Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Political Battle over Modernity: III

The Political Battle over Modernity

Part III: THE ROUTINE RHYTHM OF LIBERAL SELF-DESTRUCTION


We have seen that radical conservatives studied hard during their time of exile, after having been pummeled and battered by previous miscalculations. While they languished in the wilderness, banished from government, a clade of conservative thinkers spent this time studying, analysing, learning their political lessons well. Gradually, they refined a set of political tools. These ranged from what a decent person might find admirable to deplorable. But taken together, the ensemble integrated toward a single, practical goal.

Achieving power.


In the last section we discussed one of the most potent methods that they picked up, which is superficial ideological inclusiveness. A willingness to accept anyone into the great Big Tent of Conservatism, given even the slightest excuse to do so.

This has proved a powerful technique, allowing GOP leaders to gather a vast menagerie of political types -- many seemingly incompatible -- into a huge and winning coalition. Abetted by leftist radicals who were only too willing to help the process along, by taking the opposite tactic... one of fierce ideological exclusivity, driving away anyone who might deviate from standard liberal doctrine, even by a single litmus test.

No doubt some liberals will object, claiming that they don’t do this sort of party line exclusion. And yet, it’s easy enough to test. Just take a set of divisive issues from both sides of the horribly insipid but standard left-right divide. For example, a person might believe in:


* Every woman’s total right to abortion . . vs Parental notification for minors

* Support for public schools and teachers . . vs Vouchers for private schools

* Generosity over immigration . . vs Tight control of borders

* No drilling in Arctic Wildlife Reserve . . vs test drilling in ANWR

* Supporting Unions & minimum wage . . vs Letting the market decide wages

* Repealing the PATRIOT Act . . vs Greater powers of vision for the FBI

* Limiting foreign intevention . . vs Active exercise of Pax Americana power

* Restoring taxes on the wealthiest . . vs Letting the market solve deficits

* Complete separation of church/state . . vs Schools/kids need faith-based morality

* Concentrate on conservation/no nukes . . vs Restart the nuclear power program


Of course this list is incomplete, it might go on and on, reciting one oversimplified conflict after another. But I just didn’t have the heart to write any more, so deeply do I loathe these standard and rigidly calcified positions, which seem designed to make negotiation impossible. So, let’s make do with what we’ve written down so far. I think you’ll agree that these ten dichotomies between “left and right” suffice to make a point.

Now, squint and imagine a person who holds all of the positions listed on the left side of the list. Sounds like a stereotypical liberal, hm? (A dismal scarecrow of a sterotype, but one that too many Americans buy into.) So far, it’s all party line. And obvious.

Okay. But now imagine just one out of these ten positions switching, abruptly, to the other column. Pick any one. Only make the switch strong. Opinionated. Vigorously felt and passionately pursued.

Can you honestly picture such a person being welcome at any gathering of liberals? Probably, you have anecdotes of your own, illustrating what happens to anyone who has one or two quirky, off-list points of view. In fact, so strong is this impulse on the left, that activists routinely disparage the moderates in their own movement, disdaining them as “light” conservatives.

This dogmatic/purist tendency goes back a long way. In Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell describes the self-destruction of the left amid bloody infighting, during the Spanish Civil War. Moreover, it continues doing harm today. In a very direct way, the obstinately indignant candidacy of Ralph Nader -- based upon pointless ideological nitpicking -- inarguably helped to usher in the Bush Cheney Era.

In contrast, you won’t see that kind of self-imolation on the other side. Look back at that list of ten standard political positions. Again, envision a person who holds nine views on the left side but one strong and vociferous view on the right. Haven’t you seen plenty of “conservatives” who are just like the person you just pictured? Despite holding a mish mash of indiosyncratic beliefs, some classic left, others classically right, and some truly unorthodox, aren’t they -- more often than not -- defined by whichever personal tenet happens to be on the “right”?

And then, doesn't that sense of definition, or identification, have great influence over how they vote?

Please, none of this means that the right is less inherently ideological than the left. It is, in fact, rife with some of the most towering dogmatic lunacies. Or that arch conservatives are more reasonable than lefties. Certainly not!

Moreover, there are exceptions. As described by one blog-correspondent: “... if you're in South Dakota, the Democrats are much more moderate and inclusive than their Republican counterparts. The SD Democratic party will gladly welcome a pro lifer, an anti-guncontrol NRA member, or a fiscal tightwad as a candidate -- whereas you'd be hard-pressed to get on the ballot as a pro-choice, pro-gay, or pro guncontrol Republican.”

