Friday, April 13, 2012

Amendment One...Creating Unexpected Political Bedfellows

Single-issue debates and referendums can often make for unexpected (and unintended) political alliances which turn an expected result into a surprise.  The May 8th vote on Amendment One to define marriage into the North Carolina Constitution is shaping up to be just such an occassion.

If history is any guide, one would assume this amendment passes easily in the only remaining Southern state to not have such a provision in its state constitution.  If it fails, that will be due to those assumptions being wrong.

Here's an example of how this can work. 

Ever heard of the OLF?  If you've ever driven through some of the counties in eastern NC or Virginia, you would. signs dot the roadsides, and some have obviously been there for years.  Last year, the organization won a major battle in its long-running war of attrition.  Here's a quote from the most recent news item posted on the website.

"The U.S. Navy called a Jan. 27 truce in its 10-year battle to build a practice airfield in North Carolina or Virginia.

The proposed Outlying Landing Field (OLF) for practice landings and takeoffs by carrier-based jets from Norfolk, Va., stirred strong opposition in both states, but none more than in North Carolina, where the Navy first attempted to obtain land for the field a decade ago.

'The Navy made the right decision,' said Vance Aydlett Jr., chairman of the Currituck County Board of Commissioners, 'The Navy promised that it would not build an OLF in a community that did not want it, and today it followed through on the promise.'"

NOOLF is a successful activist driven effort to stop government overreach, and it provides a prime example of how diverse groups can come together to stop such efforts - even as they attack the issue from totally different perspectives.  Take a look at the site's "allies" page and you will see groups as diverse as the Sierra Club and FreedomWorks. 

You would never expect to see that would you?  Those groups could not agree on anything could they?  The answer to both questions is "No".  However, on this effort they come at the issue from different perspectives and end up in the same place, and that place allows them to agree.  The OLF is bad for the community for environmental reasons and  property rights reasons.  So, they agree to fight it together.

So what does this example mean for Amendment One?

While you can certainly expect self-proclaimed "progressives" to oppose this amendment, don't expect every "conservative" to agree this amendment is a good idea.  Conservatism covers a broad spectrum, and your more libertarian minded conservatives certainly may see this as government encroaching on an individual's personal liberty.  Fiscal conservatives may see it as a distraction from more important issues of the day such as winning the pending elections allowing for continued work on reigning in debt and spending.  This issue can only motivate the opposition.  Also, my guess is some people who call themselves "social conservatives" may vote differently on election day.  It's one thing to say you oppose a certain lifestyle.  It's another to pull the lever and actively vote against the people living it.

And most tellingly, NC Speaker Thom Tillis recently said that if it passes, in a generation this amendment will likely be repealed - making this vote just one battle in what will likely be a decades long confrontation even if it does pass.

However, don't be surprised on election day if Amendment One fails - regardless of what the polls say today.

Bonus Observation:  The Town of Davidson may get to see this kind of political coalition later this year if Town Commissioners proceed with a referendum on extending terms for local politicians.  That coalition will be good for the community and bring people together.  Who knows what happens then?

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