Friday, July 18, 2008

MPW On The Politics of the Referendum, Part Two

Marc at Maryland Politics Watch has posted Part Two of his discussion of the referendum to re-legalize discrimination against transgender people. This time he focuses on the politics of it. You know I'm not an especially political creature, but I find it interesting to see how the wheels of bureaucracy churn away at something like this that affects real people's lives in a personal way.

It is sometimes hard to imagine why it is better to elect representatives than to simply have people vote on the issues. The effect should be the same, right? Majority rules in either case. Our current controversy demonstrates exactly why it is better to elect representatives.

First Marc discusses the important topic of using referendum initiatives instead of legislative action to make law, using California as an example. In that state, he says, "As of 2003, 85% of California’s over $100 billion budget was controlled by state initiative and not the legislature and governor."

I'm skipping down into his post, you should follow the link and read it all.
The biggest problem with the growth of ballot initiatives is that complex issues of public policy are being boiled down to single paragraphs on ballots, thirty second commercials, and knee jerk reactions by voters. The latest example is a Colorado ballot initiative which would declare a fertilized egg a person for the purpose of constitutional rights. That’s an important issue, but probably one that should be informed by oversight hearings, scientific panels, and careful deliberation, not attack ads.

Unfortunately, Maryland seems to be joining the ballot initiative trend with not only the transgender referendum, but also the slots referendum which I consider an abdication of responsibility by Annapolis. Our country and its states are famous for democracy, but that word does not appear in the US Constitution. Republic does, because we elect representatives to go to Washington, DC and state and local capitals to do the hard work of research and deliberation on matters of public policy. They do not always do it well, but it is their job and instead of taking it off their hands through ballot initiatives, we need to hold them accountable at elections.

The post ends up in a good readable analysis of the situation from a high-level perspective, and a word of conclusion. Hope the bloggers at MPW don't mind me cutting-and-pasting from their site -- follow the link and check them every day, they keep good up-to-date discussion flowing there on issues that affect us here in Maryland.
Rewarding the Far Right
Now all my reasoned policy and political process discussion gets cast aside in favor of cold, partisan politics. I do not believe that most opponents of the transgender bill are discriminatory, but I do think they are discomforted. As with many white Americans when it comes to African American equality and many heterosexual Americans when it comes to gay rights, they do not hate, they just do not know. The problem is greatly enhanced with transgendered issues because there are fewer and people are less likely to meet and know them. With time, as with these other communities, understanding will grow. Just as with discrimination against African Americans, homosexuals, and other groups, there will always be stragglers, but change will come.

However, those who will be rewarded should the referendum succeed are not just the discomforted. Some are discriminatory, and many more are just politically motivated. They will revel in the success of the referendum regardless of the policy because it comes in liberal Montgomery County. They will crow on talk radio and use it as a tool to raise more resources and recruit new members. The same organized right wing groups have already been rebuffed by the Maryland courts over the sex education curriculum. They need to be defeated here too or they will be empowered to challenge progressive Democrats throughout the County in 2010. Would they win much? Probably not, but it is a fight that could be entirely avoided by defeating the referendum.

For policy and political reasons, I oppose the transgender referendum. But, as my contracts professor always said, “reasonable minds can differ.” I hope as the debate continues we remember that it is reasonable that we need to be, not prejudiced or dogmatic.

This is an important point. As in other controversies we have talked about here, it is possible to discuss various aspects of the nondiscrimination bill intelligently. There may be legitimate reasons not to extend protection to transgender people, and there may even be legitimate reasons not to protect any groups at all, there may be details that should have been excluded and ones that should have been included. We can discuss those things, it's good for the community to find a balance that everybody can live with.

It is not true that passage of the bill will cause young girls to be raped all over the county, as one loudmouth suggested, or that predators and pedophiles will start hanging around ladies locker-rooms. If we need to have a discussion on the topic, then let's go ahead and have it, but you're going to have to figure out a way to keep the radicals from dominating the conversation, no matter what. Their goal is not to find a reasonable solution to a problem, but to shut down discussion altogether. You want to include the entire community in the debate, but that presupposes good faith, it is impossible to include people who just shout out the first thought that comes into their mind.

We should have a ruling soon. Maybe there won't be a referendum.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"we elect representatives to go to Washington, DC and state and local capitals to do the hard work of research and deliberation on matters of public policy"

In this guy's opinion. Some people think we elect them to represent us, not think for us.

Truthfully, what happens is they will decide which position gains them the most political power. Generally, that is the same as what their constituents want but sometimes the people need to get involved. They aren't judges that have lifetime security and can make judgments independent of political considerations.

