Smart people saying smart things

Elizabeth Drew: “A Victory Over Suppression?”

Despite their considerable efforts the Republicans were not able to buy or steal the election after all. Their defeat was of almost Biblical nature. The people, Democratic supporters of the president, whose votes they had plotted, schemed, and maneuvered — unto nearly the very last minute — to deny rose up and said they wouldn’t have it. If they had to stand in line well into the night to cast their vote they did it. The lines were the symbol of the 2012 election—at once awe-inspiring and enraging.

Andre E. Johnson: “Conservative Ideology and Theology at the Crossroads”

Conservative ideology and its kissing cousin, conservative theology has always been about maintaining the status quo; clogging up progress, grinding the forces of change. While both of these conservative groups, in an ideal world, have an opportunity to reshape and reconfigure their theological thought processes, chances are that they will not take advantage of the opportunity. Many will just double down on a more conservative interpretation of their own opportunistic shifting theology and in the process add to the growing number of dissatisfied former Christians looking for something relevant in their lives.

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush: “Election 2012: A New Day for Religion in America”

Christians cannot insist on a place at the center, but must move to being part of a wider circle of fellowship. We can recognize that our country has a wonderful heritage of Christianity, without subtly intimating that non-Christians occupy a place of second class citizenry. The most Christian act would be to love our neighbors of other faiths and no faith as equal partners who in our nation’s spiritual tapestry. [Tuesday’s] victory of the first Hindu to the US congress and the first Buddhist to the Senate only underscores the increasing and welcomed religious diversity in America.

The new religious vision for America insists on equal worth within our religious diversity. We reject the denigration of Muslims and distrust of people who have no religion. Part of religious diversity is acknowledging that we will disagree on matters of theology but that we can agree on matters of respect, and mutual commitment.

James W. McCarty III: “We Are Each Other’s Keepers: The Political Theology of Barack Obama”

Importantly, this story contains the first mention of the word “sin” in the Jewish or Christian scriptures. In what may be a surprise to some Christians, the word “sin” is not used in reference to Adam and Eve violating God’s command not to eat the fruit of a certain tree. Rather, “sin” does not enter the story of humanity until human beings hurting each other (and, as Obama points out, especially the “least of these”). Barack Obama recognizes this and infers that not to “keep” each other is to commit sin, a view that many of his opponents reject, especially in the political sphere. They describe such a stance to be paternalistic or a dictatorial and socialistic intrusion upon the liberty of individuals. Their vision of sin is one of private acts that offend God and not as public acts that injure others and the common good. Obama has consistently pushed against this theological vision with one of human interdependence.

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LBCF, No. 181: ‘Meet the Steeles’
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LBCF, No. 181: ‘Meet the Steeles’

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  • LL

    I waited 1 1/2 hours to vote (on a Saturday, Texas has early voting). Since it was a very pleasant, mid-70s, sunshiny day outside, I didn’t mind too much. And yeah, aside from the tedium (I’d neglected to bring something to read, kinda ironic, since the polling place was a public library), I occasionally felt a kind of  it’s-nice-to-live-in-America vibe. Nobody (that I’m aware of) was unpleasant. There were all kinds of people represented. Really white (me and plenty of others), non-white of all shades, male, female, young, really old (like the old people in front of me who both had canes and couldn’t stand the whole time, so they sat when they could and their daughter held their places in line). It was rather inspiring. I do feel for people who live in states where there is only one day to vote. I think all states should have early voting. There’s really no reason not to, other than cost (I assume it costs a little more, even though I believe all the people manning the polling place are unpaid, ie, volunteers).

    And very different from when I usually vote. I almost never have to wait to vote in any other election. This is the third time I’ve voted this year. 

    I know I harp on this and am probably preaching to the converted, but I’ll say it again: vote, every time there’s an election, not just every 4 years. That way, maybe we’ll all be spared any more rape apologist candidates running for U.S. Senate. Or any public office. That’s where these people come from. The local elections nobody gives a damn about, where you can get elected by a landslide if your entire family and your handful of friends vote for you.

