Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kentuckians: Your Vote Is Already Symbolic

This November, a lot of people will vote for a candidate they don't really support. Some will do it because they buy into one party's lesser of two evils narrative in which a win for the opposing party means apocalyptic changes to the American way of life--40 days of darkness, dogs and cats living together, you know the drill. Others will vote either Democrat or Republican because they see a vote for a third party candidate as a meaningless symbolic gesture since third party candidates have no chance of ever winning an election in the current political climate.

The big problem with the mindset that a symbolic vote is a wasted vote is that in most states, your vote is already symbolic barring a major swing in voting patterns. If you don't believe me, check out the electoral vote map tool at Since I live in Kentucky, I'll use it as an example.

To begin my little experiment, I'm going to award states to a party if that party has won the state in the last five elections, which gives us a map where the Democratic party is ahead 242 votes to the GOP's 102. Things are not looking good for Romney, so let's try to help him out by awarding any state that has been red in three of the last five elections to the Republicans UNLESS that state went to Obama in 2008. Kentucky stays undecided even though it meets the criteria because I'm trying to set up a situation in which my vote matters. After doing that, Obama is still at 242, but Romney is in slightly better shape with 181 electoral votes. If Obama wins Florida, Romney can't win, so let's go ahead and turn it red.

Now we've got 10 states left in play: Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hapshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. None of these states is big enough to give Obama the win on its own, so since Romney's still behind 41 electoral votes, let's see if we can even up the score. Most of the remaining states are fairly evenly split or tend to vote Democrat, but there are 3 states that went to Obama in 2008 where a GOP victory is the norm (at least back to 1972--the earliest election shown on the site): Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia. We'll let them plead temporary insanity for 2008 and give them to Romney as well, bringing him up to 240 votes.

Now that things are reasonably close, let's turn any state that the Democrats have won in 4 out of the last 5 elections blue. That brings Obama up to 257 electoral votes.That means if he wins Ohio, he wins the election, and my vote in Kentucky doesn't matter. Other than Kentucky (8 electoral votes) and Ohio (18 electoral votes), there are two other states remaining on the map: Colorado (9 votes) and Nevada (6 votes). With only 240 votes, Romney can't win without Ohio, so let's give him a fighting chance and assume all the voter suppression tricks they're playing there work out in the GOP's favor.

That puts us in a dead heat with Obama at 257 votes and Romney at 258. For either candidate to win, he'll need to win 2 out of 3 states. If Colorado and Nevada go to the same party (as they have in the past 3 elections), my vote once again doesn't matter. If they split, Kentucky's electoral votes will decide the race, so if the race in Kentucky is extremely close (unlikely, since Kentucky has gone to the GOP in 7 of the past 10 elections), my individual vote for one of the two major party candidates might determine who wins the presidency.

Long story short: Unless you live in Florida or Ohio, your vote is probably symbolic anyway, so why not cast your symbolic vote for someone you can actually believe in. It's not going to allow them to win, but if enough people do it, it will send a clear message that you're tired of choosing between the same two bad options every 4 years. If enough people send that message, it might actually be heard.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why Obama Is Wrong About Gay Marriage

From the July 2012 issue of Bazooka Magazine

Recently, Democratic tribalists everywhere went on the hopium addict’s equivalent of a three-day coke binge over the fact that President Obama made a statement in support of gay marriage. They applauded Obama’s brave position and treated the statement as a huge victory for equal rights. One small problem: There was absolutely no bravery in Obama’s statement. It was wishy-washy, pussified political hedging at its best.

Don’t get me wrong; A sitting president openly admitting that he supports marriage equality, especially in an election year, is a good thing. At the very least, it indicates that most Americans are comfortable enough with the idea that it’s no longer political Kryptonite. Unfortunately, Obama’s support of gay marriage is expressed purely in terms of his personal beliefs. When it comes to the government’s role in handling marriage equality, he says that he believes each state should decide.  

Aside from the jaw-dropping irony of a bi-racial president advocating a states’ rights argument, Obama’s position has implications that are actually harmful the cause of gay rights. By saying that the legality of gay marriage should be decided by the states, Obama is essentially saying that sexual orientation is not protected under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. While it is true that the Supreme Court has so far refused to extend “Suspect Class” status--which entitles cases involving members of the class a higher level of judicial scrutiny--to homosexuals, laws that restrict rights based on sexual orientation are still unconstitutional unless it can be shown that said laws represent a legitimate government interest.

