What do [insert disaffected group here] do now?

With the Presidential election behind us, those folks who found themselves less than 100% behind the President are asking the same question: “What do we do now?” A few thoughts:

[party social moderates]

While most pollsters and pundits were focused on the so-called “daddy issues” of terrorism, defense and homeland security, prior to the election, the postmortem of the nation’s decision tells a different story. Namely, that the actual force behind the Bush victory was “moral values.” While spinners on the right will say that means “God and family values,” in the real world, it’s about abortions and gays.

These moderates have some soul searching to do, and they’re likely wondering if their souls are as blessed as those of their more socially conservative partymates. They’re rightly concerned about their place in the party and if the religiously motivated right-wing of the party is right in claiming a mandate to lead the party down the path of light to Holy victory.

Social moderates have hope for the future of the party, as two top-tier moderates’ names have already been floated for 2008: Giuliani and McCain. If they’ve got some free money and time, they’d be well advised to take a page from the left-wing handbook: early money is like yeast.

[gay republicans]

Although they might hold the same political views as their social moderate counterparts, gay Republicans are perennially seen as self-haters for aligning themselves with a party who consistently uses their lives as a wedge issue to win campaigns. This year was no exception – beyond the President’s marriage amendment proposal and 11 state-level bans on gay marriage, the Republican Party approved a platform that not only opposes gay marriage, but opposes any recognition of any type of same-sex relationships.

Like their straight counterparts, these boys and girls will likely cringe at the thought of a death or retirement on the Supreme Court, and will be cheering on efforts by moderate Senators like Judiciary Chairman-to-be Arlen Specter to ask the President to send middle-of-the-road judges to the Upper House for confirmation. Gay Republicans have the same hope for 2008 as the moderates – that their party will be saved by the venerable former-NYC mayor or the rogue Arizona Senator.

[democrats in general]

Arguably the most disaffected group of all, the Democrats are scrambling to find their place in this new world. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to do so this week by sending a plea for new money, noting that “Republicans unleashed every weapon in their arsenal to deliver a knockout blow to Congressional Democrats. They failed!”

Clearly, someone should have mentioned that they need to find their place in the real world. In less fundraising-centric circles, however, the Democratic House Leader has been seen mentioning God and church quite a bit more often in the course of television interviews, which may only further justify the moral right wing’s superiority complex in Republican ranks. Pelosi seems to be enacting Roll Call Executive Editor Morton Kondracke’s Tuesday missive on the Dems and God.

The Dems are also looking four years ahead, but the only two names that keep popping up are Edwards and Clinton. While those names will certainly get their own fired up, this year has proven that their own just isn’t enough. The Republican names on the hotplate for ’08 are inherently party-line crossers and will suck the energy out of either Edwards or Clinton.

But it’s a long four years. Who knows what might happen by then. President Obama, anyone?

What Would Jesus Vote?

As the nation goes to the polls, every politically-motivated group in America wants to go with them. Over the past weekend and spilling over into yesterday, both parties and the interest groups that support them were working overtime to remind you who is the right man to vote for today.

So it is with the folks at WorldviewWeekend.com, a partner ministry of American Family Online, an Internet service provider dedicated to serving Christian households with heretic-free web surfing. Worldview Weekend, which sponsors Christian seminars and boasts actor Kirk Cameron as one of its featured speakers, sent an e-mail missive to its members yesterday giving them a “no bones about it” view of today’s democratic (small d) activities.

Brannon Howse, the group’s President and Founder, penned the letter, in which he states rather unequivocally that his belief that “anyone that does not vote on Tuesday is sinning and anyone that votes for Kerry is committing an even greater sin!”

As if that didn’t do enough to seemingly run counter to the Christian ideal of love and understanding – not to mention the Internal Revenue Service’s code of conduct for religious entities – Mr. Howse goes further in his tirade:

This is no time to waste votes on third party candidates..A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Kerry. If you disagree that is fine….don’t waste your time sending me an e-mail about it because I will not waste my time reading it.

Is this how Christians should approach this election? Hardly. Support for Bush by the majority of Christians is expected and understood, but this kind of nasty electioneering smacks of something that is decidedly un-Christian – and perhaps more directly important today – un-American.

Who gets your vote on Nov. 4? Uh, 2008.

This weekend, I had an unexpected political conversation that started with a simple yet telling question from a gay Republican: “What are you thinking about 2008?” Like most of the country, I admit I’ve had November 2nd blinders on. I’m not sure I’ve even made dinner plans past the politically-charged date. But here was a moderate Republican getting ready for 2008, even before we know the outcome of 2004. Why?

Simple. For moderate Republicans who don’t find themselves too keen on Bush, it’s time to look ahead to brighter days. The current foci of these hopes are the two top [Presidentially eligible] Republicans in the field today: Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. This hope isn’t misplaced, either; aside from being moderates, these guys are as close as the GOP comes to Clintonesque rock star status.

