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Tom Head

When It Comes to Civil Liberties, Gratitude is Not Satisfaction

By November 18, 2012

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The 2012 elections were good to us. Barack Obama was reelected, which gives us a four-year extension on the past half-century of civil rights precedents. Democrats expanded their lead in the U.S. Senate, the body responsible for approving judicial nominees, which means that--barring a GOP filibuster--the next Supreme Court candidate(s), if there are vacancies during this term, will be supportive of existing civil rights law and eager to expand it to incorporate other marginalized communities. The Mexico City policy will stay off the books. DHS regulations establishing the right of same-sex partners to visit each other in the hospital will remain in effect. Recreational marijuana use is now legal at the state level in Colorado and Washington. Same-sex marriage will become a reality in Maine and Maryland.

But we still have a lot of work to do as a country:
  • We need a more humane immigration policy. The DREAM Act to start with, certainly, and comprehensive immigration reform if we can get it.
  • Obama needs to keep his promises: close Guantanamo Bay, stop prosecuting marijuana use in states where it is legal, sign an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors, and lay out clear guidelines for the use of aerial drones, to name a few examples among many. I'll be writing more about these issues over the coming weeks.
  • Sensible Republicans need to rescue their party from the Tea Party racists and Religious Right misogynists who presently control it so that we can begin to choose between two viable options, rather than choosing between a viable option and a terrifying one. I'm tired of sounding like a yellow dog Democrat. Please, GOP: start producing decent, compassionate, intelligent 21st-century candidates who are worthy of Lincoln's legacy, and marginalize the anti-47%, "let-him-die" Social Darwinists from the political mainstream.
  • The Libertarian Party needs to find its own voice again, and stop functioning as a nostalgia circuit for state's-rights Republicans.
And most of all: we, as engaged citizens, need to continue to make our voices heard on civil liberties issues. For me, every year is an election year. Municipal elections for Jackson, Mississippi are coming up next year; midterm national elections are coming in 2014 (and with them the very strong possibility that Republicans may retake the Senate); Mississippi state elections are due in 2015; and 2016 will, of course, bring about the election of our 45th president. And then, with the next round of municipal elections in 2017, the cycle begins again. As somebody who hates politics but cares deeply about public policy, I see these elections as opportunities to be good advocates on the issues that matter to us--but I'm only one person. Write a letter to your local newspaper. Start a blog. Post about these issues on Facebook and Twitter. Raise the level of discourse in this country, and use your voice in the service of an open society. If you care about other people, and not just about yourself, that means we need to hear from you--and from more people like you. We need to inject more empathy into our national conversation about public policy, because that's where our rights come from.

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