Indeed, if you look back to the era of greatest liberal power and success, stretching from FDR to LBJ, coalition-building was a key element of Democrat success, with various groups tolerating each other for the sake of overall party success.

What this pattern does demonstrate is that pragmatism has switched sides. Despite the fact that many on the right are ideological in the extreme, they have schooled themselves to live and work by one iron rule:

Power comes first.

Make alliances with anybody you have to. Make promises and deals. Give lip service to every contradictory dogma.

But take power.

That is the strength of inclusiveness. And it shows just how loopy and self destructive leftist activists have been, in their addiction to the opposite path. The path of righteous, indignant and perpetual defeat.

=== ===

...next... More Weapons in the Neocon Arsenal...

or: Return to Part 1: Ideas for Rescuing Modernity

31 comments:

reason said...

David,
I wonder whether the phenomenon you have spoken is really a question of strategy or the result of long periods of power or opposition. I think the right coalition is disintegrating as we speak - precisely because they are now in power and all their disparate parts want their payback or see that their promised reward for loyalty is not arriving. This process seems to take decades. The left seem to be still having fights left over from when they were in power, and are only now waking up to the great danger that confronts them.

Frank said...

From Wikipedia: "Realpolitik is foreign policy based on practical concerns (political expediency) rather than ideals or ethics."

I guess it doesn't have to be just foreign policy, hm? Radical left-wing politicians would do well to brush up on their political science. The reason they haven't already done this? Well, it probably feels to good to be an idealist, so in touch with moral perfection (or even God. Is it me or does that sound kind of right-wing?). Anyway, something the radical right and the radical left have to learn is that the solution to a problem can not always be purely liberal or purely conservative, the world is just to complex for that and the road to salvation is full of twists and turns.

Palliard said...

Arguably, many of these issues fall out on regional rather than ideological lines. There's a reason the red-vs-blue map falls out as basically urban-vs-rural.

To take just a few of your example issues:
* Public schools vs. vouchers - if you live in an area with crappy schools, this is a no-brainer
* Immigration - generally opposed where smaller numbers can have a bigger impact, i.e. in rural areas
* Taxes on the wealthy - it's easier to hate the devil you don't know, and in the city there's a whole lot more people you don't know

Et cetera.

From the point of view of your analysis, I guess I would ask, is this exclusivity you cite, a result of a simple unwillingness to see the world from anyone's viewpoint other than one's own? Or is it more that the conservative "Big Tent" is populated by single-issue constituents? Or something else I'm missing?

Rob Perkins said...

The school voucher thing is NEA and state union knee jerking; they're basically afraid of losing their collective bargaining power.

And they do keep fighting bitterly to keep charter schools from becoming a possibility. Based on my sister's glowing recommendations of charter schools (Arizona has had success with the idea) I've voted "yes" twice now in Washington only to see the idea voted down statewide, which means Seattle voted it down.

"Well, it probably feels to good to be an idealist, so in touch with moral perfection (or even God. Is it me or does that sound kind of right-wing?)."

It would be entertaining to point out to some of the lefties how much thier own brand of indignance resembles that of blind adherence to dogmatic religion, if only to see the vehement denial...

Nate said...

(Sorry I've been away, Nanowrimo and life have eaten most of my time recently. Also, I've tried to make sure my criticism is directed at Dr. Brin's points I disagree with.)

I have to wonder, Dr. Brin, if you're talking about what's really going on, or just the appearance of things. Because a large part of the Republican Party's route back to power was (and is) constant demonization of its opponents. Make up a strawman vision of "Liberals", and bash it and bash it, regardless of the facts. And keep doing it, no matter what. That's what happened during Vietnam, and we've seen the same thing from the Bush administration. Anyone who opposes it must be supporting the terrorists/communists/muppets from Mars. And there's a constant stream of lying loudmouths in media positions, all practically carbon copies of Rush Limbaugh. Just get out there and repeat lies over and over until even intelligent people figure "Well, where there's smoke, there must be some fire," and ignore all the people running around throwing smoke bombs. And, honestly, a lot of your points seem to be coming from those kinds of caricatures of "liberals". Which only testifies to its effectiveness, I suppose.

Another of the major reasons for the Republican takeover is the regional and idealogical realignment of the parties. The Democrats used to be the party of the South, until the 60s and the civil rights movement. Then Nixon embraced the "Southern Strategy" and gradually the Republicans took over the Confederacy, culminating in the 1994 takeover of the House. Pandering to racists isn't really a tactic modernists of any kind can really get away with.

