There is quite a lot to talk about today. Before we start THAT ONE WON! WHOOPEE!
First, there is the historic significance of Barack Obama's election. Second, allow me to speculate on the transition. Third, there is the future of the Republican Party and the Pro-life movement and finally there is California Question 8, which annulled thousands of gay marriages. Much of this is a retread of prior columns on some of my web pages, however, most of this has not been seen here or together.
As to the historic nature of the Obama election. When inauguration time comes, what you won't be hearing is the phrase "descended from African slaves." As coverage of his father's home villiage in Kenya shows, he is a first generation American (on his father's side) from Africa. He has adopted the culture of the descendents of slaves, as he has also adopted midwestern culture (I also resemble that remark from everything after the word also - as my father was an Iowan, ) His value is, therefore, as a symbol rather than as a fellow striver as he did not experience the racism in the bad old days. Speaking as a civil rights advocate in the DC Statehood movement, I hope that he will add some substance to the symbolism by dealing honestly with the District of Columbia - not by endorsing or signing voting rights, but by both working for statehood and by (at last) appointing an Administrator for the National Capital Service Area. This was required in 1974 under the Home Rule Act but it never happened so as to avoid any talk of consolidating federal police forces and arranging to compensate the District for services rendered to the NCSA. More than signing the Freedom of Choice Act (which would be a slap in the face to his Catholic supporters, in the unlikely event it passed, doing something for the District would be a good symbolic first act.
That is just one aspect of the transition. The second is Rahm Emmanuel, his pick for chief of staff. My bet is that the Congressman will be the junior Senator from the State of Illinois on January 20 of next year, although he would be an asset to the Obama Administration. Another aspect of the transition is tax policy. Much work has been done over the last four years on the topic of Tax Reform. One of the most promising proposals is a Value Added Tax with a simplified high income personal income tax. Michael Graetz has a well expalined proposal in this area. A variation on this is to transfer the responsibllity for non-retirement payroll taxes to the employer and to remove the deductibility of wages and salaries from business income taxes, allowing for a lowering of rates and the transfering of employee deductions for health care, childcare, the child tax credit and any VAT prebate and Earned Income Tax Credit for retirement payroll taxes still extant. If tax increases are necessary to stabilize the Medicare trust fund and fund health insurance reform, the expanded Business Income Tax (which would also be filed by sole proprietors and partnerships) would be the natural vehicle. To make such enhanced funding more palatable to conservatives and libertarians, provision of private insurance up to the state average could be credited against these taxes.
The Republican Party and the Pro-life movement have pretty much shot themselves in the foot. The Rove contingent in the Bush campaign got McCain and Palin to go ugly. If the GOP brand name wasn't bad enough under Bush, it got even worse after this campaign. Meanwhile, certain Catholic bishops who are involved in the pro-life movement overplayed their hands in denouncing Barack Obama's position on abortion rights. If the movement were smart, it would abandon its electoral connection with the Republican Party and work with the new Administration to legally protect late term fetuses by recognizing them by federal law (which the soverign legislature - Congress - can do under both its original powers and its power to enforce the 14th Amendment.)
The movement will need to do some inside work to work toward this point. National Right to Life should figure out what protecting human life really means in terms of the law. It will find that most of its members like the concept of protecting the unborn, but would be quite unwilling to give first trimester fetuses or their heirs access to the courthouse for medical malpractice or retribution for their deaths - or even coverage by life insurance policies. An equally protected fetus could not be protected at a level less than that of a born infant, which means that if the mother ordered the abortion, she is as culpable as the doctor and that once a fetus is recognized as a person, there is no keeping the trial lawyers and prosecutors out of the picture due to its newly acquired rights to equal protection under the law. These interests must also be weighted against the general health of women - as protecting children too early would mean the death of the practice of obstetrics before the 24th week, which would also harm children. It is time to end the emotionalism in the pro-life movement and take a look at the cold hard options. If they don't do this, their membership will more and more see through their apparent opportunism - promising much but delivering nothing but money to fund National Right to Life and money and voters to the Republican Party.
Finally, reports are already coming in of lawsuits to reverse Proposition 8. I thought these would have resulted when Virginia passed its anti-marriage/anti-contractual relationship amendment - but legal remedies depend on direct injury - and if no one challenges the contracts of their gay loved ones, no remedy is needed. Victory in California may be short-lived for the homophobes, as gay couples can use the Scalia dissent in the Texas Sodomy case to justify their equal protection rights to marriage - since he positied that if sodomy were not illegal there were no legal grounds to deny full marital rights. If California were smart, they will quit after the first loss in federal court. If it goes to the Ninth Circuit, they will surely lose. If they appeal to the Supreme Court, it will be the end of all state marriage bans. I doubt they are smart enough to see that, since they are delusionable about the justice of their cause - that is unless they wish to generate a backlash resulting in Constitutional Amendement at the federal level. However, given the current composition of the Congress, there will be no such Amendment. If the election results show anything, it is that the new American majority is tolerant of gay marriage. As time goes on, this toleration will increase. This just goes to prove that some people exist as an example of what not to do.