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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Liberal Conspiracy

Blogs For Bush via The Daou Report:

Real Clear Politics also has an excellent look at the real issues driving the election - and it wasn't just 'moral values' as the MSM and the leftwing apologists would have us believe

So this is an MSM and leftwing apologist narrative, hmmm?

I wonder if anyone's told James Dobson, Richard Viguerie and the Concerned Women of America? The last I heard they weren't the MSM or leftwing apologists but maybe that's what they want to be called these days. It's so hard to keep up.

Why are the Republicans running from their most loyal constituents?

American Anthropology

Here's a must read by Rick Perlstein on the subject of American tribes.

I've been doing a lot of ruminating on this blog lately about that topic so this article about a writer named Paul Cowan who did some very interesting journalism for the Village Voice back in the 70's is a timely addition to my thinking on the subject. It's a fascinating look at a writer of the left who delved into tribal America and came away with a complex and insightful view of the longstanding culture war during a period of liberal dominance. (One of the more jarring things about the article is the realization of the extent to which the "liberal reform" impulse that so offends the Real Americans is in retreat today.)

Perlstein finds some intriguing parallels with a radical apostate of the period, Norman Podhoretz one of the godfathers of neoconservatism. Podhoretz, unsurprisingly, does not come out so well by comparison. But then radicals are often full of shit.

It's a very interesting read and worth thinking about as we launch ourselves into what looks to be an all out cold civil war for the next little while.

Correction: John Podhoretz changed to Norman Podhoretz.

Think Big

I'm so relieved that we are having the discussion about which Democratic values we can safely shed early instead of waiting until closer to the next election like we usually do. I think we should get out ahead on these issues and put the Republicans off their game. I'm already on record as being in favor of scrapping our pesky insistence on teaching evolution. Clearly, it's disrespectful to those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible to insist that it is true. That elitist fealty to reason and fact is why they hate us so.

Matt Yglesias and others think that Roe vs Wade is probably a goner and may even be a good thing because if we expend a bunch of energy defending it, more important things will be sacrificed. If some women have to take one for the team, well, nobody ever promised them a rose garden. Everybody knows that an adult's inalienable right to make a unique and difficult moral choice for herself is a leu-seur. (Check here for a list of countries around the globe that we'll be joining in the 19th century.) I think the sooner we dump that albatross the sooner everyone will relax and support our superior economic philosophy. Besides, it will still be legal in certain expensive blue states so it's not like anybody whose father was governor of a red state and went on to become president couldn't catch a flight and take care of business, if you know what I mean. Big whoop.

Chris Bowers thinks we might want to adios gun control and get with the faith based program. I'm pretty sure that gun control was the issue we ditched after 2000, so I don't think we can use it again. The rules for proving your bona fides as a Real American require that once you discard a liberal issue you can't Sistah Soljah it again.

And you know, we already embraced faith based initiatives but with the requirement that they adhere to federal non-discrimination statutes. If we want to wring out a Real America forelock tug from this one, we're need to insist that the government use federal money to discriminate against women or minorities or people who don't practice a specific religion. If we couple that with the creationism move and actively work to dismantle public schools, we might just be getting somewhere. Perhaps we could really shake things up by proposing to reverse Brown vs Board of Education, the damned case that lost us Real America in the first place. "Separate but Equal" has some real resonance these days, don't you think? It fits so nicely on a bumper sticker.

But, will any of this really be enough? I have to wonder. It seems that we just aren't getting there with these baby steps toward rejoining Real America. I think we need to think big. Really big.

When you look at it, our whole problem can be laid at the foot of the Bill of Rights. Maybe it's time to take a good hard look at how much good defending that puppy has really done the Democratic Party, eh?

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I've already pointed out the damage that the separation of Church and State has done to us. Besides, it says an establishment of religion, not religions. If we make laws that establish more than one religion then we don't even have to feel bad about it! If a few Buddhists, Muslims, pagans and atheists don't like it, well that's getting just a little too fine. They let in the Catholics, fergawdsake. Even the Jews. That's enough "religions" for anybody.

Free speech forces us to defend the right of people to say things that Real Americans don't like and it's costing us. We end up getting associated with all those liberal TV stars from Friends that Real Americans hate, but we get no love for defending the right of Rush Limbaugh to call us traitors every day. I can't see how it helps us to stick with this one.

Right of Assembly? That is so September 10th. Fuggedaboudit.

Redress of grievances? Petitioning of the government? Hello? Can we say, "I vote yea on the confirmation of Alberto Gonzalez for Attorney general?" Enthusiastically? Thank you.

What is this free press you speak of?

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Now we're talking some sense.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.


Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Hey, a little sneak 'n peak never hurt anybody. It is long past time for this to go.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The founders were a little naive, weren't they? This is all well and good, but all it does is empower a bunch of bleeding hearts. "Due process" is just an excuse for judicial activism. It's gone.

