Religious Values and Public Policy, Part 1

Dallin H. Oaks, a lawyer and LDS Church leader, has written and spoken much on the rising secularism of society. In 1992 he spoke to a group in Washington, D.C. about “the role of religion-based values and religious leaders in public policy debates.” Over the coming days I will post much of his speech, which is found in its entirety here. His words are very salient today, especially with the uproar some supporters of same-sex marriage have made concerning religious groups’ involvement in the passing of the three marriage amendments this past election (Nov. 2008).

Fundamental to the role of religion in public policy is this most important question: Are there moral absolutes? Speaking to…BYU students earlier this year, President Rex E. Lee [the president of BYU] said:

“I cannot think of anything more important than for each of you to build a firm, personal testimony that there are in this life some absolutes, things that never change, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. They are eternal truths, eternal principles and, as Paul tells us, they are and will be the same yesterday, today, and forever.” 1

Unfortunately, other educators deny the existence of God or deem God irrelevant to the human condition. Persons who accept this view deny the existence of moral absolutes. They maintain that right and wrong are relative concepts, and morality is merely a matter of personal choice or expediency. For example, a university professor reported that her students lacked what she called “moral common sense.” She said they believed that “there was no such thing as right or wrong, just good or bad arguments.” 2 In that view, even the most fundamental moral questions have at least two sides, and every assertion of right or wrong is open to debate.

I believe that these contrasting approaches underlie the whole discussion of religious values in public policy. Many differences of opinion over the role of religion in public life simply mirror a difference of opinion over whether there are moral absolutes. But this underlying difference is rarely made explicit. It is as if those who assume that all values are relative have established their assumption by law or tradition and have rendered illegitimate the fundamental belief of those who hold that some values are absolute.

One of the consequences of shifting from moral absolutes to moral relativism in public policy is that this produces a corresponding shift of emphasis from responsibilities to rights. Responsibilities originate in moral absolutes. In contrast, rights find their origin in legal principles, which are easily manipulated by moral relativism. Sooner or later the substance of rights must depend on either the voluntary fulfillment of responsibilities or the legal enforcement of duties. When our laws or our public leaders question the existence of absolute moral values, they undercut the basis for the voluntary fulfillment of responsibilities, which is economical, and compel our society to rely more and more on the legal enforcement of rights, which is expensive.

I will post more of his speech tomorrow.

Transcript of Obama’s Statement on Judge Selection

This quote comes from Laura Echevarria’s transcription of Obama’s 2007 speech at a Planned Parenthood convention. I included this whole quote because of criticism that my use of the quote previously took the quote out of context. Here is the full context.

Dessa Cosma: Um, as you were talking about earlier, the recent Bush Supreme Court’s decision really took away critically important decisions from women and put them in the hands of politicians. And as a result of this, we’re expecting, and have already seen, so much anti-choice legislation at the state level. Um, what would you do at the federal level not only to ensure access to abortion but to make sure that the judicial nominees that you will inevitably be able to pick are true to the core tenets of Roe v. Wade?

Barack Obama: Well, the first thing I’d do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. [Applause.] That’s the first thing that I’d do. Um, but the, okay, but, but your question about the federal courts is absolutely on target. I taught Constitutional Law for ten years and I have to say after reading this latest decision and the series of decisions that the Supreme Court has been putting forward that I find it baffling.

Because sometimes they are striking down acts of Congress like the Violence Against Women’s Act showing very little deference to Congressional decision making and that somehow when it comes to a piece of legislation that is not taking into account clear doctrine that the Supreme Court has laid out, they say, “Oh, that’s fine. Congress can make those decisions.” There is an inconsistency and I believe a hypocrisy in terms of how we see many of these decisions issued.

That’s why I think it’s important for us obviously to get not only a Democratic White House as well as a stronger Congress to protect these rights. But I also think it’s important to understand that there’s nothing wrong in voting against nominees who don’t appear to share a broader vision of what the Constitution is about.

I think the Constitution can be interpreted in so many ways. And one way is a cramped and narrow way in which the Constitution and the courts essentially become the rubber stamps of the powerful in society. And then there’s another vision of the court [sic] that says that the courts are the refuge of the powerless. Because oftentimes they can lose in the democratic back and forth. They may be locked out and prevented from fully participating in the democratic process. That’s one of the reasons I opposed Alito, you know, as well as Justice Roberts. When Roberts came up and everybody was saying, “You know, he’s very smart and he’s seems a very decent man and he loves his wife. [Laughter] You know, he’s good to his dog. [laughter] He’s so well qualified.”

