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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

It Won't Work

This is more of the same, but I think it's important so I'm going to keep writing about it. The Democratic party has tried valiantly to move to the center in an attempt to convince "middle America" that they are not hostile to their values. After the electoral debacle of the 80's it seemed like a good idea and it gave Clinton the opportunity to slip in under the wire in 1992 under very opportune circumstances. But, this was all contingent upon the idea of a "new South" born of modern ideas and a dynamic economy. Those conditions seem to have manifested themselves differently than forecasted (mostly, in my view, because of the rise of talk radio) and I think it's time that we made some adjustments.

We are beginning to look like Charlie Brown with the football. We need to recognise what these people really want from us.

Kevin Drum wonders why we don't tweak the abortion and porn issues to peel away some of the values voters from the Republicans. Linking to Matt Yglesias's piece today in which he elaborates on his red state "chump" thesis in which he points out that the Republicans never deliver much to the conservative Christians, Kevin says:

There's a germ of an idea here, but it needs to be teased out. The abortion point is a good one, for example. Liberals are in favor of choice, not in favor of abortion per se, so why shouldn't we talk more often about policies that reduce the need for abortions while continuing to defend the right of choice itself? This won't impress the hardcore evangelicals, of course, but it might appeal to some of their more moderate neighbors. Ditto for porn.

Gay rights and feminisim are another thing entirely. Liberals are just fundamentally in favor of this stuff, and we shouldn't even think about trying to talk our way around it. If we lose votes for it, we lose votes for it.

Basically, then, I think Matt has a point worth thinking about, but we have to figure out which issues it applies to. Abortion and porn are good examples, and that's why master politician Bill Clinton talked about making abortion "safe, legal, and rare" and supported anti-porn measures like the V-chip. Neither of these things infringed on any liberal principles, but they did address some of the real-world concerns of those ordinary heartland voters we hear so much about.

The fundamental problem is that the super Christians won't compromise on principle and the rest of these "values voters" are hypocrites. Nobody bought the v-chip in red state America or anywhere else. They don't want to take responsibility for what comes into their TV's, they want to hector people for "forcing" them to watch these horrible things while they pass the popcorn. These same people listen to Rush refer to Abu Ghraib as "blowing off steam" and think that Bill O'Reilly is a salt of the earth regular guy despite his little obsession with porn stars. There's your heartland values for you and they look surprisingly like the values you see on your television set. That's because they are.

"Heartland values" is just another world for tribal identity. And this division is about crying Uncle.

Here's a passage from Lincoln's speech at the Cooper Union (thanks CRL) in 1860. Tell me if this doesn't strike a chord:

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

So what else is new? We are dealing with an absolutist culture that demands total capitulation or nothing. Compromise will not work and it certainly will not work on these "values" issues. (Indeed, I think it's part of what makes us look weak to some other factions who might be willing to vote for us.) This is the same old shit over and over and over again. We backed off on the death penalty, gun control, welfare, affirmative action and here we are with a new slate of issues about gays. Tomorrow it will be creationism. Until we realize that their condition is that we FULLY EMBRACE their cultural dominance in both word and deed, they will not be satisfied.

It is not enough that they be left alone to do what they choose. We must join them and do it thoroughly and with fervor. No amount of tweaking will work. Their real beef is psychological and tribal. Issues are fungible.

Another Winning Issue For The Future

As you know, now that the real Americans have spoken, I think it's important that we take on the moral issue head on if we hope to win in Real America. Creationism will be our flagship, but there are many other topics we explore, like making sure that all textbooks reflect the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman as Texas just did. The books had used the words "marriage partners" but the school board luckily saw through it:

Terri Leo, a Republican, said she was pleased with the publishers' changes. She had led the effort to get the publishers to change the texts, objecting to what she called "asexual stealth phrases" like "individuals who marry."

It's those stealth phrases that we have to fight against if we want to get the respect of the fine salt of the earth Real Americans. It's not so much the positions we take, it's the sneakiness they can't abide.

Neither publisher made all the changes that Ms. Leo initially sought. For instance, one passage that was proposed to be added to the teacher's editions read: "Opinions vary on why homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals as a group are more prone to self-destructive behaviors like depression, illegal drug use and suicide."

Watch What You Say

Via Avedon Carol, here's a creepy story of a blogger who got turned into the FBI by a reader and was visited by the Secret Service.

A WRITER on popular blog-site LiveJournal has posted of her nightmare ordeal with the US Secret Service, an event spurred by a posting she made to her blog criticising George Bush prior to the Presidential Election earlier this week.
Whilst the offending post has been removed - to spare other users further Federal interference, according to author 'anniesj' - you can see her account of events in full, which has been left as a word to the wise.

The post in question is gone, so I have no way of evaluating what it said. However, this combined with the fun story we heard the other day about the romance novelist who got her computer and books confiscated because she was researching terrorism in Cambodia, I think it's safe to say that four more years with a Justice Department that considers torture justified is not exactly comforting to those of us who write mean things about Republicans or use red flagged research terms on the internet.

Our New Issue

This could be the one, folks, where we prove our bona fides to the red states:

A suburban American school board found itself in court Monday after it tried to placate Christian fundamentalist parents by placing a sticker on its science textbooks saying evolution was "a theory, not a fact."

Atlanta's Cobb County School Board, the second largest board in Georgia, added the sticker two years ago after a 2,300-strong petition attacked the presentation of "Darwinism unchallenged." Some parents wanted creationism -- the theory that God created humans as related in the Bible -- to be taught alongside evolution.


The board says the stickers were motivated by a desire to establish a greater understanding of different viewpoints. "They improve the curriculum, while also promoting an attitude of tolerance for those with different religious beliefs," said Linwood Gunn, a lawyer for Cobb County schools.

The controversy began when the school board's textbook selection committee ordered $8 million worth of the science books in March 2002. Marjorie Rogers, a parent who does not believe in evolution, protested and petitioned the board to add a sticker and an insert setting out other explanations for the origins of life. "It is unconstitutional to teach only evolution," she said. "The school board must allow the teaching of both theories of origin."

Her efforts galvanized the fundamentalist community. "God created earth and man in his image," another parent, Patricia Fuller, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Leave this garbage out of the textbooks. I don't want anybody taking care of me in a nursing home some day to think I came from a monkey."

Wendi Hill, one of the parents who signed the petition, said: "We believe the Bible is correct in that God created man. I don't expect the public school system to teach only creationism, but I think it should be given its fair share."

Liberals bi-coastal elites once again show that they don't have proper respect for middle America by insisting that science and religion are two different subjects. Until we learn to stop condescending and quit showing this kind of contempt for heartland beliefs we will lose.

Again, I say this should be OUR issue. Let's run on a national pro-creationism ticket in 2006. Then maybe they will let us back into America.


Atrios has written a post about our new obsession with the voting irregularities and as a member of the reality based community he is rightly concerned that we not make assumptions without actual proof.

I've been grappling with how to handle this story as well. I've not been flogging it mostly because I think that the electoral college is a crock and that the popular vote should determine who wins elections. Since Bush won by three million or so, it's hard for me not to see him as legitimate. I haven't seen any voting anomolies on that kind of scale. If I'm judging by whether the will of the people was observed, then I think it's likely that more people truly wanted Bush than wanted Kerry. To me, that is the spirit of Democracy and I can't discount that reality.

On the other hand, the exit poll question is a real one. The explanations by Mitofsky and company are simply not adequate --- that Kerry voters were so much more anxious to talk to the pollsters that they actively sought them out. Nonsense. Something else happened here and they need to figure out what it was. If vote fraud on a scale large enough to encompass millions and millions of votes took place then we are deep, deep shit. Unfortunately, I've seen nothing that could account for that except an extremely broad conspiracy in many states with different kinds of voting machines and there is no proof of that. (Yes, I know about the states with paper ballot vs electronic machines study, but it doesn't prove anything, either.)

Do I think the vote in Ohio might have been manipulated? Sure. But as Atrios says, we haven't yet seen any evidence of large scale fraud, although there is a lot of evidence that our voting systems are terribly fucked up. I have no doubt that the vote could have been fixed in the state with a partisan in charge who wanted to disallow registrations because of the paper stock they were printed on and a vote machine mamufacturer who promised to deliver the state for Republicans. But proof of a conspiracy has not emerged, nor have the numbers in any way added up to the numbers that might have changed the election. There could have been fraud, the lines were absurdly long, intimidation and vote suppression certainly took place on some level. And until we fix these problems with our voting system we will always wonder from now on if elections are rigged.

This is where the real problem is and why I've been reluctant to push this story. Many Democrats are coming close to believing that our elections are broadly illegitimate. Except for Florida in 2000 I have not yet seen proof of that although I'm certainly suspicious. What I fear is that if we continue down this path of doubting election results --- as opposed to mounting a serious effort to revamp voting procedures in order to ensure fairness --- then I think we will begin to lose voters. People have to believe their vote counts in order to participate. If we push this illegitimacy issue beyond situations like Florida in 2000, where the machinations are proven and observable, I think it will hurt us in the long run.

