Saturday, January 14, 2006

Democrats and Values

If you thought using same-sex marriage as a political wedge issue was so 2004, think again.

2006 will see the court-ordered legalization of gay marriage in Washington, New Jersey, New York and possibly California, and the November election could include initiatives to ban same-sex marriages or amend constitutions in as many or more states as the last go-around.

Republicans are on the ropes. The Abramoff scandal is poised to bring down many of their congressional heavyweights, and the Bush administration is in no position to help. Last fall, some Republican candidates tried to distance themselves from the president, and the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia slipped in the polls and lost after Bush campaigned for him. Even Rick Santorum declined an opportunity to appear alongside Bush at a rally, citing "prior commitments."

That, of course, was before we knew Bush was illegally tapping citizens' phonecalls. That sort of thing doesn't fly with small-government, libertarian-minded conservatives, and the swing-voters are uneasy with it, as well. There's also that special prosecutor looking into the Plamegate affair, who could still potentially net Rove and/or Cheney.

The economy looks great if you're a top corporate executive, but for the rest of us, wages are stagnating as the costs of living -- especially health care -- continue to rise. In Iraq, the only thing left for the President is to declare victory and bring the troops home, which he is certain to do. Even so, the damage is done: the majority of Americans will continue to regard our involvement there as a mistake.

Looks good for the Democrats, right?

Not so fast. When all else fails -- and it has -- Republicans revert to the perennial red-meat red-state issue of "values." Be prepared for a maelstrom of rhetoric involving "unelected, unaccountable activist judges." The numbers are improving, but mainstream America still isn't sold on the idea of full marriage equality, and the percentage of those who are vehemently opposed to it is still enough to flood the polls if liberals and moderates stay away, as they did in Texas last fall: the anti-gay constitutional amendment passed with almost 97% of votes, but only 15% of registered voters went to the polls.

Democrats have a tried and true strategy for dealing with gay issues come election time: ignore, equivocate, cave, and lose anyway. In a year where Democrats could potentially regain control of both houses of Congress, do you think swing-state candidates will to go bat for the gays if there's an amendment on the ballot right under their name? Do you think Republicans won't take advantage of that?

There is only one way to counter this threat, and that is to take advantage of the new determination of the religious left. It has to be sincere, however, and it must be left in the hands of Democrats of faith. The party can't afford for its leaders to go around saying Job is in the New Testament anymore. We need people who know what they're talking about, who are comfortable speaking the evangelical language without making it sound like an act. We must recapture the language of values.

Morality is not limited to sexual behavior. Morality is the careful stewardship of God's creation, as opposed to the exploitation of natural resources for profit. Morality is seeing that all Americans have access to affordable healthcare, as opposed to guaranteeing increased profit margins for insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Morality is working to eliminate racial and economic disparities by making sure everyone can afford a college education, and by improving the public schools in impoverished parts of the country so that truly no child is left behind. Morality is being honest about the threats our country faces. Morality is restoring the integrity of our criminal justice system so that citizens are not imprisoned indefinitely without due process. Morality is the guarantee of equal protection under the law for all Americans, not special rights for the majority based on arbitrary distinctions like sexual orientation. Morality does not say you can regulate a uterus but not a firearm.

Democrats can win in 2006, but not by trying to be Republican-lite. They can only do it by showing Americans that they already believe in a progressive agenda, they just don't know it.


little-cicero said...

Good post, but your strategy needs modification. You really must try to replicate the platform of JFK if you seek to regain control. Downplay abortion and gay marriage by aggreeing to intense regulation of abortion and giving in to the civil unions supported by many on the right. This would make the Republicans look irrational for their demands and yourselves decent and tolerant. JFK was a hawk, or John Wayne Conservative, so while resistance to the war is popular, you must make a concerted effort to support the troops and not ask for immediate withdrawals, but rather Stoicly support the mission. Thirdly, JFK was an economic conservative in his support of supply side economics and reduced taxes. If there is a way for the Democratic Party to show that they can lower taxes and retain benefits by increasing government efficiancy through reform, they would get the votes of people such as myself. Thus the question is, are you willing to make such compromises to ultimately make the Big Government Republican Party irrelevant?

Aethlos said...

omg i love it when you talk politics... mmmmmmmm sexy.

little-cicero said...

Ew! Yuck! I hope you're talking to Andy!

Anonymous said...

l-c: You should be so lucky as to be hit on by a hotty like Mr. Aethlos.