Which brings me to my skepticism of your whole point here. I'm not sure "moderation" is the way to go. "Moderation" got us to where we are now, which is where Richard @$!#ing Nixon looks like a bleeding heart liberal. When most of one side is run by extremist nuts, compromise doesn't work, because they support Crazy Bill A, and you support Sane Bill C, if you compromise on Only Slightly Crazy Bill D, you still end up with a crazy bill. And then they go on to promote Crazy Bill A, and drag things even crazier, because Slightly Crazy Bill D is now the reference point for "moderation". I mean, after all, if you're a moderate, you must be between the two "extremes," right? And if we're proposing Crazy Bill A, and the other guys are defending Slightly Crazy Bill D now, what's moderate must be in the middle, yes?

You can see this strategy even more in the press, whose laziness makes them figure "Well, if a Republican says X, and a Democrat says Z, the truth must be Y, which is somewhere in the middle." Even if X is utter craziness, and Z is what the Republicans were saying last year. And this is why I doubt your repeated pleas for "moderate Republicans to step up and save the country" are going to work. Because, honestly, I doubt there's any moderate Republicans left, at least on the elected level. Well, there are, but almost all of them are Democrats now. There's probably moderates among the people who elected them, but when "moderate Republicans" like Von and Slartibarfast over at Obsidian Wings have praised Rush Limbaugh, I find it kinda hard to support their alleged "moderation". Hilzoy makes the points about Rush far better than I can.

None of this is really a defence of the Democratic party, because they've done a truly astonishingly bad job of defending themselves, their ideas, or even just communicating with Americans. Some of this probably has to do with being in power for so long and getting lazy (both as a party and as individuals), and part of I have to assign to their desire to be "moderate". Can't alienate any possible voters, so try to split the difference and end up as Republican Lite, which doesn't excite anybody, if somebody wants to vote for a Republican, they're going to vote for a Republican, and if somebody wants to vote for stuff the Republicans oppose, they're likely to end up disgusted and not bother voting. Basically, right now, the US has two parties. The Republican "conservative" party, and the Democratic moderate party. There is NO "far left extremist" party. Not on the national level, and not on any credible level in local areas. There's no secret cabal of evil liberals enforcing orthodoxy upon the Democrats. There's no one out there putting out liberal, much less "far-left" ideas on any regular basis. You've spent the past three parts of this, and from the title, probably the fourth, bashing "far left extremists" that just aren't there.

Even though you've said yourself there's no extreme lefties in power, you don't seem to believe it. Or maybe you're just throwing bricks at them in the hopes the "right" will listen to you after you've gained credibility by bashing the same strawmen as them. Frankly, when we've got corruption and incomptence rampant in the Executive and Legislative branches, nearly exclusively along party lines, I have to wonder what the point is of bashing "extreme lefties" who have no power and even less numbers.

Nicq MacDonald said...

Thanks for acknowledging my earlier post- but, to expand it further, South Dakota isn't the only place where the Dems are coalition-building; nor is it even the best example.

The best example is an even "redder state"- Montana.

While Montana went strongly for Bush in the last election, they also elected a Democratic governor, 3 of 5 of their constitutional offices went to Dems, as well as one house of their legislature. Why?

Because their new governor realized exactly what you did- and he learned it from listening to conservative talk radio. For instance, he learned that Americans don't want class warfare- they want opportunity. The worker doesn't want to be seen as a worker- he's only a worker temporarily. The worker wants to be an owner (ala Bush's ownership society).

So what did the Montana Dems push?

A strategy of "small owners"- the store owners and ranchers, what most Montana residents want to be- vs. "large owners", the agribusiness, mining and big-box concerns that choke out that dream.

Combined with a hunting land rights, gun rights and conservation platform, the Democrats swept into power by coalitioning angry ranchers, mountain hippies, concerned small businessmen and hunting enthusiasts.

(Hunting was used as a coalitioning issue in SD in 2002 as well. Environmental groups worked with sportsman's groups to support Tim Johnson, while the NRA attacked Johnson for his less than perfect-though still fairly strong- record on gun rights. When I was telling one of my friends here in New Mexico, an environmentalist, about the alliance between environmentalists and sportsmen up north, he found it strange- while its always made sense to me. Both want clean water, wildlife preserves and set-aside land- so what if the sportsmen want to shoot the wildlife, in a managed, regulated fashion?)

While I don't think the upper midwest will be "going blue" in a presidential election any time soon (though a candidate with strong midwestern appeal could make the race in those states fairly tight; Gen. Clark, I'm looking at you), the Democrats there have a winning strategy.

On top of that, whenever my conservative Republican coworkers are shouting about "awful liberals" like Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer or Nancy Pelosi, I can wash my hands of the matter and smile to myself. I voted for sober moderates like Tim Johnson and Stephanie Herseth...