I am absolutely in favor of insisting on an audit trail for vote counts. (And it seems to me that as with any accounting procedure we should audit some portion of the vote on a regular basis to make sure that hanky panky isn't happening.) If we don't, then stealing millions of votes really will no longer require a vast right wing conspiracy but merely Roger Stone and a laptop. But, I think we need to be careful to frame this issue in a way that doesn't give people the excuse to drop out because they "know" the vote is rigged. Once that happens, it might as well be.

Update: I don't mean in any way to demean those who are pursuing this story. I think it's vital to find out what happened and pursue remedies. I hope the Democratic party makes it a top priority. It's clear that our voting system is unreliable. But, I haven't yet seen evidence that would overturn these election results, so I'm not prepared at this point to say it was stolen. I'm worried that doing that might just make it harder for us in the future.

Update II: A commenter makes the good point that the blogs are the very vehicle by which this story should be flogged, just as talk radio flogged Vince Foster and the like. To be clear, I have no real moral or ethical problem with pushing this story. Idon't see much evidence that Bush didn't win the popular vote, but after watching the GOP operate these last dozen years, I have absolutely no loyalty to those sort of lofty ideals anymore. If the vote was stolen in Ohio or Florida, then the election was stolen, period.

But, as I said, my problem with flogging the idea that the election was stolen on the basis of what we know now is that I think it might end up lowering voter participation on our side if people feel the system is rigged and we can't prove it. I just don't think it works in our favor to push this kind of electoral impotence two elections in a row. If we keep our powder dry proof may emerge and maybe we can make a serious case to the public. Otherwise, I think it's best to frame this not as a stolen election but rather as a hideously run election system that must be fixed or we may be cutting off our nose to spite our face.

For the best round-up of these election stories, I would recommend the Sideshow and Bradblog. They have the most comprehensive overviews of all the stories and analysis that I've seen.

Monday, November 08, 2004

So, Whaddo We Do Now

The Progress Report asked readers to tell them what they thought the Party should do now in light of this loss. They had thousands of responses and picked forty of them to post.

It's quite and interesting array of ideas. Sadly, nobody sent in my idea that we desperately need to put on a better "campaign show" with solid gold dancers, sky divers and lion tamers (metaphrically speaking) in order to get people's attention in this raucous, disjointed post modern world. We are such an earnest bunch. Oh well. Maybe somebody will at least think to hire away Bush's sound guy. The sound compression on the cheers at his rallies was masterful.

And, nobody recognized that negative, ugly, hateful campaigning was what worked. It seems that we all feel that if we had just reached out and touched people we could have made a difference. We don't "connect," which may be true, but let's face facts --- Bush doesn't "connect" with people's better natures, he "connects" directly to their id. And, I'm afraid that the id trumps finer feelings in many, many people. Yet a large number of these suggestions have to do with sincere appeals to try harder to empathise and relate to those who didn't vote for us. Hey, maybe it'll work. We are the "nurturant parent," after all.

On a practical level, I have no problem with voting for southerners or westerners, never have. Contrary to the new myth emerging about the godless heathens on the coasts, we elitists have quite happily voted for Texans and southern, gospel preaching Democrats quite often in the last 40 years. The fact that we voted in huge numbers for Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Gore would seem to put the lie to this belief that we hold southerners in contempt, but what do I know? It certainly does appear that we heathen blue staters quite willingly vote for people outside of our alleged latte-liberal bicoastal culture, yet those heartland middle American red states who are complaining about our condescension refuse to ever vote for someone outside their own region. (Except, of course, those rock-ribbed Hollywood movie stars.) Just who holds who in contempt again?

Anyway, read all the suggestions. They are all good hearted and sincere and many contain good ideas. Only cynics like me subscribe to the dazzle 'em with bullshit school and that's probably a good thing.

Ronnie, Junior and Arnie tell me that it's not about anything more than a certain macho style that gets these people. None of those guys have the remotest relationship to salt of the earth middle America, but they play the archetypal leadership role of All American manly man very well.

Whose Coalition Is It Anyway?

Xan over at corrente has a very interesting post up about "The Prosperity Project." I wrote a long piece about it last year and blogger ate it (before I learned to save my posts.) I didn't have the heart to re-write it and the moment passed.

But, Xan has researched this very interesting and (so far) underreported story of a soft intimidation project on the part of Republican businessmen.This is a very sophisticated operation under the auspices of BIPAC, a long time Republican business organization. I don't know how many of you have had a boss who was a vociferous Republican, but I have. They couldn't tell me for whom to vote, but they sure made it clear that if I spoke out it wouldn't be looked upon kindly. And plenty of others, who normally wouldn't care a bit about politics, suddenly found that they were favored employees by going out of their way to push the bosses political agenda. This Prosperity Project works on the assumption that managers will perform to their bosses orders and recommended Prosperity Project materials (particularly its marvelously misleading web site) to "educate" workers on issues of concern to them. It looks like they pulled out the stops in this election:

Managers at more than 50,000 companies in Ohio urged employees to vote, while trying to coax them in e-mails to look at customized internal Web sites rating politicians' votes on business issues, a project leader said. One rating gave Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry a zero last year on votes affecting manufacturers.

Greg Casey, a former U.S. Senate sergeant-at-arms who headed what he calls business' "below-the-radar" national effort, said it resulted in 30 million electronic contacts with workers, about 700,000 the day before the election.

Casey believes that the "Prosperity Project" had a big impact in Ohio, citing research suggesting that for every 10 employees who scanned company Web sites, one was motivated to vote. He said Ohio companies made 1.3 million employee contacts, more than nine times Bush's 136,483-vote victory margin in the state.

Prosperity Project officials, however, say they are "respectful" to employees and merely offer them access to information affecting their companies' prospects in a tough global economy.

I think that we are beginning to get the outlines of an election that had a number of under the radar GOP "grassroots" campaigns with little overt national direction. The Republicans seem to have been successful by presenting a candidate who wasn't specific, but rather presented an image of leadership that people felt comfortable with. Various groups then ran a series of campaigns aimed at specific constituencies that applied their particular policy preference to this vague agenda.

But the untold story of the 2004 election, according to national religious leaders and grass-roots activists, is that evangelical Christian groups were often more aggressive and sometimes better organized on the ground than the Bush campaign. The White House struggled to stay abreast of the Christian right and consulted with the movement's leaders in weekly conference calls. But in many respects, Christian activists led the charge that GOP operatives followed and capitalized upon.

This was particularly true of the same-sex marriage issue. One of the most successful tactics of social conservatives -- the ballot referendums against same-sex marriage in 13 states -- bubbled up from below and initially met resistance from White House aides, Christian leaders said.

In dozens of interviews since the election, grass-roots activists in Ohio, Michigan and Florida credited President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, with setting a clear goal that became a mantra among conservatives: To win, Bush had to draw 4 million more evangelicals to the polls than he did in 2000. But they also described a mobilization of evangelical Protestants and conservative Roman Catholics that took off under its own power.

This is interesting because it's exactly what the Democrats have been criticized for all these years --- being a coalition of single issue consituencies developing their own agendas, not working well with others and creating havoc on the ability to govern when the party is in power. When each group thinks they are the single reason the party won an election, they tend to think they have priority and it's a big headache. The Republicans have been pretty good at keeping their coalition together with appeals to patriotism and fear of the other. We'll see how long that works for them. Trying to keep the New Deal coalition together was very difficult --- and that was with a very impressive record of achievement that materially changed peoples lives and brought the country through a depression and WWII to a period of unprecedented prosperity.

Meanwhile, for the first time in memory, the Democrats put away their differences and worked together. And much to my surprise and delight, I'm not seeing the circular firing squad nearly as vicious as it usually is after a loss. Perhaps we can hang tough long enough for the Republicans to get a taste of governing with single issue constituencies for a while. Good luck with that.

Tribal Confusion

May I just point out that if you are not reading James Wolcott every day you are missing out on life. Today, he takes Lil' Andy to task for his strange appearance on Bill Maher in which he seemed terribly confused about who he is now that he's voted for a losing Democrat in a time of right wing ascendancy. It's not easy being a conservative gay catholic in this big old Red State monolith.

Wolcott says:

Like an infant banging his spoon on the high-chair tray, Sullivan threw quite a tantrum last night after Maher had the GALL to interview Noam Chomsky. Sullivan sputtered that Chomsky made "millions" going around the world telling audiences America was "evil." Now I don't pretend to have read or heard all of the millions of words Chomsky has written and spoken, but "evil" doesn't seem to be a prominent word in his vocabulary, being so theological; he tends to talk in terms of brutal realpolitick and self-interest. And it's highly unlikely he's raking in "millions"--if he is, he isn't splurging on wardrobe and pimpmobiles.

Since every war criminal in the current Bush administration will be able to command huge honoraria on the lecture circuit and lucrative positions on corporate boards once they leave the bloodshed behind, working up ire over a professor's speaking fees seems a bit much.

Unable to impart the red depths of Chomsky's villainy to host and panel, Sullivan attacked Chomsky for being symptomatic of an America-hating elitist left. "That's why you lost this week!" Sullivan said.*

"You said you voted for Kerry!" Maher shot back. "You lost too!"

