DREAMS DEFERRED: In what is becoming a depressing refrain of the Obama presidency, Senate Republicans again wielded their filibuster power to block a vote on two critical legislative items—the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) and the DREAM Act, the latter of which would expedite the process for foreign-born students of good standing to obtain citizenship. Both were bundled as amendments to the 2010 defense authorization bill, marking the first time in forty-eight years that Congress left for recess without approving annual military funding.
The amendments’ failure came despite broad support across the political spectrum. Gallup reported in May that 70 percent of Americans favor a repeal of DADT, including 60 percent of Republicans. Even Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said repealing the policy is the right thing to do. But this consensus wasn’t enough for Senator Susan Collins, the Democrats’ fair-weather friend from Maine, whom Harry Reid had hoped to court. She joined the rest of her caucus—along with Arkansas Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor—in voting no, justifying her opposition on the grounds of procedural objections.
The DREAM Act had also enjoyed widespread popularity. On Meet the Press, Colin Powell urged Senate Republicans to vote yes. “We can’t be anti-immigration,” he said of his party. Angela Peoples, policy and advocacy manager for Campus Progress, was hopeful that the DREAM Act would again be put up for a vote during the lame-duck session of Congress, this time as a stand-alone bill. She noted that several senators who said they supported the measure voted against it on procedural grounds. “Let’s give them the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and take a vote for the DREAM Act on its merits,” she said.
Likewise, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, was confident that the DADT repeal would be successful after the conclusion of midterm election–related politicking. “I think that’ll be a far better environment to get something constructive and get the bill passed,” he said. “Hopefully during the lame duck we can get the White House fully engaged in this.”
Sarvis also had choice words for Senator John McCain, who erratically asserted in a postvote news conference that gay and lesbian servicemembers were not being actively “outed.” “Senator McCain is just flat wrong,” Sarvis said. “It’s clear that he doesn’t understand the statute. He should ask us to come in and give him a briefing.” MICHAEL C. TRACEY
ONE NATION TOGETHER: The sobering new data on poverty have given fresh impetus to the One Nation Working Together movement, a coalition of union members, community activists, students, civil and human rights leaders and progressive politicians who will march in Washington on October 2. Wrestling the populist mantle away from the Tea Party and Glenn Beck, One Nation will call on government to do more for the increasing number of Americans whose basic needs go unmet. As the recent data show, one in seven Americans lives in poverty—that’s 44 million people.
It’s a full-fledged crisis, and groups on the left are making every effort to marshal grassroots pressure to force the administration to rise to the occasion. Initiated largely by the AFL-CIO and the NAACP, One Nation has scores of sponsoring organizations, including La Raza, union affiliates, major environmental groups and Code Pink. The challenge is to keep a march as diverse as this from degenerating into a laundry list of slogans that diffuse the coalition’s core message of economic equality. Fortunately, organizers have laid out some concrete policy goals, including extension of the federal unemployment program, mortgage assistance and other initiatives for the unemployed; legislation to ensure that all workers earn a living family wage; the expansion of antidiscrimination laws; the reform of bankruptcy laws; universal healthcare; and increased support for higher education.
The march is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the Lincoln Memorial, and smaller events are being staged at the same time coast to coast. Get more info about the DC march—including how you can arrange a trip, volunteer and help spread the word—or check out what local events are taking place near you at onenationworkingtogether.org. You can watch the DC proceedings live on Free Speech TV with hosts Thom Hartmann and Laura Flanders. The broadcast will feature main-stage speeches, interviews with organizers and analysts, and reporting from the crowd. Also, you can read an article on One Nation by Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change and Ben Jealous of the NAACP at TheNation.com. PETER ROTHBERG
POPE RAGE: If Pope Benedict XVI arrived in England expecting a rapturous welcome from the God-fearing British public, he must have left vowing never to return. From the day the pontiff arrived on a state visit, secular figures and the media subjected him to a relentless stream of criticism, culminating in a march that saw 10,000 take to the streets to object to his presence on the island.
He was greeted with an open letter in the Guardian protesting his views on condom use, gay rights and the treatment of women, with prominent signatories, including actor and writer Stephen Fry and scientist Richard Dawkins. This was followed up with a barrage of abuse from all corners of the media, mocking everything from his beloved red loafers to his papal headgear—the latter being a perennial target in the tabloid press.
Some of his critics had a more serious point: in secular Britain today, the reactionary views of the pope do not sit well with a people who have made great strides in the acceptance of most of the social issues on which the Catholic Church still takes a hard line. In a recent poll, 83 percent of the British public declared themselves to be in favor of abortion rights and 90 percent support measures to stop discrimination against gay people in the workplace.
But what really infuriated people was the cost of the visit to British taxpayers—estimated at £12–20 million—at a time when the government is making billions in cuts to public services. In light of the recent abuse scandal, which has appalled Britain’s 4 million Catholics as much as any of their European counterparts, the public was seemingly more preoccupied by the traffic jams the pope was causing than the Vatican’s take on the state of their nation. JENNIFER O’MAHONY