Rob Perkins said...

nicq, you're also describing the Utah Democratic Party, which was able to get Bill Orton elected to Congress in arguably one of the most Republican districts in the entire country, the Utah 3rd.

The amazing way Bill Clinton sold him out to get votes from elsewhere is one of the problems with Dems today, IMO.

Brother Doug said...

David I think Nate has some good points that need to be address if you want this essay to speak to democrats and liberals. I used to quite moderate and a member of the libertarian party but the Republicans have radicalized my politics. Now I think our whole system is broken and we need a parliamentary style of government to fix the mess.

Also in part two the problem with yucca mountain is that they just want to burry the waste and forget about it. If they had regular inspections rather than filling the tunnels with dirt I would be more supportive of it. Also the blogger who talked about liquid metal breeder reactors has some good points, If we could somehow insure that the plutonium never left the reactor site. One estimate I saw years ago was that we could supply all our electrical energy needs for the next 500 years with just the waste Uranium 238 we have already mined and refined and would otherwise become radioactive waste. The Chinese are already talking about using small nuke plants on a mass production scale. It is certainly a better use than in the tons of armor peircing shells we are using in Iraq. Especially since U238 ususaly ignites on impact and gets dispersed as a radioctive vapor.

Mike said...

Nate, you are providing an excellent example of what David is talking about. I am watching you argue that inclusiveness in the Democratic party is not necessarily a good idea. You don’t have to be a NASA physicist (pardon the pun reference) to do the basic math and realize any limitation on inclusiveness equals a shrinking number and politically, a reduction in potential influence, which translates to a loss in power.

The largest fund raiser for the left is radical (advertisements depicting the President as Hitler qualify as a sample of proof), so even if there are no extreme leftists in office (a point I do not agree with), much of the financial backing is from the extreme left and the positions taken during campaigns reflect that. It is this very element creating the exclusiveness of which David speaks. It’s like a competition.

“I’m more left than you.”

“Oh yeah? Well I’m a closet communist, so there! Your left is so yesterday’s news and it doesn’t cut it when we have evil rube tyrants in power!”

"Well, Mr. Treehugger, did you vote for Nader? I did, because I have a conscience. Where is your conscience?"

I can’t help but agree with David’s conclusions on this one. I’ve experienced it myself during any political discussion on the Internet. As soon as I say I don’t think the USA should cut and run in Iraq and that going there may actually prove beneficial in the long term, I’m immediately labeled a Republican by Democrats and in some cases I’m dubbed a conservative extremist. It doesn’t matter that I’m pro-choice, anti-organized religion, pro-border control, anti-NAFTA, pro-gay marriage, anti-spending, etc... I have one or two opinions that don’t pass bleeding heart muster, so I must either submit and correct my erroneous thinking, or I’m an enemy. It’s not just that I’m unwanted; I am an enemy, not exactly a bin Laden, but an enemy nonetheless.

People talk about the resurgence in Christianity in the USA and I just don’t see it. I think they confuse Republican growth through coalition building for an increase in the population’s piety. I encounter far fewer church-going families today compared to thirty years ago and I credit this to modernization and the pervasiveness of science. As the human race continues to evolve, it takes on more qualities which in previous eons would be considered God-like. As a result, I think the ratio of people who believe in a specific God is gradually reducing. This translates to a smaller far right base over time. If it weren’t for coalition building, I do not think this base would be nearly enough to win a national election. However, the Republicans get a hint that I’m somewhat hawkish on foreign policy and they tell me I’m one of them, ignoring me when I tell them the reasons I don’t believe I am a Republican, and ignoring me further when I tell them I don’t believe Iraq was the right move, even though I agree that something needed to be done in the Middle East. They welcome me with open arms. That doesn’t automatically extend to me voting for them, but it does weigh in my decision-making process. To put it bluntly, the left doesn’t appreciate me – I am a vote not worth having.

I concur with those who mention geographical connections with the phenomenon at the state level. Arizona is largely a Republican state, but its governor is a Democrat who happens to be right of the President on border control – an issue important to Arizona residents. However, on the national level, I agree with David that inclusiveness is currently the realm of the Republicans.

David Brin said...

First a quick blip: In the November 2005 issue of IEEE Spectrum ...there's a long/cover article about Gordon Bell (of DEC VAX fame). The short version: he's digitizing his life. That includes downloading shots from a wearable digicam...” This kind of life-logging makes the 17th predictive hit for EARTH.

---> now back to arguing!

sayeth reason: “ “David,I wonder whether the phenomenon you have spoken is really a question of strategy or the result of long periods of power or opposition. I think the right coalition is disintegrating as we speak - precisely because they are now in power and all their disparate parts want their payback or see that their promised reward for loyalty is not arriving.”

