Two kinds of Democrats

We’ve talked about different kinds of conservatives.  Let’s talk about different kinds of Democrats.   Michael Gerson says the current gridlock in Congress–especially when it comes to budgets and fiscal policy–is due not to Republicans (who are remarkably unified, he notes, despite fears about the Tea Party).  Rather, it is due to a split among Democrats:

On fiscal issues, the Democratic Party is really two parties. One consists of European-style social democrats, represented by leaders such as Nancy Pelosi. They have not embraced the socialist ideology of, say, the old British Labor Party. But their instincts, in nearly every specific decision, tend toward increasing the size and role of government in the American economy. Deep down, they would have preferred a single-payer health-care system. In the current fiscal debate, they hope to address the debt crisis by dramatically increasing the percentage of American economic activity taken in taxes.

The other Democratic Party is socially liberal and pro-business. These Democrats attempted to weed out the excesses of Obama’s health reform in the Senate. They are attracted to the deficit reduction approach of the Simpson-Bowles commission — including tax increases, but weighted toward spending reductions. They are a minority of the broader Democratic Party but they hold the balance of power in the Senate. Their numbers in the House have been diminished as Republicans have secured conservative Democratic districts. But such “Blue Dog” Democrats were influential enough in the last Congress to prevent an overwhelmingly Democratic House from passing a budget.

There are perhaps 10 pro-business Democrats in the Senate, often led by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad. Their numbers and influence, however, are currently inflated by the cohort of incumbent Democrats facing reelection and spooked by the prospect of running on a pro-tax platform.

The conflict between social Democrats and pro-business Democrats is already undermining the possibility of a unified 2012 Democratic budget. In the Senate Budget Committee, Conrad’s attempt to craft a proposal based on Simpson-Bowles failed, largely because Sen. Bernie Sanders — a socialist independent who caucuses with the Democrats — objected. Conrad was forced to come back with a more liberal proposal, which has vulnerable and moderate Democrats angry.

via The two faces of the Democratic Party – The Washington Post.

Where you fit politically

The Liberal/Conservative dichotomy does not really explain where people are on the political spectrum.  There are different kinds of conservatives and different kinds of liberals.  This has been a theme of a number of our blog posts.  But now the Pew Research Center has formulated a “political typology” that consists of nine different positions:

Staunch Conservatives take extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues – on the size and role of government, on economics, foreign policy, social issues and moral concerns. Most agree with the Tea Party and even more very strongly disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance. A second core group of Republicans – Main Street Republicans – also is conservative, but less consistently so.

On the left, Solid Liberals express diametrically opposing views from the Staunch Conservatives on virtually every issue. While Solid Liberals are predominantly white, minorities make up greater shares of New Coalition Democrats – who include nearly equal numbers 0f whites, African Americans and Hispanics – and Hard-Pressed Democrats, who are about a third African American. Unlike Solid Liberals, both of these last two groups are highly religious and socially conservative. New Coalition Democrats are distinguished by their upbeat attitudes in the face of economic struggles.

Independents have played a determinative role in the last three national elections. But the three groups in the center of the political typology have very little in common, aside from their avoidance of partisan labels. Libertarians and Post-Moderns are largely white, well-educated and affluent. They also share a relatively secular outlook on some social issues, including homosexuality and abortion. But Republican-oriented Libertarians are far more critical of government, less supportive of environmental regulations, and more supportive of business than are Post-Moderns, most of whom lean Democratic.

Disaffecteds, the other main group of independents, are financially stressed and cynical about politics. Most lean to the Republican Party, though they differ from the core Republican groups in their support for increased government aid to the poor. Another group in the center, Bystanders, largely consign themselves to the political sidelines and for the most part are not included in this analysis.

via Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology | Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

You can even take a quiz to see which one of these you are.  This is not one of those Facebook quizzes, like seeing which Star Trek character you are.  This is sophisticated social science research!

And yet, it still seems to leave a lot of political ideologies out:  Where are the Burkean conservatives?  The neo-conservatives?  The paleo-conservatives?  The crunchy conservatives?  The Wendell Berry conservatives?  The localists?  The Reconstructionists?  Where are the socialists?  The Greens?  The Anarchists?  The Jihadists?  The Marxists?

