Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Obama and Gay Marriage

Barack Obama has now expressed his support of gay marriage. It isn't surprising. Liberals will love the decision, mostly out of true conviction, but the problem is they don't have much conviction about any issues outside of the social realm.

Obama has eviscerated civil liberties, has given himself the right to jail or even assassinate citizens without charge, and keeps killing people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Somalia and Fillintheblankistan.

I am in favor of marriage equality, but it bothers me that outside of most issues regarding personal choice, the "social issues", liberals don't care what Obama or any other democrat does while in office. Drone strikes, dead babies, bank bailouts, and good old fashioned imperialism, don't rate on the liberal scale of concerns. If Obama gives the green light for Israel to attack Iran, these same people singing his praises won't bat an eye.

No, gay is not the new black and I said as much last year when the New York state legislature made gay marriage legal. This is the Black Agenda Report column I wrote at the time.

Gay Is Not the New Black

On June 24, the New York state legislature passed a groundbreaking bill that legalized gay marriage, making New York one of only six states in the country which permit same sex couples to marry. 

Marriage equality legislation was introduced on a yearly basis and was defeated with regularity, albeit by small margins. This year the Democratic-controlled New York Assembly supported the legislation as it had in the past. It is the Republican-controlled Senate whose support was new and significant.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were both staunch supporters of the bill. More importantly, so were the wealthy Wall Street donors who run New York politics and decide who will and won’t serve in office and under what conditions.

According to the New York Times, history was made because these financial heavy-hitters donors made it so. They worked hand-in-hand with Cuomo to assure the Republicans willing to change their votes that they would be protected from opposition and not pay a political price for their actions. Marriage equality now exists in New York because enough rich people wanted it. 

These same donors made certain that the state’s millionaire’s tax also made history – by disappearing. The same Democratic governor who forced wage and pension concessions from public employee unions was adamant that rich people would not pay their fair share in a time of growing budget deficits. 

He refused to even consider raising the income threshold and allowing the tax to exist in some form. The result is that wealthy New Yorkers now pay less in taxes than working people do.

The marriage equality outcome is right both morally and politically, but it is not the only item on the progressive agenda that New York legislators need to address. 

New York City continues its draconian practice of rounding up Blacks and Latinos through marijuana arrests. State legislative action that would make this misdemeanor a violation – and therefore not subject to arrests – languishes. Rent regulations which allow apartments to be lost to so-called "vacancy decontrol" have not been addressed, pushing more working people out of New York City because they cannot find affordable housing.

Black and Latino legislators came up empty-handed in this session, having nothing to give their constituents that improves their lives or brings them any measure of justice. Gay rights have now usurped the progressive agenda to such an extent that the inaction on rent protections and police state malfeasance will be seen as irrelevant.

Too many progressives shy away from the harder work of fighting the good fight against tough opponents like the hedge fund chieftains who demand that laws work for them and against working people. This is the most troubling aspect of this vote. Its success depended entirely on the largesse of people who have no interest in promoting legal and economic justice. They profit by undermining democracy and making their needs paramount and the needs of most citizens inconsequential.

Gov. Cuomo spent his first legislative session acting like a Democrat in name only. Money-driven politics presents clear disincentives to him or to any other governor who wants to represent the needs of most citizens. A candidate for governor in New York is not considered viable unless he or she raises a minimum of $25 million. Like the presidency, the office is for sale, and the winner is automatically beholden to the people who put him there.