Saturday, November 27, 2004

Lightly Blogging for the Next Month --
I'll be out of the country. In the odd event that anyone still reads this and posts a comment, I will consider bringing you back a gift.
(3:38 PM) 6 comments

Friday, November 26, 2004

Is There an Israeli Jerry Springer? --
(11:44 AM) 0 comments

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

There Is No Such Thing As "Republican-Lite" --
A comment posted to this MyDD thread.

There is a fundamental way in which the American political system differs from parliamentary systems. There, interests have their own political parties who form coalitions after the elections. Here, interests form coalitions before the election and run candidates. The two main coalitions are the Democrats and the Republicans.

Which is why I shake my head at those who say we are better off without non-liberals who they call "Republican-lite." I don't particularly like it when the ideological extreme in the GOP tries to purge its office-holding slate of non-ideologues which makes me doubly-displeased when those in my own party start insisting on ideological purity. That is in no way the proper stance for the purported party of tolerance.

The Democrats once had a Congressional majority because they forged an alliance between Northern liberals and Southern conservatives. The Republicans now have a Congressional majority because they have forged an alliance between cultural conservatives and free market, national security types who may be quite secular and libertarian on social issues.

What should a new Democratic coalition look like if it has a prayer of retaking Congress? Those who have a knee-jerk distaste for Harry Reid might say that we should forge a civil liberties coalition linking diehard liberals and libertarians, but I don't think the numbers add up for that to work.

Instead, I think we should look at the New Deal coalition, which brought people together based on a new understanding of the relationship between government and the economy. We should look at Bill Clinton, who said, "It's the economy, stupid."

The new Democratic alliance should be between liberals who believe in progressive economic ideals and those who can be helped by progressive economic ideals, but who may be culturally more conservative than the current Democratic mainstream. This is not to say that liberals should give up cultural liberal ideals, only that they should be more tolerant of deviance on social issues than on economic issues.

This type of alliance will make the Democratic Party competitive in at least some of the Mountain, Heartland, and South regions. "Competitive" does not mean guaranteed to win, it just means not guaranteed to always lose.
(11:28 PM) 0 comments

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

MyDD Book Club, Discussion #1 --
In a sort of electronic salon, MyDD (the first liberal blog I read regularly) has started running a book club. In the first discussion, readers talk about the essay "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong With It? by Philip Agre.

My own short reply posted in the thread:

But Why Are Conservatives Conservative?

In his essay, Agre goes over how conservatives have made language their tool and seeks to fire his own salvo by identifying conservatives with "aristocracy" and "destruction" while identifying liberals with "reason" and "democracy."

Agre is correct in identifying an aristocratic bent to conservatism, and his advice to assess the '60s shows an awareness of what modern American conservatives abhor. (Still, we should not fail to recognize that the '60s included some negative aspects like free love and drug use, just as Agre notes we should acknowledge that there is both good and bad rap.)

But I feel that in a rush to (perhaps rightly) demonize conservatism as anti-reason and anti-democracy, Agre has glossed over the existence of traumatic current events as a trigger for waves of conservatism. In a desire to paint conservatives as self-interested aristocrats, he fails to show how some conservatives come by their views honestly before going about their business by any means necessary.

The modern conservatism founded by Burke was essential a reaction against the French Revolution and while it is proper to be horrified by some of the excesses of the Revolution that does not mean one should re-establish the old monarchy.

Modern American conservatism practiced today is fundamentally a reaction against the 1960s and while it is proper to be horrified by some of the exceses of the '60s that does not mean one should re-establish the 1950s.

In general, conservatism is a reaction against the excesses of the masses. This reaffirms the Hobbesian instinct that the masses cannot and do not deserve to rule. (For a similar example of this, look at the hand-wringing of some on the left who decry what they see as the stupidity of a nation for re-electing George W. Bush.) What is missing in Agre's list of solutions is how to grapple with the most recent traumatic event affecting conservatives, September 11.

(10:17 PM) 1 comments

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Why Howard Dean Could Have Been a Better Candidate Than Kerry --
In a comment I posted to thispost on The Washington Note:

Howard Dean would have better enunciated a progressive vision on the economic issues that bind together biracial coalitions that work in favor of those Democrats who manage to be elected in the South. This is the direction in which the Democratic party should be moving.

The question is whether or not Dean could have ever separated himself from the question of gay civil unions and the anti-war crowd sufficiently to allow the economy to be his message.

For a lot of people who voted for Bush but didn't particularly like a lot of his policies, they felt that at least his heart was in the right place, that he was fundamentally a moral person who tried to do what was right. Countless Bush apologists have blamed those around him rather than the man at the top for anything that goes wrong.

Dean is quite similar to Bush in this regard. I have Republican friends who didn't like Dean's stances, but who felt a certain respect for his forthrightness to the point that, if they had to vote for a Democrat, they would vote Dean. And these are pro-war Republicans, I am generally talking about.

The lesson here is that you don't try to figure out what coalition will best defeat the opposition and find the candidate who best appeals to that particular coaltion of interests; you find a leader who forges the coaltion and who other groups are forced to join because they have no other vehicle.

(11:57 PM) 2 comments

Hey, This Is What I've Been Saying --
This Washington Post story makes the case for what I've been saying.

