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November 07, 2012

Divide and Conquer

The Editorial Staff went to bed last night well before the election was called. At that time, Romney was ahead in the electoral count but we did not have a good feeling about the outcome. With a migraine coming on and work to do in the morning, we thought it best to get some sleep.

It's remarkable, though not surprising, to see some of the arguments being made this morning by Obama supporters. EJ Dionne seems not only unashamed but openly proud that the President won by "unleashing an army of African-American and Latino voters". That argument, while unarguably true, ought to disturb anyone who believes that we are human beings and Americans first and members of some identity group second. It ought to disturb anyone who, like Martin Luther King, reminded us that our intellect, values, and character ought to matter more than the number of melanocytes in our skin. One of Dionne's commenters raises a compelling objection to his race and gender-obsessed world view: a political strategy based on appeals to subgroup solidarity is inherently divisive - it places the focus on racial or gender identity and self interest rather than the common good.

Citizens who see important public policy issues decided, not on the basis of sober reflection, debate, or compromise but by race-based voter blocs are unlikely to consider such matters as fairly "settled":

Don't see how you can call a nation divided 50-50 one that is settled. The most divisive president has won reelection by scaring the heck out of his constituency: blacks were told they would be returned to slavery and put back in chains, Hispanics were told they would be rounded up and deported, women were told they would no longer have access to proper healthcare, that abortions would become illegal and contraceptives would be taken off the market, and young people were told that being cool was more important than being effective.

It's worth noting that the entire strategy of Obama's successful re-election bid was based on the explicit encouragement of what the Founders considered a profoundly destructive and devisive force inimical to the survival of the Republic - that of faction. Ads from the Obama campaign openly argued that voters should not trust or support someone who was "not one of Us". It was an appeal to hatred, ressentiment, and distrust rather than to common interest or national identity. It emphasized the many things that divide us rather than the many that could bring us together:

As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.

There's an opportunity here for conservatives, if we are willing to open our minds a bit and seize it.

If this election proves anything, it's that "armies" of blacks, Latinos, and women can be driven by explicit appeals to fear and distrust. I'm a woman, and if I'm brutally honest, I have to admit just how alienated I've been by the public statements of many conservatives about women over the years. And these are people I mostly agree with on the issues.

It didn't change my vote, but it tested my resolve on more than one occasion.

I have voted conservative for over 30 years, but listening to the rhetoric of conservative politicians I want to support is often disheartening and discouraging. If a voter who has consistently supported conservatives for so many years reacts this way, stop to think for a moment how much more these statements offend the folks we're trying to persuade?

We have been dealt a stunning setback. How conservatives react is up to us.

We can react by doubling down on a strategy that not only failed to persuade enough voters but actively offended loyal conservatives. Or we can learn from our mistakes. Pandering to gays, women, blacks, and Latinos is profoundly un-conservative. We don't want to divide the country - to the contrary, we need to unite it by appealing to something larger than race, gender, or what is narrowly called pure self interest.

What we need is Reagan's big tent. We need to stop being afraid of the fact that people with different life experiences and cultures will naturally have different views and interests and embrace this unalterable fact. Identity groups share certain interests, but they also have diverse values.

Why not turn Obama's racial and sex-tinged divide and conquer strategy on its head by explicitly asking for the votes of women, blacks, gays, Hispanics - as distinct groups - but doing so in a manner that stresses the values we share rather than the ones that divide us?

What I hope for - what I pray for - is that my party will stop assuming the worst about people who don't see things our way and instead, try to find common ground. It exists. I know it does because I have friends and family who are Democrats and they are every bit as worried about the defict and this country's future as I am. We need to learn how to talk to these folks, and we don't do so by turning up the volume and thoughtlessly feeding them back arguments that have failed to persuade them in the past - the ones we find persuasive.

We do it by finding out what arguments they find persuasive. The Obama campaign took the shortcut and appealed to fear, but there are other appeals: love of country, justice, fairness (and an honest discussion of what that entails). Enlightened self interest.

It's remarkable that the Romney campaign only lost a race against an incumbent President by a few percentage points. Romney was widely criticized for demonstrating insufficient conservative ardor, but in hindsight he was at his most effective and persuasive in that first debate when - for the first time - voters saw a different man from the one in all those negative political ads.

The country is changing, but reading Federalist #10 reminds us of a powerful insight: the factions and interests that divide us today have always existed. There is - truly - nothing new under the sun.

But America is founded on a powerful ideal - the desire to be a part of a great experiment in liberty and self governance. That vision is one that asks much of every American. It requires that we foster a sense of common purpose and identity. There are few more diverse groups than the United States military, and yet we work, play, and live together to a far greater degree than our civilian counterparts because we are continually urged to look beyond our own backgrounds and focus on a common purpose and mission. I've seen the military work wonders on people from all walks of life because it appeals to a deep need shared by all human beings: the need to belong to something larger than ourselves; something work working for, sacrificing for, even dying for. It's an appeal to love rather than hate and distrust.

The America we need to build for our children is not one where racial factions vie for a bigger slice of the pie, but one where people of all races and backgrounds are asked to come with us on this journey: to be a part of creating a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.

We need to invite them - to appeal to those better angels that attend the nature of every person, be they black, white, Hispanic, male, female, or trangendered Arctic wolf. Reagan got this because for most of his life, he was a Democrat. He knew how to talk to Democrats.

This is a skill we must learn. Discuss amongst your ownselves, haters.

Posted by Cassandra at November 7, 2012 08:25 AM

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Comments

You're arguing that we need to find a way to give them what they want. What they want may not be moral: witness the command that Catholic employers must pay for abortifacients and other forms of birth control. That is in violation of the basic tenets of the Republic, as well as being a violation of Catholic moral teachings. It will now be law.

Sometimes persuasion won't do. I'm willing to entertain the idea that persuasion might still be an adequate response. Yet if electoral victory -- which is no more than popularity -- is to be gotten only by sacrificing moral principle, then it is not worth having. If we come to the place where we cannot preserve moral principle and still govern, then we must not try to govern. We are called to something else.