I said, well look, that’s absolutely true and in most Supreme Court decis–, in the overwhelming number of Supreme Court decisions, that’s enough. Good intellect, you read the statute, you look at the case law and most of the time, the law’s pretty clear. Ninety-five percent of the time. Justice Ginsberg, Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia they’re all gonna agree on the outcome.

But it’s those five percent of the cases that really count. And in those five percent of the cases, what you’ve got to look at is—what is in the justice’s heart. What’s their broader vision of what America should be. Justice Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire but the issues that come before the Court are not sport, they’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart—the empathy—to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old—and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges. Alright? (emphasis added).

What is Obama saying? First, he wants to remove all restrictions on abortions, in all states. Second, he says that it is vital for justices to support the Roe v. Wade decision. This decision was based on a loose interpretation of the Constitution [read this insightful article that discusses the history of the phrase separation of church and state. What does this have to do with the current topic? The author also addresses the history of strict vs. loose interpretations of the Constitution, which is the heart of this matter]. It’s still controversial today. There is no consensus among constitutional scholars and lawyers or judges about the constitutionality of the decision.

Obama stated that Supreme Court justices will essentially agree on 95% of cases – that their “broader vision of what America should be” won’t really matter. It’s the other 5% of cases that matter to Obama. Those are the cases that can change the direction of America – cases like Roe v. Wade. In this added context his statement does not appear extreme at first glance. However, Obama also opposed the nominations of Justices Roberts and Alito, who are both “conservative” in that they strictly interpret the Constitution (even in those “5% of cases”). The Constitution is not a living document, unless an amendment is passed by 75% of states’ legislatures. Justices shouldn’t treat it as a living document because their interpretations are based on what’s written in the Constitution – they don’t have the power to change it or to legislate laws. In the end, in the broader context, Obama’s criterion for selecting judges is still disturbing. Obama apparently has a broader vision of what the Constitution is about but doesn’t say. It is apparent though, in the context of his speech, that some of that vision includes expanding Roe v. Wade (see the Freedom of Choice Act, for example, which would overrule all laws against abortion, including bans on partial-birth abortions).

Even with the broader context of Obama’s words, my previous post still stands.

The Beast in the Shadow

I have very mixed feelings about Black Friday. On one hand I am a huge fan of finding good deals on things. When I can purchase items for significantly less than their actual retail value, I always have a feeling of satisfaction. While I like to buy frivolous things sometimes, I also enjoy finding deals on everyday items – toothpaste, toilet paper, diapers, and so forth. I’m also a believer in many of the tenets of capitalism and consumerism, although I certainly don’t canonize those beliefs. I save money but I also believe that money is most useful when it is spent. Spending money directly on services or goods benefits both buyer and seller. On a macro level, money has to be spent to grow an economy. The old mantra of business – you have to spend money to make money – is true (generally and within the realm of legitimate business operations; there are those who illegally {or even legally} prey on others and unethically profit with little or no effort on their part).

I enjoy finding deals on Black Friday. I also don’t mind doing my part to help businesses become profitable and to stimulate the economy in my own little way; after all, businesses employ people and provide goods and services. All savings without any spending does not help the broader economy. Saving money for retirement, unexpected expenses, expected expenses, and so forth is necessary but saving all your money and spending only the bare minimum might not be in the best interest of the broader economy. That is, unless you do not make enough money to afford any of your wants beyond your basic needs. The problem is that so many of us have our needs and wants mixed up.

Then there is the other part of me that dislikes the barely suppressed or outright greed that is rampant on Black Friday. Black Friday is the paragon of consumerism, it is when many people openly and gaudily worship at the altars of Mammon by selling their messes of pottage for trinkets and trivialities. Occasionally in the pursuit of such idle pleasures and worldly possessions, a streak of egocentrism with apathy and violence towards the Other is revealed. How abhorrent that some people are so callous that their desire to consume results in the extinguishment of a human life! Yet, all is not gloomy. I witnessed kindness while shopping this morning – people sharing a deal or helping others. Even those who were not Other-focused were patient and civil. The extremes just capture our attention. While violence that is performed by the hands (or feet) of the worshipers of Mammon is relatively rare, it reveals a dark and vicious beast lurking in the shadows of consumerism.

