Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Triumph of Cynicism

A more morally bankrupt political maneuver it is hard to imagine: the Republicans in the Senate propose a constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriages, knowing full well that it has no chance of passing, with the sole calculation being to rile up "the base" by giving it grounds for discontent. Come November, they'll be able to say "We really, really tried to get this through, but what can you do when Democrats and treacherous RINOs aren't willing to do the right thing?" So far, the game is unfolding exactly as expected.

The Senate voted today to block a White House-backed constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriages, dooming its prospects for approval by Congress this year but ensuring it an emotionally-charged role during campaigns this fall.
The move to cut off debate on the bill got the support of only 48 senators -- 12 short of the 60 needed and 19 short of the two-thirds majority that it would take to amend the Constitution. Fifty senators voted against the proposal.
Republicans had hoped to win at least a simple majority in favor of proceeding with the amendment but were thwarted when six of their own colleagues joined all but three Democrats in voting to scuttle the measure without a vote on its substance. Several senators had said there would have been even more "no" votes if the showdown had occurred on substance rather than procedure.
The vote by the Republican-controlled Senate amounted to an embarrassing defeat for President Bush and conservative leaders who had pushed hard for approval of the amendment as a way of protecting traditional marriage. But Senate GOP leaders vowed to continue pushing for the amendment, hoping it will galvanize conservatives in the November election and help elect more supporters of the amendment.
"This issue is not going away," Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said.
The House of Representatives still may consider the issue. Majority Leader Tom DeLay said again today he plans to have the House vote this year on the amendment.
The Senate debate ended as it began, on a sharply partisan note, with Republicans contending that the institution of marriage was in jeopardy if opened to gays, and Democrats accusing Republicans of using a divisive issue to mobilize their conservative base.
"It's not about how to protect the sanctity of marriage," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). "It's about politics -- an attempt to drive a wedge between one group of citizens and the rest of the country, solely for partisan advantage.
"No one wants to discriminate against gays," responded Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). "Simply put, we want to preserve traditional marriage."
How is allowing someone else to enjoy the legal benefits of marriage going to destroy "traditional" marriage? And even if "traditional" marriage really were such a fragile flower, I see no reason why a constitutional amendment is required to preserve the institution. On the presumption that the entire purpose behind give marriage a special status is to help with the raising of children, surely what matters is that families stay intact, rather than that one should still be able to mean "a husband and wife" when talking about a married couple.

The whole "preserving traditional marriage" argument makes no sense, and worse yet, the proposed constitutional amendment flies directly in the face of the "States' Rights" argument that Republicans have been trying for the last 40 years to push as a principled stance, rather than as a dressed up attempt to uphold racial discrimination. Here is all the proof required that outside of a few Libertarians like Barry Goldwater, the "States Rights" mantra was indeed the effort to defend the indefensible that liberals had always said it was. What a bunch of shameless panderers and opportunists.

Luckily, not all members of the Republican party are lacking in respect for principled politics. What isn't so surprising is that Zell Miller and Robert Byrd were two of the three Democrats who did support the proposal.
Republicans who voted to block the amendment were Susan M. Collins (Maine), Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), John E. Sununu (N.H.), Lincoln D. Chafee (R-I.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Colo.) and John McCain (Ariz.). Democrats who voted to bring up the amendment were Zell Miller (Ga.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.).
If Robert Byrd has any redeeming features whatsoever, I am yet to discover what they are, and I cannot understand why Democrats insist on defending such a man other than out of feelings of political tribalism. His departure from the Senate can't come a day too soon as far as I'm concerned.