit to throw out the election results and have a revote. Powerline provides the link, and appears to approve. I'm sure that this sudden appreciation for litigation and "revotes" in the face of contested elections came out solely because a desire to see democracy flourish, and is entirely unrelated to any partisan concerns. An Election 2000 mea culpa is forthcoming any day now.

All of that notwithstanding, I'm a sympathetic to Rossi's position. I really am. I outlined my problems with a revote in my original post on the matter, but I think I made it abundantly clear that I don't think Rossi is in the moral wrong here.

Most interestingly is Gregorie's comment on the suit: "I respect the rights of others to file an action in court. That's their right. I have to respect that, I'm the attorney general."

Those are admirable sentiments, and are probably the closest thing to a fair, non-partisan comment by a politico on a situation like this I've seen in awhile. Rossi also deserves some credit in this regard. Unlike Powerline, which compares Gregorie to Richard Daley, Rossi has emphasized that he thinks that the discrepancies were the result of honest mistakes and that no one "is out to steal the election." So kudos to both candidates.

The real loser in all of this, of course, is democracy. Any election where the outcome is so muddled will invariably stoke conspiracy theories and paranoia (and holding a revote won't solve that). But it's heartening to see that both candidates have managed to stay respectful and have refrained from overheated partisan accusations.

Fetishizing Our Own Oppression

This post requires me to tell a story for a little bit, so please bear with me as I set up my point.

Today, I attended a conference on multiculturalism, diversity, and race relations. We did many activities, including small group discussion of "who we are," and a "privilege walk" designed to show how people can possess advantages or disadvantages in society through factors they had no control over.

Another one of the activities we did was called "four corners." In it, a statement was made, such as "Bowling is the most boring sport on TV," and the group would move into one of four corners of the room depending on whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed. Undecideds went in the middle.

One of the statements was "race relations are no better today than the were in the 1960s." As the discussion commenced, a lot of people who agreed argued that the face of racism had changed, but not improved. They noted the covertly racist Rockefeller Drug laws, as well as the fact that a large portion of black men are incarcerated and disenfranchised. They claimed that politically, claims for racial equality were DOA, and that institutionalized racism remained intact.

I was in the "undecided" group, and argued thus: Yes, I agree with the majority of what the agreeds said. Institutionalized racism was still intact, and we aren't even close to the dream of ending racial subordination. But, I argued, its gutcheck time. I compared the argument we were having to an argument over whether George W. Bush was the world's GREATEST threat to world peace. In that argument, many speakers on the affirmative listed off a myriad of awful, horrible, evil things that could be attributed to Bush. In response, a negative speaker asked: "Imagine you could place either Kim Jong Il, or George W. Bush in prison tomorrow. Its gut check time. Would you really put Bush in the slammer and let Il go free?" And I argued the same applied to race relations. It may be bad today, but gutcheck time: Would you rather live as a black man in Mississippi in 1960 or today?

Now here's the part that stunned me: A large portion of the people present (I hesitate to say a majority) shouted that they'd put BUSH in prison. To them, he really WAS a comparatively worse threat than Il. What could cause such a position?

I think that there is a tendency amongst society to fetishize our own oppression. All of the awful things that happen to us, or, if we're the guilt-sensitive liberal types, happen to others in our name, are the epitome of oppression. Kim Jong Il may execute anyone who speaks an ill word about the "dear leader," but we have the PATRIOT Act. Il has places millions in death camps across the country; we have Guantanamo Bay. In the eyes of some, these are comparable (or reflect worse on the US) because WE'RE the ones doing it. We fetishize our actions and minimize the oppression brought on or brought upon by others.

Such a view is dangerous. In a world with limited resources, pretending that the US or other liberal states are comparatively worse than the worst oppressive regimes insures that those regimes will never change. It is a recipe for inaction. We can't act to end oppression because it would be hypocritical for we, the REAL oppressors, to do so. And even if we can get past that, it would make more sense to remedy the "worse" oppression in the US than to ameliorate the "mild" oppression of North Korea or Iraq.

The logical incoherence of such a position is astounding. Can anyone truly argue that (especially proportionally) more people are starved, more people are denied the right to vote, more people are held in prison on political charges, more people are murdered, or that more people are denied the basic human rights to freedom or equality by the US than China, or North Korea, or Iran, or Sudan, or Congo? With all do respect to my radical friends, what planet are you living on?

