Friday, November 26, 2004

No Sex on Main Street

For the past two or three decades, gay rights activists have tried to promote their agenda by making out gays as a quasi-ethnic group. They have staged Gay Pride events modeled after St. Patrick's Day Parades, Columbus Day Festivities and other ethnic celebrations on the American liturgical calendar and compared bans on gay marriage to laws against "miscegenation." One activist I know insists on referring to gays as "Lesbigay People"--reminiscent of Paul Revere and the Raiders' chorus Cherokee People, Cherokee Tribe.

Prima facie this was a promising strategy: Americans are, self-consciously, a nation of immigrants committed to affirming the ethnic heritage of diverse cultural groups; during the past 50 years the civil rights movement has brought blacks into the American mainstream as an ethnic group rather than an untouchable caste. So, it must have looked as if, with a sophisticated publicity strategy, Americans could be sold on the idea that gays were a cultural group rather than people with peculiar sexual tastes, and be persuaded to affirm them as one more ingredient in the ethnic salad bowl. This strategy was a failure for the following reasons:

First the assumption on which it rests is obviously false. Gays are not an ethnic group except in the metaphorical sense that surfers, academics or deaf people are. Surfers, academics and the deaf do form cultural groups--and, like gays, the extent to which individual surfers, academics and deaf people identify with their respective cultures varies widely and is a matter of choice. But none of these cultures is ordinarily transmitted to children through their families and none can claim a history, ancestral homeland or unique cuisine. The idea of a Lesbigay People rings false.

Secondly, comparing gays to women, blacks and other disadvantaged minorities raises people's hackles. Gays are not educationally disadvantaged or, as a group, economically disadvantaged. There is no gay-straight wage gap. The disadvantages gays suffer are largely psychological rather than material. Arguably the role of the state as regards disadvantaged groups is to address material concerns, in particular discrimination in education, employment, housing and access to credit.--not to "affirm" them or persuade people that they are ok.

Finally and perhaps most importantly for practical purposes, whatever other features of gay culture there may be, gays as a group are defined by their sexual tastes and most Americans are not comfortable with the public recognition of a group defined in that way. If I go to a Cinco de Mayo celebration with my kid, and he asks what being Mexican is all about I can point out Mexico on the map and explain that that is where these people or their ancestors came from. If I go to Gay Pride parade with my kid and have to explain what being gay is all about I will have to say that gays are people who prefer to have sex with members of the same sex--there's no way around it. Most Americans are uncomfortable talking about sex with their children and don't want to be put in this position so they resist the public recognition of gays as a cultural group. Gay activists and liberals generally do not seem to get this but I would bet that if they took the trouble to ask the majority of Americans, who oppose anti-sodomy laws and witch-hunts but are also against gay marriage, this is what they would turn up.

Like most good liberals, I like to think I'm more enlightened about sex but maybe I'm not. I don't like the idea that sexuality is a big deal, an important and essential feature of individuals' "identity," rather than a relatively unimportant extra that doesn't have much to do with the person I am. Maybe that's because I grew up during the heyday of the feminine mystique, when we were told in mandatory sex-segregated "hygiene" classes that being female was an important and essential part of our "identities" and that girls who refused to accept their "feminine role" in all departments of life were mentally ill. I don't think that playing sexuality as a matter of importance, much less an essential feature of individual's "identities," benefits anyone and, arguably, the campaign to subsume homosexuality under the aegis of multiculturalism has set back gay rights.

How should those of us who support equal rights for gays play it? Maybe for what it really is: a privacy issue. Sex is a private business: our preferences and activities shouldn't make any difference to the way we're treated in public life or the world of work or undermine equal protection under the law. Gay activists will object that this supports the idea that homosexuality is something shameful, to be hidden in the protected sphere of privacy. Not so. Americans who objected to having a "Gay Pride" parade on Main Street, Disneyland would likely find a "Heterosexual Pride" parade equally objectionable: they just don't want sex of any kind on Main Street.