Well, except for the takings clause. That's a keeper. Some principles we just can't toss and still be able to look ourselves in the mirror.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Yeah right, Messrs. Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and the rest. I'd like to introduce you to a couple of guys names Hamdi and Moussaoui. And some guys down in Gitmo who might have known some guys who killed people on September 11th. Maybe if you knew them you wouldn't have HAMSTRUNG decent Americans from doing what they need to do to keep this country safe. (They obviously didn't have a clue about what it takes to defend liberty. Sad.)

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Getting rid of this would be the ultimate tort reform. And gawd knows Real Americans want tort reform almost as much as they want the flag burning amendment and prayer in schools. This is a big winner, folks.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

A little waterboarding is good enough to determine who is and isn't a witch or a terrorist and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to inflict a little pain on those actually convicted of crimes either.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Well, that's a bunch of crap. Any rights not explicitly enumerated in the constitution are "special rights" and should be denied without a second thought.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

This would be fine as long as we attach the addendum that says, "unless Republicans control the federal government." I think they'll go along with that.

Repeal The Bill Of Rights: Vote Democratic!

It's got a real ring to it, don't you think?

Press Corpse Zombies

Kevin Drum says what I was going to say about the completely inexplicable decision of the LA Times to publish an editorial by the discredited John Lott. If he is considered credible then there is absolutely no reason why Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair have been drummed out of the business. When you make stuff up our of whole cloth, it should have some effect on your credibility.

Oh wait...I forgot. IOKIYAR

Which leads me to this unbelievably tendentious piece of garbage by Patrick Goldstein in today's LA Times calendar section. Apparently, Michael Moore and Jennifer Anniston offended some Republicans with their criticism of George W. Bush and that is why we lost the election.

"The Democrats really paid a price for their association with strident Hollywood activists and their palpable contempt for regular people," says Mike Murphy, the Republican political consultant who ran John McCain's 2000 presidential bid and now works with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yeah. Arnold and Maria are jes reglar folk, watchin' NASCAR, drankin' Dr Pepper and listenin' to some Toby, I guess.

This construction about "regular" people comes up throughout this article in varying forms. It would appear that the 55 million of us who voted for John Kerry are not regular people. If we were we would have rejected him because he was supported by those who hold Regular People in contempt. Therefore, we are held in contempt. Interesting.

Take the case of newly minted Real American Ron Silver who evidently was raised on a potato farm in Idaho and rides the bull down at Gillies whenever he gets the chance. He says in the article, "There's an incredibly unhealthy uniformity of opinion in Hollywood. When you're at a dinner party and the subject of the president comes up, it's just assumed that all 20 people are thinking, 'how are we going to get rid of this [jerk].' I can't think of any colleague in the entertainment community having a serious conversation with someone who's pro-life or a born-again Christian. There's just a real disconnect from the rest of the country."

Haha. Yes, darling, it's so true that at dinner parties in Real America all twenty people engage in lively erudite political discourse in which all sides are viewed with equal interest. That's what makes Real America so special, after all. It's the fact that it isn't closed minded like those disconnected Hollywood liberals. In real American, pro-choice and pro-life, black and white, Christian and Jew all break bread together. (And, they serve the tastiest little crab cake hors d'ouevres, too. Yum.)

To be fair, there were a few artists who displayed a touch of class, most notably the Bruce Springsteen-led coalition of rock stars who did Kerry concerts around the country, all without engaging in incendiary political rhetoric. If only their movie star brethren could've shown such discretion...Instead Jennifer Anniston called Bush "an idiot," along with an expletive we can't print here, while Cher dubbed the president "stupid and lazy."

The low point of self defeating activism came at a Radio City Music Hall fundraiser at which Chevy Chase said the president had the intellect of an "egg timer" John Mellencamp called Bush a "cheap thug" and Meryl Streep, in a performance that brings new meaning to the word sanctimonious, belittled the president's faith.

Is it any wonder that the Bush campaign tried in vain to get the Democratic National Committee to release a tape of the event? If there was one thing everyday Americans didn't want to hear, it was self-involved celebrities trashing the president.


If the showbiz world is every going to connect with voters, it has to learn to respect them first. Just ask Kirk Wagar, a Miami trial lawyer who served as the Democrat's Florida finance chairman. Upset over the party's inability to speak to real Americans, he's launching an organization devoted to helping Democratic candidates communicate a values-driven message to lower and middle income voters who have a natural affinity for the party's economic message.

If today's Hollywood activists want to learn how to communicate with real people, maybe they should try the [Preston] Sturges approach --- go out an meet them. No preaching, just lend an ear. When you actually shut up and listen, it's amazing what you can learn.

