Friday, November 09, 2012

Free Speech as Good Speech

I'm less interested in the particular story that Spanish Jews are pushing for stronger "hate speech" laws (though anti-Semitism in Spain is rampant, including mainstream embrace of the vicious extremist Gilad Atzmon) than I am in this accompanying anecdote:
In 2009, the Spanish daily El Mundo interviewed Holocaust denier David Irving, listing him as an “expert” on World War II. The paper’s editors said the interview was constitutionally protected free speech. The Anti-Defamation League called the interview “an embarrassment to Spain.”
I read that paragraph and think to myself "people, people: it can very easily be both."

But the point is that "it's free speech!" has come to mean "it's good, salutary (or at least unobjectionable) speech." I suppose one could blame the passage of "hate speech" laws for this phenomenon on the grounds that they imply that "bad" speech will be censored, so speech that is outside the purview of the hate speech statute presumably carries the implied sanction of the polity, but the problem is that this same rhetoric occurs in the US too. A person who is being criticized for saying hateful or bigoted things will almost invariably cry "free speech!" This displays not only a colossal misunderstanding of First Amendment doctrine, but is a complete non-sequitur to boot. Something can very much be "free speech" and still an awful, awful thought. It's like an even more sophomoric version of Tablet's defense of Anna Breslaw, if one can imagine such a thing.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

That Can Be Arranged

From White People Mourning Romney, we get this poor fellow:
I shouldn't laugh. And I shouldn't make fun. But all I could think of when I saw this was "have we got a health care mandate for you!"

Contraception and reproductive health: it's not just for liberals!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Four More Years! The Post-Election Recap

Nowadays, virtually nobody gets to read this. But I still like writing it. So here goes.

* Obviously, congratulations to newly re-elected President Barack Obama, who ended up winning by a decently comfortable electoral vote margin. I'm pretty confident he will win Florida, thus giving a final electoral tally of 332 to 206 for Romney. Not half bad (and a perfect call by Nate Silver, incidentally). After all this rigmarole, only two states changed sides (both blue-to-red): Indiana and North Carolina. Coming down from a pretty high tide in 2008, that's impressive work.

* Laura Ingraham thinks the problem here was that the GOP didn't nominate "a conservative". Interesting theory! Let's compare Mitt Romney's performance in Minnesota to that of no-questions-asked conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann. Bachmann represents Minnesota's reddest seat, but barely squeaked out a victory over Jim Graves. In suburban Anoka County -- Bachmann's base -- she ran 2 points behind Romney. Benton County, 10 points behind. Carver County, 8 points back. Sherbourne county, 12 points back. In Wright County, Bachmann was 14 points behind Romney's base. Romney won Stearns County by 12 and Bachmann lost by 12 -- a 24 point swing. By all means, run a Bachmann in a swing state and see what happens.

* The real impressive story for me tonight was superb Democratic defense in the Senate. Democrats were defending more than twice as many seats as Republicans, many won during the 2006 Democratic wave year. And yet, big blue is going to come out in the Senate ahead of where they started: picking up Indiana, Massachusetts, and Maine (assuming, as I believe very likely, that King will caucus with Democrats) while only losing Nebraska. Some of this comes down to Republicans shooting themselves in the foot with awful candidates (Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Florida), but not all. Scott Brown ran a very good campaign in Massachusetts, but Elizabeth Warren is no Martha Coakley, and that state's blue roots shone through. Rick Berg was a fine candidate in North Dakota, but Heidi Heitkamp was absolutely stellar and scored a huge upset. Montana was an even-odds fight between two candidates with state-wide recognition, in which incumbent Democrat Jon Tester prevailed.

* Both Nevada and Arizona ended up being tantalizing close, but I have different views on them. In Nevada, the Democratic candidate (Shelley Berkley) underperformed -- this is a state where Democrats can and should be competing in right now, so that was a disappointment. In Arizona, though, Richard Carmona wildly overperformed expectations for a novice candidate. I think Arizona has only a cycle, maybe two, before it is a true swing state. The Latino charge there is going to overwhelm Republicans.

