Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What’s the matter with Arkansas?...

Yes, indeed, what’s the matter with Arkansas and Maine and a few other states that I could also mention?  Yesterday, the Senate’s Democratic leadership tried to steer a passage of a huge Defense Appropriation bill, which included two simple civil rights measures.  The Democratic majority was shy four votes to end debate, thus opening the Senate floor to a Republican filibuster.  The two measures would have extended civil rights to groups who serve in the military or who would like to serve.  The first group, of course, are gay men and lesbians who would like to serve openly in their country’s military and perhaps even die in its service, but are excluded because of their life style.  The second group is comprised of young men and women who arrived in this country while young but without proper documentation.  The amendments to the appropriation bill would have eliminated the discrimination against the first group and the undocumented workers in the second group would have been eligible to become citizens by serving in this country’s military or by attending college.
Neither proposal is earth-shaking or strange.  In fact, a federal judge in California has recently ruled that the military’s current policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a violation of freedom of speech.  [Here]  The interesting thing about that California case was that it was brought to court by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay conservative group. 
The Senate vote was not directly about these two matters.  I guess nothing in D.C. is straightforward.  The vote was about the issue of cloture, the parliamentary motion to end debate.  Without ending debate, there was to be a promised Republican-led endless filibuster, preventing a vote on the bill and its amendments.  The Democratic effort failed with a vote of  56-43 with Lisa Murkowski of Alaska not voting.  (60 votes were needed.)
The Senate vote was strictly along party lines with the GOP voting en masse to keep the hot air flowing and thus keep the issues, including the appropriation bill, from coming to a vote.
All the Democrats voted to end the debate with the exception of both Arkansas Senators, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, who voted with the GOP.  I bet that Bill Clinton is sorry that he spent so much time campaigning throughout Arkansas for her Democratic nomination.  What a waste of Clinton’s time!

Yes, my question remains.  What in the world is wrong with Arkansas?  Is there some problem with the water down there that turns folks nasty and ornery and stupid?  Did Blanche really think that she would have a better chance of reelection if she turned against the leadership of her own party?  Or does she and fellow Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor believe that this is what Democratic voters in her state wish?
The NYTimes has an interesting take on the trajectory of the battle to win equality for homosexuals.  John Schwartz, the paper’s National Legal Correspondent, pointed out [Here] that while the legal battle in the Senate might have stalled for the moment, the fight within the federal courts system is continuing.  The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the California ban on same sex marriage, as well as DADT, have all been declared unconstitutional in recent months within the federal court system and are being appealed upward towards the Supreme Court.
In recent years the climate of opinion towards homosexual life styles has shifted dramatically throughout this country to a point where Gallup reports [Here] that a majority of those polled do not believe that homosexual relations are wrong.  This no doubt also reflects a seismic shift in the attitudes of our young people today.
If the White House is looking for ways to reenergize its progressive and liberal base, some open WH support for eliminating DADT would be a fine way to start.  Wouldn’t it be grand to see some happy, cheering faces and some of them in our nation’s uniforms?
I’ve polished up my marching shoes (and cane.)  I’m ready.  
How about you?... 

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