Sorry I do not see this. I see only a circling of the wagons on the right while the left consolidates dogmatically as it starts to smell blood. Leaving moderate pragmatists wondering if anything can be salvaged from the pyre of this catastrophic administration.

The setbacks of the Bush Admin lately are all examples of chickens coming home to roost. It’s the public, learning what happens when they elect moronic nincompoops. I see no sign that members of the inner coalition are deserting Bush. The culture warriors never will, even though he never delivers a thing for them.

Frank: if we had a Kissinger-level Sec.State instead of a third rater, we’d have used jiu jitsu against the Iranian mullahs years ago and thus restored THAT far more important country to democracy, restoring the ancient friendship between our two great nations. But that did not happen, why? Because it would have made sense. And because it would have been the worst nightmare of ALL our enemies in the region. Saddam, the R’oil House, and the Iranian mullahs themselves.

Palliard, you aren’t making sense. People in urban areas are as worried about schools as rural people are. In fact, government programs have made rural schools BETTER for generations, even faster than they have deteriorated in cities.

you ask, “is this exclusivity you cite, a result of a simple unwillingness to see the world from anyone's viewpoint other than one's own? Or is it more that the conservative "Big Tent" is populated by single-issue constituents? “

The dogmatists on the right are VASTLY more inherently bigoted than those on the left, who at least theoretically believe in equality. (Though not for white conservative demure people who just don’t want offensive symbols thrust in their faces.)

No, this is simply a function of mental habit. Lefty intellectual snobs make lists and categories and whole programs for saving the world, which is fine, but the entire program is compulsory! ALL parts are needed if you’re a decent person. Ideologues on the right tend to be motivated by much simpler things. Greed. Or hatred. Or saving the unborn. Or a singleminded will to provoke Armageddon (seriously!) Very focused. But they don’t care if you believe other things too.

Dave Land says: Intriguing that this comes up just as four opposition parties pull out of elections in Venezuela, citing fears that electronic voting machines could be used to tip the election in favor of Hugo Chavez
and that voters' identities could be matched back to their votes.” Har! We are entering an age when the mighty will strive hard to control us. Have any of you tried to skip past the previews on a recent movie DVD? Bastards.

Rob: “ It would be entertaining to point out to some of the lefties how much their own brand of indignance resembles that of blind adherence to dogmatic religion, if only to see the vehement denial...”

I thought that was what I was doing! In any event, let’s make this very clear Rob. And I plan to repeat it. The diff between the left and right is power. The monsters of the right utterly control the GOP, and the government, and media, and the voting apparatus...

The monsters on the left DO NOT EVEN CONTROL THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. That party is still, essentially and mostly, run by moderate modernists. Don’t even pretend that - just because I am laying into the left - there is actual equality of nastiness or effect, here!

The lefty ideologues do have the power to THWART the moderates and keep them out of power. And especially they thwart any effort to reach out to moderate republicans. The very people who could save this country, right now, if enough of them stood up.

No, these are two very different kinds of power.

Nate says : “Because a large part of the Republican Party's route back to power was (and is) constant demonization of its opponents. Make up a strawman vision of "Liberals", and bash it and bash it,”

Did I disagree with that at all? It is totally true and totally consistent with what I’ve been saying.

Only lefties have HELPED this bashing, by consolidating into a rigid party line of politically correct positions that make an easily ridiculed target. Moreover, their snooty attitude of I-know-everything superiority over average people also helped. Above all, their unwillingness to ever accept victories gracefully, to PRAISE their fellow citizens, instead of always, always, always hectoring us with guilt. Only the stick, never ever ever the carrot.

Think! Liberalism is responsible for almost every decent thing this country has done since 1910. And yet it has a bad rep? How to explain such a bizarre reputation? You would attribute that to PROPAGANDA?

Can you see how contemptuous that is? The assumption that the people are so easily swayed by lies, and only lies, into reversing their opinion of a movement that did so much good?

No, the propaganda merely takes advantage of a hostility that was building already. And the lefties did it.

You further said: “When most of one side is run by extremist nuts, compromise doesn't work”

Utter baloney!

If you make a home for them, moderate Republicans will desert those jerks. We need to reach out to them because that vast middle is utterly needed, in order not just to defeat the monsters, but repudiate them.

If you buy into Rove’s “Culture War” then - even if the Dems win a landslide - we will all lose.

You feel I am “bashing” lefties... yet you do not squawk when I bash the other side much harder. Well, we both agree that the other side DESERVES far more bashing. But listen to yourself! You will not take criticism of a side that has relentlessly done everything in its power to lose, lose and then lose again.