Ironically, the impulse that generates resistance to gay marriage (by the majority of the American public--not just a minority of conservative Christians), the sense that sex is a private matter, could be turned to promote support for legislation prohibiting discrimination against gays and neutral domestic partnership arrangements.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Let's Make a Deal

American Prospect Online - ViewWeb

Most liberals don’t want to hear the message that these voters and others in the red states are sending. But in a democracy, you can only make so many enemies until you can no longer do any good for the people who depend on you. Liberals need to decide what is central to the great moral achievements of the past half-century—and what isn’t. Going down to perpetual defeat isn’t a moral choice.

Ok, Utilitarians--let's get down to brass tacks. Here are some trade-offs I propose:

(1) Compromise on abortion. No late term abortions and parental notification for minors. This is all that most Americans want (check the statistics, please). They are not interested in keeping all women barefoot and pregnant, they are not steamed up about the rights of stem-cells and they are not hoping to use restrictions on abortion to push down the slippery slope to a total ban. They don't like late term abortions because they're think late term fetuses are enough like infants (or for that matter dogs and cats) to be objects of serious moral concern. They want parental notification requirements for minors because they want control over their adolescent daughters. I don't personally want a parental notification requirement but I have a daughter in high school and can understand their motivation.

Let us trade off unrestricted access to abortion for strict enforcement of equal opportunity regulations, affirmative action for women and support for affordable child care so that women, particularly working class women, can get decent jobs at decent pay. The number of women who would be affected by restrictions on abortion is miniscule compared to the number of women who do lousy, underpaid, dead-end pink-collar work because they cannot get the kinds of jobs that similarly (un)qualified men can get and because they can't get their kids looked after so that they can work full time and have the flexibility to maintain the work schedules their employers want.

(2) Drop gay rights as a political agenda and never, never mention it in the same breath as equal treatment for women and minorities. There's a really big difference: gays can pass. Going into the closet even temporarily may not be much fun, but women, blacks and members of other visible minorities would just love to have closets to get into when they apply for jobs, mortgages and car loans.

Public attitudes are changing fast and, if gay marriage hadn't been promoted as a political issue and generated massive backlash, domestic partnership arrangements would have quietly been legally recognized in most places within a decade or less. As the trade-off, promote legislation recognizing domestic partnership contracts for any adults who want to set up housekeeping together on a long-term basis, including not only gay couples but elderly people and their caregivers, unmarried siblings living together, and friends of either sex. Same sex partners could buy into these contracts and get all the material benefits of marriage. Of course, that wouldn't provide the symbolic benefits of having their relationships recognized as comparable to heterosexual marriage, but that's tough.

(3) Support the externals of religion in the public sphere--Bible reading and prayer in the public schools, "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, creches in parks at Christmas, invocations by clergy at public events, two-ton boulders with the 10 commandments inscribed in county courthouses, Buddha statues, Hindu idols and any other religious paraphernalia locals want where appropriate. Support religion practices and the display of religious symbols so long as they are external and trivial, and real substantive issues are not at stake.

But do not give an inch on substantive issues: exclude any mention of bogus pseudo-scientific theories like "scientific creationism" and "intelligent design" from the classroom and see to it that teachers make it clear that evolution is not "just a theory."

Some Jews will object to the public school prayer and creches and militant atheists will be mad as hell about the whole program but that's tough. Most conservative evangelical Christians will be thrilled with all the religion and not worry about what goes on in biology classes--after all, they can just tell their kids that the stuff they're learning there is false. Parents do that all the time: I had to tell my kids that their 3rd grade teacher was wrong when she told them that Italian, French and Spanish were called "Romance languages" because they were the languages of love and that the anti-drug "DARE" program, which promoted the idea that social drinking was all of a piece with using illegal hard drugs ("don't start") was BS. If fundamentalist parents don't even want their children to hear about evolution at all they can pull them out of biology classes (undermining their chances of college admission) or kick in the bucks to send them to private Christian schools. Life is full of tough choices.

