More Election Rehash: Citizens United, Gay Marriage, and Republican Democrats

More Election Rehash: Citizens United, Gay Marriage, and Republican Democrats November 12, 2012
Justice Anthony Kennedy

I’ve got to think that no one breathed a bigger sigh of relief on election night than SCOTUS justice Anthony Kennedy. Having been excoriated by all but a few on both left and right for the Citizens United decision — Kennedy was the swing vote in that decision and wrote the majority opinion — he must have been sweating this election season. A breathtaking amount of money poured into the coffers of start-up PACs and Super PACs, not to mention the millions (billions?) raised by the candidates themselves.

SCOTUS had previously and repeatedly ruled that money is speech; in Citizens United, the Court reaffirmed that “Corporations are people, my friend.” Corporations could form for the exclusive purpose of funding campaigns, and go on to fund them anonymously.

Tuesday’s election proved that, regardless of how much free speech you can buy with billions of dollars, you cannot buy an election. I’m guessing that was in Kennedy’s gut when he wrote the decision — that he has more faith in the American electorate than many of us who condemned the decision. Well, if that it what he was thinking, then he was right.

Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS had a $175 million-dollar strikeout:

Minus the millions spent against the president, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS were invested heavily in congressional elections, spending the most in Senate races. Including Obama and Romney, American Crossroads spent money for or against 20 federal candidates in 14 races, while Crossroads GPS focused on 27 in 24 contests.

By our calculations, American Crossroads came out on the winning side in three of its 14 races, with one still too close to call — that’s about 21 percent. GPS did only slightly better, getting its desired outcome in just seven of the 24 elections it spent on; one contest also remains undecided. GPS’ success rate comes to 29 percent.

But at least Sheldon Adelson is $50 million poorer, and we can all rejoice in that.


One of the dumbest philosophical blunders in the losing campaign to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage was the quote  you’d hear and read on signs, “Marriage is marriage.”


Of course, it’s perfectly meaningless to say “X is X.”

In spite of the obviousness of this, the anti-marriage-equality group, Minnesota for Marriage doubled down on that sentiment in their losing press release:

“Despite the disappointing outcome of this election, we rejoice tonight that marriage is still marriage. We know that God has defined marriage as between one man and one woman, regardless of the efforts of some to overthrow His design,” said John Helmberger, Chairman of Minnesota for Marriage.

“We give thanks to God for His creation of marriage, and we commit ourselves to work and pray that attempts to redefine marriage in our courts and legislature will not succeed.”

Yeah, uh, marriage is marriage. And marriage is still marriage. Brilliant.

What Helmberger refuses to acknowledge is that in the sacred text that he and I share, there are any number of definitions of marriage. And further, he doesn’t even know state history. A century ago in Minnesota, you could not get married if you were:

  • An imbecile
  • Epileptic
  • Feeble-minded
  • Had been divorced less than 6 months prior

Yeah, since we no longer discriminate against these categories in Minnesota, marriage has changed.

Marriage changes. Deal with it.


I wrote last week about my little corner of the world, Edina, Minnesota, where we elected the first Democrat to the State Senate since…ever.

Minnesota Public Radio looks at my hometown today, seeing it as a bellwether of how traditionally conservative spots on the map are not so conservative anymore:

Another Edina football fan in the stands, Eric Olson, cast a vote for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“I would think most people are pretty centrist in Edina,” Olson said. “At the end of the day, they want a comprehensive look, and they want the president to work with Congress to get a budget passed. And in this election, I think people felt Obama was more likely to do that.”

But Olson, a Republican, also voted for Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. He said he chooses candidates on how they align with his beliefs and how they represent the state as a whole.

In this increasingly independent-thinking suburb, many voters say party lines don’t matter nearly as much as performance.

Edina is a suburb of affluence. It’s known as being white and rich. It’s nickname is “cake-eaters.”

Edina voted against both conservative constitutional amendments and is now represented at the state level exclusively by Democrats.

That’s notable.

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  • Looking forward to Frank’s response on this.

  • Phil Miller

    I like Edina as a acronym for “Everyday, I need attention”… I don’t officially live in Edina, but I am two blocks from it.

  • Frank

    The great thing about those “victories” is that it pretty much assures that SCOTUS will kick the gay marriage issue back to the states and states can decide if they want to deny Gods perfect design or not. And right now almost all of the states view marriage as one man and one woman.

