Monday, December 28, 2009

The Republicans' Disdain for the American People Should Be the Story of 2009

[This article also appears on You can access it from my author page here.]

Looking back on 2009, much of the discussion on TV news shows is whether President Obama and the Democrats in Congress correctly handled the problems facing the country. Somehow, a narrative seems to have emerged that the Democrats failed and would pay the price in the 2010 midterm elections.

But where is the discussion of how the Republicans have behaved in the last year?

It has been less than one year since President Obama was sworn in. When he sat behind the big desk in the Oval Office for the first time, he found himself responsible for a free-falling economy (and mounting staggering job losses), a massive deficit, the manpower and financial burden of hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq, a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, and a militant Islamic movement looking to inflict damage on America and American interests, all of which came as a direct result of the failed policies of his predecessor. Obama also had a host of other problems to address, from global warming, to energy dependence to a corrupt and dangerous Iranian government struggling to hold onto power and capable of real danger, just to name a few.

The president didn't create any of these problems. Not one of them. And it is completely unrealistic to think that any person or party could solve these issues in less than a year.

Now, there has been much debate over whether Obama's handling of these issues was up to snuff. From listening to the ridiculous rhetoric from the right, you would think that the president was trying to turn the country into some bizarre combination of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. And many progressives are unsatisfied with Obama's handling of the re-regulation of the financial industry, as well as his approach to health care, LGBT issues and other points of contention.

But another way to put it is that the criticism form the right is not only unfounded, but the Republicans have offered no real alternatives to address the issues, aside from advocating for the failed Bush policies of the last decade. And progressives seem to forget that the arcane rules in the Senate limit what can be done with only a majority, while Republicans in Congress are single-minded and united to do anything they can to politically damage the president, without any concern for actually governing for the American people. We saw that in play in the health care debate, as the 40 Republican senators remained rock solid in support of the insurance companies and the status quo (the current system is a disaster, as health care costs chew up more and more of the country's GDP while leaving Americans with more and more health care expenses and less and less coverage).

What have the Republicans offered aside from "no"?

To me, that should be the real story of the first year of the Obama administration. The discussion should be about the utter disdain the Republicans have shown for the American people, as the party has put political games and protecting its corporate interests in the first position on every issue. That, and the out-and-out lies that have become the go-to strategy of the party (death panels anyone?).

Consider that in the last two weeks alone, we have been treated to:

- GOP senators blocking confirmation of Obama appointees as a way of securing petty political victories. (What kind of system allows a single senator to hold up confirmation of an appointee? How is it that a party can control 60 seats in the Senate and still not have the ability to confirm the president's appointments? Does this seem like a good idea to anyone interested in maintaining a functioning government?)

- Republican senators holding up funding for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as a tactic to slow down health care reform. (When Democrats in Congress during the Bush years balked at writing a blank check for a failed war in Iraq, Republicans questioned their patriotism. But now, to Republicans, it's okay to block funding the troops as a way of slowing down health care reform? How is this not a story? Why is this not provoking voter outrage?)

- Republicans opposing health care reform on fiscal grounds, even though the bill will lower the deficit, and despite the fact that the same Republicans had no trouble ballooning the deficit in the Bush years by approving massive tax cuts for the rich, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Medicare prescription drug program without paying for any of them.

- Sen. James Inhofe traveling to Copenhagen to undermine President Obama at the Copenhagen climate change summit. (Can you imagine the charges Republicans would have thrown at a Democrat who traveled to a conference Bush was attending to undermine his position? I promise you the words "patriotism"--as in lack of--and "treason" would have come up.)

- GOP senators calling for the watering down of financial reform legislation, just a year after the misconduct of the banks caused the economy to go into a death spiral. (If there is a lot of anti-bank feeling in the country now, why isn't the biggest defender of the finance industry, the Republican party, getting hit with the blame? And how can any legislator oppose reform in the face of developments like a credit card legally charging 79.9 percent interest?)

- Sen. John Thune lying on the floor of the Senate as to when benefits take effect in health care reform legislation. (Thanks to Al Franken for not being intimidated and pointing out a lie when he saw one.)

