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October 11, 2004

Comments

Peter Nolan

To be honest, I think a Republican defeat is more likely to be catastrophic for those elements in the GOP that you and I identify with.

The religious right (which as the bumper sticker says, is really neiter), pretty much dominates the whole Republican organisation, even in Reagan's Orange County heartland. That same activists and donors were perfectly willing to select utterly unelectable social conservatives against Grey Davis. There may be counter-examples, but this is the one that comes most readily to mind.

Bush has been inconsistent enough to annoy everyone in the party. The result of a defeat would be largely the same as if the US were to withdraw precipitously from Iraq: an all-out zero-sum war for supremacy.

Frank McGahon

I'm sure there would be an all-out war for supremacy but I doubt that this automatically suggests victory for the religious right. Remember that Bush is quite happy to ally himself with this section of the party. Through repetition it has become received wisdom that a Bush defeat would see the neocons purged but I can't see anything in this other than wishful thinking on the part pf the pundits. For one, the American electorate is nowhere near as sceptical of neoconservatism as are the punditry and while there might easily be a considerable proportion unhappy with the post-war planning in Iraq, I doubt you would find a consensus that it was wrong to depose Saddam. This is partly why Kerry has been so cagey on Iraq.

razib

i'm not a big fan of the religious right, but, the 1994 freshmen class was really good in combination with clinton. their religious right agenda really only got through symbolically. on the other hand, they really resisted compromising on spending for democratic programs. the 1980s shows that democrats are OK spending on republican projects (military) as long as they get goodies too. the bush administration shows that republicans are fine with shifting money from liberal regions and causes to conservative ones (most of them at least). but, it seems that republicans are more willing to push for a general drawdown of spending when they don't have a republican president pushing programs that appeal to their weakspots.

John

I reject the term "religious right". I am a social conservative as are large numbers of people in the US, a majority of whom (I assume) are members of Christian churches. Using phrases like "religious right" or the newer "theocons" is a way of putting people with views like mine down, as if we're incapable of independent thought. That is no more true of conservatives than it is of liberals, who have their own high priests & preachers.

John

I suspect that a Kerry win will lead to a resurgence in the isolationist wing of the Republican Party. Here's why. Kerry is not going to be able to quit Iraq, so by default he will become the war President & nation-building President. The only effective argument against these ideas is the "America first" isolationism that is still pretty strong in the Republican Party.

Frank McGahon

John, surely you would concede that there is a section of the Republican party which is not just socially conservative and religious but which seeks to fashion policy according to a particular religious viewpoint and weakening the church-state divide? There's a whole world of a difference between merely being religious and respecting freedom of worship and actively promoting a particular religious interpretation of politics.

Frank McGahon

As for the isolationist wing being strengthened, I am sceptical. For starters, the reason Kerry will remain the war president is because of the political realities and Republican control of the other branches of government (which incidentally is why I am not persuaded by the notion that a Kerry presidency would necessarily be a foreign policy disaster). Secondly, the peacenik wing of the Democrats won't just "go away, you know".

Peter Nolan

"I reject the term "religious right". I am a social conservative as are large numbers of people in the US, a majority of whom (I assume) are members of Christian churches."

I'd pretty much call myself the same, but I think the difference probably consists of what churches they attend.

I find it remarkable that those labelled as the RR are largely either Protestants or successionist Catholics like Pat Buchanan or Mel Gibson and not, as far as I can tell, mainstream Catholics or orthodox Jews. This isn't from lack of trying on the part of the Christian Coalition or other groups.

I haven't heard of instances of the Catholic hierarchy directly participating in the electoral process, trying to supress teaching of evolution, taking a lead in campaigning against gay marriage or lobbing salvoes in the culture wars.

In my mind, I tag the RR as being a group who may be socially conservative but can rightly be suspected of contempt for Catholics, Ian Paisley's mentor Bob Jones being a prominent example.

While I wouldn't claim to be very socially liberal, I think my difference is that churches becoming political leads to them neglecting their core mission of ethical guidance. That's certainly my interpretation of my own Catholic Irish education.

