Get over it

As you know, I’m no dancing in the streets, tears of joy, etc., person when it comes to marriage equality.  All well in good, but the negativity over this on the right is just absurd and laughable to me.  For example, Bobby Jindal— a Rhodes Scholar who has turned himself into an utter intellectual embarrassment:

“The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body,” Jindal said in a statement on Friday. “If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court.”

“Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that,” he added.

Although several other 2016 GOP candidates came out in opposition to the decision, with a few even suggesting the need for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn it, they all stopped short of advocating for what amounts to an undemocratic insurrection.

Enjoyed Jennifer Rubin (a phrase I rarely use) on Jindal

First, the intensity with which one utters disapproval is not a measure of one’s conservative bona fides.  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s hysterical rhetoric suggesting we defund the Supreme Court does not make him more conservative or more anti-gay marriage than other conservatives who disagreed with the court. Former Texas governor Rick Perry said, “I’m a firm believer in traditional marriage, and I also believe the 10th Amendment leaves it to each state to decide this issue. I fundamentally disagree with the court rewriting the law and assaulting the 10th Amendment. Our founding fathers did not intend for the judicial branch to legislate from the bench.” The former version not only turns off people who disagree with Jindal on this issue but a great many others who think now think he’s reckless.

But what really got me started on thinking about this post was a NYT article on how Evangelicals are dealing with this new reality:

WEST CHICAGO, Ill. — The tone of the worship service was set at the start. An opening prayer declared it “a dark day.” The sermon focused on a psalm of lament. In between, a pastor read a statement proclaiming the church’s elders and staff “deeply saddened.” …

“I came in with a great sense of lament, because of what happened on Friday,” the church’s teaching pastor, Lon Allison, told worshipers before reading a statement declaring, “We cannot accept or adhere to any legal, political or cultural redefinition of biblical marriage, nor will we conduct or endorse same-sex ceremonies.”

A dark day?  Sadness?  Get over it.  Nobody is going to make you marry gay couples in your church.  Nobody.  Presumably, these churches accept that gay couples exist, whether they like it or not.  Similarly, civil marriage exists, whether they like it or not.  In reality (and not like this point hasn’t been made hundreds of times), it literally has almost nothing to do with them.  A major theme of Christianity is doing what is right, whether it is popular or not.  Well, then, accept that you have an unpopular, minority viewpoint, continue to practice it, and stop freaking out that the majority of America (and our political institutions) disagrees with you.

And, of course, this is really going to have very little impact on people who aren’t actually gay couples or their close families.  And everybody will just get used to it.  Jon Bernstein:

As early as the general election in 2016, but almost certainly soon afterward, same-sex marriage will be an ordinary part of life in the U.S.

Oh, bigotry will still be with us, and it will be appalling in some situations. Changing attitudes takes time. And there are still legal and legislative challenges ahead, beginning with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to fire people because they’re gay.

Marriage, however, is a done deal. And despite the close 5-4 split in Friday’s Supreme Court decision, including vigorous dissents to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion, this issue will rapidly be tossed into the history books alongside questions of whether women should vote or alcohol should be prohibited.

In other words, this is going to be very much like Loving v. Virginia, which recognized the right to marriage regardless of race or ethnicity.

How do I know? Because we’ve seen it in state after state in which marriage equality was enacted. There’s no controversy remaining in Massachusetts; for that matter, there’s little or no controversy remaining in Iowa, which had court-imposed marriage equality in 2009. On a related issue, conflict over gays and lesbians serving in the military ended immediately after “don’t ask, don’t tell” was replaced four years ago. In practice, extending full citizenship and human rights to all regardless of sexual orientation and identity is actually not all that controversial — at least not after the fact.

Yep.  Evan (9) is just old enough to get what’s going on here, but by the time Sarah (4) is a teenager she’ll just live in a world where men can marry women, men can marry men, and women can marry women, and that’s that.  This ship has sailed.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice Krugman column on slavery’s long-lasting impact on American society and politics.

