Thursday, November 04, 2004

To Tolles

For the record, I wrote my "More Bright Side" piece at 5:40 yesterday. You posted your election wrap up piece at 8:59.

My prediction was that rather than honest reflection of possible shortcomings, democrats are in danger of looking for a rationale to explain away some pretty big losses. I nominated as the most likely rationale anti-gay bias. My post was up 3 hours before yours so I did not read your post and come up with the idea. I made the guess and you proved my point.

Honest reflection might lead one to ask: are 75% of Americans driven by anti-gay bigotry? If Michigan and Oregon pass a no gay marriage amendment by landslide margins and Kerry wins those states, does that say anything? If turnout was just as high in the 39 states that did not have a marriage amendment on the ballot, does that suggest that it was not anti-gay animus that turned out the vote? Or can I just figure that conservatives were too dumb to even know if it was on the ballot in their state? If Missourians voted over 2-1 for a similar amendment in what was, de facto, a democrat primary this spring, does that suggest anything to you?

Several points:

first: democrats would be well served to honestly reflect on these results. If they choose to believe that 75% of their neighbors are crazy bigots, they will not be able to get back on track.

second: they need to realize that their opponents are not knuckle dragging Neanderthal. You can vote for a marriage amendment without being a bigot. You can do so on grounds that you are sick of courts subverting the democratic process by legislating by fiat. You can do so because you are inherently conservative and believe we should not tamper with ancient institutions. It may not be coincidental that marriage has been between a man and a woman everywhere throughout all cultures and all time. That, of course, doesn't necessarily mean it is correct, but it does place a burden on the "pro-gay" marriage side to show why changing this institution is OK or beneficial. Perhaps you believe they have done so. Approximately 2/3rds of Americans would disagree.

Third: while I like the anti-bestiality reference (and particularly H-man's ability to tie it back to your blog, it is a side issue. You know what? If some judge in Vermont declares a constitutional right to bestiality, I bet conservatives do make an issue of it. That is democracy. If you'd prefer a system where judges just get to pass whatever laws they want (and that is what making up constitutional right is doing), and people do not get to respond, say so rather than simply imputing the worst possible motive you can think of to people with whom you disagree. Conservatives did not force a gay marriage fight; they had it forced upon them by courts. But expecting them to simply accept the court's verdict rather than influence the political process is simply jackassery.

On to your comments on President Bush. First, I am not an all out Bush defender. I think you are right about how he blew up domestic spending (though I bet you complain about how education is underfunded, no) and free trade.

I have a sneaking suspicion that his not appearing alone at the 9/11 commission was a head fake to keep liberals believing he was a stupid chimp. Laugh about the "misunderestimated" line all you want, it is no mistake that he underpromises and overdelivers as a campaigner.

On stem cells: there are serious moral and ethical issues involved in creating and detroying life. If you choose to believe that religious Christians by virtue of their having faith (and therefore stupidity) are unable to have convictions regarding this, what can I say. Again, deal with the probing questions. My church (Catholic) doesn't believe this research is wrong because "God told me last night". They have thousands of years of moral reflection on what life is, when it begins, what is it that gives a human life intrinsic value, when can we justifiably take a life etc. I think the president shares some of these views.

Plus, the Bush administration has, of course, not banned stem cell research. In fact, they are the first administration to actively fund it. But, they have limited the stem cell lines that can be used with public funding. Private funding: have at it. So the idea that this is all pandering to the religious right is off base from the get go.

Also, you bring up stem cell research as an example of him ducking tough decisions. Your line reads: "Can’t piss off the right, even though a majority would favor expanded research. " If a majority would favor it, but Bush opposes it nonetheless it is by definition a tough decision to make. The easy decision is the one that is popular.

Finally, while you may feel free to not admit that Bush has made any tough decisions, I think most people would think that dealing with a global war against a virulent ideology abroad while dealing with a recession at home requires tough decision making. Going to war in Afghanistan where both Russia and England had been defeated, not an easy call. Scoff if you will, but I remember when the anti-war left was geared up against that one. The idea that "everyone" was behind it is as laughable a fiction as the idea that everyone was behind the US during the cold war. It became easy to say once we had won.

Bush and his team have completely transformed the art of warfare and did it in real time. We defeated the Taliban in little over a month with fewer troops than we have stationed down the street at Fort Leonard Wood. Remember, also, that we did it while the New York Times was calling it a quagmire.

Bush made the tough decision to take out Saddam Hussein. Easy call? Do you remember the heat he felt? Do you think he wanted to do it without the support of France or Germany? What message do you think is an easier sell to voters:

hey we got Saddam, now we are getting out pronto or

we have a lot of work to do and are going to be there a while?

To say that he made tough decisions is not to say he never caved to constituencies. You implied that my saying he has faced some tough decisions suggests that he is a strong leader. That is a bit of a jump. That he is a strong leader I think is reflected in the fact that in the face of problems in Iraq, an improved (but not great) economy, and a highly motivated, highly funded, and highly mobilized opposition he garnered the greatest number of popular votes in our nation's history.


Blogger Tolles said...

To Max:

I did not mean to imply that you literally went to my blog and were hit with your blindingly insightful idea. I'm sure that was all your own. Thanks for the time update all the same. If Big Ben ever breaks, I'll recommend you for the job.

P.S. In the above statement I did not mean to literally imply that your idea was blindingly insightful. Those adjectives more appropriately describe the H-Man's "I'm Not Dead Yet" post.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Tolles said...