As Wolcott says, Maher was particularly good this show. (Last week's freakish appearance by what seemed to be a brain damaged Kevin Costner still hasn't quite worked its way through my system yet.) Andrew Sullivan's outburst about Chomsky was uncomfortably out of sync with what Chomsky had said. I'm no particular fan (or student) of Chomsky, but his actual influence on lives here and around the world is somewhat less real and palpable than that of the people who just voted to enshrine Sullivan's second class citizen status into their state constitutions. I can't help but feel that this enraged reaction may have been just a bit of desperate psychological misdirection --- not a pretty thing to watch on a Friday night with a couple of glasses of wine in you. Ugh.

Wolcott also noted the strange fact that Sullivan turned his back to the audience and gave himself a thorough butt massage right on camera at the end of the show. I noticed it, but I chalked it up to the wine and the long sleepless week I'd just had. Now I'm really freaked out.

Update: It was no drunken hallucination. Here's the video courtesy of One Good Move

The Casio

Atrios mentioned last week that interesting things are going to happen here in the blogosphere and I have heard some of the same rumblings. I don't know how it will shake out, but it's clear that the nascent media infrastructure that we see is not going to fold tent but rather be expanded and grow, both from individual effort and institutional support.

This election was a heartbreaker, and the country is in for a very bumpy four years I'm afraid. But I don't get the sense that Democrats are seriously thinking of dropping out or folding up tent. Indeed, I see the opposite.

One of the great lessons of history is that magnanimity in victory is a much wiser path to peace than rubbing the losers nose in their defeat. From what I'm seeing and hearing, some people haven't learned that lesson very well. I suspect they will come to regret it.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A Very Old Story

I think support for Bush is about not wanting to be led by East-coast pretensions. It is about not wanting to be led by people who are forever trying to force their twisted sense of morality onto us, which is a non-morality. That is constantly done, and there is real resentment. Support for Bush is about resentment in the so-called 'red states' — a confusing term to Guardian readers, I agree — which here means, literally, middle America. Tom Wolfe

This is certainly true. But, that resentment wasn't created by Michael Moore or Hillary Clinton or Tom DeLay and Pat Robertson.

I was being facetious in the post below, but I do think that it's important to recognise something about the phony debate that's taking place right now about the liberal bi-coastal elites and how they allegedly force their lack of morality on the heartland.

Before I get into it, this map, which I'm sure you have all seen by now, is a good place to start this discussion.

Why do I bring this up? Because it's important to remember that one of the main reasons for the civil war was that the southerners believed that the north was trying to impose their "values" upon them and they deeply resented it.

From the earliest days of the republic this was a problem. A different culture grew up around slavery in the south as did the tension surrounding the issue. The mere act of rejecting it was cause for insult and the south withdrew into a cultural identity based largely upon its difference from the north. Indeed, this was one of the defining rationales for slavery --- the exceptionalism of the southern culture.

The north did condescend. Many believed that slavery was a barbaric and primitive institution and that those who condoned it were, therefore, primitive and barbaric. They did not keep their opinions to themselves. From the very beginning this tension created a huge amount of resentment among southerners.

The resentment didn't come from political powerlessness or disenfranchisement. During the first 70 years of the country, the south dominated the national government. It didn't help.

From a speech given at the centennial of the civil war by historian Stephen Z. Starr

...it is tragic to think that for two generations, the mental energies of the South were devoted to elaborating justifications of slavery - perhaps to appease its own feelings of guilt - to the exclusion of every other form of cultural activity.


The second basic issue between the sections lay in the area of politics; necessarily so, for it was in the political arena that the problems between the sections were fought out until the South decided that political solutions, reached by a process of give and take, were no longer adequate to protect its "honor and self-respect.”

Bear in mind that middle and upper class Southerners were politicians by birthright. Active participation in politics was, in the South, a way of life. One would expect, therefore, to find a much greater degree of political skill and acumen there than in the North. What one finds there instead is demagogy, bombast, irresponsibility, incompetence, a childish refusal to come to grips with realities, and a habitual substitution of slogans, symbols and bogeymen for facts. These are strong statements, but hardly strong enough to fit the situation.

The South had an almost unbroken control of the Federal Government from 1789 until secession. The presidents were either Southerners., or Northerners like Pierce and Buchanan, who were mere puppets in the hands of Southern senators and cabinet members. For seventy years, the Supreme Court had a majority of Southern justices. With the aid of its Northern allies and the three-fifths rule, the South controlled one or both houses of Congress. The fifteen Slave States, with a white population of not quite eight million, had 30 senators, 90 representatives, and 120 electoral votes, whereas the State of New York, with a population of four million had two senators, 33 representatives, and 35 electoral votes. Even the election of 1860 left the South in control of both houses of Congress, and until at least 1863, Lincoln and the Republicans would have been powerless to pass legislation hostile to the South, and through its control of the Senate, the South could have blocked the confirmation of every Lincoln appointee whom it considered unfriendly. In spite of this, and notwithstanding Lincoln's repeated assurances that he would not, directly or indirectly, interfere with slavery where it already existed, the South chose to secede.

Starr goes on to show that this irrational behavior was not due to the south not getting most of the the legislation it wanted, because it did. But it became an emotional issue in which it was important to "crack the whip over the heads of the northern men" and they began to make enemies of their allies in the territories. As Starr says, "this tale of political ineptitude, the habitual misreading of the minds of opponents, the misjudging of the practical possibilities of a given situation, the purposeless striving for effect, the substitution of arrogance and threats for rational discussion, could be expanded many fold."

Oh my.

Starr's view is that the south behaved irrationally prior to the civil war because of it's defensiveness about its culture of slavery. He grants that there other differences, some exaggerated and some quite real, but notes that most people of both regions were farmers and had more in common than not. The record suggests one very important difference, however, and that was that the south had a much inferior educational system,

...in 1850, 20.3% of white Southerners over the age of twenty were illiterate, as against less than one-half of one percent of New Englanders.

But it is important to point out that lack of educational opportunities was a significant factor in preventing the rise of a class of intelligent, educated farmers and artisans in the South. Only two Southern states, North Carolina and Kentucky, had respectable public school systems before 1860, and this had much to do with the failure of Southern whites to understand that their "peculiar institution" was out of tune with the moral, social, and even economic sentiment of the times, and with their readiness to follow the Pied Pipers who thought that a nation and a state could be founded on the enslavement of four million human beings. These are among the dangers of a closed society and of an iron curtain.

Granting the existence of cultural differences between the North and South, can we assume that they would necessarily lead to a Civil War? Obviously not. Such differences lead to animosity and war only if one side develops a national inferiority complex, begins to blame all its shortcomings on the other side, enforces a rigid conformity on its own people, and tries to make up for its own sins of omission and commission by name-calling, by nursing an exaggerated pride and sensitiveness, and by cultivating a reckless aggressiveness as a substitute for reason. And this was the refuge of the South. For ten years before secession, Northerners were commonly referred to as “mongrels and hirelings." The North was described as "a conglomeration of greasy mechanics filthy operatives, small-fisted farmers, and moonstruck theorists ... hardly fit for association with a southern gentleman's body servant." And, most fatal delusion of all, Southerners began to credit themselves with fighting ability equal to that of nine, five, or more conservatively, three Northerners. Once a nation or a section begins to speak and think in such terms, reason has gone out the window and emotion has taken over. This is precisely what happened in the South, and this is why the Cotton States seceded before Lincoln was even inaugurated and before his administration had committed, or had a chance to commit, any act of egression against them. Such behavior is fundamentally irrational, and cannot be explained in rational terms.

Interesting, yes?

The civil war, of course, made everything worse. Reconstruction was a nightmare and the north never had even the slightest idea what to do about the race problem once they dealt with the slavery problem. (Indeed, when it comes to racism, the north shared most of the same beliefs. They just didn't live among many blacks so they didn't have to deal with those problems until much later.) But, the ignominy of reconstruction gave birth to the Lost Cause mythology and that only reinforced the already outsized sense of wounded pride.

The south today has forty percent that votes with the blue states in national elections. They are white progressive modern people who share the southern cultural identity but have avoided the 200 year old baggage that makes it impossible to identify with people not of their own tribe and african-americans who were excluded except as scapegoats and second class citizens. (I'm sure nonetheless that some of what I've written sticks in the craw of many of you and you may feel that old resentment. It appears to me as if this is an ingrained reaction to discussions of this sort. It certainly has been around forever.)

I'm not going to take a stand against "heartland values" or "southern culture" whatever it's defined as this week. It seems to me that it would be worthless, because this battle is obviously tribal, not specific to any particular issue. Slavery and Jim Crow are long gone. Now it's religion and gays. The lines are drawn as they've always been and there will be no reconciliation through politics. Even a bloody civil war couldn't do that.

