Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Democrats are fighting a Civil War

Not with the Republicans, but with themselves.

It's not a very fierce war, though.

Toadvine sez:
"...It's time for the left to stop carrying water for the GOP. We are their enablers.

Stop, please stop beating yourselves up over your 'inability to reach the religious rural voter'. That's bullshit. That religious voter is a homophobic bigot. The only way to change that bigot's mind is with negative feedback. The bigots need to see what it's like to lose those farm subsidies. They need to see what it's like to lose that welfare check. That bigot's wife and daughter need to see what it's like to have to seek an abortion in an alleyway. That black voter who voted GOP over homo marriage needs to see what it's like to have segregated schools again.

The Democrats have blunted the GOP's slander of the New Deal for decades. the Democrats have prevented the GOP bigots from returning to the days of Jim Crow for decades.

It's time for the Democrats to let the GOP show itself for what it is."

The only thing i'm going to interject, here, is that the Democrats used to win the rural vote. And no, i don't mean back when the Democrats were still pushing a Segregationist platform. That vote can be taken back, and i think it can be done without letting the rural voters swing in the breeze for a few years.

Ian Montgomerie replies:
"...Plus, of course, we just saw the proof that the 'let the Republicans have their way and people will wise up' strategy is an abject failure. They have ALREADY had their way for four years and ALREADY caused major fuckups. Four more years is already going to get well into "destroy the village" territory, whether it ends up being saved or not! Bush is *already* highly loathed for his incompetence, and he *won* anyway.

If the lesson you took away from this election was either of 'the Democrats aren't Republican enough yet, we need to sacrifice more issues' or 'George Bush hasn't fucked up enough yet, we need to let him fuck up more', I would suggest that you give the good ol' Reality-Based Community a try for a change.

George Bush has fucked up more than enough, failure to capitalize on his fuckups means the strategy was wrong. And the Democrats are solidly astride the center, failure to get enough centrist votes means that their message was conveyed in the wrong way, not that they need to shift further to the right on social issues."

I think Ian kind of misses what the point is, though. It isn't that the Democrats should adopt the Republican position, but that they should let the Republicans go wild for a while and then come back in with the progressiveness.

Haggai sez:
"That's probably true. Nobody really doubts that the Dems are pro-choice, so we could maybe reserve that for non-specific allusions and code words (though nothing as fucked up as Dred Scott, please). Get the 'we're the ones who can reduce the abortion rate' message out in front, and tie it in with the policies that let us do it, like better economic/educational/health-care conditions for non-wealthy people..."

I happen to agree with this one. I'm anti-abortion. I don't think anyone is "pro-abortion" in an abstract sense. But that doesn't mean the solution to abortion hinges on its legality. Rather, the solution hinges on programs the Democrats are already pushing: comprehensive sex education, easily available contraceptives, fiscal equality of women, and so forth. They aren't, however, tying these to issues such as abortion or teen pregnancy. Make the religious right choose: either reduce abortions or cut out sex education. Either way is a win (in that the religious right has to pick, and will likely be divided) strategically. They want to have it both ways (ban abortion and sex education) but that is ineffective. It needs to be made extremely clear that position is ineffective. I advise an army of sociologists to explain these issues. Well, no... not sociologists because i'm starting to really loathe sociologists. But official looking people, in any case.

Robin Green sez:
"In addition, it's interesting to read people talking about how homophobes deserve respect."

Actually, depending on how you define "respect", i'd say sure: they deserve respect in as far as they don't throw it away (Fred Phelps, i'm looking at you). But what they do not deserve is tolerance for their views. We can be respectful without tolerating stupidity. That's one of the things the Democrats have forgotten lately, as far as i'm concerned. We can argue against segregation, for instance, without launching broadsides at segregationists.

That doesn't mean we don't mount vigorous, implacable arguments on the issue. Just that we don't act like "Zig-zag" Zell Miller while doing it. After all, it is (supposedly) the Republicans who can't separate the idea of being civil to those who disagree with you.

However, as per the latter part of the post:

"Look, which is more disrespectful:

1. Saying 'I disagree with you. There is nothing wrong with being gay.' (What Kerry claimed his position was)

2. Denying people the rights married people have, e.g. a very important one, hospital visitation rights - in effect saying 'We hate you' or 'Your relationships are make-believe relationships' - or both.