DJChienDePluie said...

petit-ciceron: Your improper use of reflexive pronouns is abhorrent. "Such as myself," indeed. Don't they teach you anything in English class under whatever rock you reside? ;-)

Andy said...

Now now, boys, play nice. Mon cher Regenhund, grammar issues aside, LC makes some good points, why don't you address those instead of taking cheap shots? A little substance goes a long way.

And yes, LC, you could do worse than Spencer! ; )

little-cicero said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
little-cicero said...

Thank You Andy! You know, the one thing I do despise on this blog's comment sections is the repeated mentioning of the most minute grammar mistakes without regard for the substance of my statements and their generally eloquent format. If djchiendepluie doesn't like my grammar, he can stick it up his...

To his anal retentiveness, please keep in mind that I am a student, and have alot to deal with on my off hours outside of surveying my reflexive pronoun usage, thus my priorities are as follows: Substance, Eloquence and Grammar.
Obviously, he tends to place the latter before the former, but this is not my intention.

DJRainDog said...

ARGH! Did no-one notice my winking smiley-face after that comment?!

L-C: To give the devil his due, this is one of the first comments you've made with which I've mostly agreed.

We must, in fact, finish what we've started in Iraq, or the Iraqi troops we've trained will turn out to be the next generation of Osama Bin Ladens. We must do it as quickly, efficiently, and completely as possible, to ensure, henceforth, minimal costs, both to ourselves and to the Iraqi people, in terms of both money and the more precious commodity of human life. I don't believe, though, that this is stoically supporting the mission; president shrub has repeatedly proven himself a closed-minded and wrong-headed leader in the arena of strategy (I've read numerous reports of him and his cronies shutting high-ranking Generals out of their meetings on the topic, and don't get me started on the Katrina debacle), and someone who actually possesses military intelligence needs to be put in charge of this operation. Right now, it looks like a corporate take-over that's gone horribly wrong.

You're right again that abortion and gay marriage need to be made irrelevant issues, as they're PRIVATE issues and should not be legislated, but unfortunately, most of middle-America is unable to keep its nose out of other folks' business, so I'm not sure how much they can be down-played.

Ultimately, yes, what we need to show (and I can only hope it's true -- sadly, I've seen no evidence) is that the Democrats can "lower taxes and retain benefits by increasing government efficiancy [sic] through reform". Even were they so capable, though, I'm not sure enough of America would care for it to make a difference; the majority of registered voters who actually go out and vote seem to be too terrified that Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are going to ride a nuclear warhead into their suburb of Podunk, Arkansas, where they will brainwash all the homosexuals to kidnap their children and force them to recite the Qu'ran whilst training to be hairdressers who diddle themselves with curling-irons, with which they will also, incidentally, perform late-term abortions. *sigh* I'm exhausted from that sentence, but I'm not done.

My obsession with language, young sir, is merely an outward manifestation of my rage at the failure of America's educational institutions. In FAR too many cases, we allow precious details to "slide", deeming them insufficiently important to merit serious attention. If we allow spelling and grammar to deteriorate, as we have done for at least the last decade, we endorse a return to the ages of inarticulate grunting and pointing as sufficient means of communication. In my opinion, we’ve already back-slid into an era when the TRULY literate are a very limited class. Grammar, you fail to comprehend, is the keystone of eloquence (its foundation is vocabulary), and all of these are tools for the more effective rendering of substance. Just as an excellent public speaker (you reference JFK, who was surely among the great speakers of the last century in this country) does not mispronounce or misuse words or commit glaring grammatical errors, effective writers must bear the same respect for and knowledge of the tools of their craft. That's all, for now.

little-cicero said...

Ha! What a difference a smiley face not appearing on the screen makes in a comment. You can consider my fury quelled. I am pleasantly surprised that we agree as we do.

I cannot, as a civilian, make a judgement on the level of corruption in Iraq, but I find the progress satisfactory, especially the speed with which our so-called militarily unintelligent commanders took over the country. Liberals are only portraying themselves as unpatriotic, but if they spoke as you have just spoken, we would open dialogue, close the political gap, and render liberals the patriotic equals of conservatives.

On social issues, liberals cannot just eliminate these issues with the wave of a wand. The fact is, conservatives are not ready to accept convenience abortions and the homosexual adoption of a form of civil union that is distinctly traditional and religious in nature. It makes a great deal more sense to simply compromise by accepting and modifying existing civil unions, and by limiting abortions to cases of rape and danger to the mother. I guarantee you that all but the fringe of my side would accept this.