So that's my proposal. Comments and addenda welcome--I am zipping up my asbestos suit.

Let's Make a Deal

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Red Menace: Neopatrimonialism in America

Everyone knows there's a culture war on, but no one knows why. Most pundits on the left say it's religion, trotting out statistics about conservative evangelical "values" voters who supported the current regime. Ignoring the fact that lots of religious believers did not bend the knee to Ba'al, this poses the further question of why these "values voters" bought into the conservative religious package in the first place—or why the majority of black conservative Christians, as usual, voted their economic interests rather than their "values."

Some pundits have more fanciful conjectures. Lakoff believes that the culture war is a battle between the Ewig Weiblich and the Ewig Herrlich—the Nurturing Parent metaphor and the Stern Father model. Even leaving aside the question of why people live by these metaphors, this fails to explain why the whole package of policies associated with Liberalism has not until recently been seen as the proprietary ideology of women, wimps and sensitive new-age guys. Teddy Roosevelt, after all, busted trusts with his big stick and working class males rioted in the streets to establish unions.

I have the answer. Which side of the Red/Blue divide you you're on is a matter of whether you see government as an insurance scheme or a patronage system. And that, in turn, depends upon whether you believe that people can and should operate according to universalizable moral principles or think that moral obligation supervenes upon sentimental bonds of family, tribe, and community.

True Blues believe that sentimental attachments are morally irrelevant and try to act accordingly: who is my neighbor?—everyone. Even more importantly, they believe that others do too. They trust people with whom they have no family ties or personal connections to honor their agreements and treat them fairly; they have faith that if they pay into the system they will get a return on their investment. They believe that their taxes buy public services, protection and social safety nets. They know the system is not frictionless: some of their contributions to the commonweal may be lost as heat through nepotism, patronage and the operation of old boy networks. Nevertheless they believe that these practices are outside the system, that the system works reasonably well and, in any case, that the alternatives are much worse.

For Reds, by contrast, nepotism, patronage and old boy networks are the heart of the system. Reds do not recognize serious moral obligations to others beyond the network of sentimental ties or expect "strangers" to recognize obligations to them. Moral obligation, in the Red system, obeys an inverse square law, reaching the vanishing point once it diffuses beyond tribal territory. Reds look to their friends, neighbors and kin for mutual support and count on heads of families and clans, ward-heelers, mob bosses and patrons, for protection. They do not expect strangers—in particular, the remote faceless bureaucrats who operate government agencies beyond the precinct level—to do much for them. Taxes, they believe, are not insurance premiums, dues or payment for services rendered but tribute to Big Men who use the proceeds to line their pockets and confer benefits on their relatives, retainers and sycophants. The only benefit Big Men at the national level provide is to citizens beyond their coterie is protection from competing Big Men abroad. Heads of families protect their kin and tribal chieftains defend their own against competing tribes; heads of state maintain their turf, thwart terrorists, repel foreign invaders and, if possible, expand their territory.

"Traditional societies" operate according to the Red plan—neopatrimonialism or "Big Man government." To make the system function personal bonds and communal loyalty have to be maintained. Members of traditional societies can't afford to take social risks or tolerate non-conformity since any deviation from established traditions and conventions threatens the fabric of personal relationships on which the safety and well-being of all depend. Social stability rests on "personal morality" and the integrity of the family, and on willing cooperation. Religion supports "personal morality" and willing conformity to social conventions and traditions.

Red Americans imagine that they live in a traditional society. They expect their paramount chief to protect them from terrorism and to wage war; they hope that he will not interfere with their lives or exact inordinately heavy tribute. And that is precisely what conservatives promise. Conservatives promote "family values" and the code of personal conduct that supports them: contrary to the usual reading, "family values" are not code for religion---religion is of interest to Reds only insofar as it supports "family values." Conservatives also guarantee the right of citizens to own guns so that they can protect their families and turf—a matter of pressing concern to Reds since they do not believe that police or other strangers can, or will, insure their safety.