2) Loved this Vox piece on how the voice for Siri was created (by a human) and on how voice artists work.

3) Some days I hate how much email I get.  Definitely some good suggestions in here.  Some I already use (Doodle!).  And my favorite piece of advice:

“If we email each other three times over the same issue, it’s time for one of us to pick up the phone.”

4) Why North Carolina lawmakers just back-tracked part way on the state’s Voter ID law.

5) Enjoyed Toobin’s take on King v. Burwell.

For writing the opinion upholding the law, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., is being hailed (and denounced) as a latter-day Earl Warren—a Republican appointee who turns out to be a secret liberal. This is hardly accurate. Roberts is still the author of the Shelby County case, which gutted the Voting Rights Act, and an eager member of the court majority in Citizens United and all the other cases that undermined our system of regulating political campaigns. But as his restrained and cogent opinion in King demonstrated, he is not a partisan ideologue. Quoting liberally from opinions by Justice Antonin Scalia, Roberts made the commonsensical observation that a law must be interpreted as a whole, not by the analysis of a few stray words here and there. And the context of the full A.C.A. compelled the obvious conclusion that the subsidies were intended to go to individuals on both the federal as well as state exchanges. The law would otherwise make no sense.

Meanwhile, George Will writes that this is all part of the liberal project to overthrow the Constitution.  Seriously.  It’s just amusing to me that so many still seem to see Will as a more reasonable, sober conservative.  If only.

6) Really enjoyed this essay on why “white privilege” is not the problem.  Does not explicitly mention John Roberts, but certainly akin to his idea that the best way to get past racism is to stop talking about race at all.  I don’t necessarily agree with all this,  but it is very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

7) Also enjoyed Reihan Salam’s same-sex marriage take:

Back in 2005, Peter Berkowitz, a conservative political theorist, made the case that the triumph of same-sex civil marriage was all but inevitable. The reason he gave was that arguments that can be made in the language of individual freedom almost always win out in the constitutional realm over those grounded in other considerations. One could argue that the debate over abortion is a clash between two interpretations of what individual freedom demands. Do we protect the autonomy of women or do we protect the rights of unborn children? The fact that both sides of the abortion debate can be rooted in the language of individual freedom has kept the debate alive.

But the debate over same-sex marriage is different. Advocates of same-sex marriage insist that the organization of intimate relations should be left up to the individuals in question, an idea that has become an article of faith among modern Americans. Proponents alone are rooting their arguments in individual freedoms. Critics of same-sex marriage, in contrast, tend to emphasize the potential harms children might experience as society moves away from traditional marriage.

8) Got in a huge argument on FB about the problem of sexism in Jurassic World.  I really don’t like the way this essay seems to suggest every dumb thing a female character does or every poor writing choice is inherently “sexist.”  Sure there’s some valid points here, but I would argue that when you are alienating the likes of me from your feminism, you are doing more harm than good to the feminist cause.

9) Do conservatives have more self-control than liberals?  At least one study says so.

In a series of three studies with more than 300 participants, the authors found that people who identify as conservative perform better on tests of self-control than those who identify as liberal regardless of race, socioeconomic status and gender.

They also report that participants’ performance on the tests was influenced by how much they believed in the idea of free will, which the researchers define as the belief that a person is largely responsible for his or her own outcomes.

10) Your big long read for the week– an interesting take from a British science journalist arguing that climate science is way politicized, alarmist, and harming scientific credibility.  There’s definitely some important ideas in here worth really thinking about and considering, but the author (a genuine science journalist, but also a Conservative MP in Parliament), is clearly very political in his take, which very much undermines his credibility.  As for me, on the whole big picture thing, I would say that if chances of catastrophe are not likely, but simply non-trivial, that’s still a damn good reason to try and do something about it.

