Deliberation and action

There are two different phases in politics.
In the heat of an election or issue campaign, it’s time to act. The story has been framed long ago. Partisans know what they want, engage fellow partisans to take action, persuade fence-sitters to engage by interest and identity. When time to act is short, it’s counterproductive to return to first principles and question assumptions.
When a decision isn’t at stake, it’s time to talk and think. It’s time to talk to others with different views and ask questions – why do they hold their beliefs, What are the underlying values and motives? Who do they listen to, and why?
It’s time to think about how to reframe the discussion; what’s important, what will work, how to talk in a way that will be heard.

The so-called “liberal elite”

A stalwart lefty colleague who lived in a red state for many years pointed to this New York Times article — an unselfconcious exporation of the offensive stereotypes New Yorkers hold for benighted out-of-towners.
This type of smug response won’t help build a majority to win elections.
On the other hand, the right-wing stereotype of a “liberal elite” — referring to people with college degrees — is toxic and chilling. The demonization of an educated population has a very long and dangerous history around the world — China and Cambodia made particularly practical use of this stereotype.

Critique of the “morality” poll

Andrew Coyne writes a useful critique of the CNN exit poll showing the predominance of “moral values” among Bush voters. The result may be an artifact of the way the question was asked. The poll separates national security issues: the Iraq war and the fight against terrorism, but hides wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage behind the code word “moral values”.

True, it found the largest single block of voters identified “moral values” as the “most important election issue” — a much cited factoid — and that 80% of these respondents voted for Bush. But that hardly makes this election a triumph of theocracy. In the first place, “largest single block” turns out to mean 22%, meaning 78% of voters — including two-thirds of Bush voters — named some other issue.

Second, the pollsters only managed to elevated “moral values” to number one by dividing up the other issues into subcategories. Thus “Iraq” and “Terrorism” are treated as separate issues, though grouped together as, say, “national security” they would have claimed the top spot, with 34% of the total. Likewise “taxes” and “economy” were named by a combined 25% of voters. Had “moral values” been split into “abortion” and “gay marriage,” the spin would have been rather different.

Still, the degree to which the Republican party is beholden to the Christian right is cause for concern. In Texas, the Republican party platform claims that the US is a Christian nation. Moderates who voted for Bush may find that the Republican administration acts against their interest, in favor of religious right interests.
To be fair, Bush’s post-election speech was remarkably free of Christian right proposals and military expansionism. We heard about social security reform and military offensives in Iraq, not about banning abortion, halting gay adoption, and declaring new wars on Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
A USA Today poll yesterday found that 63% of voters wanted Bush to advance programs both parties support, rather than advancing a Republican agenda.
Given evidence from Bush’s first term, I have very little trust that Bush will respect this public opinion, but would be happy to be proven wrong.


There was strong voter turnout and more people were involved. Halley Suitt writes

Call me Pollyanna, but I compared it to being a person who was out of shape, decided to run the Boston Marathon, had never run any long distance and then didn’t manage the 26 miles but ran a very impressive 10 miles.

That’s how I feel about my experience. I started to be involved in politics and learn about being a net citizen and get right in at a grassroots level like I had NEVER done before.

Okay, I didn’t run the whole marathon. We didn’t win. But I can run 10 miles now! And I couldn’t do that before.

The election was close. 1% nationwide, a bit more ground organizing in Ohio. Youth polled for Kerry, but still had low voter turnout. Many Americans are not well informed. There are things to improve, that can be changed.
Fear. After four more years of mistaken war against nation-states, based on misunderstanding the nation of non-state terrorism, what damage will the US have created in the world? How much riskier will the world be? After four more years of reckless spending, how bad willl the US economy be?
Fear. 51% of voters voted for Bush. But 75% voted for the amendments restricting rights for gay people. The campaign’s gay-baiting has won the election overall on “moral issues.”
Two women friends of mine, a lesbian couple, are about to have a baby. These laws deny them rights to visit each other in the hospital and give parental custody to a parent who’s raised a child.
This is a moral issue, with good on the side of the loving family. The size of the opposition to this moral view is deeply chilling. It makes me worry about whether we’ll face a flood of pro-Christian fundamentalist legislation, and what constitutional protection will mean in four years.
(Interesting… this is the first election that I can remember in which Republicans abandoned Willie Horton/welfare queen race-baiting, and used gay-baiting to fill that rhetorical niche in the campaign.)