Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Stupid Party
The Economist doesn’t pull its punches.
JOHN STUART MILL once dismissed the British Conservative Party as the stupid party. Today the Conservative Party is run by Oxford-educated high-fliers who have been busy reinventing conservatism for a new era. As Lexington sees it, the title of the “stupid party” now belongs to the Tories’ transatlantic cousins, the Republicans.
There are any number of reasons for the Republican Party’s defeat on November 4th. But high on the list is the fact that the party lost the battle for brains. Barack Obama won college graduates by two points, a group that George Bush won by six points four years ago. He won voters with postgraduate degrees by 18 points. And he won voters with a household income of more than $200,000—many of whom will get thumped by his tax increases—by six points. John McCain did best among uneducated voters in Appalachia and the South.
The Republicans lost the battle of ideas even more comprehensively than they lost the battle for educated votes, marching into the election armed with nothing more than slogans. Energy? Just drill, baby, drill. Global warming? Crack a joke about Ozone Al. Immigration? Send the bums home. Torture and Guantánamo? Wear a T-shirt saying you would rather be water-boarding. Ha ha. During the primary debates, three out of ten Republican candidates admitted that they did not believe in evolution.
The Republican Party’s divorce from the intelligentsia has been a while in the making. The born-again Mr Bush preferred listening to his “heart” rather than his “head”. He also filled the government with incompetent toadies like Michael “heck-of-a-job” Brown, who bungled the response to Hurricane Katrina. Mr McCain, once the chattering classes’ favourite Republican, refused to grapple with the intricacies of the financial meltdown, preferring instead to look for cartoonish villains. And in a desperate attempt to serve boob bait to Bubba, he appointed Sarah Palin to his ticket, a woman who took five years to get a degree in journalism, and who was apparently unaware of some of the most rudimentary facts about international politics.
Republicanism’s anti-intellectual turn is devastating for its future. The party’s electoral success from 1980 onwards was driven by its ability to link brains with brawn. The conservative intelligentsia not only helped to craft a message that resonated with working-class Democrats, a message that emphasised entrepreneurialism, law and order, and American pride. It also provided the party with a sweeping policy agenda. The party’s loss of brains leaves it rudderless, without a compelling agenda.
This is happening at a time when the American population is becoming more educated. More than a quarter of Americans now have university degrees. Twenty per cent of households earn more than $100,000 a year, up from 16% in 1996. Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster, notes that 69% call themselves “professionals”. McKinsey, a management consultancy, argues that the number of jobs requiring “tacit” intellectual skills has increased three times as fast as employment in general. The Republican Party’s current “redneck strategy” will leave it appealing to a shrinking and backward-looking portion of the electorate.
Why is this happening? One reason is that conservative brawn has lost patience with brains of all kinds, conservative or liberal. Many conservatives—particularly lower-income ones—are consumed with elemental fury about everything from immigration to liberal do-gooders. They take their opinions from talk-radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and the deeply unsubtle Sean Hannity. And they regard Mrs Palin’s apparent ignorance not as a problem but as a badge of honour.
Another reason is the degeneracy of the conservative intelligentsia itself, a modern-day version of the 1970s liberals it arose to do battle with: trapped in an ideological cocoon, defined by its outer fringes, ruled by dynasties and incapable of adjusting to a changed world. The movement has little to say about today’s pressing problems, such as global warming and the debacle in Iraq, and expends too much of its energy on xenophobia, homophobia and opposing stem-cell research.
Conservative intellectuals are also engaged in their own version of what Julian Benda dubbed la trahison des clercs, the treason of the learned. They have fallen into constructing cartoon images of “real Americans”, with their “volkish” wisdom and charming habit of dropping their “g”s. Mrs Palin was invented as a national political force by Beltway journalists from the Weekly Standard and the National Review who met her when they were on luxury cruises around Alaska, and then noisily championed her cause.
How likely is it that the Republican Party will come to its senses? There are glimmers of hope. Business conservatives worry that the party has lost the business vote. Moderates complain that the Republicans are becoming the party of “white-trash pride”. Anonymous McCain aides complain that Mrs Palin was a campaign-destroying “whack job”. One of the most encouraging signs is the support for giving the chairmanship of the Republican Party to John Sununu, a sensible and clever man who has the added advantage of coming from the north-east (he lost his New Hampshire Senate seat on November 4th).
But the odds in favour of an imminent renaissance look long. Many conservatives continue to think they lost because they were not conservative or populist enough—Mr McCain, after all, was an amnesty-loving green who refused to make an issue out of Mr Obama’s associations with Jeremiah Wright. Richard Weaver, one of the founders of modern conservatism, once wrote a book entitled “Ideas have Consequences”; unfortunately, too many Republicans are still refusing to acknowledge that idiocy has consequences, too.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The Prodigal Senator returns
Yes, it is infuriating that Democrats are allowing backstabbing, turncoat, Benedict Arnold Joe Lieberman to not only stay in the Democratic caucus, but keep his prized chairmanship of the vitally important Homeland Security Committee. I mean, what were they thinking!?!
But at the same time, let’s look at it from another direction. For all practical purposes, Lieberman has been a Republican for the past two years or so. Now he wants to be a Democrat again. Is that such a bad thing?
What would the reaction be if, after the election, a Republican Senator like Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins came up and said they wanted to switch parties and become a Democrat? Wouldn’t Democrats welcome them with open arms? Maybe even give them a committee chairmanship to possibly entice others with similar ambitions?
Remember Richard Shelby? The one-time Democrat who switched parties and is today one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate? That worked out pretty well for the GOP. And what about James Jeffords? Remember when the party gave him the cold-sholder and essentially forced him out for not toeing the line? That didn’t work out so well for them.