Posted by: Grim at November 7, 2012 10:49 AM

You're arguing that we need to find a way to give them what they want.

No, that is exactly the opposite of what I'm arguing.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 7, 2012 11:04 AM

Is it? There's a danger in looking for common ground, which is that you may find it -- but very far from any ground that is wholesome.

Posted by: Grim at November 7, 2012 11:11 AM

Yes, it is. I'm pretty sure I understand what I'm arguing and nowhere did I suggest promising special interest groups what they want.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 7, 2012 11:15 AM

Rush is always saying that when Conservatives is properly expressed, it wins. Maybe that's what Cass is saying?

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at November 7, 2012 11:24 AM

Conservatism, not Conservatives... :-P

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at November 7, 2012 11:25 AM

Rush says a lot of things.

I get how we appeal to blacks and Latinos -- we talk about our underlying Christian moral structure. That may mean giving up some conservative principles, because both groups believe Christianity is properly expressed via government welfare, but maybe there's something like common ground to be had if we are willing to sacrifice our principle.

It's less clear how we win over transgendered Arctic wolves. The fact is that the message they want to hear is "Do whatever you want, and we'll bless you for it." That means sacrificing all principle in favor of simply agreeing to let people do whatever they want.

Maybe there's a vision of conservatism that embraces that. Libertarianism embraces it; but it's a ground gained only by sacrificing any concept that moral principles can be an ordering question for society.

My sense is that Cass doesn't believe that: she has often argued that 'legislating our morality' is not only something that we can do, but something that is always being done by one side or the other. If we don't legislate ours, we're sitting by while they legislate theirs.

And that's where we are today. The state's law is about to require a lot from us that is out of order with the moral law. We must resist, or else we own our submission to that which is wicked and foul. Resistance means defying the law, the order of which brings benefits to everyone; submission means accepting an immoral law, the existence of which brings an evil judgment on any nation. Neither choice is very good.

Posted by: Grim at November 7, 2012 11:34 AM

Rush is always saying that when Conservatives is properly expressed, it wins. Maybe that's what Cass is saying?

That's exactly what I'm saying, MLB.

In any debate, there are better arguments and worse ones. The ones most often used to fire up the base in either party too often amount to "us vs. them" or straw man arguments. They do one of two things:

1. Exaggerate the opposing position or ascribe to opponents the worst possible motives (they want this because they're actively trying to destroy America, as opposed to they want this because...[fill in accurate summation of the opposing position]).

2. Emphasize the differences between groups and minimize their similarities.

Both arguments are appeals to emotion. They're great for firing up the base but lousy at persuading any member of a group whose position was just mischaracterized or whose motives were just maligned.

If your arguments can't stand on their own merits without appealing to people's worst instincts, they probably don't deserve to succeed.

I don't believe conservative arguments can't succeed without straw men and ad hominems, or without inflammatory or crudely insensitive language. They are elegant arguments, and deserve better from their adherents.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 7, 2012 11:43 AM

I think what Missy Cass is saying is that we will not stoop to self-absorbed entitlement; we lost, therefore it is time to roll up our sleeves and really get to work.

Being gracious under fire is a refinement in and of itself. Being able to focus our direction on what we want changed and why is a better use of our time. Mitt did that so well in the first debate, and held to that line in the second and third.

Posted by: Carolyn at November 7, 2012 12:12 PM

In 1965 I was a 4th grade Air Force brat at Myrtle Beach AFB. I remember a friend's father telling us that the book "The Decline and Fall of the United States" would be written in our life time. Obviously that statement stuck with me. Back then I didn't think he would be right. I now think the precipice has been crossed.

Posted by: Pogue at November 7, 2012 12:37 PM

"But America is founded on a powerful ideal - the desire to be a part of a great experiment in liberty and self governance. That vision is one that asks much of every American. It requires that we foster a sense of common purpose and identity."

We are far removed from our founding and very near our end. Personally, I'd say we have arrived.

The post is wonderful and says all the right things and quotes all the right people but is a voice crying in the wilderness. I'd venture a wager (I'd already lost one yesterday) that not one student in ten thousand is schooled in any civic notion or would know, even remotely, what the hell you were getting at - yet is well versed in American crimes, sexism, racism, (pick-a)phobia – past and present. All which is to say you may ask of conservatives all of what you wish for, but you'd be beating an already dead horse. (never mind the malametaphor, it is in keeping with the zeitgeist).

Roger Kimball: "RIP American Exceptionalism."

My sentiments and condolences exactly.

Posted by: George Pal at November 7, 2012 12:54 PM

I don't really know what to say.

I don't believe, and will never believe, that our values are determined by our skin color or hormones or whatever plumbing we happen to be sporting under the hood. I don't think race or ethnicity or sex or sexual orientation are the most important things about us.

I do think that people have a natural affinity for other people like them, and when they see people like them being attacked or insulted, they have a hard time not taking it personally. It makes them less receptive to whatever argument is being advanced.

We are individuals, but we are also members of various groups. We take our sense of who we are from many sources - being a woman isn't all of me, but it absolutely is a big part of who I am.

I understand the reflexive urge to avoid political correctness, but there's a big difference between being told, "You can't say that" and voluntarily understanding that "saying that" won't be well received for reasons that actually apply equally to us when we're on the receiving end.

Here's a case in point: that Chris Rock video going around where he argues that "white folks" don't need to worry about Obama being a black president b/c he's actually more white. I see the humor in it, but quite frankly I"m offended by the underlying presumption that my opposition to Obama's policies has anything whatsoever to do with the color of his skin (or that magically I'd favor progressive policies if they come from another white person). Just is so stupid that it's just stunning. I was turned off before he got even partway into the video, and though my mind gets the joke, it didn't have the intended effect.