Legislators do very little research. They have staff that are paid to do it and prepare briefs. This staff is not elected. In some cases, like the Duchy-Dana gang, the staff has actually come in fourth place in some other election and then winds up with a great deal of influence over legislation in spite of being rejected by voters.

That's messed up.

Referendums allow anyone who cares to become informed and share what they've learned with their fellow citizens. It's the best system because it puts more brains on the case but would be impractical to be used for every law.

Liberals are against referendums right now because they have been on the losing end of so many since the Gray Davis recall. California has always been a strong direct democracy state.

July 18, 2008 3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There may be legitimate reasons not to extend protection to transgender people,"

Thank you, JK.

Most commenters here seem to think discrimination protection is a right.

July 18, 2008 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Their goal is not to find a reasonable solution to a problem"

What problem? Is there a problem?

July 18, 2008 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an article from Today's Post on changing attitudes in America towards queer people, specifically on the ban on lesbians and gays in the military:

Acceptance of Gay People in the Military Grows Dramatically

A different opinion was expressed in a letter on Thursday:

Ask, Tell, Discharge

July 19, 2008 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The links are moronic. If you think some article has smoething interesting to say, paste a section on here.

July 19, 2008 6:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"The links are moronic."

*sniff* *sniff*, oowwe, but learning is so hard! Which button on my mouse am even supposed to press, the right one or the left one? *sniff* *sniff*.

-a person who is notably stupid or lacking in good judgment.

-a person of borderline intelligence in a former classification of mental retardation, having an intelligence quotient of 50 to 69.

-A person whose intellectual development proceeds normally up to about the eighth year of age and is then arrested so that there is little or no further development.

Synonyms: blockhead, boob, dimwit, dolt, dull, dunce, fool, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, numskull, stupid, ass, idiot, imbecile, jackass, mooncalf, nincompoop, ninny, nitwit, simple, simpleton, softhead, tomfool

Why yes anon, it’s the “links” that are moronic…

July 20, 2008 6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sir Oswald the Anonymous (I think) said:

"The links are moronic. If you think some article has smoething interesting to say, paste a section on here."

You don't like links? I like the links, so if I don't want to read the article I can skip past it without all that scrolling down. It makes reading the blog a more facile activity.

The use of the word "moronic" is simply poor manners. Would you say such a thing in speaking face-to-face to a person? Of course not. Then you shouldn't say it electronically. Anonymity is not an excuse to abandon our humanity


July 20, 2008 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My choice is for mooncalf .

What a fabulous word.


July 20, 2008 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why yes anon, it’s the “links” that are moronic…"

Oh, OK, slob. Putting links in a blog post with no other comment is moronic.

Tell us what point from the article you "think" is pertinent so I can argue about and look really smart.

July 20, 2008 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" - Once again, "trying to look really smart" doesn't make you smart. Let's see: from the list given by Emproph, let me choose "dolt" this time. The next time you express inane, pointless, ego-stroking comments, I will choose one of the other synonyms.
An "Anonymous" fan

July 20, 2008 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, when the envious ones start lashing out that just makes me look smarter.

Problem is, you guys are at a disadvantage because of the side you're on. Arguing for the gay agenda, you've got an uphill battle on your hands. Me, I just coast on common sense and I look really smart.

July 20, 2008 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just coast on common sense and [delude myself that] I look really smart.

Well while you are coasting on your common sense, the MAJORITY of your fellow citizens are learning that LGBT people are just as capable of doing a job as straight people. More Americans each year say that those who oppose gay people serving openly in the military are just plain wrong. Numbers track similarly when assessing voters opinions on equal rights and civil marriage for LGBT people too.

You enjoy coasting on your common sense while the rest of your countrymen work toward realizing our founding fathers' hope for this country, namely: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Shortly after he took office in 1993, Clinton faced strong resistance to his campaign pledge to lift the military's ban on allowing gay people to enlist. At that time, 67 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives opposed the idea. A majority of independents, 56 percent, and 45 percent of Democrats also opposed changing the policy.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

Changing attitudes on the issue parallel broader swings in public views about homosexuality. In their recent review of 20 years of polling data, the Pew Research Center reported "a major shift away from highly negative attitudes toward gays and support for punitive actions against gays." In the 2007 Pew data, for example, 28 percent said local school boards should have the right to fire teachers known to be gay; that was down sharply from the 51 percent who said so in 1987.