No preaching. What a fine idea for limousine liberals, Christian proselytizers and big city show business reporters alike. But, perhaps I shouldn't say anything being that I'm so irregular, unreal and unusual. We odd Americans who agreed that the president is an idiot and said it out loud to anyone who'd listen at our soirees and dinner parties thought, strangely, that there was a presidential campaign going on, not a coronation. We thought our passionate opinions, and those of the hated "limousine liberals" were as valid as any other. But, we were wrong. We are not everyday Americans. All 55 million of us are not quite right, not quite real.

No one's saying the industry should temper its views or stop funneling money to the democrats. After all, the GOP rakes in tons of cash from ardent conservatives, but most of its far-right supporters are shrewd enough to avoid the limelight.

That's going to come as a helluva surprise to Rush Limbaugh's bosses, who gave him a 250 million dollar contract to say things like this every single day to millions and millions of those wonderful Real Americans:

The left is scared to death of God. They think Bush is a believer, and they got quotes from people that say Bush doesn't think, he just follows his instincts based on how he feels after he prays. He's just -- "this is horrible." They're out there and they're scared to death because they don't understand God. They don't understand a personal relationship with God. They can only think it's trouble.

The -- the Kerry campaign has finally gotten a chocolate chip. The Kerry campaign has announced that civil rights activist, the Reverend Jackson, has joined the campaign on Wednesday

[O]ne of the things we've learned is that [Senator John] Kerry has two elements of his base. And that's why, no matter what he says, he angers half the base.
Half the base is so-called old reasonable Democrats, and they don't hate the military. The other half of the base hates the military, hates America, hates Bush, hates the world except for France and Germany.

Well, try to figure, just imagine Lurch from The Addams Family hanging out a bus window underneath his face is "JohnKerry.com." He's got this sort of weird looking grin on his face with Evita hanging over his left shoulder.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting that the new Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi has executed six insurgents in front of witnesses, wanting to send a clear message to these people. Good. Hubba-hubba.

And before anyone suggests that he is a fringe dweller of the Right, let's not forget:

"[I]t's always an opportunity and a thrill for someone like me to be able to talk to somebody like you, the vice president of the United States, and so some of these questions may appear to be leading, and I really don't mean to do that.

This entire critique of the liberal elites who allegedly don't understand Real America, and the 55 million of us Unreal Americans who agree with them is another example of this frustrating epistemological relativism to which the press corpse seems consciously oblivious. Up is down and black is white. Entertainers shouldn't get political unless they agree with Republicans, in which case they can have radio shows that are beamed to more than 25 million people a day in which they can viciously insult Democrats all day long. The contempt with which Rush Limbaugh holds the entire Democratic party day after day after day is down to earth and real. The contempt with which Hollywood Democrats held George Bush at a fundraiser is unamerican.

Rush Limbaugh is the voice of the Republican Party --- the allegedly "Real" Americans we liberal elitists don't understand. His swill is endorsed by the highest reaches of the GOP. If Patrick Goldstein and Ron Silver don't believe me, maybe they'll listen to Mary Matlin:

MATALIN: This is a -- this is another reason you're my hero, of all the reasons. I have to read these papers every day because I have to do the defense to them?

RUSH: Yeah.

MATALIN: And it's not until I listen to you that I actually can crack a smile for the first time in the day. And the reason that they're -- I know most of the country doesn't read them ["these papers"], but they do drive a lot of the coverage. As a for instance -- not -- not to pick on The New York Times, but they are particularly egregious when it comes to the Bush administration.


MATALIN: [Y]ou inspired me this morning. There's no reason that I have to do that. I'm -- and at least I think I do, but when I listen to you, I get all the information I need, and I -- and I -- it is -- I have a confidence in the President, in the policies, in the goals. I have -- I know his conviction. I know he's right and I know he has the leadership to do it. What I don't have, and what I can only get from you, is the cheerfulness of your confidence --

I think the picture is pretty clear here about Real America, don't you?

There are 55 million of us freakish, irregular, unReal Americans who refuse to accept that it is a-ok for this asshole (and all of his clones) to infect this country with his hateful bile uncontested and unrebutted anymore. If that means we have to use harsh language, then fine. Real Americans are just going to have to get used to it coming from our side.

Patrick Goldstein may have been born yesterday, but some of us have been watching the Right disseminate it's eliminationist propaganda for a long, long time. The Left isn't shutting up because a bunch of effete "journalists" are too stupid to know when they're being played.. Again.

Gawd, has there ever been a less insightful, less informed, more gullible press corps in history? I can hardly wait for the conservative prom this year. Patrick Goldstein will undoubtedly get the "Richard Cohen Useful Idiot" award, although it's going to be a very competitive category.


For your one stop blog shopping, check out The Daou Report.