The ONLY excuse you hear from the left is “We haven’t done a good enough job communicating our ideas to the American people.”

Feh!

This message is the same thing as saying:
“The American people are a bunch of retards who are swayed by propaganda. Therefore, we have to get down and learn to talk to them R-eeeeeeeel slowly and clearleeee, in order to shift their pea brained attention away from the BAD propaganda, over to our goooooooood propaganda.”

Sorry, but what utter patronizing baloney. And the citizens can TELL that liberals think this is all about propaganda. Indeed, that implicit insult is THE underlying reason why middle americans hate liberalism!

Stop talking about “refining our propaganda message” and start talking about coalition building. Including reaching out to some moderate conservative Americans who may have more in common with you than you think.

-

Nicq, thanks for pointing out about Montana. I totally agree. The hope for the Democratic Party is where people have decided to innovate instead of obeying dogmatic reflex.

Hey people! Do what Nicq did. Help me make a better article. Provide citations and examples. This is where I post drafts for tweaking. Arguing is good. But suggested content is better. Thanks.


=

Kevin said...

he obstinately indignant candidacy of Ralph Nader -- based upon pointless ideological nitpicking -

David,
I too deeply wish that Nader had not run in 2000, but I bet most Naderites would not consider his views "pointless ideological nitpicking". I think that presenting others' views in a way that they could predictably reject strongly is one form of the excluding that you want to overcome.
After all, we are going to have to include many people who are pretty exclusionary themselves. The Republicans manage to.

Nicq MacDonald said...

As an addendum, I may also add my experience with local parties back in SD during college. The local Dem party didn't care that I tended "conservative" on economics or guns (even- nay, especially when- I was considering a run for State House; they just wanted someone who would take on the thankless task!), and the College Dems encouraged discussion and dialogue (and won over a number of moderate Republicans). On the other hand, when I attended a College GOP meeting, and revealed my true feelings on abortion and gays, you would have thought that I had sacrificed a chicken and chanted the Lord's Prayer backwards for the reaction I got... yipes. I knew which party wanted me; and which felt happy to exclude me.

(Areas where the GOP is dominated by religious hard-liners are GOING to be exclusionary, especially if you bring up their all-important abortion issue. There's no sane discussion on that issue today, it seems... and until there is, or Roe v. Wade is overturned, the Dems are going to suffer. I don't deny that many people consider it sinful, but have they ever taken into consideration the abortion rate BEFORE it was legalized? It was still, by most estimates, fairly high, and a mess for womens health on top of that. The most effective and proven ways to lower the abortion rate are education, birth control distribution, and economic growth- hence, the American rate of abortion plummeted in the 90's. Sojourners, the Christian social justice magazine, did an interesting article on this shortly before the last election. But it doesn't change the hysteria over the issue. My sister worked for awhile as an intern for SD Planned Parenthood- a thankless job if ever there was one- that was set up for her by her pastor, who worked with a group of clergy who gave counselling to women considering abortions or dealing with the outcome. Many people that she knew were quite shocked to discover that someone who worked for that "awful" organization could be a devout Lutheran- and have even been referred to the job by a minister. They didn't even consider the many reasons for this other than the "moral decadence" of the mainline denominations- an argument which, in my experience, is bogus to the core.)

Another phenomenon that makes the political landscape of the midwest different is the death of midwestern conservatism. No, not the midwestern GOP (which is as strong as ever), but the governing philosophy of midwest conservatism- small is beautiful. Government spending is fine, just keep it in the community, don't let it get diluted in a wasteful bureaucracy that doesn't understand local concerns. The "family farmer", private rancher, store owner, grain mill operator, etc. are the pillars of the community- midwestern conservatism is innately mistrustful of the WalMarts and agribusiness concerns. Moral education is the duty of the local church, not government mandate.

Midwestern/Western conservatism is largely being choked out by Southern conservatism- a hierarchical conservatism, based on the old plantation model, in which morality is enforced by government mandate and soundbyte-ready Megachurch sermons (rather than personal counsel and community responsibility) and big business is considered the engine of prosperity for all (nothing against big business- I just have a problem with big businesses that choke competition, don't pay benefits, and try to make themselves immune to criticism through manipulative practices.)

The thing is, the latter form of conservatism has become dominant because of the obsolescence of the former. The towns and small farms of the midwest are drying up- and with it, the attitudes are changing. On top of that, the GOP is now controlled by Southern and Southern-style conservatives, mainly because of the massive shift by the formerly "solid south" in the 70's and 80's, who have now combined (IMHO) the worst extremes of both parties into an ugly ruling philosophy. In the 1980's, Reagan, mostly a traditional western libertarian, paid lip service to the SoCons to help win elections. Now they're in control, and it's a different party.