“Legitimate government interest” is a legal term that no doubt has a very specific technical meaning derived from countless court decisions. However, since I’m not a lawyer and you’re probably not either, let’s assume that in layman’s terms it basically means that the law has to in some way prevent harm to society at large. So let’s consider whether gay marriage has the potential to affect those outside of the marriage in a negative way. There are a few major arguments about the harmful effects of gay marriage:

Gay marriage violates the First Amendment rights of Christians.
The argument relies on the idea that the legal institution of marriage and the religious institution of marriage are one and the same, and that marriage equality would somehow obligate churches to recognize gay marriage as legitimate in the eyes of the church. Since Christian churches are currently under no obligation to grant religious legitimacy to secular, Jewish, Pagan, or other non-Christian marriages, this seems unlikely. If a church is engaged in a non-religious activity for which it receives public funding (such as running an adoption agency or hospital), it may be required to recognize the legal rights of a married couple (gay or straight) married outside of the church, but that’s a requirement of the funding. If church-run institutions want discriminate under the guise of religion, they have to do it without taxpayer dollars. The other main argument--that the very existence of gay marriage in some way infringes on religious freedom--is a case of, as Jon Stewart put it, confusing “persecution” with “not getting your way.”

Gay marriage violates the sanctity of marriage.
This is basically the religious argument with a shroud of obfuscation around the religious stuff, kind of like dressing up Creationism as science and calling it “Intelligent Design.” The idea here is that there’s something culturally sacred (in a non-religious way), about marriage. Since something like half of all marriages end in divorce and people raffle their marital status off to midgets on reality TV, this argument doesn’t hold much water.

Even if marriage in this country did mean something, the idea that letting gays marry would somehow harm straight marriages just doesn’t make sense. It’s like saying  that allowing gay people to play tennis will somehow ruin tennis for straight people. The only way legalizing gay marriage is going to hurt a straight marriage is if one of the spouses is gay to begin with, in which case the marriage is probably destined to be short, unhappy, or both no matter what.

If we allow same-sex marriage, people will start marrying animals and inanimate objects.
This slippery slope argument ignores the fact that as far as the government is concerned marriage is a legal contract between two people. As soon as you acknowledge that animals and inanimate objects can’t enter into legal arrangements, this argument falls apart.  

Gay marriage will harm children.
When rational arguments are weak, people tend to fall back on emotional appeals, and one of the most effective is “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” This one is usually broken down into several sub-arguments:
  • Same-sex marriage will lead to an increase in pedophilia: This one combines the turtle-fucking slippery slope argument aboves with the tendency of certain bigots to equate homosexuality with pedophilia (despite the lack of any statistical or scientific evidence to support such claims). It’s every bit as ridiculous as claiming that straight marriage legitimizes statutory rape.  
  • Gay marriage will lead to gay adoption, which will harm the adopted children: Even if we accept that legalizing gay marriage will make it easier for gay couples to adopt, there is no evidence that growing up in a same-sex household harms a child in any way. So this argument is bullshit. Because science.
  • I don’t want to explain buttsex to my kids: OK, I’ll admit that this argument usually isn’t phrased quite so bluntly, but when you strip it down, this is what you’re left with. The obvious flaw here, of course, is that explaining gay marriage to a child doesn’t require any more detail about fucking than explaining straight marriage does. In most case, something along the lines of “those two people are married because they love each other” does the trick just fine no matter what configuration of genitals is involved. I suspect that most people who use this argument are more worried that at some point they’ll have to admit that some people have sex for fun rather than procreation, which some religions look down upon. But that’s a religious issue and the government has absolutely no obligation to shield your child from ideas that might not conform to your chosen mythology.  

As I’ve already said, I’m no lawyer, but none of the above arguments against gay marriage seem to me to suggest a legitimate government interest in preventing gay people from entering into a legal contract. Therefore, gay marriage should be protected by the Constitution. Even if we pretend that Obama’s comments on gay marriage were sincere (which is kind of a stretch, given the context), his decision to invoke the states’ rights argument implies that homosexuals are second-class citizens who are not entitled to the same legal rights as the rest of us. Or, to paraphrase Winston Wolfe, maybe the gay community should “not start sucking Obama’s dick quite yet.”