Readers join the conversation ... in technicolor.

Readers join the conversation ... in technicolor.

Readers join the conversation ... in technicolor.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Nov. 5 2004 12:03 PM

Shades of Red and Blue

Readers join the conversation ... in technicolor.

New readers have come out in record numbers to take part in the post-electoral debate in Politics Fray, and to spar with Slate's luminaries of Democratic introspection.

Face Smiley: Jane Smiley is taking a lot of heat in the Fray for her  diatribe against the "ignorance" of Red America. Davidari reads her the riot act:

Jane Smiley's bigoted screed is commentary best suited for the Dearborn Independent. She ascribes the act of supporting Bush as the behavior that must also appear hand-in-hand with a vicious bloodlust, a below-average grasp of situational complexity, and incapable of self-introspection.

In the sociological and psychological world, Miss Smiley, this is referred to as delegitimization and dehumanization. Should you agree to show me the decency owed every human being, I would gladly discuss the thought process behind my vote with you.

Or has your mind already begun the process of dismissing me, as you assume every Bush voter is likely to do with your ideas? Are you perhaps "clinging to your ignorance", as you put it?

A host of Bush voters in the Fray take umbrage with Smiley's charge. Brian13, here, will take Smiley on in a game of Trivial Pursuit anytime, anyplace:

Please, please keep calling all those people in the red states ignorant…

I am as much an intellectual as any on the left. I have read my Aeschylus and Dostoyevsky and Steinbeck. However, I also have read my Kant, Aristotle, and Aquinas. I come to the table with a real background, not a pseudo-intellectual one. I say this because I am one of the "ignorance-induced" people that Smiley dismisses. I hope that the Democratic party listens to her until the Republicans get at least a 60-seat majority in the Senate.

Well, Smiley has at least one giddy fan.

Pots & Kettles: Most Kerry voters in the Fray recognize what Smiley doesn't. Here's AnnaS, a "lefty" living in a red state:

Demonizing the other side is fun, but it's rarely accurate--whether you're talking about Iraqi insurgents or evangelical Republicans. And it's hard for even those ignorant masses to miss the irony of throwing rocks at people in the name of reason and liberalism.

If there's an advantage to living in a state that was called for Bush before 8pm Tuesday night, it's that we see the other side up close. They're our coworkers, our neighbors, members of our family. We can't paint them with broad strokes, can't point to them and call them stupid or willfully ignorant or cheaters. By and large, they're good people--in some cases, spectacularly good people--and we hold more values in common than not. The biggest difference? They're scared, and they've been victimized by a political party that ruthlessly preys on those fears. And this sort of mean-spirited "us-and-them" name calling only makes it worse.

TarheelJag, too, wants to turn down the volume:

From Jane Smiley to Surfergirl, there is a strong message, sometimes explicit, other times implicit, that anyone who voted for Bush is an ignorant idiot. Far from the rationale and thoughtful discourse that I normally expect from Slate, these demeaning articles only serve to heighten the divide between liberal and conservative. How can you criticize Bush for polarizing America when you so pointedly put down the opposition in a manner that isn't going to win you any friends, much less sway an "undecided" to think that you are right. I'll stop short of a Rodney King-esque "Can't we all just get along," but I will close with this--if you want someone to listen to you, calling them ignorant is a poor place to start.

Dilettante68, a "recovering Progressive," rolls up her sleeves with a constructive platform for Democratic revitalization. Among the six-point outline:

1. Get off your knees and quit blowing the Europeans. Inferiority has had a long history among US intellectuals. Face it, the intellectual, cultural, scientific, economic, and political center has long left our cousins across the sea. They have been without new ideas since the death of Camus. Their welfare state simply freezes the classes into their current positions. Why leave a comfortable cave?

2. Quit the demagoguery. Maybe I am naive but I don't think CEOs eat children for breakfast. Those evil corporations are made up of us. You don't like what your company does; kiss ass, move up and change it.

And…

6. Finally, go south and listen instead of preaching. Monsters are easily created from darkness. They do not withstand the light of knowledge. That goes both ways.