History suggests that the southern culture has always been as defined by it's resentment toward the rest of the country as much as anything else. The so-called bi-coastal liberal elites certainly don't think of themselves as having a lot in common with each other, other than being Americans. People from Los Angeles and Vermont call themselves Californians and New Englanders, respectively. I don't think they believe they share a "culture." People in Seattle call themselves pacific northwesterners. People in New York call themselves New Yorkers --- Chicagoans midwesterners. They identify themselves by their specific region and a broader identity as Americans, not by this alleged Bi-coastal cultural alliance. This notion of two easily identifiable cultures is only held by the people who used to call themselves the confederacy and now call themselves "the heartland." That alone should be reason to stop and question what is really going on here.

One thing this little historical trip should show everyone is that it is nonsense to think that this cultural resentment and cultural contempt was created by Hollywood movie stars and limosine liberals from New York City. Indeed, this has been a problem since the dawn of the republic. And it isn't a problem that will be solved by the Red States gaining and maintaining power. They have held power many times throughout our history and they were still filled with resentment toward "the north" (now "the liberal elites.") And, it won't be solved by adopting different stances on "moral issues," or telling the current Democratic southern constituencies to suck it up. Maybe it's time we looked a little bit deeper and realized that this tribal problem isn't going to be solved by politics at all.

The "liberal elites" will no doubt be making more compromises in the direction of heartland values for pragmatic reasons. But, judging by history, it won't change a thing. Neither will Republican political dominance. So, maybe it's time for the heartland to take a good hard look at itself and ask when they are going to adopt the culture of responsibility they profess with such fervor. It sure looks to me as if they've been nursing a case of historical pique for more than 200 years and that resentment no longer has any more meaning than a somewhat self-destructive insistence on maintaining a cultural identity that's really defined by it's anger toward the rest of the country. They are talking themselves into a theocratic police state in order to "crack the whip over the heads of the northern men" and it's not likely to work out for them any better this time than it did the first time. The real elites in the church, the government and the corporations will take them down right along with us when that comes to pass.

Note: Of you don't believe me, check out this excerpt from Michael Graham's strange Redneck Nation. According to him, everything's changed. The south is more cultured, the north is more coarse, the south is smarter, the north is stupider. The stereotypes have been turned on their head. At the end of the day, however, the grievance is always there no matter the circumstances. The south still gets no respect.

Who's Your Daddy?

Nicolas Kristof's column is exactly right.

As moderates from the heartland, like Tom Daschle, are picked off by the Republicans, the party's image risks being defined even more by bicoastal, tree-hugging, gun-banning, French-speaking, Bordeaux-sipping, Times-toting liberals, whose solution is to veer left and galvanize the base. But firing up the base means turning off swing voters. Gov. Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, told me that each time Michael Moore spoke up for John Kerry, Mr. Kerry's support in Nebraska took a dive.

Mobilizing the base would mean nominating Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008 and losing yet again.

The last thing we want is the support of the base. They, after all, are the problem. We need Americans, my friends. Rock ribbed, Real Americans, not a bunch of latte swilling bicoastals (even the ones in San Antonio and Minneapolis.) Thankfully, I hear they are all moving to Canada or France where they belong.

He says that we need to support faith based programs, tell blacks in the south that the confederate flag is their problem, forget guns (I thought we had) and help George W. Bush advance his agenda as much as possible.

He's right, but it's not enough. After all, we've already capitulated entirely on the death penalty, welfare and gun control issues and we put thousands of cops on the street, balanced the budget and told both blacks and gays in the military to zip their lips since '92, but those were obviously not adequate to prove that we are Real Americans. (How could we have thought that killing one retarded black man or a whole passle of Vietnamese would compete with George W. Bush's 158 confirmed kills?) There is much more "compromising" to do before anyone will believe that we mean it.

Some Democrats are way behind the curve by inching to the conclusion that ditching Roe vs. Wade is the way to go. That's a big duh. Of course we will. And everyone agrees that it's ixnay on the gay arriagemay. We won't be making that mistake again.

Public money for religious education is obviously on the agenda and we can easily embrace it with everything we've got. I don't think that endorsing faith based programs is enough. All secular social programs should immediately be outsourced to Charles Colson and Jerry Falwell with Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton's blessing. But, even with all that I just have a sneaking suspicion that it might not be enough to persuade Real Americans to let us back into the country in 2008. It's going to take something much bolder than that --- and rightly so because they did, after all, win 51% of the vote.

Therefore, I propose that after we outlaw abortion, turn over huge amounts of public money to evangelical churches and enshrine discrimination against gays into the US Constitution, we fully and publicly endorse creationism. This is an issue that hasn't worked its way up to the forefront of a national election yet and we could actually outflank the Republicans if we get on the bandwagon right now. This could be our issue in 2008.

First though, we have to put a muzzle on people who write things likethis. Michael Kinsley strikes exactly the right apologetic tone, but still fails to realize that the very point of his article is exactly the kind of liberal elitism that is oppressing the heartland:

So yes, OK, fine. I'm a terrible person — barely a person at all, really, and certainly not a real American — because I voted for the losing candidate on Tuesday. If you insist — and you do — I will rethink my fundamental beliefs from scratch because they are shared by only 47% of the electorate.

And please let me, or any other liberal, know if there is anything else we can do to abase ourselves. Abandon our core values? Pander to yours? Not a problem. Happy to do it. Anything, anything at all, to stop this shower of helpful advice.

There's just one little request I have. If it's not too much trouble, of course. Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?

I mean, look at it this way. (If you don't mind, that is.) It's true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose and where gay relationships have civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values — as deplorable as I'm sure they are — don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same sex, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

We on my side of the great divide don't, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?

As many conservative voices have noted, American society suffers from a cult of grievance. To put it crudely, everyone wants some of the things blacks got from the civil rights movement: sympathy, publicity, occasional preferential treatment and a general ability to put everybody else on the defensive. No doubt liberals are responsible for this deplorable situation, and I apologize. Again. As a softheaded liberal, I even like the idea that our competitive culture has a built-in consolation prize.

But be fair! (A liberal whine, I know. Sorry.) Conservatives shouldn't assert the prerogatives of victory and then claim the compensations of defeat as well. You can't oppress us and simultaneously complain that we are oppressing you.

Well, of course you can do this, if you want. Who's to stop you? I just kinda wish you wouldn't. If you don't mind my asking. Thanks. Sorry.

Sorry. There is no reason for Real Americans to listen to this until we have proved to them and to the wholesome heartland media voices of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh that we are worthy of making such a request.

Getting out in front on the creationism issue is the perfect way to make these people see that we understand them. And jettisoning our outmoded fealty to reason and science will have the salutory effect of freeing us from all sorts of other inconvenient moral issues like tolerance, fairness and equality. This is how we will convince Real Americans that we are the kind of principled people they can respect.

Update: I see that the "New"James Wolcott agrees with me.

Wolcott says:

Democrats could campaign to rescind the Martin Luther King holiday, but I fear this would backfire, since everyone likes an excuse to take a day off from work and would resent having to drag themselves that particularly Monday.

No, something ballsier is needed for a turnaround in perception. A taboo or two needs to be smashed.

Therefore I am proposing that the official Democratic slogan for 2008 be "Shoot a Fag for Jesus."

It's a simple, catchy slogan that will look good on a bumperstickers, yet carry a multilateral strike: pro-guns, anti-gay, and unashamedly Christian.

Since abortion is so problematic for Democrats, "Shoot a Babykiller for Jesus" might do the trick in some of the battleground states as a supplemental bumpersticker.

Obviously this is all still in the brainstorming stage, and will need to be focus-grouped, but I believe it nudges us further along the path to success gently lit by Kristof's lamp of wisdom.

I like it. With a pro-creationism candidate, I think we might just pull it off. Maybe. If not, there's always mandatory church attendance and rolling back the right to vote for women and blacks. We've got plenty of cards left to play. We'll get there.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Wait A Minute

This is interesting and if it's true then we are all barking up the wrong tree with this discussion of "values." The Gay Marriage Myth - Terrorism, not values, drove Bush's re-election.

Much has been made of the fact that "moral values" topped the list of voters' concerns, mentioned by more than a fifth (22 percent) of all exit-poll respondents as the "most important issue" of the election. It's true that by four percentage points, people in states where gay marriage was on the ballot were more likely than people elsewhere to mention moral issues as a top priority (25.0 vs. 20.9 percent). But again, the causality is unclear. Did people in these states mention moral issues because gay marriage was on the ballot? Or was it on the ballot in places where people were already more likely to be concerned about morality?

More to the point, the morality gap didn't decide the election. Voters who cited moral issues as most important did give their votes overwhelmingly to Bush (80 percent to 18 percent), and states where voters saw moral issues as important were more likely to be red ones. But these differences were no greater in 2004 than in 2000. If you're trying to explain why the president's vote share in 2004 is bigger than his vote share in 2000, values don't help.

If the morality gap doesn't explain Bush's re-election, what does? A good part of the answer lies in the terrorism gap. Nationally, 49 percent of voters said they trusted Bush but not Kerry to handle terrorism; only 31 percent trusted Kerry but not Bush. This 18-point gap is particularly significant in that terrorism is strongly tied to vote choice: 99 percent of those who trusted only Kerry on the issue voted for him, and 97 percent of those who trusted only Bush voted for him. Terrorism was cited by 19 percent of voters as the most important issue, and these citizens gave their votes to the president by an even larger margin than morality voters: 86 percent for Bush, 14 percent for Kerry.