Please, please, please, stop with this one-sided bullshit.

If saying 'There is nothing wrong with being gay' is 'disrespectful' to some people, so be it! So be it!"

It is important to have a clear understanding of what is and is not respectful, etc. The two positions are profoundly different and treating them as equivalent (this is one of the Republican's tactics, by the way: equating an extreme position with a moderate one through appeals to emotion) is ridiculous. Democrats who do this ought to re-evaluate... well, a whole bunch of things.

Toadvine returns:
"No, they have NOT had their way. Their way is to outlaw abortion, to outlaw homosexuality, to do away with social welfare - to rescind the New Deal. All those programs are still in place...
...If people in Oklahoma want to be bigots, let them."

As i've outlined elsewhere, i don't think this is actually their goal. If they outlawed homosexuality then what would drive the fundamentalist wingnuts to the polls? If abortion bans started making progress wouldn't that decrease the need for continuous "pro-life" support of the Republican party? No, the Republican party is fighting an eternal war and it's fighting with the Democrats. Look at how their rhetoric matches that model. Notice how they sent their "partial-birth abortion ban" bill through with no provisions for the health of the mother! It was quickly shot down by the Supreme Court- and that's no surprise! The court has all but outright stated it would nix any abortion ban that lacks that type of exception. yet rather than banning most "partial-birth abortion" with exceptions for those that hardly anyone other than the most radical of the radical extremists will argue against the Republicans pushed through a doomed-to-fail version. The Republicans spent how much time and energy pushing a "Federal Marriage Amendment" that couldn't even make it out of the legislature, let alone actually into a position where it could theoretically be passed.

No, the Republican leaders don't want to "win" on these issues. They want these issues to stick around so they can whip their irrational, zealot base up into a frothing fervor of fanatical frenzy whenever they please.

As far as the "if people want to be bigots, let them" comment goes: that sort of thing has real consequences. There's a reason gay kids have a higher-than-average suicide rate and letting the bigots run wild makes life undeniably worse for thousands, if not millions, of minorities which are the target of these bigots' hate.

Here's the next part. I hate to say it, and i don't want to, but i will:

That doesn't necessarily mean this strategy won't work. It just means the strategy will be costly in ways that are difficult to imagine. There are reasons the Democrats fight (albeit, not very effectively recently) against the agenda of bigots. Politics is not football.

Haggai sez:
"...We can't win the debate if it's only conducted on the level of gay marriage in the presidential campaign, with all sorts of homophobia on the local level going mostly unnoticed by the national media. We need to throw their bullshit 'values' agenda back in their faces at all levels, and on their own grounds. In the case of gay marriage, this is about treating people as human beings on our side, vs. God Hates Fags on their side. That's not how the campaign played out this time, but it damn well has to for us to win in the future. Not with 'values' on their side vs. nothing on our side, but our values against their values, face-to-face. Tolerance and the right to privacy vs. hatred and fanaticism. Two sets of 'values' enter, one set leaves. We need to get into the Thunderdome and beat them at their own game."

The problem with trying to frame the debate as "decent human beings vs. drooling, homophobic savages" is that the Republicans have spent the last two decades systematically dismantling any sort of objective measure of bigotry. Just switching the arguments to argue against the extreme end (and Fred Phelps is extreme even for the extremists) doesn't automatically make us right in the new "faith-based" version of objectivity. As soon as arguments against Fred Phelps start appearing nationally the Republicans will shoot back with "The Democrats are trying to smear the Republican Party and Honest, God-Fearing, Patriotic Americans as drooling savages! How dare they!" Saying "Yes, but: your side actually does say this stuff" will be met with "Yours says stuff too!"

It must start with the creation of an inellectual, logical, philosophy that is generally agreeable and relatively issue-neutral (that is: a philosophy that defines anti-abortionists as bad won't cut it) that can then be used to frame the debate. Again, my hypothetical book-in-progress deals with some of this stuff.

Andrew A. Gill sez:
"I think that the government should have nothing to do with deciding who gets married, which is a religious institution."