The radical left needs to remember that protesting foreign oppression and recognizing its relative evil compared to the West does not justify the things the West does wrong (and there are many). Perversely, the self-flagellation that passes for activism amongst the left wing dooms those most in need of radical change. We need to train the eyepiece beyond ourselves and look to how we can help the world, not just hurt ourselves.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Impending Doom

Kevin Drum thinks the end of the blogosphere draws nigh. What's the cause? The trigger is that newspapers want to switch to subscription-based formats online, rather than their current free editions. Drum thinks that without the presence of free online content, bloggers won't have enough to talk about.

I see his point, but I think there are a few things that need to be addressed. First, there are other things bloggers link to besides newspapers. Law Review articles, court cases, academic journals, and above all OTHER BLOGGERS all serve as spark points for insightful and provocative discussion. As long as a few bloggers can still come up with independent thoughts without the benefit of the New York Times, we should manage to get through this okay. Second, people still can read the print editions of these papers and transcribe excerpts online. It isn't ideal, and it would hurt the general medium (because you can't provide hyperlinks), but it wouldn't be catastrophic either. Finally, I think the blogosphere might have reached critical mass, where it can sustain itself. There are so many bright, insightful commentators from all over the political spectrum currently running blogs that I think that there is enough information to go around.

Oh, and if you want some REAL impending doom, Gregg Easterbrook has an article for you. Features include giant volcanic eruptions, magnetic field reversals, and of course asteroid impacts.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I Hate Irony

Kevin Drum is depressed. So am I. Why? Because California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed something that he and I both agree with wholeheartedly: ending partisan control of the redistricting process.

It is clear to me that partisan redistricting is one of the great plagues on our Democracy (NOTE: A new paper questions whether redistricting actually harms competitiveness in Congressional races. Mark Schmitt buys most of the paper's conclusions, but contests that specific one). Texas was the most flagrant manifestation of this, but it hardly is unique. The lack of competition in California's 52 congressional districts shows that Texas is not alone. In theory, then, I support Arnold's intiative. So what's the problem? Over to Drum:
So why am I depressed? Because the insanely partisan atmosphere of contemporary American politics means I can't support this proposal even though I think it would be good for the state. After watching Texas Republicans ram through a brutally gerrymandered mid-decade redistricting that gained the Republican party four congressional seats in the 2004 election, how stupid would a California Democrat have to be to agree to meekly support a goo-goo proposal that would have the effect of giving Republicans more seats in yet another state? Guys like Tom DeLay and Hugh Hewitt would be guffawing in their beers for days about our terminal naivete if we went along with this. Raw power would be their ally in red states and appeals to progressive idealism would be their ally in the blue states. That's quite a combination.

Chalk up another reason to detest DeLay and Co. Even if we want to play fair, we can't because its political suicide. We all have to race toward moral destruction in the longterm because to do otherwise would be political destruction in the short term. All because DeLay and his pals don't believe in abiding by basic ethical standards. Curse you.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Cheney Gets Down

This photo from Wonkette is just hilarious.

Word up, Cheney D.

Roots of the Hatred: An Answer to Powerline

Over at Powerline, the question is asked: what, if any, is the rational reason liberals hate Bush?
My experience is that the two propositions set forth in the preceding paragraph are articles of faith among this crowd. The first -- distrust of U.S. power -- is the searing lesson of the Vietnam era. The second -- disdain for traditional religion -- is the lesson of the culture war. I may be wrong about this, but before confessing error I'd need to see, at a minimum, a satisfactory explanation for the intellectual left's hatred of President Bush that does not incorporate either of my two propositions, or others similarly fatal to the formation of a coalition with evangelicals.

Did someone call my name (I don't know if I qualify as part of the "intellectual left." I PLAN on being an academic, and my age isn't my fault!)? My immense distaste for President Bush stems from neither of the two premises Powerline puts out. The primary motivation for my ire is how Bush has delegitimized the exercise of U.S. power on the global stage, possibly for decades. I've already outlined the negative impacts of a world with an insular US, and I'm sure Powerline needs no persuasion on the matter. However, if it is important for the US to exercise power, than it must be EQUALLY important to create a climate in which US exercise of power to solve problems is supported, or at least tolerated. By undermining that sentiment, Bush has done the US (and the world) an immense disservice. In this respect, I loathe Bush for the OPPOSITE reason than the one ascribed by Powerline: It is my belief in the positive potential of US power that motivates my anger toward Bush's policies. I see him as destroying an ideal I deeply believe through arrogance, incompetence, and shortsightedness. An analogy that might work for Powerline would be if Bush was anti-tax zealot (not a hard picture)--but he expressed it by ONLY cutting taxes for millionaires. Powerline might be upset at the specific policy--I don't know--but it would be livid that now the whole enterprise of cutting taxes would be delegitimized by the idiotic actions taken in its name.

