Moral Values Again

by Kieran Healy on November 5, 2004

Jim Henley expresses some skepticism about the post election analysis saying that the Democrats need to do more about moral values if they want to win the next election:

[I’m] calling qualified bullshit on the suddenly popular notion that liberals need to come up with “a plausible spiel on morality,” essentially dressing their existing beliefs in the language of religion so as to reach Christians who currently vote Republican … Among other things, this will raise conservative-Christian comfort levels with liberal politicians and make liberal policies attractive in the terms with which said voters view the world.

This is naive and even condescending. Conservative, values-minded Christians aren’t looking for validation. They’re looking for specific policy outcomes that their strongly-held beliefs entail – among them, the prohibition of abortion and the marginalization and if possible elimination of homosexuality. They are not empty urns waiting to be filled with liberal policies dissolved in honeyed words about faith.

… Bush and Rove’s faith talk may be every bit the “spiel” Kieran Healy says it is. Doesn’t matter. The question for evangelicals and what Sullivan calls “religious moderates” isn’t the sincerity of politicians, it’s whether those politicians deliver on their issues.

This is fair enough. I wrote that phrase, “a plausible spiel on morality” in a bit of a rush the morning after the election, and Russell Arben Fox and others picked up on it in the comments thread. I think my original post ran together a few different and half-formed thoughts. So, uh, here are some more.

First, I was annoyed at the pollsters and the media who made nothing of the importance of “moral values” (however you want to construe it) in the run-up to the election. I think I was right to be annoyed, and I still don’t know why, seeing as it was there in the polling, that more wasn’t made of it by the people paid to analyze such things.

Second, when I said a “plausible spiel on morality”, what the hell was I talking about? I didn’t mean that it was just a question of finding a way to do a good ole Praise the Lord song-and-dance routine better than the Repubs. Rather, I felt that it was just ridiculous that an Administration that busies itself with apologias for torture—to pick one example from many—has gotten itself into the position where it owns the language of morality, religious, secular or otherwise. The language of moral politics is almost inevitably framed in Christian terms in the U.S., but Christian morality is itself perfectly well-able to issue condemnations of torture or the death penalty or hate-based policy initiatives, or what have you. So why haven’t the Democrats been able to do this?

Third, Jim is right to say that for a substantial portion of the electorate, delivering on the issues is what matters. If those issues are—in Jim’s phrase—“the prohibition of abortion and the marginalization and if possible elimination of homosexuality,” then the Republicans are welcome to them. I wasn’t suggesting that it’s worth the Democrats’ while to pander on these matters. But that doesn’t mean that Democrats with an interest in the matter—like Sullivan—shouldn’t try hard to reclaim the language of moral conviction from those people. This is particularly important because I believe that the available evidence shows that such polarization as exists is being driven by changes in the political system rather than the electorate.

Even for a blog post, these thoughts are pretty half-baked. I want to hear more about what people think on each of these points.

{ 83 comments }

1

Giles 11.05.04 at 2:17 am

Interesting that the issue was being discussed in the Democratic camp:-

“Mr Clinton, correctly sensing that “values” would play a crucial role in voters’ minds, urged Mr Kerry to back local ballot initiatives calling for a ban on gay marriage. (Mr Kerry refused).”
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-1344943,00.html

I think the reason the issue wasn’t raised was out of a fear that it might split the party – or more precisely went against the trianaglist wing’s instincts.

2

Mike Huben 11.05.04 at 2:18 am

The basic problem is that the Democrats have not really sold conservative Christian leaders on hot-button issues to wedge the Christians away from Republican positions.

They need to take a Lakoffian approach to selecting the issues that appeal to conservative metaphors for the family, and a Lakoffian approach to framing these in language that puts the Republicans on the defensive.

What issues? Chances are they’re repugnant to most liberals, but not nearly as important to liberals as reality-based government. If I knew any more, I’d probably be hireable as a consultant…

3

Scott Spiegelberg 11.05.04 at 2:35 am

I think the important thing is to have a public discussion about what morality means in the U.S. Whether it is cloaked in religious language depends upon the beliefs of the speaker. If that speaker is Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, etc, that person should show how his/her religion informs his/her moral choices. If the person is not religious, any talk of that sort should be avoided, as devout people would recognize the falsity of belief. Instead, secular people should talk about morals in secular terms.

Right now, I’m highly concerned about the marginalization of homosexuals. Ten or eleven states passed discriminatory constitutional language. My state of Indiana elected a Republican governer and Republican majority in the legislature, with a Republican speaker that has tried to get a vote on an anti-homosexual amendment for the last two years. And the Democrats in this state deny the amendment on the grounds that we don’t need it because there is already a state law banning homosexual marriage. It is this attitude that needs to be confronted, in all parts of the country, by people who believe differently. If we are in the minority, and we believe we are right, we must try to change other people’s minds.

4

Russell Arben Fox 11.05.04 at 2:38 am

Nice follow-up, Kieran. Some quick takes on your points:

“I was annoyed at the pollsters and the media who made nothing of the importance of ‘moral values’ (however you want to construe it) in the run-up to the election.”

I agree that you have every right to be annoyed. Those within the Christian right bubble were constantly being told to see the election of Kerry as the automatic imposition of gay marriage; good grief, there was a huge rally on just that topic right here on campus not six weeks ago. But it didn’t find a place on the punditocracy’s radar, which insisted that this election was about the war, and nothing else. Someone didn’t do their job well.

“[W]hen I said a ‘plausible spiel on morality’….I didn’t mean that it was just a question of finding a way to do a good ole Praise the Lord song-and-dance routine better than the Repubs….Christian morality is itself perfectly well-able to issue condemnations of torture or the death penalty or hate-based policy initiatives, or what have you. So why haven’t the Democrats been able to do this?”

Exactly right. Two things can be accomplished by this: 1) it advances liberal egalitarian goals by way of a morality which a fair number of Americans share; and 2) it communicates with a region and class of the population which is comfortable with the language of authority and judgment a degree of respect for how they make the decisions they do.

“Jim is right to say that for a substantial portion of the electorate, delivering on the issues is what matters.”

This is where I would disagree with Jim, or at least want to think about the problem more. If by “delivering on the issues” he’s talking about the actual imposition of a religious standard in law, a constant intervention into the private moral lives of others, I wonder how substantial that portion actually is. As I’ve said elsewhere, certainly there are theocrat wanna-bes in America, as there are Thomas Frankesque elites who think they’re manipulating that theocratic longing for their own ends. But I just don’t see that as in any way significantly reflecting the red state reality I see around me every day. I do not believe the majority of the “moral values” crowd expect or want the total moralization of the public sphere. At the very least, I think there is a decent sized chunk of that crowd (I’m one of them) that would be content to see their beliefs be accepted as part of the context of liberal decisionmaking in America, even if the resulting content doesn’t perfectly, or even mostly, reflect their socially conservative ideal.

5

Chris in Boston 11.05.04 at 2:53 am

There are actually two separate issues getting lumped into one another. On the one hand we have the political mobilization of fundamentalist/evangelical Christians, who still comprise a major arm of the GOP coalition. On the other hand, you have Red Staters who aren’t Moral Majority but still feel some cultural affinity with the President’s religiosity. The first is an electoral obstacle, but the second is a real concern for liberals.

In fact the big problem for us is that the Red States (and I used to live there) show a more seemless continuity between conservative Christian and mainstream Christian than folks in the North tend to realize. But I also think that the Amy Sullivan argument, which Kieran is seconding, hits up against the brick wall of class differentiation. Frankly, to begin to frame liberal-left political points as religious-moral ones makes one sound like an Episcopal deacon who’s driving the church to ruin, what with her/his touchy-feely ideas of acceptance and ordination of gay bishops. (Irony flag: I don’t think this).

Maybe I’m overstating this, but there’s the real danger that when Dems start talking religion, it will be the wrong religion (or creed). Even if base/superstructural arguments don’t work for religion in general, the shoe sure fits here.

6

Thomas 11.05.04 at 3:08 am

I thought that the conventional wisdom was that Republican leaders only promised action on the conservative social agenda, without actually delivering it. See, e.g., Roe v. Wade.

Delivering on the issues may not matter. Refusing to respect those who hold those beliefs, making them feel as if they have no place in our country, well, that does matter.

These people felt threatened. That’s why they turned out. If they’d felt less threatened, perhaps turnout would have been less, and the story would have a different ending.

7

Sam 11.05.04 at 3:10 am

I think “moral issues”, while it may be accurate, is not the clearest framing of the problem. The problem for the Democrats is accepting religious motivation as a valid criterion for morality–it’s significantly a religious, rather than a moral, issue. Stephen Carter’s book “The Culture of Disbelief” is a very useful study of the extent to which religious belief is trivialized and marginalized in US politics. (And neither he nor the book is conservative.) And accurately or inaccurately, contempt for religion is associated with Democrats in many people’s minds. (I expect, but do not know, that Orthodox Jews are considerably more Republican than the Jewish community as a whole.) If you are religious, contempt for religion is quite a turn-off.

Secondly, how intolerable is the level of restriction on abortion that would get it off the table for swing voters? Is third-trimester abortion in cases where the mother’s life isn’t in danger that important? Just that restriction would make the issue much less charged. Most European countries have restrictions stricter than that. “France legalized abortion in 1975, available on demand until the tenth week of pregnancy on condition that they undergo counselling on alternatives and observe a one-week waiting period. After the tenth week, two physicians must certify that the woman’s health is endangered or the fetus is handicapped.” (from thefreedictionary.com) That level of restriction in the US would get abortion completely off the table.

8

jet 11.05.04 at 3:24 am

Sam, that is so on the money, yet so impossible. The average pro-choicer would die before give that much ground.

Just going after partial birth abortion rallied the pro-choice army quite effectively. Imagine if you started getting really crazy and not letting kids two months from birth live even if the mother decides to terminate.

9

paperwight 11.05.04 at 3:25 am

As far as I can tell, it’s not the religion that most of us on the left object to. It’s the religious basis for telling us how we have to live our lives, not how the religious live theirs.