Unless, of course, the intended effect was to piss me off, or make me think Mr. Rock has some racial prejudice issues of his own that he needs to deal with. If you don't want want black people lumped into unflattering bins, doing precisely that to white people is not a good start.

I have heard conservatives resort to equally insulting arguments and they bother me and embarrass me even when I'm not even the intended target. They bother and embarrass my 83 year old, white anglo-saxon protestant father, because the underlying premises are offensive.

They're not good arguments.

When you lose a contest, you have to ask if there are things you could do better next time. Blaming the other team may make us feel better, but it doesn't make us more competitive. Neither does giving up.

If you don't agree that maybe we could do a better job of persuading at least some of the folks who voted for Obama, what is the solution? Is it always someone else's fault when things don't go our way? Are we really helpless?

God, I hope not.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 7, 2012 03:09 PM

Playing to "faction" has probably been the most destructive single political force that has existed within our Republic. Most of the worst things that have happened in our history can find their root cause in "faction".

Hooray. Obama won by a slim margin, and will be President for four more years. Good luck, Mr. President. You not only burned the bridge, you burned the river.

And now he wants to govern.

And we will be told by our "betters" such as Citizen Dionne that we must "compromise".

The notion of compromise in American politics means the search for some common ground to stand on to secure perhaps a part of the solution to a problem that both parties sought. There have been famous compromises in American political history. The "Missouri Compromise" comes to mind quickly from our history. And that was a band-aid on a cancer.

Grim cites but one particular area of dispute where there is not much room for the spirit of compromise, because it frankly calls on us to throw out a cherished First Amendment value.

I frankly don't know where we go from here. Several other conservative blogs have discussed this; Ace of Spades in painful excursions into recriminations.

People on the whole (on the Right) are too angry and hurt right now about this outcome. I await a pronouncement from our President about some kind of conciliatory measure, but I doubt that is coming, because he is not that kind of politician.

He won. Remember?

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at November 7, 2012 04:39 PM

We need to invite them - to appeal to those better angels that attend the nature of every person, be they black, white, Hispanic, male, female....

Oddly (and in a shameless plug), I have a post on this, taking a different tack, going up tomorrow. It ties in with this: Pandering to gays, women, blacks, and Latinos is profoundly un-conservative.

Yet the Romney campaign was complicit in this--he wouldn't talk to these folks at all, thereby contributing to the concept that some Americans are different from and/or more important than others. We conservatives have to be willing to go into the black neighborhoods, not just toss a speech over the podium at an NAACP convention. We have to go into the Hispanic neighborhoods, not just send a son to make a few speeches in one state. We have to go into the Asian neighborhoods, not just ignore them altogether.

The conservative message appeals to all Americans, of whatever stripe, be they black, white, Hispanic, male, female; we just have to carry that message to all Americans and not just to some of them.

As to the defeatism apparently being espoused here, phooey. This is a generational struggle.... I made this point in a comment in the post below; I'll not repeat it here.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 7, 2012 05:10 PM

Speaking of Rush, I think he summed it up best today: "In a nation of children, Santa Claus wins".

Posted by: a former european at November 7, 2012 05:28 PM

"Speaking of Rush, I think he summed it up best today: "In a nation of children, Santa Claus wins"."

//bows head, closes eyes, reflexively clutches wallet, and a moment later begins to speak in a distant voice//
I see much pain lurking in those chimney stockings, and going Forward™, into the new year. And that lump of coal in the bottom of everyone stocking will require Federal approval, after the dirty fuel, contaminated waste, and carbon taxes have been paid.

Beware! If you burn that coal for cooking, heat or energy, you forfeit your beet ration for six months.

Thus spake the Mandates.

Posted by: Edgar Cayce at November 7, 2012 06:07 PM

I await a pronouncement from our President about some kind of conciliatory measure

You mean "I really hope those greedy, anti-science, bigots can put their name calling partisan politics aside and work with me."?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at November 7, 2012 07:14 PM

Cass: Thanks for your insightful post. I think you've got it exactly right. Republicans need to basically shut up about imposing their personal values and build RR's "Big Tent" again. Otherwise we're going to be yet another European-style sociast state.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at November 7, 2012 07:24 PM

Cassandra:
What a very insightful post. Thought-provoking on this day of gloom. Thank you.

You would be a welcome addition to our free-speak "trash can smokers group" in Center Courtyard at the Pentagon. No-rules discussion centered on politics, which is pretty much verboten inside the building.

Thank you for the first positive thoughts I've had after the Not Change od Command.

TC

Posted by: Leatherneck at November 7, 2012 07:57 PM

Gentlemen, forgive me, but what you are saying doesn't make any sense. Mitt Romney wasn't an avenger for imposing values on anyone; there has never been so moderate a Republican, so gentle a hand on the tiller.

Nor is it right to say that he didn't have a big tent. He garnered three million more votes than Reagan did in the 1984 landslide: and almost from the same subset of Americans, white 'Reagan Democrats.' He did well with Catholics -- a little less well than Reagan, but well -- and managed a positive gender gap (i.e., he won men by more than he lost women).

The issue in front of us is not whether Republicans should "shut up about imposing" values on the broader populace. The issue is about whether Republicans should shut up about having values imposed on them. You're going to be paying for your employees' abortifacients. If you're a Catholic, that is a mortal sin. It's also the law. This is not a small matter -- at least, it ought not to be.

It's the sort of thing I take to be worth dying over. Maybe others feel otherwise, but from where I sit, this isn't about me forcing you to do something I want. It's about me not letting you force me to do things I find terrible.

Posted by: Grim at November 7, 2012 11:55 PM

Thoughtful post, Cass. I thought, given Obama's record, that Romney should be a shoo-in.

And I am mystified at the millions of Hispanics who share traditional family values, voting lock-step with a party who does not share those values.

I thought too the Catholic Church would have more sway over them. Particularly with "Obamacare".

One thing about winning a campaign solely on fear - at some point he will be expected to produce positive things.

