Moral Values

by Kieran Healy on November 3, 2004

What were the most important issues for voters in the election? If you were reading the polls, and listening to the media chatter before the election, the answer would have seemed clear: Iraq or the War on Terror and the state of the economy. In news coverage of the campaign, in the Presidential debates and in the blogosphere blather, the election was fought on these issues. But from about 10pm last night onwards, and increasingly so this morning, commentators suddenly started talking about the importance of moral values in the campaign. It was all over the news this morning.

The exit poll data show that 22% of the electorate thought that “moral values” was the most important issue in the election, and these voters went for Bush nearly 80% to 20%. The ratio is reversed for the 20% who thought that the Economy was the most important issue. In the case of Iraq and Terrorism, it’s interesting to see, first, that these are two separate options.[1] People who said “Iraq” (15%) went for Kerry 75% to 25%, while those who said “Terrorism” (19%) went for Bush 85% to 14%. But the main issue for voters was moral values and it seems to me that there was basically no sustained media analysis on this point prior to the election. I want to know why. Were the pollsters keeping quiet about it? Was it an error in their categorization? For instance, did they lump a bunch of things including moral values into an “Other” category early on and then just focus on the Economy vs Iraq/Terror trope for the campaign?

So it seems to me, in short, that Amy Sullivan’s analysis has been vindicated by the results. She first articulated it in June of 2003, well before it was clear who was going to win the Democratic nomination and reiterated it more than once recently. Right now the Democrats don’t have a plausible spiel on morality. I don’t mean that they’re less likely to be moral people, just that they don’t have a coherent way of talking to their own base—let alone the electorate—about what they stand for in religious terms. The fact that it is just a spiel can be seen from the fact that—as Sullivan has also pointed out—the upper reaches of the Bush Administration are not exactly staffed with devout Christians and the President, unlike Kerry, hasn’t been to Church in years.

Late in the day, Kerry’s began to talk about his faith a lot more explicitly in his stump speech. It does seem like his campaign was starting to see the importance of the issue to voters. But I didn’t see this question getting the kind of coverage the data show it merited.

fn1. I want to know whether voters are just asked to say what their view is, or whether they’re presented with a laundry list of choices. I imagine it would have to be the former.

{ 94 comments }

1

Rob 11.03.04 at 5:42 pm

I would guess actually it was the later. Moral values is a catch all for abortion, homosexuality, popular culture, etc. A Democrat could talk about values until he is blue in the face and not move this voting block.

2

Otto 11.03.04 at 5:43 pm

Most immediately, “moral values” means no gay marriage.

The Democrats need to fight the tendency to become the political wing of the current tendency of the US courts. It’s great having institutions which can protect minorities from majority opinion, but if the majority are still allowed to vote they will take it out elsewhere, like the Presidential election.

Who reelected W.? Lots of answers to that question. But – as far as moral values go – dont overlook the contribution of Margaret H. Marchall of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

3

Rob 11.03.04 at 5:43 pm

I would guess actually it was the later. Moral values is a catch all for abortion, homosexuality, popular culture, etc. A Democrat could talk about values until he is blue in the face and not move this voting block.

4

David 11.03.04 at 5:44 pm

To me, Amy’s is a voice that’s not often heard on the Left.

For every person like her, there are ten bright articulate Left bloggers/writers who drip with contempt for organized religion and the moral concerns of those people.

An inability to speak to, or even compromise with, the issues that concern these people is, IMO and other things being equal, doomed to electoral defeat.

5

Otto 11.03.04 at 5:46 pm

Too many tendencies! you know what I mean.

6

Otto 11.03.04 at 5:47 pm

Too many tendencies! you know what I mean.

7

Russell Arben Fox 11.03.04 at 5:50 pm

“The fact that it is just a speil can be seen from the fact that — as Sullivan has also pointed out — the upper reaches of the Bush Administration are not exactly staffed with devout Christians and the President, unlike Kerry, hasn’t been to Church in years.”

This deserves a more careful response than I can give it right now (perhaps on my blog later today), but for the moment, consider this: exactly what is, what isn’t, a “spiel” in the mind of a religious voter genuinely concerned about seeing their moral beliefs reflected at the highest levels of government? Is it not likely that the measure of moral authenticity to the average believer is not the content of one’s profession or performance of belief, but there context, the seriousness with which such belief is treated? Case in point: Ronald Reagan was also not personally an especially religious man, and didn’t exactly commit his administration to enacting every plank of the Souther Baptist Conference’s preferred platform. Yet he became evangelicals first (and probably greatest) hero. Why? Because he took believers–all their doctrine, all their commitments, all their values–seriously.

I admire the hell out of Amy Sullivan’s work, and I absolutely agree with David that we need a whole lot more people like her. But to me, she has always seemed to believe that the key to opening up religious voters to progressive causes has been helping progressives learn to make their case in religious language. But I wonder if that isn’t backwards; that it ignores the decided populist character of religious belief in America. What is necessary is not translating liberal political imperatives into an evangelical idiom, but taking evangelicalism seriously as a legitimate basis for thinking about politics, and drawing liberalism forewith from it. Think about Bill Clinton; think about the ease with which he sat down with black preachers and white pentecostals. Was it all a “spiel” to him? Hardly, yet everyone knew he wasn’t exactly pious. He was forgiven that–by enough evangelicals to win various Southern states, at least–because it was plain that he didn’t think religion was something he needed to condescend to. He shared that context. The lack of follow-through in legislative content can be forgiven if it at least begins with respect.

8

nick b 11.03.04 at 5:51 pm

Other than questionable, if not hypocritical, content of the avowed ‘moral values’ (??), you must admire the repuglicans for making sure their followers swarmed to the polls by attaching gay marriage propositions on their ballots.

I hope that in the concession speech given by Kerry this afternoon, he doesnt pretend to call for national cohesion, but that he add fuel to the fire of our division. Democrats must reclaim what their moral values are, and if the US is hell bent on endorsing a host of conservative, anti-liberties policies, then let it wallow in it.

9

decon 11.03.04 at 5:55 pm

I couldn’t disagree more. The people voting to ban gay marriage just don’t like fags. And it’s no coincidence that amendments to ban gay marriage were state ballots across the country this year.

And all the enlightened biblical arguments, all the pious exhortations to love, charity, etc… are going to fall on deaf ears.

What Amy basically says is that we need to learn to talk to Evangelicals in way that they’ll hear what we are saying.

She knows Evangelicals far better than I. I know southern rural voters far better than she. As you point out the current Democratic strategy hasn’t worked, but I’m here to tell you that her way won’t work either. Evangelicals don’t want to be kissed up to. They want to ban abortion and gay marriage, tack up the ten commandments in courtrooms, write God into the constitution, etc… and they intend to do it.

10

Dubious 11.03.04 at 5:55 pm

I think Democrats can overcome this in one of two ways:
A) The Clinton way of straddling — ‘abortion should be safe, legal, and rare’.
B) The Dean way of trying to persuade voters to vote their alleged economic interest instead of their value-interest. Remember his comment about guys with pick-up trucks and confederate flags?

Absent another Great Depression, I think the Dean way is doomed to failure.
I think the natural cultural evolution in the US is towards a more Democratic-friendly ‘values’ position — younger people are more tolerant on sexual or racial issues.
The Democratic party activists hurt the party by trying to push the legal/policy envelope 3 steps ahead of where the electorate is instead of staying in step or 1 step ahead.
Fortunately, most (but not all/enough) of this harm is cancelled out by the fact Republican party activists want to stay 2 steps behind where the electorate is.

11

Dubious 11.03.04 at 5:56 pm

I think Democrats can overcome this in one of two ways:
A) The Clinton way of straddling — ‘abortion should be safe, legal, and rare’.
B) The Dean way of trying to persuade voters to vote their alleged economic interest instead of their value-interest. Remember his comment about guys with pick-up trucks and confederate flags?

Absent another Great Depression, I think the Dean way is doomed to failure.
I think the natural cultural evolution in the US is towards a more Democratic-friendly ‘values’ position — younger people are more tolerant on sexual or racial issues.
The Democratic party activists hurt the party by trying to push the legal/policy envelope 3 steps ahead of where the electorate is instead of staying in step or 1 step ahead.
Fortunately, most (but not all/enough) of this harm is cancelled out by the fact Republican party activists want to stay 2 steps behind where the electorate is.

12

Clark Goble 11.03.04 at 5:59 pm

I think Russell has it dead accurate. I’d add as well that for many Evangelicals going to church isn’t that big a deal. In that religiosity is simply viewed very different than in many more organized faiths.

I think the Clinton/Reagan parallel is an apt one. Both men were, I think, fairly religious, albeit in different ways. Regarding piety we can disagree – certainly a lot of Clinton’s acts turned away a lot of religious voters. But in other ways Clinton attracted a lot of religious voters that Kerry simply wasn’t able to connect to.

One big thing I heard last night was about why Kerry couldn’t get out the black vote as much as was needed – especially in Ohio. I think that issue of religion is a major reason. The way New Englanders view religion is simply different from how the heartland and the south do.

13

Dubious 11.03.04 at 6:06 pm

Apologies for the double-post.

14

MS 11.03.04 at 6:15 pm

The problem is that it’s just not that simple to scapel the political ideology out of the religion. This talk of learning to speak the language of the evangelicals presumes that there’s an evangelicalism preexisting the homophobia, misogyny, racism, and all the rest… That those things are simply supplements to an otherwise benign body of faith.

But that’s just it – I think it’s a chicken or the egg problem. Seems to me that it’s a bit ambiguous whether the political convictions rise out of the Xtianity or the Xtianity is simply a conventional and comfortable cover for the ideology.

My thought is that the glue, the really exciting part, of the religion for these folks IS the political part. Gay marriage etc…

To think that they can be reprogrammed misunderstands the nature of the disease, I think…

15

matt 11.03.04 at 6:19 pm

I think that Russel is right to a large degree, but the really hard question for a liberal is one he’s not brought up- to what degree evangelicals in the US are willing and/or able to be part of an “overlapping concensus” in a roughly Rawlsian sense. To the extent they are so willing and able, it’s imparative to try to make _that_ case- that we can have this over-lapping concensus. But, it seems pretty clear that large parts, the most extreme parts at least, have no interest in this at all- it seems all or nothing to them, and this is what really scares me.

16

Russell Arben Fox 11.03.04 at 6:30 pm

“This talk of learning to speak the language of the evangelicals presumes that there’s an evangelicalism preexisting the homophobia, misogyny, racism, and all the rest… That those things are simply supplements to an otherwise benign body of faith.”

