- Conservatives for Obama?!
- Romney as Burke, Obama as Hobbes.
- Democrats Double Down (with Dog Whistles).
- Intransitive faith.
- A Triple Whopper that wasn’t exactly Kosher.
- Paradoxical “Choice.”
It’s hard to resist the flame of a second week of political conventioneering and campaign talk. I’m sorry enough about it that I took it off to its own blog entry, presented below, rather than sullying my pure, early-morning, daily compendia.
The obscure publisher of the American Conservative (not Patrick J. Buchanan, by the way) will probably vote for Obama – again – which leads Rod Dreher to tally up the major party plusses and minuses and sets the stage for a lively bunch of comments and suggestions for write-in candidates.
One of the comments, by “Bob Jones,” minimizes the Obama threat to religious freedom by asking why nobody objected to insurance coverage for vasectomies. Answer: Because it wasn’t a government mandate, dummy! (And it won’t become a government mandate because the whole point of the HHS mandate is pandering to young single career women. Nobody’s appealing to men, really, though the Democrat pander to women is quite craven.)
Another, Joe Carter (to whom I’ve reacted before), puts social issues front and center plausibly, but he’d sacrifice what little is left of federalism in the service of social conservative goals, and that makes me leery of his version of conservatism.
Meanwhile, over at Carter’s homebase magazine, First Things, George Weigel tries to frame the election as a choice between Edmund Burke and Thomas Hobbes.
Weigel admits that a truly Burkean state of affairs isn’t likely, and the contest is between (mere) tendencies. But then gets carried away and effectively unsays that:
For as the candidates have presented themselves to the country over the past months, and most recently at their conventions, it has become ever more clear that America will choose in 2012 between two paths into the future. Along one path, there is, finally, room for only the individual and the state. Along the other path, the flourishing institutions of civil society empower individuals and contribute to real problem-solving. In the former, the state defines responsibilities and awards benefits (and penalties). In the latter, individuals and free, voluntary associations assume responsibility and thereby thus make their contribution to the common good.
I appreciate the reminder, enough to clip-and-save it even, but I have trouble seeing Romney as a convincing Burkean. On the other hand, I think Obama’s Hobbesian credentials are stellar, although I typically call him “statist” rather than “Hobbesian.” Mediating structures in form, which Obama preserves of political necessity, are not mediating structures in substance if they must function only as the government says, which is precisely the point of thing like the emblematic employer mandate.
Just when I think I couldn’t be more disgusted with politics, the Democrats assemble in Charlotte and make Republicans look almost tolerable, at least comparatively.
As for the political substance of the speeches, a few main themes came across.
First, the Democrats are eager to wage cultural war. They love abortion and same-sex marriage, although there was a telling rhetorical difference in the way they handled those two subjects. They are embarrassed by, maybe even ashamed of, their enthusiasm for abortion. The word itself was almost never mentioned. We recall it escaping the lips only of Nancy Keenan, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-abortion group that dropped “Abortion” from its own name some years back.
The euphemisms for abortion are multiplying even if Democrats aren’t. They now include not just “choice” but “bodies” and “health care.” Mrs. Obama managed to get all three into one sentence: “[The president] believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care.”
There’s also a euphemism for same-sex marriage (as well as gays in the military): “who they love.” Mrs. Obama again: “If proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love, then surely, surely, we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American dream.” Castro was more proper in his grammar: “When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’”
Neither the word “gay” nor the phrase “same-sex marriage” appeared in either Castro’s or Mrs. Obama’s speech, which means no one watching the convention on the broadcast networks heard an explicit mention of homosexuality. We must assume the omission was deliberate ….
(James Taranto, Wall Street Journal) It’s remarkable to me that the Democrats are doubling down on the Culture War bets. I’d like to think that’s so bad a strategy that not even euphemisms and dog-whistles (“proud” and “stand at the altar” as well as what Taranto identifies) can conceal it.
Unless Roe v. Wade is overturned, both parties will remain locked into extreme positions on abortion, which they will try to make the best of by emphasizing the other side’s extremism. As for same-sex marriage, the Democrats are gambling that public opinion has changed enough that the benefits of open advocacy outweigh the liabilities. But they’re hedging that bet–hence the “who they love” euphemism.
Opposing same-sex marriage may not be the nation’s most urgent necessity, but then neither is advancing it, as the Democrat platform officially does for the first time. SSM strikes me as an issue the Right is losing, and probably has irretrievably lost, not only because the media are giving us constant, desensitizing exposure to gay and lesbian characters, but also because so much of the opposition is expressed loutishly or in ways that patently elide religious and civil usage of the term “marriage.”
Although I doubt that civil unions serve any public good (versus private desires), a lot of the emotion could be taken out of the issue if the state would call its version “civil unions” and leave “marriage” to religions. But then, if the term “marriage” weren’t wrested from the oppressive grasp of history and nature, the desiderata of symbolic affirmation would be attenuated.
The Democrat abortion plank sets the new high water mark for extremism as well, with nary an exception or qualm in sight and with the implication, if you take their bloviating seriously, that partial-birth abortions should be provided for free, by taxpayers or employer mandates or some other magic.
Such hot button issues may not be the most urgent, but they may be the most important in the long term because ultimately, culture is more important than politics, and these assaults on the culture can leave profound and lasting marks. Knuckle-draggers like me think those marks, if the Democrat positions prevail, baneful.
There are moments of cognitive dissonance. For instance, the platform that passed so unanimously contains, as we all now know, no reference to God. In ’08 they had a mention, which this year’s drafters most likely would have noticed and removed, for whatever reason or reasons. It’s their platform, they have the right. But when they opened the convention with a series of prayers the camera cut to a woman holding her hands together tightly, fingers straight up, not like people who usually pray usually hold their hands but like a 15th century saint on an old fashioned mass card. She looked nutty, or like a person imitating something she thought might be appropriate, or attractive to clingers.
(Peggy Noonan) They’re running on the whiff of an empty bottle. (in fairness, Republican Platforms in 1912 and 1972 were reportedly “god”less, too.)
Pundit Michael Brendan Dougherty had trouble focusing on the Democrat convention Tuesday night:
And just as the disgust was rising up within me I would turn to watch the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. Or to the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. Unlike what is happening beneath the bunting in Charlotte, this is a show that is put on to appeal to me. It has rules. And they are recognized by everyone. If the Yankees fail to score more runs than the Rays, all the newspapers will reflect that fact. There is no bias in sports journalism that allows journalistic factions to argue that in fact, the Rays lost, or that at least they lost among single-soccer moms who care about security issues.
Those rules are a contrast to politics, where they make it up as they go. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, for example, told a whopper to assembled Jewish Democrats – a triple whopper with bacon and cheese, because she (a) made an argument from fictitious authority, (b) lied when caught, and (little noticed) (c) the proposition she was arguing for was prima facie absurd:
Just think of what Shultz is getting at. “DWS”, as she is known, is arguing that to even suggest that the U.S. could be more closely aligned with Israel is to undermine the closeness of the alignment in a way that is dangerous for the Jewish state. Just transpose a different issue: “To even suggest that Soviet state could be more thoroughly communist is a danger to communism.” You see what I’m getting at. This is just bent. Everyone is talking about Debbie’s fibbing. But what about the refried nonsense that the lie was supposed to convey?
Another political reporter emailed me last week and said, “[Politics] is like sports for stupid people who think they’re much smarter than sports fans.”
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