Blue State Red State

Friday, November 19, 2004

Bigotry And The Arch-Right

Peter Beinart's TNR article offers an excellent view on the hypocrisy of conservative evangelicals' current claims of supposed anti-Christrian bigotry by the left and how it is an attempt at debate-stifling self-victimization. Excerpts with emphasis added:

"One of the things that galled the right during the 'political correctness' wars was the way leftists casually threw around terms like 'racist' and 'bigot.' For conservatives, some of whom knew firsthand how much harm those accusations could cause, it became axiomatic that such pejoratives should be reserved for only the most egregious, clear-cut examples of racial or ethnic animus."

"That's how it seemed, anyhow. In recent weeks, prominent conservatives have been anything but scrupulous in charging Democrats with bigotry against people of faith. Just before the election, Christian Right leader James Dobson called Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy a 'God's people hater.' On November 8, talk-show host Joe Scarborough condemned 'Democrats who take solace in their bigoted anti-Christian screeds.' Right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin recently blurbed a book titled Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christianity, noting that 'Persecution exposes the hypocrisy and bigotry of the secular, anti-Christian Left.' And, last Sunday, Mary Matalin chimed in on 'Meet the Press,' claiming that 'people of faith, in the election process, they have been demonized and they have been treated with disdain and contempt.' Imagine if James Carville, who was seated next to her on the show, had made the same claim about African Americans (who, although they are one of the most religious groups in America, vote Democratic, and thus don't fall under Matalin's 'people of faith' rubric). Within 15 minutes, the conservative blogosphere would have accused him of politically correct demagoguery."

"But, most of the time, what conservatives call anti-evangelical bigotry is simply harsh criticism of the Christian Right's agenda. Scarborough seized on a recent column by Maureen Dowd, which accused President Bush of 'replacing science with religion, and facts with faith,' leading America into 'another dark age.' The Weekly Standard recently pilloried Thomas Friedman for criticizing 'Christian fundamentalists' who 'promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad,' and Howell Raines, for saying the Christian Right wants to enact 'theologically based cultural norms.'

"This isn't bigotry. What these (and most other) liberals are saying is that the Christian Right sees politics through the prism of theology, and there's something dangerous in that. And they're right. It's fine if religion influences your moral values. But, when you make public arguments, you have to ground them--as much as possible--in reason and evidence, things that are accessible to people of different religions, or no religion at all. Otherwise, you can't persuade other people, and they can't persuade you. In a diverse democracy, there must be a common political language, and that language can't be theological."

"Identity politics is a powerful thing--a way of short-circuiting debate by claiming that your views aren't merely views; they are an integral part of who you are. And who you are must be respected. But harsh criticism is not disrespect--and to claim it is undermines democratic debate by denying opponents the right to aggressively, even impolitely, disagree. That is what conservatives are doing when they accuse liberals of religious bigotry merely for demanding that the Christian Right defend their viewpoints with facts, not faith. Once upon a time, conservatives knew better. I hope some still do."

New Donkey applies this to his ongoing argument against the idea that the only two choices for Dems are to "move right or move on," pointing out that "respect does not mean submission." Excerpt:

"I'll go Beinert one better: the Christian Right's effort to make 'respect' equal 'agreement' is even more deeply disrespectful to people who actually share their religion. I'm a Protestant Christian myself, and read the same Bible that James Dobson reads, and I see no evidence at all that the message (much less the primary message) of Scripture to the faithful of this time is to outlaw abortion and stigmatize gay people. So it really offends me to be told I'm an 'anti-Christian bigot' for disagreeing with the Christian Right on such subjects.

"It behooves Democrats to challenge Christian conservatives for playing identity politics and refusing to engage in civil discourse about the intersection of faith and policy, and to challenge themselves to reject the false choice of disrespect or submission."

Republicans have often accused Democrats of attempting to incite class warfare with claims such as John Edwards' that there are "two Americas," one for the privileged with all the perks available from our society, and one for the working and middle classes struggling to pay the bills. The real class warfare today, however, is being waged by the ultra-conservative evangelical right and the arsenal is made up of false claims of anti-Christian bigotry against anyone who disagrees with them. There is no disrepect inherent in disagreement and to claim otherwise goes against the fundamental principles of a society whose government was founded on open debate of the issues affecting it.

The ultra-conservative evangelical right continues to hold on to the selfish belief that they are the only legitimate Christians. To claim that the left is bigoted against Christians is to claim that it is largely bigoted against itself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Young Get Older

Noam Scheiber has an interesting way of putting this:

"...The broader point I'd make is that Democrats' cultural problem with seniors is taking care of itself pretty quickly, and without us having to do much about it. (Everything we know about gay marriage suggests that the earlier you were born, the more likely you are to oppose it. So it's only a matter of time before...) If you only have a serious problem with one group on culture issues per se, and that group is dying off pretty quickly, it doesn't make a ton of sense to think in strictly cultural terms about what you do going forward."