Another disconcerting aspect of Black Friday and the holiday season in general is the commercialization of it. Everything is about spending money and buying the fanciest toys for children, friends, family, and loved ones. Many people go into significant debt during this time of the year. According to one article, “One survey suggests that while 30% of Americans pay off Christmas debt within three months of Christmas, another 25% carry it for over a year” (Source). 25% are paying off Christmas debt until the following Christmas! And some people wonder why the U.S. government has a spending problem. How can we expect fiscal responsibility from Congress when we are not a fiscally-sound people? This whole holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day has become one big spending spree. Much of the original meanings of those holidays has been lost to the constant stream of consumerism (the recent mortgage crisis is also evidence of this).

With all the focus on consuming, it’s no wonder our country also faces an obesity epidemic. The two – irresponsible spending and eating – go hand in hand. We are a country of extremes and impulsivity. The shadow beast of consumerism is greed. It has claws of irresponsibility and fangs of self-centeredness. It preys upon all who stand in its way; in the end, the beast eventually turns on its owner and consumes him. We need to have moderation and responsibility of our personal habits if we hope to tame or slay this beast. We also have to gain control over our personal lives and habits if we expect to have a more fiscally-responsible government.

Image by hradcanska.

President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789

“Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the bene?cent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

Parallels Between the Abortion and Same-sex “Marriage” Movements

Dallin H. Oaks, a lawyer and LDS Church leader, spoke these words about abortion in 1999. I’m posting them here for two reasons. The first is because of his stance on abortion. The second is because of the applicability of his message to the same-sex “marriage” movement today. I’ll post his words, then write a little more about them.

Because choice is a method, choices can be exercised either way on any matter, and our choices can serve any goal. Therefore, those who consider freedom of choice as a goal can easily slip into the position of trying to justify any choice that is made. “Choice” can even become a slogan to justify one particular choice. For example, in the 1990s, one who says “I am pro-choice” is clearly understood as opposing any legal restrictions upon a woman’s choice to abort a fetus at any point in her pregnancy.

More than 30 years ago, as a young law professor, I published one of the earliest articles on the legal consequences of abortion. Since that time I have been a knowledgeable observer of the national debate and the unfortunate Supreme Court decisions on the so-called “right to abortion.” I have been fascinated with how cleverly those who sought and now defend legalized abortion on demand have moved the issue away from a debate on the moral, ethical, and medical pros and cons of legal restrictions on abortion and focused the debate on the slogan or issue of choice. The slogan or sound bite “pro-choice” has had an almost magical effect in justifying abortion and in neutralizing opposition to it….

Being pro-choice on the need for moral agency [also called free will or free agency] does not end the matter…. Choice is a method, not the ultimate goal. We are accountable for our choices. (Source).

Just as abortion activists turned abortion away from a moral and ethical issue to an issue of a woman’s “rights”, same-sex “marriage” advocates also are trying to turn the issue to one of “rights” and “choice”. The parallels between the movements are striking. The marriage issue is not one of rights or choice, it is one of morals and doing what is in the best interest of society.

Did Mormons Steal Rights?

I discovered a website today that could almost be humorous if it wasn’t filled with misinformation and bridled hatred. Here’s the link to Mormons Stole Our Rights.

What is great about our country is that people are allowed to believe what they want to believe. People can also generally act how they want to act, within limits of course. Let’s look at some of the arguments on this site.

“Was it because Californians no longer saw their constitution as a foundational document that is amended carefully, but a document as pliable as putty and subject to the whims of a narrow majority? No.”

Let’s look at this argument. This website condemns Californians (actually they only condemn Mormons) for changing the state constitution and treating it like it is “pliable as putty.” The funny part is that same-sex “marriages” were only allowed as a result of judges very loosely interpreting the state constitution and reading things into it that weren’t there. The only people treating the California constitution like putty are the activist judges and gay “marriage” supporters.

