Disclaimer: Content on the YP4 blog does not necessarily reflect the views of Young People For or People For the American Way Foundation. The views, ideas, statements or claims posted on this site by members of the public cannot in any way be attributed to either Young People For or People For the American Way Foundation.
You knew the Supreme was going to have to take on some cases like the two religious symbol challenges it heard this past week. It looks likely that the Justices are headed for a split decision on whether America belongs in the 19th or 21st century.
And while I feel a certain traitorous guilt just writing it, I have to say that I'm one secular liberal -- hell, I even live in Hollywood--who just doesn't sweat a little bit of religion in the public square.
Or at least I don't think fighting the radical religious right on the purely symbolic stuff is worth the effort given the many desperate problems Republicans create whenever they're in power. I just don't see the upside to picking these battles.
Now don't get me wrong--I hate it when Dems go soft on a woman's right to choose, I can't stand money going from secular to `faith-based' institutions and I thank Sweet Jesus for those `obstructionist' Senators opposing Bush's nuttier judicial nominees.
But monuments of the Ten Commandments or saying `under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance become wedge issues that distract us just as much as they do those working-class Red Staters whom we so smugly condemn for voting against their interests (just admit that we're smug about that one).
These are the kinds of issues that turn me into a mushy centrist. I'm the Al From of Godliness in the public-square. If the American Left is going to spend a million dollars on legal fees, I'd prefer they use it to sue Don Rumsfeld for torture or fight those infuriatingly scummy union-busting law firms than drop it on getting rid of some piece of granite in some bright red state.
And that's because at the end of the day, if it's done constitutionally, it's no skin off my nose if defendants and litigants in a Texas courthouse have to look at the Ten Commandments.
I won't belabor the point. I've written about this before, and it rubbed a lot of my progressive friends out there the wrong way. So, tell me why I'm "as wrong-headed as can be on this one"--as one reader recently suggested--and I'll post the best of your slippery slope arguments right here.
On Saturday night I dreamt that Scott McClellan was hailing an election for dogcatcher in Port St. Lucie as vindication of the Bush Doctrine. After a brief video of some Lhasa Apsos and a Great Dane dancing in the streets, he said: "After seeing jubilant Iraqis celebrate their first vote in decades, the Port St. Lucian people have risked everything and chosen Freedom®." The reporters surrounding McClellan burst into applause.
I had fallen asleep in front of the tube and as I approached consciousness the next morning I focused on this little exchange between Meet The Press's Tim Russert and New York Times columnists Maureen Down and William Safire:
SAFIRE: ...Now, look at the role that we're on electorally. The Afghan election surprised everybody. Eighty percent of the people turned out, against all intimidation, and we had a democratic election there... Australia came up with an election supporting the government that supported us in Iraq.... Ukraine--suddenly the democrats won and threw out the Putin appointee. Iraq, we got a real election despite the al-Qaeda and Ba'athist, fascist insurgency. The Palestinians had a somewhat democratic election, and now in Lebanon we may just next month have a democratic election. And as you say, Egypt has begun to talk about it. Talk is cheap but we'll see what happens.
So we are on a roll, and it happened when this president started it all with Iraq.
Then Russert turned to Maureen Dowd and asked:
Maureen Dowd, "on a roll"--there were no weapons of mass destruction, which was the primary rationale for the war, but would you now accept the fact that, because of the invasion of Iraq, there is a possibility of democracy in Iraq and perhaps that may spread through the Middle East?
Dowd had a pithy answer, but she didn't dispute the underlying claim. Like the happy reporters in my dream, it seems everyone--including Russert--is buying into the narrative. Even the lefty Bush-haters on the New York Times editorial board got into the game a day later:
The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance.
No, it boldly proclaimed that Iraq had massive stockpiles of weapons, struck out swinging, then boldly proclaimed that their invasion was always meant to spread democracy in the first place.
But more to the point, the argument articulated in Russert's question (and reverberating all over the right-wing press) is that the Bush Doctrine--remember, that's pre-emptive war--is working.
But is it?
In Iraq, coalition casualties are down since the lead-up to the election--`only' 2.11 per day during February--but the insurgency is getting worse and Iraqis are dying by the score. Nothing has changed the fact that the Sunnis--the ones in rebellion--stayed away from the polls in droves or that the Iraqi security forces are being trained with painful sluggishness. The price tag will still be at least $250 or $300 billion bucks in the end, and we're still stained by Abu Ghraib. So, yes Tim, Iraq's just peachy.