John

Peter, this is such a huge topic, I don't know if I can make sense of it in comments. But, here goes.

First, I think I would fall under the label "religious right" because the term is a political, not religious, label. I attend Church regularly. I'm opposed to liberalized abortion & euthenasia laws; I favor school choice; & I believe society is better off with independent families centered around stable marriages (one man - one woman). I believe the state has virtually no role in family life. I don't believe in the "genderless" society. I don't believe in the religion-free society that has replaced freedom of religion.

I happen not to agree with those who don't want their children taught evolution, but I understand their concerns. There are many ideas & values presented in public school education, even here in Ireland, that I reject.

To be honest, I don't know what a successionist Catholic is, but I would doubt that Buchanan and Gibson are of the same Catholic vintage. {My own knowlege of Catholicism is pretty weak as I was educated in a public school where all things religious, including Christmas & Easter, were officially unmentionable.}

If I'm not among the "religious right", I'm a next door neighbor. I'll have to check, but I do think some members of the hierarchy have taken a public stance on gay marriage. The American hierarchy is always taking public stands on things, sometimes I agree sometimes not.

John

John, surely you would concede that there is a section of the Republican party which is not just socially conservative and religious but which seeks to fashion policy according to a particular religious viewpoint and weakening the church-state divide? There's a whole world of a difference between merely being religious and respecting freedom of worship and actively promoting a particular religious interpretation of politics.
I'll concede that there are people for whom their religious convictions are very strong and unyielding and that the Republican Party has done the most to try and cater to these people in order to win their votes. However, I would argue that the Democratic Party is more in tune to one particular religious view point than is the Republican party. As a conservative Catholic, I feel much more "threatened" by the determinedly secularist/atheist wing of the Democratic Party than by the "Bob Jones" types in the Republican party.

I would argue that the most conservative Protestants would like nothing better than to be left alone by the state and, in turn, to have the state leave them alone. Unfortunately, the state is so intrusive that it imposes its will on people with little regard for anyone who might view the state's will as immoral.

For example, many people would prefer to have their children educated in religious schools, free of state itereference. Yet, anyone who chooses such a solution for their chidlren must still pay, through taxes, for the public school education that they've rejected. Some people resent the fact that the state through its power and might forces people to pay (again through taxes) to provide 'medical' procedures they believe are immoral.

You tell me who's crossing the church/state divide. It seems like it's all one-way traffic to me and that's not in the direction you imply.

John

"I would argue that the most conservative Protestants would like nothing better than to be left alone by the state and, in turn, to have the state leave them alone."

That should read: "I would argue that the most conservative Protestants would like nothing better than to be left alone by the state and, in turn, to leave the state alone."

Most of these people want as much power as the Constitution allows for to reside at the local level - they reject the centralization and nationalization of much of American government.

Brian

"Havilland suggests that a Bush defeat could precipitate a purge of the Big Government elements of the Republican party"

Perhaps. And far be it from me to question any theory that might lead people to vote for someone other than Bush.

But I'd be skeptical. Big Government elements are such a huge part of the Republican Party that it's hard to imagine a purge that big without the collapse of the party.

Most Republicans are for smaller govt IN THEORY, but everyone has their own pet exceptions. Ban gay sex. Snoop in people's library records to "fight terrorism." Subsidies for farmers in my state. Welfare for defense contractors.

At least Democrats (which I'm not) are open about not objecting on principle to govt programs.

Frank McGahon

Brian, I think you underestimate the small-government sector of that party, there certainly is a libertarian wing and in theory that party ought to be more amenable to a libertarianish policy agenda than the Democrats. That said, it is a moot point whether a Bush defeat would embolden the "Goldwater Republicans" or entrench the "Compassionate Conservatives".

