Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ronald Reagan, liberal Democrat

This is a speech given by Ronald Reagan in 1948 in support of President Truman and of rising Democratic star Hubert Humphrey, who was running for the Senate against incumbent Republican Joseph Ball in Minnesota. Humphrey was a strong supporter of labor unions and of America's growing civil rights movement. Reagan at the time was President of a union himself, the Screen Actors Guild.

If I didn't know this was Reagan, I'd never believe it. Here's an overview of things Reagan says in the speech.

- He criticizes corporations for increasing profits while they let wages stagnate.

- He laments that economic concerns have forced retirees to return to work.

- He condemns Big Oil for price gouging and profiteering. He specifically criticizes Standard Oil. You know it as Exxon. Wow, nothing changes.

- He is critical of the fact that free markets have failed to bring down high prices for consumer goods.

- He condemns the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Taft-Hartley is the landmark legislation that dramatically restricts the activities of unions.

- He condemns the Republican Party for failing to adequately support social security.

- He demands government support for low-income housing.

- He condemns tax breaks for the wealthy.

- He is critical of the curtailment of Federal school lunch programs.

I have always heard that as a young man Reagan had supported FDR and the New Deal, but I thought he had already turned to the dark side by the late 40's. Imagine what a great force of good he might have become if he'd stayed a liberal when he embarked on his political career a few years later. An articulate, charismatic spokesman for labor rights, social security, progressive taxation, affordable housing. Imagine what could have been.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Deconstruction Dobson Part II: Answering more Arguments Against Gay Marriage

New Senate race updates 3/7, click here.

Ok, let's polish off the balance of Dr. James Dobson's Eleven Arguments Against Gay Marriage.

2. Children will suffer most.

Here Dobson is just making a bunch of presumptions based on his own bigotry. First, that married same-sex partners will not be monogamous (unlike all hetero couples, right?). Second, that hetero parents are guaranteed to be better parents.

It's a little hard to tell exactly what Dobson is arguing in this part of Eleven Arguments, but I guess the whole point goes back to his belief that gay marriage is a harbinger of a "polyamorous" future. Dobson claims a lot of expertise regarding the conclusions of "social scientists" but doesn't tell us what scientists he's talking about. Presumably, scientists who quote the Old Testament a lot.

3. Public schools in every state will embrace homosexuality.
"With the legalization of homosexual marriage, every public school in the nation will be required to teach this perversion as the moral equivalent of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Textbooks, even in conservative regions, will have to depict man/man and woman/woman relationships, and stories written for children as young as elementary school, or even kindergarten, will have to give equal space and emphasis to homosexuals. How can a child, fresh out of toddlerhood, comprehend the meaning of adult sexuality?"

This one is totally nonsensical. Dobson worries that because of gay marriage, kindergartners will be taught about adult sexuality. If that's true, wouldn't they already be learning about adult sexuality, since we already have heterosexual marriage? I think what Dobson means to say is that by keeping gay marriage illegal, we can keep young people from finding out about the existence of non-heterosexual relationships. Where does this man live? In a cave in an Amish village? He also worries that public schools will lose the ability to teach that homosexuality is immoral and perverted. Again, what century does this man live in? Public schools don't currently teach that homosexuality is immoral and perverted. If they did, they'd be sued into the ground, and rightly so.

4. Adoption laws will be instantly obsolete.

This is probably the closest Dobson ever comes to saying something that's actually true. If gay marriage becomes legal, laws prohibiting gay couples from adopting will have to change. But since he doesn't actually cite any research that indicates that children placed with gay couples will be worse off than children placed with hetero couples or single people, he hasn't proven anything.

5. Foster-care programs will be impacted dramatically.
"Foster-care parents will be required to undergo "sensitivity training" to rid themselves of bias in favor of heterosexuality, and will have to affirm homosexuality in children and teens. Moral training, at least as it applies to sexuality, will be forbidden. Again, this is the current law in California."

I don't know what kind of sensitivity training in California Dobson is talking about, but if it existed in 2004 when California did not have gay marriage, then the argument gay marriage equals sensitivity training doesn't work.

6. The health care system will stagger and perhaps collapse.
"...millions of new dependents become eligible for coverage. Every HIV-positive patient needs only to find a partner to receive the same coverage as offered to an employee." It is estimated by some analysts that an initial threefold increase in premiums can be anticipated; even with that, it may not be profitable for companies to stay in business."

7. Social Security will be severely stressed.
"Again, with millions of new eligible dependents, what will happen to the Social Security system that is already facing bankruptcy? If it does collapse, what will that mean for elderly people who must rely totally on that meager support?"

In these two arguments, Dobson is worried about same-sex partners obtaining their partners' health care coverage and social security survival benefits. Apparently, he's forgotten that married people tend to live longer, healthier lives than unmarried people, and thus spend more years contributing to their health plans and to the social security system before they start placing great demands on benefits and the entitlement system. And thanks Mr. Dobson, for the suggestion that people with HIV don't deserve health care coverage. You're quite the Christian.

8. Religious freedom will almost certainly be jeopardized.
"Canada is leading the way on this revolutionary path...A man who owned a printing press in Canada was fined $3,400 for refusing to print stationary for a homosexual activist organization."

Canada's curtailment of free speech has gone too far, I agree with that. But to argue that the legalization of gay marriage will in the U.S. will lead to some total transformation of the First Amendment is just a lot of fear mongering. And as for his outrage over a Canadian company running into legal trouble over discrimination, I've got news for Dobson: that kind of discrimination is already illegal in the U.S. Has he ever heard of the Civil Rights Act? Maybe I'd better not ask that.

9. Other nations are watching our march toward homosexual marriage and will follow our lead.
"Marriage among homosexuals will spread throughout the world, just as pornography did after the Nixon Commission declared obscene material “beneficial” to mankind."

Time has already proven Dobson wrong on this one. Canada and Spain enacted gay marriage not long after Eleven Arguments was written, and the institution is doing just fine in both countries. As for equating the legalization of gay marriage with the legalization of pornography, do I really have to dignify that with a response?

10. The gospel of Jesus Christ will be severely curtailed.

Since Christ never condemned homosexuality or same-sex marriage, I'd say this argument is a non-starter.

11. The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become "as it was in the days of Noah" (Matthew 24:37).

The culture war will be over? Don't be silly! What about conservatives' hatred of immigrants? What about the ongoing battle to keep women from controlling their own bodies? To keep the sick from using marijuana? To destroy separation of church and state? To abolish all gun laws? To end public support for the arts?

Mr. Dobson, the culture war is just beginning. And I'll be fighting to make sure you lose.