It highlights the right thinking Left (a fine service in itself) but, it also gives you the lowdown on the wrong thinking Right, thus saving you from having to wade through the wingnut hell-broth yourself.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Fallujah in Pictures

An Iraqi nurse treats 2-year-old child Mustafa Adnan, at a Baghdad hospital, who lost a leg when his house in Falluja's Jolan district was shelled during fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents in the war-torn city November 14, 2004. U.S. tanks shelled and machine-gunned rebels still holding out in Falluja in heavy fighting that was preventing an Iraqi Red Crescent convoy from getting aid to civilians trapped in the city for six days. (Ali Jasim/Reuters)

Eliana Aponte / Reuters

Sunday, November 14, 2004


"Destruction was everywhere. I saw people lying dead in the streets, wounded were bleeding and there was no one to come and help them. Even the civilians who stayed in Fallujah were too afraid to go out," he said.

"There was no medicine, water, no electricity nor food for days."

By Tuesday afternoon, as U.S. forces and Iraqi rebels engaged in fierce clashes in the heart of his neighborhood, Hussein snapped.

"U.S. soldiers began to open fire on the houses, so I decided that it was very dangerous to stay in my house," he said.

Hussein said he panicked, seizing on a plan to escape across the Euphrates River, which flows on the western side of the city

"I wasn't really thinking," he said. "Suddenly, I just had to get out. I didn't think there was any other choice."

In the rush, Hussein left behind his camera lens and a satellite telephone for transmitting his images. His lens, marked with the distinctive AP logo, was discovered two days later by U.S. Marines next to a dead man's body in a house in Jolan.

AP colleagues in the Baghdad bureau, who by then had not heard from Hussein in 48 hours, became even more worried.

Hussein moved from house to house dodging gunfire and reached the river.

"I decided to swim … but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river."

He watched horrified as a family of five was shot dead as they tried to cross. Then, he "helped bury a man by the river bank, with my own hands."

Walking To Church

I want to make one little addition to my post about hypocrisy in the values laden swath of Republican Red. I think that it's important to point out that this notion of hyperactive church attendance in the US is largely a crock.

The Gallup organization has pegged regular weekly church attendance at around 40% of the population for decades. This is a self-reported statistic, usually arrived at by asking the question "have you attended church in the last seven days" or something like it. It was largely unremarked upon until the 90's when some sociologists decided to follow up. What they found is that people vastly "overreport" their church attendance.

This was tested in a number of ways, through actual headcounts followed up by telephone polls to checking a long term study of driving habits (PDF) that showed that people somehow "neglected" to mention driving back and forth to church every week but reported that they attended when asked directly.Religious writers have looked at these numbers and found them to be overstated, as well.

I don't write this to indict the fine churchgoing people in this country who obviously number in the tens of millions. But, before the Democrats go off half cocked and move too far in the direction of the social conservatives, they need to insure that they are dealing with reality and not Republican hype.

I have lived in states both blue and red and towns both small and large. And it is certainly true that people tend to talk about religion more openly in the smaller, redder areas. But, this is likely because they are more homogenous than big cities where there is a lot more religious diversity and therefore a bigger chance of getting into an argument or having an uncomfortable social interaction. It's not surprising that people in rural America are more likely to lie about their church attendance because there is more social pressure to conform to what is perceived to be required as an upstanding citizen. (It's also possible that people in big cities lie to pollsters about their opinions about contentious issues because of the social pressure to be tolerant in places where there is a lot of diversity.) The point is that if people are actually lying about their religious fervor to pollsters there is every liklihood that acceding to a religiously based political agenda is counterproductive. For reasons outlined in my previous posts of these past couple of weeks, I don't believe it will work in any case. It isn't about values with "values" voters.

As I look at the situation as it's likely to play out over the next four years, I think that with the theocratic, authoritarian Right in ascendance, an old fashioned freedom cry of "Mind Your Own Business" might have some salience in the libertarian southwest and mountain states. Everything from the Patriot Act atrocities to corporations selling your personal information to compelling you to adhere to specific religious teachings goes against the western grain. The key to this would be to continuously highlight the corporate and extremist religious right's stranglehold on a Republican Party that seems to believe that the president is the public's boss instead of its servant. This does not sit well with the individualistic strain of the west. Combine it with a critique of their trashing of the environment without consideration of local concerns and their overwhelming fiscal irresponsibility and you've got the beginning of a helluva wedge. (This oft cited article about the Montana governor's race is instructive. This blog post from Left In The West is even more so.)

Here's the hook. Democrats believe in freedom. The Republicans believe in forced conformity and injecting themselves into every aspect of their citizens' lives. Turn their own libertarian message against them. Clearly, they were full of shit about everything but the tax cuts. If there are any libertarian types out there who value their personal freedom as much as their money (and I think there are more than few) our message might just speak to them. Nobody likes the IRS, but unelected preachers and businessmen using the power of the state to tell you how to live is against all first principles of what it means to be a free American.