  • PinkieLardo

    It’s hard to square the claim “smart people saying smart things” with the line “Their defeat was of almost Biblical nature.” 

    Maybe one difference between red and blue states is that in blue states, they have no idea what the Bible is about.  Cities destroyed by fire and brimstone.  The angel of death swooping down at night and killing all the first born. Plague and disease.  That’s Biblical.

    A candidate getting 49% of the popular vote?  Not so Biblical.   

  • Kirala

    I approve of early voting, as far as voting convenience is concerned. In my area, early voting lines usually have at least a one-hour wait at every time I check during the month prior to the election. My polling place, consequentially I believe, has a zero wait on election day.

    I approve of early voting rather less, however, when I want to visit the public library for the purpose of getting books. Parking is impossible, the grounds are choked with signs to the last legal inch, and voters and campaigners crowd the accesses to the entrance. I wish I (or someone else) could figure out a way to keep voting as easily accessible without rendering my sanctuary a chaotic mess.

  • What’s interesting is that this time around there’s no grand “woe is me the 48%” who voted for McCain and acted like they needed sugar cakes and cream pie, and a 52% reaching out in peace and harmony to said 48%.

    The theme of national reconciliation after GWB  kind of loses its luster when an astroturfed Tea Party crystallizes all the free-floating Republican-voter anger about a changing world and directs it malevolently at blocking a properly elected President from achieving any worthwhile objectives.

  • Spalanzani

    @PinkieLardo: “Biblical” doesn’t inherently mean massive disasters or loss of life. There’s a bit more to the Bible than that, including the theme of “victory over suppression”, the sense that Elizabeth Drew is probably using the term (in as much as that’s what she titled her article). I mean, the Book of Exodus features plagues and the Angel of Death and whatnot, but if you think that’s what the book is about, I’d say you’ve rather missed the point.

  • Ursula L

    I’m not sure that early voting is really the solution to the problem of long lines when voting, and other voter suppression.

    While anecdote isn’t data, I’ve lived in western New York all of my voting life.  We don’t have early voting, and people generally don’t vote absentee unless they’re actually absent from the area.  But we do have an incredibly smooth voting process – I’ve never had it take more than twenty minutes.  And that includes finding a parking spot.  

    In the complaints about voting problems, I’m not seeing much of people looking at how things are done in parts of the US where voting goes smoothly.  

    And, in my observation, one key thing is to keep things simple.  For us, voter registration is by mail, with a deadline fairly far in advance of the election.  Paper books are assembled for each voting district, alphabetical lists of names and you sign beside your name.   Voting was by old-fashioned mechanical lever machines until 2008, since then it has been a paper ballot, marked with a pen, and scanned by a machine.  Ballot layout is a grid – a row for each party, a column for each office being voted on, a name in each square for that party’s candidate for that office.  

    Organizing a week or two of voting is considerably more complex than organizing to have one day run smoothly.  You need more volunteers, over a longer period of time.  Volunteer hours would seem to be the controlling factor.   

    My polling station served four districts.  Each district had two volunteers, one who found your name in the book, the second who tore your ballot from the ballot book, and dictated the number on the stub (left in the spine of the book, not on the ballot itself) to the person taking care of the signature book to record it.   (So if you needed a second ballot, they’d record the numbers of both ballots, and be able to track that the right number of discarded ballots were destroyed, and know who might be involved if there were ballots unaccounted for.)  There was one volunteer at each of the two scanning machines, who collected the privacy folders and returned them to the sign in tables.  There was on volunteer at a table at the entrance to help anyone who wasn’t sure of their district number figure out what table they needed.  And a couple of volunteers who seemed to float from job to job as needed.  So, say fifteen people at any given time, for one day, keeping the polls open from six in the morning to nine at night.  That’s a lot of work, and is demonstrably doable for one day.   I’m not sure that they’d be able to get enough people to do the same for two weeks.  And if you tried to have the same number of volunteers keeping track of more districts, you’d have much more confusion and delay, because each task is not so carefully defined.  