Well, the only way you’ll be able to know one way or another if that isn’t the case is to get out your Bible and give it a read. Which, I should note, Clinton had done. Did he live the Biblical code? Not particularly. But he’d given it some thought. I’ll credit John Kerry with everything he said: that his faith is important to him, that he was an altar boy, that he’d considered the priesthood, and all the rest. But the fact remains: when he answered that woman in St. Louis who asked about abortion rights, his answer dripped with condescension–unintentional, but there just the same. “I respect your values,” he said. Not exactly the same as being able to say, “I know what you’re thinking.” Clinton plainly did know what religious individuals were thinking. It wasn’t foreign to him.

17

decon 11.03.04 at 6:34 pm

The idea that Bill Clinton could sit down with “ease” with southern white pentecostals is patently ridiculous. He can’t go home again, so to speak. These people drip with contempt for him, and the progressive minded people he represents.

The contempt ain’t exactly a one way street, you know. Some of ya’ll act like we liberals started it. Well, we didn’t. They did. A long damn time ago.

What surprises me is how close Kerry came to winning without winning a single southern (or southern lite) state.

The idea that WE would do better if we would just play a little nicer is absurd. THEY are mean, they play dirty, they pander, distort, lie, etc..

If WE were to take evangelical thought seriously, we would be the only ones so doing. It is, plainly, nothing more or less than a strategic artifice for them.

18

Uncle Kvetch 11.03.04 at 6:42 pm

Well, I’m gay, agnostic, and a New Yorker. In other words, I’m everything that’s wrong with the left, all in one convenient bundle. As Dear Leader might say, I hit the trifecta!

Here all this time I thought I was every bit as much of an American as the next guy, and every bit as deserving of respect, dignity, and equality under the law. But the good “people of faith” out there apparently think I’m some sort of degenerate monstrosity. And the Amy Sullivans tell me that I attempt to respond to those people, to assert my rights, to demand equality under the law, I’m denigrating their “faith.”

Apparently some of us really are more American than others.

19

Russell Arben Fox 11.03.04 at 6:43 pm

“The idea that Bill Clinton could sit down with “ease” with southern white pentecostals is patently ridiculous.”

Yes, I suppose that’s why he couldn’t ever get elected to any office in Arkansas. Don’t know how he managed to serve all those terms as governor, but surely you must be right.

20

emjaybee 11.03.04 at 6:44 pm

I think ms. has the classical liberal reaction to evangelicals–they’re only religious as a cover for their bigotry. I think she is also dead wrong, at least for *most* evangelicals I know.

I grew up in a So. Baptist church in the south. Bigotry certainly existed, but so did actual piety and a sincere attempt to do whatever God’s will was perceived to be. However you may quarrel with their theology (and I do), it’s a mistake to assume it’s all an insincere front for something else.

Your average So. Baptist has a Protestant work ethic and a desire for upward mobility, combined with an anxiety that they will lose touch with their roots–the farming and rural life of their grandparents. While they live in the suburbs and send their kids to college, they are confused if those kids come home spouting Derrida and show evidence of doing drugs and sleeping around while away. Because they don’t want their kids to lose touch with those roots either. Religion is part of the roots, the simple, clapboard church preaching of 100 years ago. It’s also seen as a way of keeping yourself and your family safe from the darkness of a chaotic world. And among many, the words of the Bible do have real power.

So a Democrat who knew how to use Jesus’ words–especially those about caring for the downtrodden and the poor, being honest, and being a good steward–would strike a chord in a sincere evangelical.

I think deep down a lot of evangelicals know that the Republicans are playing them for fools. But they don’t want to admit it, because they’ve bought into the argument that Democrats hate them and their beliefs. If a Democrat could bridge that gap, he’d dilute their voting power for the Repubs considerably.

21

decon 11.03.04 at 6:52 pm

Thinking seriously about what I just wrote: When did the contempt start?

In my neck of the woods, the Dems certainly were vituperative with respect to the Whigs. The whigs really liked the darkies and all that. Eventually the Whigs died. And then the Dems killed the Union and American party rump — Black Republican stools, you know. And then the Dems stampeded the south right out of the Union, without even a proper vote. Perhaps Lincoln should have treated the idea of a slave based economy with a tad less contempt?

Then the south got its collective ass kicked. Then bed sheets were fashionable as party wear, and the Dems played really nasty, and clawed, and shot, and hung their way back into power.

Then after a long while, when schools were desegregated, those who really liked white bed sheets started voting Republican.

And now Dems were nothing but nicker lovers, and communists. And now we like to marry fags and kill babies.

So yeah, you could say I have more than a little contempt for those folks. Think they’d play nice if I did?

22

daniel elstein 11.03.04 at 6:52 pm

Of course there comes a point at which principles have to be cast aside in order to win elections. But it’s at least important to realise that you’re doing it. Playing the religion card in elections isn’t just another way of talking about the issues that matter in any democracy. It’s a different picture of what democracy is all about, one that wants the state to take a view on how people should live their lives. For those who want government action to be about justice, not about sexual and social mores, that’s a big compromise. By all means go ahead and make it if that’s necessary to prevent something worse, but don’t pretend that it’s business as usual, and remember that in the long run you want to get back to a more liberal form of democracy.

23

MS 11.03.04 at 7:00 pm

Yes, emjaybee, but somehow their “sincere attempt to do whatever God’s will is” generally – nay, almost always – turns into an attack on 1) uppity blacks 2) uppity women 3) uppity gays 4) scary foreigners 5) decadent intellectuals rather than, say, an equally fervent fight for the rights of the underpriviledged etc.

If their faith is so fervent, why don’t they busy themselves with the poor? Do they really think Jesus would be more worried about gay marriage than poverty?

24

No Preference 11.03.04 at 7:02 pm

the really hard question for a liberal is one he’s not brought up- to what degree evangelicals in the US are willing and/or able to be part of an “overlapping concensus”

Many of them don’t consider Kerry to even be a Christian.

25

mona 11.03.04 at 7:06 pm

As an outsider I don’t know much first hand about this issue in respect to the US, but even in other parts of the world, the real fundamentalist Christians don’t even consider the liberal Christians as Christians. They’re part of the enemy. Convert, or die (politically-metaphorically speaking). Competing for the votes of these people would be suicidal. It’d be better to confront and challenge the reasons for their growing appeal rather than validating them simply because they exist. They’re still a minority after all, aren’t they?

26

decon 11.03.04 at 7:08 pm

I don’t really see the connection between 1) Whether Bill Clinton gets on tolerably well with southern evangelicals today, and 2)whether Bill Clinton won elections in Arkansas in the past.

I’d love to discuss why I think Bill Clinton couldn’t win today, but a premise of this argument is point 1 above. What evidence do you have that Bill Clinton and southern evangelicals are at “ease” around one another?

I’ve just got my personal experience, but I assure it’s not pretty. Anyone who’s spent anytime in Arkansas, or in most any rural southern town, knows that the local evangelicals aren’t reticent about saying all kinds of incredibly incendiary things about Clinton. You STILL here it every damn day.

People tell me all the time how normal I look around here. They just don’t undertand how I could be a progressive, and no small number of them are praying for me.

27

No Preference 11.03.04 at 7:08 pm

now Dems were nothing but nicker lovers, and communists.

That’s knicker lovers.

28

decon 11.03.04 at 7:18 pm

I’m saying what MS is saying, I think. She’s just smarter than me. I really gotta learn to talk like ya’ll so you’ll like me.

29

roger 11.03.04 at 7:21 pm

Mona, an excellent point:
“They’re part of the enemy. Convert, or die (politically-metaphorically speaking). Competing for the votes of these people would be suicidal. It’d be better to confront and challenge the reasons for their growing appeal rather than validating them simply because they exist.”

What does it mean that the Dems need to appeal to the “moral values” of “Middle America”? It is a little like advising opposition parties in 1933 Germany that they need to adapt a reasonable stance towards the Jews — you know, one in which we, as “moderates”, manage their presence in everyday Deutsche life.

These people were moved by the same religious fervor that, in another flavor, motivated the Taliban, and motivates Islamicist parties in Pakistan. There is no compromise position available. We don’t bomb the “non-Christians” just a little bit, or allow a little gaybashing every now and then, a little murder here, a little beat em up there, in order to appeal to those values.

Unless, of course, we really don’t have any values of our own.

30

decon 11.03.04 at 7:32 pm

I guess the point I’m coming to is that we can’t win now. Gore tried running to the left. Kerry tried running to the center (and goodness, what a lot of open space to the left of Bush).

So rather than do what some here are advocating (kiss up to the people who hate me and my kind) I say go into full scale Gingrich style obstruction mode.

We don’t need to present a positive agenda, a viable policy alternative. We just need to sit on the sidelines and relentlessly carp about what a mess things are. And we need to filibuster, break quorum, etc… to shut down everything Republicans want to do.

What’s the point? Time. I used to have snotty attitude about Ruy Teixiera’s demographic hope for the Democratic party. I wanted a realignment, I wanted a winning coalition, and I wanted it NOW. I didn’t want to wait for no stinking demographic change. That’s like watching grass grow.

Well, I owe Ruy an apology. The old bigots are just going to have to get old and die and be replaced with differernt people before progressive values can win in southern and rural states.

31

Alex R 11.03.04 at 7:33 pm

I’ll tell you what disgusts me:

That 80% of those who think that “moral values” were their highest priority voted to reinstall the administration that brought us the Iraq War and Abu Ghraib.

My moral values were the most important reason that I voted for Kerry and against Bush. But I guess that if, in your morality, the lives of zygotes are more important than the lives of foreigners, you might vote differently.

32

SomeCallMeTim 11.03.04 at 7:34 pm

We just had a Master Class on hardball politics, for the second time, and people think the answer is “communication”? Cripes – it’s like a parody of Dems.

We lost a close election folks. Let’s solidify our hold on the places we could lose (mostly WI), and figure out what groups we can pick off to win in OH, FL, NM, NV, and/or CO.

But forget about the South and most of the Midwest. We will never out conservative the conservatives there. We have to build a coalition of states elsewhere. And to the extent that we are able, we have to punish states that aren’t part of that coalition.

“Feeling the Evangelicals pain” isn’t going to get us anywhere.

33

emjaybee 11.03.04 at 7:34 pm

Ms.: just a quick reply, I don’t want to derail the thread.

you said:
If their faith is so fervent, why don’t they busy themselves with the poor? Do they really think Jesus would be more worried about gay marriage than poverty?

Many evangelicals and other religious people do just that; but it doesn’t get much coverage on the news. They tend to not be the loud obnoxious types with the God Hates Fags posters, so they don’t make as good a photo op.

