Friday, May 13, 2005


Yglesias is discussing some interesting poll data about the political attitudes of the public on specific issues. Unfortunately, it's some pretty horrible discussion. I'll leave alone that he thinks "Democrats could reap some major gains by taking a more conciliatory stance toward traditionalist sentiment in America", and yet all Democratic candidates have been Christian while it's pundits like him who call Catholicism "a false gospel."

He focuses on issues Democrats could give up ground on (Ten Commandments displays, school prayer), and ones that they don't need to (abortion). Yes, those Democrats really should stop voting for so many bills that ban the ten commandments, school prayer, and let that Schiavo woman die. Oh wait, there's no legislation about this at all (or when there is, Dems vote for it). All the contentious issues in our "culture war" are decided by judges. Democrats have no power here. I mean, suppose you were Harry Reid, and decided "Hey, we can definitely win the next Presidential election if the Ten Commandments go up over the Supreme Court building." What would you do to could accomplish this?

(I suppose Democrats could look for less separationist judges, but the idea that the school prayer in public schools violates separation of church and state is so direct and so enmeshed in precedent, that you'd have to nominate judges so extreme that you lose a lot of stuff first.)

Democrats could go make empty campaign speeches about returning religion to America even though they know they have no power to actually enact that. A lot of speeches, enough to convince people they'd care. Or push for a Constitutional amendment for school prayer. I dunno. I don't think such extreme measures really would be possible with the base. They might accept compromise for practical concessions... but not the idea of trumpetting around empty speeches for the sole reason that these are against their principles.

Again, bad effects of our inability to really change these laws and allowing one party to campaign on the basis of promises they never msut be expected to keep.

(To be honest, Kerry campaigned for universal healthcare, a plan that with this Congress would be just as unlikely to be fulfilled.)


At 9:01 PM, Blogger Dennis said...

So there are at least two flip sides to this:

-Nobody would be having these fights if somebody weren't inciting them. A person or group needs to sue the local government over religious displays in public buildings in order to get a judge to take them down; the courts don't just go around swatting at things of which they disapprove.

-There are other cultural fronts on which headway can be made. Censoring Hollywood or tv at least a little, for instance, is well within the realm of legitimate governmental action under current jurisprudence (and even if it isn't, the supremes won't overturn it if there's a decent reason, since the righties are in favor and the lefties approve of government action), as is the "moment of silence" idea, as is gun control.

Of course, I tend to feel that becoming more desirable to the people who hate you most is a crappy way to build market share, and I'm progressively more concerned that it's the radicals who make it safe to be a moderate, but about both of these more later.

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Rousseau said...

1. Indeed, but then we're talking about the actions of fringe SIGs. What lawsuits the ACLE files can hardly be controlled by strategy meetings of the Dem Senate leadership or whatnot. If anything, it's clear that GOP members, wisely or not, havebeen the ones exacerbating certain issues (Moore's 10 commandments, the schiavo case).

2. Yes, but "other cultural fronts" is a much higher price. Yglesias was referring to certain things that have purely symbolic value, and does not have larger policy implications (for him). Censoring Hollywood or trying to tone down sexuality in our culture certainly does. (The closest policy wise thing I can imagine actually is the abstinence-only movement for sex ed, and I know you believe very strongly that's foolish and costly.) (Actually, I can also imagine the flag amendment [hee, John de Lancie], which if it were on the radar again, might make sense to vote for, but it disgusts me and I am glad it's not on the radar.)

3. Indeed, if the parties swing to center-right and far-right, just because Dems might win that is not a victory for leftist policy. However, it's clear there's a democracy deficit in the country that because of certain issues, the opposition party cannot function as a credible check on the government (ie, make them be less corrupt, make them be more informative). So anything to make the governing party scared and then move towards the center and towards technocratic sanity, would be very good in my mind.

At 6:58 PM, Anonymous little_e- said...

It always (by which i mean occasionally, when i bother to think about it) seemed to me that the republicans were much more *vocal* about their faith than the dems. which is to say that the dems seem to get up and campain about things like rational spending and keeping down the deficit and puttign social security in a locked box and science research, whereas the repubs seem to get up and talk about how god has blessed the country.

what we need are some evangelical untitarian democrats going around preaching about how god probably wants us to be nice to each other and sound fiscal policies are moral goods.



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