Believe it or not, I am obsessed with language as well. The reason that I make the occasional mechanical error is that I would rather open dialogue by writing as much as I can fit into my day than write from time to time and worry about grammar. As for my blog, I take great pains to use proper grammar on it, as well as using Word to fix any minor problems. I would rather see my generation use a better vocabulary than use better spelling. I am disgusted by the grunts of my contemporaries, but if your emphasis is on spelling, keep in mind that it is easier to spell G*R*U*N*T, than a more complex piece of vocabulary. Thus if we place grammar before vocabulary, we force people to take less literary liberties in trying to be eloquent than they would otherwise. Of course, if our schools would teach less evolution and contraception and more grammar and vocabulary, this would not be a problem.

Matthew said...

Excellent post, Andy, and right on the money.

What will dismay me is if these same divisive, fear-spreading, hate-mongering tactics work again this year (which they very well may).

It's interesting that Republicans were touting themselves as the party of ideas, yet those ideas are nowhere to be found (unless you count restrictive laws and amendments as "ideas").

I'll say this: If Bush & the GOP continue on like this, and the Democrats still can't re-take Congress or the Senate (or at least make significant inroads), then they're hopeless for a good decade or so.


little-cicero said...

Matthew, I find your assertion ironic since it is the Democratic Party whose only platform has been NO more war in Iraq, NO tax cuts, NO Social Security Reform, NO spending cuts, NO strict constructionist justices. What ideas DO the Dems have? Enlighten me!

Steve Chapman said...

Andy it is a good post and I am a little late to the ball game. L.C., it would a great help to marginalize the fundies in the Republican Party. If we could do that perhaps there would be a dialogue that could be produced between the two parties.

My doubts though arise after the Alito hearings. The polarization that was present on BOTH sides was unbearable to watch. I would just love to make the liberal standbearer Ted Kennedy irrelevant. He did us NO favors last week. On the other side, watching Senator Lindsey Graham and others fall all over themselves to make Judge Alito feel comfortable was appalling.

If those hearings are any indication of the state of the nation we are in some serious trouble.

I don't think ONE election is going to solve the problem. Could it be a beginning? Yes.... but it will not resolve the complete mess we find ourselves in.

I think the question in my mind is How do we change the election process and campaigns in general to give the advantage back to the people? Right now it appears the special interests, incumbents and others entrenched in the Washington bureaucracy have the power. Can fundamental change occur if that statement is true?

DJRainDog said...

"Briefly"...(Yeah, right.)

Failure to teach contraception is not only socially irresponsible and unrealistic, but outright murderous, given the recent increases in the transmission of sexually-transmitted diseases (specifically HIV, but also syphilis), especially among the younger set. People are gonna fuck; get used to it. Hell, go TRY it; you'll probably feel a lot better -- I know I generally do. Marriage, schmarriage. Historically, it was a necessary for the protection of women, who were considered property (Wanna go back there? Wait, don't answer that.), and all those Biblical rules & regulations were a good thing, as Martha would say. In this country, at this time, however, it's an archaic institution, useful only as a symbolic gesture and as a financial arrangement.

I don't want "convenience abortions", but it's also unwise to limit them to cases of rape and danger to mother. Go read John Irving's The Cider House Rules. (Do not watch the movie until afterwards; they chose all the wrong parts of the book, as film-makers too often do, and the film is next to irrelevant to the abortion issue.) I have friends who have made the choice to terminate pregnancy, and it was an excruciating decision, but ultimately, the one they knew to be right. The planet is, frankly, over-populated, and while adoption SHOULD be a viable option, there are simply too many orphans; adding to the pool is by no means desirable.

little-cicero said...

DJRainDog, I have thought about contraception education vs. abstinence, and I conclude that contraception only encourages promiscuity. That it does so tells me that people are having more irresponsible sex. Though most is with contraception, to every 10 times contraception is used, there is one time when it is not used (when in the heat of the moment, one cannot always remain disciplined) When we allow promiscuity to skyrocket, women become less liberated: they become sex toys, as do men to women. For the sake of feminism, lower STDs and lowering out-of-wedlock births, we must get serious about abstinence and not simply tell kids "Have all the sex you want with this condom, and oh, by the way, it's also good to be abstinent.

As for convenience abortions, they make up 90% of all abortions. Believe it or not, there was a time when 13 year olds were not having oral sex on a regular basis!

To say that the world is overpopulated hence we need abortions is 10 times as atrocious as any postulate Bill Bennet submitted! When you realize that any one of your loved ones may have been aborted, try thinking of life without them and perhaps you'll adopt a more accurate view of the situation.

