Friday, April 18, 2003
federal civil unions: analogy to segregation? http://miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-04-17/kulchur.html/1/index.html
"We do low-end fundraisers all the time," Dean said, dismissing any thoughts of disappointment over the lackluster crowd at Nerve. He was more interested in discussing campaign strategy. "Half of [Ralph] Nader's votes will go to me," he predicted, a significant pool of support overlooked by many. Bob Graham as his vice-prez? "He would definitely be on the short list." Getting his message out with limited funds? "Be very clear."
More importantly, however, there's some thought-provoking questioning of Dean regarding civil unions at the federal level. As we all know, Dean's position on civil unions centers on states' rights, and is against trying to enact a federal version of that law if elected. However, Dean asserts that as president, he'd ensure federal benefits flowed to gay couples in states that passed "civil union" laws similar to Vermont's. This is somewhat of a paradox, and when someone presses him on it, we see flashes of his fabled temper:
"I'm not anxious to have more federal intrusion," Dean explained, launching into a defense of states' rights that eerily recalled Southern segregationist governors during the Sixties. But what if some governors, citing the wishes of their constituents, ignored President Dean and simply refused to pass "civil union" laws for gays? "We'll deal with that then," he said testily. "I don't have a plan."
You'll deal with that then? Aren't you the candidate who doesn't stick to safe answers?
"You're now beginning to tick me off," Dean bristled before returning to his measured argument against "too much federal power." Kulchur pressed on over Dean's protests, invoking the image of Alabama Gov. George Wallace embracing the mantle of states' rights as he literally blocked a university doorway to bar a black student's entry, stepping aside only after President Kennedy called in troops. If a president is unwilling to use federal power to enforce civil rights -- for blacks or gays -- how are things ever going to change? "Look, you go ask any of the other candidates for president if they support civil unions!" Dean shouted angrily.
But an awful lot of people in the gay community think a Dean presidency means civil unions will be legalized nationwide. They're going to be mighty disappointed in you when they find out you're waffling.
This, apparently, was the line you cannot cross with Dean. A typical politician would now demur to an aide, issue a platitude ("A pleasure speaking with you"), or just hang up the phone. But again, Dean is no typical pol.
"Don't you ever talk to me like that!" he roared. Kulchur, taken aback, fell silent. But an enraged Dean was just getting started: "I've risked my political career on this issue! I had to wear a bulletproof vest when I was campaigning in some parts of Vermont -- how dare you say that I haven't stood up for this community!"
I confess, I find this gripping - and I'm glad Kulchur pressed the issue, because it certainly does raise the important point that sometimes "states' rights" is an evasion. Of course Dean took an enormous political risk by signing the civil unions bill, but that was in Vermont. It's clear that Dean wouldn't assess the entire country as ready for that - and the analogy to segregation is particularly apt. Was America ready for desegregation and the end of Jim Crow during the 1960s? Ask the Freedom Riders. This exchange gave me a lot to think about - I have personally been against a federal law for civil unions, but I wonder now if I have been wrong- and maybe Dean should rethink his position against a federal law as well. Alas that it's too late to add the question to the poll!
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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.