Similarly, Isonomist- believes that Dems have become tone-deaf to the South … but Iso, unlike most Demopolitans, understands that it's far more complex than just race and faith:

For 140 years, the North has treated the South like a retarded stepchild. From cartoon characters lampooning Southern accents to signify stupidity, to intervention in state's rights (for better or ill, that's not the point), to caricaturing in politics, society and business, the war between the states never ended, it just went underground. Issues and values important to Southerners are ignored or derided. Southern candidates for national office are sneered at as naive hicks.

What did you think would happen? Eventually someone figured out how to speak to the conquered, in the language they understand, and they responded. You may not like the agenda, or the results, but you have only your own 140 year history of treating half the country like an occupied territory, instead of embracing them, teaching them, and inspiring them. "Whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers" you end up reaping for yourself.

And it's not just Southern whites getting bulldozed by the Yankee attitude. Southern blacks feel just as disenfranchised, derided and disdained, when groups decide to co-opt their status in order to achieve their own agenda at the expense of African American values and beliefs. How many times have you heard black people complaining on the news, that the only time they see white politicians in the neighborhood is right before the elections?

Until the North learns to speak to the South with respect and a desire to understand, sic semper tyrannis.

Check Around Your Seat for Values: Why did "moral values" emerge as a defining issue in this campaign? ViciousMiniSchnauzer has a fascinating theory rooted in the erosion of public and private space:

people think we are less moral because you see more immorality. a kid can play a rather tawdry video game like "leisure suit larry" right in front of you now where 40 years ago the alternative would have been playing doctor with the girl next door, and probably out of your sight. whereas you might only have heard about hollywood drug use or whatnot through some gossip column years ago, you now have 24-7 surveillance of these people and multimedia distribution of their failures and foibles. you can't get away from it, but that does not mean human nature or morality have really changed.

this is nonetheless grist for the mill of social conservatives. if people feel like there is a problem subjectively, they may think there is an objective problem that needs to be fixed, even if nothing has really changed, beyond ease of access.

Thrasymachus thinks the values question is bunk:

To hear the pundits go on, you'd think that Bush had just gotten elected on the basis of a 2-year campaign about morality, and that his victory in this election was therefore the nation's verdict on abortion, gays, prayer in school, faith in public life, and the media.

Forgive me for asking this, but. .. . what campaign were they watching?

Bush ran -and won- on a promise to keep the nation safe from terrorists and resolve the mess in Iraq. Those were his issues. The christian right provided him with a lot of his support, but truly, they were just along for the ride.

For the Religious Right to claim, now, that their agenda was the centerpiece of this election is simply bizarre. It's like the bat boy for the Red Sox telling his friends that, really, the World Series was actually all about him.

From BOTF: The Dems lost message, says TheAList here; GeoffPneuma's post-election analysis is here; Demosthenes2 speculates on what kind of payoff the Republicans' religious base will receive in the second term; here, locdog debunks the "myth of a deeply divided nation."

Department of Astral Affairs: Yep, we're going to give it another go, albeit provisionally … KA9:00 a.m.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Post-election reflections from The Fray:

What the Democratic Party needs to do more than anything else is to cut itself loose from the all-encompassing influence of upper-middle-class urban elites. These people should be clamoring to get on board the Dem's wagon—not driving the wagon and condescending to let "working families" on board if they have the good sense to defer to their betters. There should be a big enough tent to accommodate Nick Kristoff and the entire Upper West Side of Manhattan but not to the exclusion of anyone.

It really is as simple as that: the NATIONAL Democratic Party is exclusive; you don't get to play unless you pledge allegiance to a rigid set of supposedly "liberal" principles that simply cannot get a majority of the country and has not ever.

Yesterday, John Kerry almost won the Presidency but it was "almost" ONLY because of the deep distress so many Americans feel about the war in Iraq and their loss of confidence in George Bush. But Kerry OUGHT to have been winning handily, even if the Iraq war had been wrapped up and ceased to be a significant concern a year ago. It's not merely a "disconnect" with the "heartland" that can be fixed by the addition of a platform plank or two or some kind of new-found spiritual kinship between waitresses and Yale-educated lawyers and columnists. It's become an institutionalized problem where natural and winning political alliances for the national democratic party are being regularly shunned out of deference to the power in primaries of a small minority.