And, big shock, the people shouting their religion the loudest are the people telling us how we should live our lives, and trying to legislate how we should live our lives, are representing themselves as all religious people,. So those of us who get tired of being shouted at shout back. The indiscrimate chant of “libruls are evil” begins to get tiresome.

10

Timothy Burke 11.05.04 at 3:40 am

As far as coming up with a “plausible spiel”, it’s right to say that there’s no point to doing that. That wouldn’t pass a bullshit test with the constituencies that the Democrats might hope to reach.

The thing that I think people ought to be discussing is whether it is advisable to deliver some–not all–of those specific policy outcomes to evangelicals or social conservatives. In particular, I think there ought to be a pretty serious conversation at this point about whether liberals might not gain more than they lose by taking a much more aggressive “states’ rights” position that would concede to social conservatives the autonomy to enact some of their social agenda within their own localities. I’m not convinced myself that this is wise, but I think that’s what the substantive conversation should be about.

11

Matt McIrvin 11.05.04 at 3:47 am

“Secondly, how intolerable is the level of restriction on abortion that would get it off the table for swing voters? Is third-trimester abortion in cases where the mother’s life isn’t in danger that important? […] That level of restriction in the US would get abortion completely off the table.”

No, it wouldn’t. Remember the fight over RU-486? That was all about very early embryos.

Right now, there are many places where you can’t even get birth control pills from pharmacists, because they believe it to be an abortifacient. Banning the Pill is an increasingly popular political goal on the American right.

12

Sam 11.05.04 at 3:47 am

As far as I can tell, it’s not the religion that most of us on the left object to. It’s the religious basis for telling us how we have to live our lives, not how the religious live theirs.

But this argument is a great case of everyone shouting past one another. The religious see the last 30 years of public policy and see one defeat after another another for their ability to live whole lives as religious people. Prayer was banned from classrooms, then from graduations, then from sporting events. Now there’s an active effort to get monuments to the Ten Commandments that have been in place for 50 years removed from public property. There’s a Federal Court decision that “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. There’s an increasing sense that if you are devoutly religious, many people will consider you automatically disqualified for public office. Religious people see themselves losing one fight after another. The left has been losing for 4 years–imagine the last 4 years continuing for the next 40, and you’d be as paranoid as Jerry Falwell.

In addition, morality is the basis for policy. Opposition to racism and torture are just as much moral stances as opposition to abortion and homosexuality are. Everyone wants government to promote morality. Again, Stephen Carter delves into this much better than I can.

13

Sam 11.05.04 at 3:49 am

As far as I can tell, it’s not the religion that most of us on the left object to. It’s the religious basis for telling us how we have to live our lives, not how the religious live theirs.

But this argument is a great case of everyone shouting past one another. The religious see the last 30 years of public policy and see one defeat after another another for their ability to live whole lives as religious people. Prayer was banned from classrooms, then from graduations, then from sporting events. Now there’s an active effort to get monuments to the Ten Commandments that have been in place for 50 years removed from public property. There’s a Federal Court decision that “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. There’s an increasing sense that if you are devoutly religious, many people will consider you automatically disqualified for public office. Religious people see themselves losing one fight after another. The left has been losing for 4 years–imagine the last 4 years continuing for the next 40, and you’d be as paranoid as Jerry Falwell.

In addition, morality is the basis for policy. Opposition to racism and torture are just as much moral stances as opposition to abortion and homosexuality are. Everyone wants government to promote morality. Again, Stephen Carter delves into this much better than I can.

14

Matt McIrvin 11.05.04 at 3:51 am

The gay marriage debate illustrates that the “states’ rights” approach won’t work either. The social conservatives were opposed to states’ rights in that case; it was the mere existence of gay marriage in Massachusetts that irked them, and they still want a federal constitutional amendment to wipe it out. They will stop at nothing but total domination.

15

Matt McIrvin 11.05.04 at 3:54 am

“There’s an increasing sense that if you are devoutly religious, many people will consider you automatically disqualified for public office.”

I’m an atheist. I’m automatically disqualified from public office, now and forever. The only public atheist I know of who actually took office was Jesse Ventura, of all people, and he didn’t last long.

You speak of having lost for 40 years– atheists have been losers for all of American history, and probably always will be.

16

tad brennan 11.05.04 at 3:59 am

More on Kieran’s point that “Christian morality is itself perfectly well-able to issue condemnations of torture etc.”.

This is an important fact about Christianity: it contains within itself all of the elements needed for a full critique of the current right-wing probems we face.

One example: we are currently facing an administration built on lies, that lied to get into power, lied to start a war, and daily traffics in lies in order to sustain its grip on power.

But Christianity is perfectly capable of advocating the value of truth: the truth will make you free. And it is capable of hating lies: condemnations of false prophets are easy to quote.

What we have to do is to show that Bush & co. *are* the false prophets, that they *are* the unrighteous Pharoah holding a people in bondage. This case can be made, and made in terms that Christian audiences will listen to.

Call it using their rhetoric against them, if you like, or call it appealing to a more noble side of Christianity to oppose its baser side.

However you think about it, it is worth doing: not only should we not concede the language of values, we should not even concede the language of Christianity.

And did someone above claim that genuine church-goers would immediately sniff out any insincere uses of religious language? I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it–the actual evidence for genuine piety in the life of Bush, Rove, or Cheney is extremely slight. People are *not* good judges of character at long distance. Hell, they haven’t even figured out that Bush’s *accent* is phony yet, much less that he is a deeply immoral man. Avoid insincerity for other reasons, by all means, but not because you think it cannot succeed in politics.

17

Tony in Orlando 11.05.04 at 4:12 am

Hello all. I’d like to offer some right wing insight to the discussion if I may. I have been reading a lot of discussions about what the Democrats missed in the election on the web tonight, and this has been about the most elevated discussion I’ve found so far. He is to keeping it up, I hope!

I’d like to forget for the moment that Kerry just didn’t appeal to me as a candidate and just focus on the Democratic positions as I’ve seen them represented. The GOP has prominent members with differing view on all sides of the abortion debate. I am pro-choice, but I happen to think the right to choose happens before conception, not after and certainly not in the last trimester of the pregnancy. I cannot name one pro-life Democrat.

I do not believe that homosexuals can help their attraction to members of the same sex, but I also believe that homosexual activity is wrong and ultimately harmful to the individual involved in it. I see no contradiction between holding this belief and having friends who are practicing, self-affirming homosexuals. They certainly do not need my permission to live their lives as they wish and can even accept the fact that I do not agree with their chosen lifestyle, but can still support them as friends. I simply do not believe that a psychological or physiological condition qualifies someone as a minority deserving of special recognition including the right to the marry. The GOP has the “Log Cabin Republicans” which is made up of homosexuals and those that support them, but I cannot name any Democrats that hold a similar position to mine without pressure to change their views.

I have Democratic friends and co-workers who attempt to enlighten me about how bad the president or the “Re-thug-licans” are, even to the point of providing me with wild conspiracy theories about how evil everyone on the right is. They make personal attacks on people or groups I support and do not even realize how insulting that is to me. I have never made the mistake of doubting the patriotism or commitment of politicians whose opinions I disagree with. There are no doubt politicians that are corrupt and get away with it for a while, but I have faith in our system and the press. The general lack of faith in the goodness of life that I’ve found in the Democrats around me is depressing and does not make me want to join them.

My friends cannot seem to understand how someone could look at the same data they do and come to different conclusions. I certainly do not mind them having different opinions from me, but strangely, they do not seem willing to allow me to hold my different opinions. Because I actually believe in the republic as a form of government, that a pure democracy leads to tyranny and that life choices should be made before life begins, I am somehow stupid, wrong or naive. And while the Democratic party is often described as the the party of inclusion, I see that its the GOP that actually includes a diversity of opinions on issues that matter to me.

I would like to have a choice when I vote. I would like to be able to find someone who can challenge me to think about who would be best to lead the country. Unfortunately, the Democratic party does not seem to have room for me or my beliefs. Thanks for your kind attention.

18

Jeff 11.05.04 at 4:34 am

I think that Christianity can be a good-will religion, and the people who are Christians in that sense can be a good fit for the Democratic party. “Judge not” is a plea for tolerance in one sense. A lot of the things that Jesus said could be liberal campaign slogans. There are a great number of ideas in the bible that I disagree with (like the Old Testament, and a lot of the things that Paul wrote), but for the most part the things that Jesus said are sensible and they sound like they could have come from a Democrat. I think that it’s perfectly acceptable to use things that Jesus said to tell people that they should help the poor, the elderly, and the sick. And it’s ok to use Jesus’s sayings to tell people that the accumulation of wealth isn’t the highest ideal.

I’m not a Christian, per se, but I think that if you want to talk to Christians and get them to agree with your program you should use words that they are familiar with.

19

Bernard Yomtov 11.05.04 at 4:55 am

ridiculous that an Administration that busies itself with apologias for torture — to pick one example from many — has gotten itself into the position where it owns the language of morality, religious, secular or otherwise.

This is exactly right.

Christian morality is itself perfectly well-able to issue condemnations of torture or the death penalty or hate-based policy initiatives, or what have you. So why haven’t the Democrats been able to do this?

Because the people to whom “moral” appeals are made on the basis of opposition to homosexuality or abortion refuse to see that the items you mention are also moral issues.

Take torture. Go talk to the “values” voter. You will be told that it’s necessary, be given ticking bomb stories, told that they are all terrorists so who cares, you’re a liberal weenie, etc. In other words, they don’t care about morality. They care about having their prejudices confirmed, and if it can be done with Christian-sounding rhetoric all the better.

Sorry to overgeneralize about Christian conservatives, but if you think that many of those who oppose gays on moral grounds are going to be won over to the Democrats because of a moral disapproval of torturing suspected terrorists you’re nuts.

20

cannon 11.05.04 at 5:00 am

matt-

i’m really not trying to make you believe one thing or another but atheism is not a defendable position… i assume you know that, as most educated athiests will not argue against a God, instead moving towards agnostic thoughts when pushed…

anyway… read carter’s books… they truly help explain a definition of morality that i haven’t seen many object to…

– cannon

21

MS 11.05.04 at 5:00 am

Kind of a slippery slope, though, isn’t it. You start with the Jesus loved the poor stuff, and they say “Absolutely right! And… he also said ‘No one gets to the father save through me!'” Can we write that in big old letters on the wall of the federal courthouse now?