From a religious perspective, my faith dictates the extension of common decency to all mankind. Regardless of what I believe in private life, it is an important component of my spiritual beliefs that I believe them because I choose to, not because the government mandates them. I reject any attempt to impose religious views, whether I share them or not, on the population, because it is degrading to MY faith. Bush's cynical promotion of the FMA, which sought to degrade a class of human beings solely for the electoral benefit to be gained from it, was religiously offensive to me. And his and his allies' attempt to justify on the grounds of "Judeo-Christian morality," as if Jewish and Christian morality are remotely similar, was a distortion of historical realities (cf. Arthur A. Cohen, "The Myth of The Judeo-Christian Tradition," (New York: Harper & Row, 1957); Jacob Neusner, "Jews and Christians: The Myth of a Common Tradition" (London: SCM Press, 1991); and Stephen M. Feldman, "Please Don’t Wish Me a Merry Christmas: A Critical History of the Separation of Church and State." (New York: New York University Press, 1997), esp. 17-18 and 258-59) that sought to falsely incorporate my religious views into his oppressive ideology. I'll concede that this stance of mine may not make for an easy common cause with evangelicals, but it is equally not an expression on my part that all religious persons (of whom a count myself as one) are "rubes."

Those are my biggest reasons, but others abound. The most important article on this is Jonathan Chait's aptly named article "Mad About You: The Case for Bush Hatred." Some of Chait's reasons are simply visceral emotion (and he is the first to admit it), but not all of them. A few of the reasons include Bush's extremism:
Clinton offended liberals time and again, embracing welfare reform, tax cuts, and free trade, and nominating judicial moderates. When budget surpluses first appeared, he stunned the left by reducing the national debt rather than pushing for more spending. Bush, on the other hand, has developed into a truly radical president. Like Ronald Reagan, Bush crusaded for an enormous supply-side tax cut that was anathema to liberals. But, where Reagan followed his cuts with subsequent measures to reduce revenue loss and restore some progressivity to the tax code, Bush proceeded to execute two additional regressive tax cuts. Combined with his stated desire to eliminate virtually all taxes on capital income and to privatize Medicare and Social Security, it's not much of an exaggeration to say that Bush would like to roll back the federal government to something resembling its pre-New Deal state.

When the September 11 attacks gave Bush an opportunity to unite the country, he simply took it as another chance for partisan gain. He opposed a plan to bolster airport security for fear that it would lead to a few more union jobs. When Democrats proposed creating a Department of Homeland Security, he resisted it as well. But later, facing controversy over disclosures of pre-September 11 intelligence failures, he adopted the idea as his own and immediately began using it as a cudgel with which to bludgeon Democrats. The episode was telling: Having spent the better part of a year denying the need for any Homeland Security Department at all, Bush aides secretly wrote up a plan with civil service provisions they knew Democrats would oppose and then used it to impugn the patriotism of any Democrats who did--most notably Georgia Senator Max Cleland, a triple-amputee veteran running for reelection who, despite his support for the war with Iraq and general hawkishness, lost his Senate race thanks to an ugly GOP ad linking him to Osama bin Laden.

And disingenuousness:
And, while there has been no shortage of liberal hysteria over Bush's foreign policy, it's not hard to see why it scares so many people. I was (and remain) a supporter of the war in Iraq. But the way Bush sold it--by playing upon the public's erroneous belief that Saddam had some role in the September 11 attacks--harkened back to the deceit that preceded the Spanish-American War. Bush's doctrine of preemption, which reserved the right to invade just about any nation we desired, was far broader than anything he needed to validate invading a country that had flouted its truce agreements for more than a decade. While liberals may be overreacting to Bush's foreign policy decisions-- remember their fear of an imminent invasion of Syria?--the president's shifting and dishonest rationales and tendency to paint anyone who disagrees with him as unpatriotic offer plenty of grounds for suspicion.

One might disagree with some or all of these, although at least a few of them should be roots for common cause between liberals and evangelicals (both, for example, hold value systems which would support more government spending to alleviate the ails of poverty). But they stretch beyond "irrational." Insofar as liberals and conservatives value different things, liberals might dislike Bush for some of the very reasons Conservatives laud him. But there are certain facets of Bush's presidency that should be detested by all members of the political spectrum. The excessive indulgence in partisanship, the poor handle on foreign policy, and the tendency toward extremism in lieu of compromise all spring to mind. If there is a group of Bush haters whose feelings are beyond the scope of rationality, there is another sect of us who share many common values with our Conservative brethren--if only they would acknowledge them.