    • Simon

      I wouldn’t be so confident Frank. Even if they “kick the gay marriage issue back to the states” SCOTUS may well decide that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, because it violates the “full faith and credit” clause of the constitution, and equal protection issues.

      This would have the immediate consequence of helping kids and spouses in gay families who would qualify for survivor benefits of federal employees. This is especially critical for soldiers’ widows and orphans. (Everyone’s for caring for widows and orphans right? Especially a fallen solider’s widow and orphaned children?). Also, it would pave the way for less dramatic, but still important things like family access to healthcare, and the Family Medical Leave Act (i.e. if you’re straight and your kid or spouse is sick or injured you can take time off to care for them. Gay families don’t have that “luxury”).

      Also, if SCOTUS scuttles DOMA, gay folks would be free to marry at Niagara Falls (as people often do) and return to their home state with a valid marriage license.

      Don’t be surprised if Conservatives justices come out against DOMA and other anti-gay/”pro-family” legislation on the grounds of federalism, limited government, and founder’s intent for full faith and credit to be give to the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

      • Frank

        I don’t doubt nor disagree that many believe that benefits should be accorded to same sex couples who make a lifelong commitment. It’s just not nor will ever be a marriage.

        • Simon

          I am disappointed Frank. You make a “states’ rights” comment. Then rather than respond to a states rights’ argument against unconstitutional Federal legislation, you trail off into “I don’t doubt nor disagree that many believe…” and the punch line is not an argument, just another way to say “marriage is marriage.” Disappointed.

          I think that’s Tony’s point.

          • Frank

            You can put together all the pithy phrases that you like but marriage is between one man and one woman. Anything else is something else. What’s disappointing is that many people who call themselves Christians believe they know better than God and His perfect design.

    • Evelyn

      Tell me more about your perfect world, Frank.

      • They make, we take, Frank cake(s).

  • Frank McPherson

    Citizens United was still a bad decision and we still ought to be alarmed by the amount of money being spent on these elections and to buy votes via lobbyists. I suggest to you “Republic, Lost” by Lawrence Lessig.

    • Frank

      I think that this election proves it to be the right decision and all the talk about it leading to disaster has been proven incorrect.

  • Patrick S

    Funny how money in campaigns was a HUGE issue when Romney was vacuuming it up. Once Obama caught up – and then surpassed Romney – suddenly it wasn’t an issue anymore. Strange. Almost like if you raise a lot of money from unions it is ok, but if you raise a lot of money from anyone but a union it is bad…

    Some info on the 2012 elections: the House stayed republican; the Senate lost three Rs (Mass, and the two losers who talked about rape) and only 5 state Houses/Senates flipped after the massive republican takeover in 2010. Many problems remain for the next republican presidential candidate for sure, especially in the Electoral College. But republicans are no nearer their deathbed than democrats were in 2010.

    • Neither I nor anyone with a lick of common sense is saying that the GOP is on its deathbed. We’re just saying 1) this was a defeat for the GOP, and a rousing one, and 2) the country is changing. Even Edina.

      • Patrick S

        You didn’t but you said – and repeat – this was rousing defeat for the GOP. As I note, it was in MN (a truly goofy state: Wellstone, Grams, Ventura) but not in the US. Every place changes. Edina has been changing for two decades as the people who can afford to leave Mpls have been doing so – in droves. They bring their left of center politics with them. The 3(?) term Edina mayor is a democrat, for example.

        • The mayor of Edina, just elected for a third term, was a Republican who switched parties when he saw that party being taken over by social conservatives and libertarian ideologues.

          Or maybe he’s a craven panderer who switched parties because he thought it’d get him reelected.

          Two narratives. Pick the one that suits you.

          • Patrick S

            I couldn’t possibly care less about “narratives.” (And I believe he switched before 2010 elections in order to run statewide, so I don’t know about his sudden awareness of how “different” his party had all of a sudden become.) I just said a fact: he’s a democrat. And that Edina has been moving this way for two decades. Same goes for Arne. If you haven’t voted for a republican in a decade, you are a democrat – or at the very least and independent – but you aren’t a republican (though he does get a whole lot of mileage and attention out of that, doesn’t he?).

          • Curtis

            I don’t know why Republicans are so hard on Arne Carlson. He single-handedly saved the state Republican party from near self-destruction in 1990, and defeated one of the most well-liked candidates, at least among Democrats, in state history. I would think GOP would like to learn from Arne’s success, not belittle it.