And Paul said something about queers.

And there’s something about a woman’s place in there somewhere.

Oh yeah, and the favorite of the good old Boers: God, it seems, wasn’t big on interracial dating…

Problem is, organized religion isn’t real big on the pick and choose version of tenets of faith. Look at what the US bishops tried to do to the “cafeteria catholic” John Kerry…

You can pull this rhetoric out of the box, but the question is, how do you get it back in when it’s time?

22

one laura 11.05.04 at 5:17 am

A few things: One is that, to me, the most powerful of Amy Sullivan’s points is that Dems need to be talking about things like poverty as a moral issue. It’s not entirely about trying to compete for the values and morals thing on abortion, it’s about showing that other things imply values. And I have pro-life evangelical friends who vote Democratic precisely because other things are more important to them: war and peace, social services, taxes, healthcare.

I may be beginning to sound like a broken record if you’ve read any of my comments at Daily Kos, but ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage won in Florida and Nevada — in Florida by a huge margin. Things like that are good in so many ways it boggles the mind. And they are moral issues, whether or not we frame them as such.

Having grown up as a red-diaper baby to all intents and purposes, I’ve come to understand my family’s politics as our religion, and indeed, both of my parents have serious religiosity in their backgrounds and bring that kind of moral weight to their politics. The left can and should talk about morality on its own terms. My politics, my belief in justice and equality, is not embodied as someone else’s belief in Jesus is, but it is as fervent, values-laden, and often downright moralistic as that belief in Jesus. If I were to believe in Jesus, these political beliefs would in fact be the deepest part of that. Since many people on the left share at least some version of my politics and combine it with some form of Christianity, why should they not talk about it in those terms? All the anger and fear people on the left are feeling in the past couple days isn’t out of some purely intellectual response to what Bush is going to do in a second term, it’s absolutely faith-based, and I say embrace that.

23

John 11.05.04 at 5:18 am

I cannot name one pro-life Democrat.

What nonsense. How about, uh, Harry Reid, the new Democratic leader in the Senate? Or David Bonior, who was the Democratic whip in the house until a few years ago? Or Bob Casey Jr, who ran for governor of PA in 02 (losing to Rendell largely over abortion), and was just elected state treasurer, and will probably run against Santorum in 06.

Jesus.

24

cannon 11.05.04 at 5:18 am

ms-

“And Paul said something about queers”… it was a repeat of teachings from the Torah, not a new revelation or thought process and it also didn’t state we should personally condemn anyone for a sin they commit… just like you shouldn’t condemn someone for adultery… they didn’t sin against you so how can you either forgive or condemn it???

“And there’s something about a woman’s place in there somewhere”… pretty vague, but i assume you may be talking of where the torah says the woman (Eve) was the man’s (Adam’s) helper… which has been mistranslated by men – truly says she was his mate or person to spend life with… it is actually pitiful how many people/groups have misquoted the writings on this… i personally always try to tell people of the error so they can be informed…

“Oh yeah, and the favorite of the good old Boers: God, it seems, wasn’t big on interracial dating…”… not sure… guess you mean afrikaners – who were/are disgusting people… i think the only references to not “intermarrying” are in the old testament when God told Israel to not marry the people of the land they conquered… and it states the reason was so Israel would not be drawn to other gods…

anyway… i think you may be a bit off… and i probably would be too if i were talking about a book i hadn’t ever read…

– cannon

25

cannon 11.05.04 at 5:19 am

ms-

“And Paul said something about queers”… it was a repeat of teachings from the Torah, not a new revelation or thought process and it also didn’t state we should personally condemn anyone for a sin they commit… just like you shouldn’t condemn someone for adultery… they didn’t sin against you so how can you either forgive or condemn it???

“And there’s something about a woman’s place in there somewhere”… pretty vague, but i assume you may be talking of where the torah says the woman (Eve) was the man’s (Adam’s) helper… which has been mistranslated by men – truly says she was his mate or person to spend life with… it is actually pitiful how many people/groups have misquoted the writings on this… i personally always try to tell people of the error so they can be informed…

“Oh yeah, and the favorite of the good old Boers: God, it seems, wasn’t big on interracial dating…”… not sure… guess you mean afrikaners – who were/are disgusting people… i think the only references to not “intermarrying” are in the old testament when God told Israel to not marry the people of the land they conquered… and it states the reason was so Israel would not be drawn to other gods…

anyway… i think you may be a bit off… and i probably would be too if i were talking about a book i hadn’t ever read…

– cannon

26

MS 11.05.04 at 5:31 am

Cannon,

What exactly am I “off” on? The bible’s not been used to justify those things? Misogyny? Homophobia? Apartheid?

You don’t need to explain away that stuff for me. Why not help your fellow Christians to the same conclusions, OK?

I think you see the point. Um, an election may have been in part decided by the queer stuff, whether Paul borrowed it from the Torah or overheard it in a men’s room. It doesn’t so much matter.

I’ve read the damned thing, don’t worry about me. 12 years of Catholic schooling. Stirring story, but the plot’s a bit wobbly in places.

27

paperwight 11.05.04 at 5:40 am

The religious see the last 30 years of public policy and see one defeat after another another for their ability to live whole lives as religious people. Prayer was banned from classrooms, then from graduations, then from sporting events. Now there’s an active effort to get monuments to the Ten Commandments that have been in place for 50 years removed from public property. There’s a Federal Court decision that “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.

Let me get this straight. The demand that everyone recognize in public the religion of some of us is somehow necessary for religious people to “live whole lives”? That’s fallacious. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.

And the notion that if you’re devoutly religious you can’t stand for public office? What a canard. We’re more publicly pious than we have been at most points (if not every point) in our history. The Founding Fathers were mostly deists, for the love of pete. Try standing for office in most parts of the country and refusing to acknowledge religion as a part of your life.

Oh, and “under God”? Added in the 1950’s, at the same time as “in God we trust”. Not a traditional part of American life, and in fact probably blending Church and State in an unconstitutional way.

Sorry, man, those arguments don’t hold water. It’s all about wanting the public life to reflect a particular sectarian view — that’s been on the wane in the last few years compared to what the religious right wants.

28

Anarch 11.05.04 at 6:23 am

i’m really not trying to make you believe one thing or another but atheism is not a defendable position…

It’s roughly as defensible as Christianity or any other “complete” religion.

29

Anurag 11.05.04 at 6:25 am

We really need to work to splinter the hard single-issue pro-life people from the moderate republican voter.

We’re patsies when we allow the debate on abortion to be about partial-birth, which both moderates and pro-lifers can agree on.

We need to go out and sponser legislation that says no abortions ever, with no exceptions for rape, incest, health. We can vote against it the same way we vote against partial birth, and have most people agree with us.

They will have to choose between the different parts of their coalition. And, if the bills don’t get to the floor, you can be sure that the single-issue pro-choice people will know that it is because their own party is obstructing it.

30

Aurochs & Angels 11.05.04 at 6:35 am

What about a little compromise on abortion? Honestly, I’ve been both pro-choice and pro-life at points in my life, but I’ve never quite understoof why abortion has become such an absolute issue for the Democratic party (and the left more broadly). So, fine, you think women should have the right to choose to end their pregnancies. What’s so terrible, though, about (say) a waiting period for abortions? Hell, I’d support a 24-hour waiting period for (say) elective plastic surgery. Or, say, what’s so bad about laws requiring doctors to provide ultrasound images to women before they choose to have abortions? Isn’t it consistent with liberal philosophy to give people relevant information? Or–finally–why on earth should Democrats raise such a fuss about the partial-birth abortion laws? Everyone recognizes that those laws are hardly going to prevent any abortions at all. Huge numbers of Americans think it’s a gruesome procedure. Why be so fanatical about it?

Is it just a matter of concern for the slipperly slope?

Personally, I’d be thrilled by a party that favored, say, some restrictions on abortion; civil unions for gays; a generally liberal approach to economic issues with a strong willingness to consider ideas like welfare reform; a willingness to make arguments for all the above both in religious terms and in terms of a secular view of morality. Perhaps others would too.

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John 11.05.04 at 6:46 am

I cannot name one pro-life Democrat.

What nonsense. How about, uh, Harry Reid, the new Democratic leader in the Senate? Or David Bonior, who was the Democratic whip in the house until a few years ago? Or Bob Casey Jr, who ran for governor of PA in 02 (losing to Rendell largely over abortion), and was just elected state treasurer, and will probably run against Santorum in 06.

Jesus.

32

John 11.05.04 at 7:01 am

You know, the problem is not that Christians are religious people who believe strongly in Christianity. The problem is that they want me to believe strongly in Christianity. The problem is not Faith-Based Initiatives. The problem is One-Faith Based Initiatives.

Thomas Jefferson, my favorite Founding Father, had a number of things to say on Christianity and the U.S. Among them;
“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”
and
Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.
and
But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
and
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
and
Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
and yes, even
In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.
More: http://www.nobeliefs.com/jefferson.htm
Thomas Jefferson was not a fan of the Church. He didn’t trust it and he felt it should have no part in the operation of the country. Damn me, but I wish he was still alive.

33

MS 11.05.04 at 7:18 am

Aurochs,

Um, or how about this: Lets require “mom” to bake a first-birthday cake for the little one before performing the abortion?

Let’s not be snarky about “liberal philosophy” and “relevant information.” How about a picture of a mushroom cloud over New York next to the voting booth? Or, closer to this case, could we also include an informational video, featuring the life to come of the eighteen year-old girl and her kid, father nowhere to be found, thrown out of the parental home, pulling shifts at Burger King for $5.50 an hour until her dying day rather than college or what you will? “Relevant information” as well, no?

The problem with banning late-term abortion is, yes, the slippery-slope issue but it’s more than that as well. Late-term is extremely rare, almost always in the case of a threat to the life of the mother. Banning late-term abortion pretty much means that the state views the life of the unborn child as somehow by default more valuable that the life of the mother… That in the event that my currently pregnant wife, for instance, should run into life-threatening trouble in the third trimester, that we’d have no choice but to go through with it. Baby beats mom every time. After all, that’s what women are for, right?

