It only gets stranger, and another Tuesday of scattered elections showed that. In Indiana, Dick Lugar, a pragmatic but quite conservative Republican, who had been their senator there forever, lost the Republican primary to a Tea Party fellow – who thinks Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional and ran on the idea that any kind of compromise on anything is evil – kind of pledging that he wouldn’t even say good morning to any Democrat in Washington, ever – even if it meant nothing got done. Lugar has a record of working with Democrats when something needs to get done and he rolled the dice, deciding to run as that guy who gets things done, as everyone concedes. But his party has now decided there are more important things than keeping the government running and solving problems – it’s more important to make a point on this issue or that. Lugar lost the primary. It wasn’t even close.
Ah well – Lugar is an old man – eighty or so – and he may feel it’s just as well that this happened. Maybe he muttered to himself that he’s getting too old for this shit. He is.
And then there was the parallel in North Carolina, where voters decided to change the state constitution, making gay marriage illegal at a level above any particular statute that might be passed in the future. But the law also applies to all civil unions – so even domestic partners of the opposite sex now can no longer receive any state benefits, nor will they now have any legal standing, and now no employer in North Carolina can provide any sort of benefits for the partners of those not gay but not married. And that means that IBM and the other high-tech firms with their massive operations in that Research Triangle Park complex are now in a bit of a fix – they’ll have to rewrite all their benefits packages. If you’re not actually married to that woman with whom you’ve lived for thirty years all the benefits are now gone, and she gets no pension money when you die. Yeah, IBM and the others could lose a lot of key employees, who can get those benefits at competing firms, in other states – and IBM and the others might just leave North Carolina. But it seems it was more important to make a point on this issue. And yes, that vote also wasn’t even close.
But it was a day for that sort of thing:
Senate Democrats’ effort to avert a student loan interest rate hike fell prey Tuesday to a Republican wall of opposition. GOP members declared their support for the cause but grumbled about how the majority party wants to pay for it. A motion to proceed went down along party lines, 52-45, falling short of the 60 votes needed to break a GOP filibuster.
Democrats couldn’t muster the sixty votes necessary to break the Republican filibuster, so in that body of one hundred, forty-five votes beats the majority. But the Constitution allows for the Senate to establish its own rules, and those are the rules. And since Obama was elected, the Republicans have decided to do what was once rare – now they filibuster every single item and effectively control the Senate. It’s pretty cool. They’re no dummies.
But the dynamics were this:
The Dem [Democratic] legislation would freeze Stafford loan interest rates for some 7 million students at 3.4 percent – averting a rise to 6.8 percent in July if no action is taken – by closing a tax loophole on high-income owners of some private corporations. The revenues would be raised via Medicare and Social Security payroll taxes, potentially blocking a stream of future funding keeping existing funding intact.
Senate Republicans, like their House colleagues, want to fund the $6 billion cost by repealing the health care reform law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, a method Democrats reject because the fund was already cut from $15 billion to $10 billion in the payroll tax cut bill.
But everyone had a point to make – it was taking away all funding for breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings and that sort of thing for women, and other preventative programs for the poor – or it was further punishing the successful in the country, the very ones who made this country great. The Republicans were asked why they want to punish women and the poor, to keep the rich as rich as they are. And the Republicans countered that saying that was unfair – they do care about women and the poor, but you don’t punish the successful, and the Democrats were just trying to make them look bad for being sensible about these things. And caught in the middle were all the college students, many who will soon be priced out of higher education.
So each side made their point. But, again, the Republicans are no dummies. All the new voter fraud laws passed by Republican state legislatures, requiring a photo-ID or a passport or a notarized original birth certificate to vote, will keep most of the poor from voting – and there are efforts to establish elaborate new rules for student voting, if you’re away at school. They’ve got this covered. And they made their point – Democrats hate the successful, the makers, and want to give everything under the sun to the takers, the parasites on society. If a woman can’t pay out of pocket for a breast cancer and cervical cancer screening, well, maybe she should just get a job.
