Turning Tides


It may be that high water-mark of the GOP tide has been reached in Wisconsin:

In Ohio, Republican lawmakers agreed to modify a bill that would have banned collective bargaining, allowing state workers to negotiate on wages. Michigan's GOP governor offered to negotiate with public employees rather than create political gridlock. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) called on GOP lawmakers to abandon their "right to work" bill that would have made it a misdemeanor for an employer to require workers to become or remain members of a labor union.

Increasingly, it seems to me, Scott Walker's political gamesmanship is discrediting the vital cause of tackling deficits and debt in the states. It's a classic case of over-reach.

And the same can be said of marriage equality in Maryland, where extreme rhetoric in the debate turned some previously anti-gay marriage legislators around. The NYT reports on the muted response of the GOP's potential presidential candidates to the Obama administration's decision not to defend Section 3 of DOMA in the courts. I don't for a minute believe that the Christianist base will be satisfied if the House decides to let sleeping gays lie, but the feeling is different now, don't you think?

The genius of the Holder decision is that it forces the GOP to decide very quickly whether to double-down on this issue.

It's the last thing Boehner wants to be thinking or talking about. And Obama has wisely restricted his shift to the federal government's recognition of what states have already done. In other words, Obama's decision can be viewed as a federalist one. Why, after all, should some states not have all their marriage licenses recognized by the federal government, rather than, say, 98 percent of them? Since the DOMA provision protecting every state's right to decide how to define civil marriage remains, this becomes an issue of the states versus the federal government. Which again intensifies the Republican internal conflict.

Meanwhile, the gays are ecstatic - a little too ecstatic in my view. Not to say I am not extremely gratified by the DOJ's decision. Just that I recognize its limits. As Obama used to say: no sudden moves. But his legacy on gay rights is beginning to build into a historic one. Yes, I have complained loudly in the past. My loyalty is to the issue, not the president. But he is coming through - more cunningly than most of us grasped.

Which is not the first time one can say that on many issues, where Obama's caution and incrementalism have begun to create a legacy that is deeply unsatisfying in the present but looks rather substantive from the rear-view mirror.

(Photo: In this photograph taken January 21, 2011 a baby green turtle crawls to the sea after being hatched at a turtle sanctuary in Sukamade island in East Java province. By Sonny Tumbelaka/Getty.)