These differences hold up at the state level even when each state's past Bush vote is taken into account. When you control for that variable, a 10-point increase in the percentage of voters citing terrorism as the most important problem translates into a 3-point Bush gain. A 10-point increase in morality voters, on the other hand, has no effect. Nor does putting an anti-gay-marriage measure on the ballot. So, if you want to understand why Bush was re-elected, stop obsessing about the morality gap and start looking at the terrorism gap.

I had always had my suspicions that the real problem for us was the terrorism issue. Kerry's anti-war past and the mere fact that he was a Democrat fit into an image of weakness that is almost impossible to break. That's why he rightly emphasized his war hero status and why Rove called in the swift boat liars to tear it down. What they wanted to do was get that image of Kerry the hero out of people's minds and the image of Kerry the effete liberal planted firmly in its place.

Kerry did a better job of overcoming that obstacle, and the more intractable obstacle of being a Democrat during a national security crisis, than anyone had a right to expect. He almost pulled it off. If he had he would have been able to banish the image of the Democratic weakling as effectively as Clinton banished the fiscal irresponsibility label. Too bad.

On the other hand, as Tom Schaller points out in this post on Daily Kos, there is a silver lining:

[Ralph]Reed, you see, wanted to not merely deliver the social conservatives' "values" votes this year, but to ensure that their pivotal role be made noted and respected -- broadcast and trumpeted, loudly and quite publicly. They didn't want to just win; they want credit and plaudits for scoring the decisive touchdown.

Awesome. The fact that this election - the first post-9/11 election, with a war in Iraq abroad and a changing economic situation at home - will be remembered by the we-need-it-simplified media as the "values" election, is Reed's great gift to us.

Why? Because I suspect that right now that the Wall Street wing, and the small business wing, and the defense industry wing, and the tax reform wings of the party are shuddering at the thought that Americans are being told that Bush got to 51 percent based on "values" voting. Would not the better "take-away" storyline from this election be that Bush won because the nation believes in Republicans' fiscal and defense policies, their steadfastness and leadership abilities? I'm meeting a lot Republicans (both conservatives and moderates) who do not want this election to be framed as the Ralph Reed Rout.


And thus, the biggest silver lining of this election is how the GOP's victory is thus far being claimed, framed and explained. To that I say, "Let us join that chorus." And we should do so now, because there is immediacy in the post-election window of opportunity.

I think this may be right. We should spread it far and wide that this election was won by fringe fundamentalist first time voters who now feel empowered to force their views on everyone else, including mainstream Christians. It looks like Bush owes this small bloc of religious extremists big time. Gay marriage is just the beginning. Abortion, birth control, women's rights the whole enchilada is now up for grabs.

That has to freak out the money and military types who are the real backbone of the party. After all, Bush didn't run on "values," he ran on being Commander Codpiece. This thing could be a boogeyman around their neck.

Divide and conquer. It's tried and true.


Kevin Drum thinks that if Democrats dial back the liberal hectoring, we will get more votes from Middle Americans who aren't extremists but who feel that we are too extreme:

They're the ones who are uncomfortable with homosexuality, but understand that a steadily increasing acceptance of gay rights is probably inevitable. They don't want to ban abortion, but feel like it's common sense to require parental notification. And they're ready to agree that we need to do something about global warming, but that doesn't mean they take kindly to thinly veiled accusations that they're personally responsible for it just because they drive an SUV or eat a Big Mac.

I can't help but point out that the president just ran an entire campaign portraying Massachusetts as being some kind of foreign country so perhaps this cultural discomfort might be laid at the feet of the Republicans as much as the Democrats. I'm not exactly feeling the love from people who insist that Democrats aren't Americans or that we are all traitors or that we are now "neutered" by this election and should be a lot more docile, like farm animals. That stuff isn't coming from religious extremists, it's coming from the mainstream leadership of the Republican party.

I'm not sure who these hectoring liberals are who get under the heartland's skin with accusations about Big Macs, but I don't think it was John Kerry. John Kerry didn't run on disallowing parental notification laws or gay marriage. In fact, he specifically endorsed the former and ruled out the latter. He jettisoned gun control from the debate altogether. He went to church, talked about faith, and from all acounts he really is a sincere Catholic. The party had long since abandoned prison rehabilitation, the death penalty and welfare. Partial birth abortion has been outlawed. I'm not sure where we can go with this global warming issue if people aren't willing to hear that driving an SUV is contributing to the problem unless we can talk about international agreements, which seems to be out also. Maybe the Dems should just let that one go too.

Be that as it may, the Republicans just won 51% and they say it's because they don't like our values, so we have no choice but to recognise that and talk about it. It's not the first time. This is what the DLC acknowledged back in the 1980's and changing position on the death penalty and welfare is what helped get Clinton elected (with a big assist from Ross Perot and a painful recession.)

Unfortunately, Clinton never got 50% in either election. And once in office he was tortured endlessly by the GOP, and lost the congress long before Monica bared her thong. He was an effective president anyway and I don't quarrel with his legacy. His political skills, however, didn't have as much to do with his ability to attract a majority, which he never did, but rather his ability to survive a constant political assault once in office.

This values debate has shown itself to be extremely useful to the GOP for decades and they are very adept at moving the goalposts when it's necessary. (Remember, they were the ones who kept saying "you can't legislate morality" during the civil rights era.) No matter how much we move to the right or adapt our positions on things like parental notification and gay marriage and the rest, there will always be another wedge issue there to exploit and convince the heartland that we liberals are trying to shove our immorality into their lives against their will. And that's because it isn't about values at all. It's about politics. The Republicans have identified themselves as the party of the heartland tribe very effectively by pitting themselves against the enemy tribe ---the Democratic liberal elite, as they define it. And they have a very effective machine that spreads that word.

Last time Gore allegedly lost because he was in the pocket of the liberal elites in the cities who want to ban guns. This time Kerry spent half the campaign toting a shotgun and allegedly lost because the liberal elite wants to legalize gay marriage. In years gone by it was gays in the millitary or welfare queens or draft dodgers or bra burners or whatever. It's always something. Always.

The reason the heartland rejected John Kerry has absolutely nothing to do with what he actually believed or said. He could have adopted George W. Bush's platform in its entirety and he would have been portrayed and believed to be some kind of an alien being descending upon the heartland like an invader from an enemy land. This has been one of the great successes of a 30 year political realignment that is settling into what can only be seen as a cold civil war. We won't resolve it by continually trying to adjust piecemeal on values issues. We aren't winning by doing that any more than we were winning by running on social issues or the nuclear freeze in the 1980's.

That has been tried. We need a new, more modern approach altogether.

I might suggest that one of the things we begin to do is expose the hypocrisies of the Republican party. These decent, reasonable heartlanders might not be able to see liberals as being decent and reasonable but perhaps they could have their eyes opened by the cosmopolitan decadence of their own political leaders. Sometimes people have to be shaken out of their secure assumptions about their own tribe before they can see the merits of another.

Instead of running lukewarm values campaigns within their frame of social conservatism, perhaps we could run competing values campaigns on all-American libertarian beliefs like "mind your own business" and aim it at government, corporations and religious fanatics alike. Maybe we could shake free some of those western states from their coalition. Talk up the environment as stewardship of the land for hunting and fishing as well as conservation for the future.

But, frankly I believe that the problem will be solved through something much different. The world has changed even if the political bludgeon of values hasn't. I really think politics has morphed into a post modern epistomological relativism that can only be dealt with through sensation and spectacle, not reason --- the subject of many future posts, I imagine.

Update: Here's an interesting article from the Texas Observer about Lakoff and Luntz that touches on what I wrote in the last paragraph:

As long as liberals and progressives insist that having the facts on their side is all that matters, they are doomed to impotence. The next move for the left in the frame war is to accept that it’s okay to cherry-pick reality as long as it conforms to a frame that’s morally acceptable. According to Lakoff, we already do it every day.

Guest Post

Blog commenter Thumb has decided to make the switch to the Republican Party and he'd like to share with you his reasons. I find them very convincing and I will be joining him. My life's about to become a whole lot easier:

If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em.

So the people voting for Bush told exit pollers that moral values are their #1 issue.

Because the Republicans are obviously superior in both numbers and cause, and their values oriented agenda should no doubt be a boon to human kind, there's obviously only one thing left to do at this point. Convert. Therefor, in an act of supreme solidarity to our new national conservative alliance and their emphasis on values, I would just like to say, they’re right. I’m ready to sign up.