In the new Post-ABC poll, military veterans are less apt than others to say gay people should be allowed in the military. While 71 percent of veterans said gay people who do not declare themselves as such should be allowed to serve, that number drops sharply, to 50 percent, for those who are open about their sexuality. Non-veterans, by contrast, are as likely to support those who "tell" as those who do not.

Fifty-seven percent of white evangelical Protestants now support allowing openly gay service members in the military, compared with 82 percent of white Catholics and 80 percent of those with no declared religious affiliation. Three-quarters of both married and single people support the idea, both significantly higher than in 1993.

Across all three periodic Post-ABC surveys on the issue, women have been more apt than men to support gays in the military. Today, more than eight in 10 women support allowing openly gay soldiers, compared with nearly two-thirds of men. Fifteen years ago, half of women supported this stance; nearly two-thirds of men opposed it.

Furthermore, large majorities across age and education categories now support allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone July 10 to 13, among a random national sample of 1,119 adults. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Error margins are larger for subgroups.

July 20, 2008 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still like "mooncalf" for our troll. What a wonderfull word.


July 20, 2008 8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well while you are coasting on your common sense, the MAJORITY of your fellow citizens are learning that LGBT people are just as capable of doing a job as straight people."

Often, with posts made by the drooling idiot, Aunt Bea, you can stop reading the post after the first line. The above sentence profoundly mistates the case for keeping gays out of military service.

No one believes gays shouldn't serve in the military because they are incapable of performing some job. There are many jobs in the military and gays, like any other group, have an array of talents.

Gays, rather, are not properly part of combat units because of character issues and the effect on the morale of the units. It has nothing to do with any abilities.

Does Bea not understand this or is she lying? I would guess the latter but, in any case, there is no real reason to read a post further when the first line is so clearly wrong.

I didn't.

July 21, 2008 6:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course you didn't read more than the first line, Anon, and you still didn't select an alias to carry on a conversation where people can read what you say and hold you to it. That's because you live in the dream-world where you are accept no responsibility for the hate you espouse and where facts like **75% of Americans believe "don't ask, don't tell" is wrong** don't matter.

July 21, 2008 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aunt Bea, I've been reading your comments here for a while now, and you seem like quite a gal. I don't know how you do this on the Internet, but you don't happen to live anywhere near Gaithersburg, do you? Maybe we could have a cup of coffee sometime?

July 21, 2008 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for confirming by not answering, Bea.

Bea lied.

July 21, 2008 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That's because you live in the dream-world where you are accept no responsibility for the hate you espouse"

Like thinking open homosexuality in military barracks is bad for morale. Is that hate?

"and where facts like **75% of Americans believe "don't ask, don't tell" is wrong** don't matter"

"Don't matter" how? Should a person change his position because 75% percent of Americans disagree?

If not accepting the majority position is now "the dream-world" to drooling idiots like you, then I suppose you would now support putting 23-07 to a vote.

Couldn't go wrong with a realworld like that?

July 21, 2008 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Anon, I missed your question mixed in with all your bluster. Here's my answer:

There are no "character issues" or "morale problems" except for those homophobes like you try to create.

And here's some real-world information about our allies the British and how they have worked out your dream-world problems that do not actually exist.

The International Herald Tribune reports:

...Recently, gays and lesbians have lived and fought in Iraq alongside heterosexuals without problem, according to military officials. "I would say that before the European court ruling, it was difficult to see this policy happening or working," said Lieutenant Commander Craig Jones, a gay Royal Navy officer who often speaks publicly, with the navy's approval, on gay-rights issues.

"People were quite hot under the collar about it," Jones said. "The admirals, generals and air marshals were really concerned. I'm quite sure that these folks look now and think,
'What was all that fuss about?'"

Most European countries, including France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Denmark, have lifted their bans on gays in the military. But Britain, particularly the Royal Navy, has gone further, said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

"In a lot of cases what you have is a legal commitment to nondiscrimination, but a quiet continuation of previous cultural norms," Belkin said. "But here you have not only a reversal of policy and a formal commitment to nondiscrimination, but a proactive embracing of the idea that integration is good for the military and diversity is useful for recruiting from the fullest possible pool."

...Gays in the British military are subject to the same rules of sexual conduct as heterosexuals: no touching, no kissing, no flaunting of sexuality.
Since 1991, women have been allowed to serve with men on ships, which operate under strict "no sex" rules, and sailors in such close quarters have relied on what one naval official said was "common sense and good manners."

Imagine that, Anon! You poor thing, it must blow your little mind because "common sense and good manners" are two things homophobes like you have in short supply.

July 21, 2008 8:38 AM  

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