Incidentally, I thoroughly agree with you that Americans should have third, fourth and more choices for president and the tactics employed by the Dems to keep Nader off the ballot are reprehensible. But: if you are going to vote for Nader you can't really complain if Bush is re-elected. It is a consistent position to say that neither Bush nor Kerry is desirable so it is worth voting for Nader. What is not consistent is to hope for a Bush defeat and simultaneously proselytise for Nader. In your own case, New York is probably going to vote for Kerry anyway so your own vote for Nader is not inconsistent with hoping for Bush to be defeated but any vote for Nader in a swing state will only help Bush.

Dick O'Brien

John, you mention a few things without explaining them. For example, what is the "genderless society" you refer to? And could you explain the difference between the "religion-free society" you say has has replaced freedom of religion.

My main point though is about schools. The whole reason in wanting uniformly secular state schools (which we still don't have I might add) is that parents can provide the religious education of their choosing to children.

John

Dick, I knew when I wrote that stuff yesterday that I was writing quickly and probably leaving things unexplained.

When I wrote the "genderless society" comment I was trying to say that I don't believe that men and women are the same and always interchangeable. I believe there are differences in each, that those differences are natural and that society should respect those differences and stop forcing square pegs into round holes.

What we have today is a society (& particularly, an education system) that is trying to compel boys/men to be more feminine, to get them "in touch" with their "feminine side". We also have women being urged to be more masculine, more combative, to turn them into warriors (literally, which to me is totally wrong - I don't think women should serve in combat). Men and women have equally important, but DIFFERENT, roles to play in society, but we keep trying to "blur the lines" that separate the sexes. This does NOT mean that I think women shouldn't work outside the home or that men shouldn't do the dishes, but recognizing these differences instead of denying them is better for society.

The Relgion-free society is one where religion & God have no role whatsoever in public life. Interestingly, Fintan O'Toole had a column that touched on this subject in yesterday's Irish Times. The more extreme manifestation of this is represented by those who want to purge the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance in the US or who, Europe, want no mention of God in the Constitution or those who. Or, what about rejecting a man for the role of EU Justice Commissioner because he believes homosexual acts are a sin. This is the man's religious belief. He did not say homosexual acts should be criminalized. He is being punished for simply having certain religious beliefs. (Not sure this last example really fits here, but I figured I'd put it in anyway.)

John
My main point though is about schools. The whole reason in wanting uniformly secular state schools (which we still don't have I might add) is that parents can provide the religious education of their choosing to children.
Why do we have to have "uniformly secular state schools"? It isn't just religious instruction. There are so many aspects to education where values and religion play a part (maybe not in math class, but that's probably about it). Okay, I believe in the evolution of man, but what if I didn't? Why should I have to have my children sit through lessons that I believe are wrong? {I'm not sure if your uniformly secular state school excludes all other schooling or not.} And, if I choose to school them at home or send them to a school that has an ethos that's more in tune with my thinking, why should I have to pay for the state system too?

Obviously, it's not just evolution. There are sex education issues; there are socialization issues; there are issues that revolve around the books chosen for reading or the history that is taught or other science issues. There are issues with after school activities. The whole value system of a school is shaped by religion or the absence of religion.

My point is, why shouldn't parents have a choice as to how their children are educated?

Frank McGahon

John, I agree that parents ought to have a choice, I tentatively agree with Dick that state schools ought to be uniformly secular but I suspect there is a chasm of difference between on us the extent of such state schooling or what should be regarded as "state schools". Until education is completely liberalised I have less of a problem with the state funding education per se than I do with the manner of that funding. The current system is abysmal. Schools and parents' needs are simply not being met, the system of dirigiste centralised funding is horribly expensive and inefficient. Schools ought to be able to prioritise their own spending according to their needs and not according to dictat from Tullamore. If complete liberalisation isn't possible funding could be granted strictly according to pupil numbers and it would be up to schools to decide how to allocate that money between wages, equipment, maintenance etc. They would have a better idea where priorities lie. This would obviate the need for the bloated bureaucracy which presumes to determine schools' 'needs' from the safety of Tullamore.

But I digress.. I think a religious ethos in a school is not a bad thing. My brother and I were educated in the Marist school, my sisters in St. Louis school and St. Vincent's. Other friends were educated in the Christian Brothers which had a different ethos and the (Protestant) Grammar school which had another ethos. So long as there is choice and variety there is no need to purge religion from schools in pursuit of some chimerical secularist utopia.