Look, I won’t defend anyone’s support of the anti-gay amendments or the stance of conservatives on any kinds of social issues. What I was trying to say is that there is a way for a Democrat to reach evangelical consciences, by using their own guidebook. Jesus had an awful lot to say about the rich abusing the poor, the evils of greed and hatred, and how even prophesying and healing in God’s name got you nowhere if you didn’t clothe and feed the poor and care for the sick. Not exactly things the Republicans have been good at.

What I’m suggesting is that Democrats understand and exploit the very liberal ideals present in much of Jesus’ teachings to force evangelicals to rethink their politics. Being preached at about what the Bible says and told to examine your conscience is integral to the church going experience, after all.

34

MS 11.03.04 at 7:47 pm

Yes, emjaybee, but being preached at by a guy or gal who is a fag-lover, or – and come on now, you know what’s what – a black-lover is not something that’s likely to turn many heads in the evangelical ranks.

It’s impossible to separate contemporary evangelicalism from old-fashioned racism. They’re allowed still to openly hate homosexuality, but sometimes I think that too is just the clean form of an old, old problem and mode of speaking. Let’s start there…

I spend a decent amount of time each year in the south amongst just the sort of folk that we’re talking about here. God-fearing, church-going, definitely not wealthy at all. And you should hear the coded language ebb and flow. “Affirmative action.” “Hiring preferences.” “Don’t want to work, just want a handout.” “The thing you don’t understand is that ours here in Memphis are just different from yours up in New York… worse…”

To these people, the religious talk is what it is and then something more: a sign that we’re all on the same page. The same page on everything: from religion to race.

Further, you really think between the minister and, say, Howard Dean breaking out Acts of the Apostles, they’re going to go with the later? Or will it take a little more? A lot more? Pro-life, anti-gay, pro-prayer in schools, anti-affirmative action, and then we’ll talk about getting some milk to those black babies in the inner cities? (Screw their slutty moms…)

35

Another Damned Medievalist 11.03.04 at 7:55 pm

I’ve commented supporting pretty much what Amy Sullivan and Kristof argue elsewhere, but have just realized what it is that bothers me about that. You see, I think there are definitely moral issues in this country that need to be dealt with — why the hell are kids going to sex parties, for instance? But I wonder if there’s a way to appeal to some of the key concerns of the Evangelicals that can still maintain that ‘separation of church and state’ thing. Can the Dems take a moral high ground that is nondenominational without losing? The kind of moral decay that concerns most people isn’t really a Christian thing, is it?

So Russell, I have to ask — if the dems were to use morality to unite people, but did it in a way that validated the very similar moral codes of non-Christians, wouldn’t they still be screwed?

36

Russell Arben Fox 11.03.04 at 7:55 pm

“I don’t really see the connection between 1) whether Bill Clinton gets on tolerably well with southern evangelicals today, and 2)whether Bill Clinton won elections in Arkansas in the past.”

I wasn’t making any such connection; I was making a point about what Clinton was able to do. In other words, I was using an example from the past; that’s why I wrote: “think about the ease with which he sat down with black preachers and white pentecostals.” I don’t think Clinton today can do what I’m talking about, and he knows it too. And moreover, it’s not like it’s entirely his fault; I’ll be the first to acknowledge that his cred with the average American evangelical was destroyed by one of the most relentless and ugly smear campaigns in American history. I’m not saying this is a one-way street; I’m just saying that liberals can go down such a street, and that Bill Clinton’s career proves it.

“Anyone who’s spent anytime in Arkansas, or in most any rural southern town, knows that the local evangelicals aren’t reticent about saying all kinds of incredibly incendiary things about Clinton. You STILL here it every damn day.”

Yep. I live in Jonesboro, AR. They hate they guy–now. A loss for our country and our civic health, for which a just God will hopefully make both Clinton (for being self-destructive) and Starr (for destroying a good man) pay.

37

Russell Arben Fox 11.03.04 at 8:04 pm

“So Russell, I have to ask — if the dems were to use morality to unite people, but did it in a way that validated the very similar moral codes of non-Christians, wouldn’t they still be screwed?”

Possibly, and if so, I’d mourn. If Catholics and evangelicals and orthodox Jews can make peace with one another, as they have as part of the conservative movement, you’d like to imagine that Christians that haven’t been sucked into the conservative crusade would be able to make common cause with others across the religious aisle. But maybe they wouldn’t. Obviously, given that the Democrats can’t allow themselves to become a stalking horse for theocracy (certain near-fascist Republicans have that niche filled), any progressive moral movement would have to emphasize such building on commonalities; if one is convinced that the benighted Jesus freaks of America can’t possibly ever accept a moral code that they didn’t personally write, then plainly this strategy is one that should be avoided like the plague. But it wouldn’t be bad to give it a try.

38

MS 11.03.04 at 8:07 pm

One other thing:

There’s one other big problem with refocusing the religious right on “economic justice.” Once you get beyond “Jesus was all about the poor” and try to take it into specific policy suggestions, everything falls apart.

Welfare? Is that something that the evangelicals will be in to? I think not.

I’d like to hear one example of an economic policy idea that would bring out the Christ in the Christians, please.

Bush already has this Xtian “economic justice” market as cornered as it could be. First with “compassionate conservativism” and later with “faith-based solutions.” Empty rhetoric – and that’s all they want.

(In a sense, this was true for Kerry even in this election. What exactly did he mean by “remembering the middle class and those who aspire to be there too…” He couldn’t say what, because the flyover states would freak out.)

39

vernaculo 11.03.04 at 8:08 pm

“Moral values” is code for “other”. The uniforms are more significant than the postures and stands. We’ve lived through centuries of human expansion, now we’re headed for reduction, one way or another.
This election and the viciousness of the winners going into it, and now coming out of it, is about survival; it has almost nothing to do with any moral precepts, except as they distinguish “us” from “them”.
The Arctic either is or is not melting. There either will or will not be disease and consequent mortality on a wide scale. But there will be a reduction, and soon; the thoughtless self-indulgent seemingly moronic mass in the heart of America recognized that while the left continued to delude itself that things could somehow be alright even as the global population headed toward 7 billions. What seems like incompetence in Iraq is preparation for empire, and survival. Morality is an excuse, not a reason. The only “values” at work here are the same ones that drive ticks toward warmth, and plants toward light. Survival. To live.

40

mona 11.03.04 at 8:21 pm

emjaybee: So a Democrat who knew how to use Jesus’ words—especially those about caring for the downtrodden and the poor, being honest, and being a good steward—would strike a chord in a sincere evangelical.

Or maybe he’d turn into another “compassionate conservative”? I don’t see liberation theology or religious-inspired left-wing pacifism gaining much ground in the US, also because it’s more connected to Catholicism than Protestantism. There is another, in-between, moderate, liberal-centrist or whatever, approach to Christianity, but I don’t see that competing with the Christian right either. Politically, a religious right is always stronger because it appeals to stronger emotions and fears.
I don’t have any problem with what people choose to believe. It’s just when they want to impose it on others. To me the definition of fundamentalist has nothing to do with how often people go to church or how literally they believe in the Bible or how they shape their entire life on religious doctrine and even if they believe the second coming is near – to be a fundamentalist you need only to believe that the law of the nation should be moulded on religious beliefs or dogmas or one’s own exclusive interpretation of religious tradition and texts. That your religion takes precedence over shared common ethics at the basis of the legal system. That’s a theocractic view, it sounds exaggerate to use that word, but literally, that’s what it is. (Some people are theocratic without even being strictly religious – many politicians in that category!) That anyone who doesn’t subscribe to that belief should concede it is nonetheless a valid political proposition (and its adherents a valid political force to be courted) is pure masochism. It goes contrary to all principles of modern democracy. Fundamentalists have rewritten history to depict the birth of modern nations, including America, as an exclusively Christian process rather than a secular one. To transform freedom of religion into obligation to impose religion. They’ve also rewritten secular principles, one of which is indeed freedom of religion, as being anti-religion. How do you argue with these people? You need to defuse the twisted logic there, and reduce its appeal and fight its influence. Not by courting it but by having the guts to demolish it. To go to war, intellectually and politically speaking, with it. Mr Nice Guy is only going to get eaten up in one bite.
On Monday the BBC showed a great interview with Arthur Miller, “the Atheism tapes”, in which he talked about, amongs other things, how much skepticism has become politically incorrect in the US. He called the mixture of politcs and religion “lethal”. Which is pretty accurate because that mixture kills both politics and religion in their truest sense. I don’t think you fight lethal trends by conceding to them. People need to reclaim the proper separation of church and state, of religion and politics, as a legitimate, fundamental value that benefits everybody, religious people included. That’s the only way you fight fundamentalism. Unless of course the purpose is not to fight it but to participate in milking it for votes for your side. Obviously a political party would be more inclined to that, but there has to be a limit to the attempts at not alienating this and that, people have to accept you need to alienate some to win over others, otherwise, what makes one party different from the other? Cultural battles are not made at party campaign level, they have to be made by everybody.

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dsquared 11.03.04 at 8:27 pm

Lord, the headless chicken effect is in full flow I see.

This election was won and lost by fractions of a per cent in a few swing states. Bush won the popular vote this time, but he lost it last time. It moves around.

Look, if you flipped a coin twice, and it came up heads both times, would you start thinking about the massive structural changes that needed to be made to the coin before it could ever come up tails? It amazes me that people can be so sensible about margins of error on polls, but then start reading vast conclusions off tiny differences in the actual election. It’s enough to make a statistician weep.

(to put it another way; after Clinton’s second victory, did the Republican party sit around thinking about how they needed to talk to the liberals in a language they understood?)

42

Walt Pohl 11.03.04 at 8:42 pm

Russell: I think you’re directing your appeal to the wrong audience. For example, I’m an atheist. I’m about as likely to plausibly use religious language as I am to start speaking in tongues. What needs to happen is for religious Democrats to reclaim the banner of faith from the religious right. Fundamentalists have successfully redefined Christianity to mean fundamentalism. It’s time for liberal Christians to take Christianity back.

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Russell Arben Fox 11.03.04 at 8:55 pm

“Russell: I think you’re directing your appeal to the wrong audience.”

As Harry said, there’s a work for secularists to do here. But you’re right, of course. What happens on the Sojourners board is, insofar as this campaign is concerned, more important than what happens at CT.

44

mona 11.03.04 at 9:35 pm

“It’s time for liberal Christians to take Christianity back.”

Yes, but also take it back and as further away from politics as possible. It doesn’t have to be tied to winning elections, it’s something that should be done independently. To claim it should be done to win votes is to use the same approach as Republicans to the Christian right.