And as you recall, the agreement last year that broke the deadlock on whether to raise the debt ceiling was that, if no progress was made on spending issues, this year automatic cuts in everything would happen – in Defense and everything. There would be no exceptions, and everyone signed on the dotted line. And of course no progress was made, and now the Republicans have announced they will not honor the agreement at all. Yeah, they lied. But so what? The Democrats are such suckers! That was the point they were making. And now they’ve proposed massive new defense spending – paid for by cutting food stamps and Meals on Wheels and school lunch subsidies and most every nutritional program in sight, and child abuse prevention programs and help with child care. And that’s the second point – the bleeding-heart Democrats are weak on defense and we want to protect the country, damn it. And of course now those hungry people will find it impossibly hard to vote – not having the time or energy or means to gather documentation. The Republicans do know how to play this game.
In any event, you can read all about Dick Lugar’s loss here:
Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar (R), Senate stalwart known for a kind of moderate Republicanism well out favor in the modern GOP, lost his primary bid against insurgent state Treasurer Richard Mourdock Tuesday night.
The embarrassing defeat for Lugar caps off a 35-year career in the Senate and puts another nail in the coffin of centrist Republican political thought in government, which has been in deep decline since the Tea Party revolution of 2010 that put an increasingly ultra-conservative brand of Republican in Washington.
It tells the basic story, with a few interesting details like this:
Mourdock’s win, on the other hand, is more surprising. Though he’s a two-time statewide elected official, his campaign against Lugar did not get off to a great start. It kicked into high gear when outside conservative groups like the Club for Growth started spending big on Mourdock’s behalf, turning him in to the latest Tea Party hero out to enforce ideological discipline on the GOP.
And the Democrats love it:
Democrats see Mourdock as a Republican candidate of the Christine O’Donnell-Sharron Angle-Ken Buck school. Those three losing Republican Senate nominees (from Delaware, Nevada and Colorado, respectively) came to represent Tea Party over-reach in 2010, when the movement helped nominate candidates so unappealing they lost Senate races the GOP should have won.
So now that Lugar is done, Democrats are turning their full fire on Mourdock, painting him as a dangerous ideological extremist. They say centrists and independents who have been pulling the lever for Lugar for decades will be open to the Democratic nominee, Rep. Joe Donnelly, once they take a real look at Mourdock.
It’s a thought. And Lugar is helping:
Sen. Richard Lugar (R) delivered a bruising attack on the man who defeated him in the Republican primary as he conceded Tuesday night, giving the Democrats the ammunition they’re looking for to cast newly-minted Republican nominee Richard Mourdock as too extreme for the voters of Indiana.
And that attack would be this:
He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.
And then he called out FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth specifically. Everyone was making points, and Lugar decided it was time to make his.
And Obama made his:
Statement by the President on the Retirement of Senator Richard Lugar
As a friend and former colleague, I want to express my deep appreciation for Dick Lugar’s distinguished service in the United States Senate. While Dick and I didn’t always agree on everything, I found during my time in the Senate that he was often willing to reach across the aisle and get things done. My administration’s efforts to secure the world’s most dangerous weapons has been based on the work that Senator Lugar began, as well as the bipartisan cooperation we forged during my first overseas trip as Senator to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Senator Lugar comes from a tradition of strong, bipartisan leadership on national security that helped us prevail in the Cold War and sustain American leadership ever since. He has served his constituents and his country well, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
So, if you actually care about national security – loose nukes and other threats – maybe you should reconsider voting for angry Tea Parry folks. If you want to make a point start a blog or something, or start a rock band.
And here’s the rundown on the North Carolina business:
Marriage between a man and a woman will now be the only legally recognized domestic union in North Carolina after voters Tuesday overwhelmingly passed Amendment One, a change to the state’s constitution that could take effect as early as next week. North Carolina now becomes the 32nd state to have a same-sex marriage ban etched in their constitution.
With all precincts reporting, 61 percent of voters supported the amendment, while 39 percent were opposed.
And this is interesting:
Amendment One would carry negative implications on both gay and straight unmarried couples. The first two television ads sponsored by the Coalition to Protect NC Families, the organization that led the opposition campaign, and released last month emphasized the amendment’s potential impact on recipients of domestic violence protections and domestic partnership benefits.
