The foreign money accusation

Election rhetoric has become gotcha-games of name-calling and insinuation, a matter of building up one’s own image and damaging the image of your opponent.  This debases the positive argumentation that is necessary for a democratic republic.  Yes, both sides do it.  The latest gambit is Democrats playing the xenophobia card, raising the sinister specter of foreigners buying the American election by funding Republicans, all without a shred of evidence. The President himself is doing this! George Will analyzes a charge that President Obama threw out:

He recently said: “Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.” It takes a perverse craftsmanship to write something that slippery. Consider:

“Just this week, we learned. . . .” That is a fib. The fact that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — this is what he is talking about but for some reason is reluctant to say so — receives membership dues from multinational corporations, some of them foreign-owned, is not something Obama suddenly “learned.” It is about as secret as the location of the chamber’s headquarters, a leisurely three-minute walk from the White House.

“Regularly takes in money from foreign corporations.” Obama cites no evidence to refute the chamber’s contention that it sequesters such funds — less than one-twentieth of 1 percent of its budget — from the money it devotes to political advocacy. The AFL-CIO, which spends heavily in support of Democratic candidates, also receives money from associated labor entities abroad, but Obama has not expressed angst about this.

“So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.” The “so” is a Nixonian touch. It dishonestly implies what Obama prudently flinches from charging — that the “huge sums” are foreign money.

via George F. Will – The Democratic vision of Big Brother.

Meanwhile,unions that are giving lots of money to Democrats often have foreign members, not to mention illegal immigrants.

There are also lots of foreign-owned companies whose American affiliates are giving money to candidates. This is legal, as long as the money is just from the American branch. Though these companies give to both parties, according to the Washington Post, Democrats are getting most of it.

Anti-colonialism

What do you think of Dinesh D’Souza’s thesis–developed in his new book The Roots of Obama’s Rage–that Barack Obama and his convictions can best be explained in terms of his father’s anti-colonialism?  Here Mr. D’Souza summarizes his argument:

But who was Barack Obama Sr., and what did he want? Do the views of the senior Obama help clarify what the junior Obama is doing in the Oval Office? Lets begin with President Obama, who routinely castigates investment banks and large corporations, accusing them of greed and exploitation. Obamas policies have established the heavy hand of government control over Wall Street and the health-care, auto and energy industries.President Obama also regularly flays the rich, whom he accuses of not paying their “fair share.” This seems odd, given that the top 10 percent of earners pay about 70 percent of all income taxes. Yet the president would like this group to pay more.Some have described the president as being a conventional liberal or even a socialist. But liberals and socialists are typically focused on poverty and social equality; Obama rarely addresses these issues, and when he does so, it is without passion. Pretty much the only time Obama raises his voice is when he is expressing antagonism toward the big, bad corporations and toward those earning more than $250,000 a year. I believe the most compelling explanation of Obamas actions is that he is, just like his father, an anti-colonialist. Anti-colonialism is the idea that the rich countries got rich by looting the poor countries, and that within the rich countries, plutocratic and corporate elites continue to exploit ordinary citizens.I know about anti-colonialism because I grew up in India in the decades after that country gained its independence from Britain. And Barack Obama Sr. became an anti-colonialist as a consequence of growing up in Kenya during that countrys struggle for independence from European rule. Obama Sr. also became an economist and embraced a form of socialism that fit in well with his anti-colonialism. All of this is relevant and helpful in understanding his sons policies.

via Dinesh DSouza – Why Barack Obama is an anti-colonialist.

First, virtually all liberal Democrats hold to these views.  As for anti-colonialism as such, I am aware that the concept has a certain leftist use, but is there any argument FOR colonialism? Shouldn’t conservatives as well as liberals oppose countries moving in on another country and taking it over?

When conservative Christians were politically liberal

My point was apparently not clear in yesterday’s post about “government as a force for secularization.”
I’m trying to think through the history of conservative Christian’s stance towards politics. There was indeed a time when many if not most conservative Christians were politically liberal.

I grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt, as they say, in small town Oklahoma, where most people were Southern Baptists. (Not us, we belonged to a liberal denomination.) But virtually everyone was liberal politically. There was no Republican Party in the county where I grew up. They were liberal when it came to economic policy. We thrived on government pork barrel projects, with our long-ensconced representatives building dams and lakes and waterways and all kinds of stuff. If there was a problem, we wanted the government to take care of it. And the reason was not resentment of Abraham Lincoln or anything racial. It was fidelity to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. He brought us out of the depression, put us to work, started rural electrification, and on and on. None of our political heroes, from FDR to LBJ, did anything to challenge our Christian faith. It never occurred to them to do so.