“How, then, did Proposition 8 become law?” They then answer the question in big, bold, block letters. “THE MORMON CHURCH.” At least they are partially honest when they say that “Mormon votes did not steal our rights.” Of course, that begs the question that same-sex “marriage” is a right (previously, only California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have said that it is a “right” {actually even in those states it’s not called a right, it was just allowed to occur} – now Californians have stated that no, it is not a right).

Then the website goes on to blame the passing of Prop 8 on “Mormon money.” Let’s look at that argument. I’ll use their argument to make an alternative one of my own. If the money donated by Mormons stole away the rights of gays in California, then all the money raised by Obama stole the candidacy from Clinton and the presidency from some other candidate, arguably McCain (additionally, he chose to campaign with public money and therefore had a limit on what he could spend, unlike Obama). My argument really isn’t valid but that is because their original argument about Mormon money isn’t valid. Besides, what they conveniently fail to mention is that opponents of Prop 8 raised and spent $6 million more than the proponents of Prop 8 ($38 to $32 million). How can “Mormon money” steal away rights if the anti-Prop 8 side raised and spent more money?

The website goes downhill from there. It becomes more and more incorrect (for example they argue, “The Mormon story is possible because our country is a tolerant and forgiving place.” The persecution of Mormons, which they glossed over, showed just how tolerant we are as a country. Yep, our country was so tolerant that Mormons’ lands were stolen and Mormons were killed, raped, and driven from their homes). What’s ironic is that if our country is so tolerant and forgiving, where is the tolerance and forgiveness from many same-sex “marriage” advocates (especially this website that attacks Mormons and claims falsely that Mormons stole their rights)? Where is their tolerance and forgiveness of religion and religious beliefs? Where is their tolerance for majority rule and democracy (or, to be pedantic, representative democracy – although the voters in California passing Prop 8 is an example of pure democracy because they directly voted on the matter).

I’ll point out another misleading statement: “The Mormons began [i.e., forcing their beliefs upon gays] with the Boy Scouts of America, originally a children’s club meant to introduce boys and girls to the natural beauty of America.” Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouting movement started Boy Scouts to teach young men how to camp, cook, and survive in the wild; mainly, his goal was to build strong men of strong character who were honest, chaste, chivalrous, and good people. He was a military man who wanted to teach the boys many of the skills he learned in the military (in part so they would be ready for military service should the call arise). Appreciation of the earth and the “wild” were only secondary goals (and added only later as a focus). The authors of this website clearly have not read Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys, which talks about such activities as tracking, woodcraft, scouting (military scouting), hunting, saving a life, and patriotism. The American scouting movement was based on Baden-Powell’s work and was not about introducing “boys and girls to the natural beauty of America” (although that is an important but secondary aspect today).

The site goes on to briefly mention the “minority vote.” “Many people have commented that minorities voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8. This was especially disappointing given the history of bigotry and discrimination these groups have faced. This vote serves as evidence of the degree to which minority groups can be pitted against each other with misinformation and fear. Californians were 60-40 against Prop 8 prior to the Mormon tidal wave of money in September, 2008. Prop 8 demonstrates how readily money moves elections.” Notice how careful they are not to single out any minority groups (i.e., they don’t name any group) and they certainly don’t attack them as they attack Mormons because that would be racist. They are also condescending toward minorities when they say, “This vote serves as evidence of the degree to which minority groups can be pitted against each other with misinformation and fear” (emphasis added); in other words, minorities apparently are not intelligent enough to make their own decisions and only voted based on misinformation and fear. How offensive! Further, they bring up the money issue again; however, they fail to point out that the $38 million raised to fight Prop 8 was trying to move the election in their favor. They hypocritically condemn supporters of Prop 8 for doing exactly what they themselves did – spending money to try to affect the outcome of the election.

Here is one of the highlights of the website: “To the rest of those silent Mormon protesters [who silently opposed Prop 8], one can offer the words of Elie Wiesel…” then they quote Wiesel. This is a clever quote and use of Wiesel’s name because they use them to stir up sympathy for their cause among the silent anti-Prop 8 Mormons. By using Wiesel’s quote, they compare gays being denied ‘marriage’ to their partners to the Jews who experienced great persecution and the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis. How offensive to Jews that this comparison is being made! Gays are not being branded, taken away from their homes, and worked/killed in concentration camps. They are not being gassed or incinerated. They are not even being denied any rights – they have the right to marry someone of the opposite sex. If that is not a desired outcome then they have the right to choose not to get married; they can also form a civil union, which is allowed in California. The LDS Church does not and never will condone anger and hostility: “The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people” (Source).