I think the true political spectrum is even more complicated than this typology shows.

Take the quiz.  Does it peg you?  Or are there other issues that this study doesn’t even raise that are more definitive, as far as you are concerned?

HT:  Jackie

The new radical ideology for our time

I had an epiphany while reading reports of protests in Europe against the various austerity measures being imposed due to the different government’s economic woes:  The radical ideology for our postmodern times is anarchism, the rejection of all authority.

Let me explain, but first read what is happening in Europe:

Already struggling to avoid a debt default that could seal Greece’s fate as a financial pariah, this Mediterranean nation is also scrambling to contain another threat — a breakdown in the rule of law.

Thousands have joined an “I Won’t Pay” movement, refusing to cover highway tolls, bus fares, even fees at public hospitals. To block a landfill project, an entire town south of Athens has risen up against the government, burning earth-moving equipment and destroying part of a main access road.

The protests are an emblem of social discontent spreading across Europe in response to a new age of austerity. At a time when the United States is just beginning to consider deep spending cuts, countries such as Greece are coping with a fallout that has extended well beyond ordinary civil disobedience.

Perhaps most alarming, analysts here say, has been the resurgence of an anarchist movement, one with a long history in Europe. While militants have been disrupting life in Greece for years, authorities say that anger against the government has now given rise to dozens of new “amateur anarchist” groups, whose tactics include planting of gas canisters in mailboxes and destroying bank ATMs.

Some attacks have gone further, heightening concerns about a return to the kind of left-wing violence that plagued parts of Europe during the 1970s and 1980s. After urban guerrillas mailed explosive parcels to European leaders and detonated a powerful bomb last year in front of an Athens courthouse, authorities here have staged a series of raids, arresting dozens and yielding caches of machine guns, grenades and bomb-making materials.

The anarchist movement in Europe has a long, storied past, embracing an anti-establishment universe influenced by a broad range of thinkers from French politician and philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to Karl Marx to Oscar Wilde. Defined narrowly, the movement includes groups of urban guerillas, radical youths and militant unionists. More broadly, it encompasses everything from punk rock to WikiLeaks. . . .

A radical minority is energizing the anarchist movement, a loose network of anti-establishment groups that sprung up in force in the 1970s in opposition to Greece’s former military junta. Over the next two decades, anarchists would assassinate Richard Welch, a CIA station chief in Athens, as well as Greek politicians and a British military attache.

Greek authorities seemed to cut the head off the movement after the leaders of November 17th, the largest group, were arrested in the early 2000s before Greece hosted the 2004 Olympics. But it has been gaining new life. The December 2008 killing of a 15-year anarchist by a police officer in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens sparked days of riots and became the impetus for a series of fresh attacks.

Since then, experts say, the economic crisis has helped the movement thrive, with anarchists positioning themselves as society’s new avengers. Long a den of anarchists, the graffiti-blanketed Exarchia neighborhood is alive anew with dissent. Nihilist youths are patrolling the local park, preventing police from entering and blocking authorities from building a parking lot on the site. On one evening at a local cafe, an anarchist group was broadcasting anti-government messages via a clandestine radio station using a laptop and a few young recruits.

In the most recent attacks, only one person has been injured, a courier who handled a letter bomb, but over the past two years, anarchist attacks have claimed four lives in Greece, including a journalist and a minister’s top aide. Left-wing radicals also appear responsible for the deaths of three civilians — including a pregnant woman — after a bank was firebombed during an anti-government protest last year.

Still, there is a line to be drawn between the far larger group of young anarchists hurling Molotov cocktails at street demonstrations and the smaller, more dangerous cells of urban guerrillas. But experts are increasingly concerned about growing militancy on the streets and the emergence of dozens of new anarchist groups on the Internet.

via In Greece, austerity kindles deep discontent – The Washington Post.

We have anarchist protesters here in the USA too.  They are the ones who wear masks and break windows during the protests at the various global economics conclaves.