* Speaking of Latinos, man, that is really going to be a problem for Republicans in coming years. Give Bush and Rove credit -- they saw this coming and really tried to neutralize the demographic threat by trying to make their party the one of immigration reform and thus a viable choice for Latino voters. But they couldn't get it through Congress, and now they're reaping the rewards. Each year, it becomes harder and harder for Republicans to win with a virtually all-White base -- they need to make inroads with non-White voters to even have a prayer. And each year, the Republican base contracts into a more and more pure angry White core which will flip out and any non-trivial gesture in that direction. It will be interesting to see how that shakes out.

* Speaking of Latinos, part II: Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood yesterday! This has been a long controversy on the island, as residents have been divided as to whether they want independence, statehood, the status quo, or "sovereign free association" (basically, more autonomy). Statehood had never gotten more than 50% of the vote until today. I don't know the precise procedures that come next, but assuming they go and formally apply for statehood, this has the potential to be a massive headache for the GOP. My understanding is that the island of Puerto Rico isn't as "blue" as mainland Puerto Ricans are (from 2005-2009 their non-voting resident commissioner in Congress was a Republican, for example), but it still definitely would lean left. If I'm the Democratic Party, I immediately welcome them with open arms, and then watch as the GOP commits fratricide between the section that screams "brown brown Spanish-speaking brown!" and the section that understands exactly what message that sends to Latinos nationwide.

* House-wise, the story here is excellent redistricting work by Republicans that basically made this election a wash -- pretty amazing, given the big GOP gains last time around. For all the great recruiting they did Senate-side, Democrats often were a little more scattershot with their House work, and it showed.

* Still, there were some excellent scalps taken last night. By far my favorite was the throttling of (soon-to-be-ex-!) Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) at the hands of Tammy Duckworth. Among his many, many sins, Walsh's support for a one-state solution makes him, in my view, the automatic most anti-Israel member of Congress. So I'm thrilled. Also, war criminal Allen West is down in the FL-18, though that looks to be headed to recount land.

* Gubernatorial races were basically a wash -- Republicans netted one in North Carolina, and that was it. I have to say, statewide Democratic candidates in the upper plains (Dakotas and Montana) are showing impressive resiliency.

* The state legislative picture also sounds good for Democrats, though things are a bit spottier there. The DFL has taken over both chambers in Minnesota, giving them the trifecta. They also took over both houses in Maine, and, in a pretty sizable upset given the ferocious gerrymander they were up against, the New York State Senate. Democrats also made some critical holds onto razor-thin margins in the Iowa Senate and the Nevada Senate, among others. I'll want to look into the full lay of the land a bit more, but it seems downballot this was a very, very good day.

* In 2008, I noted that there was something especially wounding about the losses we incurred on the gay marriage front that year, given that voters were primed to see it as a "historic" election and yet still made a conscious decision to exclude gay and lesbian citizens from that promise. Today, at least some of the demons have been exorcised. Gay marriage votes ran the table nationwide, with it earning legalization in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, and defeating an anti-gay marriage amendment in Minnesota. And, to be blunt, every year more of their voters die, and more of ours come of age. This is a battle where the tide might have finally turned for good.

* Beyond the gay marriage front, it was a pretty good ballot measure day too. Maryland also passed a state level DREAM act giving in-state tuition to resident illegal alien children. That's the first time one of those laws has passed through a popular ballot. Meanwhile, Minnesota somewhat surprisingly rejected the voter ID amendment -- I'd basically resigned myself to the idea that voter ID was a terrible policy idea that was too intuitively appealing to ever be defeated, so truly stellar work by the "no" campaign there to knock it down.

* And that's a wrap, everyone! Still a few outstanding races to decide, probably some recounts to manage, but we're done for another two years. Best of luck to the President on his second term!