Friday, April 10, 2009

The Liberal Quadfecta - Gay Rights, Stimulus, Socialists, and Easter Eggs

It’s Friday, April 10, 2009. Here’s what we’re looking at:

With the Iowa decision a week ago today and recent legislation in Vermont and Washington, DC, is having an unofficial “Gay Rights Week” according to blogger Andrew Gelman. They have done some very insightful posts on a Congressional fiat in DC, what the polls say about Americans’ attitudes towards gay marriage, and polls about employment discrimination against homosexuals.

We’ve mentioned before that Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is feeling the heat from his constituents due to his rejection of stimulus funds. Now he is on the air in South Carolina defending himself.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-ÁL) recently told a group of local officials at a breakfast with them that “Some of the men and women I work with in Congress are socialists”. When asked to clarify, he said that 17 members of Congress were socialists. He did not name names, so it is unclear whether he had been thinking this for some time or if he was just pulling a Bob Dylan (Start watching at 0:47).

Finally, the Obama staff has released the design for this year’s eggs in the White House Easter Egg Roll. Pretty interesting.

Have a Happy Easter Weekend!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Giving the Troops a Chance to Vote

Approximately 96% of Americans believe it is important that U.S. military personnel should be given ample opportunity to vote in their elections. But according to a new study by the Pew Center on the States, about a third of the states do not give our troops enough time to cast their vote.

Furthermore, the study found that 25 states and Washington DC need to improve their absentee voting systems for military personnel abroad. They also mentioned that the other 25 states still have room for further improvements.

"For active-duty military serving overseas, the voting process takes an average of 29 days to complete in states that allow time to vote. For voters abroad hailing from “no time to vote” states, the process takes 66 days on average. The length of the process, however, can vary widely. For example, in Arizona and Kansas, the process can be as short as eight days, while it can take overseas military voters from Alabama 88 days from start to finish."

19 of the states that do give ample time are able to do so because they receive ballots from military personnel via fax or email. The study found that this raises concerns about how widespread the availability of this technology is, as well as concerns about voting privacy.

To read the report, including the “Lessons Learned” and suggested solutions, click here.

At WAYLA, we believe it is only right to correct these problems. Those who fight for our freedom deserve to partake in our freedoms.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Obama, America, and Islam

President Barack Obama addressed the Turkish Parliament yesterday in his first ever Presidential speech to a predominantly Muslim nation.

He told them that the U.S. "is not and never will be at war with Islam" - a powerful statement that demonstrated his willingness to reach out to the Muslim world. He also had this to say:

"we will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world for the better – including my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country – I know, because I am one of them."

It is a strong message because many in the Muslim world see the American President as one of their own though not a fellow-believer himself. It may be exactly the move the President needs to make for a positive change to our foreign policy.

But how will it be seen back home?

Turks, Iraqis, and others in the "Muslim world" can not re-elect the President, Americans do. Luckily for Obama, the majority of Americans support the efforts to reach out to Muslims.

According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 81% of Americans feel it is important to improve relations with Muslim nations. 65% of Americans said they felt Obama would handle that task "about right".

The answers to the second question split largely on partisan lines. According to the Washington Post "nearly half of Republicans said Obama is apt to overreach in his efforts to advance U.S. relations, while large majorities of Democrats and independents said they think he will walk the right line."

That being said, the poll also found some disturbing figures out Americans' attitudes towards the Muslim faith.

48% of Americans hold an "unfavorable" view of Islam, while only 41% hold a "favorable" view - the largest such difference recorded by the poll since it was first taken following 9/11. And While 58% said Islam is a "peaceful" religion, a sizable minority of 29% believes even mainstream Islam promotes violence.

The poll also found that 55% of Americans lack a basic familiarity with Islam, and about 53% of Americans do not personally know a Muslim. These individuals were much more likely to hold negative views.

In fact, most of the demographical trends were not too surprising.