Now, a lot will depend on how Lieberman conducts himself here on out. But in the long-run this may not have been such a bad deal after all.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Dan Rather lawsuit getting results
Damned liberal media!Rather’s Lawsuit Shows Role of G.O.P. in Inquiry at CBS
When Dan Rather filed suit against CBS 14 months ago — claiming, among other things, that his former employer had commissioned a politically biased investigation into his work on a “60 Minutes” segment about President Bush’s National Guard service — the network predicted the quick and favorable dismissal of the case, which it derided as “old news.”
So far, Mr. Rather has spent more than $2 million of his own money on the suit. And according to documents filed recently in court, he may be getting something for his money.
Using tools unavailable to him as a reporter — including the power of subpoena and the threat of punishment against witnesses who lie under oath — he has unearthed evidence that would seem to support his assertion that CBS intended its investigation, at least in part, to quell Republican criticism of the network.
Among the materials that money has shaken free for Mr. Rather are internal CBS memorandums turned over to his lawyers, showing that network executives used Republican operatives to vet the names of potential members of a panel that had been billed as independent and charged with investigating the “60 Minutes” segment.
National Review, RIP
At National Review, a Threat to Its Reputation for Erudition - NYTimes.com
In a span of 252 days, the National Review lost two Buckleys — one to death, another to resignation — and an election.
Now, thanks to the coarsening effect of the Internet on political discourse, the magazine may have lost something else: its reputation as the cradle for conservative intellectuals and home for erudite and well-mannered debate prized by its founder, the late William F. Buckley Jr.
And here is another testament
to the demise of NRO.
Of course, it could always bounce back, but with the way things are going (i.e. Palin 2012) that doesn’t seem likely in the near future.
On Intrinsic Evil
The buzz word that my friend Mark likes to throw around now is “intrinsic” as in “intrinsic evil”. In a previous thread where we were discussing his contention that voting for Obama was morally wrong because of his pro-choice stance on abortion, I asked why it was not also morally wrong to vote for a Republican who supports capital punishment.
Mark responded by saying that abortion is an “intrinsic evil” and thus a worse sin than capital punishment. But what does that mean? I decided to look it up and came across this wonderful article titled Intrinsic Evil and Political Responsibility
in America | The National Catholic Weekly by M. Cathleen Kaveny, the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. I highly recommend reading this article in its entirety, but here are some excerpts which help clarify this issue:
The term “intrinsic evil” does not have its roots in the expansive imagery of the church’s prophetic witness, but rather in the tightly focused analysis of its moral casuistry. It is not a rhetorical flourish, but rather a technical term of Catholic moral theology....
In a nutshell, the fact that an act is called an intrinsic evil tells us two and only two things.
First, it tells us why an action is wrong—because of the “object” of the acting agent’s will. To identify the object of an action, one has to put oneself in the shoes of the one acting, and to describe the action from her perspective. The object is the immediate goal for which that person is acting; it is “the proximate end of a deliberate decision” (VS, No. 78).
Second, the fact that an act is intrinsically evil tells us that it is always wrong to perform that type of act, no matter what the other circumstances are. A good motive cannot make an act with a bad object morally permissible. In other words, we may never do evil so that good may come of it. To echo an example used by both Pope John Paul II and St. Thomas, a modern-day Robin Hood should not hold up a convenience store at gunpoint in order to give the money to a nearby homeless center. Robin Hood’s good motive (altruistic giving) does not wash away the bad object or immediate purpose of his action (robbery).
But to say that an act is intrinsically evil does not by itself say anything about the comparative gravity of the act. Some acts that are not intrinsically evil (driving while intoxicated) can on occasion be worse both objectively and subjectively than acts that are intrinsically evil (telling a jocose lie). Some homicides that are not intrinsically evil are worse than intrinsically evil homicides. Furthermore, the fact that an act is intrinsically evil does not by itself tell third parties anything at all about their duty to prevent that act from occurring.
Kaveny notes that the church defines many acts besides abortion as intrinsic evils including euthanasia, homosexual acts, using birth control and even intentional lying. She then knocks down the notion that intrinsic evil automatically means that something is gravely evil and gives several examples of non-intrinsic evils that are much worse than intrinsic ones.
She then goes on to show the folly of trying to base one’s political judgments on the concept of intrinsic evil.
...how much help does the category of “intrinsic evil” offer us in deciding whom to vote for in an important national election? In my view, not much help at all.
A defender of the category’s usefulness might say that the fact that a candidate does not disapprove of an intrinsic evil reveals an unworthy character. That may be the case. But so does callousness toward the foreseen (but unintended) consequences of an unjust war, particularly toward the children who are orphaned, maimed or killed. So does indifference toward starving children in this country and in the world as a whole, many of whom are done an injustice not by individual Americans, but by American policy as a whole. In this fallen world, moral character alone is not enough. Political competence and other practical skills are also required. The person with the best moral character may not be the best president.
Now, Kaveny is not “pro-choice” and makes that clear in her essay. But she is clearly not swayed by the people who, as she says, rely on “misuse of church teachings in the political realm.”
For many pro-life Catholics, the issue of voting and abortion comes down to this: what does one do if one thinks that the candidate more likely to reduce the actual incidence of abortion is also the one more committed to keeping it legal? The language of intrinsic evil does not help us here. Only the virtue of practical wisdom, enlightened by charity, can take us further.
TPA Roundup 11-17
It's Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly blog round-up.Ruth Jones McClendon gets the Speaker's race dangerously wrong
of South Texas Chisme
Vince at Capitol Annex
takes a look at the race for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and provides answers to two important questions: is a secret ballot legal and will a secret ballot doom Tom Craddick
?Read more »