But first I need to declare that I too no longer care about losing millions of American jobs. I too no longer care about health care. Or social security. I also no longer care about education. I no longer care what happens to the poor, the elderly or the millions of American children growing up in poverty, despair and hopelessness. I no longer care that the US ranks a lowly 41st in infant mortality. I no longer care that the gap between rich and poor is approaching third world levels. I no longer care that Fortune 500 corporations can avoid paying taxes by opening an offshore mailbox and I no longer care that the working class will be forced pick up the difference. I no longer care that we've taken a record fiscal surplus and in three years turned it into the largest debt in the history of our country or that it will be our children, and their children, that will have to pay it back. I also no longer care how many Americans die at the hands of terrorists (as long as they're dying over there and not here at home) or how many thousands of foreign civilians die in the course of our projecting American global hegemony. I no longer care what the rest of the world thinks of America, as long as they know to fear us. I no longer care about the science of potential medical breakthroughs nor do I care about slowing the spread of AIDS nor whether we have sufficient supplies of safe vaccines. I no longer care that the number of abortions is on the rise (though I’ll pound my chest and pretend that I do) because I no longer care about birth control, sex education or family planning. I no longer care about our environment and whether we're allowing industries to poison our water, our air and ultimately our food supply, and I no longer care about the consequences of releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and its likelihood of accelerating global warming. I no longer care that our Bill of Rights, once enshrined to protect our personal freedoms and liberty, is being stripped down or that our 200 year old Constitutional protections are being traded for a false sense of security.

So what do I share with our new majority as my #1 concern? Values. I care about moral values.

Now that I’ve completed the switch to the other side moral values is all that matters to me. Moral values. Yes sir, I care enough that sufficient numbers of people share these moral values to make sure that we elect politicians that will put these moral values into law (even if it takes rigging the new electronic voting machines) and that those politicians in turn appoint judges guaranteed to ensure that everyone else is forced to live by these same moral values. Now some of you remaining Unbelievers may ask, "But if everything you no longer care about isn’t a moral value, what are your moral values?" Easy. The single most important moral value, overriding all other concerns, is that two people of the same sex are blocked from achieving secular legal recognitions that could in any way be similar to that enjoyed by heterosexual couples. Health and survivor benefits? Forget it. Employment protection? Come on. Inheritance rights? No way. Hospital visitation? Get real. Adoption? GOD FORBID!

You few, final remaining Democrats, moderates, greens and libertarians really need to get onboard the bandwagon. This new stripped down moral value is so easy I don’t know why I didn’t think of this myself earlier. Effortless morality. That’s the ticket. It’s like a gift from God. Now let’s jam it down everyone’s throat.

And God bless the New American Morality.


Matt Yglesias hits the nail on the head:

"I've got some serious disagreements with Thomas Frank's take on this whole phenomenon, but he's very right to argue in his book and elsewhere that the politics of cultural populism depends crucially on the Republicans never delivering the goods on any of the really big issues. Meanwhile, social conservatives have gotten treated this way for years -- decades, really -- and while they always complain about it, they always show up when it's time to vote. I would suggest that insofar as liberals sometimes condescend to these people (which we do) the issue is less a condescending attitude toward religion, than a condescending attitude toward a voting bloc that doesn't seem capable of figuring out that it's being scammed no matter how many times it happens"

I'm fine with people's religion as long as they don't force me to practice it. Live and let live, I say. I like freedom and that includes freedom of religion. My problem with these people is that they are fools to continually be taken in by a group of rich plutocrats who've been running things for quite some time now and who have never substantially delivered anything they've promised to the social conservatives. They put on a good show, with lots of razzle dazzle, but they are not sincere. The social conservatives are like greyhounds chasing the mechanical rabbit. And the big money boyz are laughing all the way to the bank. Take pornography, for instance:

What companies are involved? Spencer's investigators and reports from market research firms indicate that pornography is a $10 billion industry in the US alone, according to Forrester Research of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The largest company is not even known for pornography, but for selling cars. General Motors Corp.'s DirecTV subsidiary sells nearly $200 million a year of pay-per-view sex films, according to industry estimates not disputed by GM.

Other companies involved, including EchoStar Communications, the No.2 satellite provider, AT&T Corp., by offering the HotNetwork service through its cable service, Liberty Media, Marriott International, the Hilton, On Command, LodgeNet Entertainment and News Corp., all have major stakes in pornography, but these stakes are not mentioned in annual reports, except in the vaguest ways. An AT&T executive explains, "How can we? It's the crazy aunt in the attic. Everyone knows she's there, but you can't say anything about it."

Do the social conservatives know that George W. Bush himself served on the board of a Hollywood production company, run by his best friend Roland Betts? They weren't making Bambi, they were making movies like The Hitcher, which featured a woman being ripped in two. He made quite a nice little profit from that work (1983 to 1994.) Yet he forgot to mention his connection to the decadent world of Hollywood when he said:

"There needs to be a kind of sense of urgency in our society about the pervasiveness of violence"

It's hard to respect people who are willing dupes year after year and deliver power to a party that is merely using them for electoral gains and has absolutely no intention of delivering on its promises. There's just too much money involved in selling the culture that these people find so objectionable. And the ones who are selling it own the Republican party lock stock and falafel.

Like I said. Schmucks.

The New Untermenschen

I'm really enjoying this dialog over at Slate called "Why America Hates Democrats."

The question answers itself, though, doesn't it? Democrats obviously aren't Americans. We are enemies of the state.

You won, Rush, Ann, Sean, Grover, Karl. Congratulations. Democrats are now officially expelled from the body politic. And with a bare 51% majority, too. Wow. That's a hell of an achievement. Even the liberal Slate agrees with you now. (I'll be looking forward to the articles that endorse teaching creationism in the schools because it's a "value" that Americans hold dear .)

The good news is that Rush always said he wanted to keep one of us alive and put us in a museum someplace so that Americans would never forget what we looked like. Maybe we could have an election among ourselves and nominate the best representation of the hated Democrat. I'm pretty sure that they aren't going to accept 99.9 % of us. In fact, the only one they are likely to accept would be someone who looks like Michael Jackson. Otherwise the person might just be mistaken for a relative or a neighbor and then everyone would get confused.

The question as to why we are hated by Americans is an interesting one that cannot be answered by a bunch of liberals trying to distance themselves from this hated subgroup. if you want the real answer, you'll ask an real American why he hates democrats. Luckily, right in the LA Times it's not hard to find the answer:

Christians, in politics as in evangelism, are not against people or the world. But we are against false ideas that hold good people captive. On Tuesday, this nation rejected liberalism, primarily because liberalism has been taken captive by the left. Since 1968, the left has taken millions captive, and we must help those Democrats who truly want to be free to actually break free of this evil ideology.

In the weeks and months to come, we will hear the voices of well-meaning people beseeching the victor to compromise with the vanquished. This would be a mistake. Conservatives must not compromise with the left. Good people holding false ideas are won over only if we defeat what is false with the truth.

The left must be defeated in the realm of ideas, just as it was on Tuesday at the ballot box. The left hates the ballot box and loves its courtrooms, which is why it hopes to continue to advance its agenda through the courts. This must end.

The left bewitches with its potions and elixirs, served daily in its strongholds of academe, Hollywood and old media. It vomits upon the morals, values and traditions we hold sacred: God, family and country. As we learned Tuesday, it is clear the left holds the majority of Americans, the majority of us, in contempt.

Simply, a majority of Americans have rejected John Kerry and John Edwards and the left because they are wrong. They are wrong because there are not two Americas. We are one nation under a God they reject. We remain indivisible despite their attempts to divide Americans through their relentless warfare against class, ethnic and religious unity.

We still believe that liberty and justice is for all. In 1946, there were those on the left who believed the Germans and the Japanese were incapable of democracy and liberty. Today, many doubt democracy can be birthed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Like their forebears, they too will be proved wrong.

The nation has now resoundingly rejected the left and its agenda. We do not want to become European. We do not want to become socialist. We do not want to become secular. We are exceptional. We are unique. And we are the greatest force for good in the world, despite what the left, the terrorists or the United Nations may claim. It is for these reasons that we remain the last great hope in the world for freedom.

We continue to be that shining city set on a hill. And we fully accept the responsibility; we are proud to be the envy of the world.

Die Liberale sind unserer Unglück

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Electoral Arithmetic For Dummies

Kevin Drum is sick of this exceedingly STUPID mantra about how the Democrats face terrible arithmetic in the electoral college because of our inability to carry the south. He says:

No kidding. But try this on for size instead:

"Republicans face this terrible arithmetic in the Electoral College where if they don't carry any of the 13 Northeastern states they need to win two-thirds of everything else," says Kevin Drum, an expert on simplistic arithmetic at the Washington Monthly.

Note to the media: it was a close election, just like it was four years ago. There were only a dozen swing states, and Republicans had no more chance of winning in California, New York, and Illinois than Democrats did in Georgia, Alabama, and Wyoming. A trivial swing of a hundred thousand votes in half a dozen states and you'd be writing pretentious thumbsuckers about how cultural issues were losing their ability to attract votes for Republicans. So knock it off, OK?

I agree. I think that this arithmetic epitaph is perhaps the most annoying post election spin of all. You can argue about whether "moral values" as a top reason for voting this election means that the country is awash in religious fervor, but you simply cannot spin these numbers as a huge sea change. This was a squeaker only marginally more comfortable for Bush than 2000, not a blow out. Somebody has to win and the GOP machine has pulled it out the last two elections, but it could very easily have gone the other way. Red is redder and blue is bluer, that's all.

Media Meltdown

I'm starting to get a little bit punchy from lack of sleep these last few days so I don't have the energy tonight to write anything about this very interesting PressThink post by Jay Rosen about where the press is headed after this election.