Anonymous said...

"People talk about the resurgence in Christianity in the USA and I just don’t see it."

In reality, you're probably quite correct.

But that's not the message that neocons and Movement Conservatives want to foster.

They confidently talk about a Third Great Awakening, and push for government support of "faith based" (read: run by churches, paid for by your taxes) programs. They advocate, or at least tolerate, ludicrous bastardizations of science. Their media spokesmen, the shrieking heads on FOX, are working themselves into a fine self-righteous frenzy over a bogus "war on Christmas*," a cause once championed by cranky anti-semite Henry Ford.

Well, we are talking about neocons here . . . reformed Marxists. How did it go . . . "Religion is the opiate of the people?" Yeah, those opiates can be really handy tools if you use them right.

Stefan

* Christmas? The barely disguised pagan festival once banned by stalwart Puritans? This arbitrarily dated celebration they work themselves into a fit over as a sign that Christianity is under attack?

daveawayfromhome said...

I'm going to heartily agree with Nicq on Abortion: It's a baby-with-the-bathwater issue. I'm on the pro-choice side of the fence, but by God I'll trade that for all those people who consider themselves to be "moral" (and actually are) waking up to the utter moral vacuum that is the GOP today. Other than with flash-point/polarizing issues the GOP shows no sign of ethics, and I hope that once RoeV is gone, most people will wake up to that (and realize that the flash-point stands are probably taken for political gainrather than moral belief). Or I'll settle for at least 5% of them.


@ Polliard: Public school vouchers are one of the greatest threats to education in the U.S. that I can think of. Once the market takes over, you automatically relegate a section of children to crappy schools, because of market forces. Which children? The poorest children, of course. Want to see the future of a voucher-driven system? Look at Mexico, or any country where people have to pay to send their children to school.
As for charter schools, I dont know what the secret in NM is, but here in Texas, charter schools have been a disaster, often becoming just another way for unscrupulous business people to scam a system at the expense of children's lives.

As for taxes on the wealthy, you show me one person who has gotten filthy rich (that 1%) without any help from people paid much, much less than him. You cant. If the rich would pay living wages to everyone who work for them, maybe the tax issue wouldnt be such a big deal, but they wont do that either. Thus the tax issue.


Finally, I agree with both David and Nate: I think the Democrats need to become both more Left Leaning, and more tolerant of those who dont buy into all the ideas. In other words, Propose the Lefty ideas, but then take whatever part you can get in the execution of those ideas. It's called Bartering, and it's as old as Politics.

Michael said...

Demographically, traditionalist Christians are a declining majority. The extreme reactionary politics of this group reflect the panic of yesterday's status quo losing its grip and turning to politics to maintain a cultural dominance it no longer possessses and feels to be imperiled.

It seems likely to me that their political coalition will start falling apart as soon as any of the sectarian goals of fundamentalists begin to be realized. For instance, Jewish leaders are begining to be alarmed by Christian assaults on secularism and backing away despite their concurrence on the issue of support for Israel.

I think this general phenominon applies to many parts of the GOPs unlikely coalition. It's easy to tack together conflincting interest groups when attaining power, much harder to maintain such alliances once you are execising power, and thereby alienating portions of your alliance.

Certainly, the GOP provides lesson for Liberals looking to reclaim power, but there is also a lesson for weilding it once attained. Liberals have to build a coalition that is stable by articulating a set of basic governing principles that can maintain a long-term governing coalition through achieving widely supported policy goals. I agree with Dr. Brin that we need to let go of purity tests on every issue, but we cannot become completely incoherent or lacking core values in the pursuit of a governing coalition, as the GOP has become.

MichaelRuschena said...

@daveawayfromhome
you show me one person who has gotten filthy rich (that 1%) without any help from people paid much, much less than him.

Here's two. Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google). Combined worth: $US 22 billion. I'm not sure what this demonstrates... except maybe sometimes the rich deserve it.

Come to think of it, the assumption of disreputable means to achieve wealth is not unrelated to Mr Brin's point.

Nate said...

Quick note before I go to bed, where I should already be, so I'll reply to Dr. Brin tomorrow,

@ MichaelRuschena

Google? The company built on the Internet that was created and started completely by government research and funding, and is still subsidized by the government and runs on a framework made up in large part of open source software?

I'm not saying they don't "deserve" their money, but dude, the only reason they have it is because of the Internet, which they didn't build. They improved it a lot, though.