The top moral problems according to the nation:
33% said "greed and materialism"
31% said "poverty and economic justice"
16% said "abortion"
12% said "same-sex marriage"

The Democratic coalition absolutely needs a decidedly Christian voice talking about these issues to woo voters in the center.
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Monday, November 08, 2004

So Who Is Against Gay Marriage? --
According to this article, 52.9% of voters in conservative bastion Cincinnati opposed the gay marriage ban. The simultaneous repeal of a local anti-gay rights ordinance was pased with a huge shift of public opinion in white conservative regions. The latter effort was backed by business leaders and by the archbishop of Cincinnati, who said the measure was too severe. Still, African-American voters were in favor of keeping the gay rights ban.

What does this mean?

Well, Republican strategists who see morals and gay rights as a wedge issue to drive black voters away from the Democratic Party are right.

It also means that if you do want to press gay rights issues, it is most useful if you can cast it as something that will economically help all, not just homosexuals. Can partnership benefits help fix the health care system in a way that benefits all? Can gay civil unions lead to a reforming of the tax code dealing with multi-member households without creating a "marriage penalty" talking point?

People who say that it is the right and principled thing to do are completely missing the point of participatory democracy. It's a coming together of people who agree with the general way things are done for a variety of reasons.

(2:57 AM) 0 comments

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Bringing Democracy the the Middle East --
Brian Ulrich writes:

Abu Aardvark, in discussing parallels between Islamism and the religious right in the United States, comments that "Christianism has not produced a bin Laden." He's right in terms of the ability Islamist terrorist networks have to cause mass destruction; however, if anyone doubts the most extreme members of the religious right (whom I believe are a minority of that movement) are incapable of the same level of violent hatred, I would direct them here.

Still, the Religious Right is probably not going to work outside of the American political tradition while terrorism is the political use of violence outside the framework of government.

I have always contended that the way to bring Islamic extremists to the table is to offer them the opportunity to attain their goals through democratic means. The cynic in me considers offering the Arab world a free shot at Israel is they all become democracies.

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Friday, November 05, 2004

A Little Factoid About Our Incoming Senate Minority Leader --
From On the Issues:

  • Voted YES on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime. (Mar 2004)
  • Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life. (Mar 2003)
  • Voted YES on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions. (Jun 2000)
  • Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions. (Oct 1999)
  • Voted YES on disallowing overseas military abortions. (May 1999)
  • Rated 29% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record. (Dec 2003)
  • Expand embryonic stem cell research. (Jun 2004)

Harry Reid also happens to be a Mormon. His religion and his abortion stance will probably be talked about a lot more in the coming weeks and months. I hope the left doesn't show itself to be intolerant by mounting a campaign to get a new Senate Minority Leader using abortion as a litmus test. That would make them no better than Bush appointing judges on the same basis.

(4:22 PM) 1 comments

My Political Magic Eight Ball --
Daily Kos and other sites are having a lot of Pollyanna-ish entries about how there is hope for future elections. I agree that there is hope, but the picture is less than perfect.

Consider, we lost a close election to an incompetent boob. Imagine if in 2008 the Republicans actually run a candidate who the left deems if not desirable then at least respectable. The Democrats are playing catch-up to a possibly underperforming G.O.P.

We should not confuse what is possible with what is likely. And the road to losing in 2008 is paved with inaccurate assumptions.

(5:54 AM) 0 comments

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Reality-Based Liberalism --
Some of the reaction on the left has been to blame the victims voters of being so dumb.

Listen, assholes, the American public is just as smart or dumb as it was a week ago when you thought Kerry would win. It was just as smart or dumb in the previous decade when it was putting Bill Clinton in the White House. It was just as smart or dumb in history when it was electing JFK and FDR.

The left may have some idealistic principles worth defending, but middle America doesn't instinctively share some of those values and you should have known that. I did, after all.

The left can't remake the hearts of the heartland anymore than George W. Bush can remake the souls of the Middle East through his ill-fought war in Iraq.

And that is a problem the left has, feeling that if they can just pass the right laws and get the right court rulings, that we can create a multicultural, tolerant utopia. And that is a position highly ignorant of reality.

What we need is a progressive, optimistic view of the future that disdains utopianism. And that isn't going to happen until there is a frank, realistic understanding of human nature, of the hearts and minds and souls of this country, of what is possible and not possible.

(4:36 PM) 0 comments

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Wronger War at the Wronger Time --
Kevin Drum had this to say.

Via the Washington Post:
John Kerry - 52%
Senator Ron Wyden 64%
Against the Oregon Amendment defining marriage - 43%

As much as the war in Iraq and the handling of its aftermath has been horrible even though the the idea of removing Saddam Hussein from power is a good idea when removed from any context, it is so much more wrong for the left to try to fight a political battle on the gay marriage front. To do so is a sign of either ignorance of political reality or a servitude to the mythical homosexual lobby that the Christian right claims exists.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Fair and Balanced My Ass --
Via the media blog Romenesko:

An interview of former Fox News correspondent David Shuster. Back to Fox, in one of your blogs in mid-October, you referred to Fox News as the 'partisan worst' in broadcast news. Why is that?

David Shuster: I'll just let that comment stand. I think it's not that difficult for people who watch Fox compared to other news organizations to be able to tell what the difference is. Is that why you left Fox?

David Shuster: I left Fox for a variety of reasons, primarily because I thought I had a better opportunity at an organization like NBC. I had a great time while I was at Fox. I had developed some great friends. I led their coverage of the Clinton investigation and had a lot of support from Fox News Channel management during that period. I just felt I had done about as much as I could do at Fox and felt that in the long run it wasn't a great place for me to be. I prefer to work at a news organization that simply lets the chips fall where they may. I felt in the long run NBC was a better organization to do that than Fox.

(8:55 PM) 0 comments