I urge you all to read it. This may be where the real action is these next couple of years. It's likely to be as fundamental to our future as the carnage that Bush is going to wreak.

Ashcroft Likely to Leave AG Post

I heard some woman on ABC saying that this is not what it seems. According to her, the president never wanted Ashcroft but he was forced on him by the religious right. This rumor is being pushed by those in the bush administration who want him out right away before some shit hits the fan (Plame? Kenny Boy?)

Whatever. It occurred to me that if we had a good message machine we would immediately seize upon this to sow divisions between Bush and his newly empowered evangelical base. They love Johnny. Isn't it a slap in the face that their beloved Bush is pushing him out of office the day after the election?

Divide and conquer, baby. It's just one of many hardball tactics we must begin to use to break the stranglehold in advance of the 2006 elections. It could be our '94.

Who Are We?

I noticed that there seems to be a lot of discussion around the left blogosphere about the Democratic party not knowing what it stands for. This has been picked up by Howard Fineman who is busy telling everyone who'll listen that we stand for nothing. I'm a little bit stunned by this and so is The Poor Man.

Obviously, I have no objection to people coming up with new ideas, but I hardly think this is really a problem of the Democratic Party. It is absolutely clear what the Democrats stood for in this election - a generally conservative set of principles based on sixty-plus years of Democratic and bipartisan American thought and action. Respect for the importance of time-tested international alliances, and for the system for resolving global issues through the UN and other international bodies which has evolved over the last century. A measured approach to dealing with foreign relations, a recognition that there are always many crises to be juggled at once, and a disinclination to overextend or rely on 'magic bullet' or utopian solutions. Striking a balance between business and labor which benefits both, and judicious use of the state to resolve problems for which the private sector is poorly suited. Fiscal responsibility. A tolerence of difference, a respect for ability and expertise, and a dedication to the ideals of the woman's rights, civil rights, and labor movements. An America like the America we grew up in and believed in, only maybe a bit better, which stands for and gains its strengths from these common values which are our heritage.

There you go. In a piece from the primaries some months back, I wrote that any Democrat would run basically on the following platform:

To protect and defend the citizens of the United States.

To preserve the separation of church and state

To safeguard the right to choose.

To provide a decent safety net

To preserve progressive taxation

To protect the environment

To advance civil liberties and civil rights

To govern transparently

To provide opportunity

To promote equality

To advance progress

To preserve the American way of life

I don't think there is all that much question about what we stand for. However, as The Poor Man points out, that has almost nothing to do with how we are perceived by millions of Americans who tune in the Mighty Wurlitzer for their "news." There has been a decades long attack on liberalism that has demonized us into a party of stoned slackers and caffeinated porno consumers. (More projection. They don't call Delay "Hot Tub Tom" for nothing.) This character assasination made it possible for a president to be elected with a totally incoherent set of "values" that could only have been designed by someone cobbling together a governing coalition of deaf, dumb and blind people who cannot read.

They didn't win the campaign because they have a coherent ideology and we didn't. Rupert Murdock and Jerry Falwell are not pursuing the same goals. "Democracy" and Ilyiad Allawi do not belong in the same sentence. Radical tax cutting and running wars to the tune of a billion a day is not fiscal responsibility. Bigotry is not compassionate and destroying the safety net we've depended on for more than half a century is not conservative.

These people aren't united by a common ideology or set of values. They are united by a common hatred of Democrats, fueled by a massive propaganda machine. They won this campaign by putting on a trash talking spectacle starring George W. Bush as Commander Codpiece. (Those who wanted to ban gay marriage got in two for the price of one.) The problem is that show biz conservatism has become the default channel for more Americans. It's about identity, not ideology.

Heartland Values

In the grand tradition of knee jerk analysis, I am hearing all over the television and the blogosphere that we need to reach out to the religious people who voted for George W. Bush in order to win in the future. We must reject our "Hollywood values" and learn to embrace the real, American heartland values that George W. Bush personifies and which won him the election. One Democrat named Dave Strother just said that the Democrats have to purge themselves of the coasts or risk oblivion.

I wish that just once we would recognise when we are being played. The reason Bush won is because he eked out a victory in Ohio, period. That is the only number that matters in this presidential election and it doesn't represent a gigantic sea change in America. Bush won that small victory in Ohio because an unprecedented number of conservative evangelicals came out to vote. And, the "American Heartland value" that energized them was an amendment to the state constitution that not only defined marriage as between a man and a woman but also barred public institutions, such as universities, from providing health insurance and other benefits to domestic partners.

"This was the issue that delivered Ohio for President Bush,'' said Phil Burress, who spearheaded the Issue 1 campaign. ``We mailed out 2.5 million bulletins to 17,000 churches. We called 2.9 million homes and identified 850,000 supporters. We called every one of those supporters on Monday and urged them to vote Yes on 1."

(I guess we now know why they panicked about Mary Cheney, don't we? )

My question is this. Is there any combination of issues upon which we Democrats could accomodate these people that doesn't include backing anti-gay measures like that? In other words, as long as the Democratic party believes in equal rights for gay people is there a snowball's chance in hell that we will be able to tear the religious vote away from the party that doesn't with outreach to "heartland values?"

I doubt it. In fact, I think that we are talking about a wedge issue that is insurmountable. Civil rights are a fundamental matter of principle, not a position on specific programs or tax cut legislation. And I don't see any possibility that we will be able to make inroads with people who believe that homosexuality is a sin as a matter of bedrock religious belief. We can field a candidate who runs a campaign like a tent revival, but this is one of those issues that can't be finessed. As long as we believe in the separation of church and state and back civil rights for gays we are not going to get the conservative Christian vote. We just aren't.

If gay rights is the deciding factor for the forseeable future, then I think we may lose for a while. But, it won't be. It's really not a matter of law as much a matter of society getting used to the idea and it is happening very quickly. Gay marriage wasn't even on the radar screen ten years ago --- until the last couple of years, everybody had been growing used to the idea of civil unions, which even Junior has endorsed. My guess is that they won't be able to find an anti-gay measure to put on the ballot every election and as a result they won't be able to repeat this turn-out in the crucial states where they need it. This was a unique combination of Junior's phony born again image and the gay rights issue converging.

Pinning this election defeat on an alleged lack of "moral values" is short sighted and it plays right into Republican hands. The Republicans consistently use that club to beat us over the head again and again while they fervently watch the Falafel Factor and listen to Rush as he pops little blue babies between attacks on the Democratic party's hedonism. They only believe in strict moral values when it's somebody they don't like. This is political posturing and we are fools to let them use it to marginalize our 50% of the population.

There are competing values in this world and you can't be all things to all people. The election was won with 130,000 or so conservative evangelical votes in one state. That is decisive enough to declare victory in the election, but it is far too slim a margin to make the sweeping decision that the Democratic party needs to shelve its values of tolerance and civil rights to accomodate certain religious beliefs that are incompatible with them. The religious people are welcome to their beliefs, of course, but it's something on which we cannot compromise and have any of our own values left. (Oddly, I think that the truly religious people, as opposed to the poseur majority of republicans, might just understand that.)

I maintain that many people simply want a president whose image fits the role of president. Most of them vote on the basis of how the person makes them feel. They may like a little religion talk because it's code for a certain cultural ID and leadership archetype they feel comfortable with. And they want some personality in their leader, professionally presented as if it's authentic. Many of them are religious, (and they may have voted to ban gay marriage) but they are not driven to the polls on the conservative values agenda. Their motivation is not issues, although they tend to assign their preferred issues and solutions to their preferred candidate regardless of the reality. What they care about is style. Some of these people voted happily for Reagan, Clinton, Perot and Junior and see nothing remotely inconsistent in that. Those people we can reach with message, presentation and the right candidate.

The truly committed religious right,however, said to be 22 percent of this last electorate, is simply not obtainable. To even contemplate jettisoning our deeply held values to pander to them is useless and immoral.

But, get ready. The media are lazy and love the storyline of the wicked, hedonistic liberals being ignominiously defeated by the righteous salt of the earth Republicans. They are going to flog this until we are all convinced that the entire country is made up of conservative Christian Republicans and the rest of us are a bunch of freaks --- even the moderate and liberal Christians. Everyone will agree that the hope of the party is to abandon the coasts (with all their electoral votes, presumably.) But, just because they like a narrative it doesn't make it true. If we have learned anything over the years I would hope that at least we have learned that.

Reaching Out

Grover Norquist:

Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such.

I was listening to Sean Hannity gloat yesterday as we were driving back from Nevada. His guest was Zell Miller. They both agreed that Democrats were completely out of step with nation and that's why Bush was given this huge mandate. Dems refused to see that you cannot raise taxes, that you must fight evil abroad where ever you see it and that people have the right to practice their religion anywhere and everywhere they see fit. Perhaps, most egregiously, Democrats didn't understand that you cannot be vicious and angry and expect the real Americans to sit back and take it.

They were both very hopeful that Democrats would learn civility (or was that servility, I couldn't tell) and reach across the aisle and behave in a bipartisan manner by adopting the Republican agenda.

