Free speech prevents governments from censuring their citizens for words they say or write. Modern jargon has broadened it to mean freedom from any consequences whatsoever for spoken or written words. However, in our jaded, cynical world, the application of this concept is often first filtered through a partisan lens.
Recently Phil Robertson, one of the stars of a reality show on A&E, said some things in a magazine interview that offended people. A&E decide to suspend him (but have since reversed). The public discourse, specifically the socially conservative quadrant, erupted, and a new front in the culture wars was launched. Some argued that what Robertson said wasn’t offensive, so his suspension was unwarranted.
Regardless of my personal opinion, this is at least a defensible position. A person may or may not find something offensive, regardless of the objective fact that it offended others, and so not see the need for disciplinary action. Many instead invoked Robertson’s free speech rights. This is an untenable position from any angle. No one was sanctioned by the government, so no rights were violated. However, A&E also has free speech rights, employer rights, and contract rights, which precious few conservatives stood up for at the time.
One truth about politics: when those who have taken up one side of an issue are forced to accept and defend that same issue, should it suit their needs to do so, the acknowledgement of their previous criticism will be generally non-existent.
Take the histrionics surrounding 2010’s Citizens United decision — “Corporations aren’t people! They shouldn’t have First Amendment rights! Elections will be bought and sold by evil dark money special interest groups! Those with the most cash will always win!”
Forgetting for a moment that Barack Obama managed to get re-elected despite the impressive amount of money that was raised to support Mitt Romney via super PACs that were not associated with his actual campaign, this idea that corporations — really just groups of people — shouldn’t retain First Amendment speech rights is proving quite the interesting conundrum for those who both HATED the Citizens United decision but now find themselves DESPISING that National Security Agency’s (NSA) peek under the hood at millions of lines of metadata on American citizens’ phone records.
Because corporations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Google are taking the uncomfortable action of invoking their First Amendment speech rights to file suit, in the case of the former, and in requesting the release of records showing exactly how persistent the government was in insisting that the search giant provide them private information on American citizens.
Michael Turk wrote a terrific blog post detailing a similarly terrific piece on the ACLU v. Clapper case by Wendy Kaminer at The Atlantic at his blog, Kung Fu Quip:
United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who may or may not have been separated at birth from Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character from Saturday Night Live, may have signaled how she’ll decide Hollingsworth v. Perry (covered here by Travis) when she recently characterized the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade as somewhat reactionary and hurried.
Americans would be broadly disappointed, argues former Romney 2012 chief data scientist and Target Point Consulting vice president and research director Alex Lundry, if the Court bases its Hollingsworth ruling on Ginsburg’s feelings about the Roe decision. It’s not that Lundry believes the Court shouldn’t be insulated from popular opinion. But when you set aside the substantive and legal differences between the two cases and the policy issues which they embody respectively, Americans fundamentally view gay marriage and abortion in different ways.
He writes in The Daily Caller, looking at opinion polling and demographic data from a number of sources:
A clear majority of the country favors providing same-sex couples with the ability to marry, while opinion on abortion has remained closely divided for almost 40 years. A March poll by ABC News and the Washington Post found that 58% of Americans support gay and lesbian Americans’ legal right to wed — a record high. That majority will likely grow into a broad-based consensus in the not-too-distant future, as polls reveal that more than four out of five voters under 30 support legalizing same-sex marriage.
Following the 2012 presidential election, many Republicans found themselves in a state of shock. To lose to a president whose policies had not only been controversial but had failed to stifle an enduring economic downturn seemed implausible. There were no doubt countless conservative voters who joined an incredulous Bill O’Reilly the next day asking, “What the heck happened last night?” In recent weeks, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has provided an answer.
In the wake of his 13-hour filibuster and narrow victory in CPAC’s presidential straw poll last weekend, the freshmen senator has become an overnight sensation in American politics. Though much of the support for his dramatic defense of due process may have been partisan at first, it has generated a groundswell of soul-searching within the Republican Party.Conservatives have failed to provide a message that resonated with voters since the Bush administration and they have two failed presidential campaigns to show for it.
There is a battle raging for the heart and soul of the conservative movement. While there is a near constant discussion over fiscal issues, also emerging is a debate over the foreign policy direction the United States should take.
Despite his anti-war rhetoric on the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama has largely continued the expansive foreign policy views of his predecessor. In 2011, Obama authorized a bombing campaign in Libya, which was aimed at deposing the regime of the country’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
This campaign, which was waged without the consent of Congress, setoff a debate between the neo-conservatives and those who advocate a more restrained, constitutional foreign policy. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the non-interventionist views of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and others, smearing them as “isolationists.”
It’s Sen. Paul who has largely become the voice of reason in the foreign policy debate. During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, suggested that he could, as president, authorize military action against Iran without congressional approval. Sen. Paul responded forcefully, explaining that the “Constitution clearly states that it is Congress that has the power to declare war, not the president.”
As I’ve made clear before I was a fan of neither major party Presidential candidate. Both stood for big government, continued spending, interventionist foreign policy, and little respect for civil liberties. So as Election Day approached, I was excited to cast my vote for Gary Johnson. As far as actual policies go, he was the only candidate running who offered anything different than the status quo.