Any way, this is not actually pertinent to the post itself, but what is pertinent is that we have to find common ground on these issues. If Republicans make it clear that we will allow highly exclusive abortion procedures and equal rights for civil unions as for marriage, would you drop the two issues in the interest of patriotism and the greater good?

DJRainDog said...

Absolutely not. As for patriotism, as Dylan wrote (paraphrasing Samuel Johnson), "Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings," so the appearance of patriotism is not that important to me. Go look at your chosen leaders and what they say and what they do, and think about that statement. And when you think you've thought enough about it, think some more, this time about yourself. As to the "greater good", do you honestly believe that current policies serve it? If so, you are living in a fantasy world, and I invite you to come spend some time in the real one.

You've "thought about contraception education vs. abstinence". Oh, bravo! Spend some more time thinking after you've gone and done some living. Your assertions here are, as they tend to be in your comments, unfounded and ill-informed. At seventeen, you cannot have the life experience (For one thing, and no offense intended, I'll wager you're still a virgin and don't have that much candid contact with people who are sexually active.) to justifiably reach your conclusion that, "contraception only encourages promiscuity". I'm sorry to say it, but you're merely regurgitating Roman Catholic and right-wing "Christian" dogma. I cannot entirely fault you for this, as you lack first-hand knowledge and must therefore rely upon what you're told.

But where do you get your "one in ten" figure? I would think that surely, this statistic would vary at the least by locale, by socio-economic status, and by sexual orientation group.

I'm not saying don't teach abstinence. By all means, emphasize that sex is a beautiful act of union between two people who love each other very much, which should not be entered into (pardon the pun) lightly. That isn't always the case, though, and truth to tell, I don't think it should be -- sometimes, it's just fun between two consenting adults. Sooner or later (though preferably later), they're going to discover this truth. Because sex is not just for baby-making, it's crucial, no matter what, that they know proper methods of contraception...because we've tried the "abstinence is the only option" method, with dire consequences. While you may not approve of what people are doing, it's not your place to stop them from being educated as to methods (other than the one you prefer) of preventing their own deaths. That's the bottom line, kiddo. Death. Sure, abstinence is a nice idea, but people, and teenagers in particular, are curious creatures, given to exploration; they're going to find out about sex somewhere. I think it better by far that they should get all the details and from a reliable source. You see, it's not just about unwanted pregnancy anymore, and it hasn't been, for longer than you've been drawing breath, little man. I'm tired of encountering HIV-positive teenagers. I'm tired of hearing from people (yes, both men and women) who got infected the first time they had sex. I'm tired of my friends being sick from the medications they take to keep from dying. To take another example, is a woman being raped who begs her attacker to use a condom implying consent? Of course not! She's merely begging for her life. It's called "harm reduction", and in the real world, we have to practice it on a more-than-daily basis. (I'm passing over your "sex toys" comment on the basis that you know not whereof you speak. Talk to me about people being used thus when you have some experience or better sources informing your opinion.)

Define "convenience abortions". And tell me where you get your 90% statistic. I think it's bullshit.

In interpreting my statement as, "The world is overpopulated hence we need abortions," you take me out of context; that was not the thrust of my statement at all. I was more concerned with the plight of parentless children. (Wanna open the gay adoption can of worms? Go for it. I will eat you for breakfast, and I have social-worker friends who will join me.) The possibility of my loved-ones being aborted is a moot point; they weren't, but as I've said, the unborn children (none mine) of some of my friends were. It was painful for everyone who was aware of the situation, yet I wonder if when my cousin miscarried what was meant to have been her fourth child to a single-income (and we're not talking CEO-level, here) household, if maybe she oughtn't to have thought twice about getting pregnant AGAIN. I know that there is more love in that household than in any other I've seen, but honestly, sometimes giving birth to the unborn is simply not in the already-born's best interest. In any case, how dare you assess my view as inaccurate! Given that I have considerably more experience, and consequently, a greater basis for comparison, I'd put money on mine being a more "accurate view of the situation" than yours. How many of your friends or acquaintances have had abortions? How many of them have harassed women entering abortion clinics? How many of them have escorted women through the terrifying lines of sometimes-violent people who say they advocate for the lives of the unborn but threaten those of the living?

No, there is no "middle ground", not of the sort you're proposing, nor should there be.