I screamed, "fuck you,assholes" into the vast emptiness of the high desert. I don't think anyone heard me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

TV With The Sound Turned Off

Like so many things in life, huge disappointment doesn't come as such a shock when you stop and think about it. There are always signs.

First, let me make one small point. Bush's large margin in the popular vote is probably too big. They are still counting absentee ballots in the west and there are tons of them. In California there were almost five million mailed out. Al Gore, if you recall, was not secure as the winner of the popular vote for several days when all of these far west absentee votes started to trickle in from California, Oregon and washington.

Here's a little trip down memory lane from november 9th of 2000, two days after the election:

There are 1.1 million outstanding in California, absentees that haven't been counted, (and) 900,000 that haven't been counted in Washington," said Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. Gans added that another 400,000 remain untallied in New York.

In addition, because Oregon attempted an all-mail voting system, about 300,000 votes remained out Thursday, Gans said.

"And then there are scatterings of votes in other places, including Alaska, whose votes are highly incomplete," he said. "There are more than enough votes to close a 200,000 vote gap."

Gore does lead in the unofficial tally of the popular vote -- but by a narrow and changing margin. On Election Night, he was running behind by half a million votes. By the next day, he led by about 250,000 votes.

By Thursday afternoon his lead over Bush had shrunk to less than 200,000 votes -- out of more than a 100 million counted for all candidates.

To be sure, Bush will maintain his lead in the popular vote, but it may not be by the large margin that has all the gasbags breathlessly proclaiming his glorious mandate. A lot more people voted absentee this year than in the past. The fact is that Bush's popular vote lead mostly comes from a higher turnout in red states. That does not exactly make for a broad mandate. Not that it makes any difference in how Bush will govern. We already learned that the hard way.

This nation is essentially where we were four years ago, the people frozen in position like those horrible scenes from Pompeii. It was deja vu all over again, only this time Florida was Ohio and Bush got a bigger turn-out in the south. Other than the shift of New Hampshire and New Mexico, the red and blue map remains as it has been. The coasts, the midwest and the northeast are one America. The rest of the country is another. More precisely, we now have Democratic city states in the midst of a Republican nation state, each equal in population and diametrically opposed politically. It's very interesting and highly unusual.

This was always going to be very close because it was always going to be very hard in wartime to prevail against the CW that Republicans are stronger on national security. We were right to believe fervently in the cause and put everything we had into it. It was clearly possible for us to win. But, the reality is that we were scaling a very high wall.

Bush has one of the most effective political machines in history behind him and, more importantly, the full power and majesty of the presidency to help him win. In the last days of the campaign he was landing in football stadiums on the Marine 1 helicopter with fireworks exploding to the tune of "Danger Zone." That's a wartime image that's hard to beat --- particularly if your adoring audience is predisposed to love that kind of faux military spectacle.

It's never easy to unseat an incumbent president and it usually only happens when the country is in palpable economic distress. This was a partisan election and we simply didn't have quite enough votes (whether to overcome his authetic lead or his rigged machines, either one) despite a valiant effort and plenty of money.

I'm too weary and dispirited right now to get into the inevitable fight that's gearing up within the party, but suffice to say I don't agree that we lost because we weren't liberal enough. But, neither was it because we weren't culturally conservative enough or populist enough.

I believe it was simply because we weren't entertaining enough and that's the sad truth. I think that Democrats are serious, earnest and substantive people. We are the reality-based community. And I think we top out at about forty eight percent of the population.

For everybody else politics is show business, whether in religious, political or media terms. Image trumps substance,charisma and personality trump everything. I don't find George W. Bush appealing in any way because my vision of an attractive politician is that he be smart, competent and rhetorically talented. But, to many people, politics is interesting because of the spectacle and the tribal competition and they just aren't interested in any other aspects of it. (See the PEW poll.) Oh, they mouth all the right platitudes about values and all, but this is not about governing for them because they have been taught that government is only relevant to their lives in that it houses their enemies --- liberals who want to take things from them and force things on them. This is a reality TV show and they want to vote someone off the island.

It's clear that a small majority of the country buy Junior's "Top-Gun" act. His youthful failures are seen as acts of anti-hero rebelliousness. His smart ass attitude is the sign of a macho rogue. He isn't the smartest guy in the class and he's often in trouble, but he's a fearless warrior when it counts. His image is of a fun loving rascal who found himself in an extraordinary position and rose to the occasion. I know it's bullshit, but that's the archetype that his handlers have laid upon him and it's a role he plays with relish.

We have always chosen leaders for superficial as well as substantive reasons. It's not fair to say that Democrats aren't seduced by their own archetypal dreamboats. But, Bush is a new paradigm and we need to study him and recognize its power. He is a character created out of whole cloth by marketing and political people for the single purpose of appealing to a specific portion of the population that can guarantee a small political majority without having to compromise in any way with the opposition to enact an agenda. He's the first gerrymandered president.

Will Saletan gets to the nub of one of the qualities that seem to be required to make this work:

Bush is a very simple man. You may think that makes him a bad president, as I do, but lots of people don't - and there are more of them than there are of us. If you don't believe me, take a look at those numbers on your TV screen.

Think about the simplicity of everything Bush says and does. He gives the same speech every time. His sentences are short and clear. "Government must do a few things and do them well," he says. True to his word, he has spent his political capital on a few big ideas: tax cuts, terrorism, Iraq. Even his electoral strategy tonight was powerfully simple: Win Florida, win Ohio, and nothing else matters. All those lesser states- Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire- don't matter if Bush reels in the big ones.

This is what so many people like about Bush's approach to terrorism. They forgive his marginal and not-so-marginal screw-ups, because they can see that fundamentally, he "gets it." They forgive his mismanagement of Iraq, because they see that his heart and will are in the right place. And while they may be unhappy about their economic circumstances, they don't hold that against him. What you and I see as unreflectiveness, they see as transparency. They trust him.

Schwarzenneger is another example. He comes with the movie star appeal, of course, but his political talent is to speak like a cartoon character and entertain the audience as if he is at a film junket in Cannes. It doesn't matter one iota what he actually does as long as he says things like this:

This is what I love about election day, because when the people flex their muscles, then the state gets much stronger.

Tha-tha-tha-tha-that's entertainment folks. The Republicans have clearly figured out that they can get a thin majority by fielding charismatic candidates who speak like children. They don't even have to make sense.

We know from the polling that most of Bush's supporters are misinformed about his positions on the issues, so it's not a matter of backing his agenda. They don't know what it really is. And his religious base may believe that moral values are their highest priority, but since they are so very forgiving of their right wing brethren (Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Bennet,Gingrich, Swaggert, Bakker) when they stray from the straight and narrow, it's pretty clear that their high moral standards are extremely selective. I heard over and over again this election, people who said, "he looks you in the eye," as a reason for voting for him. That's not character. That's performance.

If, as the gasbags pontificating about all day, the Democrats decide that our "problem" is that we aren't appealing to the heartland conservative values, they need to think again. It's not about the substance of Republican appeals to values, it's about the style with which they do it and the level of pure, primitive tribal identification they provide. It would be a grave mistake to misunderstand this slim electoral majority as a comment on real values. It's a comment on production values. The Republicans have 'em and we don't.

I've bever been a big believer in the ground game as the be all and end all of politics even in close races. I certainly think it is essential, but I don't think knocking on doors and talking to earnest neighbors is the way people make political decisions in this day and age. I think people pretty much live in a media constructed reality and that's where the votes are gathered.

We have a nascent infrastructure in place with a bunch of smart and dedicated people who must be called upon to sustain the momentum and make it grow. We didn't lose by very much. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.

The battle begins anew today. Our agenda is more popular. The substance of our message is what people say they want, (except they credit the republicans with giving it to them.) It's our politicians' image and style that aren't making the grade in the new post modern politics. It's not because they wouldn't be terrific at actually doing the job. But that is substantially different and apart from special effects campaigning, image management and public relations, all of which supercede all other necessary qualities to get elected today.

John Kerry is the most qualified man to be president in my lifetime. And he might have won except for one thing. He couldn't fill the role that certain voters require in a president in this era --- he just wasn't enough of an archetypal TV hero. That's no knock on him, it's a knock on America. I know it's not politic to say it, but a majority of this country are obviously dumb as posts. Still, it's the only country we've got and we are going to have to come to terms with this.

Whatever the reasons, I'm devastated about this outcome, of course. But there is a silver lining. We here in the reality based community know full well that Bush and his minions have been dancing as fast as they can to get through this election. They have been desperate to avoid setting off an array of landmines with hair triggers. I am going to enjoy watching him try to deal with them as they begin to blow up in his face one by one. In many ways it is poetic justice that he is going to have to attempt to clean up the huge fetid, stinking mess he's foisted on this country.

Too bad about the human carnage though.

And I take heart in remembering Richard Nixon. Junior is his true heir and I suspect he will have the same fate. This much corruption cannot be contained. Keep your eyes on purged members of the CIA and the State department. He may have won, but I have a feeling that Commander Codpiece may come to regret it.

There us much to recommend being the angry opposition. Watching our hated enemy squirm is one them.