    And it seems to be complicated by having fewer polling places for early voting than for election day, and trying to keep track of who has voted when and where.  So even without lines, the process is slower because volunteers are having to keep track of multiple districts.  The signature books and books of printed ballots were quite large, and it would be awkward for a volunteer to have to take care of, say, four districts, and for each voter determine their district, get the right signature book and ballot book, and then shuffle through everything again for the next person.  

    Do we have examples of places where they have extended early voting, and it also generally runs smoothly?  Defining “running smoothly” as taking no more than half an hour, even when busy.  

  • Canada pretty much runs things like that at all levels. In fact I believe temporary workers are hired and paid by Elections Canada at the federal level for federal elections.

    We even have early voting (advance polling, I believe we call it) and between that and the usual election-day stuff it seems to move pretty well. I’ve never had to wait more than IDK, 10 minutes?

    EDIT: It probably helps that the federal districts aren’t gerrymandered.

    In BC, my home province, we also have fairly sensible district boundaries. Incidentally the term commonly used is “ridings”. So you will hear of someone being from (federally) the riding of Calgary Southwest, or in BC, you might hear of the riding of Vancouver South.

  • ReverendRef

    When I moved to Oregon two years ago, they registered me to vote and donate organs (with my approval) when I got my OR driver’s license.  And then the ballots started showing up in the mail about a month or so before each election.  Read the pamphlet, fill out the ballot, and drop it in one of several ballot drop-boxes around the area.  No lines, no frustrations, it’s a great system.

    The one drawback to this, though (and I’ve been guilty of it myself), is that because you have all this time, ballots sometimes get lost on the table amidst all the other junk mail and sometimes forget to get turned in.

  • Ursula L

    Mail in ballots seem, to me, to effectively end the secret ballot.

    It’s secret on the government’s end.  But on the voter’s end, there is no secrecy.  Nothing to prevent a spouse or domestic partner from taking the ballot and filling it out as they choose.  Nothing to prevent an employer from demanding to see an employee’s ballot – and that is particularly disturbing given the cases reported, this year, of employers lecturing employees on how to vote, and threatening to fire them if the wrong person won or if the employer figured out that the employee supported the “wrong” candidate.  Heck, in many neighborhoods, nothing to prevent someone from going down the road and taking ballots from everyone’s mailbox before they get home from work.  

    And it shouldn’t be the job of a domestic violence victim to have to defend their ballot from their abuser, or an employee to risk loosing their job if they stand up to pressure from their employer.  A secure vote is a right, and it’s the government’s job to protect and defend that right.  

  • Green Egg and Ham

     Yes, we hire plenty of temporary workers for elections.  And, shock, we use paper ballots, which are all counted on election night.  Oh, and the national news services cannot start broadcasting in your time zone until the polls have closed in your time zone.

    Oh, and more polling stations will shorten those lines.  Seriously, a nation that prides itself on being a democracy should be willing to spend A LOT more money on making voting simple, easy and painless.

  • Yep. Every ballot I’ve ever voted on has been a paper and pencil affair, or an easily understandable scantron-like affair with a machine reader that is NOT Internet-connectible.

    The one improvement Canada could make to federal voting is to make it so all the polls close on the dot at the same time all across the nation. Unfortunately this would mean B.C. would need to open at 6 AM and close at 6 PM, while Ontario would be 9 AM to 9 PM, etc.

    The existing situation of much tighter news blackouts is probably a good compromise.

  • The_L1985

    You only waited 1.5 hr to vote early?  I had to wait 3.5 hr where I was.

  • Ursula L

    Wouldn’t closing the polls in BC at 6pm be a disaster for voter turnout and waiting times?  Pretty much everyone who worked a 9-5 job would be rushing to the polls to vote by 6pm.  And face it, few people working a 9-5 job will be getting up at 5am to get to the polls at 6am. 

    Our polls were open 6 am to 9pm, which I think helped a lot with line length.  The after-work rush was spread out from 5:30 to 9pm.  I was hearing on the news about some states closing the polls at 7pm, and that would nearly cut the after-work voting time in half, which would, in turn, greatly increase crowds and lines.  