I am a left libertarian by philosophy and temperament. I'm big on civil liberties and the Bill Of Rights. I don't think that reasonable taxation comes anywhere close to being as coercive to the individual as unregulated business, theocratic political factions or an unfettered police state. I think there are some people in the current Republican coalition who might hear that message and I think they are far more likely to be open to it than the (largely hypocritical) "values" voters who are fighting a tribal war for dominance. The west isn't about dominance or submission. It's about live and let live. They consider themselves true independents. We can do business with these people.

The Pageant

Atrios is full of 'tude these days and rightly so. This nonsense about finding leaders who are immune from GOP criticism is just ridiculous. I thought we all understood that the attack machine has no relationship to the truth. There is no such thing as an acceptable Democrat anymore. There isn't even such a thing as an acceptable moderat republican anymore. Look what they are doing to Specter.

I simply cannot believe that after the last twelve years any Democrat still believes that there are limits to what the Republicans will say to assassinate someone's character or how far the SCLM will go to promulgate it if the story is juicy enough. Perhaps Mr Nelson needs to make a run for the presidency and see if all that Red state love sees him through.

And ditto what Josh said, too. Loyalty is a principle, guys. Not blind loyalty, but that good old fashioned notion that you don't trash your friends for personal gain. If there is one thing I admire about the Republicans is that they treat their candidates with respect. As far as I'm concerned, any Dem who goes out there against the Republican attack machine and puts himself or herself on the line for us deserves at least that.

Marshall also makes some good points here.
...Democrats don't do anywhere near as good a job at telling a story with their politics.

If you want an example think of a movie with great acting and set-design but no discernible plot.

Yes, you're for this and that policy and you have this, that and the other plan. But what story or picture does it all amount to? What things does it say are important and which things less important? What does it all amount to in terms of who we are as Americans and who we want to be?

I think I can tell you what the Republicans are for and without referencing hardly any policy specifics. They're for lowering taxes in exchange for giving up whatever it is the government pretends to do for us, (at a minimum) riding the brakes on the on-going transformation of American culture, and kicking ass abroad.

That’s a clear message and a fairly coherent one, whatever you think of the content --- it’s about self-reliance and suspicion of change. And Democrats have a hard time competing at that level of message clarity.

I think it's true that our movie just isn't as good as theirs. But rather than being a great production without a plot, I think we are one of those disjointed, arty films with lots of great moments, but afterwards you really can't explain what it means to someone who hasn't seen it.

The Republicans do big technicolor blockbusters with a big predictable plot. It's called "They're Comin' Ta Git Ya!" (Parts I through XX.) It's a franchise in which the government or the blacks or the gays or the liberals or the terrorists are trying to tear apart your way of life and the Republican party is all that's standing between you and them. It's not about self-sufficiency, it's the opposite. It's about being a perpetual victim.

Democrats can make a wonderful, big budget picture for the whole family, called "America." It's about freedom and courage. It would be an uplifting tale starring ordinary individuals working together for common goals and achieving success through equal opportunity and hard work. Our heroes insist that the community should help the less fortunate because it is the right thing to do. Period. They are Americans who live by the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights --- individual liberty, inalienable human rights and an equal playing field. When those ideals are attacked from without or within they fight like hell. In the end, we all live together peacefully because our freedom, rights and responsibilities as Americans to live as we see fit are what make us strong. Our democratic government becomes a force for good because it reflects those values. It reflects us.

It's true that we have lost sight of how to tell our story. Indeed, we are still consumed with the idea that if only we adjusted our positions on the issues, then we would win --- even though we already poll higher on most issues that people say they care about. But this has gone way beyond issues. It's about what people think we stand for vs what we actually stand for. We have not recognized that we are living in brand America and we have to sell people on the "idea" of our brand. Civics isn't even taught anymore and nobody knows jack about history. What they know is story and we have to tell them ours.

And one thing simply cannot be overlooked again, by those of us on the left who tend to blame our party and those in the middle who ..... also blame our party. This is the fact that we are competing with an organization and a movement that has no limits. If we tell our story perfectly with total clarity and beauty and we present it with the finest production values and the best candidates in the world to embody our national character, we still have to contend with a professional character assassination machine that is not hindered by any if the so-called morals and values they pretend to revere. This is a formidable obstacle and one that we will have to learn how to deal with before we can hope to break through this morass.

Therefore, we take this on from both angles if we expect to win this war. We must disable their noise machine and we must put on a bigger, better pageant. Both of things will be required to break through the static and get the attention of those people in the country who are part of OUR story but have been subsumed in propaganda and programmatic rhetoric for so long that they think that we don't have one.