Posted by: Bill Brandt at November 8, 2012 12:40 AM

I avoid the daytime talk radio today, but I did hear the local guy on WOAI out of San Antonio on the way home from work. He asked for Hispanic callers to help explain why so many voted for Obama. Of the callers I heard, it was "Obama helps poor people" and "Republicans are the white party". It's so very sad. And today, I was called "unAmerican" and "unChristlike" for voicing my opinion on fb on my "don't be petty" post (for both the winners and the losers) when I commented that I reserved the right to say "I told you so" when it all goes to shit. By someone I've known since junior high. I didn't respond personally - some other fb friends responded throughout the day - until I got home this evening (only have fb on my phone when I'm not at home and I didn't want to fat finger my reply). I asked him when he got so ugly and rude because that's not how I remember him being back in the day, or more recently when we've seen each other in person. I haven't defriended him yet, but that's still on the table. He's said some ugly things I ignored on my newsfeed during this election cycle, but when he comes to my page and starts pissing on the carpet with his smug "we won, you lost" attitude, I can't let that stand unanswered. We'll see how (or if) he responds to that.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at November 8, 2012 12:52 AM

I retired recently, crikey, I need a regular job, retirement is going to kill me. A heck of a lot of built up work. So that was a huge change.

What has changed? It's still the same America. I went over some stuff today with a friend of mine who emigrated from Yemen not to long ago, and he's looking forward. In fact he's taking a huge risk, and I'm right there.

IMO, elections, pfft, America is still the same.

Posted by: Allen at November 8, 2012 02:29 AM


Here is something that I think dovetails with Cassie.

"“On the last night of a play, the whole cast and stage crew stay in the theater until the small, or not so small, hours of
the morning striking the old set. If there is to be a new opening soon, as the economy of the theater requires, it is
important that the new set should be in place and ready for the opening night; all the while the old set was finishing
its usefulness and then being taken down, the new set was rising in splendor to be ready for the drama that would
immediately follow. So it is with this world. It is not our business to tear down the old set---the agencies that do that
are already hard at work and very efficient---the set is coming down all around us with spectacular effect. Our business
is to see to it that the new set is well on the way for what is to come---and that means a different kind of politics, beyond
the scope of the tragedy that is now playing its closing night." Hugh Nibley

Posted by: Carolyn at November 8, 2012 03:53 AM

Grim,
I think your analysis is correct. In discussing this with other Romney supporters (both LDS and non-LDS), we broached the subject of the Socialist state. The consensus was that even if Obama won, voting for Romney meant that we would go down fighting. It isn't so much that Obama is dividing and conquering, but that the battle lines are being drawn.

Posted by: Carolyn at November 8, 2012 04:03 AM

Thanks for yet another of your always insightful and compassionate posts, Cassandra. I am so glad that you have continued to share your thoughts with us through your Villainous Company blog. Your voice is a much-needed part of the conversation in this great experiment in freedom which we call America. 'Tis folks like you that give me continuing hope that freedom for all will be a reality in the long run.
Semper Fi, Bruce

Posted by: Bruce at November 8, 2012 09:30 AM

I have voted conservative for over 30 years, but listening to the rhetoric of conservative politicians I want to support is often disheartening and discouraging. If a voter who has consistently supported conservatives for so many years reacts this way, stop to think for a moment how much more these statements offend the folks we're trying to persuade?

I try to get this idea across to my husband from time to time. In most ways I agree with Akin and Mourdock, but after the imbecilic remarks of each, I was ready to see them both jump into holes and cover themselves up, even if that meant losing the Senate. If their style offends me that much, imagine what it did to the moderate voter?

I too read incredibly offensive remarks about women from conservatives on a regular basis. It mystifies me, because we should be on almost entirely common ground. If conservative values are going to have a chance to save the country, we will have to find a way to make them make sense to poor and medium-income people, not to mention unmarried women. I thought one of Romney's most appealing debate answers was to say that a strong economy would mean better jobs for women, but as far as I can tell, that message simply did not penetrate to liberal women -- and yet it's what I've believed strongly from the moment I began to search for jobs as a youngster.

But remembering what it was like to search for jobs as a youngster reminds me that, back then, I quickly figured out that there were liberal men who would hire me and conservative men who could judge my work impartially only with very, very great difficulty. The latter saw me as some kind of exotic animal they were forced to tolerate. It took a long time for me to develop conservative instincts in the face of that experience, and frankly it didn't happen until even the conservative men learned the necessary lesson (or most of them, anyway).

Posted by: Texan99 at November 8, 2012 11:27 AM

I can't blog any longer - my browser is now so old that Blogger simply refuses to let me get to my dashboard and we're postponing buying a new computer until after the holidays - but I nonetheless sat down Wednesday morning and wrote a post expressing pretty much the opposite view. I prefer your outlook, Cassandra, and I'm happy to be convinced of it. Can you provide an example? How would you go about making the (or a) conservative argument to someone who voted for Obama, in terms he or she would find persuasive?

And BTW:

I have to admit just how alienated I've been by the public statements of many conservatives about women over the years. And these are people I mostly agree with on the issues.

Me, too. (Or I, also.) It seems to me that the conservative argument in this regard has to do with treating individuals as individuals, free to make their own decisions about their lives; in accordance with their abilities, interests, and responsibilities; and in consultation with their family, friends, and loved ones.

Too much of the time, though, the argument seems to end up being statements that directly contradict that, statements that lump all women together, largely for the purpose of getting them out of public view: Feminism was the worst thing that ever happened; women shouldn't have the vote because they vote for the wrong side; individual women in demanding positions are okay but the great undifferentiated mass of them don't belong there. And that's not even getting into the morass of abortion, contraception, and sexual activity.

Posted by: Elise at November 8, 2012 12:36 PM

For what it's worth, when women talk about men it sounds worse in our ears too. Consider this piece, which is actually really interesting until the end:

Some topics should be left to experts and avoided by male politicians with neither philosophical nor medical training, nor firsthand appreciation of the effects of pregnancy and childbirth on health and life.