That being said, I won’t deny that, while I did not vote for him, I was pulling for Romney to win, simply because I don’t think Obama has the slightest clue how to handle the economy. This fact alone was enough to make me at least flirt with the idea of voting for Mitt as I stood in line to cast my vote. While I ended up voting Johnson, on Election Night I was quietly hoping that somehow Romney could pull it out.
But once it became clear that he would not, my focus shifted to various other races and ballot initiatives. And for the most part, these turned out just like I had hoped. Gay marriage was legalized in Maryland and Maine, and marijuana initiatives did very well. Not everything turned out great, but it was exciting to see evidence that attitudes are changing on both of these topics.
Furthermore, hard-core social conservatism had a very bad day, which is good for anyone who hopes that segment of the GOP can be reduced in influence. Michele Bachmann almost lost her election, and both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were defeated soundly after expressing extreme and offensive views on rape and abortion. It looks as if Allen West was defeated as well. All of these are good news if you want the GOP to jettison some of its more extreme members.
Mitt Romney had his clock cleaned on Tuesday night. There is no getting around it. People can talk about his campaign couldn’t have done any better. There isn’t much disagreement on this end. Many conservatives are understandably frustrated with how the election turned out.
Romney ran this race in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Yet, he still lost. This didn’t happen because of a lack of GOTV efforts and phone-banking. Romney lost because he failed to run on big ideas that would have made the choice before voters more clear.
Republicans didn’t win because they nominated a guy who passed a law in Massachusetts that would later serve as a blueprint for ObamaCare. When he was on the campaign trail, Romney and his surrogates played up his “experience” on the issue. There was no real distinction.
Throughout the course of the campaign Romney said that that the United States is facing long-term economic problems. However, Romney never put forward a substantive plan that would actually get spending under control.
Obama won a large Electoral College victory, but he did not receive a mandate for his agenda
People more eloquent than I am (who probably had more coffee today than I did) have already made this point. I thought this tweet from left-of-center blogger Cory Doctorow summed things up pretty nicely:
Amazing to think that I’m relieved at the victory of the pro-wiretapping, pro-extrajudicial-assassination, anti-whistleblower candidate
— Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) November 7, 2012
When it’s a struggle for your most vocal supporters to root for you, that’s not a good sign about how effective you’ve been as a leader. To read more on how exactly Chicago pulled off this election, see thisTIME piece. That kind of attention to detail made the Obama reelection effort more nimble and better prepared to adapt to changing conditions on the ground, and it’s really no surprise (from an operative’s perspective) that they won.
How many of these post-mortem soundbites have you heard?
- Where was the Tea Party this time?
- All that campaigning from AFP and FreedomWorks wasn’t very effective.
- Romney lost because people want free stuff.
- Romney lost because people are uneducated.
- Romney lost because of voter fraud.
I don’t know why Romney lost. I will leave that to smarter people than me to figure out. I will say, though, that there’s some truth in a couple of those sound bites and none in others.
The analyst in me says those things only matter to the extent we use that knowledge to win hearts and minds (and elections) in the next four years.
We have a golden opportunity right now in the conservative and libertarian movements. Don’t get me wrong, I am afraid for my financial future and the future of civil liberties (1st, 2nd, 4th Amendments for starters) after last night. But it’s the perfect time to regroup and define what I’m going to term the Liberty movement.
Liberty is a winning philosophy. It’s what America is built on. The current GOP loses because they’ve embraced judgmental social policies and haven’t differentiated themselves enough from the Dems on financial and big government-principles. A younger generation, the Paul Ryan generation of conservatives, holds a much more Liberty minded philosophy. It’s time for them to take over leadership positions on the right and start a massive education and outreach movement aimed at the 15 to 45-year-old demographic (and start a preschool and elementary school program too).
Mitt Romney has lost. In a purely academic fashion, I can’t help but think about what the Republican Party will get out of last night’s results. After all, there is bound to be some kind of “after action” examination of the Romney campaign, at least by pundits.
Much of the results of those examinations will be that Romney wasn’t “conservative enough.” They figure that the problem wasn’t that he was a horrible candidate, but that he wasn’t far enough to the right.
This ignores the fact that more and more people are supporting issues like gay marriage and ending the War on Drugs. This isn’t indicative of an evangelical conservative stance as many Republicans tend to think most Americans really have. Instead, it seems to indicate a more libertarian stance on social issues. Will the conservative pundits understand that? It’s doubtful, but we will see.
Economics are another issue that played a major role in the election. It’s also one that some conservatives think they should modify their position on if they want to win in 2016. Romney talked a sort-of free market game, and it looks like it cost him because free markets scare a lot of people. Now, he wasn’t as free market as he liked to think he was, but what he put out seemed to scare enough voters in battle ground states that those people opted not to vote for him.
Personally, I can’t help but believe that foreign policy cost him. Obama’s supporters weren’t likely to change their vote on that issue apparently, but the undecided voters may have swung his way had there been more difference than “drone strikes and kill ‘em all” that we’ve seen for the last four years.