Sometimes I say that the incredible depth of my pessimism is responsible for my generally sunny disposition. If you expect the absolute worst then, more often than not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a reality that is only partially, rather than totally, horrible.
I fear that this sort of thinking has come to undergird my politics, and my expectations in that arena. Politics is the arena I engage in, and the arena that this post will focus on. Years ago I didn’t just march against the Iraq war; I protested offshore aquaculture policy for God’s sake. Granted, I had a crush on (and would later date, for like a week) one of the organizers, but I was a liberal whose bleeding heart had not yet been cauterized by reality. I’m glad I protested the war and I would do it again. People can look back and know there were those voices “standing athwart history, yelling ‘stop!’” Nevertheless, while dialogue can bring about change and did ultimately inform the war, the fact remains that we went to war.
What I’m saying is that I keep my hopes depressingly realistic compared to what I’d actually like to see. They are still things to be hoped for, though!
The issue within which I most clearly see victories is gay marriage. I was going to say that my hope for a sweeping Supreme Court victory this summer defied logical understanding, and I’ve come to realize that indeed it does – because this is a matter of love, of people’s yearning for both passion as well as simple dignity and equality. This is a moment in history. Even if I’m Supremely disappointed this will remain a moment, albeit a longer and more fitful one. The President of the United States mentioned Stonewall in his Inaugural Address. His evolution (maybe combined with the lack of biblical cataclysms in states such as Massachusetts) has stirred support for marriage equality in historically averse populations. At the same time that the President was being re-elected the people of two states for the first time popularly voted for marriage equality, and it can continue to win on the ballot. I’ll here nevertheless note, though, that civil rights should not be subject to a majority’s vote.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, it seems that Justices Breyer and / or Ginsburg – Ginsburg more so – might retire within the next four years. President Obama could be given the opportunity to appoint more Justices than either Clinton or W. Bush did. In fact, he could appoint more than even Reagan did, though the court’s demographics will likely remain right of center. Justice Scalia will give a big “fuck you” to Death – as he will to nearly everyone excluding his mother, I’d imagine – until a properly radical-right Republican holds the Presidency. Nevertheless, Obama’s influence will be felt on American jurisprudence for many years to come, and I look forward to seeing his potential choices. Jeez you guys, Justice Sotomayor is totes lovable! (Seriously, she’s great. I know less about Justice Kagan, but I hear her writing is impactful, which is a rarity on the Court generally and for its liberals especially.)
Right of center though the court may be, the only Republican-appointed Justice I directly cited is Scalia not just because he is inherently entertaining, but because the others can swing both ways. (Maybe even including Justice Thomas, but only if I was using that as a sexual euphemism and the lucky young man was subservient to him.) See: Chief Justice Roberts upholding the Affordable Care Act. Obama can care for Obamacare as some of its most important provisions kick in, including the state health exchanges. I’m pretty hopeful that they won’t fall apart and, having succeeded in succeeding, will make fools of all the yammering states’ rights Republicans who vitriolically but foolhardily ceded state control to the federal government. Further work needs to be done to shore up and fix aspects of Obamacare, and health care generally, and I’m grateful to have Obama around to mediate.
Overhauling health care law was one of the signature achievements of Obama’s first term. Overhauling immigration law could very well be one of the signature achievements of his second. Reform will likely never fit what I dream, but I myself have no idea what proper (if anything in my mind can be considered the least bit proper) reform should look like. It is blindingly obvious that it is needed, of course. To put a broad touch on things, I hope the reelection of this Kenyan motherfucker puts a fire under enough asses to get immigration reform done. I do hope the reform won’t focus quite as much on STEM educations as I’ve seen mooted, but besides what Im about to mention (and a few other things) I’ll take what I can get. (Depressing realism rears its head.) The prospect of the creation of a sort of second-tier citizenship is despicable and, I believe, being suggested only by people who identify demographic changes as “problems” and want to neuter rather than address their roots. The nature of our country is indeed changing; the character of our country should be up for this change.
Guns have been addressed by others here in a more artful (and educated and more personal) way than I could ever reach, let alone surpass. That’s my lead-in to not even trying! I will, however, slip in my… utter disbelief that much of anything will politically happen, unfortunately. Dan left room for just such an outcome. I will not decry one amendment from the Bill of Rights more than another, despite the fact that the NRA and Republicans occasionally seem to not like the first amendment very much, comparatively (or, in fact, generally). Comprehensive gun control wouldn’t have to violate the 2nd amendment, but its passage is nevertheless untenable, despite the urgency and passion that Obama’s recent State of the Union revealed in him. Getting rid of the gun-show loophole is accomplishable, and despite Republican proclamations about Obama’s imperialism on this and other issues, enough of them seem to agree with this minor modification of existing law for it to be enacted. It is not enough, but it is something.
The tragedy of Newtown brought sharp relief to our nation’s need to reevaluate multiple things. It is just, proper and hopeful that our nation is at last (again?) having a dialogue about gun control. (Again, please see Dan’s post.) I hope we can also talk about the way we treat and address mental health issues as well. Painting the issue as broadly as I just did, it would appear that on this I share broad agreement with the NRA, which sends shivers down my spine. Legislation has been somewhat quietly introduced and discussed, but here where I have hope I also have fear – of heightened rather than ameliorated stigmatization, of less personal freedom, of less tolerance for out-of-the-ordinary personality quirks.
On many issues, the President carries the majority of the nation with him. He does not, unfortunately, carry the majority of the nation’s elected officials. I could here segue into a discussion of voting rights and accessibility, and you better believe that I identify many recent Republican pushes on voting issues to be undemocratic and horrific, but I believe this is currently seen, nationally, as an issue because of Obama’s State of the Union. Although I inserted a mention of the SOTU above, I generally want this post to more properly reflect what my thoughts were when I first started drafting it, pre-SOTU. Thus I’ll end with a note that the first sentence of this paragraph is reason to be happy and hopeful. The second is reason to (sometimes greatly) temper expectations, but not to simply give up on having expectations.