Then came the Vietnam war. We were good LBJ Democrats, supporting him in his civil rights bill, the Great Society, and his crusade to bring Democracy to Vietnam. But then came another kind of liberal: The cultural liberal. The hippies and the yippies and the yahoos. Our boys volunteered to fight in Vietnam, but now these people are vilifying them. Then the Democrats started being on their side! Then we were getting things from our government like outlawing school prayer. Some of us saw the wisdom of that, but then the Supreme Court legalized abortion. The tide turned. As I heard people say, I didn’t leave the Democratic party; the Democratic party left me. We became Reagan Democrats. And now my county is solidly Republican.

Of course conservative Christians can be liberal politically. That was arguably the norm up until a few decades ago. But now things have changed. Most conservative Christians, not all, but most, are now alienated from their government, which in their eyes has become a force for secularization. Now they want a smaller government to minimize its power to threaten their way of life and their beliefs.

Could the Democrats win them back by focusing on economic and political liberalism, without the cultural liberalism? I suspect so. ButI don’t think that can happen now.

Government as force for secularization

Conservative Christians used to be all over the map politically, with probably more of them in the Democratic camp.  What happened?   Why are they now tending towards small government political conservatism?  I think Michael Gerson, in the context of a column on another issue, hits it exactly:

Among conservative Christians, government is often viewed as a force of secularization — a source of both bureaucratic regulation and moral deregulation.

via Michael Gerson – Obama’s new culture war over government’s role.

Government, including liberal governments as in those who followed the New Deal, left religion and traditional morality alone.  Then the government  outlawed prayer in public schools, legalized abortion, scrubbed the public square of religious references, says that homosexuality is OK, etc., etc.  Christians started seeing their government, as Gerson says, as a force for taking religion out of consideration and for promoting secularism.

I’m not saying that some of those changes might not have been necessary.  I’m just saying that this is why so many Christians are now alienated from their government.

The Tea Party and the Myth of Antaeus

Stanley Fish sheds light on contemporary politics by means of his vocation as a classically-educated literary scholar:

And the Democrats will be helping them [Republicans] by saying scathing and dismissive things about the Tea Party and its candidates. The Greek mythological figure Antaeus won victory after victory because his opponents repeatedly threw him to the ground, not realizing that it was the earth (in the figure of his mother, Gaia) that nourished him and gave him renewed strength. The Tea Party’s strength comes from the down-to-earth rhetoric it responds to and proclaims, and whenever high-brow critics heap the dirt of scorn and derision upon the party, its powers increase. . . .

What to do? It is easier, of course, to say what not to do, and what not to do is what Democrats and their allies are prone to do — poke gleeful fun at the lesser mortals who say and believe strange things and betray an ignorance of history.

That won’t work. Better, perhaps, to take a cue from Hercules, who figured out the source of Antaeus’s strength and defeated him by embracing him in a bear hug, lifting him up high, and preventing him from touching the ground. Don’t sling mud down in the dust where your opponents thrive. Instead, engage them as if you thought that the concerns they express (if not their forms of expression) are worthy of serious consideration, as indeed they are. Lift them up to the level of reasons and evidence and see how they fare in the rarified air of rational debate where they just might suffer the fate of Antaeus.

via Antaeus and the Tea Party – NYTimes.com.

Does anybody know any other myths or legends that might have applications to our times?

HT:Joseph Bottum

Democrats and the working class

I posted about this phenomenon recently, though hardly anyone of you commentators understood my point.  Maybe Joan C. Williams, a  liberal Democrat, can state it more clearly than I did:

For two generations, the Democrats have failed to relate to white working-class voters. Black working-class voters never abandoned the party, but the percentage of working-class whites who identified as Democrats fell from 60 percent in the mid-1970s to 40 percent in the mid-1990s. George W. Bush won his two presidential elections with landslides among white working-class men, while Obama lost among white working-class voters by 18 percentage points in 2008, roughly the same margin by which Al Gore lost them in 2000.

Democrats need to understand why Republicans have been so successful at courting working-class whites — and why Democrats have been consistently unable to do so. . . .

While Republicans have made working-class resentments a powerful weapon for achieving the policy goals of the business elite, Democrats have inadvertently fueled those resentments. For more than a generation, a substantial class and cultural gap has tripped up progressive politicians.

Salad greens have been a big problem for Democrats. Michael Dukakis got into trouble over Belgian endive; Obama over arugula. Both Howard Dean and Obama have tried, and failed, to speak about working-class voters’ values without sounding condescending. During his campaign, for instance, Obama once noted that working-class families were distressed by their economic free fall — and then he stumbled straight into the culture gap as he talked about voters’ attitudes toward guns and religion.

Democratic leaders can’t seem to speak to working-class concerns in a way that doesn’t alienate the very people they’re trying to reach. Having ceded this cultural ground, they need to win it back.

via Obama and the Democrats must reconnect with working-class voters.

Prof. William’s recommended solution is for the Democrats to make more entitlement programs that apply to everyone–such as Social Security and Medicare–rather than targeting specific groups, such as poor people (the “have-nots”), that leave out working people who are just getting by (the “have-a-littles”).  I believe, though, that she is still missing what blue collar workers really want:  not government dependence, but government independence.


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