The first farmer was the first man. All historic nobility rests on the possession and use of land. Ralph Waldo Emerson

29 August 2010

The Loyal Opposition

An intelligent and conscientious opposition is a part of loyalty to the country.  Bainbridge Colby

About a year and a half ago, concerned and patriotic citizens found common voice in a movement called the Tea Party. At first, the movement was discounted by many politicians of both major parties in our country--until Tax Day 2009, when mass demonstrations took place in some 750 towns and cities across America. (What is little remembered is that the term "TEA Party" is an acronym for the phrase "Taxed Enough Already".) These protests were remarkable in the fact that they were peaceful and made by citizens who, for the most part, had never participated in any form of protest or political action in their lives.

Some five months later--on 12 September 2009--some 75,000 marched in Washington to protest not just the policies of the Obama Administration, but the Bush Administration before it for profligate government spending that had put the country on the brink of financial ruin.

Now, nearly a year later, the Tea Party movement is causing upheaval in both major political parties. Three incumbent Senators--Michael Bennett of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and the opportunistic Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania--have seen their political careers end at the hands of the Tea Party. And key Tea Party-supported candidates, including most prominently Sharron Angle of Nevada who is running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid--have the establishment candidates on the run.

Liberals--most prominently House Speaker Nancy Pelosi--have referred to the Tea Party protesters as an "angry mob". But these concerned citizens appear on the brink of a historic election in little more than two months from now.  Since 1968--through the upheavals of Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War, the rejection of the Presidency of Jimmy Carter, three major wars (the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War), and 9/11--the greatest turnover of US House seats was 36 in 1974. And while the election is still 65 days away, most pundits believe that the Republicans will regain control of the House with a turnover exceeding the 39 seats needed to do so. If this happens, not only will the GOP regain control, but the political bent of the members will be decidedly more conservative--buttressed by the many Tea Party candidates who will undoubtedly be elected.

The genius of the Founders was that they allowed America--every two years--to re-define itself and force its elected officials to pay heed to the voice of the common people. That voice is about to be heard with thunderous resonance.

07 August 2010

The Fun Of Being In A Pennant Race

As any faithful reader of this blog knows by now, I am a big sports fan. I love football and have been a huge 49ers fan all my life. I love basketball and--even though I grew up in California--I've always loved the Boston Celtics. But my first love is baseball. I well remember the day my dad and mom took my brother and me to our first baseball game--a San Francisco Giants game played at the infamous Candlestick Park. My favorite player was Willie Mays--and he hit a home run that day, making me a lifelong fan of the Giants.

In the whole scheme of things, the Giants would probably rate as a middling franchise. They haven't won a World Series since before I was born. They've played in three World Series since I've been alive--in 1962 against the Yankees, in 1989 against the A's, and in 2003 against the Angels--and they've lost them all. But I love rooting for my beloved team, and I love rooting against the hated L.A. Dodgers.

Since the departure of the controversial Barry Bonds, the Giants have struggled. Until this year. Now they have a wonderful blend of veterans and extremely talented young players. They have one of the best pitching staffs in the Major Leagues. But what I like best about them is they're a team. There is no obvious star player who carries the team; everyone has a role, and each of them play it with gusto. Rarely are they out of a ballgame, and they are always scrapping to climb back into games where they're behind. Ten days ago, against the hated Dodgers, a recent addition to the team named Pat Burrell hit an eighth-inning home run that beat the Dodgers 3-2. And last night--without the benefit of a hit--the Giants beat the Braves 3-2 in the 11th inning after tying the game in the ninth.

The Giants stand today one game behind the division-leading San Diego Padres, but they've gained six games on the Padres since the All-Star Break a month ago. I don't know if the Giants will make the post-season playoffs, or if they'll get another shot at a championship in the World Series. What I do know is that it's a lot of fun to be in a pennant race.

06 August 2010

What Is The Definition Of Democracy?

On November 4, 2008 voters in California approved Proposition 8 with 52.2% of the vote. The proposition's language was simple: it added a clause to the state's constitution affirming that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the state of California". Now U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker has ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, and that gay people should have the right to marry--immediately.

No matter what one's position on gay marriage may be, this ruling is scary. It's one thing for a court to overturn a lower court's ruling, or even to consider a state law as unconstitutional--as has recently been done with Arizona's illegal immigration law. But for a judge to assert his own ideology in direct conflict with the majority will of the people in a state-wide constitutional referendum is astounding.

If the vote of the people can be overturned by a single judge, what kind of democracy do we really have after all? Webster's defines democracy as "a system of government based on the principle of majority decision-making". Proposition 8 was most certainly not a referendum which was decided in the dark of night. It was a huge issue in California, debated for months before the vote--and timed to coincide with the Presidential election of 2008, which drew more voters in California than at any time since 1968. To that end, it's indisputable that, with regard to majority decision-making, the majority spoke clearly.

But that majority's voice has now been abrogated by the sole opinion of one judge. And that should send shudders up the spine of every Californian.