In today's New York Times, John Harwood burns through his allotted column inches discussing President Obama's European trip and foreign policy agen--no, I mean Congress wrangling with the issues of immigration and abortion bans--oops, not that either. Rather, Mr. Harwood laments the lands that Air Force One forgot:
...Mr. Obama has not given North Dakota his time. It is one of six states he has not visited as president, along with South Dakota, Arkansas, Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. He has gone just once to Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming.
Mr. Obama’s near-complete absence from more than 25 percent of the states, from which he is politically estranged, is no surprise, in that it reflects routine cost-benefit calculations of the modern presidency. But in a country splintered by partisanship and race, it may also have consequences.
Harwood's point in a nutshell: 25% is also 1/4. 1/4 is half of one-half, and that's halfway to 100%! Of course, the 25% of states Mr. Obama has visited one time or less contain ~33,801, 418 people
, or 10.76%
of the population. As Harwood surely noted in his exhaustive and carefully-considered editing process, 10.76%<25%; ergo, criticizing the President for ignoring 25% of the U.S. is easier than criticizing him for visiting "only" 90% of Americans.
So Harwood chose to cite the bigger number over the more instructive number. But still! "In a country splintered by partisanship and race," he fears, this misleading statistic "may also have consequences."
Like, secession consequences? Roving bands of jilted, nullification-advocating Dakotans? No, something much more important: media metanarrative consequences. And that's why Obama can't win.
What if you had to file your tax returns 4 times over, in different ways each time?
What if your reward for marking up 4 packets of forms, crunching 4 sets of calculations, and combing 4 returns for audit-triggering mistakes was paying more money in taxes?
What if the only reason for your quadrupled tax day workload is because you're married?
Would you throw your abacus out the window? Rip your W-2's to shreds? Or would you cartwheel over to the divorce lawyer, if only to make the filling out forms stop, please God, just stop?
Welcome to the unsexiest part of same-sex marriage: the federal-state tax return waltz.
The study of politics may be called political science, but we all know that politics is a game. Political outcomes that seem linear and preordained (SCOTUS dismantles Obamacare = Americans less likely to vote for Obama) aren't always what they seem. Obama can win the politics if the Supreme Court overturns large portions of the ACA, and his approach doesn't have to be complicated.
Here are the facts: the Republican noise machine and echo chamber have made Obamacare unpopular overall, but the individual elements of the plan are actually popular. Moreover, Obama's Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, implemented a health care overhaul in Massachusetts that is not only shockingly similar to Obamacare, but is popular and has worked. Moreover, there are provisions in the ACA that are both enormously popular and have already been enacted.
This is not the hopelessly unfavorable political environment one would expect the president would have to tread, despite what horserace-obsessed media narratives might anticipate, should the Supreme Court overturn the ACA in its entirety. Instead, the president will have a chance to simply and boldly state what the Supremes have rejected, what his opponents might be gloating over, and what must be done right now.
Here's a paraphrase of what I think Obama should say, minutes after a Supreme Court takedown of the ACA, in an address to the American people:
That's me (on the right) and my husband on our wedding day. September 4, 2011, Nantucket MA.
I came out in 2004, but I didn't begin my life as an out gay man with much political passion about marriage equality. The whole issue seemed distant from my own life: I was 22, newly out, and enjoying dating for the first time in my life. Hospital visitation, partner benefits, property transfer rights--all these issues didn't matter to a kid just starting his sexual life. Besides, the whole concept of "marriage" seemed so...heteronormative. Even if I did find a boyfriend I wanted to spend my life with, what would a marriage do to define it?
I was an active participant in the 2004 elections, canvassing in Pennsylvania for John Kerry. I remember being aware of all the gay marriage bans on state ballots being used to drive up conservative turnout that year, but I didn't feel connected to the outcome of those initiatives. The whole issue wasn't about me. It was about some theoretical old gay couple who wanted a piece of paper to codify a union that I neither envisioned nor desired for myself.
Then, on election night that year, George W. Bush won. Those gay marriage initiatives passed across the nation. The sadness, the agony washed over me that night as I realized what The Nephew came to understand this week: a vote against marriage equality is a vote against every single member of the LGBT community, regardless of their relationship status. Those anti-equality voters weren't voting for an institution, they were voting against me--who I am--the clear, hard fact of my homosexuality which was decided for me by God, or genetics, or hormones in the womb many years before.
Here we are, about 11 seconds into the General Election Campaign!!!! (TM), and we already have a delightful little scandal for each and every media personality to inspect and nibble on. The Hilary Rosen/Ann Romney kerfuffle is but a mildly tasty amuse bouche for the feast of gaffes, misspeaks and narrative-losing stumbles that will flash across our screens and news pages until November. With the current tempest, every news personality can sit in their respective teapots and ask: Does raising 5 seemingly normal, generally happy kids mean you've "worked a day in your life"? They'll ask Obama's campaign, since Obama is now responsible for all things Democrats say on the record; Obama 2012 will say, "Yes! Raising 5 kids is a lot of work! Good for Ann! Hilary Rosen is wrong!" The news personalities will ask Romney's campaign too, and they'll say, "Yes! Raising 5 kids is a lot of work! Shame on Obama for sending Hilary Rosen to insult Ann Romney!" Then the news personalities will go on-air, or to their blogs or what have you, and ask the $1 billion question: WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION!!!! (TM)?????
