Tuesday, November 09, 2004

A Preliminary Survey

Well, let's see...

So far, I have written entirely too much material for just two days of existence, most of it fairly foggy and long-winded. I'm sacrificing quite a bit of clarity to get in all of the little parenthetical tangents I'm so infatuated with. I've managed to express disgust with the metaphor of campaigning as romance, while simultaneously telling Democrats that they must "court" swing voters; and I've advocated understanding and mutual respect... while also comparing ruffled Dems to Turkeys.


I have not yet begun to blog!

Muah ha ha ha ha ha.


It isn't nice, but I couldn't help being reminded of Wangerin's turkeys from The Book of the Dun Cow, last week. In fact, after hearing the equivalent human cries of "Galoot!" I had to go back and re-read the book. The section in question involves the behavior of a group of animal characters in the midst of a war. Some Wild Turkeys haplessly blunder too close to the vicious enemy, and a heroic Dog saves them in the barest nick of time by running into them repeatedly and flinging them back into safety. Excerpt:

By the middle of the next morning it had become clear to nearly everyone that the Wild Turkeys had decided, to a man, to pout.

As blind and deaf as they were, they didn't know that one among their number -- Thuringer, his name -- had died by the bite of a serpent. They merely assumed that Thuringer had somehow escaped the altogether impolite pounding delivered unto the rest of them by a Dog and a vulgar nose. And nobody could tell them otherwise.... They "ga-galooted," and they "gaw-god-awfuled"; they groaned wonderfully and they limped, all within three feet of the meeting place. And they heard not a word of the proceedings....

The Wild Turkeys... were decided upon a personal duty. Their duty was to pout.

One of them, Corningware Turkey by name, stumbled and flubbered into the Coop itself. Once inside, he slammed the door with a right proper bang. Then he opened the door and stumbled out again, turned around, and slammed the door again. With his bottom wattles stuck out to the distance of a foot, for that is the expression of a pout, he reentered the Coop and banged the door, came out and banged the door, banged the door and banged the door. If anyone passed by, he casually lifted his stubby wing so that his many bruises would be apparent, then banged the door in that someone's face....

Almost before their eyes the animals saw a rampart rise up in a wide and perfect circle around the yard. The Ants made no complaint over the size of their duty. They worked in perfect contentment, and they built a wall, a bulwark of dirt which surrounded all the animals and finally stood as high as the gracious antlers of the deer. All around the outside of this wall they dug a trench quite as deep as the wall was high. And into the wall they buried here and there a Turkey up to his neck. Ants argue with no one if there is some way to keep schedule and do duty in spite of him. They didn't mind the Turkeys' pout. They didn't mind the Turkeys' plopping themselves upon the rising wall. And they thought that the naked little heads which finally stuck out of that wall were rather ornamental, if somewhat irregular.

The Turkeys, of course, pretended not to notice that they were up to their necks in the sod. The most wonderful pout of all is the kind which is snooty. It notices nothing at all -- and so is noticed by all, as it were, by accident. It says -- all unintentionally, to be sure: "You don't care about me, world. Well, then, go your way."
Wangerin would no doubt dislike having his book used for political comparison, but, hey, insight into human nature is insight into human nature, no matter where it's found or how it's used.

That Hideous MSM

Now for something short-winded, thankfully. It's a segment from C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength

"Don't you understand anything? Isn't it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That's how we get things done. Any opposition to the N.I.C.E. is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it's properly done, you get each side outbidding the other in support of us -- to refute the enemy slanders. Of course we're non-political. The real power always is."

"I don't believe you can do that," said Mark. "Not with the papers that are read by educated people."

"That shows you're still in the nursery, lovey," said Miss Hardcastle. "Haven't you yet realised that it's the other way round?"

"How do you mean?"

"Why you fool, it's the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they're all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, don't need reconditioning. They're all right already. They'll believe anything."
Lewis didn't know shit about sexual equality, but he knew quite well how to skewer the educated classes.

Orson Scott Card, and "Exposing" Oneself

I mentioned how some social conservatives see liberals as oppressive in the post prior to this one.

The first place I heard that idea was on Orson Scott Card's website.

I'll admit it. I am a drooling fan of his work. I was even privileged to attend one of his writing seminars, and I can honestly say that I know incredibly few artists who are so incredibly generous with their energy and devotion, in terms of helping novices of their craft, as he is.

I agree with him about war politics, and anything I could possibly say about that, he has already said here. As Glenn would say, read the whole thing.

I remember, just before the draft lottery that chose my number back in the Vietnam era, a professor asked me whether I would serve in Vietnam. I said, "Not if I can help it."