Now of course in Europe it is beyond absurd to protest cut-backs in government services by advocating the elimination of government altogether!  But anarchists reject the authority of reason also.  I think their strategy is exploit people’s anger at their governments to turn them against government in general.  But I’m thinking that the fundamental ideology needs to be taken seriously because, to one degree or another, it has become pervasive.

There are many paths to anarchy, coming from both the left and the right.  Read the extensive Wikipedia article on anarchism:

There are many types and traditions of anarchism, not all of which are mutually exclusive.[5]Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism.[2] Strains of anarchism have been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism or similar dual classifications.[6][7] Anarchism is often considered to be a radical left-wing ideology,[8][9] and much of anarchist economics and anarchist legal philosophy reflect anti-statist interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism or participatory economics. However, anarchism has always included an individualist strain supporting a market economy and private property, or morally unrestrained egoism.[10][11][12] Some individualist anarchists are also socialists[13][14] while some anarcho-communists are also individualists.[15][16] The position known as anarchism without adjectives insists on “recognising the right of other tendencies to the name ‘anarchist’ while, obviously, having their own preferences for specific types of anarchist theory and their own arguments why other types are flawed.”[17]

The central tendency of anarchism as a mass social movement has been represented by anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism, with individualist anarchism being primarily a literary phenomenon[18] which nevertheless did have an impact on the bigger currents[19] and individualists also participated in large anarchist organizations.[20][21] Some anarchists oppose all forms of aggression, supporting self-defense or non-violence (anarcho-pacifism),[22][23] while others have supported the use of some coercive measures, including violent revolution and propaganda of the deed, on the path to an anarchist society.

The links show how many aspects of anarchism there are.  But briefly, left-wing anarchism opposes all established power systems, as well as private property.  Right-wing anarchism is an extreme libertarianism that believes the “invisible hand” of free market economics can also regulate all human interactions, making central governments unnecessary.

Anarchism accords well with postmodernism, which rejects  objective truth and objective morality, and which considers all cultural institutions to be ultimately grounded in social oppression and the imposition of power.  Anarchism also accords well with contemporary culture, which tends to reject all moral authority, including that of the family and religious institutions.

And isn’t  contemporary conservatism with its libertarianism, the Tea Party, and the overall antipathy to  government part of this climate?  That there may be good reasons for a certain reaction does not always justify everything that reaction turns into.  The horrible working conditions of the 19th century industrial revolution made Communism seem like a good idea at the time, even though that ideology turned into an even more horrible monster.  Bad government can make us want to limit it without going so far as anarchism.  Still, it seems to me that conservatives need to work out clearly what they think government should do and not do, as opposed to surrendering to the anarchist impulse.

Eye of Newt and Mitt of Romney

Finally two big-name, legitimate candidates have thrown their hats into the ring, running for the Republican presidential nomination.  They are:   Newt Gingrich.  And Mitt Romney.

Those of you whose Christianity shapes your politics, could you vote for either of these guys?  Newt has lots of creative conservative ideas, but he has a history of admitted adultery, has been divorced twice, and is on his third marriage.  Would you say that character is more important than ideology?  And if so, would you ever be able to vote for Newt?  (He has recently converted from being a Baptist to being a Roman Catholic.  Does anyone know if he would be allowed to take Holy Communion, given his multiple marriages, even though they were pre-conversion?)

As for Mitt Romney, he is not a Christian at all, but rather a Mormon.  Does that make a difference to you in your willingness to ever vote for him?  Luther’s oft-cited quotation about better to vote for a wise Turk than a foolish Christian is apparently one of those urban legends.  But even if you agree with the principle, do you think Romney is a wise-enough Turk?

This weekend Mike Huckabee, last year a social conservative favorite, announced he is not running.  Mitch Daniel is a candidate with gravitas, but he is the one who called for a “truce” on social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.  (Even though as Indiana governor he has recently defunded Planned Parenthood in that state.)

Would Christian conservatives rally around Pawlenty?  Santorum?  Bachman?

Is there any potential GOP candidate that, if he or she were the Republican nominee, would make you vote for Obama instead?

