The Final Stretch

Right now we’re two weeks away from one of the biggest midterm elections in our lifetimes.  And the truth is that we don’t know exactly what to expect.  It’s almost a certainty that Republicans will pick up seats in the House and Senate but no one has a good grasp on how many.  And the truth is that an astute politcal pundit could have made that prediction two years ago.  The sitting president’s party almost always loses seats in the first midterm.  The other party is angrier and more energized than the party that has things going their way.  It’s a simple matter of fact.

Also a matter of fact is that Republicans will spin this as a referendum on what America thinks of the president and his policies.  The Democrats will turn around and attack each other for a lack of energy and for losing focus on all that they accomplished in the past two years.  These two things are also very predictible because the storylines are already being played out before the election is even completed.

What remains to be seen is whether any of this is going to bring about actual change.  Even if Republicans win by landslide majorities and manage to take control of the House and Senate, what is going to happen?  At best, the current tax cuts will get extended.  At worst, there will be a bunch of political wrangling with nothing actually accomplished.  Just because Congress passes it does not mean that the president has to sign it.  And Congress will not contain the numbers needed to pass a law without the president’s signature.  So we’ll see how all of the talk about bipartisanship is talk or hogwash.

The Democrats have been unable to pass some of the things that they campaigned on and President Obama promised despite holding sizeable majorities in Congress.  When those majorities dwindle further or turn into minorities we can expect two years of congressional gridlock as the parties begin posturing for the 2012 elections.

The truth is that America’s problems are going to take time to solve and won’t be magically fixed by new laws, stimulus, or tax breaks.  Maybe some of those things would jump start the economy more but there are no guarantees despite the cries from both sides.  After two weeks, we really shouldn’t be expecting the politicians to fix our system though because I have very low hopes for them getting much passed.

Republicans blocking progress?

I don’t weigh in on politics too much because I don’t want this to be a politic blog.  We’ll know in about six weeks what Americans think about the direction of our country in whether they bring back the same bozos they’ve been complaining about for so long.  But when things in politics defy common sense I feel the need to point out the absurdity of it.

The latest is a report that Congress won’t vote on whether to extend the Bush tax cuts until after the election.  The democrats are pretending as if there isn’t enough time.  Not enough time to do what, show up and vote on the issue?  This – to the best of my knowledge – is not a complicated bill which needs to be written.  Either keep the current tax codes in place or don’t.  Or keep them in place for a certain group of people, namely those making less than $250,000.  The stalling on this vote is pure politics because no democrat wants to go into an election having been accused of raising taxes on anyone even if in truth they simply allowed previous cuts to expire.  This amounts to an increase in the minds of everyone being taxed because those in power had the ability to stop it but didn’t.

The tax cuts aren’t really my problem however.  I really couldn’t care less.  I don’t make enough money that it would affect me directly either way.  A majority of economists say that the best way to keep the economy going is to extend the cuts for everyone.  If that’s what the experts’ opinion is, then I’m fine with listening to the experts.  Again, it doesn’t matter much to me either way it goes.

What is driving me nuts is the game that democrats are playing with this issue and every other issue that they haven’t been able to get their way with.  They are blaming republicans for obstructing the vote.  Any time a bill doesn’t look likely to pass, the democrats have whined that the republicans won’t play nice and therefore they aren’t even going to try to bring the bill to a vote. 

First of all, is the American public so dense that we can’t do math?  Democrats have majorities in both houses of Congress and we have a democratic president.  This means that any bill with democratic support should be passed.  If it fails it is because not even all democrats support it.  In the Senate there is the threat of a republican filibuster because there are not 60 democrats to break it.  But most of these issues that are being complained about do not even have the threat of being filibustered.  All the democrats have to do is bring the issue to a vote and they win.

At the least, the democrats could bring the issue to a vote and allow our representatives to say yes or no.  If the republicans stand together and manage to actually block passage on something, then the democrats would have the right to complain about blocking progress.  But instead they are complaining before a single vote has been cast.

The game that the democrats are playing is to get the best out of both worlds.  If they take a vote on a bill and it loses, they have the stigma of being unable to pass the bill.  Yes they can blame the republicans for blocking it but they are still the ones who were unable to deliver when push came to shove.  But if they sit on the bill they can blame republicans for blocking it while not having the stigma of losing the vote.  Later if they get the bill passed, they can claim how they overcame all of the republican opposition to the issue.  (And pay close attention to the vote.  It will be something like 59-41 or 58-42.  The exact same result as would have occurred before because no republican still voted for it.)

I think this game is insulting to the American people.  Fortunately the only people who are likely going to get riled up about the republicans “blocking” issues will be people likely to vote democrat anyway.  I hope in November that we have massive turnover in DC because it is clear that what we have is not working.  President Obama campaigned on a platform of change.  Yes, he’s had a lot to deal with but so has every president.  I’m not seeing the change I expected and I don’t believe that too many others are either.  If we want change, it will have to start with the American public demanding it.

The question the media won’t ask

In April, a blogger for CBS wrote that Supreme Court nominee might be a lesbian.  After pressure from the White House, the post was taken down two days later.  The truth is that this is an issue which the mainstream media can’t discuss without causing itself a lot of trouble.  Regardless of the truth, the discussion of the topic appears to be taboo.

Quietly, conservative Republicans have been upset about the prospect of a potentially gay Supreme Court judge.  However, they have little recourse concerning this for a number of reasons.  First of all, there is no way to know if the rumors are true short of Kagan coming right out and saying that she is gay.  This would appear very unlikely because this would hurt her chance of approval whether fair or not.

Even if Kagan would come right out and declare that she is gay, officially there would be nothing that anyone could do about it.  The Senate is to confirm her based on her qualifications.  If thye would reject her solely on the basis of being gay (or even they would be perceived to reject her for it) there will be serious accusations of discrimination. 

If in fact Kagan were gay, this would be a win-win situation for the gay community and a power move by Obama.  If she is confirmed, she would be the first homosexual on the Supreme Court.  If she is rejected, it will bring up all sorts of gay rights issues and spark public outcry about blatant discrimination.  Legislation will likely be enacted along with lawsuits by every liberal and civil rights organization.

Personally, not that my opinion is really worth anything, I don’t believe that she is gay.  For the position she has been nominated for, it would almost be impossible to hide this from everyone.  A leak would spring from somewhere.  Frankly I don’t believe that Obama would make such a bold move as he seeks to take the middle of the road.

This does not mean that homosexuality is a non-issue with the nominee.  When dean of Harvard Law School, she protested having military recruiters on campus because she disagreed with it’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  This is cause for concern, more than for just the issue of gay rights.  Whether she agreed with the policy or not, it was and still is for the moment the law of the land.  Ironically, this rule was instituted by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, and not a Republican.  If she will not support the law of the land, it is scaryto think what she may do once she has the power to reinterpret it.

Republicans have the right to fear that Kagan will support a liberal agenda and will attempt to undermine marriage between a man and a woman.  On the other hand, this will be the case of every person that Obama could possibly nominate for the position as he’s going to place a liberal on the court.  On the bright side, Kagan, if confirmed, will be replacing someone who is considered the most liberal judge on the court today, so ultimately we’ll be trading one liberal for another.

In the end, the issue of whether Kagan is gay is a concern but also a non-starter of an issue.  Republicans have no option in pursuing the question because of the legal and political fallout.  In the end, it likely won’t stop the confirmation from going forward.  This is a fight that Republicans would like sitting out but it is in their best interests to let it be.