  • The_L1985

    “Maybe one difference between red and blue states is that in blue states,
    they have no idea what the Bible is about.  Cities destroyed by fire
    and brimstone.  The angel of death swooping down at night and killing
    all the first born. Plague and disease.  That’s Biblical.”

    What about the New Testament?

  • Slitsey

    I have voted in three states, Washington, Idaho, and California. I can’t remember ever having to stand in a significant line. States with long lines need to figure out how to do elections better. 

  • That’s why I said “unfortunately”.

  • Veylon

    Those are some incredibly good points. I hadn’t thought there were any downsides to mail-in ballots. Until now.

    Maybe if it was something they did at the post office where you pick up your ballot, fill it in, and deposit it without it leaving the building? It wouldn’t be as convenient, but it would seemingly deal with the privacy issues. And, well, effectively make voting day into voting month.

  • Ursula L

    I suppose you could have polls, everywhere, open at what is 6 am in the easternmost time zone, and close at 9 or 10 pm in the westernmost zone.  It would involve having the polls open for quite a few hours with few people voting, but it would address both problems – consistent hours across the country and reasonable hours of access for everyone.  

    And since you do pay poll workers, rather than relying on volunteers, there would  be less concern about placing an unreasonable burden on volunteers.  

  • Ursula L

    Which is, essentially, making every post office a polling station, and having early voting for a month.  You’d need people at the post office to track who has voted, just as with regular, in-person voting.  

    But post offices, unlike polling stations, are not organized by districts designed so that everyone in the district has the same ballot.  (An issue in the US because we’ll vote for president, US Senate, US House, State Senate, State House, city and town elections, etc. all at once, and each will have different district lines.)  Even if you insisted that people must get their ballots at the post office for their home zip-code, it would involve distributing ballots in a way that isn’t organized according to what is on the ballots.  

  • I like mail-in ballots; I live in CA so expecting me to stand there and fill in all those local and state propositions and initiatives is not appealing. (Sometimes it feels like Sesame Street: “this election brought to you by the measure C and the proposition 3”)

    I don’t actually mail it in; I take it to the polling place and drop it off.The envelope has a place where I have to sign it with threats of dire legal consequences if I’m not the person whose name is on the pre-printed return address or someone authorized by said addressee if they’re not capable of doing it themselves, so there’s some accountability. Nothing on the ballot itself, and while the possibility exists that the volunteers could open the envelope and then look at its contents, it’s up there with them putting cameras in the booths.

  • Joseph

    I viewed “Biblical” as a more abstract way of saying “David versus Goliath,” personally.

  • cjmr

    I’ve voted in six elections since we moved to MA (mid-term Congressional + Gubernatorial; school committee and other town positions; special town referendum; federal primaries; state primaries; and the recent Presidential election).  The Presidential election was the only one where I had to stand in a line of more than 4 people.

    In MD, OTOH, I rarely didn’t stand in a line at least 15 minutes long, and I think the longest line I ever stood in was over 2 hours.  With a toddler.  That was interesting.

  • Hypothesis: The more gerrymandered a state is, the harder it will be to vote easily in it.

  • Tricksterson

    Not sure where you’re coming from on this.  There are plenty of religious people in blue states.

  • P J Evans

     I live in CA also, and if you mark up your sample ballot before you go in, it doesn’t take all that long. I spent more time in line than I did in the entire rest of the process.

  • I don’t understand why “my brother’s keeper” has become a saying. In the bible it seem like Cain was saying  “Where’s my brother? How would I know? Am I his keeper?” like I don’t own him and keep tabs on him. 

  • AnonymousSam
  • P J Evans

     I don’t think it’s going to get very far. I seem to recall that it requires majority votes, and the last time anyone tried it without going through Congress, there was a big ugly war that we’re still recovering from.

  • You’re right, but it’s depressing even to me, an atheist, that Michael Bay might be the perfect director for The Bible. 

  • Lori


    And face it, few people working a 9-5 job will be getting up at 5am to get to the polls at 6am.   