But, I draw the line at instruction in ignorance. For a school to teach children "creationism" in lieu of evolution is not "education" but indoctrination. If parents want to indoctrinate their children there is very little a liberal state should do to punish them but they shouldn't be assisted in any way in doing this.

Brian

"Brian, I think you underestimate the small-government sector of that party, there certainly is a libertarian wing and in theory that party ought to be more amenable to a libertarianish policy agenda than the Democrats."

There certainly is a libertarian wing. I just don't think it's nearly as powerful as it once was. Am I underestimating that wing's influence? I certainly hope so. Because while I don't consider myself a libertarian, I agree with them on more issues than I might expect. I generally find them far less objectionable and far easier to debate issues with than the theocracy brigade.

"It is a consistent position to say that neither Bush nor Kerry is desirable so it is worth voting for Nader. What is not consistent is to hope for a Bush defeat and simultaneously proselytise for Nader."

Why is it inconsistent to say Bush is not desirable AND hope for a Bush defeat? It seems illogical to say someone is undesirable and hope they win.

"... but any vote for Nader in a swing state will only help Bush."

A vote for Nader only helps Bush if that citizen would otherwise vote for Kerry were Nader not on the ballot. In some cases, that's true. In others, it's not. I know more than a few people who say, "There's no way in hell I'm voting for a guy who supported the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and pre-emption/aggression." That criteria obviously applies to both Kerry and Bush.

Simply put, the only influence non-rich people like myself have over the Democratic Party is my vote. If I refuse to use that leverage and blindly support candidates who oppose my views on FUNDAMENTAL issues, then what's the purpose of voting? That's how the libertarians lost the Republican Party to the theocrats.

Frank McGahon

Why is it inconsistent to say Bush is not desirable AND hope for a Bush defeat?

That's not what I said: I maintain that it's inconsistent to campaign for Nader AND hope for a Bush defeat. If you really want Bush gone, the best way of doing so is to vote/campaign for Kerry. (Please note: I say this not as an advocate of either candidate and I do agree with you that it is arrogant and presumptuous of Dems to assume a "right" to the support of those who wish to vote for Nader) Of course, if you are completely neutral between Bush and Kerry, there's no reason not to vote for Nader or any of the other candidates. My point is that the revealed preference of anyone who votes for Nader is that "getting Bush out" is way down the list of other priorities which include among many others "elevate the prestige of non-binary politics".

A vote for Nader only helps Bush if that citizen would otherwise vote for Kerry were Nader not on the ballot

You can try to bend my point towards endorsing the Dems' dirty tricks but you will fail. Note that I object to their efforts to remove Nader from the ballot. My point is different: if you take a hypothetical anti-Bush Nader voter, they will do nothing to get rid of Bush by voting for Nader, particularly in a swing state but by voting tactically - which is how "New" Labour defeated the Tories, holding their noses and voting for Kerry they can get rid of Bush. I maintain that you cannot be serious about wanting Bush gone and supprt Nader at the same time. It is an intellectually dishonest position to hold. The only intellectually honest position from which to support Nader or any of the other parties is from a vantage point of equal distaste for the Democrat and Republican candidate.

If I refuse to use that leverage and blindly support candidates who oppose my views on FUNDAMENTAL issues, then what's the purpose of voting?

There's nothing wrong with this position. It's just that the corrollary to it is that trying to influence the Dems towards your type of issues is vastly more important to you than getting Bush out. And there's nothing wrong with that either. What is wrong is to affect a desire to boot Bush out when the primary effect of your "protest" to the Dems is to retain Bush in office.

Dick O'Brien

John, I'm still not sure what you're driving at here and it might be because you're being a little vague. Apart from the issue of women in combat, which to the best of my knowledge has never come up here in Ireland, you offer no concrete examples of what you think is the "genderless society". Having come out of school in the nineties, I've no recollection of anyone trying to "feminize" me, but maybe that's because I've no idea what it means. Certainly nobody was encouraging us to wear makeup or ladies underwear! Aside from that, I'm not sure what feminisation can mean. So if men and women have equal, but different roles, could you explain just what those roles are?