          • Patrick S

            I was there, Arne did not save the party from self-destruction. You can’t possibly be talking about Perpich. He was not liked by many because he was a bit goofy and, far worse, was starting to act a bit aristocratic, and his waving around of Grunseth’s divorce papers was widely denounced. So you must be talking about John Marty? Marty was – and is – nearly unknown in the state among voters. I’m bored with Arne because he’s just after the spotlight. He wouldn’t get as much attention – wouldn’t have been in a tv ad – if he accurately called himself a democrat. Others appear to like Arne because he acted then like a democrat and raised taxes and started entitlement programs. His temporary (if by temporary you mean 22 years) tax increase is still law.

      • Frank

        Actually it was barely a win for Obama. Half the country voted against him.

        • Patrick S

          Agreed. Obama’s win in 2012 is very similar to Bush’s win in 2004. I don’t remember the minority democrats talking about the need to compromise with Bush.

          • Curtis

            We have short memory. Google “Gang of 14”.

        • More than half of the ELECTORATE voted for Obama. Let’s get it right please.

          • Frank

            Statistically the same number of people who voted for Obama voted against him. It laughable to hear some try and spin it as a decisive victory. If anything this was still a win for GOP policies and I think we will see that as being the case in the next few years. Obama has no mandate and I predict the GOP will get almost exactly what they want.

          • Frank, not to suggest that you can’t count or are out of touch (no not at all), but . . .

            Numerically, 2 million-plus more people voted for Obama than for Romney. That is arithmetic (you can use your fingers if you need to);

            Politically (think “electoral college”), Obama definitely won decisively. Yes. He did. Politically, this translates to a mandate.

            This was not in any way a win for GOP policies. If it were, it would have been reflected in — wait for it, wait for it — an actual win for the GOP. The GOP did not win here. Lost the White House. Lost the Senate. Lost seats in the House, in spite of their retention of House control. The GOP has not gotten “almost exactly” (whatever the hell that means) what it wanted.

            Rewind six days. Refresh your memory.

            As for your predictions . . . if they’re anything like Karl Rove’s or Dick Morris’s (y’know, the so-called “experts”) . . . well, let’s just say any pro-GOP predictions for anything are really a huge joke. But hey, knock yourself out.

          • Patrick S

            RJ – what makes a mandate? 2012 and 2004 are very similar. Bush won by about 2% as well and gained about the same number in the House and Senate. So by your math Bush had a mandate? Why all the caterwauling from democrats back then?

            I, for one, wouldn’t say either BO or GB had a mandate. Reagan (’84), Nixon (’72) — THOSE are mandates.

          • I have one correction to my figure for the popular vote. Obama did not get 2 million-plus more votes than Romney. He got over 3.3 million more votes than Romney. That’s more than the entire populations of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Alaska combined.

          • If you’ve got 60% or more of the electoral college vote, it is a mandate (remember, we have to calculate politically because in the Presidential election we vote as States). Generally, it has to be a substantial majority. 60% and up qualifies as substantial.

          • Patrick S

            Thanks for the info. I have a different take for two reasons: 1) a 2% difference in total vote is in no way a declaration of significant support for the winner and 2) due to the goofiness of the Electoral College, a candidate could theoretically win 60% of the Electoral College and get creamed in the total vote.

          • If you’re talking popular vote, you’re right. 2% difference doesn’t exactly qualify as significant. But again, we vote as States when we select the president of the country, which was created by a vote of States, not by popular vote. And because we’re still a federation of states, and not a centralized nation, we vote as such when we select who presides over that federation. That’s why Electoral College math is what really matters when calculating the political numbers.

            And actually, it’s not theoretical. It happened once in our history. In 1888 Benjamin Harrison got 58% of the electoral college vote, but lost the popular vote by about 1%. Grover Cleveland won the popular vote that year, but lost reelection. He won the election four years later (it’s worth noting that six states were added to the union during those four short years, adding 43 more electoral votes to the electoral college; it is the largest bulk of electoral votes ever added to the electoral college between two election years). So the 1888/1892 elections were unique.

          • Patrick S

            It happened in 2000 too – Bush got fewer votes than Electoral Votes. My point was a 2% margin is small. And a 60% Electoral margin is meaningless, if a (theoretical) candidate lost by 20% vote margin. That’s way, in my mind neither Bush nor Obama had/have a mandate.