Sorry, that’s barbarism.

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McDuff 11.05.04 at 7:35 am

I have to address Cannon, albeit in a considerably tangential manner to the main thrust of the thread.

“I am pro-choice, but I happen to think the right to choose happens before conception, not after”

Which is to say, not pro-choice in the event of rape, incest or birth control failure, is that right?

“I simply do not believe that a psychological or physiological condition qualifies someone as a minority deserving of special recognition including the right to the marry.”

Great, which is why I reject your right to marry based solely on your so-called “heterosexuality.” Damn straight people getting all this “special recognition.” What’s so special about sticking your dick in a woman that means your Elvis-sanctioned wedding in Nevada should mean anything to the rest of us?

Frankly, I think that marriage is so important that it’s obvious straight people can’t be trusted with it. One in three of your marriages end in divorce! You broke the thing, I think we need to take it away from you. Not to mention the fact that all the important financial elements of the contract have been allowed to wither away — how can I properly cement my position in society now that the dowry system is all but eliminated? I mean, now that marriage is about such fuzzy, nebulous concepts as “the love two people have for each other” — I mean, really, what kind of liberal language is that? — it’s obvious that Queers are going to want to get married. Once we arrange it so that marriage is once again a financial transaction between a woman’s father and her husband, you’ll soon see that the homosexuals simply don’t want it any more.

“The general lack of faith in the goodness of life that I’ve found in the Democrats around me is depressing and does not make me want to join them.”

Good for you. Me, I’m inclined to think that when any politician justifies the torture of prisoners, he’s about ready to be hurled out on his ear, but you keep your “faith in the goodness of life,” and I hope it works out well for you.

All your apologeia for the scary bits of the bible aside, you miss the point in your conversation with ms. Regardless of whether the Bible actually says that gays and women are bad (and if you want to argue chapter and verse with me you’re welcome to bring it on, because I’ve not only read the thing, but read it in the Bible Belt) the fact remains that Christians are often as uneducated on the full text of the Bible as anyone else. Seriously, how often does Judges 11 (human sacrifice!) get brought up? Or the entire book of Obidiah? There’s plenty in Romans and Corinthians to keep the hardened soldiers believing that homosexuality is a sign of God’s rejection and abandonment of a person. Fact is, there’s also enough in there to support the crazy liberal viewpoint if you’re willing to cherry pick (although the crazy liberals don’t tell you that you have to cherry pick just as much to support their viewpoint from the Bible as you do to support the KKK’s justifications). The book is so complicated and was written from so many conflicting viewpoints that it is entirely possible to support whatever you want from in there, and people historically have done just that. It doesn’t matter what the “right” interpretation is, therefore, it just matters what the interpretation is that people use.

That’s why the US has separation of Church and State, because when it comes down to “God says Gays are bad!” vs “no God says we shouldn’t judge Gays!” arguments it turns into theology, not law. I believe very firmly in God, but I honestly don’t CARE what He says when it comes to making the laws of my land. He doesn’t have to live here, but I do. He, therefore, can just put up and deal with us arranging matters on Earth to suit ourselves and balance the rights of individual human beings to prevent discrimination. If He doesn’t like it He can judge me later, but it’s not going to change His judgement of any homosexual if we get married or otherwise, is it? All it changes is things like medical access rights, and last I heard there was nothing in the Bible that said gays shouldn’t be able to visit their lovers in hospital after serious accidents without the consent of the injured party’s parents. It’d be pretty damn specific, wouldn’t you say?

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Aurochs & Angels 11.05.04 at 8:52 am

MS: First, as an aside, snarky but accurate: the revealed preferences of single mothers making $5.50 an hour at Burger King suggest that they overwhelmingly prefer their situtation to being dead.

Second, look, it’s surely impossible to separate one’s views on requiring women to have certain information before having an abortion from one’s views on the rightness or wrongness of abortion in general. If you don’t think abortion is even a little bit bad, then sure, you have no reason to favor giving women information that, on the margins, might discourage them. My point is mainly about political compromise. I don’t understand why there aren’t more people taking the position that what’s really important is that a woman determined to have an abortion will be able to do so, and hence willing to tolerate (and support as a political matter) restrictions that don’t prevent that. Not out of the goodness of their hearts, you understand, but toward the end of picking up some of the vaunted “values” voters.

36

Tim Rutherford-Johnson 11.05.04 at 9:35 am

The thing is, any Christian – liberal or otherwise – has to give at least a moment’s thought to gay marriage in church, and many will have to make a choice between what their faith urges, or their own personal morality. That is a battle no Democrat can win. So move the issue out of the church. Bush should have been challenged on whether he approved of civil union for gays: he would have found it impossible to answer this without either alienating his hardcore Evangelical base, or exopsing himself as a straightforward homophobe. Either way would have cost him.

So why did the Democrats allow the debate to be held on the church’s terms, on ground they could never win on? Many non-hardline Christians are able to agree that they’re against religious ceremonies for homosexual marriage, but not civil ceremonies. Those votes were there for Kerry’s taking.

37

mona 11.05.04 at 10:04 am

I have a simple suggestion on abortion that would make everyone happy and remove this issue from political debate for good.

Here’s how it goes. Everyone of the good principled Christian “pro-lifers” is required by law to adopt at distance every pregnant woman who asks for abortion, sending her at least $5,000 a month to cover for all medical expenses including thai massages and pilates yoga classes, psychological counselling to ease her acceptance of a pregnancy she didn’t want, provide solid material comforts so she can give up her job, then if she wants to keep the baby, they’ll send $10,000 a month to both mum and child until the latter is 21, so they don’t have to worry about anything and can live a good christianly happy non-depressing life. Else, if she doesn’t want to keep the baby once it’s born, the Christian Pro-Life Adopters will be required by law to adopt him or her, and provide abundantly for all his or her needs, up to and including academic education if he or she desires so.

It’s not an impeccable plan, but it has the advantage of being very pragmatic. You know, women are such venial beings, for money and comfort they’d be more than happy to give up their own morality and self-respect and turn into paid serial containers for happy Christian babies.

For the benefit of the nation – think of the millions of additional citizens who’ll grow up to pay taxes for more stellar military budgets and more refined interrogation techniques and other necessary tools to spread the principle of life across the world.

I am convinced the good principled Christians who are so concerned with moral values will no doubt put their money where their mouth is. The whole adopt-an-abortionist project could be entirely financed by donations and would only take a fifteenth of the Christian Coalition annual budget. They’d still have enough left to send to Karl Rove.

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bad Jim 11.05.04 at 10:13 am

Right on, McDuff.

For some reason, the claim by nearly a quarter of the electorate that their most pressing concern was “moral values” brought to mind Churchill’s quip that the traditions of the Royal Navy were “rum, sodomy and the lash.”

Our problem is certainly not a lack of moral values. We don’t seem to share the same fears, though. I wonder how many of those who were most concerned with terrorism were still afraid of communism.

39

markus 11.05.04 at 10:32 am

To give an example from Germany:
Over here, for many on the right social programms like health care and social security. are a _christian_ moral imperative, following the example of the good Samaritian in the bible.
While I realize this argument will not fly in America because of a more private/individual notion of charity and responsibility, there is no reason not to explain the liberal concern for the underpriviledged in these terms. And the dispassionately analyse whether and where existing programms are failing and whether this is a systematic defect of private charity or one that can be corrected with relative ease.
The main point is to get across that you believe in the same stuff your prospective voters believe in, even though you might prefer a different solution. And if it turns out the best intermediary step to full coverage for everyone is state subsidies (or legislation) for e.g. having doctors available for free at church charities, so be it. Reflexive opposition to all things religion surely doesn’t beat getting done what you want to achieve.

40

bad Jim 11.05.04 at 10:33 am

Not that fear of communism ever stopped anyone from buying Chinese goods at WalMart.

41

bad Jim 11.05.04 at 10:54 am

With all due respect, Markus, and with deepest appreciation, you miss the point that, in America, we need people to fail. We need to look down on women and gays, browns and blacks, because of their inherent inferiority, their failure to be successful, or even to cope.

Most of us have to feel better than somebody else because equality isn’t one of our values, and these days it certainly isn’t one of our policies.

42

dsquared 11.05.04 at 11:19 am

How about if the Dems stood on a policy of ensuring that the average male wage was enough for a man to support a family with a non-working wife, as it used to be not so long ago?

43

Jonathan Kulick 11.05.04 at 11:44 am

Cannon-

“Afrikaner” pertains to an ethnic/linguistic identity, not an ideology. Is there any other such group all the members of which you would call “disgusting people”? Perhaps you’ve never heard of Marius Schoon, Andre Brink, J.M. Coetzee, or Breyten Breytenbach.

44

Extinct Tory 11.05.04 at 11:59 am

McDuff–Very nice comment, except you were arguing the post of Tony in Orlando (and where’s Dawn?) rather than any of Cannon’s. I think the latter has a rather more sophisticated theist view, though I’d let him speak for himself.

Illuminating anecdote: My Mother complained bitterly about having to attend compulsory religious events, the exact nature of which I forget, within the Akron, Ohio public school system in the 40s. By religious, I specifically mean Christian, and her being Jewish was no excuse for not attending.

Genarally: I would agree with the idea that the Democrats, and in fact the broad, tolerant swathe of Americans, need to take ‘decency’ back from the moralists. How can anyone win an election fighting ‘decency’? Unfortunately, the most obnoxious set of right-wing Christians has defined ‘decency’ as ‘moral disapproval of people who have sex outside of marriage, especially gays’ rather than ‘respect for and kindness to others.’ Operationally this has caused increased gratuitous suffering for a lot of people. (See impact on sex education in public schools and resulting increased teen pregnancy and abortions; the restrictions on social service aid for teenaged prostitutes because it would ‘encourage them.’ All pushed through as conditions for receiving Fed money–so much for States’ Rights)
Not only are most people not as nasty as this, most Christians are not. The Dems should spearhead a move to expose this travesty, to rub the Religious Right’s nose in the consequences of the legislation passed on their behalf, to expose their ‘decency’ for the kind of vicious travesty it is and take a stand for a true ‘decency’ that is, if you’ll pardon my saying so, a whole lot more Christ-like.
Throughout history there have been self-righteous moralizing pricks trying to make other people’s lives more miserable. Throughout history, these people have been prime targets for exposure and ridicule, because no one else likes them.