Rob Perkins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
reason said...

I think Michael is basically agreeing with me, what we are seeing is just about the effect of power.

David, you can't seriously not think the Republican coalition is in danger of breaking up. If not why has the administration lost so many votes recently.

firefalluk said...

"In a very direct way, the obstinately indignant candidacy of Ralph Nader -- based upon pointless ideological nitpicking -- inarguably helped to usher in the Bush Cheney Era.

In contrast, you won’t see that kind of self-imolation on the other side"

Umm, not that I disagree about Nader, but I rather thought CLinton had a major leg-up into office from the pseudo-Republican Perot?

Mind you, it's interesting to compare the inclusivity/exclusivity in the US to, say, the UK (or NZ, my homeland) - in both the latter cases, the conservative party was the party of power for a long period, and was largely inclusive, only to have their clothes stolen by the Labour/left party, who are now the "natural party of power"

HarCohen said...

OT but I want to point out that with recent news reports, you can turn to bashing Texas for gerrymandering (for awhile) rather than Ohio.
...Texas plan violated voting rights...
(Hurrah! I was very careful with my hyperlink editing and got it to work.

I'd also like to suggest that Ohio is a state constantly losing seats in the House. It's influence in national elections is diminishing compared to states like California and Texas.

Anonymous said...

Wow . . . the U.S.A. has a Phalangist party! In fact, it has two of them. Plus all sorts of other scary and silly political parties.

Read about them here:

http://www.politics1.com/parties.htm

Stefan

David Brin said...

Great site on weird parties. Thanks, Stefan.

here's a snippet before I post next big item:

The U.S. debate over how to deal with China continues. In its 2005 report to the U.S. Congress, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission finds that, while China is clearly focused on its own national interest, the U.S. government has no unified policy to deal with China. See this Globalist Document, describing how we have ignored our own best interests. http://www.theglobalist.com/DBWeb/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=4967

Don Quijote said...

“The American people are a bunch of retards who are swayed by propaganda.

And how exactly did we get ourselves into Iraq? Fear & Propaganda.

Therefore, we have to get down and learn to talk to them R-eeeeeeeel slowly and clearleeee, in order to shift their pea brained attention away from the BAD propaganda, over to our goooooooood propaganda.”

That's exactly what Rush Limbaugh, Talk Radio & Fox News have been about.

David Brin said...

Quijote... you may be right... but the sentiments you just expressed are also typical of what has never worked for the left.

Limbaugh is good at it and the left is bad at it. So? You want to continue letting the fight be ABOUT propaganda?

I promise you, every time somebody on the left disparages the average american as a propaganda-swayed simpleton, we lose another vote to the right.

MichaelRuschena said...

@Nate
Google? The company built on the Internet that was created and started completely by government research and funding, and is still subsidized by the government and runs on a framework made up in large part of open source software?

I'm not saying they don't "deserve" their money, but dude, the only reason they have it is because of the Internet, which they didn't build. They improved it a lot, though.


To me, this argument just boiled into triviality. Your position is now that everyone with money is undeserving, since everything is dependent on what has prior achievements. The use of quotation marks around deserve is a cheap debating trick to imply that, while they haven't done anything wrong, they are rich and therefore guilty simply because they are rich.

The Google folk built something new, delivered an effective product, and have grown rich as a direct result. They deserve it.

Nate said...

@michael:

"To me, this argument just boiled into triviality. Your position is now that everyone with money is undeserving, since everything is dependent on what has prior achievements. The use of quotation marks around deserve is a cheap debating trick to imply that, while they haven't done anything wrong, they are rich and therefore guilty simply because they are rich."

Um. No, but nice strawman. Maybe I wasn't quite clear or explicit enough in my reasoning, though. So let me try again.

There's a bunch of reasons to support progressive taxation, where the rich pay a higher percentage than the poor. The one related to Google in my example is that the rich make their money by using the public infrastructure. And they use the public infrastructure more than the poor do, so therefore they should pay more of the costs of the infrastructure. Nowhere in that is anything about the rich being "guilty". There's plenty of other reasons to support progressive taxation, very few of which require you to say the rich are "guilty" of anything.

Now, if I wanted to argue over deserving money and guilt, we could get deep into specifics on who creates value, how it's created, what counts as deserving, exploitation, estate taxes, production versus capital, etc, etc, but I really don't think that'd be all that interesting.

MichaelRuschena said...

@nate
Actually, I think it was me missing the connection to progressive taxation. I'm quite ok with the principle of progressive taxation.

(I strongly question whether it does end up in the very weathly paying more per dollar of income, but that is *such* a different story.)

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