Reds have no real interest in promoting laissez faire capitalism or an "ownership society"--they were not always Republicans. When Democratic Party machines in northern cities and the South provided patronage for them, they were party loyalists. But the Democratic Party changed: party machines were dismantled, Democrats went up-market and white working class Americans could no longer expect local Democratic politicians to get them jobs or to pull strings for them. Democrats ceased to be patrons of their tribe: instead, they took up with latte-drinking Liberals—dispensing benefits to lawyers and bureaucrats, teachers, social workers and community organizers, and to members of ethnic minorities. Democratic politicians wouldn't pull strings to get Reds' pavement patched or to get their sons jobs as cops—instead, they were installing replica vintage streetlights to gentrify urban neighborhoods, supporting ethnic dance troupes and awarding contracts to minority-owned businesses.

Most Americans agreed that John Kerry's "plans" for health care and other domestic services sounded good, but Reds did not believe that they would make any difference. They did not believe that any official government policies and programs ever did, or could. Reds are fatalistic and assume that financial insecurity, drudgery, sickness and unemployment are facts of life: people do the best they can to cope and take care of their own; government cannot make any difference. Their concern was to elect the least worst supreme patron, and in this respect Kerry was not promising. They did not trust him to protect them from terrorism or invasion by competing tribes; they were convinced that, if elected, he would maintain a large retinue of lawyers and bureaucrats, and exact heavy tribute to bankroll them; and they feared that Democrats' support for abortion, gay rights and the like would undermine the traditional rules and conventions that supported the family and other informal communal arrangements on which their security and well-being depended. They did not believe that a Democratic administration would benefit them or keep them safe.

Many Americans admire traditional societies—particularly those that are remote and exotic. Bored with the sterility and impersonality of an urbanized mass society and sick of negotiating phone trees, websites and bureaucracies, big-box stores and HMOs, they fantasize a world where neighbors are neighborly and friendly shopkeepers chat, Rotarian businessmen support community projects and doctors make house calls. They imagine that a world of friendly families and communities, each taking care of its own, should do at least as well as a mass society of "atomistic" individuals whose interests are supported by impersonal agencies, formal institutions and the state.

Most of us, I hope, know better. Some families are bad or outright abusive and even the best of families have a hard time taking care of their own. Close-knit communities are hostile to outsiders and deviants; and the traditions and conventions they enforce are oppressive even to insiders who accept their assigned roles and play by the rules. Large, impersonal institutions for all their faults are more transparent and fair, and have the wherewithall to take advantage of economies of scale; state-sponsored insurance schemes pool risk and guarantee that the unlucky will not get trashed.

Getting religion and talking tough will not win over Red voters. Democrats have to convince them that government isn't merely a patronage system for bankrolling bureaucrats, lawyers and academics, members of the "helping professions" and ethnic minorities. They have to be persuaded that the Liberal program will not usher in social chaos and that the government programs Democrats offer will provide a better life for them, with more freedom and a wider range of options, than life in a traditional society dominated by family and church, village and tribe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Pre-Established Harmony--Not

The New York Times > Health > Living for Today, Locked in a Paralyzed Body

When Attorney General John Ashcroft attacked an Oregon law allowing doctor-assisted suicide in 2001 - a case that is still working its ways through the legal system - patients with the disease were among those who supported the law in court. But while the legal case and much of the national attention has focused on the issue of the right to die, less is known about those patients who want to live, and, like Dr. Lodish, will go to extraordinary lengths to do so.