Guess Who's Back?

Deja vu? How Appealing reports that Michael Newdow has launched another suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the "under God" clause in the Pledge of Allegiance. And according to the Sacramento Bee, this time he has co-plaintiffs (all of whom have full custody of their children, the kink that derailed Newdow's original suit).

The full text of Newdow's brief can be accessed here. It presents some compelling arguments. At the very least, it seems to knock flat the notion that the addition of "under God" was a religiously "neutral" act. It also presents some damning evidence of societal discrimination against atheists. There is simply no way to pretend that the United States is not overtly hostile to atheists without massively distorting the historical record. Unfortunately, this may not help Newdow's cause as much as it should. Jack Balkin, Professor of Constitutional Law at Yale University. "What Brown Teaches us about Constitutional Theory." Virginia Law Review Vol. 90, No. 6, October 2004. Pg. 1531-1577
"Law students are usually taught that it is the job of courts to protect what United States v. Carolene Products [304 US 144, 152, n.4, (1938)] called 'discrete and insular minorities.' These are groups that have suffered a long history of discrimination, are relatively politically powerless, and are unable to protect themselves in the political process. This portrait is quite misleading. In general, courts will protect minorities only after minorities have shown a fair degree of clout in the political process. If they are truly politically powerless, courts may not even recognize their grievances; and if they have just enough influence to get on the political radar screen, courts will usually dismiss their claims with a wave of the hand. Conversely, as a reform movement for minority rights gains prominence through political protest and legislative lobbying, courts will increasingly pay attention to minority rights and take their claims more seriously." (1551-1552)

The courts aren't as proactive about defending minority rights as we like to think they are. For the most part, it takes a lot more political influence--far more than atheists can currently muster--to bring about legal change.

One question I have is whether or not the 9th circuit will consider it bound under its ruling in Elk Grove to declare the pledge unconstitutional. Although the Supreme Court reversed its decision, it did not do so on the basis of merits. Since the facts of this case are identical to those in Elk Grove except for the issue of custody, it would stand to reason that the 9th circuit would apply the same analysis in this case as it did in the previous case. But I don't think it is BOUND to do so, which could get interesting.

I also question Newdow's tactics in this case. According to the brief, he has filed suits in courts across the nation. This seems like he is deliberately trying to create a circuit split and take the issue back to the Supreme Court. Nothing could be worse. As I noted in my very first substantive blog post, we dodged a bullet last time. The standing loophole let the Court defuse the firestorm around the case without closing the door to future litigation. They don't have that excuse this time around, and I am not convinced that the 3 judges who explicitly said the clause should be upheld could not pick off 2 judges from the majority to uphold it in law. This becomes even worse when one reads Justice Thomas' concurrence in Elk Grove. In it, he essentially agrees (as I do) that current precedent would mandate that "under God" is unconstitutional. But then, in a stunning evisceration of the principle of stare decisis, he proceeds to argue that this gives us a perfect opportunity to overrule the offending precedents and restore 1st amendment law to its former position prior to Lee v. Weisman. If he can sway enough judges to his position (and I do believe that he's right in a sense, the only way to uphold the pledge is to overrule Lee), this could rapidly become the largest legal setback for religious minorities in the past 50 years.

Torturous Reasoning

I earlier ripped into Powerline for their absurd suggestion that Republicans attacking Bush is a "betrayal". Today, Andrew Sullivan calls out Glenn Reynolds for the same foul, this time related to torture.

To be sure, Reynolds' claims are less reprehensible than Powerline's. He seems to making a descriptive rather than a normative claim: Opposition to Bush will only harden the resolve of Bush's Republican allies and thus prevent real change. He writes:
I think the effort to turn this into an anti-Bush political issue is a serious mistake, and the most likely outcome will be, in essence, the ratification of torture (with today's hype becoming tomorrow's reality) and a political defeat for the Democrats. And the highly politicized way in which the issue is raised is likely to ensure that there's no useful discussion of exactly how, in terms of incarceration, etc., we should treat potentially very dangerous people who do not fall readily within the laws of war.