The argument here is that male politicians need special training to even be permitted to discuss abortion at all. She seems to regard it as uncontroversial that women's "firsthand appreciation" qualifies them to discuss the matter without additional training.

These are areas of serious, and principled, disagreement that really belong in the political space. Speaking as a man who actually does have philosophical training, I'm not sure how much it is really relevant as a qualifier. The argument that a child is a child from conception is as tenable as any other position: and the argument that a child is innocent, and innocent life should not be taken, is likewise a kind of pure principle.

Maybe philosophical training helps you to be able to articulate that in some advanced way, but maybe not: the principles are clear enough. If that's what you believe, then your position on the matter is unlikely to change no matter how advanced your philosophical (or even medical) training. It follows from first-order principles about when life begins, and when it is right to take a life.

I'm sure you remember that my own position is a little different, and maybe philosophy is what got me there. Still, I have to believe that the woman who wrote this piece wouldn't really like me to talk about abortion either. Philosopher or not, what she really wants is to close off the right of most men to speak about the issue of abortion at all.

That sounds to me a lot like what I imagine some of the conservative thoughts on women sound like to you. So, for what it's worth, it's not just you; it's me too, sometimes.

Posted by: Grim at November 8, 2012 01:43 PM

Oops! I forgot to include the link to that interesting piece (it really is worth reading, though I end up disagreeing with her position).

Posted by: Grim at November 8, 2012 01:44 PM

Yes, that sounds pretty bad. So it should be pretty easy to see how counterproductive the approach is, no matter whether you're addressing men or women. Or blacks or hispanics or any other group. We'll have to find a way to reach what we have in common rather than what makes people self-identify in a group, because white married people aren't going to carry elections any more.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 8, 2012 03:17 PM

Cassandra,

As an Asian American Army veteran, I agree with you that the US military provides a ready model for a multi-racial, unified or common American identity. This is a comment I made on the same point on another blog:

Anon: "You seriously see, say, George Washington as part of "my" history and not part of what whites did?"

I'll restate what I said above: George Washington was an American soldier. When I joined the Army, George Washington became an ancestor of my tribe. And I became his direct descendant.

One of the first lessons taught by drill sergeants in Basic Training is that there's no more black, white, red, brown, yellow when you join the Army. Every American soldier is green. (Granted, we joked that there is light green and dark green.)

Now, of course, we don't throw away our racial identities after we earn the right to wear the uniform. After all, soldiers join when they are of majority age (though some 17 yo's join with parental permission) and the Army is not a brainwashing cult. But along with the uniform, we adopt a clarified, race-neutral, essential American identity. Again, soldier is an American identity with deep roots older than the nation itself.

On the tail end of my enlistment, I liked to welcome new soldiers in my charge by pointing to their chests and telling them to always remember who they represented every time they wore their BDUs. The name tapes over their chest identified them 3 ways: their family name, their country, and their Army.

This may seem trite to those who haven't served, but even for the too-cool-for-school types, the experience did seem to leave an impression. I remember eavesdropping on the conversation of one of my young troops after she got back from leave. She was a black girl who was race conscious. She liked to say she hadn't met a white person before she joined the Army, which may not have been an exaggeration. But she was telling her friend about a fight she got into at home because somebody she was hanging out with badmouthed the Army. To her, that was unacceptable because the US Army was now her tribe, and soldier, while not her only identity, was now her identity. A tribal identity shared by her, me, and General George Washington.

asdf: "Sadly, elites do not see themselves as American citizens and consider such "nationalistic" attitudes to be backward and low status. To be elite you should be cosmopolitan or global and not care about your own country."

Yeah, the global citizen, right? I agree. That's why I whole-heartedly support the educational outreach of military veteran groups in the Ivy League such as http://www.harvardveterans.org/ and http://milvets.columbia.edu/ who potentially can reform the culture of American elites at their founts.

They are making a difference. When the Columbia University Senate voted overwhelmingly last year to restore ROTC after a campaign led by multi-ethnic Columbia student-veterans, President Bollinger remarked to the effect that although Columbia holds firm to its international aspirations and scope, the University must never lose sight that Columbia is first and foremost an American institution.

(FYI, I'm an Ivy League alumnus, too.)

The return of ROTC to Columbia and other Ivies, with its overt nationalistic implication, reinforced to me my belief that reviving the status of the American civil-military identity in mainstream and elite American culture will help us achieve a multi-racial common American tribe.

-end-

If you would like to read the comment thread for the context, here is the link for my comment:
http://www.halfsigma.com/2012/10/ny-times-article-about-too-many-asians-getting-into-stuyvesant.html?cid=6a00d8341bf6ae53ef017d3d2e5106970c#comment-6a00d8341bf6ae53ef017d3d2e5106970c

Posted by: Eric at November 8, 2012 03:52 PM

So it should be pretty easy to see how counterproductive the approach is...

If it's an approach, yes. I think that more often it's an unconsciousness of how different people might hear what you're saying.

I've heard Cass raise this issue many times over the years, and it's greatly informed my thinking about what I write and what kind of environment I want at the Hall. Still, it's very often true that I not only don't hear things the way that a woman might, but that I can't. It will take you telling me how you hear it for me to understand how it sounds to you.

The Akin case is a good example of that. When I heard what he said, it carried no emotional content for me at all. In my ears it sounded like an interesting proposition (and not a counterintuitive one, given the trauma associated with rape), and I wondered if it was true. What we found out in trying to decide was that, actually, it's impossible to say if it was true or not.

I could tell that other people had obviously heard something wholly different -- something highly provocative -- but it took listening to you guys talk about it, and talking about it with you in depth and at length, for me to understand just what the issue was. I still don't think he meant to offend anyone; I think it just didn't sound the same way to him either.