Here's the answer: it means nothing.
I'm turning 30 this year. The first presidential election in which I had the opportunity to vote was in 2000, when the gods considered our nation's political shenanigans of the previous half decade--government shutdowns, impeachment, and the general decline of cooperative representative democracy as a means to fix America's problems--and decided to sprinkle a heavy dose of mishigas on the proceedings. Since that moment of hanging chads and valid-one-time-only Supreme Court rulings almost 12 years ago, the circumstances of my life have have been directly affected by almost every issue and event that has shaped the political narrative of our country. I've grown into an adult in the midst of constitutional crises, the worst terrorist attack our nation has ever seen, one of the worst recessions its ever endured, and the most frozen and polarized legislative machinery in generations. For many Americans, the ways in which our government's actions affect their daily lives are ambiguous, or uncertain, or insignificant; for me, they have been of central importance.
But with nearly 30 years of life under my belt, I've also gained a small measure of perspective on where our nation's been in its grand and gaudy history, where it sits at this unique moment of strife and turmoil, and where all of it might lead. All that I've lived and known as a man and a political animal has been colored with something deeper and essential: the struggles and triumphs, the choices made and the gifts given by my family and those I love, all of which has contributed to the person I am at this very moment.
As the nation hitches up its proverbial breeches for another slog through the mud of presidential electioneering, I've come up with the best reason to vote for my candidate in 2012, my president, Barack Obama:
Chris Christie is obese. Governor Christie's wife, Mary Pat, is not obese. The causes of Governor Christie's weight problem are myriad, but probably involve some combination of what he eats, how often and in what ways he is physically active, and some genetic predisposition towards obesity. We know now that there is a very significant genetic component to weight gain and fat distribution, which can hinder the weight control tactics of even the most disciplined dieter and exerciser. Therefore, much like a homosexual man or woman is born gay but can choose to act or not act on that essential part of who they are, Governor Christie's actions as a human make him "fat", but he was most likely born with a high likelihood of being fat as an adult.
Nevertheless, he is a fat man married to a thin woman. Now, I personally have no problem with fat people. Some of my best friends are fat. My own father came out as fat after being a closeted thin man up until college, and the whole family has supported him in his struggle to reconcile his obesity with an otherwise wonderful, productive, and fulfilling life. So don't get me wrong, this has nothing to do with how I personally feel about fat people.
I just don't think that fat people should be allowed to marry thin people.
In fact, if fat people insist on having the right to marry thin people, I think each state should hold a referendum where the people can decide whether fat-thin marriage will be allowed in that state. Allow me to explain my position...
Despite denials to the contrary, it appears that anti-choice activists have convinced the Susan G. Komen Foundation to de-fund some of Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screening activities. Setting aside for a moment the bitter irony of potentially risking women's lives to "support a culture of life", I want to discuss a fundamental belief that fuels the activities of those who seek an end to reproductive rights for women: personhood. We've seen personhood amendments on the ballot in states like Mississippi recently, and such legislation is poised to sweep the nation this year. Supposing for a moment that I could accept that humans are indeed humans deserving of legal "personhood" the very instant an egg is fertilized by a sperm (spoiler alert, I don't accept that), and therefore the perfectly legal right of a woman to obtain an abortion is tantamount to murder, I think it's reasonable to also define in a newer, broader way what exactly amounts to murder in the United States of America.
On September 11, 2001, both my homes were attacked.
I am both a native son of Arlington, Virginia, and a committed resident of New York City for most of the past 10 years. As a student at Columbia on that wretched day, I watched the plumes of grey smoke barrel through the canyons of downtown streets from the roof of the tallest building on campus, one doomed tower standing at the World Trade Center where but minutes before two stood burning. When news came of the attack on the Pentagon, and other possible attacks on landmarks throughout Washington, I experienced the terror of not knowing whether my family was safe; my mother, father, and brother were working all over Arlington and its nearby towns that day, and my mother's office sat perhaps a mile from where the plane pierced the handsomely simple facade of the Pentagon. No cell phone or land line could connect me to someone, anyone, telling me that all were accounted for. When my brother circumvented the phones and smartly e-mailed that my family was safe, I collapsed onto my dorm room bed and wept. I wouldn't cry again on September 11, 2001, or for months afterwards.
By the "F" word, I mean (cover your eyes, those of delicate constitution) faggot.
That word was hurled repeatedly at me and my boyfriend, walking down a busy street in Brooklyn (of all places, you might be thinking), holding hands while walking home two steamy evenings ago. To be accurate, the man who used the slur addressed us with the calm, casual if loud and clear tone of a lost driver looking for directions. We walked past him while he was retrieving something from his parked car, and when he saw our hands clasped he declared,