Debates between Liberals and Conservatives on some "lifestyle" issues are usually represented as disputes between those who believe that people should get what they want and those who believe that desire-satisfaction should be circumscribed by some independent, non-utilitarian principles of morality. The assumption is that people whose "quality of life" is seriously not up to snuff want death with dignity, that individuals in bad marriages want out and that members of ethnic communities want to preserve and identify with their ancestral cultures.

What people want is an empirical question and it seems likely that different people want different things. Cultural myth-makers obscure this obvious fact, often in the interests in telling us what we want to hear. It would be nice to think that people whose survival imposed substantial financial and emotion burdens on their families, and society at large, wanted to be put down. Over the past 20 years the media have featured innumerable stories of individuals who were crippled, chronically ill or elderly who wanted to suicide out to accommodate those of us who weren't--yet.

Many of us, particularly males, would like to believe that everyone wants out of "relationships" that aren't mutually satisfying. During my youth, clinging women who cramped their mens' style were berated in song and myth. Good counterculture chickies stood by their men, went waitressing to support them, had their babies and gracefully let go when the time came. Soon feminists got into the act and assured women that being dumped for a new chickie or a younger trophy wife was a blessing in disguise: they would find true love in new relationships or, even better, make careers as artists, poets or fashion designers and find themselves. In any case, the Pre-Established Harmony would kick in and everyone would be better off.

Nowadays we're assured that that members of ethnic minorities want nothing more than to preserve their native languages and cultures. In North America we actively promote "multiculturalism" and bi-lingual education. Geneology has been big business since Roots made it big in prime time and former students of Indian boarding schools established for the purpose of "killing the Indian to save the man" are suing their alma maters for "loss of language." Internationally, the 14 and 16-year old daughters of a French secular-Jewish lawyer and his secular-Muslim wife who are testing French law by wearing the hajib to school have become poster children for multiculturalism and religious tolerance.

Samira Bellil's Dans l'enfer des tournantes as far as I know hasn't been translated into English. We hear very little about immigrants who want to assimilate, members of ethnic minorities who want nothing more than to be unhyphenated 100% Americans or the majority of ethnically Muslim women in EU countries who want nothing to do with veiling, the folkways of the banlieus, or the misogynistic culture of their ancestors.

I don't know what most people want: that's an empirical question. What I do know is that we can't count on a Pre-Established Harmony to guarantee that people we want dead would prefer to die, that cast off wives and lovers will do better on their own or that members of ethnic minorities want to follow the (real or imagined) way of their ancestors.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

On Not Sweating the Small Stuff

My late father-in-law, a life-long "freethinker," taught Scripture (among other things) in British state schools. When students asked how the sun could have stood still at the Battle of Jerico or how Noah managed to shovel all the poop out of the Ark he said, "Well, it's in the Bible, i'n'it?"

Neither my father-in-law's efforts nor the activities of the Established Church, weekly doses of "Songs of Praise" on the telly or market crosses in public squares seem to have made the British any more religious. In the US religious symbols are banned from the public square. Prayer in the public schools is illegal and people fight major legal battles to keep it that way. I agree with bls: I don't want prayer in the public schools but I don't see why it matters very much--it's not going to make kids religious.

Liberalism, in the public mind, is wrapped up with a variety of doctrines and policies on trivial non-issues that some people consider objectionable and lots more find plain silly--not only campaigns to remove religious symbols and practices from public space, like the crusade to get "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, but a variety of other activities aimed at producing greater cultural sensitivity. A few years ago there was there was an attempt to change the name of the local college football team, the Aztecs, even though local Indians had no objections. (I've always wondered why people worried about having teams called "Indians," "Redskins" or "Aztecs" but didn't see any problem with "Boston Celtics" or "Minnesota Vikings.") All this stuff is pointless and dumb.