Publius


[Kerry] was, I'm still convinced, the best candidate—and the right candidate—from the Democratic pov to take on Bush. The fact that if indeed he has lost, it will be by only the difference of one state bespeaks to that. I've said for over a year that this was the Year of the Cognitive Dissonance race, and the cognitive dissonance (which i still think was decisive, alas) for too many voters who quite 'naturally' try their hardest (usually unconsciously) to REFUSE to admit they made a mistake, that their nation made a mistake, who needed to believe that the war in Iraq was a righteous war for their conscience's sake, to convince themselves their own sons and daughters as well as hundredfold more of distant others' sons and daughters had been killed on false pretext or in vain. ... That is an enormous burden psycho-emotionally to surmount, to decide it was indeed an error and cast a vote which essentially resolves to stop throwing good money after bad. ... Those voters most plagued by that crisis of conscience, witting or not, lie at the center of the political spectrum and were the ones on whom this election hinged. I believe Kerry was the candidate who had the best potential to represent a candidate who gave their conscience 'permission' to reason out that it was a mistake and seek to rectify it. That Kerry so often missed opportunities to repeatedly clarify his position—which had always been consistent but he allowed others to obfuscate it and he abetted them even—of course makes him also still have himself to answer to. But not alone. The media, again, stubbornly refused to hear him when he DID make his position abundantly clear. And the likes of the Wolf Blitzers of our world kept repeating ad nauseum the very obfuscations which had already been laid to rest. That too is reprehensible journalism. It's hard to separate Kerry's own foibles from the hamhanded obtuseness and perverse obsessions of the media, hence they are co-mingled. …

zinya


…too much of he campaign the Democratic campaign leadership did a poor job.

a) They let the Republican team set the issues.
b) They reacted poorly and slowly to negative advertising.
c) They were sloppy in the handling of Mr. Kerry's image.
d) They didn't develop well their own issues.

The Quiet Man


…note that [ Saletan's] whole analysis is just one more variant on the classic elitist americans-are-idiots argument. kerry was braver, smarter, better, but bush won because he was the more simple—the missing link in the argument being that the american people, simpletons themselves, have to have their views barfed down their throats for them by a wise mama bird. and what does he propose democrats do? why, stoop to our level. the intellectually superior democrats must swallow their pride, drape themselves in bibs and dunce caps, and act like that moron bush. the contempt for the president is obvious, that for his citizens only slightly less so. …

locdog


For Saletan, it's real easy: Bush is a very simple man.

In truth, Bush communicates a complex and coherent strategic vision in simple terms. That's something a leader must be able to do. It's a skill that John Kerry lacks.

Engram   

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Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Collegiality: After Tim Noah's Chatterbox took aim at legal luminary Walter Dellinger's defense of the Electoral College, Dellinger jumps into the Fray to respond:

I'm not surprised that Timothy Noah, who has written some of the most cogent critiques of the Electoral College I've seen, disagrees with what I say about the subject. I am, however, surprised at his suggestion that I don't really believe what I say. 

In my piece, I suggested a few considerations that would counsel against revision of the electoral college, noted that these were not insurmountable arguments but that they should "give pause" before we changed the Constitution.  Noah opined in response: "Pause" is, I think, the most heartfelt word in Dellinger's essay, and I think it's a euphemism for "shut up." Slate adds the headline, "No, Professor Dellinger. I won't shut up."  I am the one left nearly speechless. I honestly believe that the question of what to do about the electoral college is a difficult one and the debate well worth having. I never have and never would urge someone with important insights to "shut up."