Sorry, i couldn't resist throwing this one in. I'll tie it in with my theme, i promise.

Actually, the government has a large interest in this because it provides legal and financial benefits to those who are married. Whether or not this is just in an abstract and ethical sense, that's what our government does (there are arguments for and against, but i don't want to get into them right now because they're really side issues). Once the government starts doing that, marriage ceases to be a solely religious institution. Our government has, as per the Constitution of the United States of America, a solemn duty to provide all of its citizens with equal protection under the law and rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If that makes some conservatives feel bad then that's their problem. In America we come down on the side of freedom and equality.

That is how same sex marriage should be framed (or at least, that's an improvement). No mushy stuff. Understand the issues, go back to the big picture (the overarching fabric of America, if you will) and stick the issues into it.

(Yes, i realize this Gill person is a libertarian, but like i said: i couldn't resist.)

Jakes sez
"...focus on children, make the democrats the party of hte children (or for the children), 4 years of bush and 44% of young people are still stupid enough to vote for bush."

I have to disagree with this for a pair of reasons. The "for the children!" argument is pretty flat to begin with. Yes, it makes an effective way to send parents into a frenzy, but no: it's not a good way to base your policy. The Republicans can get away with it primarily because the Democrats have forgotten how to fight it, if they ever knew. I guarantee you the Republicans know how to fight it. They wrote the book. Don't play their game, make them play your game!

Andrew G. Gill sez
"...The answer is to make marriage--all marriage a more moral institution. Half of all marriages end in divorce--not really, but it's cited enough that people will believe it. Just say that you'll help that half to get through the rough spots. Marriage counseling for some, battered women shelters for others."

I disagree, again. Sort of. I think the "half of all marriage ends in divorce" styled figures might be useful, but toward a different end. Consider the comparative out-of-wedlock birth rate of Massachusetts and Texas. I think Mass. is something like 7% of all births occur out of wedlock whereas Texas is like 14%. Why wasn't John Kerry saying "I want to do for America what we did in Massachusetts! Through a set of progressive policies A, B, and C we can lower the national out-of-wedlock birth rate." Etc.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our government has, as per the Constitution of the United States of America, a solemn duty to provide all of its citizens with equal protection under the law and rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If that makes some conservatives feel bad then that's their problem. In America we come down on the side of freedom and equality.

That is how same sex marriage should be framed
This is a really bad idea. I'll come out and say what I really think--the government should abolish the institution of marriage and replace it with civil unions. I don't know if people would go for that, but I'm pretty sure that Bigot-Americans would not like to hear that they will be sharing the sacred institution of marriage with them

Why wasn't John Kerry saying "I want to do for America what we did in Massachusetts! Through a set of progressive policies A, B, and C we can lower the national out-of-wedlock birth rate."If you want to say that, fine. I think it's at least as good as what I suggested, possibly better. The point is to make it a moral statement. Show that you care about these issues.

Andrew A. Gill

6:03 PM  
Blogger Winter said...

Actually, i think the "all government marriage becomes civil unions" compromise is a legitimate one. I would get behind it, though it isn't really my first choice. The problem is it has no actual traction beyond being mentioned within various circles with no real power to affect change. At least, AFAIK. Churches, etc, could of course call their "blessing of unions" whatever they felt like. (Which, of course, includes "marrying" same sex couples if they feel like it- many do.) The problem with civil unions as they are framed is the whole "separate-but-equal" lie. It doesn't matter if it's entirely "marriage" or entirely "civil union", but splitting them up doesn't work.

As far as the divorce issue: the reason i suggested an alternate is because the one you proposed will, at best, mean you break even with the Republicans. That might be a winning game plan, but i wouldn't count on it. With my proposal you not only start talking about these problems that are important "moral issues" but you do it in a way that proposes a solution and also does not "alienate the base". That alone won't be enough to turn the tide in the rural areas (for instance) but that with additional talking about economic issues plaguing non-corporate America very well may.

The thought process i would hope this sort of plan would provoke would be "Well gee, I don't really like all this sex education talk but at least their heart is in the right place... and hey, they want to help lift property values too!"
(That is, if it doesn't turn them around entirely.)

6:39 PM  

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