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markus 11.05.04 at 12:22 pm

@extinct tory
The word you are missing is “pharisee”. And it’s them and the money lenders which need to be driven from the temple.

And that’s really what this is about and I strongly disagree with anyone claiming that deep belief is necessary for language like this. The job of a politican is to make decisions and convince people of this decisions (or the other way round) and that means making sure your argument is framed in terms your audience can relate to. If it so happens that your audience will understand you better if you frame the issue in religious language then that is exactly what needs to be done.

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Sam 11.05.04 at 12:27 pm

ms,

The problem with banning late-term abortion is, yes, the slippery-slope issue but it’s more than that as well. Late-term is extremely rare, almost always in the case of a threat to the life of the mother. Banning late-term abortion pretty much means that the state views the life of the unborn child as somehow by default more valuable that the life of the mother… That in the event that my currently pregnant wife, for instance, should run into life-threatening trouble in the third trimester, that we’d have no choice but to go through with it. Baby beats mom every time. After all, that’s what women are for, right?

Sorry, that’s barbarism.

And that’s not what I proposed. Abortions where the mother’s life is in danger aren’t a moral problem for most people (even the Catholic Church considers them acceptable). Current US “law” (it’s a court decision, not a law per se) holds that requiring the opinion of two doctors that a mother’s life is in danger for late-term abortions is too great a restriction. I’m arguing that a lot of the appeal of the pro-life position to moderates could be eliminated if we moved to the position of, say, France and allowed late-term abortions only when the mother’s life is in danger or the fetus will be handicapped, and two doctors agree that that is the case.

And paperwight, compare what the Religious Right wants, and what homosexual activists want, and you’ll see a lot of similarity. In both cases, you can do this privately but you can’t expect it to be publicly acceptable is not satisfactory condition. Both groups want whole lives as whole people; keeping a critical piece of who they are in the closet when they are in public is just not acceptable.

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McDuff 11.05.04 at 12:45 pm

I apologise for aiming the sights a little off-target with my last post. Everyone on the internet talks with the same accent.

That said, there are some dialects which are instantly identifiable, like Sam here:

And paperwight, compare what the Religious Right wants, and what homosexual activists want, and you’ll see a lot of similarity. In both cases, you can do this privately but you can’t expect it to be publicly acceptable is not satisfactory condition. Both groups want whole lives as whole people; keeping a critical piece of who they are in the closet when they are in public is just not acceptable.

Boo hoo cry me a river. Since when and in what universe are Christians in American prevented from doing what they want? Sure, some people would like to be Not Christians, and don’t necessarily want the Christians to prosleytize on their doorstep, and as I understand it people in the US are quite Jeffersonian about this separation of Church and State thing, but unless you want to spend tax money on something you can be as Christian as you like and nobody will stop you.

If you’re a gay man, however, and your partner is involved in a car accident, you can’t go and visit him in hospital in the US unless his parents agree.

So, y’know, fuck the “persecuted Christian” spiel with an iron stick. Christianity’s central scriptures were all written by guys who lived in danger of being beaten to death, with the result that it’s been incredibly hard to get them off the perseuction wagon. “OH NOS, EVERYONE IS OUT TO GET US!!” No, they’re not. You’re paranoid. There’s a difference.

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Rivka 11.05.04 at 1:44 pm

“Aurochs and Angels:” The main problem with 24-hour waiting periods is that women who live outside of a major city typically have to travel a long distance to get an abortion. 86% of all U.S. counties and 94% of rural counties have no abortion providers. Waiting periods are no joke for women who live in those counties, especially if they are poor and/or don’t have their own transportation.

There’s also the problem of increased harrassment. Pro-life protesters are well-known for copying down license numbers in abortion clinic parking lots, et cetera. If there are 24 hours between the time that a woman must declare her intention to have an abortion and when the procedure is done, that leaves time to try & notify her family, get a restraining order, or just harrass the hell out of her. That’s no joke, either.

Waiting periods serve no useful purpose. No one thinks that pregnant women have abortions on a whim, such that they might legitimately change their mind once the spur of the moment is passed. The only purpose for a waiting period is to make abortion more burdensome, so that some women won’t be able to get them.

Required ultrasounds would add hundreds of dollars to the price of an abortion, which is not a trivial deterrent. Many women already have trouble scraping up the money for an abortion. Abortion clinics would have to purchase expensive equipment and hire ultrasonography techs, which would add substantially to their operating expenses.

And for what? An ultrasound image is just an appeal to emotion. It makes as much legitimate sense as requiring the waiting rooms of abortion clinic to be plastered with photos of cute little babies. It’s an attempt to make women who choose to have an abortion suffer emotionally, and that’s all that it is.

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Susan 11.05.04 at 1:53 pm

Forget the fundamentalist Christians, the democrats don’t need them to win. They do need the moderate, mainstream Christians, and they need the heartland. A few suggestions:

1. Stop calling all Christians bigots and acting as though only Christians and Republicans are bigots. Start by realizing that the gay marriage bans passed by higher percentages than Bush garnered in all but Montana (maybe one other state – I can’t remember.) I know Bush supporters that voted against the ban in my state.

2. It is not necessary for all members of the Democratic party to embrace Christianity, but don’t openly disparage Christian views. Kerry & Edwards did not disparage Christianity, but they did embrace support from people like J. Garofolo (sp?) who went on Letterman or Leno and yammered away about how stupid Bush was because he really believed in God. Acting so thrilled that Hollywood is on your side makes it difficult for Kerry to talk about respecting someone’s faith (and I think he does) without listeners reacting with “No you don’t – you really do think I’m stupid.”

3. Not everyone in the heartland is Christian. They are also not all stupid. Stop calling voters stupid. When was the last time someone who called you stupid persuaded you to their point of view?

4. As mentioned in posts above, torture is about morality. So are living wages and healthcare. Argue that. Add an appeal to national pride. “America is better than this. Americans take responsibility and this administration didn’t – why wasn’t Rumsfeld fired? America is better than this – everyone deserves the opportunity to work hard and to strive for success.” Couch it in terms of hard work and striving – not equality of outcome.

5. Access to doctors in rural areas is often about more than just insurance. In some places, people must drive for over an hour just to get to a clinic. Do some research and address the problems of rural areas. Democrats don’t just have a problem with the heartland, they have a problem with all of rural America.

6. Get rid of the campaigners with bullhorns. Every time I saw campus republicans they were in khakis and button down shirts. They had small booths and they were quietly polite. The moveon people were in ripped jeans and t-shirts. One had a t-shirt that said “F*** Bush”. They were screaming (literally screaming) into bullhorns “Bush Lied! People Died!” and “Bush Knew”. Gets the true believers energized – doesn’t do much for persuasion.
(yeah – how’s that working out for you)

The Democrats don’t have to embrace conservative Christians, and they don’t have to compromise on gay marriage. They do have focus on how they cast their arguments. They have to persuade and not harangue.

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Ray 11.05.04 at 2:03 pm

So… you can’t argue that Republicans and Christians are bigots because they didn’t _all_ vote against gay marriage, but you can criticise Democrats for being-antichristian because their presidential and vice-presidential candidates were openly religious, but one of their supporters from Hollywood wasn’t.
The persecution complex of US christians never ceases to amaze me…

51

susan 11.05.04 at 2:13 pm

Ray, I don’t think democrats are anti-christian. I’m talking about how they may be perceived. Clinton was better than Kerry at showing that kind of respect. So was Gore. Kerry tried, but didn’t manage it.
Do you want to win, or do you want to bitch?

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Tony in Orlando 11.05.04 at 2:26 pm

Regarding my comment of not being able to name one pro-life democrat; the fact that I am well read and politically active and could not name someone was the point. Not that they weren’t out there somewhere.

Which is to say, not pro-choice in the event of rape, incest or birth control failure, is that right?

Let me be more clear. Abortion as birth control is not the same as abortion for other reasons. I certainly have no problem with a rational response to incest, rape or a threat to the life of the mother. However, the vast majority of abortions each year are not in response to those reasons. I don’t just hate abortion for the life it takes from the child, but also for the psychological damage it does to the mother. We make people wear helmets when they drive motorcycles to protect them from their own bad choices. I see ending abortion-as-birth-control as the same thing morally.

Frankly, I think that marriage is so important that it’s obvious straight people can’t be trusted with it.

This actually supports my point that dissenting opinions are not allowed inside the Democratic party. It does not particularly matter to me if marriage was historically a construct to preserve dynastic family wealth or a property contract from the dowery system. I agree with your point that marriage is currently the primary institution for enabling rights like patient visitation and government support for raising children. I have no problem with investing another institution with these same rights, but you will never get my vote if you want to call it marriage and try to equate it to the churches sacrament between a man and a woman. Holding up a straw man like “heteros can’t do it right either” does not fly with the right. Just because humans suck at committment and consistancy is no reason to stop trying to achieve them.

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abb1 11.05.04 at 2:32 pm

I don’t have time to read all the comments here, so maybe someone already said this.

IMO, this Republican ‘moralty’ stuff is just another euphemism for fascism, racism, homophobia, misogynism and religious fundamentalism.

So, yes – rejection of this ‘Democrats need to do more about moral values’ idea seems totally justified.

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Uncle Kvetch 11.05.04 at 2:43 pm

The persecution complex of US christians never ceases to amaze me…

Hear hear.

Susan, please, I’m begging you: PLEASE provide me with ONE example of a Democratic activist or office-holder “calling all Christians bigots.” Just one. Please. Otherwise I’m going to be forced to conclude that you aren’t going to be happy until we live in a world where every Democratic candidate for office is going to be forced to swear a public oath that “I reject Janeane, Whoopi, Michael Moore, and all their works.”

This thread is terrifying me. I’m going back to perusing the Immigration Canada website; it’s a hell of a lot less stressful than this.

