The To-Do List — Now that we’ve elected an openly gay senator and four states voted for marriage equality, what’s next? Richard Socarides has some suggestions.
The election was three weeks ago, but gays, lesbians, and their supporters are still jubilant over the results—which many consider a turning point for the gay rights movement. Not only was the first pro-gay-marriage President reëlected but his support for gay rights helped put him over the top, energizing base constituencies and generating campaign contributions from liberal donors. That kind of success has one drawback. Gay-rights advocates worry that because they have been so successful over these past four years, they might be hard-pressed to come up with an equally bold and ambitious agenda for the second Obama term. Luckily, they have some ideas for the President.
First, to review: Voters in Wisconsin elected the first openly gay U.S. senator in history, Tammy Baldwin, and there are a number of new gay members in the House of Representatives. Most importantly, after losing over thirty state-ballot referenda on gay marriage, gay-rights advocates won all four such contests this year—in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington—increasing the number of states where same-sex marriage is legal to nine, and giving the Supreme Court a sign about where Americans stand on the issue as it considers several related cases. These dramatic victories were reflections of advances during Obama’s first term, including an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military.
So what now?
1. Appointing an openly gay person to the cabinet. This has never been done. Both the nomination and the confirmation hearings would mark a milestone. Right now, the leading candidates are the Export-Import Bank president Fred Hochberg to be Secretary of Commerce or John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management, to be Secretary of Interior, a department he served in during the Clinton Administration. Both would be safe picks. They are old Washington hands who have both been previously confirmed by the Senate. A bolder choice would be appointing the outgoing Congressman Barney Frank as Treasury Secretary. Obama also needs to put a openly gay senior policy person in charge of gay-rights at the White House.
2. The President’s signature on an executive order extending sexual-orientation nondiscrimination protections to employees of all federal contractors. This is an item held over from the first term. Because so many American companies do business with the government, this would protect a great many workers. It would also compensate for the Administration’s inability to move a long-stalled federal bill on employment non-discrimination, the Employment Non Discrimination Act (E.N.D.A.), through a republican-controlled House.
3. The promulgation of regulations that are inclusive of L.G.B.T. Americans, especially with respect to the rights of gay military families, health-care reform, and government-wide data collection (including the census, which still does not ask respondents their sexual orientation). A lot depends upon how the post-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military treats gay families. The same is true with respect to health-care reform. And gays have long been neglected in data collection.
There are more, including the repeal of DOMA and pushing for a national gay civil rights bill. It can’t happen if you don’t try.
Oh, The Irony — Democrats are learning to love Citizens United.
After a year Democrats mostly spent fretting, freaking out, and fulminating against Citizens United — the 2010 Supreme Court decision that unleashed this year’s flood of unfettered political spending — it was a bit unexpected to hear Michael Podhorzer, the political director of the AFL-CIO, say on Friday, “Super PACs are so awesome. It was long overdue that the Supreme Court recognized that corporations are people like everybody else.”
Podhorzer, who spoke on a panel at the RootsCamp left-wing organizing conference, was being sarcastic — sort of. Progressives still really hate Citizens United. But in one of the most ironic turns of the 2012 election, groups on the left were some of the most skilled exploiters of the 2010 court decision.
Take Podhorzer, who got a new title this year: executive director of Workers’ Voice, the super PAC the AFL-CIO started in April. Prior to Citizens United, under a 1947 law, unions were only allowed to communicate politically with their own members; they couldn’t campaign to the general public. When the Supreme Court was hearing Citizens United, the AFL-CIO actually filed an amicus brief aimed at this provision — and got its wish.
The result, Podhorzer said, was like “taking off the handcuffs.” The AFL-CIO and other unions conducted door-knocking, phone-banking and advertising campaigns this year aimed at the general public in elections they hoped to influence, and made a big difference.
It was a similar story for Credo, a for-profit phone company that supports progressive causes. As a corporation, it was subject to pre-Citizens United campaign-finance restrictions that prevented it from spending money on campaigns. But this election cycle, the company formed a super PAC and targeted 10 vulnerable Republican congressional incumbents with an intensive, volunteer-based campaign of field organizing in their districts. Five of them, including firebrand Florida Rep. Allen West, were defeated.
“Allen West raised $17 million, spent $13 million and lost by a couple thousand votes,” Becky Bond, political director of Credo Mobile and president of the Credo Super PAC, boasted. “With just a few hundred thousand [dollars], we made the difference.”
This may be one of the major takeaways of the 2012 campaign: When liberals learned to stop worrying and love Citizens United, they benefited from it more than the conservatives who supported the decision.
The Tampa Social Scene — Carl Hiaasen looks at the star of the Petraeus mess.
Jill Kelley, the mystery vixen in the David Petraeus scandal, is now flanked by a high-profile Washington attorney and a professional “crisis manager.”
This can only mean that she wants her own reality show, a book deal or both.
It was Kelley who received the anonymous e-mail warnings from Petraeus’ biographer-slash-mistress, Paula Broadwell, and it was Kelley who then contacted a friend in the FBI, Agent Frederic Humphries II.
(Humphries, an anti-terrorism specialist, once emailed to Kelley a shirtless photo of himself. Write your own joke.)
Broadwell thought Kelley was making a move on Petraeus, and told her to back off. Once the feds identified Broadwell as the source of the e-mails, her affair with Petraeus was exposed, he resigned as director of the CIA — and another distinguished public career ended in a sleazy Florida skid.
News organizations have described Kelley as a “Tampa socialite,” a term heard about as often as “Boston alligator-wrestler.” Recent media reports have demoted Kelley to “a Tampa hostess,” a phrase which calls to mind one of those upbeat greeters at the Olive Garden.
Doonesbury — Back home again.