Why The GOP Has The First Amendment Upside Down

Source: National Memo

Author: Gene Lyons

Emphasis Mine

One entertaining aspect of recent dramatic Supreme Court rulings was learning that the court’s high-minded intellectuals can be just as thin skinned and spiteful as everybody else. Apparently, Justice Antonin Scalia was a law-school whiz kid about 50 years and 50,000 cocktails ago, and finds it hard to accept that lesser minds are not obliged to agree with him.

For his part, Chief Justice John Roberts turned political prognosticator in his dissent to Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision legitimizing gay marriage. “Stealing this issue from the people,” he wrote, “will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

Granted, if all you had to go by was the sky-is-falling rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates and their theological allies, you might think that Roberts had a point. But he doesn’t, partly because the Supreme Court ruling won’t bring about dramatic social change at all. It merely affirms social changes that have already happened.

But hold that thought, because political handicappers at the New York Times argue that same-sex unions could be the best thing that ever happened to the GOP. Not because millions of outraged religious conservatives will stampede to the ballot boxes, but because… well, here’s the headline: “As Left Wins Culture Battles, GOP Gains Opportunity to Pivot for 2016.” 

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum believes that the gay marriage fight is over. “Every once in a while,” he told reporter Jonathan Martin, “we bring down the curtain on the politics of a prior era. The stage is now cleared for the next generation of issues. And Republicans can say, ‘Whether you’re gay, black, or a recent migrant to our country, we are going to welcome you as a fully cherished member of our coalition.’”

Sure, Republicans could say that. If Republicans were in the habit of dealing with reality, that is.  Frum, a Canadian Jew who became a U.S. citizen in 2007, may be forgiven a bit of wishful thinking. Ever since getting pushed out of the American Enterprise Institute for saying Republicans were foolish not to negotiate with the White House on Obamacare, he’s been trying to persuade Republicans to act more like British Tories.

But that’s not how today’s GOP rolls. On the party’s evangelical right, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was breathing smoke and fire. A Baptist preacher, Huckabee indulged in a bit of ecclesiastical word play, denying that the Supreme Court could do “something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage.” He denounced the ruling as a “blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment,” and vowed to defy it.

In this, Huckabee echoed Rev. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who even before the Supreme Court ruling had vowed that “as a minister of the Gospel, I will not officiate over any same-sex unions or same-sex marriage ceremonies. I completely refuse.”

Isn’t that brave of him?

However, do you really suppose it’s possible that Floyd, Huckabee, and the rest of the hyperventilating GOP candidates fail to understand that all churches have an absolute First Amendment right to their own beliefs and practices? They’re bravely refusing to perform ceremonies that nothing in this nor any imaginable Supreme Court decision would require of them.

If your church refuses to sanctify same-sex marriages (as mine certainly does), that’s its unquestioned right. For that matter, the Catholic Church also refuses to marry previously divorced couples, or even admit them to communion — an absurdity to me, but not a political issue.

Nothing in the Supreme Court ruling changes those things. It’s about marriage as a secular legal institution: two Americans entering into a contract with each other. Period.

That’s why Bloomberg View‘s Jonathan Bernstein is right and Justice Roberts is wrong about same-sex marriage causing long-lasting social resentment. Marriage, he writes, is “a done deal,” and the issue will soon be relegated to “history books alongside questions of whether women should vote or alcohol should be prohibited.”

Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision invalidating miscegenation laws, was accepted almost immediately. Bernstein points out that in states such as Massachusetts and Iowa, where same-sex unions have been legal for years, they’re no longer controversial.  

Because it’s really none of your business, is it, who loves whom? And it has zero effect on you personally. So grow up and get over it.

In time, as Bernstein says, most people will.

In the near term, however, millions of aggrieved GOP voters appear to have gotten the First Amendment upside down. They won’t easily be dissuaded. Feeling besieged by the mainstream culture, they’re encouraged by the Huckabees, Cruzes, and Santorums of the world to believe that they’re being persecuted because they can’t make everybody else march to their drumbeat.

The Republicans’ problem is that to most Americans, that’s the antithesis of religious liberty, and a surefire political loser.