To which Sullivan replies:
Run that by me again. The point is not "an anti-Bush political issue." It's about whether the United States condones torture of prisoners (many of whom have turned out to be innocent) in its care. Since president Bush shifted U.S. policy to one which allows what any sane person would call torture, any criticism of the policy, by its very nature, has to be "anti-Bush." And when the president responds to his egregious error - which has undermined the war - by rewarding those who helped him make it, like Gonzales and Bybee, are we all supposed to roll over? Is all legitimate criticism of the administration now reducible to this kind of inane partisanship? Glenn's deeper point is that if you ask for torture to be stopped, the majority of Americans will respond by saying: ramp it up. But that amounts to complete capitulation to something no civilized person should tolerate, and no grown-up military officer would approve. Glenn cannot pretend to be anti-torture, while eschewing any serious attempts to stop it through the political process. If you won't stand up to the Bush administration on torture, is there anything you won't acquiesce to? And it's not "hype." Read the reports.

Reynolds responds that even if Sullivan isn't a partisan, most of the critics are. I think that Reynolds is essentializing just a bit here; I've seen no evidence that there isn't at least a sizable chunk of the anti-torture agitators who oppose on principle, rather than as a political opportunity. Reynolds' also claims that Republicans want to have this debate, as it would just emphasize the Democrats as soft on terror. You know what? I'm willing to take a little political flak here and expose the gap between American rhetoric and reality. The American people ARE outraged by torture--as long as its on the front page. Mark Graber elaborates
Most Americans probably suspect that our nation now routinely tortures persons and that the President has sanctioned this policy. We sort of know this is wrong, but as long as we can maintain plausible deniability, who really cares. Thus, while we profess outrage when stories hit the front page, the outrage vanishes as soon as the stories disappear. Besides, some victims of torture might give up valuable information. Others are no doubt bad people, who might well torture us in appropriate circumstances. Most are people we do not know, and in America, people we do not know are people Americans need not care about. This is the real scandal, and it is about us. Beneath all the media talk of a politics of morality, George Bush and his cohort are deeply amoral people, and American under George Bush is a deeply amoral place. The real challenge for the left is making people care about torture, even when torture is not on the front page.

Put this on the front page and lets MAKE America, front and center, say "we're okay with torture." I don't think they have the chutzpah to do it.

I don't have too much confidence in the political process as a means to solve problems. But I do think that it should be the tool of first resort. Principle opposition to torture means getting out there, on the front page, and making it stop. And that's going to mean confronting those who would indulge in immoral US practices head on.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Feingold In the Ring?

Washington Whispers reports that Wisconsin Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold is testing the waters for a possible 2008 run (link Kos).
Keep a lookout for Sen. Russ Feingold , the second half of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance duo, who just won a third term from Wisconsin voters. He's on a nationwide mission to test out his progressive message that's liberal on some issues, like universal healthcare, and conservative on others, like the deficit. Fans think he can bridge the blue-state-red-state divide, making him not just a voice for a changing Democratic Party but a possible '08 presidential candidate.

Another ace up Feingold's sleeve was his opposition to the PATRIOT Act--the only person in the senate to vote against it. No flipflopping here, folks.

Obviously, I want to hear more about Feingold's positions (especially on Foreign Policy), but at the moment I'm cautiously optimistic. I think he could be an excellent candidate who can meld progressive and centrist positions to the betterment of all America.

Ethical Reversal

UPDATE: 1/4/05 @ 7:20 PM
Alot of bloggers, myself included, lambasted the House GOP for changing caucus rules to allow party leaders indicted on felony charges to stay in power. We noted that this rule change would cripple House ethical standards and many of us thought it was emblematic of the arrogance and power-drunkeness of the Republican majority.

So allow me to be the first to applaud the GOP's decision to reverse the rule in a party meeting. I think this was the ethical thing to do, and I call on House Democrats to enact a similar rule for their own party.

The Daily DeLay, which has been covering this issue from day one, has its press release up. Slightly churlish in my opinion, but well taken.

UPDATE: The Moderate Voice adds its thoughts, and reports that the Democrats have changed their rule as well. So everyone wins.

Monday, January 03, 2005

False Betrayal

Powerline is apoplectic that former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman has the "temerity to impugn the President's re-election victory" in her new book, "It's My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America". They write:
Someone should introduce a novel idea into government service: it's actually possible to serve in an administration, and then leave it without writing a tell-all expose about what a wonderful job you tried to do, but how, despite your best efforts, the administration went astray. When a Democrat like Richard Clarke betrays President Bush, that's one thing; when it's done by a Republican, it's unforgivable.