One of these requires a willingness to go for the jugular and another requires a big creative vision. They aren't mutually exclusive but this might be a case for some division of labor. Any ideas?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Mediawhores, Heal Thyself

Robert Parry is absolutely right about this. These snotty articles in the SCLM tut-tutting blog conspiracy theories are a bit rich coming from the very papers that slavered and drooled over the most massive conspiracy theory perpetrated on the American Public in recent memory --- Ahmad Chalabi's Tales of the WMD. Talk about chutzpah.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Expressing Ambivalence

NewDonkey says that Democrats get it wrong when they say that economic populist approaches will work but that changing our position on social issues is right. He's right about the first part (more on that later) and, as anyone who's been reading this blog the last few days knows, I believe he is wrong about the second.

He quotes Tom Coburn Senate Nominee from Oklahoma who says:

For the vast majority of Oklahomans--and, I would suspect, voters in other red states--these transcendent cultural concerns are more important than universal health care or raising the minimum wage or preserving farm subsidies. Pace Thomas Frank, the voters aren't deluded or uneducated. They simply reject the notion that material concerns are more real than spiritual or cultural ones. The political left has always had a hard time understanding this, preferring to believe that the masses are enthralled by a "false consciousness" or Fox News or whatever today's excuse might be. But the truth is quite simple: Most voters in a state like Oklahoma--and I venture to say most other Southern and Midwestern states--reject the general direction of American culture and celebrate the political party that promises to reform or revise it.

New Donkey says:

We're the "wrong track" party when it comes to the cultural direction of the country, and we have to decide whether to bravely swim upstream out of loyalty to hip-hop and Michael Moore and Grand Theft Auto IV and Hollywood campaign contributions, or do something else, like at least expressing a little ambivalence about it all. Changing the subject is cowardly and insulting no matter how you look at it.

I agree with Carson that these so-called cultural issues transcend economics for a bunch of reasons that I'll go into over the week-end hopefully. However, that does not mean that the Democrats will ever gain anything by denouncing popular culture. Carson doesn't believe it is a false consciousness and maybe it isn't. Perhaps it is just sheer hypocrisy, I don't know. But, the fact is that somebody in the red states is watching Will and Grace and somebody is watching Girls Gone Wild and a whole bunch of somebodies are downloading pornography. I'm sure they tut-tut those terrible liberals while they pass the popcorn and laugh over The Bachelor's latest catfight.The biggest hit of the TV season is the sexually adventurous Desperate Housewives and it ain't just because people in new York and LA are watching it. The National Enquirer and the Globe are hugely popular in Middle America with their fascination with Hollywood dirt.

This is mass consumer culture and it plays very successfully all across that great swathe of red. Somebody's watching all this stuff and buying all this stuff and consuming all this stuff. I'm sure that many believe it's a problem, but I'm just not sure it's our problem. After all, these are the salt of the earth individuals who believe in taking personal responsibility, unlike us Hollywood and east coast elites. And let's not forget who's making the profits selling all this decadent culture to these innocent, God fearing folk who are evidently hypnotised into buying it. Republican Big Business.

I agree that economic populism isn't going to work. But, we have proven that adopting socially conservative positions doesn't work either. These people pretend to be morally superior even as they indulge in all the dirty hanky panky they hypocritically pray over in church. It's not about what they actually do, it's what they say they do -- not the same thing at all. If they were so concerned about moral values they wouldn't be chuckling along while the drug addicted Rush Limbaugh makes jokes about pornographic images with a knowing nod and wink. They wouldn't so easily forgive their leaders who are divorced two and three times in ugly and cruel circumstances. They wouldn't stand for media personalities who call female employees on the phone and regale them with sexual fantasies. These are the icons of their Republican party and media elite. Yet, they are held to a much lower standard than Michael Moore, who may have said inflammatory things but never to my knowledge actually did anything blatently immoral or illegal.

If these people were truly concerned about moral values you'd think they'd start at home.

Nope. This is a marketing ploy set forth by the Republican party to exploit the tribal differences between the red and the blue the urban and the rural by creating a very convenient illusion of middle American (read: Republican) moral superiority. It's a crock. They consume just as much of this allegedly toxic culture as anybody else in this country. They just lie about it.

Pandering to hypocrites is a fools game --- as Brad Carson found out when he was beaten by the crazed wingnut doctor, Tom Coburn, who had hallucinations about lesbians in elementary schools. Obviously, "expressing ambivalence" about Hollywood values will never be able to compete with something like that.

Correction: I made a huge mistake and thought that the above quote was by the democrat Brad Carson. It has been corrected to reflect it was Tom Coburn, the very wingnut doctor who won with his fantasies about grade school lesbians.

This makes Kilgore's point even less salient. If we are "listening" to guys like Coburn explain why they won then we are bigger fools than I thought. They have absolutely no reason to be sincere about this.