- Republican superstar Sarah Palin reiterating the lie that health care legislation called for death panels, and changing the basis for the accusation when her original charge was proven untrue. (This kind of dishonest fear-mongering is more contrary to American ideals of democracy than anything in the health care legislation itself could ever possibly be.)

- Sen. Tom Coburn demanding a reading of an amendment to the health care reform bill calling for a single-payer program (which would have taken 12 hours, but which only went several hours before Sen. Bernie Sanders withdrew the amendment) as a way to slow down health care reform. (If the Democrats had tried something like that during the Bush years, they would have been pilloried by Republicans for not respecting the American people's wishes as expressed by the election results.)

Again, these events are only from the last two weeks. And the list is hardly complete.

So if the Republicans are supposed to be guaranteed to win seats in 2010, on what will these victories be won? What have the Republicans done to help the American people with the grave problems they face? (Sen. Mitch McConnell seems to think that the health care reform bill will be enough. Will Americans really support the Republicans on this one?)

To be clear, I am not arguing that the president and the Democrats in Congress have been beyond reproach in 2009. I think there is a lot of fair criticism to be levied, and a fair debate can be had as to whether the Democrats handled health care reform and other issues as well as they could have. But any deficiency in the Democratic approach pales when compared to the shameful conduct of Republicans during this time. The Democrats were making an effort to clean up Bush's messes. The Republican motives in the last year have not in any way involved actually trying to fix problems (or, even worse, they don't even acknowledge that many of the problems exist in the first place).

The story for 2010 should be the Republican party's complete disregard for the needs of the American people. The party's decision to prioritize scoring political victories over the president, protecting corporate interests, and relying on lies to do it over solving problems and governing should be clear to anyone paying attention. Let's hope that when voters go to the polls in 2010, they remember who was trying to solve problems and who wasn't. Time will tell if we will ever fully recover from what Bush did to the country. The last thing we need is more Republican rule, offering more of the same failed policies.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Political Labels 101: A Lesson for Republicans and Tea Baggers

[This article also appears on You can access it from my author page here.]

I am a big believer in open political debate. While my views may be solidly progressive, I have the utmost respect for anyone interested in making honest arguments as to how to proceed on the issues of the day. I admire Jurgen Habermas's view of democracy requiring a public sphere in which citizens come to the table not just with arguments for their side, but with an open mind to hear the views of opponents.

I was reminded of how far the right wing approach is from this ideal when I read that Sarah Palin was tweeting about death panels again.

I absolutely acknowledge that a fair debate on health care (or any issue, really) can be had. I know that my progressive beliefs may not provide the best answer to every problem in every situation. But what I have no patience for is the outright lies and ignorance, as well as the dangerous accusations, being injected into our national consciousness. And what's worse is that the mainstream media has done virtually nothing to point out the simple and obvious explanation as to why these charges are outrageous.

Here is an example of a functional and positive (but, unfortunately, fictional) debate on health care reform:

Pro: The current health care system is broken. A growing amount of our gross domestic product is going to health care costs. More than 50 million Americans have no health insurance. We have a moral obligation to provide medical care for Americans, something nearly every Western democracy does. And in doing so, we can help the economy by removing (or lessening) the health care burdens on Americans and employers.

Anti: It would be nice to cover more Americans, but it is not a moral obligation. We have limited resources as a nation, and we just can't afford to provide everyone with everything. Our national debt is high, and we are coming out of a recession with limited recovery of jobs so far. It's not the place of the federal government to provide health care to the country's citizens. Other countries may do so, but the United States has always been a market-based country that allows entrepreneurs to innovate. If health care costs get too high, someone will figure out a way to do it better and cheaper, and that person will not only be successful, but the American people will benefit.

This is a fair exchange of ideas. It gives citizens two points of view to consider, both with pure motives from the proponents. Americans can then choose which way they think is the best way to move forward.

Of course, that hasn't happened.

On September 9, while addressing a joint session of Congress, President Obama made this argument:

"The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals. It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance for those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government."

The responses?

Well, we had a siting member of the House of Representatives yell "You lie!" during the president's address.

We had all kinds of lies and fear-mongering from the right, featuring outrageous claims of doom if health care reform passed (I collected a few of the egregious examples here).