Noah also speculates that my argument that the electoral college winner is a fully legitimate President must be based on some assumption that the argument will be helpful to Senator Kerry. But I made the same point four year ago both before and after Governor Bush carried the electoral vote with fewer popular votes than Gore. And President Bush's recent Solicitor General Ted Olsen made a point similar to mine last week, saying that counting popular votes was like studying which baseball team got the most hits in a game.  Why can't it be that neither Olsen nor I knows for sure who will win what vote today, that each of us believes that the electoral winner will be a legitimate President and that each of us wanted to say that on the record before the votes were counted?

Read Dellinger's full rebuttal here.

Say It Ain't So, Mickey: Though Mickey Kaus' chilly endorsement of Kerry has been a matter of record for some time, some loyal kf readers express disappointment at their favorite Kerry-baiter's choice. Here, modicum writes:

[Kaus has] got something backward. If Bush went in where Kerry would not have, then who can manage the aftermath better is irrelevant. The real question is whether you agree with that original decision. If yes, then you perforce believe that Kerry's view of how to deal with terrorism is at odds with your own, making him less trustworthy in the decisions yet to come. If no, then you believe that Bush's real mistake was a year and a half ago, not what's going on now, and the mistakes in the aftermath aren't really germane to a decision to vote for Kerry. Only if you believe that the invasion was correct, and that both candidates would have made that decision, is the question of who can better take things from here relevant. The evidence, I submit, is that he would not have invaded, evidence that his supporters cheer and his detractors... er, detract.

Larry agrees:

This campaign wouldn't have been half as much fun without your schizoid take on Kerry. I tried Andrew, and Glenn, and the Corner, and Kos, and many more, and I always came back to you. Thanks!

You got it completely wrong on WOT, though. Inoffensiveness, even if you think that appellation fits, offers no protection against the problems we face. Recruitment isn't the issue. There are already far more than enough jihadis out there to do the necessary work. The question is how to begin the slow turn throughout Islamia toward freedom, democracy, and economic opportunity. Bush has the right idea, and needs to work on his diplomacy and execution. Kerry's ideas, at least those he shares with us, are incoherent and utterly unserious. Gack!

PRIM offers a more pithy critique of Kaus's rationale:

Your choice of [Kerry] could have been described with one word. Appeasement.

Get in your last jabs at Kaus before the election over at Kausfiles Fray

Norse Remorse: For Thrasymachus's final impressions of the campaign, check out his "Ragnarok the Vote" post:

The good news in this election cycle is that there's a great deal of passionate interest among demographics that aren't generally known for their eagerness to vote, like the under-30s and the urban poor. Members of these groups have newly registered to vote in droves.

The bad news is that there's already widespread allegations (from the Republicans) of voter fraud, and (from the Democrats) of planned attempts to "suppress" the vote, by issuing frivolous challenges to slow down the process for legitimate voters, false "updates" and "information sheets," and so on.

The additional bad news is that the popular vote in this election is extremely close, so all sides will have good reason to feel that every little precinct-level confrontation over every single vote could tip the balance of power for the next four years. Or, potentially, for the next 40, since the next President is widely expected to have the chance to nominate 3 Supreme Court justices.

The further bad news is that the electoral vote in this election is extremely close as well, which makes it possible -if not yet likely- that the election will be decided by the House of Representatives pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is even more frustratingly unrepresentative than the U.S. Senate is, and whose terms are about as clear as mud.

The bonus bad news is that the country is already so bitterly divided by cultural issues and unresolved grudges from the last election that there's very little "give" left in the public's sense of trust. This mutual resentment extends to the candidates themselves, with a slew of virulently negative ads vying for media time with rapid-fire charges flying back and forth between highly placed campaign aides.

For a good read, check out Zathras' response to an earlier Fraywatch-featured post by gthomson on divisions and discourse.

Go Trojans! Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cryKA11:40 a.m.

