“In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party…
“But ideology cannot be a substitute for a determination to think for yourself, for a willingness to study an issue objectively…
“Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader.”
– Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), in his concession letter to the GOP voters of Indiana, after his loss, Tuesday, to Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock in the Indiana Republican Senate Primary
Hyper-partisanship leads to hyperbole: we are in a civil war in America, for the soul of the Constitution. Those who grip tightly to the politics of division are enemies of the republic, and destroyers of our union.
If you grew up in the South, as I did, you know that for many of your neighbors, Lee may have surrendered the Confederacy, but so-called Southern Pride did not acquiesce – not in 1865 at Appomattox, and not in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act. The 1976 campaign of the “reformed” segregationist, George Wallace, for the Republican presidential nomination, showed Ronald Reagan that there was a strong anti-Kennedy/Johnson/Democrat undercurrent in the Old South, waiting to be resuscitated. So Reagan gave them a platform, and a party. His “Southern strategy” made the party of Lincoln’s Union the voice of Nathan Bedford Forrest‘s Confederacy, a viciously conservative chorus of racists, homeschoolers and homophobes – Bible thumpers who believe surrender to ignorance is the only way back into the Garden, as if critical thinking, by itself, is responsible for the Fall of Man.
If Mourdock becomes the Junior Senator from Indiana, Lugar warns in his letter, “his answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook.” The Tea Party, then, wants more than just control over the three branches of our federal government – they want this to be a country that takes a stand, on principle, against everything from homosexuality to Islam.
Lugar’s resounding defeat to an admitted political isolationist, and North Carolina’s insistence on an amendment to the state constitution, taking away relationship rights from committed couples, is as powerful a barrage on the civil structure and protections of our federal government as the Confederacy firing at Fort Sumter, 151 years ago.
Into this structural distress of our Union, where extremism commands the media, drops Wednesday’s revelation that Barack Obama, President of the United States, is personally, publicly supporting the right of gay and lesbian Americans to legally marry. “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” the president told ABC News’ Robin Roberts, in a hastily arranged interview.
Reacting to Obama’s declaration, presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, reiterated his belief that “States are able to make decisions with regards to domestic partnership benefits,” and went on to describe the entire discussion as “a very tender and sensitive topic, as are many social issues.”
Setting aside Romney’s hesitation to assume an unequivocal position, civil rights are not a “social issue;” they are an issue based on the freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution. Indeed, the freedom to be who you are is an essential part of being an American. Because of our country’s sordid history of slavery and Jim Crow, there is, perhaps understandably, the desire to think of bigotry and the struggle for civil rights as the sole realm of the African American experience. But this is a civil rights issue as well, because it punishes members of the LGBT community, taking away from them the right to commit their love to someone for the rest of their lives, with all the benefits of partnership available to married heterosexuals.
The over 30 states that have voted to ban gay marriage – either through law or an amendment to the state’s constitution – are not endowing new rights to one-man-one-woman couples with their specific definition of marriage; they are disenfranchising committed couples from the economic and other partnership rights a legal, civil marriage allows. In North Carolina, that now includes committed heterosexual couples who choose not to marry.
In his ABC interview, President Obama acknowledged that although some are eager to engage our American penchant for supposedly Christian, moral superiority, “when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated…and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president.”
Despite that meaningful, moral justification for his decision, there are still many on the far right who feel Barack Obama is the ultimate anti-American, whose presidency puts “our future as a sovereign nation…at risk.”
“[W]e shall not have any coarse (sic) but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November,” writes Ponch McPhee, the editor of the March newsletter of the Republican Party of Greene County, Virginia, “This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue.”
One hopes they heed the advice of Abraham Lincoln, who warned, in his first inaugural address:
“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.'”