It isn't always clear which issues are substantive and which are pure baloney. Legal recognition for non-marital domestic partnership arrangements is important; characterizing these arrangements as "marriage" isn't. Gay couples may, understandably, want the imprimatur for their relationships and official recognition of parity with heterosexual couples but, in the grand scheme of things, that is just not very important, especially if it alienates voters and generates backlash against the legal recognition of domestic partnerships. Sometimes what appear to be symbolic non-issues are important: if passing legislation affirming English as the area's "official language" means that instructions in Spanish for getting emergency medical services or dealing with earthquake emergencies are deleted from the local telephone book, then it is a substantive issue. No one should die of food poisoning or get buried under rubble because their English isn't up to snuff.

I am not a moderate or "centrist." I'm a Socialist and I'm outraged by Democrats' rush to the right on economic issues. But I have no sympathy with support for trivial, "cultural" non-issues that sets back the agenda.

Friday, November 05, 2004

What does Red America want?

Why Americans Hate Democrats—A Dialogue - Depressed liberals analyze what ails them.

Freud posed the same question about Woman and, as a feminist comedienne responded, "Why didn't he ask?

For the past 3 days liberal pundits have been rehearsing the received wisdom of the past decade about Culture Wars and speculating about what it would take for the Democratic Party to win back "middle American" voters. The most common proposals are: get religion, get "vision" and get simple.

The very fact that it has never occurred to any of them to ask is symptomatic of the conditions that created this cultural divide. Liberal pundits are so out of contact with middle Americans that they regard them as members of an alien culture whose beliefs, preferences, commitments and folkways are anthropological data. Why is it so dang difficult to figure out what they want? They aren't living on the moon, they speak English, they can articulate their beliefs, state their preferences and explain their priorities. They are amenable to reason.

So long as liberal pundits and politicos treat them as anthropological specimens, the Enlightenment Project is doomed.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Future of the Democratic Party: A Liberal Manifesto

All the pundits are speculating on what Democrats should do to win on the next round so here are my $.02:

(1) Take back the VISION--of the New Deal and the Great Society.
Reaffirm Liberalism's core value: minimizing the extent to which peoples' freedom and opportunities are constrained by dumb luck, e.g. by morally arbitrary, unchosen characteristics and circumstances like race, sex, ethnicity and disability or the social and economic circumstances of one's family of origin.

We can't eliminate the constraints or even come close, but we can move a little ways in that direction: liberals believe that it's worth moving as far as we can in the direction of neutralizing the effects of dumb luck and that the most effective way to do it is through government programs. Good, free public education and income transfers to poor families go some way toward neutralizing the effects of family poverty on children. Health insurance schemes prevent people from being wiped out financially if they have the bad luck to get sick. Anti-discrimination regulations aim to minimize the constraints on individuals the are a consequence of race, sex and ethnic origin.

Some conservatives think that liberals fail to recognize that people are responsible for their actions. The opposite is the case. Liberals distinguish between the consequences of individual's choices for which they are responsible and the consequences of conditions that they did not choose for which they are not responsible. Liberalism is not about care and compassion--it is about fighting against Nature (red in tooth and claw) which deals out people's hands arbitrarily and limits their options. It is about making the world a more rational place by fighting against the arbitrary constraints imposed by dumb luck, in the interest of expanding individual freedom so that individuals, insofar as possible, can live the kinds of lives they choose.

(2) Don't commit to policies that are outside of the VISION.
There's no reason why Liberals understood as keepers of the VISION should be doves rather than hawks (or vice versa). "Peace" got tacked onto the Liberal agenda during the war in Vietnam when, ironically, the Left demonized Johnson, the most liberal of American presidents, for promoting the war in Vietnam. Now Americans misperceive dovishness and, more broadly, wimpiness as the core of liberalism--and Kerry has suffered for it.

There's also no reason why keepers of the Liberal VISION should be environmentalists or take any particular position on most "lifestyle issues." Environmentalism. Some environmental concerns are fundamentally elitist: there's a real conflict of interests between urban professionals who want to preserve wilderness and loggers, factory workers and others whose livelihood depends on industries that encroach on wilderness and degrade the environment.