Photo of the day

Gotta love the post major Supreme Court decision intern dash:

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: News interns run out with the ruling regarding same-sex marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 26: News interns run out with the ruling regarding same-sex marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Alex Wong Getty Images

 

Gay marriage scrooge

I’m pleased the Supreme Court ruled as it did.  I think the decision will result in a huge amount of benefit for gay couples (and their families) with very little cost to society (people being really upset about other people’s marriages strikes me as a pretty minimal cost.  All the arguments about the “harms” of same-sex marriage pretty much come down to “but the bible says its wrong” which is no basis for policy in this country.

Obviously, I’ve read a lot on the matter in the past 24 hours, but my favorite is Richard Posner’s clear argument in a Slate discussion:

John Stuart Mill in On Liberty drew an important distinction between what he called “self-regarding acts” and “other-regarding acts.” The former involves doing things to yourself that don’t harm other people, though they may be self-destructive. The latter involves doing things that do harm other people. He thought that government had no business with the former (and hence—his example—the English had no business concerning themselves with polygamy in Utah, though they hated it). Unless it can be shown that same-sex marriage harms people who are not gay (or who are gay but don’t want to marry), there is no compelling reason for state intervention, and specifically for banning same-sex marriage. The dissenters in Obergefell missed this rather obvious point.

I go further than Mill. I say that gratuitous interference in other people’s lives is bigotry. The fact that it is often religiously motivated does not make it less so. The United States is not a theocracy, and religious disapproval of harmless practices is not a proper basis for prohibiting such practices, especially if the practices are highly valued by their practitioners. Gay couples and the children (mostly straight) that they adopt (or that one of them may have given birth to and the other adopts) derive substantial benefits, both economic and psychological, from marriage. Efforts to deny them those benefits by forbidding same-sex marriage confer no offsetting social benefits—in fact no offsetting benefits at all beyond gratifying feelings of hostility toward gays and lesbians, feelings that feed such assertions as that heterosexual marriage is “degraded” by allowing same-sex couples to “annex” the word marriageto their cohabitation.

The best part, though, is where he takes on the dissents:

The chief justice criticizes the majority for “order[ing] the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?” We’re pretty sure we’re not any of the above. And most of us are not convinced that what’s good enough for the Bushmen, the Carthaginians, and the Aztecs should be good enough for us. Ah, the millennia! Ah, the wisdom of ages! How arrogant it would be to think we knew more than the Aztecs—we who don’t even know how to cut a person’s heart out of his chest while’s he still alive, a maneuver they were experts at…

Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent, to which I turn briefly, ascribes to the states that want to forbid same-sex marriage the desire “to encourage potentially procreative conduct to take place within a lasting unit that has long been thought to provide the best atmosphere for raising children. They thus argue that there are reasonable secular grounds for restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples.” That can’t be right. States that forbid same-sex marriage do not do so in an effort to encourage gays and lesbians to marry people of the opposite sex and thereby procreate. The nation is not suffering from a shortage of children. Sterile people are not forbidden to marry, though by definition they do not procreate. There is no greater reason to forbid gay marriage, which is actually good for children by making the children adopted by gay couples (and there are a great many such children), better off emotionally and fiscally.

Alito says that states that want to prohibit same-sex marriage “worry that by officially abandoning the older understanding, they may contribute to marriage’s further decay.” This doesn’t make sense. Why would straight people marry less and procreate less just because gay people also marry and raise adopted children, who, but for adoption, would languish in foster homes?

That said, somehow I don’t think the dissents (mostly Roberts’) are entirely unreasonable given that this decision would have been truly unthinkable a mere 20 years ago.  And you know it would have been.  Emily Bazelon— a big supporter of this decision, for sure– nonetheless has a thoughtful piece on whether we really do want major policy changes happening in this fashion:

The dissenters are clear and thorough about the downsides of this. Chief Justice John Roberts asks sarcastically of his colleagues, “Just who do we think we are?” He also makes this sensible pitch for judicial restraint: “When decisions are reached through democratic means, some people will inevitably be disappointed with the results. But those whose views do not prevail at least know that they have had their say, and accordingly are — in the tradition of our political culture — reconciled to the result of a fair and honest debate.”