That's an issue you sometimes can't control. I said something once about how I thought Texas had been culturally improved by its relationship with Mexico, which I meant to suggest that the cultures are compatible in certain ways and that Mexican immigration was not something we necessarily ought to fear. A liberal-leaning Latino took great umbrage at the suggestion for reasons I don't quite recall, but I think it had something to do with the privilege I was assigning to Texas in the relationship (i.e., as if the question of immigration ought to turn on what was good for Texas, vice what was good for people in Mexico). But it wasn't the philosophical point, really; it was the offense to his sense of identity, which honestly I couldn't have predicted because in my ears it sounded like a compliment to people of Mexican identity.

Posted by: Grim at November 8, 2012 07:32 PM

Eric, those are all good points. And thank you for serving our country, "our country" so faithfully.

But as you would also agree, the military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force) are voluntary organizations, with the implied purpose of submitting your personal will and identity (to a degree) to the greater whole of the Armed Forces in which you serve.

There is a feature that emerges from any volunteer, no matter how young, that most of the time these volunteers for military service have a degree of maturity and self-realization (even though they may not be aware of it) that they are willing to serve something larger than themselves.

The basic, fundamental notion of service. This may lie dormant in many people, but it also does not exist in many people. In that time of reaching that self-realization that service to a greater good is worthwhile, the soldier in the making becomes a soldier in being, as they consciously realize the basic moral importance of service.
Many in our society do not share that value, belief or conscious desire. The young woman you described had a notion in her life to serve something larger than herself, even if she did not really know it consciously, or have words to describe it.
Serving in the Army fulfilled that in her, and she became a more complete and mature citizen. And she had begun the self-identification of being part of that "tribe", a soldier in the US Army, who now shared George Washington as a forbear, literally.

And sadly, the majority of our youth would fail that test of civic virtue, in believing the value in serving something "larger than yourself". And that,my friend, is all the difference in the world.

Stay safe, and may God go with you.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at November 8, 2012 07:53 PM

Well, let's just say that if we're trying to explain a conservative position to a skeptical black or Latino, we shouldn't listen to an objection based on some absolutely horrible situation our proposed policy will put them in, and respond with: "Oh, that won't be a problem, because the agony will be alleviated by some magical process no one but myself and a few of my fellow travelers believe in, that you should take on faith," or "I'm sure it will be terrible, but it will be God's will for you to endure it -- and you'll see, something good will come out of it for someone else."

Posted by: Texan99 at November 8, 2012 09:55 PM

I'm sure I wouldn't say that; but the thing is, I don't think that's how their remarks sounded to them (or to me). The one man sounded to me like he was citing his physician as an authority on medicine, and probably didn't think he was speaking about magic; the other was trying to explain how he had reflected on a serious problem, but had finally decided that the right answer was to trust God. Neither man was very clear or articulate, and maybe this is where a philosophical education comes in handy: maybe it can help you articulate principles.

(Although maybe not: from time to time, when I think I'm being clearest, I've been known to say things that sound to Cassandra quite differently than they did to me. I think I can fairly say that is true vice versa, in spite of what is now several years of lengthy conversation and friendship.)

Clearly, though, women across the political spectrum heard it your way. Still, if the problem is that this is offensive to women (as it seems to have been to all the women I've heard talk about it), I'm not sure they can help it. I don't think the problem is that they were intending to be dismissive of women, or even actually being dismissive. They strike me as having been trying to speak plainly and honestly about what they really thought, rather than giving an easy dodge out of a difficult question.

I'm not sure that can be fixed, because I don't know how to predict how things will sound to someone with a very different ear. You could fall back on a rule like "Men should not talk about rape," or "Men should not talk about abortion, at least not without special academic training," and maybe that would work in this specific situation. But then we get also "White people should not talk about Mexican culture," even to compliment it; and after a while, we're not talking to each other at all.

Posted by: Grim at November 8, 2012 11:23 PM

Cassandra, the editorial staff has made a rather brilliant and thoughtful post and for that I sincerely thank you.


[single malt honesty on]

At the same time, I am somewhat conflicted by it. While many here were deep believers in Romney, my position was somewhat different; I considered it deeply disappointing that these two candidates were selected and that one of them would win (though of the two, I desperately wanted Romney). Both parties have become a horrible mess and I don’t understand how anyone willing admits belonging to either party in public -- let alone be proud of it in private.

[/single malt honesty off]


Early in my professional career, I had the fortune/misfortune to work in a great newsroom, and also for a congressman that is now a sitting senator -- and complete utter dingbat but useful tool to a powerful minority faction. I’ve seen the beast from the inside and the outside.


I think Cassandra is right to search for common ground and to ask about persuasive arguments. But . . .


[now you can hate me on]

I think they were in front of us all along. There was one GOP contender in the primary season that drew strong and enthusiastic support from a broad group of supporters that cut across race, class, gender and generational lines. Meanwhile, someone -- the eventual someone that was 'selected' to be the nominee -- suffered instances where he literally had to pay people to hold signs and feign support. Were I to read deeper in the archives here, I suspect I would find sneering dismissals of Ron Paul. But, IMHO, at the end of the day, he was presenting the common ground and persuasive arguments that many of you now seek.

[now you can hate me off]


The great irony, is that the intolerant audience was not the left, but the entrenched GOP establishment (including the press corps) and maybe even faithful readers of this blog. If any of you are in the mood for deep introspection, rather than casting a wondering net forward, I would encourage you to review some youtube footage of the GOP primary debates. What you are starting to search for may have been in front of us all along.


I hope this doesn’t sound like an arrogant “I have the answers” post -- I know it can be interpreted that way if read pessimistically. It’s just that I see many of you starting to ask the same questions that I have asked earlier, and I know where that path has led me. It wasn’t something I warmed up to instantly, it took literally took years for me to truly “get it.” But having done so, there is no way for me to go back out. I thank Cassandra once again for this thoughtful and comforting post, and return to my scotch.

Peace out, Rabbits . . .

Posted by: kavu at November 8, 2012 11:54 PM

For what it's worth, when women talk about men it sounds worse in our ears too.