45

BigMacAttack 11.03.04 at 9:40 pm

I think D Squared is right.

But as far as it goes the problem can be summarized as follows -

A very large number of Democrats do not respect or are unwilling to defend traditional morality.

As this thread shows they conflate traditional morality with racism and homophobia.

It goes well beyond just that.

Single moms are stupid sluts.

If you cannot find some kind of job in this nation you are a lazy bum.

Inflammatory. Yes. Unnecessarily harsh. Yes.

But certainly much more true than false.

True reflections of traditional morality that so many Democrats cannot respect let alone defend.

46

mona 11.03.04 at 9:40 pm

dsquared: This may be all like flipping a coin, but it’s how the results are read that matters. Especially how they’re read by the winning side.

47

mona 11.03.04 at 9:56 pm

… and, also, as far as I’m concerned, sadly, it matters how results read by the allies of the winning side, especially right-wing allies in Europe (I say this groaning in pain – the gloating is making me sick)

Someone should present David Frum with award for Global Bushie of the year, I’ve seen him being interviewed at length on at least 7 channels across 3 nations and 2 continents and 3 languages in the space of 12 hours.

I think I’ll go on another 6-months tv strike after today.

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Clark Goble 11.03.04 at 10:43 pm

It’s been interesting reading all the responses to Russell. If anything, if you guys represent a significant view within the Democratic party, then why only Clinton has been able to successfully win the Presidency other than an other religious person, Carter, the last 35 years is pretty clear.

The “core” of the democratic party doesn’t trust religion and sees it through a lens of bigotry. (Ironically viewed as the person being against bigotry)

49

glaucon 11.04.04 at 12:50 am

There is simply no way to co-opt evangelical “morals” without utterly violating our own. To be a progressive is almost by definition to be out of power/a minority. It means wanting to rationally improve on the present situation. All we have on the left, all we have ever had, is the superior rationality of our arguments compared to theirs. We will simply have to trust that in time, a reality based approach will prove more convincing than a faith based approach.

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PZ Myers 11.04.04 at 1:39 am

There’s an idea here that I find very objectionable, and that Amy Sullivan seems to unthinkingly perpetuate, and that Kieran makes without seeming to notice.

“Right now the Democrats don’t have a plausible spiel on morality. I don’t mean that they’re less likely to be moral people, just that they don’t have a coherent way of talking to their own base — let alone the electorate — about what they stand for in religious terms. “

Notice the shift. Start off talking about morality, and then switch to assuming it has to be spoken of in religious terms.

Well, I’m an atheist, and I’m a member of the Democratic party, and — trust me — I’m a moral person. If we’re going to be inclusive and not alienate one minority group within the party to reach out to some nebulous new group (which seems to be the large group of bigoted Christians who despise non-Christians), it’s really going to have to be done in secular language.

I know from experience how this goes. Start by making concessions to the theists that issues are allowed to be framed in religious terms, and soon enough they will insist that they must be framed religiously. And before you know it, we’re out of the Land of Reason and hunkered down in Dogmaville.

I say keep all the morality in secular and universal terms. Christians can simply make their own personal accommodations to the logic within their own personal views, just as the rest of us have had to do.

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Sandwichman 11.04.04 at 1:52 am

I invite y’all to have a look at a film that appeared on PBS several years ago: Affluenza. Somewhere around the middle of this film, they conduct interviews with some of the leaders of Focus on the Family.

The sophisticated, leftish young crowd I was viewing the film with gasped when the ‘enemy’ was shown on screen respectfully. But what was even more astounding was that the evangelicals were basically agreeing with an anti-commercial, anti-consumption message. There are, after all, ‘moral’ issues that are bread and butter issues too and that are anti-commercial and conservationist.

People get stirred up about different things. If you aren’t stirring them up about one thing, somebody else will be stirring them up about another.

52

Russell Arben Fox 11.04.04 at 5:19 am

For what it’s worth, getting caught up in all these CT threads, plus reading Timothy Burke’s deep and powerful thoughts on the subject, got me fired up to put down some of my own here. Much too long and no doubt insufferably pedantic, but perhaps worth reading just the same.

(Thanks for the vote of support, Clark.)

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Tom Doyle 11.04.04 at 6:45 am

The “core” of the democratic party doesn’t trust religion and sees it through a lens of bigotry. (Ironically viewed as the person being against bigotry)

Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4: 11-12

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glaucon 11.04.04 at 7:06 am

The problem with religion, Mr. Doyle, is that faith can be used to justify absolutely anything, even in the face of massive factual evidence. The fact that Christians cannot even agree with each other, let alone all the rest of the religions, does not do wonders for your credibility.

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seth edenbaum 11.04.04 at 1:20 pm

I’ve read a few of these comments but not all; and most of what I’ve read seems to miss the point.
Liberals are a condescending lot.

I wonder how many of those who voted for Bush would say that their obligations, to family and friends and community, were more important to them than personal freedom. That’s certainly the case in my neighborhood. What calculations could Brad DeLong do with that?

Brian Leiter once linked approvingly if half in jest to an article or a blog entry by some professor or other that claimed to analyze the IQ’s of the populations of various Red states. Conclusion: the peasants are stupid. I was I think the only one I know of to point out that the post and the link to it were obscene.
I wonder how many of you spend time in college towns. Do you know how humiliating life can be for the locals in such places?

Traditions gives us most of what we value.
French haute cuisine derives from the efforts of 500 generations of French grandmothers. Mozart is the end of a tradition, not a lightningbolt out of the blue.

I’m sick to death of technocrats and libertarians, of liberal yuppies who destroy what’s left of old neighborhoods and then wonder why their neighbors, the little old ladies, vote for Bush. But liberals are the public face of hard-core economic conservatism: of the logic of the market. DeLong and Krugman would be happy to have a population of corporate drones with really good health insurance.

The peasants don’t expect life to be easy. They don’t want much. But they don’t like being condescended to by people who want to help them out of pity.

“And for the record (don’t
post this), Yglesias as an individual has a great, self-aware sense of humor
and is much more starkly honest (if also unapologetic) about his own elitism
than most liberals. Take him out for a beer and I think you’d find that.”

Yeah that’s a real quote.
But I’m sure he loves listening to Johnny Cash.

For the record I’m an atheist. But given a choice between spending time with someone who’s thinks the meaning of life comes from understanding a calculation and someone who thinks it comes from the study of a book, I’ll gladly choose the latter. And ‘Riverbend’ has a wider range of reference, a better prose style in her second language and is, frankly, more intelligent than Ophelia Benson.

And I’m sorry if the above quote is dirty pool. The problem with my country is very simple: college professors don’t know how to sit at the same table with truckers and taxi drivers; and that’s not the taxi drivers’ fault. Whites are not allowed any more to speak for blacks; men can no longer comfortably be assumed to speak for women, or straights for gays; but the educated may speak freely to each other about the rest of the country without acknowledging there’s be a problem.

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roger 11.04.04 at 3:28 pm

Seth, I have to disagree with you when you say “Liberals are a condescending lot.” I think the problem is just the opposite — I don’t think they condescend enough. They are always trying to figure out how to “understand” the great Other, those little old ladies who are voting for Bush cause they were pushed out of their cheap housing by the coffeehouse krewe. Gee, how did those little old ladies get those houses? Could it be the liberals that institutued the VHA programs at the end of WWII, as the prototype of the government supported market in mortgages? Could it be that those little old ladies were once young ladies who made sure that VHA laws discriminated systematically against blacks getting loans for houses, and formed neighborhood associations with covenants so that you could not sell houses to blacks, or Jews for that matter? The tissue of prejudice is rank, runs straight through their past, and they’d be voting for Bush anyway — what is the downside? As long as they could suck off of federal entitlement programs that were designed to support the midle class by ‘condescending liberals”, they could vote for conservative “values’ candidates because those candidates would make sure that no gay or black or darkly colored person got a bit of the honeypot.

As for the Rousseauian savage taxi drivers emanating natural wisdom far above the spiritual abilities of the college professoriat to digest, what nuggets of wisdom do they possess?

The family and friends obligations are a hoot. Is it out of lovingkindness that you oblige your teenage daughter to carry her baby to term? Or how about those rural families, living in vast swathes of the country where the major growth industry is the methamphetimine biz, who lovingly believe in right to work and definitely don’t want their neighborhoods invaded by the Mexican. These paragons of obligation turn up consistently in the stats for alcoholism while strongly supporting the right of the state to incarcerate a larger portion of the population than is incarcerated in any Free world country. There are, after all, great jobs in the jail industry. Their extended families depend on the medicare benefits and the pitiful health benefits from work that they zealously want to take away from same sex couples — see the Ohio votes about civil unions.

Condescention? No, one has to develop something a little more powerful. Contempt.

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.04.04 at 3:55 pm

One of the reasons I enjoy this blog so much is that there seems to be a real effort to examine all possibilities, all sides of a question. So far as I am concerned, this approach entirely trumps political orientation, because it (more or less) effectively negates bias in favor of truth.

In that spirit, consider these points:

The vast majority of the heavily-reported “moral values” exit poll results were gathered by media organizations. No surprises there; that’s their job. It is fair to point out, though, that such organizations have generally displayed a heavy bias against the Bush administration during the course of this campaign.

Think about the ways the phrase “moral values” might be interpreted. It’s fairly plain that the contributors to this blog have unanimously decided that, when Bush voters said they cast their vote based on “moral values,” they were actually thinking about abortion and gay marriage.

This may be a reasonable assumption… but it isn’t the only reasonable assumption.

It’s also fair to point out that many Bush voters perceive John Kerry to be a profoundly immoral person. They look at his alleged conduct during the Vietnam War, his well-documented activities following the war, his record in the Senate, and his conduct of the presidential campaign, and many decide that they prefer a flawed—but essentially moral—President Bush to an untested—but morally compromised—Senator Kerry.

I can hear you sharpening your knives… stop it. I am not presenting my personal opinion, as such. Rather, I am offering a window into the psyche of a particular kind of voter when faced with the exit polls in question.

So what’s my point?

I think the folks who write the exit polls are more than sufficiently sophisticated to be aware of the potential for widely different interpretations, not of the meaning of this question, but of the meaning of responses to this question. After all, this is what poll-writers do for a living.

Since such a reaction was easily foreseeable, and since the ambiguity of the question reduces its scientific value to nil, I can only conclude that the form of the question was politically motivated and carefully designed to provoke precisely that reaction… which it appears to have done.

Am I suggesting that the average Bush voter is actually in favor of abortion and gay marriage? Of course not.