Roberts warns that “stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

I’m persuaded by the counter-arguments that rights are rights (and liberty is liberty, damnit) regardless of whether the country is ready for it and whether it has to be imposed by the courts.  I think it is a fair argument, though, that it is better for society when these policy changes happen through ordinary democratic processes.

So, why then, the title of this post?  I guess I’m frustrated that this has come to symbolize so much of the contemporary liberal project.  Sure, this is really good for gays and their families, but I didn’t see a tenth as much passion (of changed FB profile photos) when millions of Americans received literally (potentially) life-saving access to health insurance and protection against personal financial catastrophe that can come from health problems.  You would think that this decision had magically eliminated poverty and human suffering.  Alright, then, I guess I’m just a same-sex marriage scrooge.

Why can’t I just be happy for this decision and gays and their families?  Because political agendas, activism, and attention are– at least to a degree– zero sum.  Attention focused on gay rights is not focused on poverty, structural inequality, structural racism, the catastrophe of our criminal justice system (and the much-related War on Drugs), etc., which I would argue creates way more harm to way more people.  Actually, then, maybe I should be happy as the gay rights thing is pretty much won now.  Maybe this will mean more liberal energy translated into other areas where we really need to make a difference.  I doubt it, but I can hope.

Quick hits (part I)

1) It’s hard out there for a pollster.  Nice piece on why it is getting harder and harder to do accurate polling these days.

2) It’s going to be harder than ever for NC to have enough good teachers given how the Republicans in charge feel about education.

3) Wonkblog with a great series of maps on America’s ethnic/racial demographics.

4) Europe’s biggest problem (one we fortunately do not share) is it’s low birth rate.

5) The destruction of defendant’s rights.

6) How working mothers are good for kis:

The researchers find statistically significant differences in outcomes for both boys and girls, though the outcomes are different.

  • Daughters of working moms grow up to earn more money, in part because daughters of working moms are more likely to be employed and more likely to be employed in a supervisory role.
  • Sons of working moms don’t have significantly different economic outcomes, but dogrow up to be more likely to spend time taking care of family members or doing household chores.

In other words, the adult children of mothers who held jobs when they were little kids are likely to grow up as adults who are somewhat less gender-conforming. Their daughters “lean in” more in the labor market, and their sons “lean in” more at home.

7) With all the other big Supreme Court news (yeah, I’ll get to Obergefell), hardly anybody noticed part of the new deal getting rolled back with a ruling on raisins.  Yes, raisins.

8) Another little noticed, but important, Supreme Court case on race and criminal justice.

9) The NC legislature wants to eliminate Driver’s Ed (my oldest just finished the classroom portion a week ago).  There may or not be good reasons to do this, but their justification is embarrassing.

Their argument for no longer requiring 120,000 teenagers to take drivers ed is that it is too expensive for families. The reason that it is too expensive for families is the Senate Republicans ended the state’s $26m appropriation to teach it, putting cost on families. Gotta admire their audacity if not their logic.

10) With Seinfeld coming to Hulu, loved Todd VanDerWerf with a piece on how Seinfeld changed television.  And Matt Zoller Seitz writes about how Seinfeld paved the way for the TV anti-hero we are so familiar with now.

 

11) Fascinating story of a a DC area man recorded the horrible things an anesthesiologist said about him while he was under.  He won a bunch in a lawsuit.

 

12) Tom Edsall with a really good piece on why don’t the poor rise up:

People today, Ray continues, “are not only able to make choices in an ever-expanding range of situations, but they are also compelled to do so.”

In effect, individualization is a double-edged sword. In exchange for new personal freedoms and rights, beneficiaries are agreeing to, if not being forced to, assume new risks and responsibilities.

In addition to opening the door to self-fulfillment, “the rise of individual rights and freedoms has its price,” writes Nikolai Genov, a sociologist at the Berlin Free University in “Challenges of Individualization,” published earlier this year.