This article is so off base it almost defies a logical rebuttal. First, Richard Clarke isn't a Democrat. He's an independent. Second, perhaps Ms. Whitman actually thinks there are *gasp* things the administration could have done better! Maybe it isn't a vain effort at self-promotion and lucrative book profits. Third, and most importantly, the rhetoric Powerline uses is profoundly disturbing. Whitman "betrayed" Bush and that's "unforgivable." Powerline has taken the Democrats to task (often rightly) for their intolerance of opposing views. But I have yet to see mainstream Democrats label their moderate cohorts as "betrayers" just because they refuse to toe the party line to the letter (instead, they sometimes nominate them for Vice President, as Sen. Lieberman reminds us). Powerline would do well to remember that dissent is a virtue, not a vice, in a free society, and now that the campaign season is over they might also want to try admitting that the Bush administration isn't God's kingdom on earth. If Powerline thinks that the Republican party currently inhabits the perfect ideological terrain--politically, morally, on every issue, position, and controversy--that's their prerogative, but they should realize then that the party only came to its current state because "dissenters" challenged (betrayed?) the 50s-60s Republican orthodoxy of Taft, Eisenhower, and Ford. Seeking to silence those in the GOP with whom they disagree is the greatest gift Powerline can give to the Democratic party. But I for one prefer open political debate to transient political gains.

Moral Legitimacy

I've linked approvingly on several occasions (originally here and then expanded upon here) to Peter Beinart's pathbreaking article, "Fighting Faith," which outlines how the Democratic party needs to get serious on security issues. One of his most controversial claims is that the Democratic party needs to "purge" the radical leftists who deny the relevancy or importance of the global war on terror--those who think we can accommodate or appease the radical Islamic terrorists. Though I wouldn't personally go so far as to advocate a "purge," my general sympathies with Beinart's argument mean I'd be remiss if I didn't link to Joshua Zeitz's warning that getting rid of the leftwing sector of our party would rid of us some of our most important voices in the battles to assure domestic justice.
[T]he health of American democracy continues to depend on the ability of progressives to advance certain core values--on civil liberties, separation of church and state, gay rights, health care, and the social safety net. If liberals today boot out MoveOn, they will be purging some of their best organizers and fundraisers. But more importantly, they will be excommunicating the most passionate advocates of core progressive values in domestic politics. How often does one hear Joe Lieberman or Joe Biden talk about the crime of child poverty, the need to improve labor standards at Wal-Mart, the moral imperative of civil liberties and sexual freedom, or the importance of extending health coverage to all Americans? Sure, hawks like Biden and Lieberman more or less support these liberal positions. But their political passions lie elsewhere, namely in the realm of foreign policy. The Democratic Party needs moral clarity on foreign policy, but it needs moral clarity on the domestic front as well. If it simply purges the left, it may end up sacrificing the latter to achieve the former.

Zeitz notes that the very "softs" the Democrats purged in the 1940s were among the most articulate and passionate defenders of racial equality in the nation. Eliminating them seriously damaged the Democrats moral credibility on human rights. Today, the parallel issue is gay rights. Many of the moderate hawks in the Democratic party are ambivalent--at best--on the fundamental issues of gay equality. The leading lights in this fundamental quest for justice mostly reside on the left end of the party. I do believe that national security is an important issue for Democrats, and I might go so far as to say it's the most important issue. But I am not willing to sacrifice the rights of mankind upon the altar of political unity.

Going into the election, I recall being most concerned about security. The al-Qaqaa debacle and my continued fury at the Bush administrations refusal to actually fight the war they got us kept my focus firmly trained on foreign policy and military affairs. But after the election, undoubtedly aided by the 11 states passing anti-gay marriage referendums, I found that the issue that most arose my ire was gay rights. Part of it was due to Andrew Sullivan's coverage of the reaction in the gay community. It wasn't resignation, or disappointment, or even anger. It was fear. They were genuinely afraid of the message being sent by the rest of the country. It was loud, resounding, and universal: We don't want you. You're not welcome here. You aren't part of the American community. That message seriously disturbs me. When America starts telling its vulnerable minorities that they aren't welcome, starts passing laws that seek to relegate disliked groups to legal, moral, and political inferiority, we have a problem. And I do believe that this problem ranks right with the war on terror as one of the great moral challenges of our times.

If the baseline for continued Democratic legitimacy in the 21st century is support for the war on terror, then the baseline for Republican moral legitimacy is support for gay rights. Unfortunately, I see far fewer Republicans rising to this challenge than Democrat's rising to theirs.