55

Stacy 11.05.04 at 2:49 pm

I see all kinds of speculation here about what to do with conservative Christian voters, but has anyone actually asked them? My mom is more or less batshit insane when it comes to some of this stuff, as Michael Berube might say, but I’m going to give her a call and see what she has to say. She lives up in Russell’s neck of the woods, Randolph County, AR.

56

roger 11.05.04 at 2:59 pm

Actually, I think the Dems too often argue in terms of morality. Take the environment. The simple argument for things like the Kyoto Treaty isn’t that it is particularly moral to preserve the current environmental conditions that make for our climate, but that it preserves one’s property values.
But who makes that argument>

The environmental issue actually illustrates the impasse on quickly gets into by the simple transposition of the moral into the political. While the Dem inclination is to find the preservation of the ecology a value transcending its mere monetary character, the anti-environmental group thinks that the relation of the natural environment to the human is one of divinely ordained subordination.

Take, for example, the inhabitants of the coast of Louisiana, who have more reason than anybody else to support trying to prevent a rise in the level of the ocean. It will completely dispossess them. They are seeing that dispossession happen before their eyes. Yet they voted in their zombie masses for the man who is going to make sure that they will have less and less above water property in four to eight years. Why>

Because they have a vaguely moral feeling that degrading the environment is a God given right — and that it actually shows one’s connection to God to do it. It shows a specific mastery of the world that God has blessed, and to depart from it is to depart from God’s dispensation for us.

There are, perhaps, arguable ways out of this impsasse in the abstract. But the best way out is practical, which is to let these people have what they want. Let them be dispossessed by their anti-environment president and their anti-environment congress. The more miserably poor they are, the less they will be inclined to vote. Turning out the core base will get harder as they get poorer, and they will get poorer as the disastrous policies they voted for are enacted. It is a virtuous circle. The real problem is that we are the collateral casualties in this equation. On the other hand, the coming Bush driven recession just might provide a natural corrective to his anti-environmentalism. A bankrupt coal generating power plant is, at least, not going to pollute the air.

There is nothing the Dems can do about it in any case.

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Uncle Kvetch 11.05.04 at 3:07 pm

But the best way out is practical, which is to let these people have what they want. Let them be dispossessed by their anti-environment president and their anti-environment congress. The more miserably poor they are, the less they will be inclined to vote.

Maybe. Or maybe they will be just as inclined to vote, and also much more inclined to get behind faux-populist demagogues who assure them that all their problems are the fault of “those people,” however that may be defined.

I think the latter scenario is much closer to what we’ve seen in this election.

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Me 11.05.04 at 3:08 pm

The problem with the Democrats is not that they’re unable to talk about morality. The problem is that they have failed to present a strong challenge to irrational and perverse views of Republicans. They’ve allowed Republican morality to become the default morality of public discourse.

Let’s look at some issues:
1. Abortion. John Kerry seemed to admit during the debates that he personally disapproved on abortion, based on his religious views, but he thought it was wrong to legislate his morality. So he has ceded the moral high ground to Republicans. What Democrats ought to do instead is to point out the real reason that Republicans want to outlaw abortion. It’s not that Republicans are opposed to killing babies—after all, they’re perfectly happy to kill thousands of babies in Iraq (gee, it’s hard to be pro-life when you’re pro-war)–but rather that they think all birth control is immoral. As Matt mentioned above, they’re opposed to birth control pills too. The Democrats would do well to turn the debate from abortion rights to bill control pills.

2. Gay marriage. The Johns, Kerry and Edwards, repeated innumerable times during the campaign that they believed marriage was between a man and a woman. Their only argument was that we shouldn’t add to the Constitution. Lame. Moral high ground: Republicans. The Democrats have allowed discrimination and intolerance to become publicly acceptable. (Clinton was complicit in this with the ridiculous “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.) What Democrats ought to do–morally, I might add–is to equate homophobia with sexism and racism.

3. The invasion of Iraq and the so-called Patriot Act. The Johns voted to authorize them, as did many other Democrats. Kerry was never able to escape that fact during the campaign. The irony is that they probably did it for political purposes. (Were they really so stupid as to believe the ‘intelligence’ of the Bush administration? Almost every intelligent person in the world who wasn’t a member of the U.S. Congress had doubts about it.) In the end, not a single Democrat (or Republican, for that matter) who voted against the invasion or the so-called Patriot Act was defeated on Tuesday, while Kerry and a number of others who lost on Tuesday did vote for one or both. (Admittedly, some of the against-voters didn’t run for re-election, and a number were in ‘safe’ districts, but that wasn’t always the case. For example, the only senator to vote against the so-called Patriot Act, Russ Feingold, won easily in a very close Presidential battleground state.)

The list could go on and on. Has anyone downloaded and read the Johns’ plan for America? Their answer for every economic problem is more tax cuts…

The key for the Democrats is not to move toward the ‘cultural mainstream’. A minority of the population are crazy religious freaks, but the rest are persuadable. The Republicans have changed public opinion, for the worse. The Democrats need to work hard on changing public opinion for the better.

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mona 11.05.04 at 3:32 pm

And paperwight, compare what the Religious Right wants, and what homosexual activists want, and you’ll see a lot of similarity.

Yeah, I know! I see all these gay activists demanding the right to force me by law to get married to another woman even if I don’t want to. It’s so similar!

60

James J. Kroeger 11.05.04 at 3:53 pm

You guys still don’t get it. It was not the positions that Democrats took on THE ISSUES that hurt the Democratic Party.

The problem for Democrats has always been one of marketing savvy. There is a more subtle social psychology event taking place that you are missing.

The Republicans were able to again persuade millions of Average Americans to vote against their own best interests because their strategists understand that the IMAGE CAMPAIGN is everything in national elections. They are masters of The Image Campaign because they understand the target audience—The Swing Voter—in a way that Democrats do not.

The typical Swing Voter knows he does not understand the subtle details of the issues well enough to make an informed decision, so he relies on his “impressions” of the candidates. Is this candidate someone I can trust to not screw me over? So the Republicans focus all of their efforts on defining Democrats in the minds of the Swing Voter in a negative, vaguely threatening way. They do this by relying on negative campaigning.

Republicans know that making an accusation or insinuation is good enough to get you elected because the Swing Voter is primarily a headline-reader and a sound-byte-nibbler. If the media reports that a Republican has accused a Democrat of having a character flaw, the average Swing Voter will believe it unless it is successfully answered. Not only do these attacks create a negative image of their opponents, they also implicitly suggest that Republicans are not guilty of the character flaws they accuse the Democrats of having. As they attack, they indirectly define themselves as noble & virtuous.

Republicans understand precisely what they are doing when they tell the Swing Voters that they are “not like those Democrats.” It’s a variation of the “us vs. them” social comparisons that are so common in high school. Throughout October, swing voters constantly saw clips of George Bush standing in front of his adoring supporters, ridiculing John Kerry with his smirky smile. People do not tend—on a natural level—to want to be associated with anyone who is being ridiculed.

Average Americans who put Republican candidates into office with their votes do so because they are identifying with those whom they intuitively perceive to be social “winners.” They don’t understand all of the nuances of the issues, but they do have this impression that there is something “defective” with the Democrats. Once they’ve become invested in their identity with the Republican Party, they will instinctively defend Republican policies even when those policies will actually harm them. In order for the Democratic Party to win these Average Americans back, they must begin to fight fire with fire.

Democrats need to define The Republican Politician as DECEIVING, MANIPULATIVE, SCHEMING, MEAN-SPIRITED, CON-ARTISTS who willfully and gleefully assassinate the character of any innocent victim that stands in the way of their rabid lust for power. We need to create an image (deserved) of The Republican Politician in the minds of the Average American that they instinctively fear. In defining The Republican Politician as essentially manipulative, we will also indirectly be defining ourselves as The Protectors of the Average American.

Democrats tend not to want to do this, but they really have no choice. Every attack and accusation made by the Republicans must be used to define the Republicans as smiling weasels. We must express both derision and wisdom and show an eagerness to explain what the Republicans are up to. We need to take the time to point out and explain in television commercials the misrepresentations, the deceptions, the intent, and the strategy of the Republican attacks. We must define ourselves as the ones who are trying to protect the American People from a Great Evil.

In addition to this, we need to start ridiculing the stupidity of Republican policies and—implicitly—those who embrace/defend them. Democrats need to learn how to socially isolate those who belong to the Republican Party. Until we are able to play this “social game”, we will not be able to become the majority party again. Until we do this, the Average American will not even listen to what we are saying because they will have an image of us that they do not trust on a visceral level.

http://www.taxwisdom.org

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roger 11.05.04 at 3:54 pm

Uncle Kvetch, maybe. But I’d bet that the percentage of the Red planet zombies voting will go down in the next election. Especially as they get poorer and poorer, sending them into the zone where non-voting rules — the lowest income strata consistently forms the largest non-voting group. Their freak peak this year can be explained more in terms of familiar entertainment values than morality or civic virtue. Like cockfighting or lynching, gaybashing sends a thrill coursing through the bloodstream. It is close to the forbidden itself — one should never underestimate the homoerotic power of bring a bat down on the head of the guy you’ve enticed from some queer bar — while at the same time it feels good, as though one has performed a duty.

Now, with these givens, the question for the Republicans is how to keep this up. Perhaps they can throw more anti-sodomy laws into the mix for the next election (it would be sweet to ban the thing. And they will certainly have the justices to ratify such a ban, if it comes), but I’d bet that the sport won’t be as fine next election. If the Dems really want to compete in the South, they should consider who they want to target for some simulacrum beating. As the Duke says in Huckleberry Finn, if that don’t bring em in, I don’t know Arkansas!