"Why not?" he said.

"Because we've already decided to lose. Why should I risk my life for that?" Nixon had been elected partly on the basis of a promise to get out of Vietnam. Having made that promise, he was no longer capable of negotiating a peace with the North Vietnamese that differed in any significant way from our complete surrender.

After all, why should they give in on any point, when their opponents in the negotiation had already promised to leave Vietnam regardless of whether the North Vietnamese gave concessions or not?

Likewise, Kerry's election will be interpreted by everyone in the world as meaning that the American people no longer have the will to fight until our enemies are defeated.

That means that if you enlist in Kerry's army, you will be put in harm's way fighting a war that the new president does not believe in and has no intention of winning.
Orson says a lot of things that I wish I could get away with saying. :)

On the other hand...

I also dislike his social conservativism extremely, and the arrogance that comes across in many of his essays.

But here is the trick: I know the man, and I know him by his works, and his works are good ones. Therefore I pay him the respect of accepting that he believes the things that he does for good and right reasons of his own, even if I don't necessarily believe that the things themselves are good and right. That is a fine line. But when the country is divided by a 51%/49% split, fine lines ought to predominate our thoughts for at least a little while.

If you don't understand what I'm talking about, let me phrase it a bit differently: I believe that if I had experienced life as OSC has experienced it, I could very well believe exactly as he does.

This is a very easy leap for me to make, considering I've believed on both sides of the fence. When I made the switch to secular social liberalism in my ideology, I first thought of myself as enlightened. Now, I just consider myself lucky... some days, not even that: a victim of chance, rather. Every single morning, I wake up to the knowledge that nature has created my body to bring forth children, and that mandate echoes loudly in my ears, despite the fact that I've never wanted children, and demands at all times that I re-evaluate my stance. Occasionally life would be easier if I could just give in and let the Bible tell me what my role and purpose in life is. But my experiences have shown me that the things I knew as a child simply do not reflect the way the world is.

Kerry states who are looking into secession: I would not recommend it. There is a secret in the above admissions I make. If you want to cross bridges and meet and understand people of different ideas in mutual respect if not agreement, then the key to that is exposure.

I used to listen to a beloved relative of mine practically smoke at the ears when she talked about homosexuality. It was ugly to watch, and uglier to hear, and I hated it and agonized over it and tried to argue it, and never made even a dent. She's since mellowed, and do you know what I blame for that? "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." I shit you not, and yes, it's funny, but it's also true. She admitted to me in a phone conversation once, that she had started watching the show, and I asked her why she liked it. The first thing she said was, "Well, they're obviously such nice guys, and they really seem to want to help, you know?"

Exposure. People are affected by arguments -- typically affected in that they tend to hold on more tightly to their challenged ideas -- but people are persuaded by faces. Why do you think the Family Research Council is so pissed off about gays on television portrayed as "normal people"?

And don't fake it, either. Don't pull a Guardian, making contact for the express purpose of demonstrating how condescending you can be. Because you should note that the word I chose was not instruction. It was exposure. (No, not at all like that.)

You do that by getting to know some of those red staters, even, perhaps, the ones you despise.

Oops, I forgot: exposure works both ways. You might get infected by a little bit of the Midwestern Cooties. I would be in favor of that.

I'm going to close with a quote, that a friend once said to me. I think it is the most insightful statement I have ever heard about political disagreements.
It's quite possible that ideal views and wants of two people are the same, but their "political" views are quite different. Sort of like, the end is the same, but the ideas for the means to reach that end aren't. I.e., say two people both want a violence free community, but one thinks that the solution is X while the other Y. Both are trying to achieve the same thing, one just thinks one way is better than the other.
No matter how different that sweaty oaf across the state from you may be, you and he, on a basic level, want the same things. You simply disagree about how to get there. Think about it. There is no issue that can not somehow be broken down to this level. To many people, that is frightening, but perhaps it's time it became reassuring instead.

I find it reassuring. I may be pro-war when it comes to Iraq, but I'm not the slightest bit interested in another war over an attempt to secede.

Suggestions for Democrats

I am completely delighted with just about everything found in Mark Kleiman's essay about Liberalism (not liberalism, Liberalism). Yes. Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Linked to their uncontrolled compassion is liberals' perceived (and to some extent real) indifference to the Puritan virtues -- chastity and sobriety and thrift -- or at least their unwillingness to act on behalf of those virtues in any way that might seem to imply disapproval or intolerance of those who display the corresponding vices.