[It's not] accurate to think that we are watching an unalloyed struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. As Jonathan Steele observes in The Guardian, "Yuschenko, who claims to have won Sunday's election, served as Prime Minister under the outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, and some of his backers are also linked to the brutal industrial clans who manipulated Ukraine's post-Soviet privatization." (It is also worth noting, as The Independent reported , that Yuschenko's wife...worked in the Reagan White House.)"
What any of that--much less events in Australia--has to do with the Bush Doctrine is beyond me.
But what of the first blushes of reform in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, and--although Safire didn't mention it--Saudi Arabia? Was it what Jon Stewart calls the "Mess in Mesopotamia" that led to the wonders of governance unfolding before us?
I don't mind giving Bush credit where it's due. Presidential speeches have quite a bit of power behind them, and Bush's promise to push even allies to democratize--even if I see it as mostly hollow rhetoric--was a big shift in stated U.S. policy.
In Egypt and Saudi Arabia, I think Bush's speeches did indeed prompt talk of reform--despite and not because of our pre-emptive war. It's not like the Saudis are worried we'll invade them.
And Safire's right that talk is cheap; Mubarak has said many times before that he was a democratizer, but you have to take it with a grain of salt when it comes from someone who's been in power for 24 years.
Let's keep in mind, too, that Saudi Arabia saw only municipal elections (which might be the seed of my dogcatcher dream), and Saudi women were out of luck.
As for Lebanon, there's been a dramatic reaction to the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. But unless it was some sort of CIA job that we don't know about, I don't see how Bush gets much credit there. It's not like the dissatisfaction of many Lebanese with Syria's presence in their country is something new.
And while I can credit the administration for putting a bit of pressure on Israel to loosen up travel restrictions in the Occupied Territories and allow a vote, it's a fairly obvious policy decision and Sharon would have responded to the administration's request even if we hadn't invaded Iraq, no?
And doesn't Tim Russert know that the first relatively free and fair Palestinian election ("generally well-conducted" in the words of the State Department) occurred in 1996 under Clinton? Why is the second one--prompted by a natural death, no less--on Bush's résumé?
What's most troubling about the mainstream's uncritical acceptance of this narrative is that it's based on another domino theory--which I've always found to be a theory with little basis in historical experience.
When Truman decided to push past the 38th parallel, he believed that he had to do so to keep Japan from "going red." Johnson's advisors were warning him that a North Vietnamese victory would push Thailand into the Soviets' hands. We lost both campaigns and those dominos never fell.
That's because most political systems represent a delicate dance between ruling elites and the ruled. While outside ideas and pressures certainly have an influence on that dynamic, it's domestic processes that account for changes as sweeping as going from authoritarianism to democracy or from capitalism to communism.
It just makes me crazy that we're going to have to deal with these simplistic justifications for Bush's disastrous strain of U.S. foreign policy for a long time to come. There they'll be, tucked in next to Oliver North's "patriotism" and Ronald Reagan's supposedly magic touch in the debating quiver of every hawkish nut, from Richard Perle to the folks at The New Republic, and Tim Russert and the rest of the liberal press will just go right along with them.
There have been a gaggle of polls showing that young people are significantly more supportive of gay rights issues than older voters, and same-sex marriage advocates love to cite them as if to say `everything will be OK.'
So let me join them.
A new report by the University of Maryland finds that, while young voters' "social circles and voluntary associations (such
as churches and other religious congregations) remain largely segregated by race," voters aged 18-29 "are the most tolerant age group and are growing more tolerant over time."
The study [you can download a PDF here] looked at three groups folks just love to hate in some quarters: gays, immigrants, and racial minorities.
56 percent of young people supported same-sex marriage and 63 percent supported civil unions. More dramatic were those who believed in protection for gays in housing and employment, and those who supported hate crime protection, all of which were around 85 percent.
Moreover, youth support for equal protections for gays, seems to cross partisan, ideological, and religious lines. For example, majorities of Republican, conservative, and Born-Again Christian youth also support protections on housing, employment, and hatecrimes, although they oppose gay civil unions, marriage, and adoption.
It appears that through the years, young people have become increasingly supportive of laws prohibiting discrimination. The NES began asking about attitudes towards laws prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals in 1988. At that time, 51 percent of youth (ages 18 to 25) felt there should be laws to protect gays from discrimination in the workforce.