 


 

See: http://www.nationalmemo.com/why-the-gop-has-the-first-amendment-upside-down/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=MM_frequency_six&utm_campaign=Morning%20Memo%20-%202015-07-01&utm_content=A

One of the Most Incredible Weeks for the Progressive Movement in Ages

Let’s take a look at what happened this week.

Source: American Prospect, via AlterNet

Author: Robert Kuttner

Emphasis Mine

What an extraordinary week in the political and spiritual life of this nation.

It was a week in which President Obama found the voice that so many of us hoped we discerned in 2008; a week in which two Justices of the Supreme Court resolved that the legitimacy of the institution and their own legacy as jurists was more important than the narrow partisan agenda that Justices Roberts and Kennedy have so often carried out; a week in which liberals could feel good about ourselves and the haters of the right were thrown seriously off balance.

Yet this is one of those inflection points in American politics that could go either way. It could energize the forces of racial justice and racial healing. It could reconstitute the Supreme Court as a body that takes the Constitution seriously. The week’s events could shame, embarrass and divide the political right.

Or the events of the week — the Court upholding the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage; the racist South giving up a cherished symbol of slavery; President Obama explicitly and eloquently embracing the pain of the black experience –– could energize the haters.

Consider Obama first. His eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney was the finest expression of political and moral leadership of his presidency. Obama has spoken this candidly on race only once before as a political leader — when his candidacy was on the line in 2008, in the Reverend Jeremiah Wright affair.

In that speech, Obama managed to thread the needle of candidly explaining the experience and the rhetoric of Reverend Wright’s generation, without either condoning the things Wright had said (“God Damn America”), or quite throwing him under the bus. And in the process, Obama won praise for his skill as a leader and a truth-teller on race, and defused a potentially lethal threat to his candidacy.

For the most part, Obama has been timid about using his rhetorical gifts; timid about fighting for what he believes; reticent about engaging Congress or the nation. The exceptional moment, such as the Charleston eulogy shows what the man is capable of — but allows himself to express only rarely.

It is just possible, now in the last 18 months of his presidency, that Obama, with not much to lose, will embrace the boldness that has eluded him for most his two terms — on race, on gun control, on social justice generally, and on the red-state/blue state divisions that are far more severe now than when he gave the now-famous speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that established him as a national contender.

There was also one sour note in Obama’s successes of past week. His victory in the fight to pursue a Pacific trade deal was the wrong battle for the wrong goal. Countless progressives wondered where that fighting spirit was when we needed it on so many battles that he and we lost.

There is a direct connection between the racial equality that was, paradoxically, advanced by the Charleston massacre and the economic inequality that has only worsened on Obama’s watch. The more that the One Percent makes off with the lion’s share of America’s productivity, the more the white working class and the downwardly mobile middle class are inclined to scapegoat people of color and immigrants.

(N.B.: Yes!)

How much stronger a hand Obama would have to call America to be its best self on racial healing, if he had been a fighter all along for economic justice; if working class people of all races felt that they had a champion in him. Instead, the biggest economic battle of his second term was on behalf of a corporate wish list.

That said, there is now momentum on the progressive side. There is movement for the symbolism of taking down the Confederate battle flag to give way to substance. If Southern Republican leaders now recognize the pain that such symbols cause, how about the pain of the denial of the right to vote? How about the pain of denial of health coverage under Medicaid so that Republican leaders can score political points against Obama.

The president was eloquent in his eulogy on the subject of grace.

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God… As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. [Applause.] He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves.

Well, if we as a nation were to stop with the removal of the Confederate flag from official sites, that would be cheap grace indeed. To shift the metaphor from Christian to Jewish, one thinks of the Passover song, Dayenu, which means, “It would have been enough:” If God had led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, that would have been enough; if He had given us the Torah, it would been enough. And so on. But God’s blessings are infinite.

To flip the sentiment, if the Southern elite took down the flag — that would not be enough. And if they restored the right to vote freely, that would not be enough. And if America got serious about police brutality, that would not be enough. And if conservatives stopped trying to overturn affirmative action — that would only be the bare beginning of what we owe the descendants of slavery, segregation and continued acts of racial violence.