 

Reactionary liberalism

Today’s liberals, George Will argues, are strangely oblivious to history and resistant to change.   After giving some examples and examining the apocalyptic objections to Paul Ryan’s plan to cut the deficit, Will says this:

The hysteria and hyperbole about Ryan’s plan arise, in part, from a poverty of today’s liberal imagination, an inability to think beyond the straight-line continuation of programs from the second and third quarters of the last century. It is odd that “progressives,” as liberals now wish to be called, have such a constricted notion of the possibilities of progress.

Liberals think Medicare and Social Security as they exist are “fundamental” to the nation’s identity. But liberals think the Constitution — which the Framers meant to be fundamental, meaning constituting, law — should be construed as a “living” document, continually evolving to take different meanings under whatever liberals consider new social imperatives.

The lesson of all this is that one’s sense of possibilities — and proprieties — is shaped by what we know, and often do not know, about history. The regnant ideology within the Obama administration and among congressional Democrats is reactionary liberalism, the conviction that whatever government programs exist should forever exist because they always have existed. That is, as baby boomers, in their narcissism — or perhaps solipsism; or both — understand “always.”

via History lessons for Obama and other liberals – The Washington Post.

Libertarianism vs. Conservatism

I know some of you are libertarians and some of you are Ron Paul fans.  What do you think of Paul’s proposal at the Republican presidential candidate debate to legalize prostitution and drugs?  What do you think of Michael Gerson’s smackdown of Paul and his proposals?

Paul was the only candidate at the debate to make news, calling for the repeal of laws against prostitution, cocaine and heroin. The freedom to use drugs, he argued, is equivalent to the freedom of people to “practice their religion and say their prayers.” Liberty must be defended “across the board.” “It is amazing that we want freedom to pick our future in a spiritual way,” he said, “but not when it comes to our personal habits.”

This argument is strangely framed: If you tolerate Zoroastrianism, you must be able to buy heroin at the quickie mart. But it is an authentic application of libertarianism, which reduces the whole of political philosophy to a single slogan: Do what you will — pray or inject or turn a trick — as long as no one else gets hurt.

Even by this permissive standard, drug legalization fails. The de facto decriminalization of drugs in some neighborhoods — say, in Washington, D.C. — has encouraged widespread addiction. Children, freed from the care of their addicted parents, have the liberty to play in parks decorated by used needles. Addicts are liberated into lives of prostitution and homelessness. Welcome to Paulsville, where people are free to take soul-destroying substances and debase their bodies to support their “personal habits.”

But Paul had an answer to this criticism. “How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I bet nobody would,” he said to applause and laughter. Paul was claiming that good people — people like the Republicans in the room — would not abuse their freedom, unlike those others who don’t deserve our sympathy.

The problem, of course, is that even people in the room may have sons or daughters who have struggled with addiction. Or maybe even have personal experience with the freedom that comes from alcohol and drug abuse. One imagines they did not laugh or cheer.

Libertarians often cover their views with a powdered wig of 18th- and 19th-century philosophy. They cite Locke, Smith and Mill as advocates of a peaceable kingdom — a utopia of cooperation and spontaneous order. But the reality of libertarianism was on display in South Carolina. Paul concluded his answer by doing a jeering rendition of an addict’s voice: “Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me. I don’t want to use heroin, so I need these laws.” Paul is not content to condemn a portion of his fellow citizens to self-destruction; he must mock them in their decline. Such are the manners found in Paulsville.

This is not “The Wealth of Nations” or the “Second Treatise of Government.” It is Social Darwinism. It is the arrogance of the strong. It is contempt for the vulnerable and suffering.

The conservative alternative to libertarianism is necessarily more complex. It is the teaching of classical political philosophy and the Jewish and Christian traditions that true liberty must be appropriate to human nature. The freedom to enslave oneself with drugs is the freedom of the fish to live on land or the freedom of birds to inhabit the ocean — which is to say, it is not freedom at all. Responsible, self-governing citizens do not grow wild like blackberries. They are cultivated in institutions — families, religious communities and decent, orderly neighborhoods. And government has a limited but important role in reinforcing social norms and expectations — including laws against drugs and against the exploitation of men and women in the sex trade.

via Ron Paul’s land of second-rate values – The Washington Post.


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