First, my examples at least were not about men talking about women. The sweeping statement about the horror of feminism is as likely to come from female conservatives as male. And the most recent iteration I've seen of the idea that outstanding women are okay in demanding positions but not most women came from a conservative woman.

My point wasn't about men talking about women; it was about conservatives talking about people in terms of their group identity. When Leftists talk about categories of people such talk is in keeping with their philosophy, beliefs, political creed, whatever you want to call it - or at least in keeping with my understanding of it. So *if the author of the article on abortion is a Leftist*, it is ideologically consistent for her to announce that men should not speak on abortion because they have no first-hand experience of pregnancy or childbirth. This is as unremarkable as a Leftist claiming that the only opinions on gay marriage that matter are those of gays; the only opinions on illegal immigration that matter are those of the illegal immigrants; and so on. (It is also ideologically consistent for her to make exceptions for those with special training; I've been reading Sowell again. :+)

It is my understanding, however, that conservatives see individuals as individuals, rather than seeing them as defined by their racial, ethnic, gender, etc., identities. Thus, for a conservative to make blanket statements about women is not only annoying; it calls into question whether there is actually any coherent philosophy in there anywhere.

Of course, perhaps my understanding of conservative thought is incorrect. I am a relatively recent convert and my reading in the field has been spotty at best. Perhaps it is in keeping with conservative thought to treat people as members of biologically determined factions rather than as individuals.

Posted by: Elise at November 9, 2012 10:04 AM

I'd also like to comment specifically on Ms. Heffernan's article on abortion. I will admit to knowing little about the Hippocratic Oath. However, I read the two English translations of it at Wikipedia and I am utterly unable to see how Ms. Heffernan derives her conclusion that the only reason the Oath forbids abortion is because it requires:

both philosophical and manual work for which early physicians, trained in medicine but not abdominal surgery, were not qualified.

This is true for the removal of stones: the Oath says that the physician will refer such patients. It is not true for abortion: the oath lumps abortion with giving deadly drugs and makes no mention of referral.

I must admit I love her "we are made to understand" phrase. It's a lovely use both of passive voice and of a claim to a truth that is not actually found in a plain reading of what she references.

Posted by: Elise at November 9, 2012 10:07 AM

Of course they can fix it. They can listen to and learn from their intended audience. That's what's called for when we want to persuade free people who have the privilege of making up their own minds instead of taking orders from us -- that whole free enterprise system I'm always on about.

If they didn't have the advantage of having heard (loud and clear) the way their comments were received, then, yes, they'd have nothing to go on but their own guesses heavily filtered by their own insular, parochial experience and convictions. But now they have reliable new information from outside their bubbles, which should not be wasted because it doesn't conform to their expectations or models.

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us -- if we don't learn that, we can never persuade. In the history of the world, has anyone ever persuaded someone else to bear a terrible and unjust burden by being cavalier either about how likely it was to occur, or how easy it would be to endure? Especially when it's a burden that, in the nature of things, he could never expect to encounter for himself? A very empathetic and tactful moral teacher might find a way to say: "I see how shatteringly painful this is, but you must endure it with patience, because the only other alternative is a grotesque miscarriage of justice that will haunt you for the rest of your life and cheapen your soul." Akin and Mourdock did not rise to that challenge; they barely rose above oblivious smirking of the "Oh, honey, don't make such a big deal out of it, you'll be fine" variety.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 9, 2012 10:09 AM

Elise: there is a brand of conservatism that's exactly what you describe, an insistence on viewing people as individuals first. But it's not the whole conservative movement, and I sometimes wonder if it's even dominant. There is another sort of conservatism that harks back to a traditional set of roles, including gender roles. In that context, a man does not see a woman first as an individual but as a woman, someone who rightfully fits into a circumscribed role based largely on her usefulness and attractiveness to men. He may or may not be able to approach her with any justice on a par with men in any specific context, depending on his convictions about the inherent differences between men and women and his openness to evidence from new experience. That wing of the movement will only with great difficulty ever make a home for you or me. It is the only face of the conservative movement that many women ever see, and it drives away voters.

I used to think the Democratic Party was my home because they understood this problem. It's disappointing that, just as Democrats are coming into their ascendancy, they are dropping the notion of women as full citizens and people in favor of the notion of women as pitiful victims who need support from the State. My only consolation is that they aren't picking on women in this regard, but apparently view most citizens that way, apart from the occasional evil one-percenter.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 9, 2012 11:08 AM

Well, they aren't "picking on women" at all; they're offering you a deal, and a lot of women are accepting it. It's yours to take or to leave as you prefer.

The question of whether people are individuals "first" or members of groups "first" is actually a fairly tricky one. There are some biological facts that seem to create real splits in human nature. There are some social groups that exercise profound influences, such that lifelong membership in that group is highly likely to persuade one to certain ways of thinking.

And yet, of course, there are also individuals who reject what they were taught. (Although the traditional conservative position on social groups is to hope that they will continue to guide and nurture us: conservatives have always looked to things like church and education precisely as ways of shaping individuals to standards favored by the group, although allegedly for better reasons than pure conformity).

Biology is much harder to overcome, because everything we understand about the world outside of us arrives in our mind through biological filters. This is especially true in terms of the brain: the differences are so profound, and yet change our experience of the world so directly, that I often think we must be living in substantially different worlds.

In other words, it's no wonder we come across misunderstandings like this often. T99, you regard an empathetic presentation of the idea as fundamental to the character of the speaker. My guess is that it simply never occurred to Akin, for example, that being empathetic was an important part of expressing a technical idea. He's not just a man, he's an engineer, and people who gravitate to that field tend not to be as high on empathy as others.

So this suggestion works both ways. It's not just on Akin (and others like him) to find ways to communicate with you (and others like you) that are acceptable and unoffensive to you. There has to be a reciprocal duty.