With many moderate GOPers ready to wince at either outcome this Tuesday, perhaps hope for next contender will be the glue that holds them together until November 4. 2008. Of course, the first thing on the agenda for any White House hopeful is money. Naturally, part of my conversation revolved around fundraising efforts, starting in January. Yes, January ’05.

In deference to the Office of the President, however, let’s hope the fundraisers don’t kick-off before the inauguration.

The age of the no-fault voter

Yesterday, a Polk County, Iowa District Judge threw out a lawsuit challenging Iowa’s provisional balloting rules. The contested rule would allow any Iowa voter (or non-voter, really) to cast a provisional vote in any precinct in the state. Similar to my wireless plan, it essentially amounts to statewide roaming for voters.

Provisional ballots – as required under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 – have the potential to be a strong safety net to ensure that every registered voter gets the chance to vote. Under the law, voters can cast a ballot on Election Day, and voter registrars can sort out the validity of the vote – and whether or not it should be counted – after the fact.

Most states are handling the requirement well. Ohio requires provisional ballots be cast in a voter’s precinct, the regional headquarters for their home precinct, or the voter registrar’s office in their county. A clear line of authority. Iowans, conversely, don’t even need to bother to go to their own polling place in order to cast a provisional ballot.

Plenty of tools exist to make voting as easy as possible for voters while still protecting the process: early voting, absentee voting and now provisional voting. In order to protect the continued validity of these tools, however, it is imperative we set guidelines in order to protect the continued validity of the process as a whole.

The New York Times opined this week that Congress “should make clear that provisional ballots must be counted even if they are filed in the wrong polling places.” Such action would essentially remove what little voter responsibility is left in the process.

If a voter cannot take it upon themselves to glean their polling place from the voter information mailed to them, or at the most “inconvenient,” enter any polling place and ask to be directed to their own, then the fault for their non-participation should lie flatly at their own feet, not at the feet of the county, state or the Congress.

Finally, some compassionate conservatism

President Bush declared his support for state-based civil unions on this morning’s Good Morning America, the New York Times reports. Additionally, the President indicated that he was open to the “possibility that nature could be the defining component when it comes to a person’s sexual preference,” softening his original response to the same question in the third Presidential Debate.

Not to scare the fundies, however, the President made sure to reiterate his feeling that the Marriage Protection Amendment is the only way to protect marriage between a man and a woman, and once again threw his full support behind the proposal. Still, this marks a softening of the President’s rhetoric on this touchy issue, perhaps in an effort to assuage moderates’ fears that the Chief Executive is too deep in the pocket of the religious right-wing of the party.

We’ll find out in a week if these concessions will do anything for the President in the polls, but in the last seven days, every faction counts – as long as it can be done quietly enough so as not to eviscerate the hopes of the religious zealots he needs to win.

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The W stands alone?

If I had an arch nemesis…

CNN American Morning‘s Jack Cafferty – who with two exceptions has garnered the most mentions for a non-elected person in DA’s five-month history – brings us this gem this morning:

CAFFERTY: Thank you, Soledad. Ninety-six days is how long it has been since the 9/11 Commission issued its report on how to protect this country from terrorism. And Congress still has been unable to adopt any of the major recommendations. Nada.

Originally, they said they couldn’t possibly act until next year. They said they were much too busy. Of course, they found time then right after that announcement to take six weeks off. Eventually, the House and Senate did pass two bills, but now it looks like they’ll be unable to reconcile the differences before the election next week. And of course, they’ve got to take another recess — two more months. They won’t be back until January of next year.

As usual, Cafferty’s propaganda is an exaggeration in order to “sell” his rant to the viewing public and get them riled up. What it isn’t is accurate. Cafferty had the first part right: CQToday yesterday delivered a eulogy for the bill’s chances of meeting the Nov. 2 goal of completing action, a date that House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) called “an artificial date,” and indicated that they’re looking for a good bill, not a good campaign issue.

What he didn’t have right: Congress will be back in less than three weeks with plans to finish the Intelligence Reform Bill during the lame duck session. Now, concerns do abound, however, about a loss of momentum for the bill when the Congress reconvenes on November 15th with the election (hopefully) two weeks behind them.

Apparently Cafferty isn’t sure his viewers could process that complex bit of information, so as usual, he instead chooses to just go with the old standby of exaggerations and untruths.

If Congress were as accurate as he is, I doubt he’d ignore it.

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Representative Democracy: 1; Cafferty: 0

No vaccine for backlash

Congressional leaders are making sure the Capitol’s top doc takes the heat for offering up a plethora of vaccinations to Members and Hill staffers at a time when America’s seniors are lining up around the block for the same thing.