    Apparently in Indiana they do. Our polls are open 6-6 and AFAIK our voter turn out is pretty much in line with other states. We do have several weeks of early voting, so the 9-5ers with no inclination to be early birds can do it then.

    I meant to vote early, but didn’t due to general lack of organization brought on by working literally ever single day in October. My parents opted to vote early and it took them about an hour. (That’s partially because it’s done at the county clerk’s office, which is in the courthouse so you have to go through security to get in.) I went to our local polling place, which is about a mile from from our house. It was a nice day, if a bit chilly, and I didn’t want to deal with any parking hassles for such a short trip, so I walked. I left the house at 9:20 and was home just a little after 10:00. There were only 4 people in front of me in line and a voting station opened up right when I got my ballot, so I was in the polling place for less than 15 minutes. 

  • Lori

    It isn’t going to get anywhere. It isn’t designed to go anywhere. You can tell because the petitions are on the White House website. The most that can happen as a result of a petition on the White House website is that it requires a response from the White House. The obvious response to “May our state leave the Union?” is “No. Next question please” and that’s exactly what they’re going to get. Oh, the response will have way more words, but it’ll boil down to “No. Next question. ”

    This petition drive isn’t designed to do anything but serve as a temper tantrum for enraged losers and to generate yet another feeble Fox News talking point about Obama. “We asked nicely and he said no. Now we have an excuse to be really, really nasty.”

  • Yes, Cain’s meaning probably is something like that.  Now, do you think Cain is supposed to be held up as a role model, especially in that incident?

  • I dunno. I think the petitions are more eye-rolling-inducing than anything substantive.

  • Andrea

    In some places in the US (in most of Indiana, at least, if nowhere else), 6 am to 6 pm IS the set polling time.

  • Carstonio

     Hypothetically, how would the Administration proceed if a state legislature voted to secede like in 1860 and 1861? (Those statements of secession make it obvious that slavery was the motive.)

  • Randy- what’s a keeper, exactly? I shouldn’t be my brother’s prison guard. he doesn’t even exist.

  • AnonaMiss

    Maryland would seem to counter your hypothesis.

  • Lori

     Kentucky is the only other state that runs the polls 6-6. It’s weird and
    if I were choosing the hours that wouldn’t be what I’d pick, but in the
    time I’ve lived here I’ve never heard any discussion about it of any
    kind. People seem to be totally fine with it. Indiana is pretty red, but
    not so solidly one party that the hours would be uncontroversial if
    they were making it difficult for people to vote.

  • AnonaMiss

    Please ignore me, I misread cjmr. Apparently people do have bad experiences in Maryland. (The family I’m living with had no problem; I’m registered in a different state.)

  • Lori

    They would say “you can’t do that”, but with a lot more words. There were a lot of things left unsettled by the Civil War, but the notion that people can just take their ball and go home when they’re unhappy about losing a vote isn’t one of them. You can’t just bail and there is literally no existing mechanism for voluntarily dissolution of the Union. In theory one could be created, but that’s never going to happen.

    I think there are a couple of useful responses that should be made to this latest round of WTFery and if the White House actually uses either of them I’ll be so impresses I can’t even tell you.

    1. Lay out for them exactly what their financial situation would be as a sovereign nation. Some arrangement would have to be worked out for them to pay DC for all the formerly federal property in their new nation, they would need to create and run all their own national infrastructure and of course no more federal spending for them. In most of the whiner states that would leave them broke.  I mean really, seriously broke as in They are not the only ones who would suffer, things would suck for the special snowflake white folks too. Indicate that they will of course be eligible for foreign aid—at the rates the US currently provides foreign aid, not at the fantasy rates people think we spend on foreign aid.

    David Atkins has a nice little chart showing why red state tax hypocrisy makes secession nothing more than a fantasy for spiteful losers to wank to:

    As my ex and I used to say every time someone in one of those red states whined about tax rates: “New Jersey called. They want their 39 cents back.”*

    2. Note that since these states believe that membership in the Union should be at the sole discretion of the states that they must logically support abiding by the outcome of a straight up or down vote by Puerto Ricans  on statehood.

