Hillary Clinton's increasingly likely candidacy for president in 2016 must be extremely frustrating for Republican strategists. Clinton is a strong candidate, but she is not invincible. If Clinton runs, she will face nominal opposition within her own party, but obviously a Republican will run against her. The most recent polls show her defeating any Republican challenger by between 7-9 points.
The veritable collapse of the Republican Party in California is not news, but it is worth considering, particularly given the party's failure, again, to even have a serious campaign for governor in 2014. California is the most populous state in the country, but it was at the center of the Republican Party for most of the years from 1952-1992, a period of ascendancy for the Party nationally. The national ticket in most of those years included national politicians, notably Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan with roots in California. Many big states are aligned with one party, but California is different both because of the Republican's strong recent history there but also because the diversity of the state that makes it both a harbinger of what the country will become and a place that should be a battleground for competing ideas and visions. In recent years, however, the Republican Party was not made itself relevant in that battleground.
It is the nature of progressive change that it often seems natural and inevitable in retrospect. This sometimes makes it easy to forget how much hard work it took and how much uncertainty there was in the middle of the struggle. This week provided evidence of how far we are from progressive change in other areas. The horrible shootings in both Washington DC and Chicago are a reminder, although it is not clear why anybody would need one, that gun violence remains a serious problem in the US. Both of these shooting took a terrible human tool killing a total of 13 and wounding at least that many.
These tragedies have led, not to any discussion of gun regulations, as few in Washington think there can be any progress at this time in that area. Rather, they have led to a strange kind of meta-narrative in which the theme seems to be that nobody is talking about gun regulations after these shootings. This is, of course, a way of talking about gun regulations, albeit one that is not very confrontational, nor very hopeful.
The language of tyranny, freedom, oppression and the like which one hears so much on the far right today demonstrates this. Participants in this open carry march are being prodded into action by calls to fight against creeping, or perhaps more immediate, threats of tyranny in the U.S. Fighting against tyranny in the U.S. is a good and noble cause, but significantly less so when, like today, there is no actual threat of tyranny coming to the U.S. By building disagreements over policy into a story of freedom versus tyranny, manipulators like Kokesh make their supporters feel more important, as if they are motivated by a noble cause not just political and economic frustration.
This was a hugely important week for LGBT Americans as well as advocates for equality for all citizens because the Supreme Court heard cases regarding California's Proposition 8 as well as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It was also, however, a very important week for the Supreme Court. The Court may or may not decide to overturn both of these discriminatory pieces of legislation, but it is clear that the arc of history is again bending towards equality. LGBT Americans are winning; and those that would continue to seek to deny equality to all Americans are losing. This puts the Court in the position of either helping to bring about an inevitable, and positive, change, or of being conspicuous in support of bigoted laws and prejudices from another era.
Perhaps learning that his son is gay forced Portman to rethink his views about gay people, leading him to question things that in the back, or front, of his mind he had believed: that being gay is a lifestyle choice, that gay people are unfit to raise children or that they are not capable of establishing enduring loving relationships. However, believing these things today can only be the product of a mind that is deliberately closed to the mountains of scientific, personal and anecdotal evidence around us. In fairness to Portman, and conservatives generally, many progressives had also been notably silent on marriage equality until very recently.
President Barack Obama's statement that he believes in marriage equality could have been sooner and could have been stronger, but it is still significant. While Obama may have been slightly behind the curve on this statement, it is also a reminder of how quickly public opinion has changed for the better on marriage equality. It was only 16 years ago when the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, announced his support for the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Clinton was also in the midst of a reelection campaign, but was in a better position regarding the election in 1996 when he made that decision than Obama is now. Nonetheless, outside of the LGBT community and a few other liberals, nobody was too upset about Clinton's decision.
It is difficult look at Governor Cuomo at this time and not be reminded of President Obama's failure to support marriage equality. Today, Barack Obama is to the right of the New York State Senate on civil rights. The president's failure to support marriage equality remains baffling. The explanation that Obama has taken this position because of concerns about his chances at reelection in 2012 is the simplest rationale for Obama's position, but it is not altogether satisfactory.
As the election approaches there is growing reason to believe that the Tea Party is neither distinct from, or even a part of, the Republican Party. Instead the two have, to a large extent, become the same. Some within the Republican Party may differ in style and presentation from Tea Party Republicans, but that is where the distinction ends. Few Republicans have spoken out about rhetorical excesses of the Tea Party, and when they have, they have turned their attention to individual actions or gaffes -- Rich Iott's Nazi outfits and the like -- rather than to positions or views on major issues. Even the most bizarre claims that have gotten good traction in the Tea Party movement, such as those asserting that President Obama is not a citizen, have rarely been soundly refuted by others in the Republican Party.
As President Obama prepares to make his first Supreme Court appointment, the religious right appears to be shifting gears away from focusing on abortion rights and turning their attention more to the question of gay marriage. This reflects a broader strategy on the part of the Christian Right to make fighting against marriage equality the top issue on their agenda.
To some extent the Republicans electoral woes can be attributed to an unpopular president winding down his second term while the country is mired in an unpopular war and the economy is struggling. More thoughtful Republicans, however, may begin to realize that something larger than this is going on. In recent decades, the Republican coalition has rested on three core groups: social conservatives, foreign policy hawks, and small government/anti-tax voters. Although this coalition was first forged by Richard Nixon in 1968, it could more accurately be described as the Reagan coalition because nobody held it together as well as Reagan. Through his hawkish views on the Soviet Union, anti-tax rhetoric and conservative social views, Reagan was able to get elected president relatively easily two times. Moreover, he seemed to effortlessly balance the needs of these three often conflicting constituencies. Wealthy voters who were not social conservatives seemed unconvinced that he was really a social conservative, while social conservatives did not seem to mind that he prioritized tax cuts and building up the military over their goals.