Placing an exclusive stress on the expansion of rights and freedoms of individuals by disregarding or underrating the concomitant rise of individual responsibilities brings about social pathologies. They undermine solidarity as the glue of social life.

As a result, individualization can come “at the expense of various forms of common good in general, and of various forms of solidarity in particular,” Genov observes…

All of which brings us back to the question of why there is so little rebellion against entrenched social and economic injustice.

The answer is that those bearing the most severe costs of inequality are irrelevant to the agenda-setters in both parties. They are political orphans in the new order. They may have a voice in urban politics, but on the national scene they no longer fit into the schema of the left or the right. They are pushed to the periphery except for a brief moment on Election Day when one party wants their votes counted, and the other doesn’t.

More confederate flag

Really enjoyed this Big Steve post pushing back at the idea that taking down the flag doesn’t really matter:

It is just a symbol, they say.  This is not real change.  Well, if it is so trivial why do people think it is so important?  Politics is just like symbols–intersubjective.  That is, we as a society give meaning to stuff, and that meaning resonates.  It shapes perceptions of what is permissible, what is impermissible.  Tomorrow, African Americans will still be overrepresented in our prisons, and more African American men will be killed by cops in the days and months ahead.  Taking down the flag does not remove guns from any racist, nor is Walmart ceasing to sell guns.

BUT this really is a learning moment–that norms of society are shifting, recognizing that racism still exists in a big way, that a key symbol of racism is not to be tolerated, that the myths about the Civil War are to be busted again and again until people get it.  This will not eliminate racism nor the racists, but it is creating political mobilization and not just among the haters who have been mobilized since a multiracial man with a foreign name became President.

While we can debate how much progress has or has not been made and what needs to be done next, removing the symbols of hate helps remove the signal sent that it is ok to discriminate, that it is ok to exclude, that it is ok to hate openly.

And, as long as I’m following up on the flag, enjoyed Hans Noel’s policy take:

I don’t know if the flag’s removal is the best response to the Charleston attacks, but it’s not at all surprising. It’s a perfect illustration of the way policy agendas shape policy change, a model we can trace to John Kingdon, with significant contributions from Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones, among others.

The idea is that policy ideas are almost always solutions in search of a problem. Or rather, they are solutions to a different long-standing problem. This policy stream is nurtured by activists who want to see it enacted, and then an event happens which creates the opportunity to do something, and the activists convince policymakers that their solution is that something. [emphasis in original] …

Once you recognize that most policy changes are the result of activists capitalizing on events, it’s hard to view any one example as a bad thing. If you think the flag shouldn’t fly, then you should take the victory when you can get it.

Also, two really good takes on the politics of why this is all-of-a-sudden so possible.  Joseph Lowndes:

However, growing Republican opposition to the Confederate flag is less evidence that the southern strategy has been rejected than that it has fully succeeded. Republicans no longer needs to court white southerners through overt racism because they have already been largely absorbed into the Republican coalition.

At the same time, the GOP continues to pursue policies  on voter ID laws, affirmative action, and social and economic policies that fall hardest on the majority of African Americans. The GOP can pursue these ends without invoking symbols like the confederate flag.

And a nice analysis from Sean Trende:

n other words, until fairly recently, poor rural whites were the key to winning in the South. So the parties competed over them, and very little happened with the flag. But in the past few years – and generational replacement is playing a part here as well – the South has become increasingly polarized, along with the rest of the country. Rural whites have begun voting Republican from the top of the ticket to the bottom, and Democrats have either written off the region or looked to form coalitions of minorities, urban liberals and suburbanites rather than of minorities, urban liberals and poor whites.

Because Democrats no longer see any electoral payoff in talking to guys with Confederate flags in the back of their pickup trucks, they no longer have any incentive to make even weak gestures toward keeping the flag around. Progressives are freed from their need to keep up their awkward dance with rural Southerners for the sake of maintaining some degree of power in the South (a dance that dates back at least to FDR’s reluctance to endorse anti-lynching laws). Polarization has forced them – and freed them – to explore new paths to power…

but for the most part, I don’t think most Republicans in leadership positions ever had much use for the Confederate flag beyond political calculations.  With rural whites now largely polarized into the Republican column, Southern Republicans no longer have to go hard after their votes.  If anything, they need to watch their flanks in the suburbs and in the business wing of the party, and so it is now more natural for them to move against the flag.