It is neither your nor the President's nor Congress's nor frankly, the Supreme Court's business what a woman does with what is inside her body, and it is certainly not the place of, for example, a preacher with a wife and 4 kids at home in rural Texas to decide for a single college student in Connecticut. That is between her, her loved ones, and her god (if she has one). Unfortunately, legislation is necessary to regulate, in terms of quality control, abortion practices. Here, we delve into the complex territory of "when life begins", and here, I must defer to those with more extensive medical educations than my own, but I would posit that an independent life begins when that life is sufficiently advanced to survive outside the womb, perhaps with some medical assistance.

As to civil unions, I will refer you only to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS (1954) and the finding that "separate . . . facilities are inherently unequal", a doctrine which spread from being merely applied to educational institutions (Perhaps a seeming strict-constructionist such as you would have stopped the application there?) to public institutions of all sorts, guaranteeing Americans of non-white ancestry equal access, eventually even to inter-racial marriage (I believe my shameful home state of Virginia was the last to have its miscegenation law struck down by the Supreme Court in 1967). Need I remind you of the text, even strictly construed, of Section 1 of Amendment 14 to the U.S. Constitution? I find it abhorrent and inexcusable that yet another group should have to fight this battle all over again (particularly with so little support from those who have fought it before, but I shall pass over, for now, my irritation with the priest who gave the sermon this past Sunday at Trinity Wall Street, who spoke at length about Dr. King and his dream of equality, but failed to mention the nonviolent battles some of us are fighting for that cause even today).

I've been at this for a good hour, now. I've got to get to work.

little-cicero said...

Patriotism is love of country, plain and simple. If I did not love my country, I would not be interested in the common good. As the economy improves, we work toward the greater good, and due to economic indicators, it seems that the economy is improving.

As for first hand experience, do you have any experience with chastity? If not, then what is your founding for the assertion that contraception does not encourage promiscuity? I'm speaking theoretically, I'll give you that, but I submit that the theory is idiotic that giving kids condoms and telling them they can have sex is not encouraging promiscuity, you need only look at history, and the fact that after condoms were introduced, people were having more sex (sexual revolution)

The one-in-ten figure is unfounded, but that is not the point. If you agree that for every X amount of sexual intercourses two people have, there is Y amount of people who do not use a condom for whatever reason, then you must agree that promiscuity is a large part of the problem.

Whether it be drugs or sex, the more you talk about something, the more interest it inspires in a person. I am not saying to get up on a pulpit in the classroom and preach abstinence, I'm saying that sex should not have such a prominent position in the education system. The times at which VD, pregnancy and promiscuity were lowest was before the sexual revolution, when sex was a taboo subject. When a kid my age hears nothing but how all of his friends are making like Hugh Hefner, from peers and teachers alike, it only increases the interest, even though in reality a much smaller portion is actually having sex. I might also mention that such stress is increased by the way female classmates dress: when all that men could see was a girl's hand, that was all they wanted to hold (show your breasts, and you do the math) As for those who have STDs which endanger their lives, I would doubt, with all due respect, that they had not known that contraceptives are an option. People don't always make good judgements when under the influence of their primal urges. It is good that we have contraception, but I believe it unnecessary to advertise their use to middle school students.

I do not mean to misrepresent your views, but my youth does not render me incapable of assessing the value of life. I have a cousin who had a baby three months immature followed by two miscarried triplets, she is now alive and healthy, and fully resembling a human life. I have a cousin who thought about having an abortion and did not, and when I see the product of that decision, I am scared out of my wits at the thought of her being no longer. Abortion for economic reasons is like suicide: It's a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

I'll get the source on my statistic tommorrow, I'm currently pressed for time. To briefly state my view on gay adoption, I believe it's better to have gay parents than only one, but when there are mothers and fathers waiting in line to adopt, they should be first priority for reasons of the quality and normality of their upbringing.

The philosophical difference between us is that, whereas you believe this is about what a woman does with her body, I believe it is about what a woman does with another body. The only thing standing between the embryo and the fetus is time, the only thing standing between a fetus and an infant is time, and the only thing which stands between yourself and the infant you once were is time. There is no extension of life experience needed to know that every human being is special, and that every innocent life is precious.

As you know, I've written volumes on gay marriage on this blog, but might I remind you that the rights to which you refer are in reference to individuals' rights, not relationships' rights. Whether you're a strict constructionist or not, it is true that Andy can marry a nice girl if he wanted to, but that is not his preference. The definition of marriage prevents him from marrying a man, but civil unions do not.

I appreciate this debate, but let us not use terms such as "kiddo" and the like. I appreciate my unnamed alterego's lack of life experience, but little cicero is not a person, only a thinker...a phantom who flies about the corridors of reason, truth and the American way. By the way, check out my posts on the abortion matter, and comment if you dare!