On one level this argument, morbid as it perhaps may be, and others similar to it make a lot of common sense. However, at the same time, who's to know how long it will take for a progressive shift in the demographic group's opinion to take hold, assuming that it will?

10 Truths

Beliefnet's Steve Waldman attempts (via Political Animal) to point out ten truths about liberals and conservatives. For the most part, he makes some very astute observations. Excerpts:

"The idea that [the re-election of Bush] was a victory for people who care about morality over those who don’t is galling to liberals because, for many of them, the number one issue in this election was Iraq -- and their opposition to the incumbent administration was almost entirely grounded in moral concerns."

"Liberals can’t mock religious people as dumb when they disagree with them but hail their wisdom when they're liberals like Jimmy Carter. This intellectual snobbery is a major reason why religious conservatives distrust liberal elites."

"When Democrats hear conservatives accuse them of being anti-religion it sounds like what they’re really saying is that Democrats don't practice the right kind of religion -- that they are, as my talk radio friend put it, 'a bunch of phonies.' This is a direct attack on the nature of liberals’ relationship with God or spirituality."

"Yes, religious conservatives want a greater role in public life -- perhaps more than liberals want or the Constitution allows -- but President Bush's faith based initiative is highly pluralistic and he has spoken out for religious tolerance. Equating him or his supporters with regimes that execute dissidents or blow up buildings is heinous."

While the true plurality of Bush's faith based initiative is more questionable than Waldman lets on, the important point here is that, while the President's policies and actions may be highly questionable, they are far from the moral lows of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and other tyrants and regimes of the sort to which he and his administration are often compared by the harshest of critics. Likenings such as those offer an easy, hyperbolic shorthand explanation of dislike, but are far from reality and don't really serve to further any attempt at a constructive criticisim.

"Liberals believe that historically red state conservatives were on the wrong side of the civil rights struggle (first as conservative Democrats and then as Republicans) and that they opposed much of the campaign for equal rights for women... So when conservatives oppose gay rights, liberals see history repeating itself."

"Liberals sometimes claim that the anti-abortion movement is actually a religious movement aspiring to impose a particular theology. In fact, the anti-abortion side has tended in recent years to make secular arguments."

"Most liberals (and many conservatives) fret about the separation of church and state because they want to protect the free expression of religious views."

"[Conservatives] may have the numbers but they nonetheless feel powerless against a popular culture that doesn't seem to share their values, and in the face of aggressive judges who impose their will over the objections of state legislatures."

Perhaps this explains how conservatives feel, but it still doesn't offer a rationale for why. Conservatives often argue that they're bombarded by the left through television and other media. Even if that were true, it's easy enough to change the channel or turn the television off. No one is forcing people to watch or listen to anything. If this were really such a popular concern, conservatives would easily be able to do something about it because their party is currently in control of the federal government, as well as many state governments.

As for "agressive judges" -- sounds an awful lot like "activist judges" and, if not for so-called activist judges, blacks might not be allowed to go to school with or use the same facilities as whites. Judges are supposed to be insulated from public opinion so that public opinion doesn't influence what they believe to be fair judgements and, when they do their jobs correctly, they help advance society whether society is ready for it or not.

"Telling someone they are against "family values" is not far from telling them they’re bad parents. Most liberal parents (like most conservatives) spend most of their days thinking not about politics but about how to raise good kids."

"[Conservatives] believe that in condoning legalized abortion or gay unions or even out of wedlock heterosexual sex, America is messing with morality as outlined in the Bible and so attacking God. As anyone who takes the Old Testament seriously knows, the consequences of that could not be more enormous."

Again, this seems like an explanation of how conservatives feel, but not why. Isn't it a little like wanting to have your cake and eat it too to, on one hand, claim that your reasons against something are secular then claim the relevance of your argument is basically that God's wrath will strike our civilization down if we condone the opposite view?

Overall, the article is well worth the read.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Different Priorities, Part 2

In his comments on a previous post, Phil brought up some points worth looking at:

"I wonder, if the GOP is so attuned to their base's adherence to spiritual guidelines over material gain..."

If by "base," Phil means evangelicals and/or the very socially conservative, there is definitely a strong argument that the GOP, as currently led by Karl Rove, is not actually attuned to their "spiritual guidelines over material gain." However, that base is being pandered to. The difference is a lack of sincere empathy.

