Intellectually tolerant, or just wishy-washy?
There are some cogent points here about how hard it now is to discuss the complexity of political and moral decisions. Any hint that you can empathize or understand the other person's or group's decision is quickly labeled as some degree of intellectual weakness or even treason to your cause. Heck, I've even caught flack for making "reasonable liberal" style remarks in my short time here at Cliopatria.
I must say that I am dismayed at just how grumpy people feel free to be regarding their political opponents these days. I may not agree with all sorts of people on all sorts of things -- abortion rights, affirmative action, the death penalty, etc -- but this doesn't keep me from seeing them as perfectly intelligent human beings making their way through a complex and often frightening world. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make them stupid or evil (although it is important to recognize that some folks manage to be one or both). As someone who has made a living out of crossing cultural boundaries I tend to be pretty tolerant of people thinking, believing, and acting in ways that are fairly"foreign" to me. Goodness knows that if I were to think of conservative Americans as irrational or barbaric, I would have a hard time not thinking similar thoughts about many of my Islamic or African friends.
Perhaps this situation is at the crux of what makes it hard to be a"liberal." The very perspective demands that one be tolerant of diversity -- but being tolerant of your political opponents places you at a decided disadvantage. On the other hand," conservatives" have the advantage of just calling the other guys"wrong." Sure makes things easier.
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Maarja Krusten - 11/5/2004
chris l pettit - 11/5/2004
One of the brightest economists and analysts in the US today, over at the CEPR.
"George W. Bush has been returned to office, with an increased Congressional majority for his party. Amazingly, he achieved this after dragging the country into a disastrous war that had nothing to do with our national security, and on the basis of lies. And after sacrificing the lives of more than 1100 Americans and probably 100,000 Iraqis (mostly innocents).
On the home front, he was the first president in 70 years to preside over a net loss of jobs. Wages have been falling even as the economy grows. He rewrote the tax-code to favor the richest Americans, and stuck the rest of us with a bill in the form of the largest national debt -- as a share of the economy -- in more than half a century.
This election result cries out for explanation, and unfortunately all the wrong answers are flooding the media. The pundits tell us that people don't vote their economic interests, that September 11th changed everything, that "values" are what really matters. Disillusioned and depressed Democrats blame the ignorance of the American electorate, an explanation that resonates abroad.
Ignorance is a problem, although it is a willful ignorance that has little to do with formal education. A poll last month found 75 percent of Bush supporters believing that Saddam Hussein gave substantial support to Al-Qaeda, and 72 percent asserting that Iraq really did have weapons of mass destruction or major WMD development programs.
But Bush's vote total was less than 27 percent of the electorate, even with the record turnout. Compared to other democracies, this country discourages voting. If we held our elections on the weekend and allowed for same-day registration, a much bigger and more representative electorate would choose our government. The Republican party as we know it would have little chance at capturing the presidency or Congress.
Even today, Democrats could win by appealing to voters' economic interests. Hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters lost their jobs during the Bush presidency, but what could John Kerry tell them would change if he were elected? The leadership of his party supported most of the policies that have -- over the last 30 years -- eliminated decent-paying jobs for working people and caused a massive redistribution of income from working and middle-class Americans to the rich.
What if the Democrats put forth a real alternative, including health coverage for everyone, family leave, affordable college and child care, for example? This is not pie in the sky but the rights of citizenship in most European countries that are no richer than we are.
Of course Democrats would have to deliver the goods. But once they began to do so, Republicans would have a hard time cobbling together "majorities" on the basis of issues such as gay marriage, gun control, or coded appeals to racism.
As for terrorism, people in New York and Washington DC -- the sites of the 9/11 attacks and the most likely victims of future terrorism -- voted overwhelmingly (82 percent in Manhattan and 90 percent in DC) to oust Bush. Most of the rest of the country is also capable of understanding that wars of conquest against the Arab and Muslim world will only blow up in our faces. But the Democrats will have to be much more honest in explaining these things.
Proof from Wisconsin: Democrat Russ Feingold just won his third term in the U.S. Senate by a comfortable margin, in a state where Kerry barely squeaked by. Feingold has a clear and consistent populist economic appeal to his working constituents, strongly opposed the Iraq war, and was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. There is the future of the Democratic party -- if they have the guts to try it."
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
I know it is a bit off topic, but is related...and this is a guy who clearly gets it.
The fact that the US could elect Bush or Kerry...or even be put in the atrocious position of having to choose between one or the other is just deplorable.
His comment on willful ignorance is striking. I have been posting about how to deal with those who are complicit in US crimes, and this surely fits into that category of discussion. As an international human rights lawyer, this is a key issue when you are talking about states that violate international law, human rights, and basic inalienable standards of humanity like the US does (along with israel, Russia, China, several Islamic states, and others). I tend to see a bit more paucity in the US education system than he does, and don;t chalk it up as much to ideology, but seeing the impact of the Christian extremists (fundamentalists actually stick to the fundamentals of the faith, like thou shalt not kill and treat thy neughbor as thyself), one can make a case that we are nothing but a carbon copy of the extremist Islamic states, except with fanatical nationalistic and Christian leanings.
On the EC...yes it needs to be done away with...and I saw an absurd comment about recounts in terms of a popular vote. We would not have to have a nationwide recount if the voting was calculated in States or counties and a problem arose...there are ways around such a problem. It would end up being a hybrid system resembling the EC in some ways, but recounts could be done in specific states or counties, or new systems of recounts could be developed to expedite the process...or we could simply be patient and give it a couple of weeks. Why do we have to have results the next day? last I heard, Indonesia takes two weeks to tally all the votes. i see no problem with this. I know the American people are for the most part short cited and need immediate gratification for their self interested greedy little lives, but maybe this could actually be a step in the right direction.
Jonathan Dresner - 11/5/2004
...is that people think you don't understand the problem." --Merle L. Meacham
I would point out that thinking of everyone as rational is not rational; better to admit that our own views are based in part on untested articles of faith and socially inculcated habits of mind; then it's not hypocritical to point out those facts for others as well.
Over at Daniel Drezner (and I have to really, really resist the urge to 'correct' his name when I see it) I wrote:
It's not entirely fair, I don't think, to cast the aspersions directly at TV or other media punditry without pointing out that the "both sides must be represented" is in large part a result of intense pressure from both sides on the media to make sure that their sides are represented. The media, which is fundamentally scared of publicity shining on itself (think about it), has responded by making sure that both sides are represented and being cautious of using people who don't clearly represent a side, so they don't get blindsided by the supposedly unrepresented side complaining about bias.
There's too many sides in that, but the point is that the media are responding in a fairly predictable manner to years of getting slapped whenever they didn't 'balance' their reporting.
Oscar Chamberlain - 11/5/2004
It's been a long time, but I think I once read a comment by Jacob Bronowski (Ascent of Man). Using Erasmus as an example, he suggested that the liberal (as in critical but tolerant) mentality was best when it only had one intolerant orthodoxy to deal with, but it suffered greatly when caught between two orthodoxies, as Erasmus was after the Reformation began.
For what it's worth, you are not alone.
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- This is what motivated history students in high school and middle school can do!