Correction II: Yes, I realize that I screwed up. The quote is Carsons after all. Sorry for the confusion. Mea maxima Culpa. Posting and running is never a good idea.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Wingnut Kool-Aid Acid Test

If anyone wants to see a mere shell of a formerly asute cultural observer, check out this video of Tom Wolfe on The Daily Show.

He's noticed that boys and girls cohabitate outside the sanctity of marriage nowadays. The parents don't know what to do when the boys and girls come to visit. It didn't used to be this way in his day. Who knew?

Wedge Issue

James Wolcott learns that whenever a liberal bi-coastal elite makes fun of Lil' Andy he is branded a homophobe by the Alan Simpson Man Boy Association.

A racist-t-shirt wearing professor of Creationism at Wayback University who goes by the handle of Instapundit claims that if a Republican had written what I did about Andrew Sullivan's phantom creeper on Real Life on Bill Maher, it would have been considered "homophobic."

I found this out myself when I once pointed out on the late lamented mediawhores online that the swaggering George W. Bush gave Lil' Andy and Leslie Stahl a fit of the maidenly vapors. Andy himself called me a "leftist homophobe." (It was the first I'd heard any rumors about Stahl but I guess Andy would know.)

Anyway, it was one of my proudest online moments. I still think of it fondly. Back then, Howard Fineman and Lil' Andy and Jay Nordlinger could rhapsodize for days about Junior's macho swagger, his fabulous chin, his equally perfect comfort in ermine or epaulets. It was a lot like like listening to people talk on the bus when I lived in San Francisco in the late 70's. It made me feel young again...

What's interesting is that Instapundit seems to have joined the chorus about leftist homophobes. With all this PC sensitivity towards gays in the wingnut set these days, you'd think it was the liberals who just won an election with the help of a bunch of mouthbreathers who seem to think that if gay people are allowed to marry then Real American heterosexuals will be required to perform fellatio. (This is, needless to say, what the Concerned Women For America are most concerned about.)

The Big Show

I'm not buying this good cop bad cop routine. Specter flexes a very tiny little muscle, the Reconstructionists howl at the top of their lungs, the Senate traditionalists tell everyone to settle down, Specter gives a public blow job and everybody sees that the Republicans aren't really in the hands of the Christian Right because Specter still has his chairmanship.

Now we have Bush's chief consigliere, Gonzalez, supposedly coming under fire for not being enough of a pro-lifer yet Junior the Moderate boldly defies the Christian Right again and nominates the reasonable, middle of the road Gonzalez.

Right. This is what Bush calls reaching across the aisle.

Exit, Stage Right

GOP Wants to End Exit Polls

Ok. I have not yet seen the proof that Bush stole Ohio, but I certainly have my suspicions. And I can't help but wonder about Florida either. There is ample evidence that our voting systems are in very sad shape and the addition of touch screen voting is only making it worse.

And now here comes the Republican party agitating to get rid of the exit polls --- exit polls which have shown the Democrat winning in the last two presidential elections with the Republican coming out barely ahead in the actual vote count each time. And nobody has come up with anything close to a reasonable explanation for this. (Hoardes of giddy Democrats racing to the pollsters to tell their story is ridiculous.)

Unless we can get a federal law demanding a paper audit trail for all elections and keep the exit polls, we will never have a clue when they try to steal it in the future. The arrogant bastards.

This reminds me of a brief flirtation I had with writing a screenplay in which the election was decided by two sets of hackers --- one set determined to change the results, the other determined to stop them. (I'd had a few beers.) Considering what a stupid idea it was, it's hard to believe it's looking as if my slightly inebriated little fantasy could actually come to pass. Maybe instead of legions of lawyers we'd better think of getting a few good computer nerds.


I am not a religious person. I cannot speak from a Biblical frame of reference. According to the polls, however, I am a member of an exceedingly small minority in this country. Therefore, I wonder if some of the religious people, particularly Christians who voted for John Kerry would care to engage some of these people in a dialog.

I cannot do it. They will not listen to someone like me. They see politics as theology, not philosophy. Perhaps they will listen to you.

But, then again, perhaps not. Sectarian wars were, after all, the reason why the founders were so adamant about not having a state religion. It always leads to religious power stuggles. But, it appears that this is where we are. The idea of secular government is no longer operative.

I'm sorry I can't help, but I do not have the tools to fight a religious war. This is your fight now.

"You Owe The Liberals Nothing"

November 3, 2004

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The media tells us that you have received the largest number of popular votes of any president in America's history. Congratulations!

In your re-election, God has graciously granted America—though she doesn't deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly.

Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you.