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Monday, November 1, 2004

The_Bell, the Fray's dean of political analysis and a "lifelong Republican" who has "always voted for the Republican candidate in Presidential elections,"declares his vote in tomorrow's Presidential election:

…George W. Bush was not my candidate of choice – I voted for John McCain in the 2000 Ohio Republican Primary. Bush's inexperience was deeply troubling to me. I did not like his tax cuts – I thought the money should go toward paying down the national debt. But I trusted Al Gore's lockbox concept even less. I hoped Bush might be more of the moderate at heart that he claimed to be and that the ultraconservatives backing him did so strictly for his electability. I thought he might be a good "bookmark President" in a time of prosperity until the GOP could hopefully produce better candidate(s) from among its Boomer generation.

Bush has proven to be far more conservative – especially on social issues – than even my worst fears. I strongly approved of the way he handled things in the aftermath of September 11. I have disagreed with his decision to invade Iraq from the very start. Yet it is none of these individual juxtaposing developments that will result in my entering a polling booth tomorrow and casting my vote for John Kerry, a Democrat, for President of the United States. Because my dissatisfaction is not about some specific thing(s) that Bush has or has not done. This election is not even about "getting rid of Bush" from my perspective. It is about something much larger than that.

Reagan was really the guy who made me into a solid Republican … I have voted Republican less out of attraction to their candidates – Presidential or otherwise – than out of attraction to their message. The Democratic Party, it seemed to me, had lost its vision in a fog of guilt and self-recrimination over things like Vietnam and racism. They had eschewed inspiration for preaching. But after years of watching it change and weaken, I find it is the message being touted by the Republican Party that I no longer recognize anymore.

…The problem is not (simply) this Party's President but the Party itself. By giving into its most archly conservative elements and combining that with an extremely activist agenda, Republicans have transformed themselves from a conservative Party that promised to get government off our backs into a neoconservative one that believes it is not only their right but their moral and patriotic duty as well to use government in any way and to any extent necessary to enforce their beliefs on the rest of America as well as the rest of the world.

The neoconservative Republican ideology recognizes that September 11 proved there are people in the world who hate us. They believe that is best dealt with by converting the rest of the planet to be just like us through military might and uncompromising resolve. I believe this approach is inadequate unless it also incorporates true cooperation through multilateral agencies and agreements. I believe it will ultimately be accomplished not by America opposing the world but by assuming our place within it – that is the message of Democrats and John Kerry.

The neoconservative Republican ideology believes that tax cuts are the panacea to economic growth and the bigger the better …The neoconservative Republican ideology believes that free trade benefits America if it enriches America's corporations without regard to how it impacts America's workers … The neoconservative Republican ideology believes in a culture of life and solid moral values. I believe in those too. But far too often of late they have used the most emotional and scandalizing aspects of these issues as rallying points for people's natural fears and worst impulses to promote a need for the return to "good old days" that never actually existed. They have also increasingly begun using the name of God, and often a specific Christian perspective of God, as a shibboleth for patriotism. I believe that social values advancing intolerance, no matter how sincerely intended, are the greatest enemies in this nation today of patriotism, moral values, and Christianity – that is the message of Democrats and John Kerry.

The neoconservative Republican ideology believes that "freedom is on the march" around the world but readily advocates the abandonment of basic civil liberties at home for which pervious generations selflessly fought and died in order to make this generation "safer." I believe it is for precisely this reason that there is no way in which America could be less safe in the face of future terrorist attacks than for the current Administration and its ideology to remain in charge – that is the message of Democrats and John Kerry.

I respect John Kerry as a person and as a Senator but I am not one to venerate him as do some of his most ardent supporters. I recently posted I fear that – like a lot of men who have aspired to the Oval Office in recent decades – he might be too worried about being remembered as a great President to take the risks necessary to be a truly good President. He can be both pompous and clumsy – sometimes simultaneously – but he strikes me as a pragmatist at heart.

…I do not believe I have to find John Kerry flawless to vote for him. I do not believe that I have to find George W. Bush an evil and/or dishonorable man to vote against him. Because this election is not really about a choice between Bush or Kerry, in my opinion. It is about something much larger than that. It is a choice whether Americans will allow the Republican Party to continue leading this country and this planet down the path it has chosen to adopt for itself and for the rest of us … So tomorrow morning, I am going to raise my voice in as loud a scream against the whirlwind as is possible for any citizen of this republic. I am going to vote for John Kerry.