What I am suggesting, though, is that this particular survey question provides little useful information on the topic… because, to many Bush voters, the main moral issue in this presidential campaign was neither abortion nor gay marriage.

It was John Kerry.

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Tom Doyle 11.04.04 at 6:40 pm

“The fact that Christians cannot even agree with each other, let alone all the rest of the religions, does not do wonders for your credibility.”

There are many Christian denominations, and the only one I really know about is mine, the Catholic Church. (I’m in the US) But I think that for the most part they are on good terms with each other. In general, I don’t think reaching agreement amoung themselves on doctrinal points is a high priority. More important is co-operation, interfaith dialog, understandimg, parity of esteem, etc., amoung Christian branches and non-christian faiths as well. This is my general impression.

One thing I don’t think Christians have agreed on- is a joint drive aimed at pressuring politicians to include public professions of their religions beliefs in campaign speeches; or get them to commit to set aside a certain percentage of pre-election debates to argue about the quality of their relationship with god, or anything remotely resembling such projects.

So if anyone suggests something along those lines in terms that imply s/he is advocating on behalf of, or in the interests of religion, christianity, “traditional values,” common decency, or the like, I would not automaticly credit such a claim. One might well request to see, or hear the theological rationale behind the proposed scheme, chapter and verse, as it were.

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mona 11.04.04 at 6:49 pm

I’ve often heard something partly similar to Seth’s argument applied to a different, European context, as an explanation of the rise of the anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-feminist, “moral values” right and far right, that supposedly is a reaction by a section of the “common people” to being alienated by the left (and by the centre-right alike, in some cases).
In any country there’s always a varying part of the electorate that’s like that, in all its different national and local variants, and populist appeal to that kind of mentality tends to work rather easily, because you really don’t have to prove much to prejudiced people except that you speak their language. Look at the UKIP and similar. You can blame the other parties all you like for being too condescending or intellectual or sellouts or whatever, for failing to address concerns and thus supposedly “drive” people towards more hardcore positions, but it’s not them transforming anything from real concerns to nationalism and racism into sheer paranoia, fuelling it so they get more votes, and then blaming it all on anyone more moderate. With a proportional multi-party system at least you get to isolate many of those votes so you don’t attribute to them more influence than they may have.

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jc 11.05.04 at 4:21 am

Am I an idealist or am I just plain ignorant…do we or don’t we provide for the separation of church and state within our constituion? Granted, the realities of the situation are such that an individual’s vote will be cast based on their personal beliefs but pandering to the religious beliefs of the nation in order to secure votes seems to really muddy the separation waters. Truly, this election was not decided over issues of “moral” values – not by any definition of the word moral. No, this was an election based strictly upon religious values. Until we come to grips with the reality that the religious right (and all of those too afraid to not jump on that “life” raft) are swinging a very large ax directly at the heart of the consitutional rights of the American people, then we, as Democrats, are doomed to demoralizing defeat.

To counter such a swing in sentiment, it will require the same type of disgust, anguish and activism seen during the protests of the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War. Once our country begins drafting young men (and women) into the military in order to feed fresh bodies into our under-prepared, over-burdened and under-staffed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (and dare I say, Iran, North Korea, Sudan…Pakistan?) then, maybe, we will begin to see the return of a real voter revolt. And a return to a more centrist government. But, of course, like history dictates, we will go too far – overliberalizing and thus alienating the right – and the ax will swing right back favoring the safe-haven of religion (for who would ever question God in a time personal dis-ease?) and putting at risk the rights of the individual once again.

This is such a silly game…Bill Clinton was a brief breath of fresh air in the middle of a right-ward swing that began with the election of Richard Nixon (who, by today’s standards, would be considered a moderate DEMOCRAT). Sadly, we have traveled soooo far to the right since 1970 that today we are discussing HOW TO TALK EVANGELIC-ESE. Please, it is not about learning to “speak” their language. It is not about finding “common” ground. Have you been to their chuches? Have you ever tried to have a nonreligion-based conversation with these people? They are not capable of it! This doesn’t make them wrong or bad…they just have conviction. Or faith. Or maybe they are just too scared, too ignorant, too simple or just too plain comfortable with not having to take charge of their own life situation. George Bush is not their President…George Bush is their Ayatollah – their spiritual and political leader. Their support of Bush puts them closer to their God. This is a very radical departure from partisanship…one God, one way and only one point of view – theirs.

61

Jason G. Williscroft 11.05.04 at 4:37 am

That’s just silly, JC.

Look, the widely-touted “seperation of church & state” is designed to apply to church institutions, not church ideals. It was a commonsense reaction against a state-established religion by a group of people who were denied the opportunity, by that establishment, to practice their own religions.

What you’re espousing isn’t the seperation of church & state… it’s the enforced seperation of religion and society. Sorry, but you can’t have that, because people are, in the main, religious. Even you. Your articles of faith are different from Dubya’s, but your liberal fervor is no less devout.

You know what I think? I think we would go a long way toward easing the current division is American society if paragons of tolerance such as yourself would refrain from making pronouscements like:

…they are just too scared, too ignorant, too simple or just too plain comfortable with not having to take charge of their own life situation. George Bush is not their President. George Bush is their Ayatollah…

Good grief.

62

mona 11.05.04 at 9:01 am

Jason, you’re right, what JC wrote can’t possibly match the display of tolerance and reasonableness from the Christian right.

No one’s expecting a society without religion. But religion is not the monopoly of the fundamentalists. Separation also means it’s not healthy for political parties to court their vote by promising to deliver laws based on religious beliefs. Or pour massive funds into religious organisations, who in turn pour massive funds into your campaign. Or exploit apocalyptic beliefs about babylonian wars and armageddons between good and evil.

Amazing how so many in the Christian right can see the problem so clearly when it’s about Islam and politics, but that’s only because Islam is the wrong religion and they’re all terrorists. Their beliefs instead are right, so their idea of a political and legal system based on those beliefs must be good for everyone. Is that not how the Christian Coalition people think?

And it’s all the fault of their critics and opponents for not accepting that and not trying to be more understanding, huh?

63

jc 11.05.04 at 5:08 pm

Jason G,

How does an “institution” differ from an ideal? Is prayer an institution or an ideal? Are the phrases “In God we trust”, “One nation, under God…” and “…only begotten son…” ideals …no, they are the institutions upon which the religious right have built their faith and, now, are attempting to define the character of our country.

And I don’t think that the Ayatollah reference is way off…listen to the zeal in the voices of middle America…or Zell Miller.

Silly me for stating the obvious.

64

jc 11.05.04 at 5:09 pm

Jason G,

How does an “institution” differ from an ideal? Is prayer an institution or an ideal? Are the phrases “In God we trust”, “One nation, under God…” and “…only begotten son…” ideals …no, they are the institutions upon which the religious right have built their faith and, now, are attempting to define the character of our country.

And I don’t think that the Ayatollah reference is way off…listen to the zeal in the voices of middle America…or Zell Miller.

Silly me for stating the obvious.

65

Jason G. Williscroft 11.05.04 at 6:15 pm

Jason, you’re right, what JC wrote can’t possibly match the display of tolerance and reasonableness from the Christian right.

I didn’t say that, Mona. You did.

It’s plain that there are many right-wing Christians who are—frankly—bigoted assholes. I think it’s also quite plain, though, that there are many on the Left who are perfectly willing to tar a hundred million people in this country with the same brush. You, for example. I’ll say it again: that’s just silly.

Amazing how so many in the Christian right can see the problem so clearly when it’s about Islam and politics, but that’s only because Islam is the wrong religion and they’re all terrorists.

Yah, silly. Who’s interested in having a conversation about “rightness” of religion when your opponent is strapping on a bomb and walking into a schoolyard? Or feeding his neighbor into a plastic shredder? Or cutting the throats of documentary filmmakers who dare to criticize? Again, you’re accusing Christian conservatives of tarring all Muslims with the same brush, but the only person here who appears to be making that kind of sweeping generalization is you, Mona.

Now, JC: how does an institution differ from an ideal? Let’s see:

  • An institution is a legal entity. An ideal is not.
  • An institution can own real estate, hold bank accounts, and employ people. An ideal can’t.
  • An institution can directly exert power over people, up to and including deadly force. An ideal can’t.
  • An institution can belong to and be controlled exclusively by another institution… a government, for example. Ideals are open-source.

A prayer is neither an institution nor an ideal. It is an act commited by an individual in service of an ideal. So, by the way, is a suicide bombing. Judge the act by its effects.

Are the phrases “In God we trust”, “One nation, under God…” and “…only begotten son…” ideals …no, they are the institutions upon which the religious right have built their faith and, now, are attempting to define the character of our country.

No… they’re phrases. And, actually, you have it just backward: those phrases, and the ideals they represent, are what defined the character of our country in the first place. If you don’t believe me, try this passage from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Not particularly ambiguous, is it?

Evidently, you’d like to alter that character, and that’s perfectly fine… but, as the agent of change, the onus is on you to make the case for shifting the status quo, not the other way ’round. Getting your facts properly lined up would be a good start.

Look, JC, lots of people are zealous. You’re zealous in the support of your ideals, or you wouldn’t bother having this argument. But so what if you, I, George Bush, and Osama bin Laden are equally zealous regarding our ideals? Only one of the four of us has expressed that zeal in the completely unprovoked, context-free murder of three thousand people half a world away.

There’s a categorical difference here. And, yah, you’re going to tell me how George Bush has killed 14,238 innocent civilians in Iraq as of this morning… save it. That question, at least, is debatable. The question of OBL’s actions is not.

Oh, for the record: I am neither Christian, nor a Republican. I’m a free-thinking Jew who likes to see people practice what they preach.

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Uncle Kvetch 11.05.04 at 7:12 pm

And, yah, you’re going to tell me how George Bush has killed 14,238 innocent civilians in Iraq as of this morning… save it. That question, at least, is debatable. The question of OBL’s actions is not.

Are you suggesting it’s “debatable” that there have, in fact, been any civilian casualties in Iraq resulting from US military action?

If not, what if the actual number of civilian casualties was 3,000? Would that make Bush and Osama equally “zealous”?

67

Jason G. Williscroft 11.05.04 at 8:39 pm

Um… no, Uncle Kvetch, I’m not. Try clicking the hyperlink attached to the word “debatable.” If you don’t want to scroll up, it’s: http://thedeadhand.com/blogs/jscroft/articles/627.aspx.

Of course there have been civilian casualties. What I was trying to do was to pre-empt a common retort equating GWB with OBL & company. It’s a particularly obnoxious libel that, I hope you agree, has no place in this forum.