"Also, if the GOP values... 'moral values' over materialism, why oppose the establishment of a new popular Islamic state in Iraq?"

This is an interesting question. Two possible answers: First, it is not in the interest of our national security for Iraq to become a fundamentalist Islamic state and it would totally go against the Bush Administration's claims that democracy can and will take root there; Second, the values of the extremist evangelical right are, simply, selfish. Whoever does not worship in the same way they worship is not seen as an equal. Therefore, they believe it is fine for Christianity, more specifically their version of it, to be intertwined with government, but no other religion deserves the same partnership.

That said, it is important to clarify at this point that this particular problem is not necessarily with the GOP as a whole, but with the extremist element that is currently claiming false supremacy over it and false moral superiority over anyone who disagrees with them (namely, the Democratic Party).

"[Brad Carson, defeated Democratic candidate from Oklahoma,] says that, 'while the [Senate] defeat was all my own, the failure was of the party to which I swear allegiance, which uncritically embraces a modernity that so many others reject.'

"This argument seems rather obtuse in that it doesn't account for the fact that this 'modernity' involves a system of moral values that are held just as fervently by the left as 'traditional' values are by the [right]. We value, among other things, civil rights and the seperation of church and state. In order to accept a ban on gay marriage, we would have to abandon these values. This doesn't seem to matter to Carson, who wants to give weight only to the ethical convictions of the right."

Phil is absolutely correct that we cannot accept a ban on gay marriage because that would mean the abandonment of Democratic values, but there is no reason for either. The issue, as Carson frames it, is not whether gay marriage should be allowed or not, but whether spirituality is as important as material gain. The approach of Democrats has been to try and win right-leaning moderates on economic issues, while often simultaneously ignoring differences on, or even deriding them for, cultural views. Unfortunately, there often seems to be a tendency with many on the left to assume the reason for their differences with the right comes down to a lack of knowledge and education-- basically, a charge of ignorance. Democrats will never win elections by claiming the very voters they need to win over are ignorant.

The party needs to accept that some of the people they're trying to win on economic issues aren't voting by their pocketbooks, but by their so-called 'moral values.' Moderates are moderate because they can be reasoned with, so reason with them in the context of those very values that they hold dear; after all, the things they value are family and life and those are what we value, too. The goal is to convince them that our pursuit of those values does not negate theirs.

Obviously this is easier said than done, but no progress can come without first knowing where to start. And, yes, there's a good deal of optimistic idealism involved, but that's what values are about.

As for the arch-right evangelical extremists, there's really no reasoning with them and they're a minority, anyway, even if they are a loud one. So, let them yell and overreach and see where it's got them once they've alienated themselves from the true base of their party, the rational moderates.

The Old One-Two-(Three)

With his three most recent posts, Bull Moose is on a roll with some excellent observations. First, a call for awareness of the power the President is attempting to consolidate:

"The Moose warns Democrats that this Administration will not rest on its laurels. The White House is moving at lightning speed in consolidating its victory of two weeks ago. While some Democrats continue to ruminate over whether the Diebold machines robbed them of an Ohio victory, President Bush is cleaning house, announcing domestic policy initiatives and launching an offensive in Iraq. Even critics such as the Moose have to recognize that W. has a new confidence in his speech and overall demeanor.

"It appears that the donkey won't have the luxury of governance by a lame duck for quite a while. The most striking aspect of this new Republican agenda is to cast the GOP as the reform party.

"Democrats should realize that given this emboldened Bush Administration, there is no longer any time for introspection. The donkey must quickly repair to the laboratory and devise his own reform agenda. As the Moose has indicated before, Democrats must now become the insurgent party that offers bold reform solutions to shake up the government. Reactive politics will be insufficient.

"Time is of the essence for it is clear that the Republicans intend to strike quickly and boldly."

Next, he offers the words of John McCain, from the 2000 primary campaign on which he worked, which seem strikingly relevant today:

"I recognize and celebrate that our country is founded upon Judeo-Christian values. And I have pledged my life to defend America and all her values, the values that have made us the noblest experiment in history.

"But political intolerance by any political party is neither a Judeo-Christian nor an American value. The political tactics of division and slander are not our values.

"They are corrupting influences on religion and politics and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country."

And in the most recent post, some biting words for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

"The Moose observes that, in the Bush Administration, accountability only applies to low income welfare mothers and certainly not to high-ranking Pentagon officials.

"How else to explain Donald Rumsfeld's survival amidst the mass cabinet purge? Iraq continues to spiral out of control and the legacy of Abu Ghraib stains America's image, but Rumsfeld is held harmless. Rumsfeld's arrogant refusal to heed warnings about the need for more troops in Iraq and his aversion to nation building has resulted in America paying a heavy price in blood and treasure.

