Debate post-mortem

Thanks to everybody who live-blogged the debates with me.  As has been said, “that was fun.”  The instant back-and-forth in real time made for a lively online conversation.  We’ll have to look for other opportunities to do that sort of thing.  (Any ideas for that?  Live-blogging the World Series?  The Oklahoma/Notre Dame game?  The Oscars?  American Idol?  Or maybe we’d better just wait four more years.)

At any rate, what did you think of the debate as a whole?  Who gets the advantage?

Let the children vote

Our politics are polarizing, to the point that, at least in Washington, D. C., little kids are getting into fights on the playground over politics.  Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak quotes a letter to parents sent by a school and cites her own 5-year-old’s political dilemma:

“A gentle reminder: As a Quaker school and as an inclusive community, I am reaching out to you, the adults, to talk to your child about respecting others’ views and seeing the Light in each classmate and colleague despite differences of opinion. We in Lower School have found our students at times judging one another harshly for each other’s political views or party preferences.

“This is relevant, of course, in relation to many issues in school life, not just the election. Our children do mimic our adult behavior, and this is an excellent opportunity for each of us to express our views in a manner that is not insulting or demeaning of others.”

Or you could just label it: “Stop Teasing the Republicans!”

My 5-year-old is all in pieces because some of his playground friends like Mitt Romney and others like President Obama. He is torn.

“I just don’t know who to vote for,” he said.

Meanwhile, an idea is being floated that would let children vote!  Actually, their parents would vote for them until they gradually transition into maturity.  Semyon Dukach explains:

Three major extensions of voting rights have been implemented since our republic was founded. The 15th Amendment extended suffrage to former slaves after the Civil War. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. And the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, to match the draft age during the Vietnam War.

There is one clear path for our nation to navigate today’s crisis of political deadlock, growing debt, and under-investment in infrastructure, core science and education. We must lead the world by expanding our democracy and amending our Constitution. We should include those who remain unrepresented in our democratic process: children.

The most straightforward solution to reasonably represent the interests of children younger than 13 is known as “Demeny voting,” after the demographer who raised the issue in the 1980s. Under the Demeny system, the parents or guardians of these children split the vote of each child. In cases in which legal custody is shared between a father and mother, both would control an additional half-vote at the polls for each of their children age 13 and younger.

For example, if a couple has two children, each parent would wield two votes (one each for themselves and a half-vote for each child). A family of four would have four votes. In a family of five, with two adults and three children, each parent would have 2.5 votes (one for themselves and 1.5 for the three children). Again, this adds up to the total number of people in the family. If a single parent had sole custody, he or she would get the entire extra vote.

For adolescents, a simple variation of the Demeny voting scheme could allow them to be gradually emancipated. They could cast 20 percent of their vote at age 14, 40 percent at 15, 60 percent at 16, 80 percent at 17 and 100 percent at 18 (as they may today). The remaining diminishing percentage of their vote would be split each year between their parents or legal guardians, just as in Demeny voting, so that the total number of votes eligible to be cast in the nation will always be equal to the total number of citizens of all ages.

This voting scheme has drawbacks, including that it gives excessive power to parents of large families. And some parents might vote to protect their own interests instead of their children’s. But it would still be a crucial improvement over the status quo. Giving people younger than 18 indirect political representation will result in a more forward-looking balance of power among Americans. It would enable more political investment in our children’s future. Most important, by completing our national journey from a country ruled by landowning white men to one run on the principle of “one person, one vote,” we would lead the world in securing the inalienable universal human right to democratic representation.

via Giving children the right to vote – The Washington Post.

Well, this would give families greater clout.  Counting chads for fractions of votes would be rather challenging.  This would make universal suffrage more universal.  And it would indeed encourage large families and give them a bigger say in the body politic.  It still, though, strikes me as insane.

Reactionary liberalism

Do you remember how liberalism used to be idealistic and ambitious, taking on big problems with boldness and confidence?  Liberal presidents were always proposing vast new programs to solve our social ills:  the New Frontier, the Great Society, the War on Poverty.  Now, points out Michael Gerson, liberals seem bereft of new ideas and new programs.  They are simply trying desperately to hold onto the old programs, oblivious to their problems.  And instead of idealism, all they have is anger.  Read Gerson’s whole column, linked below.  An excerpt:

The Obama agenda also reflects a broader shift in American liberalism, which has become reactive. Liberals often defend unreformed, unsustainable health entitlements — even though these commitments place increasing burdens on the young to benefit those who are older and better off. They often defend the unrestricted right to abortion — even though it represents a contraction of the circle of social inclusion and protection. They often defend the educational status quo — even though it is one of the nation’s main sources of racial and economic injustice.

