There’s this debate playing in the back of my mind, between being ‘realistic’ and ‘dreaming big.’ I don’t think it’s really a debate — overall, you need both, the people who work with the system you have for the improvements that are possible, helping people in material ways as quickly as possible, AND the people who push us to break outside the confines of the system, because they know the system will eventually eat you if you remain trapped within it.

An example: the electoral college should go away. It was a racist institution to begin with, and serves no useful function now; it is actively anti-democratic. But how to do it? Ideally, a constitutional amendment, but that’s got to be a long road, given how long it takes to even convince people that the electoral college should be abolished. (It took some months of argument to convince me.) So the National Popular Vote Compact seems much more manageable in the short term, esp. since several states have already signed on. 

That’s how we got gay marriage, after all — state by state flipping over, until finally there was enough weight on that side of the scales that marriage equality at the national level seemed possible, and worth pushing for. States’ rights are important in America, and will likely be for a long time; that’s the system we’re working with.

To review Obama’s strategy on that front:

– 2009: pushed and signed Shepherd and Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act
– 2009: created task force on bullying (which also funded the “It Gets Better” video)
– 2009: issued a directive on same sex domestic partner benefits
– 2009: supported legislation to ban “conversion therapy” on minors
– 2010: repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — this was key, and emphasized the unfairness of partners of military personnel not receiving appropriate benefits, an argument that spoke to many conservatives
– 2011: the President and Attorney General announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act’s provision defining marriage as only between a man and woman, leading to the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions holding the Act unconstitutional

No conclusions here; just thinking out loud. What path(s) do we follow to create the change we need?

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