"Yet, it is Powell who has evidently been shown the door - so much for the culture of responsibility. Leave no incompetent Secretary of Defense behind."

What's Next?

Political Animal's Kevin Drum wonders if the current problem with the Democratic Party stems at least partially from a decades-old agenda that, in many respects, has been mostly, yet not completely, accomplished. He outlines the main goals of the agenda as 1) "equal rights," 2) "economic security," 3) "personal liberties," and 4) "corporate predation." Excerpts:

"Make no mistake: there's plenty of progress yet to be made on all these scores. Black poverty remains a national scandal, the current minimum wage would be shameful in a country half as wealthy as ours, and we still have a long battle for gay rights ahead of us.

"But I suspect that most people, maybe even most liberals, would say we've accomplished 80% of what we set out to do back in the 30s and 60s. Maybe even 90%. In terms of genuinely big programs, the only one left is national healthcare — and that's just not enough to hang our hats on."

"If we've accomplished most of what we set out to do all those decades ago, what's next? Finishing off the final 10%? Fighting a war of attrition against relentless Republican dagger thrusts? It's true that those things need to be done — and I'm not trying to denigrate their importance — but they just aren't compelling enough to win elections for us. We need new goals."

Schumer To Stay in Senate

The NY Times reports that Senator Chuck Schumer, who just won a landslide re-election, has decided not to make a run for Governor of New York in 2006. Excerpt:

"'For me, it was not a hard decision,' he said, about choosing to continue in the Senate rather than making a run for governor. 'For the last few months, I have said repeatedly that the only thing on my radar screen is being a good senator and delivering for New York. Many were skeptical. But I've been a legislator for 30 years. It is what I know how to do and what I love to do.'''

Definitely a good development for Democrats in New York, which currently looks to be a potential hotbed of political activity in upcoming election cycles, this will spare the party the possibility of a brutal gubernatorial primary between Schumer and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer will now likely win the nomination handily, avoiding most intra-party scrapes that could weaken him against a Republican rival in the general election. And with rumors of three-term Republican Governor George Pataki possibly challenging Senator Hillary Clinton for her seat in 2006, the likelihood of Rudy Giuliani making a run for Albany would seem to increase at least for the simple reason that there's no other NY Republican who can challenge Spitzer.


Joshua Micah Marshall makes a good point, observing the real post re-election move for Bush, so far, is neither to the center nor right, but to a level of greater personal control. Excerpt:

"Neither [soon-to-be Secretary of State nominee, Condoleezza] Rice nor [Attorney General nominee, Alberto] Gonzales are the neo-cons' or the conservatives' choice for their respective offices-to-be. In each case they're acceptable; but no more.

"What distinguishes each is their connection to the president, their loyalty and their fealty. Neither has any base in the city or standing anywhere else absent their connection to him. And in appointing them he has placed the State Department and the Justice Department under his direct and unmediated control as surely as the various members of the White House staff already are."

New Blood Needed

Over at Talking Points Memo, Joshua Micah Marshall has called out Democratic consultants. Excerpts:

    "...There is something rich and precious about hearing some of these folks sagely noting how the leadership of 'the party' is out of touch with the Red States when they are the party, when they're the folks who've been in the drivers' seat for years. If there’s a problem and especially if it revolves around being out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans, then by all means the first place to start is for some of these folks to say a collective, my bad, my time has passed and depart the scene --- especially if their proposed remedies are as clichéd and pathetic as the ones many of them are offering."

And while he doesn't buy into claims that the party needs to reinvent itself, he does seem to argue that a degree of change is necessary in which a balance can be achieved which allows Democrats to gain new votes in red states without losing votes in the blue:

    "The Dems did not get 48% of the popular vote for nothing. They got it because of what they were clearly for and clearly against. 48% isn’t enough for the White House or enough to be the country’s majority party. But it’s nothing to sneeze at either. And many changes that would gain Democrats votes in the Red States would lose them votes or unity in the Blue ones.

    "This doesn’t mean Dems should just stand-pat or be satisfied with what they have. They shouldn’t; indeed, they can’t. It is only to say that there are real limits to how many positions and rhetorical styles Dems can ape to good effect. And it means having a little more respect for themselves, their voters and what they claim to believe in than to collapse into a puddle of self-doubt just because this election didn’t go their way."

Monday, November 15, 2004

Powell Bows Out

Just in case you somehow found your way here without already learning this: Colin Powell resigned today from the State Department Also resigning: Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Education Secretary Rod Paige, and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. So there goes the moderate voice of the administration. As little as his advice was heeded over the last four years, it was at least good to know that his post was not filled by someone less level-headed.