On the other hand, liberals are perceived -- again, not entirely falsely -- as having strongly-held moral commitments and being willing to impose them on other people.
People who constantly rail against the Religious Right as some kind of Spanish Inquisition fail to realize that for many slightly more moderate social conservatives, the Liberal Left is seen in just as threatening a light. The fact that the liberals often have more illustrious podiums and better access to philosophy classes does not help their cause; some of the most attractive statements, to me, in Kleiman's essay, are the ones in which he admits to not understanding certain conservative issues:
Lots of my liberal friends are like me: they may not disapprove of target-shooting, but they really don't get hunting (which I think is mostly a guy form of nature-meditiation). They (we) think having guns for self-protection is sort of weird and primitive, and regard the "armed citizenry against tyranny" stuff as utterly nuts. Having guns around makes them (us) very uncomfortable. I've asked gun-carrying houseguests to leave their guns in their cars.

OK, fine. I don't like having guns around me, and try to arrange my own environment accordingly. The problem is that lots of liberals are willing to write that into law.
I have much more willingness to listen to someone who approaches my views with an outlook of, "I really don't get it, but hey, we're all different," than someone who decides that their own sensibilities have determined in them a superior comprehension of how my brain works.

Let me put it another way.

Democrats, if you want to win in 2008, there are some things you might wish to consider.

For instance:

You can not interpret a single event in two opposite ways if you wish to form a coherent strategy. Pick one: A) Bush used unfair methods to push an incredibly narrow margin and steal a win. B) Bush was elected by a red America filled with holy-rolling retarded church chimps. I'll ignore the fact that both of those assumptions are absolutely wrong, and simply point out that they just can't sit next to each other without getting into a fight. Pick one. If you pick option B, and manage to somehow live in that bleak worldview bubble for four years without killing yourself or leaving the country, then obviously your duty will become to educate the mindless masses. If you pick A (which I would prefer, but hey, we're all different), then you have very different goals: institute some security into voting, and court the swingers.

As far as the first part of that goal goes, I don't think Bush cheated, but I'm still all for better voting methodologies. I've already invited a guest blogger who's more of an expert on the potential technologies than I am, and I eagerly await his presentation of the data. Please! We could all use some improvement.

As far as the second part of that goal goes...

All I'm saying is consider it. Because there is much evidence to suggest it was the swingers and the moderates who turned the tide:
Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life. Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily.
(Aside: Can we repeat that number, please? 16% of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. Every time I think I've escaped the liberal media bubble, I'm reminded that I haven't. I had no idea that there was so little popular support for a flat ban on abortion.)

The reason you want to consider it is this: you can not win the Religious Right, and you can not evict them, and you probably can't even sit down to dinner with them at this point without coming to blows, Dar Williams' optimism notwithstanding. This much I promise: the more you say you understand them, the more they absolutely know that you do not.

But you can win the moderates. You can even learn to like them.
"If she could give love to IT perhaps it would shrivel up and die, for she was sure that IT could not withstand love. But she, in all her weakness and foolishness and baseness and nothingness, was incapable of loving IT. Perhaps it was not too much to ask of her, but she could not do it.

But she could love Charles Wallace."

--Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle In Time
Dramatic, yes. I quote lots of fictional or silly things that just so happen to spring to mind, in reference to the oh-so-Serious issues of the day. And here I say: come back to us, Democrats. You know you can never love the Religious Right. But you can love the moderates. They are still a part of your family. Remember?

James Carville's quote about the election is instructive: "The purpose of a political party is to win elections, and we're not doing that." I say, shame on the Democratic party for not doing that. SHAME on you. Shame upon your heads for considering your petty hatreds and lofty schemes to interfere with the knowledge that, if you do not win, you do not matter. This isn't a game of chess, where pleasure can be taken in the strategy and the art, and points given for an exceptionally elegant style. This is a democracy. The party that works to win, and only to WIN, and then, after that, concentrates on WINNING, is also going to be the party that vigorously seeks out the issues that the voters really want, not the issues that "really matter" ("didn't John Kerry win every substantive point on the issues that really matter?") according to some other standard -- and hence, it's going to be the party that represents the majority. There is no virtuous or principled loss, here, because the only prize that matters is this: who really represents the people, and who just pretends to.

In the meantime, while you're working so hard to ferret out those issues and use them to your advantage (YES! WIN!); it wouldn't hurt for you to put a cork in a few of your louder polemicists. Kerry was not a bad candidate, you know, and his difficulties were not insurmountable (for every person I knew who was ignorant of social security laws, there was another person who didn't know what in the hell a swift boat was). His chief difficulty, as his campaign committee saw it, was a lack of a coherent vision. I'd be willing to take that a step further: the electorate would have been able to see whatever vision he did represent much more clearly, had the cacophany of the Bush-haters not drowned him out at every opportunity. It's just a personal hypothesis, but I think it could be valid. If you can't get the very loud, very published, and very annoying fringe elements off your side, then you at least have to make sure you find a candidate who can talk moderation as loudly as they scream epithets.