While the poll suggests that Americans are becoming more antagonistic to Islam, other trends provide more hope for reconcile. 20% more Americans say they are familiar with Islam than they did in 2002. 6% more Americans say they know a Muslim than they did in 2001.

Only 1% of Americans are Muslim, but if more Americans get to know them and their faith, the less critical they will be of Islam.

But that could be a long time from now, and President Obama’s message to the Muslim world might be saying more than he wants it to. Yes, Americans want to reach out to the Muslim world, but with such persistently negative views about Islam in the United States, Obama puts himself at risk when he speaks of how his life was enriched by Muslims. In fact, a March 11 Pew poll found that 11% of Americans still wrongly believe the current President is a Muslim himself.

The President has had to decide between a message that brings safe political security and a message that brings bold change in American rhetoric on the international stage.

Of course, there is a certain benefit to consistency in politics and this is exactly the kind of change he promised.

Do you think President Obama’s remarks will help him or hurt him politically? Leave a comment!

Monday, April 6, 2009

What is the Future of Gay Marriage in Iowa?

As you have probably heard by now, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday that marriage must be open to gay and lesbian individuals. Because gay marriage is now legal in a “heartland” state - and not just liberal coast states - this is an historic ruling that will most certainly uplift liberals and terrify conservatives.

But one need look no further than California to know that a State Supreme Court ruling can quickly be overturned by the people - the infamous Proposition 8 killed California’s short lived legality of gay marriage.

Will the same thing happen in Iowa?

An amendment to the Iowa Constitution will be necessary to overturn the Court’s decision. The process to do so will take at least three years - so gay marriage will still be legal in Iowa until at least 2012. It requires approval of consecutive General Assemblies of the State Legislature (the next of which will not begin until 2010) and a statewide referendum.

Theoretically, neither should be too difficult to achieve. A poll taken by the University of Iowa in November found the majority of Iowans (62%) opposed gay marriage.

Yet almost half of those who opposed gay marriage did approve of civil unions - a popular stance among Iowa’s Democratic politicians.

There are two ways such a referendum would move forward. The first is an amendment that would ban gay marriage but set up a way to ensure civil unions. It would be the moderate position that would gain majority support in the State Legislature and many opposed to both gay marriage and civil unions may support it out of pragmatism. But there will be plenty of conservative voters who will not be able to bring themselves to vote for any recognition of gay unions, and a majority might not be reached.

The other way is an amendment that bans both gay marriage and civil unions - an amendment that principled conservatives could support and that most moderates would prefer to the status quo. This would be an amendment less likely to pass through the State Legislature, but more likely to pass by referendum.

Either way, it is not hard to imagine the battle lines already being drawn for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Iowa, with the war chests and political forces already gathering together for a face-off in the years to come. And with three years before a possible referendum to finally ban gay marriage in this Midwest heartland state, both camps will have plenty of time to wage a strong campaign to shift public opinion far enough to their side.

It is a fight that the nation will look to with the utmost interest - with greater attention paid to it than Proposition 8 in California or similar efforts in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, or Vermont. As a moderate state that represents rural, traditionalist America, Iowa may very well become the defining example of progress in the history of the Gay Rights Movement.

As they say in Presidential contests, "as Iowa goes, so goes the nation".

UPDATE: A recent post by Nate Silver at finds that Iowa could potentially defeat a gay marriage ban by 2012.

Using a model he developed, he finds that each year a proposed ban will lose 2% of it's support. By 2012 one could expect such a ban in Iowa to pass with only 50.4% - basically a toss-up. He also includes a timeline of when we can expect each state to vote down theoretical gay marriage bans.

These findings seem to be consistent with the general notion that younger voters support gay marriage by wider margins. As older voters die and younger people reach the voting age it becomes harder and harder to pass such a referendum. This is, of course, in addition to the broader change in attitude among Americans - many of whom are finding themselves supportive of gay marriage when they use to oppose the idea.