The website then goes on to call for the Church to lose its tax-exempt status, even though the Church has always been very open about its involvement and has produced or will produce by the deadline all of its contributions (which were all non-monetary – the only money given from the “Mormon Church” came from individual members acting of their own free will) to the Prop 8 cause. The LDS Church acted well within its constitutional and legal rights to become involved in the Prop 8 movement.

Here’s what the website says after stating that the Church did not violate the letter of the law (although they said that their “experts” said that it was “unclear” if the Church did or not violate the law – which is legalspeak for “there is no evidence of wrongdoing”): “Because it is already illegal for churches to support candidates or lobby and remain tax-exempt, we must close this loophole and make it illegal for churches to support propsitions at such disproportionate levels without classifying themselves as a Political Action Committee. We must clarify our tax law to prohibit this behavior.” What are they saying? They are saying that it is not illegal for the Church to be involved like it was and still remain tax-exempt, so that means that they want to make it illegal in the future for the Church to act in a like manner. In essence they are saying: “We have to make it illegal for churches to be involved in issues like this so they can’t stop us trying to force our beliefs onto everyone else.”

Further, at the bottom of the page they link to sites where you can buy ridiculously overpriced t-shirts showing your support for same-sex “marriage”. What’s hypocritical is a link to a “No more Mr. Nice Gay” t-shirt right by a link to a “NoTime2H8” shirt. Isn’t that a bit contradictory?

It’s sad when people resort to such hatred and lies about and towards another group of people. I recognize that they may be very sincere in their beliefs but stooping to such tactics is uncouth and dishonest.

Update: Here is further commentary about the Mormons Stole Our Rights site, which might be an anti-Mormon site fronting as a pro-gay marriage site.

Standing Up for the Divine Institution of Marriage

Definitions in dictionaries reflect common usage of words. As such, definitions may change over time (which is what same-sex “marriage” advocates are trying to do with the definition of marriage; in fact, if you look up the word marriage in many online dictionaries, it’s already been changed to reflect the application of “marriage” to same-sex unions; however, online versions of dictionaries change much faster than printed versions). The Oxford English Dictionary, often viewed as the definitive source for meanings of English words (in the print edition), has this as the definition of marriage in its online version (which will have to suffice for now): “The condition of being a husband or wife.” This is further modified by “A particular instance of matrimony between a husband and wife.” As a verb: “The procedure by which two people become husband and wife.”

Now, some cultures also allow marriage between one man and multiple women (or very rarely, between one woman and multiple men). In these cases, marriage is still between people of the opposite sex. Marriage has never meant anything but that – a union between male and female (of course, I’m open to information about instances in history where this was not the case).

In the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights it states, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State” (Ariticle 16{3}). Marriage is the way to form a family (and family implies children).

Now quoting from The Divine Institution of Marriage:

Marriage is not primarily a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations. Rather, marriage and family are vital instruments for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults. While governments did not invent marriage, throughout the ages governments of all types have recognized and affirmed marriage as an essential institution in preserving social stability and perpetuating life itself. Hence, regardless of whether marriages were performed as a religious rite or a civil ceremony, married couples in almost every culture have been granted special benefits aimed primarily at sustaining their relationship and promoting the environment in which children are reared. A husband and a wife do not receive these benefits to elevate them above any other two people who may share a residence or social tie, but rather in order to preserve, protect, and defend the all-important institutions of marriage and family.

It is true that some couples who marry will not have children, either by choice or because of infertility, but the special status of marriage is nonetheless closely linked to the inherent powers and responsibilities of procreation, and to the inherent differences between the genders. Co-habitation under any guise or title is not a sufficient reason for defining new forms of marriage.

I reiterate, changing marriage to include same-sex relationships is a drastic change to the institution that is the “fundamental group unit of society.” As The Divine Institution of Marriage states: “In recent years in the United States and other countries, a movement has emerged to promote same-sex marriage as an inherent or constitutional right. This is not a small step, but a radical change: instead of society tolerating or accepting private, consensual sexual behavior between adults, advocates of same-sex marriage seek its official endorsement and recognition.”