    • Curtis

      It is generally the losers who complain about money in politics. The “Yes” referendum people in Minnesota two good examples. The fact that they were outspent by the “No” advocacy groups, with a lot of out-of-state money, seems to be their primary complaint about the election.

    • Curtis

      (two losers who accurately stated the national Republican party platform position regarding abortion)

  • Keith Rowley

    Tony, while I agree that it is stupid I don’t think “Marriage is Marriage” is meaningless. It is just a code phrase that holds more emotional than actual meaning for the in group it was aimed at.

  • Tracy

    I had to remind myself:

    “Voting on Tuesday (Nov. 6) brings the total number of states that allow gay marriage to nine, in addition to the three states that recognize marriages between two men or two women performed outside state lines.”

    49 percent of Americans favor allowing gay marriage, 40 percent disaprove. Hard not to see which way this is going.

    Its worth remembering that eventually the federal government had to intervene in settling out different states’ ideas about interracial marriage. We might still be waiting on on a few states, otherwise.

    • Frank

      Actually some of those states only allow gay civil unions not marriage. An important distinction.

      • Actually, those nine states (and D.C.) do in fact allow gay marriage: Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, D.C., New York, Washington, Maryland, and Maine. Five more states – Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Delaware – allow civil unions. California, Oregon and Nevada allow domestic partnerships that provide nearly all state spousal rights. Regardless of what happens with DOMA or the Supreme Court, by the end of the decade, I am pretty confident that all of those states – plus a couple others – will recognize gay marriage at the state level and call it marriage.

        Support for marriage equality has increased in every single age group and ethnic group over the past decade, and it continues to gain ground. You may not like that fact, and you may continue to claim that gay marriage isn’t really marriage if it makes you feel better, but that doesn’t really change the fact that legally recognized gay marriage in the United States is pretty inevitable at this point.

        • Frank

          A marriage before God will never be anything but one man and one woman. You might not like that fact but it will stand.

          As far as what popular opinion dictates, it once dictated racial slavery, slaughter and all forms of debauchery so indeed it is capable of anything.

  • Christopher Hibma

    I really don’t get how my love for my fiance and upcoming marriage to him is anyone’s business nor how it undermines/threatens anyone you’re married to. I guess I have more power than I thought!

    • First of all Christopher, congratulations. To both of you. Secondly, when certain conservative dogmatists scream “Protect the sanctity of marriage!”, it is code for “We want it our way for everyone else.” In other words, they want to have power over people like you and me. And the fact that they aren’t getting it is quite simply driving them nuts (enter Frank, stage far right).

      You’re also right. You and your partner marrying will have absolutely no adverse effect on the marriage of Tony and his wife. Or other man/wife teams out there in this big, silly country of ours.

      By the way, we have our non-gay friends to thank for the victory for equality in this recent election. To which, by the way, I would like to say Thank You, Tony Jones. We can’t do this without friends like you. Seriously. It means a great deal. I don’t live in Minnesota, but every voice, everywhere, counts.

  • Maybe you can’t buy a national race, but what about state and local races? Local large employers already have outsized influence on city, county and state government. Citizens United makes that excess influence bullet-proof.

    • Patrick S

      I assume you are speaking about the outsized influence of unions like AFSME on local elections and I totally agree with you.

      Question: when government unions endorse democrat governors who win, what seat do taxpayers get when contracts are negotiated? Trick question: no one cares about taxpayers.

  • Mary

    Frank: “Statistically the same number of people who voted for Obama voted against him.”; not unlike the “mandate” with Bush in 2000 {and 2004}: when he was declared Prez by the judicial lackies, all w/o popular vote.
    If “Corporations are people, my friend.” Then let’s just tax them like they are people. Let’s begin with 12% of their gross profits for starters. Sadly, they would still waste their money on endless, droning attack ads that get less and less believable or relevant with every election cycle.
    Never fear. Carl Rove to the rescue, appealing to reptilian minds’ hot button issues instead of [real honest courage to address real issues that affect real decisions for the good of ALL our citizens and our country].
    I want THAT [above mentioned] candidate, not the ones we had!

  • Steve

    Frank, you have a lot of guts brother. I admire your courage to stand alone. It helps that you are completely correct in your God honoring stance. Keep up the good work sir.