And for the last year, we have had vile comparisons of Obama to everyone from Lenin and Stalin and Hitler, along with charges that he was a socialist bent on bringing down capitalism. (How can any reasonable person not be disturbed by this sign?)

I fully understand that some of you are saying right about now, "Of course the tea baggers are morons and don't know their history. Duh." Agreed. But the mainstream media isn't making this basic point. They show the images of the protests on television, but they provide no context. And it matters, since it legitimates the ridiculous anti-Obama and anti-health care arguments that make no sense.

And none of this is going away any time soon. Yesterday, Palin tweeted about health care reform: "R death panels back in?" This bit of craziness came from the Republican party's most recent vice presidential nominee, not from an ignorant, hasn't-read-a-newspaper-in-her-life, religious fanatic tea bagger. Uh, wait. I guess actually it came from someone who is all of those things. Palin, nevertheless, is a national figure, a legitimate candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, and a right-wing icon big enough to sell more than five million copies of a work of fiction (that she mistakenly calls a memoir), Going Rogue. The death panel ridiculousness can be judged to be the top lie of 2009, but Palin happily tweets about it like it was fact.

So, since the mainstream media refuses to set the record straight, and with health care reform winding its way to a (hopefully) successful conclusion, I thought I'd offer a basic lesson on political labels in the health care context.

Fringe Socialist: According to the platform of the Socialist Party USA, all private health insurance companies should be immediately abolished and be replaced by government-funded health care "controlled by democratically elected assemblies of health care workers and patients." Also, private pharmaceutical companies would be abolished in favor of "public ownership and worker and community control of the pharmaceutical industry." Finally, the socialists call for "full community decision-making regarding the creation, organization or elimination of public health care facilities."

Progressive: The platform of the Green Party USA calls for: "A single-payer National Health Program to provide free medical and dental care for all, federally financed and controlled by democratically elected local boards." Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) called for the extension of Medicare to everyone.

Mainstream Democratic: The public option is not a progressive or socialist plan. Rather, it was a compromise developed as a way to provide coverage to uninsured Americans without putting the health insurance companies out of business, and without going to a full, government-run, single-payer system.

Centrist: Considering how few true centrists remain in American politics, it is hard to pin down a centrist position without being cynical. My first instinct would be to say that on health care, a centrist is a Democratic senator from a conservative state who agrees to a watered down health care bill in exchange for subsidies funneled to his or her state. But, if I put my cynicism aside, I guess I would say that the centrist position is finding a way to cover uninsured Americans without damaging the economic interests of the beneficiaries of the current failing system (health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, etc.).

Mainstream Republican: Like the centrists, I haven't seen many mainstream Republicans in Congress, so it's hard to nail down a position. My cynical take on the mainstream Republican position: Pretend to care about health care reform, but vote against anything that actually changes the status quo (I'm looking at you Sen. Snowe and Sen. Collins). But if you go to the source, the Republican position is to oppose government funding of health care and any major changes to the status quo, except to support limited consumer protections in areas such as banning insurers from rejecting patients with preexisting conditions and improving the portability of insurance, and to bring down costs through state innovations.

Fringe Reactionary: "You lie!" Health care reform could "cost you your life." A public option is "gonna kill people." "I don't have to read it or know what's in it. I'm going to oppose it anyways." Health care reform "rations health care so that our citizens are withheld important and potentially life-saving treatments."(All statements of sitting Republican members of Congress.) And, of course, the charges that Obama is a communist/fascist/Nazi.

Considering Obama did nothing to push the public option in the Senate, cut deals with the drug companies and health insurers, and never suggested a single-payer system, it's pretty clear that there is no valid argument to make that he is a socialist (or a Nazi, either, since if he was, he would have to send himself, his wife, his kids, his chief of staff, his chief strategist, and numerous members of his staff and cabinet to concentration camps; I'm not being flip, I'm just appalled at how little the right wing Obama attackers know about history, and how insensitive some of the charges are).

In fact, going down the scale, you would find that Obama isn't a progressive or even a mainstream Democrat. His approach to health care reform has been closest to the centrists (but I think his motive was pragmatism, not to line the pockets of the health insurers and pharmaceutical companies).

