Non-political spheres

R. R. Reno, in the context of another interesting discussion of the Juan Williams debacle, raises a point that conservatives need to remember:  Conservatives believe that some spheres need to be outside government interference, and thus not political.  (Unlike current leftist ideologies.)  Conservatives, therefore,  must be careful not to politicize those spheres themselves:

First, as I point out, the tendency to task everything to the political purpose of the moment is not good for the nation, because it has the tendency of perverting the non-political missions of important institutions, e.g., education, news-gathering, art museums, and so forth. Unfortunately, the Left has theorized culture in such a way as to make everything into politics, which eases their consciences as they politicize non-political institutions. What worries me is that conservatives in America assume that they must do the same.

The second thought follows directly. The struggle for political power is important. There are civic goods at stake in American politics: questions of fiscal responsibility, foreign policy, appropriate regulatory controls and social welfare policies, as well as the always important question of whether our laws are in accord with moral truths. But it is very important that conservatives not become counter-revolutionaries who have an essentially Bolshevik mentality oriented toward supposedly conservative ends.

One of the signal principles of true conservatism is that there exist personal and cultural spheres of life that are not the proper domain of government power. Therefore, no true conservative should use these spheres—family, education, art, and most importantly of all religious life—as mere instruments in the struggle for political power.

via More on Juan Williams » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Someone might reply, yes, but since the left HAS politicized the family, education, art, and religion (hang out at a big university if you doubt that; browse the academic journals) undoing that influence will have a political shape.  Still, this is a good point, isn’t it?

The insanity charge

Kyle-Anne Shiver notes another trend in today’s political rhetoric from the left:  Accusing those they disagree with of being insane.  We have Jon Stewart’s upcoming “Restoring Sanity” rally, the NPR exec who said before she fired him that  Juan Williams should just confide his fear of Muslims to his psychiatrist, the psychoanalyzing of the President about  lizard-brained voters, and all kinds of comments about tea-party populists.  She notes:

The Soviets were infamous for declaring any vocal dissident “insane,” putting them in psychiatric “hospitals,” turning the shock therapy machines to full voltage, and throwing away the keys.

via Pajamas Media » Dems Playing Soviet-Style Insanity Card.

When I was in Estonia, I met a poet who had just been released from a mental institution where he had been consigned for writing a poem critical of communism.   Under Marxist theory, art and literature reflect the economic superstructure of the society.  Under a socialist society, a poet who do does not reflect the reality of socialism must therefore be disconnected from reality.  Therefore, insane.

It isn’t that the culture czars were simply trying to shut up a critic.  They really did think he was insane, according to their worldview and their definition of insanity.  (We even had that here in a comment in our discussion of the president’s remark about his opponents not being rational or “scientific” because when they are afraid a different part of the brain takes over.  The commenter argued essentially that  conservatives really ARE irrational.)

I’m not saying that these silly political slams are equivalent to the Soviet persecution of artists. Just that this is dangerous rhetoric to be throwing around.

Taking Jon Stewart’s rally seriously

Jon Stewart keeps insisting that his “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” that he and Stephen Colbert are putting on next Saturday is not going to be a liberal or progressive partisan event.  It sounds designed to be more like a postmodernist-style meta-rally, a rally making fun of rallies.  And yet lots of liberals and progressives are taking it seriously.

Arianna Huffington is offering free transportation from New York to her Huffington Post minions.  Oprah Winfrey is paying for a bunch of her followers to be there.  The Democratic Club at the University of Pennsylvania is busing in college students.  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will be there in force. So will the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  President Obama has been pushing the event and might show up.  More than 200,000 people have posted on Facebook that they will attend.

Never mind that the weekend before the Tuesday election is the most important time for actually campaigning for the people you want elected.  From the Washington Post:

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Brendan Steinhauser, spokesman for the “tea party”-affiliated Freedomworks, is a fan of Stewart’s show and recently appeared on “the Colbert Report,” but he said he will be in West Virginia on the day of the rally, knocking on doors for Senate candidate John Raese (R).

“I’d rather have as many liberals in D.C. that weekend as possible, because I don’t want them out doing the phone calls and get-out-the-vote,” Steinhauser said.

via For liberal groups, “Daily Show” rally on Mall, not just for laughs.

The most arrogant words ever?

Another unpacking of presidential rhetoric, this time by Michael Gerson:

“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now,” he recently told a group of Democratic donors in Massachusetts, “and facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.”

Let’s unpack these remarks.

Obama clearly believes that his brand of politics represents “facts and science and argument.” His opponents, in disturbing contrast, are using the more fearful, primitive portion of their brains. Obama views himself as the neocortical leader — the defender, not just of the stimulus package and health-care reform but also of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains — the location of reptilian ritual and aggression. Some, presumably Democrats, rise above their evolutionary hard-wiring in times of social stress; others, sadly, do not.

Though there is plenty of competition, these are some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.

The neocortical presidency destroys the possibility of political dialogue. What could Obama possibly learn from voters who are embittered, confused and dominated by subconscious evolutionary fears? They have nothing to teach, nothing to offer to the superior mind. Instead of engaging in debate, Obama resorts to reductionism, explaining his opponents away.

It is ironic that the great defender of “science” should be in the thrall of pseudoscience. Human beings under stress are not hard-wired for stupidity, which would be a distinct evolutionary disadvantage. The calculation of risk and a preference for proven practices are the conservative contributions to the survival of the species. Whatever neuroscience may explain about political behavior, it does not mean that the fears of massive debt and intrusive government are irrational.

via Michael Gerson – Obama the snob.

I don’t know if you can answer this question with your lizard brain, but do you think this is the most arrogant statement ever, or can you think of other candidates?

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?


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