Sunday, November 21, 2004

Paging Lord Acton

The hubris of the Miserable Failure administration and the thugs in the GOP has grown exponentially since the election. From restocking the Cabinet with trusted White House insiders to the DeLay Rule, the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of evidence of the truism that while "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Gone from today's GOP, whether in the administration or the Congress, is any semblance of free thought. The moderates are being purged from the Congressional wing by a newly emboldened American Taliban (I refuse to use the term Religious Right for a group that is neither right, nor true to its own faith's tenets). And the group think of the White House staff is being exported to the Cabinet.

With nary a dissenting voice it is only a matter of time before the GOP finally over-reaches to such an extent that they blow what little mandate they may have had from the election.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Real Divide in America

More than a few post election analyses have pointed to ideological, religious and other divides in America as the key to victory for the GOP (or, conversely, the cause of defeat for Democrats). However, absent the somewhat snarky IQ table there has been scant mention of another divide in America. It is not one simply based on IQ or perceived intelligence, but rather the informed versus the uninformed/misinformed.

One has to look no further than the well noted PIPA study with respect to Bush voters and their perception of truth/fact. A majority of them thought that Iraq was involved in 9-11 and that WMD had been found there, among other findings. Of course, these beliefs do not comport with reality at all. A simple google search will turn up the fact that there has not been a scintilla of evidence to support either of these positions, yet the Faux News/Bush crowd believes them to be true.

And this is not simply an ideological divide, where the more conservative elements of society stick their heads in the sand ostrich like to avoid truth. Quite a number of conservatives abandoned the President in his re-election bid (see, Bob Barr, Andrew Sullivan et al). Some broke ranks over spending issues, while others were more concerned with civil liberties (Patriot Act) and another group opposed the Iraq war. So, why did so many principled conservatives fail to support Bush? Perhaps because like many other informed people in America they knew and understood the realities of this administration.

But who here is to blame- the people or the media? Probably a combination of both. Faux News came blazing onto the scene to remedy what many perceived as a liberal media bias. (I do not want to rehash that debate here. Suffice to say that as someone who has been on both sides of the ideological spectrum I tend to think the media's bias is towards laziness and the easy story.) But, even if the major media had been tilted to the left, it did seem at least to provide something close to accurate reporting. Faux, on the other hand, seems to exist in a separate, alternate world that does not represent reality (GOP talking points land, let's call it). It should also be noted that another study showed the folks who got their news from Faux were also prone to the same erroneous beliefs about Iraq/9-11.

So, in addition to our ideological and religious divide we also suffer from an information chasm. On the one side is the reality based community (not limited by ideological labels, as noted above) and on the other is the ostrich-like Faux/Limbaugh crowd who get their "information" either missing important pieces or spun into an intricate web of GOP talking points. Unfortunately, the latter group, for whatever reason, are unable or unwilling to think critically about the news they receive. A democracy cannot long exist where one group of people is systematically and wholly misinformed.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

People, People Why Are We Fighting?

The bloodbath seems to have begun within the Democratic Party. Even before Kerry conceded, the commenters on more liberal sites were calling for the heads of Terry McAuliffe and just about everyone else associated with the Party. While cleaning house after such a painful loss is probably a good thing, we might not want to be too hasty about it. Let's take some time to reflect on what happened and why and how we can avoid it in the future.

And, please... can we not have the internecine warfare that is already rearing its ugly head? I had hoped we left that behind with the primaries as all of us- liberal and conservative, New Dem and Old- came together as a Party for a common goal. Today's comment boards on sites like Kos and Atrios were full of venom for moderates and New Dems as the internet Left demands a purge.

But does that really make sense? We lost on values, people. The Party can no longer write off large swaths of the country and ignore those people's values. But to acknowledge those values is not to become Republican Lite. And moderate does not mean weak-kneed. We just need to reframe the values debate. We need to explain to people how equal rights for all is a bedrock American value. We need to stop being afraid to say that while we support abortion rights, we think it ought to be rare. We need to remind voters that religious liberty is a central part of the American experiment and that separation of church and state benefits both institutions.

Since Bill Clinton left office the Democratic Party has been silent on values issues. Maybe in part because we have disparate values within our Party. But that is no different than America as a whole. What we need to do is unite the country under a set of universal, American values like tolerance, liberty, equality, etc.

New Subtitle

For a number of reasons, I have opted to ditch the liberal tag for the above "blue law student in a red state." Those who know me well realized that the liberal line was a bit tongue in cheek. Although I support some liberal positions, my views tend to the more idiosyncratic. Plus, I think that by adopting a particular ideological tag, one becomes easy fodder for the sort of simple minded attacks that are common in contemporary political discourse.

Of course, to anyone who bothered to look, my biography link has always been here and it certainly would tend to describe someone closer to the mainstream of American political thought, with a few lurches left and right. I do not, and have not, hidden the fact that my political career began in the GOP. In fact, all of my paid political jobs have been on Republican campaigns, with the last being in 1998 for a statewide race in Massachusetts.

My journey started with the 1988 Bush campaign, as a campus volunteer. From there I got involved in the Massachusetts GOP and especially the local party, where I served on the Executive Committee. In my first few years I worked on state legislative races as well as local races. I was elected myself at the age of twenty to the school board in my home town. At that time, I was considered to be the Republican bomb thrower in a town government full of Democrats.