Which brings me to the Supreme Court. In the decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, Justice Roberts rose to the occasion with true eloquence and discernment. Justice Kennedy, author of the soaring decision on gay marriage, has displayed growth and compassion on a range of issues. Even in dissent, in the gay marriage decision Justice Roberts acknowledged what a momentous shift the acceptance of same-sex marriage was and is.

Justice Scalia was revealed, even more than before, as a petty, vindictive crank. His cheap, personal put-downs of Kennedy and Roberts in dissent can hardly serve to win them over in future decisions.

Here again, if the Court really wants to atone for past sins, Roberts and Kennedy might revisit the absurd decision throwing out key sections of the Voting Rights Act on the premise that racist denial of the right to vote was no longer a problem; and the equally bizarre decision equating money with speech. They have now had time for penitence — to see the real-world consequences of their handiwork and consider just how wrong they were, not just on the Constitution but on how politics actually operates.

Still to come will be a decision on affirmative action, where past signals have suggested that the Roberts Court is ready to overturn it. After Charleston, and the national conversation that the massacre has opened, this would not be the moment to destroy the society’s ability to very partially remediate past oppression.

All in all, a good week for everything decent in America. But only the bare beginnings of the progress we need to make. President Obama needs to keep following that inner light. The new Supreme Court majority needs to continue aiming higher than narrow partisanship. And the rest of us need to broaden the struggle for economic as well as racial justice.

 

Robert Kuttner is the former co-editor of the American Prospect and a senior fellow at Demos. His latest book is “Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency.”

See: http://www.alternet.org/culture/one-most-incredible-weeks-progressive-movement-ages?akid=13255.123424.mgnLe2&rd=1&src=newsletter1038583&t=13

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments Over Obamacare

Source: The Washington Spectator via AlterNet

Author: Lou Dubose

Emphasis Mine

N.B.: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was crafted and passed by the House and Senate, and signed into law by the POTUS.

The amicus briefs filed in the challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be argued before the Supreme Court on March 4 illuminate the Great American Political-Cultural divide.

Those who filed briefs in defense of Obama’s legislation are recognizable: theAmerican Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. There is a different anthropology among those who filed briefs supporting the plaintiffs who are challenging tax subsidies for low-income buyers of health-care insurance policies.

Texas’s Black Americans for Life considers abortion and contraception “a tool by some who wish to target the African-American community.”

Colorado’s Mountain State Legal Foundation is “dedicated to bringing before the courts those issues vital to the defense and preservation of individual liberties, the right to own and use property, and the free enterprise system.”

The American Civil Rights Union is “dedicated to defending all of our constitutional rights, not just those that might be politically correct.”

Senator John Cornyn of Texas is named on the amicus brief filed by 16 Congressional Republicans, an unlikely choice to lead any health-care pleading.

At 26.8 percent (24.81 percent after ACA enrollment), Texas leads the nation in the percentage of residents lacking health-care coverage. It also leads the nation in the number of eligible residents, 1,046,430, who are shut out of Medicaid. Texas, like 25 other Republican-led states, has rejected the Medicaid expansion provided through the ACA.

A Fight over Five Words

King v. Burwell is a fight over five words in the statute: “Exchanges established by the State.

The ACA creates insurance-market exchanges through which anyone can purchase private health-insurance policies. In an attempt to subvert the law, most states governed by Republicans refused to establish exchanges. But the law also created a federal exchange, where residents who are denied access to state exchanges can purchase insurance. Currently, state and federal exchanges provide subsidies for low-income purchasers of insurance.

According to the plaintiffs, one phrase in a section of the statute describing the subsidies—“Exchanges set up by the State”—restricts the subsidy program to state insurance exchanges, although other language indicates that Congress intended to extend subsidies to all insurance buyers who meet the law’s income qualification.

This lawsuit isn’t what it claims to be.

Contradictions and hypocrisy underlie the intent of the plaintiffs and the politicians supporting them.

Consider the plaintiffs.

David King and three other residents of Virginia, which has no exchange, qualify for subsidies provided through the federal exchange. They are asking the Court to overturn the subsidies, because, on ideological grounds, they object to the ACA’s mandate requiring individual health-care coverage.