And the bill that is emerging from the Senate fits comfortably into the centrist position, too.

Again, I'm sure many readers will think I am being trivial here, but I firmly believe that the narratives in the country on Obama and health care have been greatly distorted, in no small part because of the mainstream media's legitimization of ridiculous charges by the the right. Sometimes, even if it seems silly, it's helpful to point out simple facts and demonstrate how ridiculous these charges are.

I was quick to pillory George W. Bush for his utter incompetency and disregard for democracy, but I manged to do it without calling him a Nazi or comparing him to Stalin. I engaged in what, I think, Habermas would agree was the kind of arguing over public policy that allows a democracy to function. Little coming from the right at this moment in time would fulfill that role. All we hear are lies, scare tactics and propaganda. Since the mainstream media won't do their basic job function of reporting how idiotic these claims are, I will have to write articles like this one, silly or not.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Three Reasons to Be Happy About the Reported Deal by Senate Democrats on Health Care

[This article also appears on You can access it from my author page here.]

According to reports yesterday, a group of 10 Democratic senators, five centrists and five progressives, has reached a deal to allow health care reform legislation to proceed. We don't know much about the compromise yet, as the senators aren't talking about it pending receiving cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. What seems to be the basic deal, though, is that the public option won't be a part of the legislation, but, instead, the bill will include an expansion of Medicaid and an opportunity for those 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare.

Many are lamenting the demise of the public option, but I thought of three things about the reported deal that actually make me happy:

1) Finally, the Democrats figured out that the power to make a deal lies with them, not with the Republicans. Back in September, I begged the Democrats to forget about the Republicans (who were only pretending to engage as a way of stalling progress), caucus, and come to a compromise that all 58 Democrats and the two independents could support. I have criticized the Democrats for failing to properly use the power of their majority in Congress and the mandate from an overwhelming victory last November, so it's only right I give them their props for finally taking charge.

My favorite element of this story, from a political gamesmanship point of view, is the statement from Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota that all 40 Republicans would oppose the Democratic compromise, even if the public option is off the table. It was such an entertaining moment, since Thune's statement meant absolutely nothing. How nice for you, Sen. Thune, that you and your 39 colleagues will stand together to support health insurance companies and oppose health care reform for Americans. But your opposition will have zero effect if the 58 Democrats and two independents agree to a deal. Thune and his 39 fellow Republicans will be powerless to stop health care reform from happening if the other 60 senators stand together.

Essentially, Thune's statement is like the temper tantrum of an eight-year-old who isn't getting what he wants: it's annoying but doesn't change anything.

It is quite enjoyable to read about a health care deal that doesn't involve what Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins or any other Republican whose agenda is to torpedo real reform wants. I don't care what they think. And if the 60 other senators really have made a deal, I don't have to.

2) I have come to the conclusion that no public option is better than a weak one. From the beginning, I have supported Rep. Anthony Weiner's proposal to extend Medicare to all Americans. The public option was meant to be a compromise between the left's desire for a single-payer system and the right's claim to oppose governmental intervention in health care. Somehow, the public option became the left's position in the debate, essentially taking the compromise position to begin with, even though the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Once it became clear that centrist Democrats (who enjoy riding on the financial coattails of health insurance and pharmaceutical companies) opposed the public option, it became clear that if such an option did end up in the legislation, it would be so watered down by triggers or other gimmicks that it no longer would have effectively done the job it was there to do: provide competition for private insurers and keep costs down.

If a weak public option became law, and it didn't work to bring down costs and expand coverage options (since it would have been set up to fail in the compromise), the perception would be that the idea itself failed (even though that wouldn't be the case). Given a choice between a weak public option destined to fail, and no public option with the reputation of the policy remaining intact, I'll take the latter every time. It leaves us with the opportunity to fight another day when those suffering under a system with lack of choice and high rates become more open to a governmental solution to address the crippling problem.

As an example, I offer the stimulus legislation. Democratic leadership allowed the Republicans and centrist Democrats to decrease the amount of the bill and to load it up with useless tax cuts. The result? Complaints that the stimulus bill didn't do enough to create jobs. Seems ridiculous, right? Make a proposal to address something, have your opponents water it down so it can no longer remedy the problem (or not work as well), and then blame the program for not providing a solution. I don't want to see the same absurd dance play out again with the public option.