62

cannon 11.05.04 at 3:54 pm

… hope all is well this morning… the sun is out and the leaves are falling…

in response to some quotes –
MS… “I’ve read the damned thing, don’t worry about me. 12 years of Catholic schooling. Stirring story, but the plot’s a bit wobbly in places. “… i am sorry i shouldn’t have taken that cheap shot… please forgive me… in all honesty i really didn’t want to offend you… i assumed based on your comments that you had not read the whole thing before… no offense intended…

anarch- “i’m really not trying to make you believe one thing or another but atheism is not a defendable position…
It’s roughly as defensible as Christianity or any other “complete” religion.”… actually it isn’t because the basis for it is two choices… 1 – there is not a god that i am aware of because i do not have knowledge of it/him/she… 2 – i know all and therefore am god… take your choice but i know the 2nd isn’t defendable and i haven’t met anyone who will defend 1… most truly believe there is no god which is an agnostic belief set…

McDuff – “Regardless of whether the Bible actually says that gays and women are bad (and if you want to argue chapter and verse with me you’re welcome to bring it on, because I’ve not only read the thing, but read it in the Bible Belt) the fact remains that Christians are often as uneducated on the full text of the Bible as anyone else. Seriously, how often does Judges 11 (human sacrifice!) get brought up? Or the entire book of Obidiah?”… i would encourage you to go to http://www.fellowshipnorth.net/current/lastsunday.htm – we are actually walking through the Old Testament and working through/talking about those exact issues… i can get you copies of the entire year-long series if you would like?… the problem is that most use anything for power and the Bible, Torah, and Koran have all be used by extreemist to make rules and do what they want…

Kulick- ““Afrikaner” pertains to an ethnic/linguistic identity, not an ideology. Is there any other such group all the members of which you would call “disgusting people”? Perhaps you’ve never heard of Marius Schoon, Andre Brink, J.M. Coetzee, or Breyten Breytenbach.”… really the group as a whole did mistreat almost all native africans they came across… sorry if i did not define them properly, but you obviously knew to which group i was referring… and the entire group is at fault if one knows the beliefs or actions are wrong, and does not speak-up or work against the wrongs (e.g. apartheid, slavery, et cetera)

i am willing to reply to any comments… i don’t know everything, but i will look at any comment and try to see if i am aware of anything about it… the problem is many “Christians” are not believers of Christ – meaning they go to church but do not attempt to do anything He taught – e.g. while you are working tell people you are with about me… last i have seen most aren’t doing this very well… second we are to love our neighbor no matter who they are or what they believe… i agree that “christians” shouldn’t complain about gay marriage until they take steps to rectify their own failing marriages… do you know the divorce rate in the US is the same for “christians” as it is for agnostics or any other belief group???

– cannon

63

cannon 11.05.04 at 3:55 pm

… hope all is well this morning… the sun is out and the leaves are falling…

in response to some quotes –
MS… “I’ve read the damned thing, don’t worry about me. 12 years of Catholic schooling. Stirring story, but the plot’s a bit wobbly in places. “… i am sorry i shouldn’t have taken that cheap shot… please forgive me… in all honesty i really didn’t want to offend you… i assumed based on your comments that you had not read the whole thing before… no offense intended…

anarch- “i’m really not trying to make you believe one thing or another but atheism is not a defendable position…
It’s roughly as defensible as Christianity or any other “complete” religion.”… actually it isn’t because the basis for it is two choices… 1 – there is not a god that i am aware of because i do not have knowledge of it/him/she… 2 – i know all and therefore am god… take your choice but i know the 2nd isn’t defendable and i haven’t met anyone who will defend 1… most truly believe there is no god which is an agnostic belief set…

McDuff – “Regardless of whether the Bible actually says that gays and women are bad (and if you want to argue chapter and verse with me you’re welcome to bring it on, because I’ve not only read the thing, but read it in the Bible Belt) the fact remains that Christians are often as uneducated on the full text of the Bible as anyone else. Seriously, how often does Judges 11 (human sacrifice!) get brought up? Or the entire book of Obidiah?”… i would encourage you to go to http://www.fellowshipnorth.net/current/lastsunday.htm – we are actually walking through the Old Testament and working through/talking about those exact issues… i can get you copies of the entire year-long series if you would like?… the problem is that most use anything for power and the Bible, Torah, and Koran have all be used by extreemist to make rules and do what they want…

Kulick- ““Afrikaner” pertains to an ethnic/linguistic identity, not an ideology. Is there any other such group all the members of which you would call “disgusting people”? Perhaps you’ve never heard of Marius Schoon, Andre Brink, J.M. Coetzee, or Breyten Breytenbach.”… really the group as a whole did mistreat almost all native africans they came across… sorry if i did not define them properly, but you obviously knew to which group i was referring… and the entire group is at fault if one knows the beliefs or actions are wrong, and does not speak-up or work against the wrongs (e.g. apartheid, slavery, et cetera)

i am willing to reply to any comments… i don’t know everything, but i will look at any comment and try to see if i am aware of anything about it… the problem is many “Christians” are not believers of Christ – meaning they go to church but do not attempt to do anything He taught – e.g. while you are working tell people you are with about me… last i have seen most aren’t doing this very well… second we are to love our neighbor no matter who they are or what they believe… i agree that “christians” shouldn’t complain about gay marriage until they take steps to rectify their own failing marriages… do you know the divorce rate in the US is the same for “christians” as it is for agnostics or any other belief group???

– cannon

64

roger 11.05.04 at 4:04 pm

Uncle Kvetch, maybe. But I’d bet that the percentage of the Red planet zombies voting will go down in the next election. Especially as they get poorer and poorer, sending them into the zone where non-voting rules — the lowest income strata consistently forms the largest non-voting group. Their freak peak this year can be explained more in terms of familiar entertainment values than morality or civic virtue. Like cockfighting or lynching, gaybashing sends a thrill coursing through the bloodstream. It is close to the forbidden itself — one should never underestimate the homoerotic power of bring a bat down on the head of the guy you’ve enticed from some queer bar — while at the same time it feels good, as though one has performed a duty.

Now, with these givens, the question for the Republicans is how to keep this up. Perhaps they can throw more anti-sodomy laws into the mix for the next election (it would be sweet to ban the thing. And they will certainly have the justices to ratify such a ban, if it comes), but I’d bet that the sport won’t be as fine next election. If the Dems really want to compete in the South, they should consider who they want to target for some simulacrum beating. As the Duke says in Huckleberry Finn, if that don’t bring em in, I don’t know Arkansas!

65

doghouse riley 11.05.04 at 4:04 pm

The people who told exit pollsters that “moral values” were their top priority weren’t saying that morality was. They were picking the right wing social agenda off a checklist. Considering their man’s dismal record on every reality-based item on the list, in their shoes I’d have done the same.

There’s a lot of rhetoric about liberal non-morality, but it’s long-distance sniping. Face to face, any red state voter who’d be swayed by explicit moralizing from a Democrat already understands that moral precepts drive both sides about equally. If any point needs to be made it is this: that the Establishment clause protects religious freedom just as much as the Free Exercise clause, and while you are free to oppose abortion, gay rights, torture, usury, or dancing on Sunday, proclaiming that not getting your way is equal to a denial of your religious “rights”, or “identity” disrupts genuine rights. The compromise is that your sincerely held religious beliefs, and mine, become secular and personal when we cast our ballots. And that’s well understood by the Religious Right, and rejected in favor of temporal political gain.

66

doghouse riley 11.05.04 at 4:05 pm

The people who told exit pollsters that “moral values” were their top priority weren’t saying that morality was. They were picking the right wing social agenda off a checklist. Considering their man’s dismal record on every reality-based item on the list, in their shoes I’d have done the same.

There’s a lot of rhetoric about liberal non-morality, but it’s long-distance sniping. Face to face, any red state voter who’d be swayed by explicit moralizing from a Democrat already understands that moral precepts drive both sides about equally. If any point needs to be made it is this: that the Establishment clause protects religious freedom just as much as the Free Exercise clause, and while you are free to oppose abortion, gay rights, torture, usury, or dancing on Sunday, proclaiming that not getting your way is equal to a denial of your religious “rights”, or “identity” disrupts genuine rights. The compromise is that your sincerely held religious beliefs, and mine, become secular and personal when we cast our ballots. And that’s well understood by the Religious Right, and rejected in favor of temporal political gain.

67

Myria 11.05.04 at 4:27 pm

I have to shake my head in amazement… You people truly don’t have a clue, do you? You can rant and rave about how evil Christians are, rant and rave about how stupid anyone who doesn’t worship at your altar is, you can cry in your beer about how you were robbed and how it’ll be different next time, but in the end the undeniable fact that even y’all have to recognize on some level is that people did not buy what you were selling. Worse, for the most part people haven’t been buying what you’ve been selling for almost forty years now. The marketplace of ideas has put yours on the markdown rack and still no one is buying. That should tell you something, that should bring about some serious introspection and consideration where what you’re trying to sell is concerned. It should, but it isn’t, and irrelevancy is right around the corner.

Myria

68

roger 11.05.04 at 4:57 pm

In the marketplace of ideas, success breeds success, as Myria points out. And what served the GOP more than the gay card this election?

So perhaps that will be suitably plumped up for the next pollbooth bash. I can imagine the progressive response, a values discussion much like this one, in which it is agreed that, as a general thing, anal penetration and fellatio are disgusting and arguably unhealthy. Much, in fact, like cigarette smoking. So the way progressives should “frame” this issue to make it a winner is to say, look, we agree, as a consumer issue, that such activities should be made illegal. But we don’t think homosexuals as a class should be discriminated against, as long as they don’t engage in any of that.

Perfecto! Finally a way to appeal to the Red Planet. And it preserves all of our core values!

Framing is so much fun. You can lose your conscience and not even feel it!

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Russell L. Carter 11.05.04 at 5:06 pm

Myria, exactly what is it that you bought? There are facts on the ground, and ideas in the air. Which facts on the ground do you support?

The expansion of the budget? The institutionalization of increasing deficits? Erosion of civil liberties, through a defacto suspension of the constitution, justified by a war which “we cannot win”? What did these payments of property and freedom buy?

Keeping gays from providing aid and comfort to their lovers in their hospital rooms? That’s some moral achievement.

70

Bethany 11.05.04 at 5:40 pm

Kieran, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to *answer* the values rhetoric. As far as I can tell, it’s just a charicature for W to occupy. It allows all those disaffected voters who don’t follow politics, don’t want to follow politics and don’t trust politicians to feel like they can trust him to do the right things. It allows them to ignore complexity and feel good about it. (I highly recommend Bourdieu’s chapter on politics in Distinction on this point. He says habitus recognizes habitus. Bush’s habitus may be fake, but it works well.) This is not to say democrats don’t need to get a grip on values. We do, but we need to package them in a PERSONALITY.