Had your opponent won, I would have still given thanks, because the Bible says I must (I Thessalonians 5:18). It would have been hard, but because the Lord lifts up whom He will and pulls down whom He will, I would have done it. It is easy to rejoice today, because Christ has allowed you to be His servant in this nation for another presidential term. Undoubtedly, you will have opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government. You have four years—a brief time only—to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God.

Christ said, “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my father honour” (John 12:26).

The student body, faculty, and staff at Bob Jones University commit ourselves to pray for you—that you would do right and honor the Savior. Pull out all the stops and make a difference. If you have weaklings around you who do not share your biblical values, shed yourself of them. Conservative Americans would love to see one president who doesn't care whether he is liked, but cares infinitely that he does right.

Best wishes.

Sincerely your friend,

Bob Jones III

PS: A few moments ago I read this letter to the students in Chapel. They applauded loudly their approval.

When I told them that Tom Daschle was no longer the minority leader of the Senate, they cheered again.

On occasion, Christians have not agreed with things you said during your first term. Nonetheless, we could not be more thankful that God has given you four more years to serve Him in the White House, never taking off your Christian faith and laying it aside as a man takes off a jacket, but living, speaking, and making decisions as one who knows the Bible to be eternally true.

© 2004 Bob Jones Universitywebsite

Via: Talk Left

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

More Culture War

Let me make one thing perfectly clear with respect to my post below. The south is not a monolith and "middle America" is not only the south. The south votes more than 40% consistently with the Democrats, many of whom are white progressives and african American.

I am talking about a cultural attitude, much of which has metastisized to other parts of the country, in which liberals are demonized as "the other" and eliminationist rhetoric is commonly cloaked in appeals to religion and "values." This, I believe, is an outgrowth of a long standing, grievance mind-set with its roots in the south. However, it is being exploited by a bunch of rich, greedy opportunists who have spent billions creating a media infrastructire -- particularly talk radio --- to pound these attitudes into people's heads. This dichotomy in our country has been with us from the beginning, but this is the first time it's been marketed successfully by the immoral oligarchs who, in a sweet bit of irony, are making a tidy profit at it.

For those who are criticising me for not providing solutions but simply whining about the situation, I plead guilty. I wish I had the answer. What I have learned, after years of believing in the DLC experiment, is that this problem isn't a matter of compromising on issues. The issues are weapons and each time we capitulate they pull another one out of their sleeve. I no longer believe it is really about these issues, it's about something else.

After the cultural upheavals of the 1960's and 1970's and our subsequent losses in presidential politics, we had to retool. We were saddled with the image of tax and spend, weak on defense and immorality and there had been a backlash. The Party set about trying to reclaim the center by taking down some of the cultural shibboleths that we thought were holding us back and trying some innovative economic ideas to persuade Americans that we could be trusted with their tax dollars. The end of the cold war gave us some breathing room on national security.

With the help of Ross Perot, we managed to elect what would have been a moderate Republican not 15 years earlier. And the Republicans went mad. They immediately started moving the goalposts. It did not matter how far to the right Bill Clinton moved they moved farther. There was no meeting in the middle on common ground. They would not allow there to be any common ground.

Still, Clinton successfully managed the economy and had the good luck to preside over a once in a lifetime technological revolution and he succeeded in ending the decades long assumptions about Democrats and the economy. It's his highest achievement. (It was my hope that Kerry could do the same on national security.)

But, I have come to realize that the main problem isn't our competence in those areas and indeed, it never was. They were just another "issue" with which to beat us over the head. The problem is the same as it ever was. It's the culture war and it didn't begin in the 1960's.

It grew out of America's original sin (or perhaps it's original hypocrisy) about slavery. And it's colored our vision of ourselves ever since. It's roots are in the north south divide, but it also cuts across rural and urban, modern and traditional. It's a problem of identity,grievance and intractability. It's centered in religion and race.

Today, I think the rhetoric coming from the right wing media is the toxic poison that is spreading this culture war into our body politic so quickly. Most liberals don't hear what is said about them to millions upon millions of "middle Americans," in which every grievance, every problem is laid at the foot of the "liberal elite." The message here is of tribal warfare. Rush and Sean and Bill are not shining examples of moral rectitude and everyone knows it. They are warriors. Down the dial and in the pulpits this battle is explained as fight for moral values, in which the liberal elite is forcing it's decadence into their workplaces and their homes. Again, the fight is one of life and death. Even for those who don't listen to the talkers on the radio and in the pews, the message seeps out. Us and them.

Until recently I believed that this culture war was on its way out. But the sophisticated use of modern media to exploit this long standing undercurrent of grievance has changed all that. It may be hundreds of years old but it has new life and it's not going to go away by ekeing out a win in the electoral college.

I don't have the answer. But, I do think it's important that we recognise when things aren't working. Making a show of compromising on social issues isn't working. And I say that as somone who always, until now, thought it would.

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.