Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Liberal Ascendancy

Yes, I know, it's only been a week and already I'm full of prophecies and predictions about a liberal (say it with me: Lib-er-al) era that's just beginning. Others have argued with me that it's too soon or that the conservatives aren't going away or that I live in good old liberal (say it again: Lib-er-al. Doesn't it sound all smooth and creamy?) New Jersey and that I have no idea what's happening in redder areas of the country.

Possibly true, and you might not lose money betting against me, but not only do I believe it to be true, there is some solid evidence to back it up. The conservative era is coming to a close and the implosion of the right wing is decidedly under way. Don't get me wrong; the conservatives and the Republican Party can and will do a lot more damage to the country and to Barack Obama's second term (look what they've done to reproductive rights and collective bargaining), but their ability to set the agenda is pretty much over.


The GOP gave in on taxes in the fiscal cliff negotiations, and then they postponed the debt ceiling fight for three months under the utterly mistaken belief that they will have the upper hand when it comes to negotiations over the debt. I have news for them: they're going to lose again. The debt is actually slowing and the nation's fiscal trajectory is towards recovery, more employment, higher housing prices and improved tax collection. Add in the fact that most Americans do not support the massive cuts that the Republicans are proposing and you have the recipe for disaster for the right's agenda.

Opposition to all forms of gun control, an area where the GOP still has some strength, will take its toll on Republican popularity. I think we'll get a background checks bill and perhaps a limit on ammunition, but there probably won't be a national assault weapons ban. Still, the right is on the defensive about not wanting to do anything on guns, when it's likely that some Republicans will vote for some limits.

We will get an immigration bill this year and the GOP will have to come along or face increasing political marginality. Even so, the Republicans might not get any political advantage from a bill that allows more children of illegals to obtain citizenship. Why? because many Hispanics are already liberals (a third time: Lib-er-als) who are in favor of the government programs that serve the nation and their communities. On this, the right wing is correct: voting like Democrats will not help the GOP. It will only help the president and the left. But they really have little political choice.

Opposition to Chuck Hagel will not block his nomination, and no evidence of Israel-bashing will be found. True, many on the left are uneasy with his anti-gay comments, but he'll get enough votes to be confirmed.

Marriage equality will become legal in more states over the next few years, even if the Supreme Court rules against a national right, which I would say is a 50-50 proposition at this point. Remember that the Court will be ruling on economic and social rights, and not the moral correctness of whether all adults should be able to marry the person they love. The right wing is moving backwards on this issue. Even gay Republicans know that.

Storms have raised the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there's something to this climate change thing that conservatives have been denying for years. Oil will rule the day for a while, but more severe weather will finally unjam the logs and we can truly move towards energy independence based on fuels other than fossil.

There are many more issues, but I've made my point. The Democrats and President Obama have the wind of public opinion at their backs and as long as they both run a smart campaign to win support for specific legislation, we should see the first fruits of the liberal (in Texas, lib-ruhl) movement this year. We won't get everything we want, but more progress will come in later administrations and Congresses. One more presidential election win will also result in some conservative Supreme Court justices retiring, and all it will take is one switch to get a liberal (one more time for FDR: Lib-er-al) majority.

Can you dig that? I knew that you could.

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