You should be no more handicapped by your lunatic fringe than the Republicans are handicapped by the Religious Right; they're very similar elements. The difference is, Republicans are currently going around repudiating the Religious Right. Don't believe me? Check a roll of the most popular Republican-tilted blogs, and tell me you don't spot a resounding chorus of, "But I don't mind gay marriage!" (If you think that blogs don't matter, well, then, that releases me from the obligation of having to argue about early exit-poll data with you.)

So let's summarize:

- First, decide what your goals are.

- If you want to win, pick the goal that is achievable (plausibility helps).

- You'd better want to win.

- Repudiate the fringe.

Some of us wouldn't mind seeing a vigorous, healthy Democratic party springing from the ashes of the current one. I, for one, as a career Republican, hate to see my party get all fat and lazy with no real opposition to cut its teeth on.


I'm attempting to pay attention to work, while simultaneously reloading my sitemeter statistics once per second. Work is suffering. :)

I can dream, one day, that I will be famous enough for some Leftie to read the above statement and think, "I hope she gets fired!" Ah, vitriol, such precious validation. One can almost see how Michael Moore keeps such a positive outlook.

Thank you, Glenn. Maybe I'll get a few scores out of this site. Ya think?

Jesusland Vs. The Gays

I offer up, for your comparison, Ken Layne:

But that's not enough to overcome Jesusland. Back in the mid-1980s, I thought I was witnessing the peak of Jesusland and its hold on politics -- the time of Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority, etc. That version of Jesusland did crumble under the weight of its own sins & scams, but the new Jesusland is even stronger, and totally decentralized -- these people don't even belong to a known religion, like the Catholics or the Methodists; they literally just make the shit up and call it a church. While there is no headquarters for Jesusland, all of its subjects do march at the command of the RNC and Karl Rove.
And an article from the Family Research Council:
And so, as one part of our broad-based efforts to support the traditional family, we oppose what is sometimes called "the gay agenda." It is an agenda that demands the full acceptance of the practice of homosexuality--morally, socially, legally, religiously, politically, and financially. Indeed, it calls for not only acceptance, but affirmation and celebration of this behavior as normal. It even demands that homosexuality be seen as desirable for those who desire it. This is "the gay agenda"--and we are against it.
What a monstrous hydra is bigotry; it speweth forth such similar bile from such different heads.

Maureen explains it all:

Romance is often used as the best metaphor in campaigns. In New Hampshire, Kerry fans had a bumper sticker that said, "Dated Dean, Married Kerry," playing off the idea that while Howard Dean might be exciting, with all his anti-war, sweet-nothing rants, John Kerry was more solid husband, or presidential, material. It was famously said of Bush 41 that he was so lacking in pizzazz he reminded women of their first husband[...] a gag that he didn't like, by the way.
Gee, imagine not liking a comment like that. I think it's political gold to have your leadership of the country compared to the fumblings of a starter-husband.

Romance is an awful metaphor for a political campaign. What kind of a woman gives a man power over her, when she absolutely knows that he isn't going to be honest? And yet, the single thing you know about every politician before you hire him is that he is not going to be honest. We've equated the stereotype of lying men to the necessary fact of lying presidents.

I find there's something disgusting about comparing an administration to a romantic relationship.

First of all, I think it's sexist, and an easy way to discount the vote of most women as "emotional". I anticipate a lot of this kind of comparison in the press, as pundits ask themselves, "Why did Bush get a higher percentage of the female vote this time around?" Expect answers to range from Bush's supposed father-figure status, to his stereotype as the rugged Marlboro Man type (yes, I got that from Bill Maher) -- any way to avoid the assumption that women might have been thinking about anything more than the secondary sexual characteristics of the candidate in question.

Second of all, well... I think it's sexist, because the metaphor does, in fact, reduce the candidates to their secondary sexual characteristics. I'm sure that every political hopeful dreams of the day when he can finally reside in the oval office and have his policies interpreted through the lens of Freudian heuristics. The higher you go, the stupider they think you.

One of the things that I have always liked about dubya is that he is not a good speaker. I tend to be nervous of the kind of candidate who seems to agree that a campaign is a "seduction", more about talking smoothly and making the other guys look bad than about being a good candidate. Bush doesn't talk a good game, but he does play a good game.

If more women voted for him this time around, it may very well be because women weren't voting with their ovaries.