It's not the same survey, but even if the data are only somewhat comparable, we're talking about 51 to 85 percent in 30 years.
On race, the report cited data from the General Social Survey (GSS), which has asked questions about racial issues over a number of years.
When the GSS first asked in 1972 if respondents would favor a legal ban on interracial marriage, 20 percent of younger Americans and 43 percent of those 26 and older said they would. A generation later, in 2000, these percentages had fallen dramatically - four percent of youth and 10 percent of older
Americans still favored such a ban.
The number of Americans who favored the segregation of neighborhoods fell in a similarly dramatic fashion. In 1972, 24 percent of Americans aged 18 to 25 and 43 percent of Americans 26 and older agreed that "whites have the right to keep blacks out of their neighborhoods and that blacks should respect that right." By 1996, the
percentage who agreed with this statement had fallen to four percent for youth and 13 percent for older Americans.
That 13 percent of voters over 25 would answer that poll question in the affirmative scares the hell out of me, I don't know about you. But the gap between age groups is significant.
When it comes to immigrants, well there's some ugly politics out there and young people aren't immune. When asked about immigration policies, Americans of all ages favor tighter controls.
On the underlying issue, though, there's hope. According to the University's 2002 Civic and Political Health of the Nation survey, 60 percent of respondents between 15-25 agreed that ""Immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents," compared to 49 percent in the 38-56 group and just 42 percent among those over 56. Just 29 percent of youts thought, "Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care," compared with 37 percent of those over 56.
I have two pieces on Alternet today about the Ownership Society.
I have a different take on the Michael Tomasky's argument that the left spends too much time debating tactics and not enough pondering what it means to be a liberal.
I agree with the Gadlfyer's Paul Waldman's point that the right's tactics are working well enough that they can afford the luxury of pondering deeper questions, and clearly he's right about the difference in infrastructure--conservative thinkers have those cushy think-tank jobs that let them sit on their asses and contemplate.
But I remind people that it was our side that came up with the idea of an Ownership Society, and posit that it got subverted by the right because we have deeper communication and philosophical problems. You can read it here.
Then I indulge in a bit of lefty blasphemy. I say, why not throw out a counter-proposal for private accounts--but one based on progressive values. I don't believe we should do it as a compromise with the right. Rather, I think we should offer private accounts that they could never accept--private accounts that actually help low-income Americans--as a means of highlighting the real values gap in this country.
One of the right's most persistent conspiracy theories is that an "America-hating" left rules America's college campuses. The myth is fueled by a series of anecdotes-- painstaking collected by well-funded conservative organizations--about shoddy professors letting their personal ideologies slip into the classroom.
I got a taste of how it works the other day, when I caught a guest lecture about poverty and the law given by one Art Auerbach, one of those young professors who tries to be cute and funny. When they're neither, it can be painful --you know.
Auerbach started spewing Rush Limbaugh-esque nonsense. He referred to the "People's Republic of Santa Monica" (see, there are liberals in Santa Monica and liberals are Communists), then started blathering on about "radical feminists"--the classic right-wing smear favored by a dying breed of white male pipsqueaks.
Then he spent a few moments parroting Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin's ludicrous defense of the internment of innocent Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Auerbach said that German- and Italian-Americans weren't treated as harshly as the Japanese. But the difference wasn't their color; it wasn't naked racism. "The Japanese attacked us, that was the difference," he said.
Conservatives are never wont to let facts sully their clean arguments. The reality is that German U-boats attacked American sea-lanes mercilessly; they sank three million tons of shipping between June and December of 1940 alone, sending over a thousand American merchant marines to watery deaths. His audience might not have been up on their World War II history, but you better believe folks knew all about that in the 1940s.
And while no Japanese-American internee was ever convicted of aiding his land of origin, German saboteurs who had lived in the United States prior to the war were captured in Long Island after a U-boat landing and eventually executed. This happened right around the time the Japanese were thrown into concentration camps.
For conservatives, revising that historical anomaly is important; the only thing that drives much of our current, overbroad "war on terror" is the same kind of small-minded xenophobia.
But I bit my tongue. At least until he said that poverty was an "immutable condition." "If you're born poor, you're likely to stay that way," he said.
Now, I admit that if we keep electing ideologues who pray to the free-market like some omnipotent bitch-Goddess, that might be true. But reasonable folks understand that the United States is the richest country in the world yet has the highest poverty rate among developed countries. Poverty among riches like ours is a matter of bad public policy.
Then the zinger: Auerbach said concern about inequality is a "socialistic idea."