I'm not suggesting that Democrats should adopt the Republicans' positions on these issues but just that the party should remain neutral on them, as it is on a variety of other controversial issues like the the development of genetically modified foods, animal rights or capital punishment. Democratic candidates shouldn't be required to tow any party line on environmental issues, abortion or any other issues that aren't directly and uncontroversially connected to the core Liberal program which is fundamentally economic: equal opportunity in employment, borrowing and housing, social safety nets, public services and income transfers.

(3) Don't care about don't-cares
A creche in the park for Christmas, prayer in the public schools and "under God" in the Pledge of Allegience? Big deal. Reciting religious formulas in school won't make anyone religious or traumatize anyone.--it's meaningless BS. Planting two ton boulders with the 10 Commandments inscribed won't have any more influence on people than putting buddha staatues in Chinese restaurants. Fundamentalists may have the superstitions idea that these things work ex opera operato but people who object to them presumably should know that they don't have magical power.

Whatever is the problem? Leave it alone.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Living Poor, Voting Rich

[W]hether John Kerry's supporters are now celebrating or seeking asylum abroad, they should be feeling wretched about the millions of farmers, factory workers and waitresses who ended up voting - utterly against their own interests - for Republican candidates...In the summer, I was home - too briefly - in Yamhill, Ore., a rural, working-class area where most people would benefit from Democratic policies on taxes and health care. But many of those people disdain Democrats as elitists who empathize with spotted owls rather than loggers.

One problem is the yuppification of the Democratic Party. Thomas Frank, author of the best political book of the year, "What's the Matter With Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America," says that Democratic leaders have been so eager to win over suburban professionals that they have lost touch with blue-collar America. "There is a very upper-middle-class flavor to liberalism, and that's just bound to rub average people the wrong way,"

So, Bush has been re-elected, and now has a clear mandate to promote his ultra-right policies for the next four years and, likely, to make at least 3 Supreme Court appointments. We have become the first civilized nation on earth to establish the Dictatorship of the Proletariat--those farmers, factory workers and waitresses who voted him in.

Conservative Republicans exploited the cultural divide but it was we who created it decades ago when, as spoiled rich kids, we made over the Democratic Party in our own image. It was we who first politicized "lifestyle issues" and reconstructed liberalism as a program in support of our preoccupations and hobbies. It was we who imagined that our tastes and aesthetic preferences were moral imperatives and condemned hoi poloi for living in little boxes made of ticky-tacky, eating junk food and owning guns. We ushered in the Age of Aquarius but made it quite clear that people who lived in little boxes weren't invited.

After rushing to the center, abandoning the economic policies that benefitted the working class, and setting up as the party of gay rights and abortion on demand, cultural sensitivity and environmental concern, fruits, nuts and little herbal teas, the Democratic Party could not run any candidate--least of all a billionaire Brahmin--who could convince the proles that he was on their side.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Why I am a Yellow Dog Democrat

Yellow Dog Democrat History

I vote for the party, never for the candidate, because voting for a president isn't hiring someone for a job--it is affirming support for an ideology and programs to implement it. The politician at the top of the ticket is merely a symbol, an icon you click on to open the program. Career bureaucrats, sorted out by civil service exams and other non-political hiring procedures, do a fine job of running the country whomever we elect.

Neither major American political party is committed to anything close to the ideology and programs I favor--roughly, Eurosocialism. But however remote this is from either party, the Democratic Party comes closer and that's good enough for me. I vote for the party that is more likely to move the US even a smidge to the left--towards big government, high taxes, centralization, extensive regulation and cradle-to-grave social safety nets.

Last summer we got a puppy. I was hoping to get a yellow lab and name him "Democrat" but we got a chocolate who our son named "Ducati," after a motorcycle he liked. Like all labs his age, Ducati chews everything in sight and has absolutely no common sense, but I would happily vote for him if he were running on the Democratic ticket.