Polarization has, generally speaking, made lawmaking more difficult on the national level. But this, at least, is one instance where it has probably greased the skids.

I’ll admit to being entirely surprised at just how rapidly and completely this change seems to have taken place, but these last three links go a long way, I think, to explaining just how this has happened.  I suspect I’ll be using examples of this rapid shift in my classes for years to come.

Supreme Court gets it right

Well, despite the apoplectic fits on the right from those who clearly understand little of the Supreme Court or statutory interpretation, the Court clearly got it right in King v. Burwell.  I really like Drum’s short summary:

The Supreme Court decided to keep Obamacare subsidies intact, with both Roberts and Kennedy voting with the liberal judges in a 6-3 decision.
And apparently they upheld the subsidies on the plainest possible grounds:

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the words must be understood as part of a larger statutory plan. “In this instance,” he wrote, “the context and structure of the act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.”

Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” [emphasis in Drum] he added. “If at all possible, we must interpret the act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

So this had nothing to do with the possibility that if Congress required states to build their own exchanges in order to get subsidies, that would be unconstitutional coercion on the states. That had been something a few of us speculated on in recent days. Instead it was a white bread ruling: laws have to be interpreted in their entirety, and the entirety of Obamacare very clearly demonstrated that Congress intended subsidies to go to all states, not just those who had set up their own exchanges. [emphasis mine]

Uhhh, yep.  It’s really pretty simple.  And in this (sorry, just the image of the quote– everybody seems to be doing that right in the aftermath) on Slate, there’s a great explanation from Roberts‘ decision on how this is very much judicial restraint, not the judicial activism that they don’t actually understand at all on Fox News.

roberts

And, while we’re at it.  Vox points out how he used the conservative own dissent in the previous big case (Sibelius) to make the case:

Yup, that’s John Roberts quoting the four conservatives who dissented from the first big Supreme Court health care case back in 2012. “Without the federal subsidies … the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all,” they wrote at the time. Regardless of the fog thrown up around this since, Roberts seems to be saying, at one point Congress’s intent was well understood.

Truly, its harder to imagine a much more glaring case of judicial activism than the conservative argument that Congress somehow actually intended to entirely undermine its own law.

And to close this out on a quasi-related note, I really liked this Drum post on why health insurance (which the conservatives really wanted to take away from millions of Americans) is so important:

  • Also, as I like to point out ad nauseam, there’s more to health care than mortality. A dental filling won’t extend your life, but it will sure make you feel better. Ditto for a hip replacement or an antidepressant.
  • Health insurance is a financial lifeline, and in many cases prevents bankruptcy. But there’s more. It’s also a huge reliever of stress. Trying to cobble together care from a complicated, ad hoc network of clinics, ERs, doctors who don’t want to see you, and friends who can loan you a few bucks is soul destroying—especially for people whose lives probably kind of suck to begin with.

In the end, I think this is what health insurance is mostly about: financial security and common decency. Yes, the uninsured can usually patch together health care in an emergency, and sometimes even when it’s not. This is why access to health insurance probably has only a modest effect on health. (Though I don’t believe it’s zero. If we could do a bigger, better, longer-term study we’d almost certainly see a difference.) Still, is a constant, desperate search for health care really a decent thing to tolerate in the richest country in the world? Is relentless, gnawing worry about whether to buy food this week or take your child in for a checkup a decent thing for us to tolerate? Is an endless, threatening barrage of harassment from hospital bill collectors a decent thing for us to tolerate?

Indeed.  So, this is a big win, first in that at least 6 members of the court made the super-obvious call, regardless of politics, and because this means a lot less human suffering than the opposite result.

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