3) A win is important both politically and in practice for those struggling without health insurance. The side of me that loves the game of politics thinks that if after a year of battling and enduring lies and other desperate measures thrown out from the right (death panels, funding abortion on demand, keeping Americans from seeing their own doctors, socialism, etc., I rounded up some of the crazy statements by Republicans in Congress here) the Democrats can get a health care reform bill through to President Obama's desk, something no other Congress has done in the last half century of trying, it will be a huge blow to the Republicans and conservatives who have fought this battle. Similarly, failing to pass health care reform legislation would be a deadly blow to the Democrats. So from the political point of view, getting something like the reported compromise through Congress would be huge for the Democrats.

More importantly, though, there are a lot of people suffering in the United States right now because they can't afford health coverage. According to the nonpartisan National Coalition on Health Care, 54 million Americans under the age of 65 lacked health insurance in the first half of 2007, with 7 million more estimated to lose their insurance by next year. The Republicans may want to protect their corporate benefactors, but something has to be done for the tens of millions of our fellow citizens in need. The current health care legislation may give too much to the health insurance and drug companies that have helped create the current mess in which we find ourselves, and it may not provide the kind of coverage and cost control many of us would like to see. But it will make life better for millions of Americans who are suffering right now with a lack of health care in a difficult economy. As much as I think politics is important, it is even more important to provide the citizens of our country with affordable health care, and the reported compromise is better than nothing for those in need. It may even represent a start, the first step in a process of true health care reform.

So I hope the reports of a compromise are true, and that 58 Democratic senators and the two independents who caucus with them have reached a deal to pass health care reform legislation. It may not be an ideal bill, but there are at least three reasons to be happy about it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm Not in a New York State of Mind, Thanks to 38 State Senators

[This article also appears on You can access it from my author page here.]

But now I need a little give and take/The New York Times, The Daily News/It comes down to reality And it's fine with me 'cause I've let it slide/Don't care if it's Chinatown or on Riverside/I don't have any reasons I've left them all behind/I'm in a New York state of mind
- Billy Joel, "New York State of Mind," 1976

I am often in a New York state of mind. After living most of my life in New York, I recently moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to go back to graduate school. But being a New Yorker is a strong part of my identity. Which only made it harder to accept the New York State Senate voting down a gay marriage bill on Wednesday (my birthday of all days). Eight Democrats joined all 30 Republicans in shamefully telling millions of New Yorkers that they are less deserving of rights in the State of New York.

There is a viral video making the rounds in which a man, speaking directly to the camera, attempts to shoot down the arguments against gay marriage. While, obviously, I agree with the bulk of what he has to say, the issue is far, far simpler to me.

I look at the issue in legal and constitutional terms. (I may not practice law anymore, but I can't seem to put my legal education and short time practicing completely behind me. I guess it doesn't help that my wife is also an attorney, so the law is always buzzing around me.) And when you look at the gay marriage question through this lens, it is easy to see the anti-gay marriage folks for what they are: religiously fueled bigots.

Marriage has two essential elements to it. First, it is a union recognized by most of the world's major religions as being between a man and a woman. Second, and completely separate from the issue of religion, marriage is a contract between two individuals recognized by the 50 states. You will note that I identify the second element as completely separate from the first one because of a nifty little amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the first one, in fact) that reads, in relevant part:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

Thanks to more than a century of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, we can safely conclude that, among other things, the First Amendment prevents the government (states are bound by the First Amendment via the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified after the Civil War) from enforcing religious decisions in carrying out its business. As such, it is not incumbent on the states to enforce religious laws on marriage, nor may the states force religious leaders to carry out certain policies that violate their faiths.

So there is religious marriage (based on the rules of a couple's faith) and state marriage (essentially a civil contract under which certain rights and responsibilities become enforceable under state law).