Consider the elected officials.

John Cornyn, for example. Or Florida’s Marco Rubio, or Utah’s Jake Garn, or Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn. All signed the anti-subsidy amicus brief filed with the Court, and all represent states whose Republican governments refused to create exchanges. They are petitioning the Supreme Court to hand down a decision that will strip subsidies from low-income residents in the states they represent.

It requires at least four justices to decide to hear a case. The activist and Republican majority on the Roberts Court has decided to hear the appeal of a lawsuit filed and financed by ideologues determined to destroy the Affordable Care Act.

To decide on behalf of the plaintiffs, the justices will have to ignore principles by which they have decided cases requiring them to interpret the meaning of statutes. Yale Law School Professor Abbe Gluck explains in an article published by Scotusblog.

Republican justices, he writes, in particular Antonin Scalia, are “textualists” who have “repeatedly emphasized that textual interpretation is to be sophisticated, ‘holistic’ and ‘contextual,’ not ‘wooden’ or ‘literal,’ to use Justice Scalia’s words.”

Gluck quotes Scalia’s explaining textualism in an opinion handed down in June 2014, in which the justice describes “the fundamental canon of statutory construction that the words of a statute must be read in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme.”

Gluck also quotes four of the five Republican justices who published a joint dissent in the 2012 case that upheld critical provisions of the ACA. They address the very subsidies that are now before the Court: “Congress provided a backup scheme; if a State declines to participate in the operation of an exchange, the Federal Government will step in and operate an exchange in that State. That system collapses if the federal subsidies are invalidated.”

The preceding sentence is critically important. The Republican justices know “the system collapses if the federal subsidies are invalidated.”

Lou Dubose is a former Observer editor and co-author of “The Hammer: Tom DeLay, God, Money and the Rise of the Republican Congress.”

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/supreme-court-hear-arguments-over-obamacare?akid=12841.123424.cMyi55&rd=1&src=newsletter1032656&t=19

Empathy vs the GOP

George Lakoff: “EMAPTHY is at the heart of progressive thought. It is the CAPACITY to put oneself in the shoes of others – not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one’s countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially THOSE who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed. Empathy is the capacity to care, to feel what others feel, to understand what others are facing and what their lives are like. Empathy EXTENDSwell beyond feeling to understanding, and it extends beyond individuals to groups, communities, peoples, even species. Empathy is at the heart of REAL rationality, because it goes to the heart of our values, which are the basis of our sense of justice.

    Progressives CARE about others as well as themselves. They have a moral obligation to act on their empathy – a social responsibility in addition to personal responsibility, a responsibility to make the world better by making themselves better. This leads to a view of a government that cares about its citizens and has a moral obligation to protect and empower them. Protection includes worker, consumer, and environmental protection as well as safety nets and health care. Empowerment includes what is in the president’s stimulus plan: infrastructure, education, communication, energy, the availability of credit from banks, a stock market that works. No one can earn anything at all in this country without protection and empowerment by the government. All progressive legislation is made on this basis….In describing his ideal Supreme Court justice, President Obama cited empathy as a MAJOR desideratum. Why? Because that is what our democracy is about. A justice has to take empathy into account because his or her decisions will affect the lives of others. Before making a decision you have toPUT yourself in the shoes of those who your decision will affect. Similarly, in judging causation, fairness requires that SOCIAL causes as well as individual causes be taken into account. Empathy forces you to notice what is crucial in so many Supreme Court cases: systemic and social causes and whom a decision can harm. As such, empathy correctly understood is crucial to judgment. A judge WITHOUT empathy is a judge UNFIT for a democracy.

    President Obama has described Justice Sotomayor in empathetic terms – a life story that would lead her to UNDERSTAND people who live through oppression and deprivation and what it does to them. In other words, a life story that would allow her to APPRECIAYE the consequences of judicial decisions and the causal effects of living in an unequal society.

    Empathy in this sense is a THREAT to conservatism, which features individual, not social, responsibility and a strict, punitive form of “justice.” It is no surprise that empathy would be a MAJOR conservative target in the Sotomayor evaluation.” 

EMPHASIS Mine

SEE: http://www.truthout.org/053109A