Now that we’ve managed to get off track anyway, where were we? Ah…

Intolerance of another person’s religious beliefs is wrong, neh? That’s a basic tenet of liberalism, I believe, and certainly one of the fundamental founding principles of our nation, since most of our founders came here to escape religious persecution in the first place.

So, if you’re politically liberal and you find it necessary to malign tens of millions of Christians because they hold Christian beliefs, kindly knock it off. Those people have more in common with you and your parents and friends than not, and almost certainly don’t generally think of you with the same degree of animosity. Such talk is petty, mean-spirited, and serves no other purpose than to stir up people who already agree with you anyway. It’s a very cheap thrill.

Why don’t we focus on the things that really matter, in that they affect us all equally, regardless of what we believe? A man with thirty pounds of RDX and roofing nails strapped to his chest has absolutely no regard for what you believe when he gets on a city bus and sits next to your child. He is evil… not because of the nature or strength of his beliefs, but because of the nature and viciousness of the act he is prepared to commit.

There is no justification—none!—that could possibly excuse such wanton violence to a victim who is only in the wrong place and time because the bomber deliberately selected the place and time to maximize the innocent body count.

This is your enemy. Not George Bush. Not Carl Rove. Not Rush Limbaugh.

Not even me.

Some or all of us may oppose you in forums like this one. We may argue that we have different or better ways to accomplish the goal of preventing that man from detonating his weapon. We may even differ on whether that man truly represents a general threat, or whether a context may actually exist in which his acts are justified.

But I’m going to argue with you, not kill you. There’s a categorical difference there.

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Uncle Kvetch 11.05.04 at 9:29 pm

So, if you’re politically liberal and you find it necessary to malign tens of millions of Christians because they hold Christian beliefs, kindly knock it off.

Y’know, Jason, I generally believe that tit-for-tat is not the noblest rhetorical strategy…and I’ve never been fond of the “more victimized than thou” tactic…but in this case I’ll make an exception.

I have shared a home and a life with someone of my own sex for the last 9 years. In the last few years, I have heard people at the highest reaches of government, and in the most “reasonable” sectors of the “mainstream” media, explicitly compare my relationship with my life partner to bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia, and rape. Our love for each other is compared to alcoholism and kleptomania.

Here’s another one: the official invocation at the Republican National Convention in August was given by a Mormon minister by the name of Sherri Dew. Rev. Dew wrote a magazine column in which she explicitly compared the failure to “combat” gay marriage with people’s failure to resist the Nazis during the Holocaust. I’ll be happy to provide the links.

Now, when you can come up with something roughly comparable to, say, a United States Senator comparing my partner’s and my private sexual relations to “man-on-dog,” or someone comparing our relationship to the murder of 6 million Jews, I’ll be more than willing to consider that maybe Christians really are “maligned” in this country. If you can’t, maybe you’re the one who needs to “knock it off.”

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.05.04 at 9:59 pm

Well, you really picked the right audience, Uncle Kvetch: I’m a way-out-of-the-closet Jewish bisexual. So I’m going to repeat to you the same litany that I repeat six times daily to my business partner, his boyfriend, and half of my friends: don’t make the mistake of confusing things that piss you off with things that actually matter.

Was this year’s Republican convention a particularly foul example of gay-baiting? Yep. But, then, I’ve seen Farenheit 9/11, too, and Jimmy Carter seemed pretty comfy sitting next to Michael Moore at the DNC, so don’t try to claim the moral high ground on that score.

The bottom line: if you honestly believe that all Christians represent the venom sprayed about by bigots (who happen to be Christian) at the RNC, and if I believe that all liberals espouse the vicious lies manufactured wholesale by Moore and his ilk, then we’re done here. We have nothing to say to one another.

But I don’t really believe that.

Now, I think the most effective thing about Jimmy Carter’s ex-Presidency is that he’s no longer President, but I still respect the man enough to believe that he washed his hands after he shook Michael Moore’s. And, if you’re honest, you’ll probably admit to yourself that most Christians—once they’ve actually met one or two gay people—get along with them just fine.

The world is changing, my friend. If you live in a quiet Midwestern villiage where, to the best of your knowledge, you have never even met a gay person, the world is changing bewilderingly fast. The dumbest thing official Queerdom ever did was to try to shove our sexual orientation down our grandmothers’ throats all at once. Is it any wonder they push back?

Give them time. By the time today’s teenagers run for office—many of whom routinely do things with their bodies that I’ve never even heard of—the issue of gay marriage will be as dead as the Scarlet Letter.

Terrorists, on the other hand, will still be perfectly happy to blow you and your entire extended gay family to Kingdom Come… and they don’t care about your sexual orientation, either. Whose company would you prefer?

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Uncle Kvetch 11.05.04 at 10:10 pm

Jason,

Twice now you’ve brought up the threat of terrorism in this conversation, for what reason I have no idea. If the point you’re making is something along the lines of “Well, at least the Religious Right isn’t trying to kill you,” I have to say I’m not impressed.

I can’t think of that anything Michael Moore has said, in “Farenheit 9/11″ or elsewhere, that’s remotely comparable to the Santorum & Sherri Dew quotes I alluded to above. You’re going to need to be a little more specific.

But then again, if you think my demanding equality under the law is equivalent to shoving my sexuality down your grandmother’s throat, maybe we really do have nothing to say to each other, and should call it a day.

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.05.04 at 10:43 pm

I brought up terrorism because it was part of the subject matter that brought me into the conversation, as in:

…they are just too scared, too ignorant, too simple or just too plain comfortable with not having to take charge of their own life situation. George Bush is not their President. George Bush is their Ayatollah…

And, while demanding equal rights under the law isn’t the same thing as shoving alternative sexuality into people’s faces, you have to admit that there’s something a little in-your-face about a crowd of half-naked people dancing down the street, shouting “We’re here! We’re queer! Get over it!”

At least that’s what I think I was shouting.

Note that I haven’t said there’s anything wrong with such expression. Of course there isn’t. Still… you can’t possibly be so naive as to think that people unused to thinking about sexuality much at all might not be a little taken aback by such displays.

It’s cultural inertia, man! You’re asking people to stretch their minds in unfamiliar ways, then hating them because they find it difficult! Give the poor saps a chance!

Michael Moore… that movie was a vicious tapestry of lies from start to finish. Where to begin? Read the book (or watch the documentary) entitled Farenhype 9/11, which tackles it point by point. Of particular note was the armless veteran depicted in Moore’s movie, who speaks at length of how betrayed he felt by Moore’s blatant contextual manipulation of the footage in which he appears. Or consider the silly financial ties Moore alleges between Bush and the bin Ladens… By his reasoning, the biggest bin Laden supporter in America today would be George Soros. It’s disgusting.

Look, you seem determined to fight with me. Why is that? I think one of the other basic tenets of liberalism is the search for common ground. You seem absolutely determined to hate people who have, individually, done nothing to hurt you, and would probably like you just fine if they met you. I’ve offered you plenty of points of commonality between us, and you seem absolutely determined to find something to feel offended about.

So why don’t you knock that chip off your shoulder, Kvetch? How can we run a country together if we can’t even talk to one another?

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mona 11.05.04 at 11:15 pm

A – Who’s interested in having a conversation about “rightness” of religion when your opponent is strapping on a bomb and walking into a schoolyard? Or feeding his neighbor into a plastic shredder? Or cutting the throats of documentary filmmakers who dare to criticize?

B – Again, you’re accusing Christian conservatives of tarring all Muslims with the same brush

C – but the only person here who appears to be making that kind of sweeping generalization is you, Mona.

Is that supposed to fit together with no contradictions? How?

You seem to be suggesting I’m wrong to say the religious right sees Islam as evil and Muslims as terrorists, then you respond to the mention of Islam with a list of terrorist acts. ?

The point about the problem that the Christian right sees clearly in Islam but not in themselves is about church/state separation. Not terrorism. Obv.

Oh, and unless the Christian right — by which I obviously mean the really hardcore conservative theocratic and apocalyptic people who really do believe Islam is the new cult of Baal and Muslims are 70% terrorists or terrorist supporters and the other 30% is under the age of 7 — sprang to the amazing number of 100 million overnight during ballot counts, no, I wasn’t exactly making sweeping generalisations, because I’m clearly not talking of all Christians, nor of all those who voted for Bush.

(Starting to get a deja vu here. You know when people assume the fundamentalists are all there is to a religion, assumption the fundamentalists obviously have all the interest in reinforcing. Sound familiar?)

Call it something else than “Christian right”, if you like, if that sounds too broad a definition.

But if your argument in defense of those people boils down to “why are you pissed off at them, when there’s Muslim terrorists out there which are far worse” then, wow, you might as well pack your constitution in a nuclear bunker for future generations to recover.

A terrorist is not an “opponent”. A terrorist is a criminal and can kill anyone, co-religionaries and co-nationals included. An opponent is for debate, and being opponents in political terms is essential part of the democratic process. If you want to do without that simply by citing the existence of terrorism, why, you’re validating their goals for them.

Hey, look there, there’s terrorism – let’s unite and find common ground stop and arguing about separation of religion and government. We’re not the talebans anyway! Hey, look there, a Muslim fanatic killed a gay person – let’s unite and please, folks, stop moaning to us about how we’re anti-gay, we’re not going to treat you like equals but at least we’re not going to slice your throat! Hey, look there, a woman with a burka – yes, we hate feminists and pro-choicers and we’d also like you to keep your place and respect our family values, but at least, we’re not going to cover you from head to toe! Shouldn’t you be happy?

(a.k.a. the infamous “Abu Ghraib – not as bad as Saddam’s torture chambers” argument.)

As if it was impossible to deal with terrorists while criticising something else, anything else. As if terrorism brought a new perspective to life by which anything less terrible than dying in shredders or beheaded or blown up is, really, just fine! Anything this side of taleban-style fundamentalism is not fundamentalism and religious intolerance at all. And anything American is inherently good, or at least non-threatening, because we’re fighting the evil terrorists and you should count yourself lucky you’re not in Fallujah right now.

(Actually, this is also know as the “finish your supper, you little pest, you should be thankful you’ve got *any* food at all on the table and that you’re not starving like those children in Africa” argument, which always brings back fond memories of childhood for many people. “American fundamentalists: as tasty as overcooked cabbage. Well at least it’s better than starving!”)

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mona 11.05.04 at 11:23 pm

“How can we run a country together if we can’t even talk to one another?”

Jason, don’t mean to shatter your ideals of democracy, but usually the party that wins elections gets to run the country. The losers at least get to bitch about it and pretend their opposition can really matter.