I raised my hand. "What does caring about the poor have to do with Socialism?" I asked. Auerbach didn't get my drift, so I spelled it out: "Doesn't Socialism have to do with the state owning the means of production? I mean isn't it a political and economic system?" This was, after all, a political science class. Then I added: "This isn't Fox news, it's a classroom. Do we really need that kind of stupidity?"
Now, I admit that might not have been the most respectful attitude. But I suspect that the conservative students who claim to be wronged by liberal professors aren't approaching these debates with a great deal of deference either.
And then--get this--he mocked me! That's right, he told me to "calm down" (I was quite calm) and said in a sarcastic tone that he wouldn't want to offend the "socialist." He made several more quips at my expense, all in front of a lecture hall packed with 200 people. The nerve!
My delicate sense of self was shattered. I could see a long course of painful therapy in my future. The tyranny! First he tried to indoctrinate me with his fascist America-hating class-warfare ideology and when I offered a liberal, all-American, egalitarian response he ridiculed me. I'm clearly a victim!
Of course, that's what a conservative student would say (I forgot about the whole thing until thinking about what I could write this evening). If I were a conservative student, my complaint would have been posted on all the web sites devoted to tracking liberal academics. Stanley Kurtz or Daniel Pipes--two reactionary anti-intellectual "intellectuals" who fight against "leftist bias" in the academy-- might have used my gripe in their books and lectures.
And if, by chance, I got a grade I didn't like at the end of the semester, I might employ one of a number of well-financed right-wing law firms that offer pro-bono legal help for aggrieved conservative students like me. And I might just sue.
And the suit would be breathlessly reported in the right-wing press, and some young conservative would believe it and the cycle would go on.
Now you know how that works.
I've written before about the Radical Right's love of (and big money compensation for) black conservative spokepeople:
The boards of these foundations aren't exactly "multicultural," if you know what I mean. But they have a message to get out: they're coming after affirmative action, the minimum wage, social welfare programs, pre- and after-school programs and, indeed, multiculturalism itself. And when that's the message, it's good to have it delivered by an African-American.
I noticed some of my favorites have had a pretty busy week. Read my post here.
If you want to see a real crisis, don't look to Social Security. Just look at DC.
Here are the Senators who voted against Condi Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State:
Daniel Akaka (Hawaii)
Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Barbara Boxer (California)
Robert Byrd (West Virginia)
Mark Dayton (Minnesota)
Dick Durbin (Illinois)
Tom Harkin (Iowa)
Jim Jeffords (Vermont)
Edward Kennedy (Massachusetts)
John Kerry (Massachusetts)
Frank Lautenberg (New Jersey)
Carl Levin (Michigan)
Jack Reed (Rhode Island)
Why not take a moment and thank them, especially if they're yours. Find 'em here.
Where's California's Dianne Feinstein, you ask? Well, the once brave warrior--she who fought hard for the Assault Weapons Ban that Bush promised to keep but then allowed to die on the vine-- is tired of the fight, and that's been pretty clear for a while. Sad.
Matt from PFAW suggested this quick overview of how to use Movable Type.
...If you can bring yourself to care.
I don't know how a good Green Party boy like me got into a discussion about the next DNC Chair, but since the YP4 blog is new, allow me a bit of review.
In November, I argued that progressives should work on building a movement outside of the Democratic Party and shouldn't waste any time worrying about what Dem insiders are doing:
Only a small group on either side of the ideological spectrum actually participates in politics. Among them, two big partisan fights will play out in the coming months. In these battles, you'll be able to see the problem that American liberalism faces today, especially in its tenuous influence on D.C. party politics. The right will be battling hard to shape the Republican agenda while the left gets distracted by fights within the Democratic Party over how best to retool after another defeat.
... what is most puzzling about the DNC ritual is that anyone in the activist liberal base would waste their precious time and energy caring about it. While they may be dying to know the outcome, they'll have little impact on the process. The selection of DNC Chair defines a bright line between large and small 'd' democrats: the face of the people's party will be decided by 447 members of the Democratic National Committee. While those members are largely elected by their respective state and local parties, they are nonetheless a small, insular group of party insiders who live in a Washington political culture apart from the rest of America.
That seems to have pissed off Arianna Huffington. A week later, she wrote on the same site:
Although less than 450 people will ultimately decide who becomes the next party chair, when the DNC votes on Feb. 12, the outcome will have a profound effect on shaping the party's future. Will Democrats continue to toe the strategy line of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council that has brought them to the brink of permanent minority-party status? Or will they finally return to the party's roots and recapture its lost political soul - and the White House and Congress with it?