    *The obvious thing being that New Jersey does not want it’s 39 cents back. New Jersey has been at the top of that list for years now and it’s not like they don’t know that and they keep right on voting Dem year after year. If they weren’t committed to the idea that we’re all in this together A) they’d start voting GOP and B) Mississippi would be screwed.

  • Lori

    Are you actually this confused or are you trying to be cute? If it’s the former your political opinions are starting to make more sense.

  • Carstonio

     Good analysis. I can’t deny that part of me wanted to see the Feds put down a rebellion in ideological terms – destroying all the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and restoring the pre-Civil War state flags in places like Mississippi. The kicker would be having all blacks as temporary appointed governors of the breakaway states.

  • Lori

    We should not have statues of f’ing Nathan Bedford Forrest and IMO we also shouldn’t have things named after Lee and Davis. As much as I’d like to see all that crap go I don’t think that can be enforced from the federal level. They’re state issues and until those states stop clinging to racist losers and move into the modern age the rest of us are just going to have to hold our noses and deal. And the more outsiders complain the longer they’ll cling, because that’s just how it goes. I wish people like those fighting to stop the restoration of their local Nathan Bedford Forrest statue the best and I support them by mostly keeping my Yankee, uppity woman, godless heathen mouth shut about it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The Biloxi MS school district site no longer mentions Beauvoir Elementary, which was there when I was in that district nearly ten years ago. (Beauvoir: Jefferson Davis’s house. Lovely house, but.) They’ve still got Jeff Davis Elementary, which I bet still sucks as bad as it did when I went there, but Beauvoir Elementary got renamed or merged or something. That’s an improvement, right?

  • Lori

    I suppose that it depends on what Beauvoir Elementary is called now, but yes, I like to think it’s a step in the right direction. I seriously can’t even imagine what it’s like to be an AA kid going to a school named for Lee or Davis. WTH?

  • Carstonio


    As much as I’d like to see all that crap go I don’t think that can be
    enforced from the federal level. They’re state issues and until those
    states stop clinging to racist losers and move into the modern age the
    rest of us are just going to have to hold our noses and deal.

    True. That was simply my fantasy, out of frustration that Reconstruction was never completed. You’re absolutely right that eliminating those symbols of racist revisionism has to be a local matter, both in principle and in practice. I guess what I really want is for the ghost of someone like Strom Thurmond to appear before the nation and beg for forgiveness, because he never faced any real justice in life.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Gorenflo’s named after the guy who donated the land the school sits on, North Bay and Popp’s Ferry are geographical names (no idea who Popp was, though), and with Jeff Davis that’s all the district’s elementaries. The sixth graders on up go to Biloxi Jr High or Biloxi High. I think Beauvoir Elementary just doesn’t exist anymore.

  • Lori

    I can’t decide if I feel a little sorry or a little envious of the person who has to maintain the petition part of the White House website because we are now fully into “call and response” territory on this thing.

    Petition to deport everyone who signed a petition supporting secession:

    Humorous petition written by Dave Noon’s students offering Sarah Palin (and two bears) in exchange for control of all Alaska’s natural resources:

  • Carstonio

    How about keeping the name but changing the namesake to Simone de?

    While I agree that Robert E. Lee’s name shouldn’t grace public structures either, I react to him with a sadness that I don’t feel for any of his colleagues. He opposed secession and had moral qualms about slavery, but felt that he couldn’t go against his native Virginia.

    My response to Lee is the same one I would give to any modern Southerner who argues that non-slaveholding Confederate soldiers were simply defending their homes and states – they had a higher moral duty to humanity that outweighed any obligation to their states. Not to mention that the South started the fucking war, not just by seceding but also by seizing military facilities and firing on Fort Sumter. “War of Northern aggression” my ass.

  •  > I can’t decide if I feel a little sorry or a little envious

    Yeah, I was wondering that myself. I think I embrace the power of “and” here. In the right mood, I think I could get a real kick out of it… and then something would undoubtedly come along that would make me want to vomit.