…I appreciate that Kerry's rhetoric and his voting record are not always easy to reconcile. I appreciate his desire to see both sides of an argument can cause him to bend too easily. But that pales in comparison to a leader who has proven time and again that even the strongest contradictory facts will not cause him to bend an iota from his internal revelations. Weak and vacillating leadership would indeed be unwelcome in a time of national and international crisis but more unwelcome still is leadership that will not accept responsibly for its actions and cannot admit when it is wrong.

This President, this Administration, and this Congressional majority have been given as many opportunities and as much benefit of the doubt by the opposition, by the American public, and by the world over the past four years to affect momentous transformations for good. At a time when they could have moved upward and onward, they opted to descend and fall back. At a time when they needed to stand tall, they choose to duck and cover and call it standing tall. They have failed us, they have failed the Constitution they are sworn to serve and defend, and they have failed the very values they once called, and often still call, core. Since they now have a new message for me, I now have a new message for them in return and it is this – "Enough."

See The_Bell's entire post in BOTF here, along with a large collection of responses … KA10:40 a.m.

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Saturday, October 30, 2004

A Badly Needed Dose of Pre-Election Kumbaya: From gthomson here:

The best debate, in the media or in the Fray, attempts to, if not understand, at least to engage with any number of sides, from paleocon to peacenik. I will always seek out debates with conservatives, because they make me think in new ways and remind me of things that I sometimes overlook. (A given is that liberals and conservatives do not equal Democrats and Republicans -- many liberals and conservatives do not recognize the parties that are alleged to represent them.) Whatever the pinheads who run the two-party grotesquerie do, there will always be a more truthful and fundamental distinction between the liberal and conservative viewpoint. But they need to be able to communicate. At this point, disturbingly, they are conditioned to hate each other, with their perception that this election is the most momentous in a generation only ratcheting up a rancor that's been simmering for more than forty years. This hysterical partisanship is silly at a number of levels, not least because each side obviously needs to work, live and quite often copulate with the other.

And if anyone sees this as a bunch of utopian bullshit, certainly, I welcome a cold dash of reality. Anything but another shrill wheeze about the ol' debbil libs or cons. Because diverting as at might be at times to see the donkeys and the elephants inserting truncheons in one another's eye sockets, it's ultimately a somewhat dispiriting spectacle.

For Shame: That's the overwhelming message from loyal readers of Slate in response to Suz Redfearn's piece in Medical Examiner. Here's TeaHag:

Any woman alive knows what it's like to be asked, "When are you going to start a family"? "Why have you no children?" Are you going to stop at ...? When pregnant we get our bellies touched by complete strangers, we get asked the most intimate details of our health. We get chided about how much work, what we drink etc. If such questions was asked of the author she may well remember how invasive and inappropriate she may have found them. There is a discussion to be had about the contribution of donor eggs etc. Let it be done using the women who have CHOSEN to share their experiences as spokeswomen and examples.

This was dangerously close to outing and I question the value of the article in this context, it didn't need to use this as the "hook" to hang the material on.

SherryIVF writes:

The reason nobody else has done this story is simply because it is in deeply poor taste. I am a journalist too, one working on a book about IVF. The "issues" discussed in this piece are fundamental, not "too complicated" as your author tried to suggest. Nobody was afraid of the topic or confused. We just had more class.

And jwin rightly points out that perhaps:

the Edwards want to have a discussion with their children when they are ready before they have this same discussion with the media.

BunNee makes the same salient point here:

Given that the children are only 6 and 4, Mrs. Edwards may still be mentally rehearsing that conversation in her own mind. And probably doesn't need the press and bunch of strangers forcing the issue.

Here, Dilan_Esper presents some of the more practical problems the issue would present politically to the Edwards family.

Chicago Fraysters: Catch doodahman ("My Two Cents"), as he takes his act live on Sunday night at Donny's Skybox Studio Theater, training ground for renowned comedy troop Second City.

Those outside of Chicagoland can read an advance script hereKA11:30 a.m.