Like most young people, I saw the world in absolutist terms. This black and white world view animated me and led me to help found the Students for Life chapter at my college campus. And, it moved me to volunteer for the Buchanan campaign in 1992. I even heckled VP Quayle when he was in Boston with taunts of "how does it feel to be on the ticket with a liberal?"

Somehow I was able to overcome the Buchanan experience and I landed paid positions as a consultant to a Congressional race and later as a field director to a US Senate race, both before I was twenty four years old.

But things changed for me in 1994. I went away to law school (the first time) and made my first close gay friend. Although St. Louis was a small city, it opened my eyes to a much larger world around me. And with that bigger world came all sorts of shades of gray. In the fall of 1994 I even endorsed Ted Kennedy for re-election to the US Senate. Although I was not quite ready to leave the GOP, it seemed as though the time had come to reassess my outlook.

Shortly after January of 1995, as I digested more about the Contract with America and that election's changes in the make up of the GOP leadership, I realized the time had come to leave the Party. Sure, there was a part of me that wanted to stay and fight the dominance of the South and Midwestern religious conservatives, but it seemed to be a losing battle. The Rockefeller Republicans of the Northeast had seen a waning influence in the GOP for years. The Contract and the Gingrich Revolution merely cemented the status of religious conservatives as the leaders of the modern Republican Party.

At the same time that I left the GOP I had also left St. Louis and law school to return to Massachusetts. Over the next few years I would work with suicidal children, kids with emotional and behavioral disorders and in a public school. These experiences provided me with even more insight into how other people lived. As an upper middle class white kid growing up on Cape Cod, I just did not have those sorts of experiences.

Blah, blah, blah.. then I went to graduate school. Then worked for the Ways and Means Committee of the New York State Assembly. Then back to law school...

So.. where am I today? What made a former solid Republican into a Democrat? And what exactly do I believe?

Well, my discomfort with the Religious Right has always been there. I left the Students for Life chapter over disagreements about contraception and masturbation. Most of the members were staunch Catholics. Because the Church opposed contraception, masturbation and sex education the group did as well. This flew in the face of reason, given that preventing pregnancy was the best means to reduce abortion, and a rather heated argument between myself and the other board members ended with my comment about going home to "have sex with my girlfriend who is on the pill."

Beyond that particular disagreement, I became more politically pro-choice. The libertarian in me found it offensive for the government to dictate to a woman what she could and could not do to her body. Sure, I wanted to reduce abortions (I hope we all do!), but I did not want to do so by legislating morality.

My libertarian side (or my economics background) also leads me to positions that are contrary to those of the Democratic Party. I tend to favor market solutions as opposed to government solutions to problems. I oppose universal government health care; I am skeptical about minimum wage laws; I oppose rent control; I support using trade-able pollution credits as a way to diminish emissions; I oppose hate crimes laws.

So why do I vote Democratic? Well, I put it this way to a former political colleague- I think it is easier to get the Democrats to see the light on economics than it is to get the Republicans to see the light on social issues. Of course, it is not that simple. I could go on about my disdain for the theocratic politics of the GOP or the attempts by some in the GOP to prevent people with brown skin from voting or the GOP's use of wedge issues to divide the country, etc.

A lot has changed over the past sixteen years, and a lot has not. My values remain the same as they were, the same as they were instilled in me as a child. It is just that those values lead me to a different political conclusion. But, let's be honest here, liberal-conservative, left-right are merely ways to avoid thinking about complex issues that face us.

Down here in Atlanta, and also to some degree in St. Louis, I was considered a liberal. Back in Massachusetts and New York they call me a moderate or conservative. But no matter where I am, I'm the same person with the same values.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Family Values??

Guess which states have the lowest divorce rates? It must be those Bush and Bible loving Red States, right? WRONG! According to this piece the highest divorce rates are in the Bible Belt and among those with the lowest rates were those evil gay loving liberal states in the Northeast. The irony here is just too rich. Sure, we all knew that most of the moralizers were abject hypocrites (see, Bill O'Reilly et al), but now we see that even their Dittohead minions do not practice what they preach. So maybe the Thumpers are so opposed to gay marriage because maybe gays will have success where these breeders have had so much failure.

(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Curt Schilling, Moron?

Although he cancelled his Friday appearance in New Hampshire with Miserable Failure, apparently Curt is still on the Morons for Bush bandwagon. He appeared in Ohio and Pennsylvania with the Village Idiot from Texas today.

Hey Curt.. Thanks for winning a World Series for Red Sox Nation. But shut the hell up about politics. Reading your comments about Bush shows how ignorant you are when it comes to politics. You claim that Miserable Failure is "a leader who makes sure they have everything they need to get the job done, a leader who believes in their mission and honors their service, a leader who has the courage and the character to stay on the offense against terrorism until the war is won."

I suggest you ask the troops without armor and without properly armored vehicles in Iraq about having everything they need to get the job done. And maybe you didn't notice it on Friday, but while you were off in Disney, Osama Bin Laden popped up on my TV again. You remember him right? He's the terrorist responsible for 9-11. Oh, and honors service? I guess one honors service by weaseling out of Vietnam and failing to complete one's Guard duties. If Bush had courage he would have gone to 'Nam.

So, why don't you tell us why you really support Miserable Failure. It has nothing to do with policy, does it? It's because your boy Bush talks about Jesus as much as you do, right? Just be honest with us, Curt. You like Bush because he has the same religious crutch as you. A crutch that allows you not to have to have your own opinions or your own thoughts, because your church has provided them for you.

You're undoubtedly a great pitcher, Curt. But you're also a MORON.