As for the religion free society, I'm sorry, but religion is something that shouldn't be inflicted on us by the state or anyone else for that matter. Why should someone else's god have to be in my constitution? What if I were to start insisting that Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny get a mention in law too? By the way, Buttiglione was not rejected because he believed homosexuality is a sin, but because he said he wouldn't be able to reconcile his personal views with his public obligations.

Dick O'Brien

With regard to schools, I'm not sure why you have to make the example of creationism an exceptional case. Why about parents with other unusual belief systems? If I'm a white supremacist or a Pol Pot style communist, why should my children have to sit through lessons I believe are wrong?

Furthermore, just what are the values being taught in state schools you fear can undermine a child's religious beliefs? You mention sex education, the choice of books etc, but never say exactly what could be heard or read that you might disagree with.

As I said before, the benefits of having a truly secular state school system (which we still don't have) is that it leaves religious instruction (or lack of it) up to the parents. Now you might still not want to send your kids to a secular school and that's fine. But complaining about your taxes paying for it isn't a valid argument. I can argue that my taxes paid in part for a particular road, but since I don't drive on it, I shouldn't have to pay for it. You can apply the argument all over the place. Why should my taxes pay for this hospital when I'm not sick? Why should my taxes fund a war I don't agree with? You get my drift…

The point of a state funded education system is that every child in the country is guaranteed an education. To achieve this you have to make compromises. If you start making exceptions for every individual, you're not going to get anywhere.

John

Dick, does a state funded system necessarily have to be state run? Why does the state have to be the educator?

Why not give parents vouchers for the value of their education and let them choose where to use that voucher? Some people might like the discipline of a military type school, others might like a "child-centered learning environment" others a religious school and many would just like the type of schools you're recommending. Each school's budget would depend on how many students it can attract.

Such a system gives parents a choice. If a school's religious ethos is too overwhelming, it may not attract enough students to be viable. The market will temper extremism (I doubt there would be any market in Ireland for a "creationist education".)

Another advantage of this type of system is that teacher salaries and conditions would be negotiated at the school level, thus lessening the risk of the entire state's education system being closed by teacher strikes.

John
Now you might still not want to send your kids to a secular school and that's fine. But complaining about your taxes paying for it isn't a valid argument. I can argue that my taxes paid in part for a particular road, but since I don't drive on it, I shouldn't have to pay for it. You can apply the argument all over the place. Why should my taxes pay for this hospital when I'm not sick? Why should my taxes fund a war I don't agree with? You get my drift…
I think if you check the figures you'll find that you don't pay anything for roads. Road users pay way over the cost of the roads through taxes on car registration (not to mention VAT on insurance) and petrol.

I agree that you shouldn't have to pay for a hospital if you don't use it. That's what insurance is for. I don't see why the state needs to be the health service provider any more than they need to be the educator. If society wants to pay the costs for those who genuinely cannot afford insurance that makes more sense to me than the state being actual health service provider. {By the way, I would object to paying the health coverage for anyone who can afford a two week holiday in Spain - a situation I know prevails in this country now.}

War is different. I can see no alternative to government in charge of defense, so when the government says it's war is necessary that must be paid for by taxes, however they are raised (doesn't have to be income taxes, but that's the current method).

John
Having come out of school in the nineties, I've no recollection of anyone trying to "feminize" me, but maybe that's because I've no idea what it means. Certainly nobody was encouraging us to wear makeup or ladies underwear! Aside from that, I'm not sure what feminisation can mean. So if men and women have equal, but different roles, could you explain just what those roles are?
Dick, I'll see if I can find it, but there's a recently introduced transition year program designed to help boys be more "sensitive" or whatever. I've heard it discussed on the radio quite a bit, but now I can't think of the name of it.
John

Dick, "Exploring Masculinities" is the name of the program. Here's an article on it.

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