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seth edenbaum 11.06.04 at 12:31 am

Jason dear, you have some smart comments on the social conservatism of those who dwell in villages. But you also share their ignorance of the history of American foreign policy. And considering that we’re an empire and all, and a democracy of sorts, that’s what I would call a mistake.

Also, there is a difference between having an opinion and wanting to impose it upon others. This is a democracy and the majority of people for better or worse, like to watch Britany Spears- now Christina Aguilera- grind her pussy in a camera lens. A large percentage of the people in red states, however, are lying about it, and want to punish the rest of us for their hypocrisy.

That being said, it amuses me that so many people are willing to ascribe religious fundmentalism in other countries to economic factors, but in their own country it comes down to simple illogic. “Why are they such idiots.” Perhaps they are, but then again perhaps the speaker should remember that the world made of events, not ideas. Ideas are inventions that we use to describe events. Brad DeLong uses ideas to describe the world, and christians use the interpretations of a book. Read Richard Lewontin in the most recent NY Review if you want to understand how the fundamentalists of science elide corruption in their own house as much a Pope avoids disscussion of the local parish pederast.

I don’t give a shit about religion. But I don’t have contempt for those who do. I have contempt, and a cruel, bitter contempt, for unimaginative idiots who think that closed systems can be used to figure the complexities of the world. But somehow I can eek out a little sympathy for poor unimaginative idiots. Rich ones I want to beat into the ground.

And Jason since you are apparently a happy bisexual, perhaps you could take the discussion where others fear to read:

Why do so many faggots predicate their lives and art on such awful snobbery. Can it ever be liberal to be a snob? And what is it with fascist kitsch? Really kid, I’m giving you some credit here, as much to you on issues of the heart and cock as I give to rest here on matters of law and foreign policy (you really should read a bit more however)

Let’s bring some real complexity to this fucking discussion!

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.06.04 at 3:46 am

Seth, I appreciate the kind words… and your condescension is utterly breathtaking. Let me think on’t; I’m tired.

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seth edenbaum 11.06.04 at 4:13 am

That I should have any affection at all for someone who could write “godspeed” and “rock and roll!” in the same sentence, and then in response to the impending destruction of a city , surprises me not a little.

You’re welcome kid.
for everything.

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.06.04 at 4:46 am

Come on, Seth… try for a little context. I’m a former U.S. Marine and Navy officer, with 12 years of service. If anybody is entitled to wish my Marines G-dspeed before they embark on a very hazardous mission, I am.

Jeez.

And, speaking of context… is it “the impending destruction of a city?” Or is it “the impending destruction of a network of terrorists that has claimed thousands of civilian lives over the past year and change… and has elected to hide behind the women and children of Fallujah?”

I’d say it’s at least a little of both, but probably much more of the latter. But… and this is important… Mentioning only the former tells a very twisted and incomplete tale.

So don’t do that.

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s.e. 11.06.04 at 5:23 am

Jason, I take it back.
You’re not a kid.

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jc 11.06.04 at 6:15 am

“It is not about finding “common” ground. Have you been to their chuches? Have you ever tried to have a nonreligion-based conversation with these people? They are not capable of it!”

Jason, I thank you for expanding my mind…apparently it is not only the religious right that cannot stop from equating a differing viewpoint with an act of terrorism…

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.06.04 at 7:00 am

This thread is way out of hand. Mona, since I can’t start a new thread here, and since you don’t have a blog of your own, I have responded to you on mine. I’d love to continue the conversation there.

Seth, you appear to have the right equipment. Your place or mine? ;)

JC… You must have misunderstood me, because that isn’t even remotely like anything I would say. Precisely which “differing viewpoint” is it that I’m equating with an act of terrorism?

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mona 11.06.04 at 12:17 pm

Dear Mr 12 years of service, I just don’t know how I can’t possibly continue to repeat what I wrote already as I don’t see a way of making it clearer. When I speak of people who hold extreme beliefs I speak of people who hold extreme beliefs only. I don’t have anything in common with those people. Literally, there’s an ocean between us. I do not despise religion. I have my own religious beliefs which are no one’s business but mine and G-d, if it exists. What I despise is the exploitation of religion for political nationalistic purposes. When I speak of theocratic fundamentalist mindset I speak of people who want laws to be based on faith, rather than the common ethics and principles laws are based on in modern democracies. Theocracy also means “the belief in government by divine guidance”. Not necessarily clerics running the state, you know. Politicians cynically pander to that mindset, of course they’re not going to turn the US into Iran. But that’s not to say everything is ok about that strategy. As for common ground, when there’s none, I’m not going to fake there is some. Why the hell should I? I can assure you I have no common ground with people like Rush Limbaugh. Just like I know I have no common ground with neonazis. I don’t play nice to people I despise. I don’t have to like everything that exists. Not everybody has to like my ideas. That’s how it works. You’re the one rejoicing about killing as if it was a party, and I’m supposed to go, hey, yeah, we’re on the same side after all? It’s absolutely ridiculous. This belief that the mere existence of terrorism should erase political, religious, ideological differences on how to deal with it and everything else in the world. I don’t live in Putin’s Russia. I do not even live in Bush’s America. Or in Fallujah, thankfully. I don’t think I’d have packed up and left just because the liberators want to give the “common ground” electorate a show of force. After they let terrorists infiltrate Iraq from every corner. Playing politics with people’s lives, how very holy.

Go ahead and infer and imply from that whatever you want, let’s just say I’m an antiamerican terrorist supporter and save the trouble of more pointless posts. Have fun with the Fallujah celebrations! Godspeed you and rock and roll, whatever.

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Uncle Kvetch 11.06.04 at 2:39 pm

I have very little to add to what Mona and Seth have said. Jason, I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that it’s utterly impossible to have any kind of intelligent discussion with you. I asked you for an example of how “Christians” are so “maligned” in this country and you came back at me with Michael Moore saying terrible things about the Bush administration and half-naked people at gay pride parades, whatever the hell that has to do with my question. Then you tell me that I’m “absolutely determined to hate people I’ve never met,” based on what, I haven’t the foggiest idea. Your “exchanges” with Mona and Seth have been no more enlightening, and no less incoherent.

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.06.04 at 7:56 pm

That’s too bad, guys… because I’m trying really hard to have an intelligent conversation with you. Can’t you see this this is precisely my point? Like it or not, we—those of us who voted for the current administration, and those of us who voted against—are stuck with one another. We live in a very big house, but it’s still the same house.

I’m bewildered. I have no doubt that many of you feel very upset, for example, when you perceive that Israel’s leadership has once again failed to honor the latest peace process… yet here I am, making genuine overtures for dialogue, and you reject me out of hand.

And we aren’t even shooting at each other.

Mona, if you despise me, that’s too bad. You’ve never met me, and I’m actually a fairly nice guy. My ideals are quite a bit more liberal than you give me credit for… in fact, this year is the first time I have ever voted for a Republican candidate.

Your rejection of me seems to fly in the face of every principle of liberalism.

Uncle Kvetch. You said:

Now, when you can come up with something roughly comparable to, say, a United States Senator comparing my partner’s and my private sexual relations to “man-on-dog,” or someone comparing our relationship to the murder of 6 million Jews, I’ll be more than willing to consider that maybe Christians really are “maligned” in this country. If you can’t, maybe you’re the one who needs to “knock it off.”

I now understand that, with this passage, you were asking me to provide a comparable example of how Christians are maligned in America. I missed it the first time around. Forgive me.

Kvetch… in all honesty, I can’t. Not to the same degree. But—to be fair—that’s because the examples you gave are the most awful things that the people who said them could think of to say.

Here are a few examples of the most awful things that folks on the other side can think of to say. We face:

  • A return to the Inquisition.
  • A rehash of the Crusades.
  • A return to witch-burning.
  • A return of the Dark Ages.

As bad? I guess it depends on whether you’re on the receiving end. Pretty powerful stuff, though, and no less untrue.

Kvetch, please do not read this as an attempt to excuse the bad behavior of one side with the bad behavior of the other. It isn’t. On the contrary, I am observing that, in a debate filled with these kinds of barbs, any kind of useful conclusion is impossible. You can’t do anything about what comes out of the other guy’s mouth, but you are utterly responsible for what comes out of your own. So make sure that you, at least, are telling a true and fair story.

Because we have to start somewhere.

I said nothing terrible about half-naked people at gay-pride parades. In fact, I pointed out that I have been a half-naked person at gey pride parades, and still am, most years. I tried to clarify this once already, but I obviously didn’t do a good job, so I’ll try again:

If you’re not gay… if you don’t even realize that you know any gay people… homosexuality is a bit of a shock. It takes time to swallow. “We’re here, we’re queer” is a lot of fun, and probably necessary, but it is also—and quite deliberately!—provocative. So let’s not be surprised when the folks we’re trying to hit with a dash of reality actually respond as if they’ve been hit with something.

My statement that you are determined to hate people you’ve never met was probably not fair… after all, I don’t know you any better than Mona knows me. So I withdraw it, with apologies.

Look, guys: the essence of the democratic process is that we get our way by convincing other people that our way is better. You can’t do that if you only talk with people who already agree with you anyway.

That’s why I’m here: I’m willing to be convinced, but I’m going to make you work for it. I’ve taken a lot of cheap shots over the past few days, and I have tried to respond gracefully. I hope that stands as evidence of my willingness to play fair.

Uncle Kvetch, I hope that works for you. It’s as intelligent and coherent as I get.

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Uncle Kvetch 11.07.04 at 3:51 pm

Here are a few examples of the most awful things that folks on the other side can think of to say. We face: A return to the Inquisition. A rehash of the Crusades. A return to witch-burning. A return of the Dark Ages.

According to whom, Jason? Who said those things, in what context? I gave you specifics, I named names and contexts, and you’re giving me utterly unsubstantiated claims about “folks on the other side.”

Spare me the noble sentiments about how hard you’ve been working to make this a productive conversation. If you want an intelligent, mutually respectful exchange of ideas, you have a funny way of showing it.

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seth edenbaum 11.07.04 at 4:33 pm

Let’s ignore morality for a bit. Jason. Let’s talk history. Run down for me the history of US involvement in the Middle East. Talk to me about Mohammed Mosadegh and the CIA. Tell us the history of Savak. Persuade me that you know anything about the relationship of the US government to Saddam Hussein before the first war in 91, (and before the Iran Iraq war.) Then explain to me if you will the reasons why the Bush led Pentagon brigade did not blow it in Fallujah the first time around. Explain to me why there were always plenty of troops on hand. Tell me why the Marines who watched the election night broadcast in a pizza parlor near 29 Palms were getting shitfaced cursing the fucking tv screen!