No one thought of that. But everyone was making a point, as William Saletan explains in Slate – as the coalition backing the amendment – Vote FOR Marriage NC – was telling everyone to make your decision on fact and not fear – but not convincingly, as Saletan lists some oddities:
Gay marriage will eliminate concern for children. “Every child born into a same-sex relationship is intentionally denied the love and affection of one of her biological parents,” the coalition argues. “Under a definition of marriage that is genderless, the interests of children … [are] eliminated entirely. Only the wishes of the two adults in question matter.”
Ah, children are pesky, and there’s this:
Gay marriage will reduce procreation by heterosexual married couples. At a March 28 forum, coalition chairwoman Tami Fitzgerald alleged, “What gay marriage means is that fewer and fewer children are going to be raised by a married mother and father.”
Fitzgerald didn’t explain the math or the mechanism. Perhaps some sort of distraction is involved.
And of course gay marriage will impoverish women and children:
According to the coalition – “When marriage ceases to have its historic meaning and understanding, over time fewer and fewer people will marry. We will have an inevitable increase in children born out of wedlock, an increase in fatherlessness, [and] a resulting increase in female and child poverty …”
Apparently this is the causal sequence Fitzgerald has in mind: more marriages, therefore fewer marriages, and therefore, more starving children.
And there was the contention that gay marriage will destroy freedom and be “the beginning of the end of religious freedom” of course, as the coalition posted this:
Those who do not agree with this new definition of marriage … will be punished for their beliefs. … Wedding professionals have been fined for refusing to participate in a same-sex ceremony. Christian innkeepers in Vermont and Illinois are being sued over their refusal to make their facilities available for same-sex weddings … A counselor, for example, could not refuse “marriage therapy” to a same-sex couple because she doesn’t believe in gay marriage. She’d put her licensure at risk.
The coalition offers no evidence or details for these allegations. The two stories I tracked down – the complaints in Vermont and Illinois – are based on public accommodations law, not on marriage law. So I wouldn’t put much stock in the rest of the coalition’s claims.
And Saletan is amused by this:
In support of the amendment, Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, says “mountains of social science research” show that “the well-being of children, the emotional and physical health of adults, and even the state of our workforce are all tethered in some way to the existence of stable one-man-and-one-woman marriages.”
Somehow, gay marriage would undermine this foundation of productivity. The coalition contends: “If anything, the amendment will help our economy. States with a marriage protection amendment in their state constitution are some of our country’s top performing economic states.”
There’s no evidence, and it goes on, with the usual stuff on how gay marriage will lead to man-on-dog marriage and so on. And then there’s the matter of treason against God:
At an April 20 rally, David Gibbs, president of the Christian Law Association, told the crowd: “The highest crime that our country has is murder. And the second highest crime is treason. For us not to pass this amendment is treason in God’s court.” Gibbs went on: “If we don’t raise our voice at a moment like this, it is treason in heaven. … We’re betraying the savior who called us.”
And then there’s divine retribution:
The coalition issues this threat in video featuring a statement from Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz. “I support an amendment to our constitution that would define marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman,” Lotz tells voters. “Because we live in such perilous, unstable times economically, environmentally, politically, globally, racially and even religiously, we need the security that comes from God’s protection and blessing. This is not the time to defy Him by flaunting an institution He has clearly ordained, thus provoking His displeasure.”
A homemade video for the amendment delivers a similar message: “People ask me, two gay people getting married, how does it affect me personally? It doesn’t affect me at all. What does affect me as a society [is] losing God’s grace upon this great nation, our state, and our local churches. … I will not take a chance of losing God’s grace upon this great state.”
And you don’t want God to strike us down like Sodom. And thus they were making their points. And one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers makes this point:
I’m amazed you haven’t yet mentioned the twisted irony that as North Carolina is going to the polls today to “defend traditional marriage,” the state’s former Senator and presidential candidate – who did plenty to discredit marriage in his own right – is on trial in a very public manner.
They are against any civil recognition of gay couples’ commitment, responsibility and equality. The Amendment today would ban any relationship rights whatever to gay couples in the state. No domestic partnerships, no civil unions – nada. It renders spouses strangers at hospitals; it ensures no legal stability for shared homes or shared children. It is in many ways a simple declaration that gay relationships are anathema to the people of North Carolina. That’s what drives the anti-marriage equality movement: the removal of gay people from full family life.
Yes, that would be the idea. Everyone spent the day making a point. But they weren’t especially good points. But maybe that doesn’t matter anymore.