Okay. So there’s more to that post then just what appears on the front screen My bad. The whole “Read More!” thing is throwing me off. So, like you say, from the top.

Are 75% of Americans “driven” by anti-gay bigotry? No. A lot of things turned out the vote. The “marriage amendments” which I maintain are “anti-gay” in letter and spirit, were one of the motivating factors. In a state like Ohio, a state with a strong segment of culturally conservative voters, initiatives like these may have made the difference. When post-election polling reveals that nearly twenty percent of voters in some states listed “values” as their top voting priority, that tells me that these initiatives had a pretty strong effect in getting people to the polls.

It is sort of interesting that when it comes to gay marriage, the whole idea of individual liberty goes out the door with a lot of conservatives. I’m well aware that 2/3s of Americans disagree with my position on the issue. What puzzles me is where they get the balls to think they regulate consensual relationships between adults, the kind of relationships they enter into, and what those people call those relationships. There are good reasons to limit individual liberty when it has negative effects on other people. Fire in the crowded theater and all that. But when there are no negative externalities imposed on others, I’m hard pressed to see the justification for limiting an individual’s choices. Believe me, I’ve heard a lot of supposed justifications. But at the end of the day, families don’t break apart and the sky doesn’t fall because two gay people decide they want to get married. If the idea of gay people getting married troubles you, that’s okay. But you need to provide me with a convincing reason as to why I should let your troubles interfere with someone else’s personal decision. If I get married one day, I’m not going to put it to a referendum, end of story. I suspect you didn’t either.

Conservatives sure as hell forced a fight on this since there was never anything “forced upon them.” There was no court decision that said you, Max Power, had to go out and get a gay marriage. You didn’t even have to send a gift, so what beats that? Your church didn’t have to recognize anything. What I think we were all expected to do, are all expected to do, is to recognize that adults will form their own relationships, as they see fit, without the interference of others. Actually, in practical terms, we do this already. With or without our blessing, and with or without these state referendums, people will continue to form their own relationships and call it what they will.

I know you know this, but justice and majoritarian democracy are not the same thing. Are anti-miscegenation laws just? No, but they were popular. There were arguments that are no longer popular that miscegenation was un-just because the races had always been sepearte, throughout all history, etc., etc. I don’t think you can cite something, prove it exists, and then claim that therefore, that system is just. That’s at least how I read your comment about “all cultures and all time.”

This is by no means a problem that rests solely with the GOP. The point about the primary in Missouri is spot-on, and I thought the same thing myself when I read the results the next day. Nonetheless, it was not the Democratic party in Kentucky calling the oppoisition candidate “limp-wristed” and “a switch hitter” this past campaign. Nor was it the Democratic Senate candidate in South Carolina stating that lesbians should not be allowed to teach in public schools. John Kerry did not propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution barring individuals from making their own choices. It was not the Democratic candidate in Florida calling his primary opponent “the new darling of the homosexual extremists” (this is Martinez, criticizing his opponent for supporting hate crimes legislation). The list goes on. From outside a Bush rally in Ohio, as reported by Salon:

“Lisa Dupler, a 33-year-old from Columbus, held up a rainbow-striped John Kerry sign outside the Nationwide Arena on Friday, as Republicans streamed out after being rallied by George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. A thickset woman with very short, dark hair, Dupler was silent and barely flinched as people passing her hissed ‘faggot’ into her ear. An old lady looked at her and said, ‘You people are sick!’ A kid who looked to be about 10 or 11 affected a limp wrist and mincing voice and said, ‘Oh, I'm gay.’ Rather than restraining him, his squat mother guffawed and then turned to Dupler and sneered, ‘Why don't you go marry your girlfriend?’ Encouraged, her son yelled, ‘We don't want faggots in the White House!’”

I especially like that line “Why don't you go marry your girlfriend?” because, you know, she can’t. A good reply might have been, “well, you just passed a law that says I can’t.” That law, is in fact codified discrimination. If pointing this out makes you uncomfortable, it should. That’s not my goal, but it needs to be pointed out.

I’m going to make a generalization here and say that this kind of incident is more of a problem on the right than on the left. You should take you own advice, set aside some time for some honest reflection, and admit that.

As for the rest of the post, if you’re going to use quotes, try quoting something I actually say, especially if it’s under the heading “Hey Tolles.” I never said that you or anyone else makes any decisions because “God told me last night.” Although, it is interesting that you don’t cite Catholic church teaching regarding the Iraq war. I also never said “everyone” supported the war in Afghanistan; I didn’t support it for one, but that’s another post for another time. That whole part of the post veers off from anything I said. Also, try asking me my opinion if you want to know it. (“I bet you complain about how education is underfunded.”) Maybe, but it’s not like you would know since I’ve never expressed an opinion to you about it. Actually, some of my thoughts on education might surprise you (hint: I’m all in favor of the education part that has to do with where I work part-time.)

I think we can agree that comments about the porcupine human sex trade are funny.

I’m scouring the rest of this post for something we can agree on…I’m falling short. Blogs are good maybe? Okay. Good enough.

Oh! Cocooning? What the fuck is that? I talk to you don’t I? In all seriousness, I actually probably spend more time than is good for my health over at, so don’t talk to me about cocooning. That, is a cheap shot. Also, your shot at the ny times doesn’t make sense. If it were really the slanted liberal paper you imply it is, why would they run a piece like that, with all of Manhattan freaking out and bartenders claiming that they don’t know anyone who voted for Bush? Leave me out of that one, man. I don’t even dig Manhattan. Too noisy.

8:14 PM  

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