Of course, I agree with all of that. She continued:
That's why the DNC race is so important. The party needs a chairman able to drive a stake through the heart of its bankrupt GOP-lite strategy and champion the populist economic agenda that has already proven potent at the ballot box in many conservative parts of the country. Just how potent is revealed in "The Democrats' Da Vinci Code," a brilliant upcoming American Prospect cover story by David Sirota that shows how a growing number of Democrats in some of the reddest regions in America have racked up impressive, against-the-grain wins by framing a progressive economic platform in terms of values and right vs. wrong. These are not "left" ideas; they are good ideas. "This," writes Sirota, "is not the traditional (and often condescending) Democratic pandering about the need for a nanny government to provide for the masses. It is us-versus-them red meat, straight talk about how the system is working against ordinary Americans." These red-state progressives have brought the Democratic Party back to its true calling and delivered, according to Sirota, "as powerful a statement about morality and authenticity as any of the GOP's demagoguery on 'guns, God, and gays.'"
Read The whole Thing
She's a smart lady. But not everyone agrees. Two writers at The Gadflyer, Thomas Schaller and Bart Acocella, started pushing for Simon Rosenberg, a mushy centrist and head of the New Democrat Network, a DLC offshoot.They're both sharp guys and I usually agree with their analyses. But this time, they seem to believe that Rosenberg is the guy to "modernize" the Democratic Party. (Are the Dems using carrier pigeons or something?)
Today, I couldn't help but chime in again:
With all due respect to Thomas Schaller and Bart Acocella--both really smart guys--I can't help putting in my two cents about Simon Rosenberg and the race for DNC chair. I don't hate him, but I'm certainly not a member of the fan club.
First, an anecdotal observation. Whenever I speak to Dems for a story, I always ask them about their take on the candidates for DNC chair, and many of those I've spoken with simply don't like Rosenberg personally. I've never met the man, I don't know what he's like as a person and I don't know if that even counts for anything, but there it is.
Second, while I won't get into the ideological sniping so beloved by many progressives, Rosenberg is a pro-business centrist. Whether or not that's your cup of tea, don't buy the argument flying around that ideology doesn't matter in a party chair.
California Democratic consultant Bob Mulholland, a member of both the DNC and the DLC, told me in November- after dancing around the ideology question for a while - that the job is all about organization and fundraising. "It's the 2008 nominee who will put his ideological imprint on the party," he said. "Most people can't even name the party chair, but if you get to 2008 and you have 25,000 e-mails and $25 dollars in the bank, what are you going to do?" That's true, but 2008 is four years away; think of all the media appearances and lecture circuits that Terry McAuliffe did in the past four years. The next chair will do the same and it will make an impression, one way or the other.
Last, but most importantly, none of the Five White Guys Plus Webb running for the chair is in the least bit inspirational--perhaps with the exception of Howard Dean, and my guess is that even though he's leading in endorsements Dean's been too badly tainted by both the Right and the DLC types to get the job.
Rosenberg's no exception; he lost me during the Southern Caucus, when he was asked what he would do to reach out to women. When he made a vague promise to set up a "women's outreach desk," Dean cleaned his clock by saying something like: `if you want to reach women, hire women. Put them in top positions in the campaign. Let them run things and other women will respond.' Thanks, Doctor D.
Rosenberg has close ties to Silicon Valley, and many of his fans argue that he'll "modernize" the party--you know, using those nifty activist tools everyone's talking about. But the problem isn't technological; it's about really making a bond with the voters. We can go back and forth over why we lost in `04, but one thing is hard to contest: Bush's supporters were more passionate. Kerry's campaign tried to create the same rapport with his followers that Dean did and it never worked. He was aloof, DC-bound and our relationship with him was strictly a one-way affair. Rosenberg may have the tech savvy, but those who think the progressive base is a cash machine to be drawn on with bloodless e-mails--that the Dems just need to modernize and get better coverage--are setting themselves up for another fall in 2008. Rosenberg may be the guy with the coolest laptop, but he needs people like me out here in the grassroots who will man the phone banks and walk the precincts, and he's just not the guy to come up with the kind of messages that will move us.
So, there you have it; it's the most I'll ever write about something I don't care about (of course, I secretly do). We'll keep track of it through the vote on February 12.