And folks, please also remember that this is religion. In the American South & Midwest, losing your job, your health, your home, and your 19-year-old son does not make you less zealous about your religious conviction! The worse our material conditions get, the more people will need religion. There’s no use waiting for them to see a different light.

I don’t think we’ll ever win the game by playing enlightened rationality against religious ideology. We need to have the better ideology, and we do, but we keep trying to cover it with science, law and economics. These are useful tools, but politics is like an airplane. Most people don’t want to see it’s inner workings. I wish they did, and I’ll keep working that angle in the classroom, but on the political stage, I think democrats just need to convince the voters that they know what they’re doing.

71

Bethany 11.05.04 at 5:43 pm

Kieran, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to *answer* the values rhetoric. As far as I can tell, it’s just a charicature for W to occupy. It allows all those disaffected voters who don’t follow politics, don’t want to follow politics and don’t trust politicians to feel like they can trust him to do the right things. It allows them to ignore complexity and feel good about it. (I highly recommend Bourdieu’s chapter on politics in Distinction on this point. He says habitus recognizes habitus. Bush’s habitus may be fake, but it works well.) This is not to say democrats don’t need to get a grip on values. We do, but we need to package them in a PERSONALITY.

And folks, please also remember that this is religion. In the American South & Midwest, losing your job, your health, your home, and your 19-year-old son does not make you less zealous about your religious conviction! The worse our material conditions get, the more people will need religion. There’s no use waiting for them to see a different light.

I don’t think we’ll ever win the game by playing enlightened rationality against religious ideology. We need to have the better ideology, and we do, but we keep trying to cover it with science, law and economics. These are useful tools, but politics is like an airplane. Most people don’t want to see it’s inner workings. I wish they did, and I’ll keep working that angle in the classroom, but on the political stage, I think democrats just need to convince the voters that they know what they’re doing.

72

Bethany 11.05.04 at 5:45 pm

Kieran, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to *answer* the values rhetoric. As far as I can tell, it’s just a charicature for W to occupy. It allows all those disaffected voters who don’t follow politics, don’t want to follow politics and don’t trust politicians to feel like they can trust him to do the right things. It allows them to ignore complexity and feel good about it. (I highly recommend Bourdieu’s chapter on politics in Distinction on this point. He says habitus recognizes habitus. Bush’s habitus may be fake, but it works well.) This is not to say democrats don’t need to get a grip on values. We do, but we need to package them in a PERSONALITY.

And folks, please also remember that this is religion. In the American South & Midwest, losing your job, your health, your home, and your 19-year-old son does not make you less zealous about your religious conviction! The worse our material conditions get, the more people will need religion. There’s no use waiting for them to see a different light.

I don’t think we’ll ever win the game by playing enlightened rationality against religious ideology. We need to have the better ideology, and we do, but we keep trying to cover it with science, law and economics. These are useful tools, but politics is like an airplane. Most people don’t want to see it’s inner workings. I wish they did, and I’ll keep working that angle in the classroom, but on the political stage, I think democrats just need to convince the voters that they know what they’re doing.

73

Bethany 11.05.04 at 5:48 pm

Kieran, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to *answer* the values rhetoric. As far as I can tell, it’s just a charicature for W to occupy. It allows all those disaffected voters who don’t follow politics, don’t want to follow politics and don’t trust politicians to feel like they can trust him to do the right things. It allows them to ignore complexity and feel good about it. (I highly recommend Bourdieu’s chapter on politics in Distinction on this point. He says habitus recognizes habitus. Bush’s habitus may be fake, but it works well.) This is not to say democrats don’t need to get a grip on values. We do, but we need to package them in a PERSONALITY.

And folks, please also remember that this is religion. In the American South & Midwest, losing your job, your health, your home, and your 19-year-old son does not make you less zealous about your religious conviction! The worse our material conditions get, the more people will need religion. There’s no use waiting for them to see a different light.

I don’t think we’ll ever win the game by playing enlightened rationality against religious ideology. We need to have the better ideology, and we do, but we keep trying to cover it with science, law and economics. These are useful tools, but politics is like an airplane. Most people don’t want to see it’s inner workings. I wish they did, and I’ll keep working that angle in the classroom, but on the political stage, I think democrats just need to convince the voters that they know what they’re doing.

74

Bethany 11.05.04 at 5:50 pm

Kieran, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to *answer* the values rhetoric. As far as I can tell, it’s just a charicature for W to occupy. It allows all those disaffected voters who don’t follow politics, don’t want to follow politics and don’t trust politicians to feel like they can trust him to do the right things. It allows them to ignore complexity and feel good about it. (I highly recommend Bourdieu’s chapter on politics in Distinction on this point. He says habitus recognizes habitus. Bush’s habitus may be fake, but it works well.) This is not to say democrats don’t need to get a grip on values. We do, but we need to package them in a PERSONALITY.

And folks, please also remember that this is religion. In the American South & Midwest, losing your job, your health, your home, and your 19-year-old son does not make you less zealous about your religious conviction! The worse our material conditions get, the more people will need religion. There’s no use waiting for them to see a different light.

I don’t think we’ll ever win the game by playing enlightened rationality against religious ideology. We need to have the better ideology, and we do, but we keep trying to cover it with science, law and economics. These are useful tools, but politics is like an airplane. Most people don’t want to see it’s inner workings. I wish they did, and I’ll keep working that angle in the classroom, but on the political stage, I think democrats just need to convince the voters that they know what they’re doing.

75

PG 11.05.04 at 5:58 pm

I disagree pretty completely with Henley’s idea that core values inherently come packed with policies. This is not at all to denigrate the intelligence of Christians who currently vote Republican, but rather an argument for their capacity to think outside the ruts of the Republican Party.

While some religious conservatives found the notion that abortion rates actually increase under Republicans implausible, many others have taken it more seriously. I think that the value of prioritizing life can be part of a Democratic program that still keeps abortion legal, if the Dems are ready to start talking about the RARE part of “safe, legal and rare.”

76

Bethany 11.05.04 at 5:58 pm

FRIENDS: Learn from my mistakes. Ignore the error messages and check to see if your post worked, anyway. Too much activity, maybe.

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Uncle Kvetch 11.05.04 at 6:33 pm

You people truly don’t have a clue, do you? You can rant and rave about how evil Christians are

Myria, who are you talking to? Who in this thread has referred to Christians as “evil”?

78

Jeff 11.05.04 at 7:20 pm

Russell:

It’s not so much that I disagree with you on the facts. I’m more interested in the way the discussion is conducted. There was an article in New Scientist a couple of months ago that talked about how people could be persuaded. Basically, the upshot was that once a person got angry it was almost impossible to change their mind. If you want to persuade someone to your point of view it’s never a good idea to fire off accusations at them. What I like to do is ask them questions about how and why they think what they do. For instance you could ask Myria “What do you think the left is selling? And why do you think that the majority of Americans don’t buy it?” Then you would be actually having a conversation instead of casting aspersions and accusing. This might lead to someone actually changing thier mind, instead of hardening someone’s opinion.

79

doghouse riley 11.05.04 at 7:27 pm

Forty years in the wilderness, and still no sign o’ Goshen! Myria, out of curiosity, do you mean we’ve been backmarkers since that sound thumping Goldwater gave us, or is it the Civil Rights Act you had it mind?

80

vernaculo 11.05.04 at 9:44 pm

Side by side with Everyman, the ghost of what could have been has marched through history.
The myths and commonplaces we inherit teach us that good will always out, and that the unbroken thread of what we are stretches back unchanged to our shared beginnings.
This is a lie. Our change has been as volatile and forced as the Galapagos finch’s. In the midst of domestication we can see the willing submission of some to the pastures of captivity, and the anguished desperation of others. Further gradations show us those who would increase the privileges and conditions of the tamed, while others demand unrealistic freedoms within the confines of domesticated living.
It all hurts now.
Connecting to the moral values of willing slaves is repugnant, and it should be, it’s a vile thing.
Compromise is the only practical answer, but compromise has proven to be a Xenic line of halfway and halfway and halfway again, with a dream of arrival sometime – just not yet – and meanwhile each stage of compromise has consistently lowered our median grace.
The State motto of New Hampshire is a truncation of a more accurate sentiment once shared by many Americans –

“Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst of Evils.”

It’s already achieved the irrelevancy Myria threatens the vaguely defined “…You people…” with, though I personally think that’s shameful and condemnatory.
There’s a smugness now on the part of the tame, that’s more a result of their limited vision than it is a confirmation of their beliefs. I’ve seen that same smugness in a dog whose master was a vicious bullying thug.
Safe, powerful, good boy.

There’s worse things than losing this kind of battle for relevancy – that’s what I wanted to say; becoming something that would compromise with evil merely to survive, for instance.

81

Russell L. Carter 11.05.04 at 10:57 pm

Jeff,
I think you’re right.

I am not temperamentally equipped to deal magnamaniously with advocates who hold that particular religious beliefs trump the fiscal health of the nation and the freedom of its citizens.

Good luck to those who can.

82

pedro 11.07.04 at 3:54 pm

Russell Arben Fox says something very intriguing:

“At the very least, I think there is a decent sized chunk of that crowd (I’m one of them) that would be content to see their beliefs be accepted as part of the context of liberal decisionmaking in America, even if the resulting content doesn’t perfectly, or even mostly, reflect their socially conservative ideal.”

Russell, can you please, please elaborate? I’m more interested in knowing how *you* (not the decent chunk to which you allude, but you yourself) would like for your socially conservative ideas to be contextually incorporated into public decisionmaking discourse. What do you mean?

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pedro 11.07.04 at 3:57 pm

Russell Arben Fox says something very intriguing:

“At the very least, I think there is a decent sized chunk of that crowd (I’m one of them) that would be content to see their beliefs be accepted as part of the context of liberal decisionmaking in America, even if the resulting content doesn’t perfectly, or even mostly, reflect their socially conservative ideal.”

Russell, can you please, please elaborate? I’m more interested in knowing how *you* (not the decent chunk to which you allude, but you yourself) would like for your socially conservative ideas to be contextually incorporated into public decisionmaking discourse. What do you mean?

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