Roll Call reports that the office of the Attending Physician will donate a new shipment of 3,000 vaccinations to local health organizations, after previously recommending all Members and staff get the vaccinations because of their heavy travel schedule and contact with the public. Congressional leaders are concerned that his recommendation doesn’t jibe with the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation that the vaccines be limited to high-risk individuals, such as the elderly.

It should be noted that Majority Leader (and rock-star-caliber heart surgeon) Bill Frist (R-TN) gave the same reasoning in advocating the shots in a letter he circulated to his 99 Senate colleagues. In fairness, however, many of the 100 lawmakers do fall in the “senior citizen” category.

Alan Keyes is [no longer] Making Sense

Placeholder hopeful for U.S. Senate Alan Keyes is either self-deluded to the point of near-insanity, or he’s resigned himself to defeat and is staying in the race for the fringe benefits of actual television face time. This morning on CNN’s American Morning, Keyes responded to questions about the lopsided polling in his race, currently showing Obama leading by a 43 point margin.

Keyes response [transcript later today] was to deride Anchor Soledad O’Brien for quoting and/or fabricating “false polls,” adding that he knows the good people of the State of Illinois will not elect a left-wing liberal who will (among other things) threaten traditional marriage. Despite the fact that he’s polling at 18 percent.

Granted, there are lots of candidates hanging their hat on the public’s concern about “protecting” marriage this cycle, but in Illinois at least, Obama is right to hang his hat on the public’s concern about protecting themselves from crazy.

The many faces of outrage

Senator Kerry’s reference to Mary Cheney’s sexuality in the third debate is still making headlines this morning, with the Cheney family (sans Mary) filling the screens with talks of indignation. Their displeasure isn’t focused on just the Senator, however – Mary’s sister Elizabeth talked with Paula Zahn last night and denounced Elizabeth Edwards’ comment that her mother must be “ashamed” of her gay daughter to be angry at the mention.

The major problem with the entire debate is that everyone is debating a different angle and their own perspectives. Jack Cafferty‘s question of the day on CNN’s American Morning asked “Is it appropriate for Kerry and Edwards to be talking about the sexuality of Dick Cheney’s daughter?” The responses were generally anticipated, save one from “J.R. in Florida”: “What do you think the Democratic reaction of [sic] obesity instead of being gay was the social issue and Bush used Edwards wife as an example?”

This perfectly circles back to the importance of the original question in this debate: “Is homosexuality a choice?” It’s clear that Bush’s answer signals that he either: A) believes that it is a choice, but is hedging his answer to avoid offending the moderates, or B) can’t afford to say it isn’t a choice for fear of backlash from his right-wing base.

J.R. in Florida is the type of folk Bush is speaking to with his non-answer to this central question – people who feel that obesity is a perfect analogy to homosexuality; that who someone is attracted to is as much a choice as whether or not to supersize your value meal.

Regardless of the propriety of Kerry’s comment about Mary Cheney, he succeeded – wittingly or not – in keeping the eye off the ball. The President’s non-answer to this important and central question has been completely glossed over, and we’re focused instead on the fallout of a point Kerry could have made in a number of other ways.

Kerry gave the right answer – it’s an immutable characteristic. Bush gave the answer that protects his base and their crusade to make sure that their discrimination and bigotry is protected. If you admit that it’s not a choice, your case to fight equal rights becomes harder; the right-wing has to be able to hide behind the Bible and their specious “data” that prayer can save the devilish gays.

In the long run, the Bible didn’t protect mono-racial marriages, and it likely won’t protect the viciousness of the right-wing for much longer; but Bush’s answer gives them a little more time.

There’s something about Mary

For the second time, Vice President Cheney’s daughter has been brought forth as a debate issue – and for the second time, it wasn’t her father or her father’s running mate who did it.

Questions regarding same-sex marriage – or in the case of last night’s debate – the origins of homosexuality in general – certainly shouldn’t automatically revolve around any one individual, but both last night and last Tuesday the Kerry/Edwards team focused the issue on Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter Mary. What’s the strategy?

One mention might have been innocuous – but not really that innocuous. Two mentions trips the red light: who are Kerry and Edwards speaking to when they remind the American public that Cheney has a gay daughter? Certainly not the moderates – they wouldn’t want to do anything to soften either candidate on social issues in the eyes of the swing voters. The left? No clear line of strategy there.

Who’s left? The right, actually; the President’s base. One might see the strategy as an attempt to spark a “there’s a fox in the hen house” murmuring in the right-wing, hoping to make them less likely to run to the polls on November 2. If that were the case, it would be difficult to argue that either candidate has shown unequivocal support for gay Americans in this election; Kerry and Edwards may have come close, but their hopes for a win have clouded their basic values of respect.

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Grand Marshal of the Cheney Pride Parade?