Now, there is no doubt that many American religious leaders feel that the marriage of two men or two women violates the rules of their faiths. While I can't support their bigoted views, I would be quick to defend their right not to marry two men or two women. That is a decision the state has no place getting involved in. And religions are not bound by any responsibility to treat their followers fairly or to extend them equal rights. If Catholics do not want to let women become priests, or if Orthodox Jews do not want to allow women onto the bimah (altar) during services, or if any other religion chooses to extend fewer rights under the rules of the faith to one group or another, that is the right of those religious institutions to do so. It's up to the members of the religious institutions to decide if they want to be part of a religion that discriminates in these manners.

But the government doesn't enjoy the same leeway as the religions. In fact, the Constitution, federal law and state law are filled with provisions that assure just the opposite, that every American should be treated equally under the law. So if a state decides to grant the right of two men or two women to marry, that is the state regulating state business (and I would argue it's both the legal and moral obligation of the state not to pick and choose to whom it extends these rights and responsibilities). The state isn't telling any priest, reverend, rabbi or imam to marry two men or two women, nor is it requiring the religions to accept the couples as being married under their faiths (in the same way that if a Jew and a Baptist are married by the state, the state doesn't require Orthodox rabbis or Baptist ministers to recognize the marriage in their faiths).

In other words, religious marriage is the domain of the religions, and state marriage is the domain of the states. And under the First Amendment, the states are not supposed to force religious rules on its people, nor are they to interfere in the beliefs of the religions. Seems simple enough.

In light of the understanding of the two elements of marriage, what can be a rationale for opposing gay marriage? You can't say it violates your religious beliefs, because nobody is asking you to change, in any way, your religious beliefs. Nobody is asking you to accept the gay marriages in your church, or for your religious officials to perform same-sex marriages. No, the only reason to oppose same-sex marriage is because you believe that gay men and lesbians do not deserve the same rights as heterosexuals. It's really that simple. Everything else is just a smoke screen, a way of diverting attention from the bigotry at the heart of those who oppose same-sex marriage.

The only senator to have the balls to stand up in the New York Senate and speak against the same-sex marriage bill (which had overwhelmingly passed in the New York Assembly), even though 38 of them eventually voted against it, was Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, and his remarks made clear how intellectually bankrupt the anti-same-sex-marriage position is. After Sen. Eric Adams of Brooklyn, noting the secular job of legislators, said that when he walks into the senate chamber, "my bible stays out," Diaz, a pastor, declared in response, "That's the wrong statement. You should carry your Bible all the time."

(Some of Diaz's exploits include being sentenced to probation in the 1960s after being arrested for possessing heroin and marijuana and getting investigated by the FBI for corruption in 2007. He serves as a nice reminder that being religious does not necessarily mean that you behave ethically and morally.)

In other words, Diaz was happy to impose his religion-based belief that homosexuals were not entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals under the law on all New Yorkers as part of his duties as a New York State senator. Note, he didn't reference state law. He referenced the bible.

What is it to be an American if you do not support equal rights under the law? And when you clear away baseless threats that legalizing same-sex marriage somehow has an effect on how religions handle marriages in their faiths, all that's left for those opposed to same-sex marriage is bigotry. It's really that simple.

One of the few bright spots of the debate was the remarks of Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island, who told a funny story about the explanation she gave a pedicab driver of why she supports same-sex marriage. She explained to him they could go to City Hall and get a marriage license, even though they just met and were in no way ready for such a serious commitment. She then offered what I think is as elegant and simple a point as anyone has made about same-sex marriage:

“We in government don’t determine the quality or worthiness of people’s relationships. If we did, we would not issue three-quarters of the marriage licenses we do.”

Again, there are two marriages: one recognized by religion and one recognized by the state. I'm not asking the religions to open their minds, but I am demanding that the states (or at least, in this case, New York State) provide all of their citizens with equal rights. Because as Sen. Savino makes clear, the state has no business in judging the two people that step forward to ask for a license to marry and avail themselves of the rights and responsibilities the state offers to married couples.

As much as Senators Adams and Savino make me proud to be a New Yorker, legislators like Diaz make me wonder what has happened to my beloved state. I think it's time for New Yorkers to stand up and tell the 38 senators that voted to deny equal rights to millions of New York citizens that they don't represent the beliefs of true New Yorkers. That would put me back in a New York state of mind.