Tag Archives: poll

You’re Fired!

In the wake of the Duck Dynasty dust-up, the Chik-Fil-A controversy and other events triggering “right to free speech” debates, we get this report from Huffington Post:

In the new survey, 45 percent of Americans said the First Amendment does not allow people to be fired from a job for expressing their views, while only 36 percent said such firings are allowed under the Constitution. Twenty percent said they weren’t sure.

Answers to other questions in the poll were equally depressing. The article’s provocative title was “Do You Know More About the First Amendment than Sarah Palin?”–and when the answer to that is “no,” you’ve really hit bottom.

The dismal poll results remind me of the young man who called the ACLU, back when I was Executive Director, and demanded that we sue White Castle for denying him his First Amendment rights. They’d refused to hire him, apparently because he was so heavily tattooed they found it unappetizing. I still remember him insisting “I have a right to free expression!” As I tried to explain, yes, and so does White Castle.

If the City of Indianapolis–or any unit of government–passes a law forbidding you from tattooing your body, then you’ve got yourself a genuine, real-life, rootin’ tootin’ constitutional challenge. When White Castle disapproves, you don’t.

If the government told A & E that it couldn’t suspend Mr. Homophobic Duck Guy, it would be violating A & E’s rights. If a local government refused to zone a Chik-fil-A because its owner is a homophobic jerk, it would violate Chik-fil-A’s rights. (Annoying as it may seem, jerks have constitutional rights too.)

Listen up, Americans! The Bill of Rights restricts what government can do. And one of the things government can’t do is protect you from being fired for shooting off your mouth.

Now was that so hard?

The End of the Culture War

Granted, reports like this one suggest that gays and lesbians still face formidable amounts of bigotry. But a recent Political Insiders poll conducted by the National Journal suggests that even those who exploited the bigots for political advantage know the culture war against gay folks is pretty much over. And while that North Carolina restaurant owner may not realize it, the good guys have won.

The poll asked operatives of both political parties–political insiders–the following question:

Which statement comes closest to your political views on gay marriage?

My party should support it

My party should oppose it

My party should avoid the issue

Other

The Democrats, predictably, were overwhelmingly in favor of having their party support same-sex marriage. After all, they just won a national election in which the party and its President strongly supported marriage equality. Ninety-seven percent chose the first option, and zero percent chose the second. Two percent said “avoid the issue.”

The response of the Republican insiders was more surprising. Twenty-seven percent said that the GOP should support marriage equality. Only eleven percent said oppose. A whopping forty-eight percent recommended avoiding the issue entirely.

As one of the “avoiders” put it, “The lines have been drawn on this. Such a polarizing topic, and given other pressing issues, this is a red herring with dynamite taped to its back. No good can come from messing with it.”

Translation: the days when we can win elections by bashing the gays and warning of “the homosexual agenda” are over.

Good riddance.

The New “N” Word

I learn a lot from my friends on Facebook.

Yesterday, a couple of people linked to a Slate Magazine report of a poll of Republican electorates in Mississippi and Alabama. The results were eye-opening, in more respects than one: by considerable margins, GOP voters in both states rejected evolution (66% in Mississippi, 60% in Alabama), and believed that President Obama is a Muslim (in Mississippi, only 12% said he was Christian, while 52% said Muslim and 36% were unsure; in Alabama, 14% said Christian, 45% Muslim and 41% unsure).

My first reactions were predictable. 1) A country that rejects science is a country in decline; 2) People who insist that Obama is a Muslim are probably are many of the same people who criticize him for attending a church where Rev. Wright was pastor–i.e., intentionally ignorant people; and 3) So what if he were Muslim? Being Muslim shouldn’t be any more out of the American mainstream than being Mormon or Jewish or Unitarian.

But of course, this isn’t about the comparative merits of different theologies. This is about pathology. It’s about the hate that dare not speak its name.

Another friend’s post hit that proverbial nail on its head. “Muslim” he wrote “is the new “N” word.”

We’ve come far enough in America to make the use of the original “N” word unacceptable, even among people who harbor very racist beliefs. We come far enough to actually elect a black President, and by a pretty substantial margin. That’s progress, and I don’t mean to diminish its significance.

But to dismiss the immediate and irrational response to that election and this President–to insist that every criticism of Obama is grounded in policy differences–is to ignore the elephant in the room.

The “birthers” and their ilk–the folks who insist that the President was born in Kenya, or that he is an adherent of a religion they have also demonized–are intent on labeling Obama as alien, as Other. But they don’t want to admit to themselves–or betray to others–the true source of that Otherness, or the real reason for their animus: the color of his skin.

At least they are true to their own beliefs: they haven’t evolved.

What If They Held an Election, and Reasonable People Came?

This has been a pretty contentious session of the Indiana legislature, and one of the most divisive proposals has been the renewed effort to include a ban on same-sex marriage in the Indiana Constitution.

The amendment is really just a gratuitous effort to marginalize gay citizens, since we don’t have same-sex marriages in Indiana. Proponents want a vote on the issue, not because it is appropriate in our system to vote on other citizens’ fundamental rights–it isn’t–but in order to make clear that the majority of citizens in Indiana don’t like gay people.

They may be too late.

Indiana Equality Action recently commissioned a poll of Indiana citizens on attitudes toward the proposed amendment. The results were shocking–in a good way. Forty-seven percent of Indiana residents oppose the amendment, while 43% favor it. Even more surprising, 65% of self-described Republicans and conservatives opposed it, and 41% of seniors. More predictably, 67% of young voters opposed it.

I want to be clear: opposition to the amendment should not be equated with support for same-sex marriage. (The numbers show progress, but not that much progress!) However, there are plenty of compelling reasons to oppose constitutionalizing discrimination, even when you don’t particularly like the folks who are being singled out, and obviously those reasons have convinced a lot of people that this amendment is a bad idea. The poll also confirmed that Indiana citizens have much higher priorities than bashing gay people: the economy and jobs, education, the state budget, health care, crime and drugs, and taxes all came in well ahead of gay marriage.

Particularly interesting is how quickly attitudes on this issue have changed, even in staid, conservative Indiana.  Clearly that’s one of the reasons the usual suspects have been so desperate to get this amendment on the ballot–every year it is delayed, its prospects for passage dim further.

If the proposal passes this year, as expected, and if a separately elected legislature passes the identical language, it will go before the Indiana electorate for a vote. That means that voters first chance to weigh in on the issue will be nearly four years from now.

I wouldn’t want to bet on the outcome.