Before you were a Marine trained to follow orders, you were a citizen of the United States, a representative democracy, trained, one hopes, to ask questions. You’ve proven your loyalty to your masters, but you have not done the same for the Republic, nor I am afraid to your brothers in arms.
Please do so now.

ps. You’e still avoided explaining this S.A., Beer Hall Butch thing you’ve got going on. Isn’t fascism, even in its soft core variety, a form of snobbery?

Dear?

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mona 11.07.04 at 5:32 pm

No, Jason, I didn’t say I despise you and I didn’t “reject” you (?) and actually I don’t even remember you asking me for an opinion on your personality or me expressing anything such. Yeah, I don’t know you. Yeah, I’m sure you’re a terribly nice guy and love gardening and playing with the kids and all. On the other hand, I may be a serial killer and you wouldn’t know that either. But anyways. I’m talking of the ideas of the people I was referring to. I may despise your ideas, too, if they concide with those. Wow, eh, what a horrible thing to do. Because the people whose political ideas I despise are really always so characteristically polite and nice and so understanding about people who have a different worldview. Amazing I didn’t notice and literally thought they’d bring back the Dark Ages and put all leftists in iron maidens in deep torture dungeons, yeah, I’m sure that’s exactly what I wrote.

It’d all be easier if only there was one party, one ideology, one religion. No really!

Anyway, for something entirely different: I just noticed Iyad Allawi looks remarkably like James Gandolfini a.k.a. Tony Soprano. Or, and older James Gandolfini. Especially the eyes! It’s uncanny. They have the same look. Compare:

Gandolfini giving the Soprano look

Allawi giving the Allawi look

Isn’t that cute?

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.07.04 at 6:03 pm

Euch. Sunday morning, no coffee yet. This thread is longer than my… never mind. Please do me the favor of visiting http://thedeadhand.com/unity. More later.

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mona 11.07.04 at 6:43 pm

Look, guys: the essence of the democratic process is that we get our way by convincing other people that our way is better.

That’s what marketing and religion and political campaigning do. Trying to convert people. It’s not “the democratic process”.

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.07.04 at 8:07 pm

Seth, I’ve reviewed your links. Now kindly state your thesis, in vocabulary accessible to a jack-booted, fascist thug who’s been asleep for the past 36 years.

Sheesh.

Bonus points if you state your thesis at Unity. Lots more points if you can do it respectfully.

Mona, does this ring a bell?

Dear Mr 12 years of service… I don’t play nice to people I despise…. You’re the one rejoicing about killing as if it was a party.

Slightly out of context, I admit, but it does capture the flavor. Perhaps I misinterpreted your intent.

Regarding the democratic process… convert was your word, Mona, not mine, and it’s a pretty loaded one. I prefer convince… through reasoned debate.

Now I’m honestly curious, though… what exactly is your concept of the democratic process? Presumably you’d like me to vote for a Democratic candidate in the 2008 election. If not by convincing me to do so, how are you going to get me to do it?

Or are you suggesting that the process of procuring my vote and the concept of “democratic process” are not quite the same thing? Please explain.

Mona, if you would consider posting your response at Unity, I’d be grateful. I created the Unity blog just yesterday, and its primary inspiration is the conversation you, me, Seth, and Kvetch have been having here over the past few days. I’m trying really hard to put my money where my mouth is, and I’d appreciate your support.

Regarding the Gandolfini-Allawi connection… you know, you’re right! Although I’m tempted to lump both photos into the old guy squinting category.

Kvetch, here’s a five-minute sample from Google. Click each link and do a page search on the indicated term:

We can argue about context and the relative influence of the speakers, but there’s no denying that those and similar sentiments are on the street.

Why are we arguing about this? You can’t seriously suggest that only one side of the American Divide uses tactics that are nasty and unfair. My thesis is not that either side is blameless. Quite the contrary.

Here’s my thesis: None of us can control what comes out of the other guy’s mouth… but we are each utterly responsible for what comes out of our own. So we each—you and me, Kvetch—have a responsibility to ensure that what comes out of our mouths is factual and fair.

Now, if the foregoing is unintelligent or disrespectful, I apologize, and invite you to explain why. But are you telling me that you disagree with that thesis? And, if so, which part?

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mona 11.08.04 at 9:41 am

Yes, Jason, like I said already, I can despise the ideas of people I never met and therefore wouldn’t know if I’d despise as a whole as persons. We’re talking politics here and words are all people have to judge each other. I despise the fact you posted about the impending operation in Falluja in terms of “godspeed! rock’n’roll”. It’s even more despicable because you were actually in the military. If it was a kid saying that it would be just a silly thing. The fact you think being in the military allows you to be so juvenile about war is really, quite sad. More people are going to be killed on both sides and in between. Soldiers are being blown up and civilians killed and driven out of their homes. Oh I must be so bitter to get all serious and heavy on shit like that. But since that’s so FUNNY to you, and you think of it like a party or a rock concert, I have most definitely nothing to say to you on the matter. I think I wasted enough time already.

No, for the nth time, I’m not interested in faking unity and all your pretences at being interested in real discussion when you’re constantly putting words in people’s mouths and implying and distorting and using ridiculous straw men about the Dark Ages and crap like that. What Unkle Kvetch said.

No one owes you a reply and yet everyone’s been more than patient enough already.

No, I never said I want you to vote for anyone in particular so please spare your “presumably” and “I assume”, I don’t care who you vote for and never said I did, and no, like I said already, I don’t think campaigning for votes is the same as the “democratic process”, which is not limited to elections and voter persuasion, and whose nature is outlined in constitutions and laws so it’s not a matter of my opinion and certainly nothing that can be condensed in one line. I’m not a lecturer and I’m not a politician or a campaigner. I’m quite happy to leave you to celebrate more carnage in Iraq, while pretending to be Mr Unity. By all means view that as unreasonable refusal of “dialogue” and “common ground”. Cheers.

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.08.04 at 3:45 pm

Mona, since you label my Dark Ages etc. assertions as “straw men,” am I then to understand that you maintain that such sentiments do not exist? Or are you agreeing that they do, but that their existence is not relevant to the discussion? Or is there some third option I haven’t mentioned?

While it may be personally satisfying to reject a thesis out of hand, I fail to see how it could be more satisfying than, say, refuting it.

I’m bewildered that you don’t care about my vote. After all, a primary theme of this thread is dissatisfaction with the results of the recent election. It only stands to reason that the only way to avoid such dissatisfaction next time around is to change enough minds to affect the voting outcome.

If you don’t care about a vote like mine—when I’m here turning myself inside out in an effort simply to hear your position, which is frankly a little difficult to distinguish from polemic at this point—then how do you propose to prevail next time around?

Here’s what I think: I think you don’t trust me. I think you believe that my presence here is part of some elaborate ruse, some arcane Conservative game of “Gotcha!” It’s hard not to point out that, if it were, you’d be playing right into my hands right now.

But it’s not.

No, for the nth time, I’m not interested in faking unity and all your pretences at being interested in real discussion when you’re constantly putting words in people’s mouths and implying and distorting and using ridiculous straw men about the Dark Ages and crap like that. What Unkle Kvetch said.

That is not the reasoned response of an educated person. You don’t like my attitude toward the war? Fine. But it’s fair to point out that my own experience of war most likely qualifies me to hold such opinions in ways that your own life experience can’t even touch. So why not lighten up a little?

Your writing marks you as an educated person. Your attitude doesn’t mark you as a very pleasant one.

I’ll say it again: I am interested in your reasoned opinions. I have spent a lot of time in this forum and elsewhere demonstrating my sincerity in this regard. You don’t owe me anything… but I’m sure you’re capable of reasoning superior to the baseless hostility and content-free drivel quoted above.

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mona 11.08.04 at 4:58 pm

You don’t like my attitude toward the war? Fine. But it’s fair to point out that my own experience of war most likely qualifies me to hold such opinions in ways that your own life experience can’t even touch. So why not lighten up a little?

About the carnage in Iraq, or about your “rock’n’roll!!” take on it? What kind of “qualified experienced opinion” was *that*? Or was it an example of civil, reasonable attitude?

I’m that weird and polemical, because for my moral values, talking of wars like they were videogames is what’s considered offensive baseless drivel. It’s also considered extremely arrogant not just to infer or imply things people never wrote, all the while preaching from a soapbox about manners, but also to assume things about other people’s “life experience”, no less.

But yeah, my life experience certainly doesn’t “touch” the *sheer rock’n’roll fun* aspect of things like suicide attacks and military bombings and city sieges and martial law. Of that much, you can be totally certain.

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Jason G. Williscroft 11.08.04 at 6:39 pm

Great, Mona. Now we know where you stand. No question about it.

So how about addressing some questions of substance with me, instead of just chewing my ass?

Who knows? If you can contain your rage, you might even succeed in changing my mind about a few things.

I think, by now, that I’ve more than demonstrated my willingness to eat a shit sandwich in order to have the opportunity to have an open discussion with you.

I’ve proposed a couple of theses over the past few days. They include the following:

  • That the “moral values” cited by many conservative voters in this election refer, not to their feelings about abortion, gay marriage, etc., but to their feelings about John Kerry.
  • That the ambiguity of the exit poll question that contained the “moral values” option was expressly designed by biased poll writers to produce the reaction it has.
  • That the religious affiliation of officers of the U.S. Government is not relevant to the concept of seperation of church and state.
  • That the divisiveness represented by this election season can only be improved through honest and respectful dialogue between individuals on the Left and the Right.
  • … and quite a few others.

You, Mona, have also advanced a few theses. Rather than risk misrepresenting them, I will quote a representative sample:

  • That’s what marketing and religion and political campaigning do. Trying to convert people. It’s not “the democratic process”… I don’t think campaigning for votes is the same as the “democratic process”…
  • When I speak of theocratic fundamentalist mindset I speak of people who want laws to be based on faith, rather than the common ethics and principles laws are based on in modern democracies. Theocracy also means “the belief in government by divine guidance”. Not necessarily clerics running the state, you know.
  • Usually the party that wins elections gets to run the country. The losers at least get to bitch about it and pretend their opposition can really matter.
  • … and a few others.

So we have some differences of opinion. Great! Why can’t we talk about them? I’m willing to talk with you about any of these subjects… or any other, for that matter.

You’re already talking with me anyway… although I will admit that from here it feels more like you’re talking at me. Yelling, actually. All I’m asking is that we focus the discussion a bit.

What do you have to lose?

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Bush2004 11.09.04 at 2:51 am

Dont yall get it–religion is the opiate of the masses.

Always has and always will be.

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