I’m not opposed to same-sex couples receiving “[rights of] hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference” (from The Divine Institution of Marriage). I’m just opposed to marriage being redefined to include same-sex relationships. My position is not one that attacks others, I’m just trying to defend the institution of marriage. This position is sometimes labelled as bigoted and prejudiced but it’s not. I do not condone any hatred or hostility towards homosexual women or men.

Marriage is a sacred institution. Marriage and families are the foundation of civilized societies. Again, this post isn’t about attacking others, I’m standing up for families and marriage.

Same-sex Marriage Is Not A Civil Rights Issue

Following the passing of 3 new marriage amendment to state constitutions – in California, Arizona, and Florida – advocates of same-sex “marriage” have staged and are staging protests across the country. Most of the protests have been peaceful but there have been cases of vandalism and disorderly conduct on the part of the protesters. The main message of the protesters is a call for civil rights. They argue that being denied marriage is a violation of their civil rights. This argument is calling for something that is a myth.

Marriage is an institution whereby man and woman form an entity into which they may bring children. Marriage is a way for a couple to have self-fulfillment, but marriage is mainly about having children and creating a family. Families are the basic (and essential) unit of civilization. What same-sex “marriage” advocates want to do is redefine the definition of marriage. This is why the issue is not one of civil rights – they already have the right to marry (someone of the opposite sex).

The brilliance of their labeling this as a civil rights issue is people will actually believe that it is a civil rights issue when in fact it isn’t. Labeling it as a civil rights issue is brilliant because who isn’t for civil rights? I generally support civil rights when they are real rights. What I don’t support is something that will change society at such a fundamental level. Again, this is not a civil rights issue, it is an issue of a minority group of people trying to legislate (or sue to get their way) their lifestyles and beliefs onto the majority.

I will write more on this later.

Here’s another perspective on this issue.

Obama Wins the Presidency!

This is a little premature but Obama will win the U.S. Presidential election. Right now he only needs about 63 more electoral votes. He will win California and Washington, which will provide enough votes for him to get the 270. Many of the other races are still up in the air.

Right now it looks like Prop 2 will pass in Florida, which supports traditional marriage, but there are still many votes to be counted and reported.

Basking in Obama’s Reflected Glory

Republicans will not be able to win this election. Obama will probably win the presidency. However, if McCain wins, many Democrats will automatically say that Republicans “once again” stole the election (although the only people trying to steal the election in 2000 were Democrats). This will start another 4-8 years of hatred between parties. Once again, everything bad from the economy to natural disasters will be blamed on Republicans (yes, there are quite a few people in the U.S. who honestly believe Pres. Bush was responsible for Hurricane Katrina – I’m not talking about the federal government’s response to the hurricane, I’m talking about the actual hurricane itself).

For many people (and I hear and read this a lot), Republicans can do no right and Obama can do no wrong. What’s funny is that fellow Democrats are basking in Obama’s reflected glory. It’s look like Democrats will have large majorities in the Senate and the House, turning our federal government into a single party system. Further, a number of Supreme Court Justices will be up for retirement soon and Obama, with the legislative branch on his side, could pack the court with whomever he wants. That could mean that all 3 branches of government roughly followed a single ideological system!

What I don’t understand is why voters want to increase the power of the ruling party in Congress when Congress has very low approval ratings (roughly 15%) and very high disapproval ratings (roughly 75%). That’s lower than Pres. Bush’s approval ratings! The Democratic ad campaign was successful in convincing many Americans that all the country’s problems are caused by Republicans. Yes, they are to blame for some of the problems, but certainly no more than Democrats are.

I’ve heard the argument that it would be good for the economy to have a Democratic president because if you look at the past 30 years, budget deficits and the national debt have gone up a lot when a Republican was in office (of course, we only have 12 years of those 30 where we had a Democrat president, so the sample is biased). However, Democrats often had the majority in the House and sometimes in the Senate while Republicans were in the White House. So maybe the problem was the Democratic legislative branch – after all, they make the laws and authorize the spending of the money.

However, most people don’t really think through the ramifications of having a single-party federal government (it’s pretty close anyway – Republicans and Democrats are more similar than different – but do we really want it to actually be one party in charge?). It’s a good time to be a Democrat.