Others have termed this “reactionary liberalism.” It is more the protection of accumulated interests than the application of creative reform to new problems. In the place of idealism, there is often anger. When Obama failed in his first debate, liberals were generally not critical that he lacked idealism. They were angry that he wasn’t sufficiently angry.

via Michael Gerson: Liberalism’s shrinking agenda – The Washington Post.

Live-blogging the final presidential debate

I’m on the road, but I hope to get back to my hotel room in order to comment on the debate.  If I’m not here, you go on without me.  (Just add your “comments,” refreshing the page periodically to follow what other people are saying.)

The debate is supposed to focus on international relations.  (We’ll see how well the candidates adhere to that topic.)  Take a drink of your caffeine-free-diet-soda or other beverage every time you hear the following:

(1)  “jobs in China”

(2)  “another war in the Mideast”

(3)  “throw under the bus”

(4)  “America’s respect in the world”

 

Vocation as sacramental

A paragraph from a piece by Peter Berger, via Anthony Sacramone:

The Lutheran understanding of the Eucharist implies a view of creation itself being a sacrament. All of nature, the world as perceived in ordinary experience and in empirical science, is sacramental—in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, displays “outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace.” In one of my earlier ventures into unauthorized theologizing, I adumbrated this proposition by the phrase “signals of transcendence”: God, as it were, hides in the universe, but here and there we can find signs of his presence. In their understanding of the Eucharist, Lutherans used the phrase finitum capax infiniti—“the finite can contain the infinite.” The finite, perishable elements of bread and wine can, invisibly, contain the infinite, eternal presence of the risen Christ. But so can the finite, perishable reality of the empirical universe. George Forell, one of the best American interpreters of the Reformation, opined that the phrase finitum capax infiniti expressed the very core of Lutheran faith.

via Luther vs. the Proto-Pentecostals « Strange Herring.

I would just observe that the Lutheran doctrine of vocation is also sacramental in this sense.  Not a sacrament, I hasten to add, but an example of how God works through and by means of the physical world.  Vocation, according to Luther, is all about how God works through human beings (giving daily bread by means of farmers and bakers, creating and caring for new life through parents, protecting us through lawful magistrates, granting healing by means of the medical professions, teaching through teachers, expressing beauty by meaning by means of artists, proclaiming His Word and administering His sacraments by means of pastors, etc., etc.).  other gifts

What presidential debates do

Tonight is the final presidential candidate debate.  Help me live-blog it tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET.

I think the significance of the debates is not so much whether one candidate scores more points than another, zings his opponent more effectively, or makes or avoids gaffes.  What the debates do for us voters is to allow us to see the two candidates side by side.  We can also hear them unfiltered by the news media, the punditocracy, or political advertising.  What the public wants to see is whether or not the two candidates are articulate, intelligent, can think on their feet, can master a host of complicated facts and information.  Granted, being able to do all of that will not make a person a good president.  But the absence of those traits is, for most people, a disqualifier.  Notice how so many of the candidates in the Republican primary could not measure up to those relatively simple standards.

Mitt Romney has benefited from the debates because, in the comparison with Barack Obama, he has emerged as presidential, someone who comes across, at least, as equal to the current president.  So he has become, in many voters’ mind, a plausible candidate.  He didn’t really seem that way in the scrum of the primary, but now he does.

I know, scholars have made the case that debates don’t matter, that polls don’t matter, that campaigns don’t matter.  They have said that the economy is all that matters.  But this time we are seeing that the economy may not matter either; otherwise, Romney would be running away with the election.  The point is, no one can predict the outcome with certainty, any more than a mere mortal–Biblical prophets excepted– can predict any other future event.

By the way, I am not backing off my mere-mortal-and-thus-uncertain prediction that Obama will win, even as Romney rises in the polls.  I think Obama still has an advantage in the electoral college.  But, as is so often the case, I will be glad to be wrong.


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