And that's part of what makes Cassandra's idea so difficult. In order to set aside an internal sense of outrage, and instead read their comments in a charitable light with a desire to understand them as people and what they were really trying to say, you have to regard them very kindly. But you already don't regard them kindly, because they have provoked you to outrage. Thus, the easy, natural, and human thing to do is to interpret their words in accord with the internal outrage they provoked in you.

I think it's a very difficult problem.

Posted by: Grim at November 9, 2012 11:31 AM

By the way, although I think that sex differences in the brain are a fundamental component of this problem, I don't think that the problem is one that is a problem for men or for women.

That is, I don't mean to suggest that if men are going to have a duty to try to be empathetic, women are going to have a reciprocal duty to be charitable and try to understand what we really meant. I think both sexes have problems on both sides of that equation.

Furthermore, I think a very similar problem comes up in non-sex related contexts (like the example with Mexico). There's a two-sided relationship, but it's very hard to exercise the second duty with someone who has already provoked us to rage.

And, of course, in the case of genuine bad actors like (say) Stalin, being charitable just leaves you open to abuse. But given how our mind work, it's very hard to distinguish genuinely bad actors from people who have made us really furious.

Posted by: Grim at November 9, 2012 11:38 AM

By the way, there's a technical philosophical point I'd like to make about whether we are actually talking about an 'individualist' versus a 'group' split in conservative thought.

I don't think that's right. The side we call "individual conservatism" is actually just another form of group conservatism: it's just that the group they are looking at is humanity, rather than Christians or Catholics or Englishmen.

This is why it is the 'individual conservatives' who make the most sweepingly universalist statements on the conservative side. When Bush got up and talked about the desire for liberty being a basic part of human nature, that's actually the opposite of treating people as individuals rather than members of a group. It's making every individual a member of one really big group.

I used "Englishmen" as an example because of a quote from Disraeli: "To the liberalism they profess, I prefer the liberties we enjoy; to the Rights of Man, the rights of Englishmen."

You could say that Disraeli is a 'group conservative' against an 'individual conservative' movement; but really, he's got a good point. It's not just that the rights of Englishmen are more worth having (though they were, from my perspective); it's that Englishmen have a particular set of rights that pertained to them for historical reasons, and that simply may not be desired by someone born in Japan to Japanese parents and raised in a Shinto tradition. They may really want different things, including different rights.

So I don't think a philosophy of 'individualist conservatism' is really about individuals at all. It's a universalist philosophy, much like certain forms of liberalism.

Posted by: Grim at November 9, 2012 12:05 PM

You can see the problems of a genuinely individualist philosophy by thinking about nominalism, which is the denial of the reality of universals. This holds that any universal we believe applies is actually just a creation of the mind: in reality, there are individual things which each have a unique and special nature. They aren't really exactly like anything else. (To paraphrase Nicholas of Cusa, quite logically, there are no two people so alike that they could not be infinitely more alike: thus, any two people are infinitely different.)

What kind of a political philosophy could go with that? It can only be a form of anarchism, because there can't be any rule that can justly apply to infinitely different cases.

So I think you're stuck with group philosophies; the question is which group is the most appealing to use. There are advantages to thinking about all people as a single kind, sometimes; but you can also run into the worst sort of excesses that way, both on the left and the right.

Posted by: Grim at November 9, 2012 12:44 PM

"My guess is that it simply never occurred to Akin, for example, that being empathetic was an important part of expressing a technical idea."

I can't accept this defense of Akin's clumsy boorishness. He's willing to embrace eccentric, pseudo-medical notions without subjecting them to testing, so long as they reinforce a convenient conclusion at someone's else sole expense. That is not a technical approach, it is an emotional one. Unfortunately, it is also a self-involved emotional approach that cannot engage an audience that does not share his idiosyncrasies.

If we cannot eliminate emotionalism from the explanation of our ideas, we ought at least to embrace an emotionalism that neither baffles nor affronts our audience.

But I think there is a way to formulate ideas so that they are persuasive to people who have different views of the facts, or whose values differ from our own, without abandoning logic in favor of emotionalism. Our way of seeing things is rarely the only one that is compatible with a strictly factual, logical, or "technical" view of the subject, unless we are discussing something as cut and dried as ballistics or arithmetic. It will never be the case when we are arguing over public policies that impose burdens on one individual resulting from the harm done by another, in pursuit of a greater good.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 9, 2012 01:29 PM

How would you go about making the (or a) conservative argument to someone who voted for Obama, in terms he or she would find persuasive?

I think this attacks the wrong problem. We're never going to convince everyone; neither are "they." We need to make our arguments everywhere, to everyone, not just to this or that group, and most especially not because they're in this or that group.

Some examples: Romney tossed a speech over the podium at an NAACP convention and called it a day. Romney's Spanish-speaking son made a few speeches in Florida, and that was it. No one talked to the Asian demographic.

We conservatives, and such Republicans who want success, need to carry our message into the neighborhoods where blacks, Hispanics, Asians live--and make our case, be it moral, economic, practical, etc. We need to write letters to the editor, editorials, and so on, and do this to the local papers, not just the national outlets.

If we do that, we'll reach plenty of the other demographics--women, youth, Obama-voters, whatever. We'll be talking to folks directly, not lecturing at them from afar. We'll convince a bunch, too, and we'll not convince everyone. But if we actually talk with these folks, as individuals, as adults, and not just yammer at a stereotyped demographic (which means if we're in a black neighborhood, for instance, we talk to them as fellow Americans, not as black Americans), we'll make a potful of converts, and we'll garner a double potful of votes.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 9, 2012 06:01 PM

[I]t is also a self-involved emotional approach that cannot engage an audience that does not share his idiosyncrasies.

But this requires us--and it would have required Akin--to get out of his echo chamber and talk with other folks, folks who didn't necessarily share his worldview. Doing that early would have exposed to him how his speech sounded to others, and he would have learned either he believed something entirely different from what he thought his words were saying and adjusted, or that he really believed that sort of thing--and would have discovered that not enough others agreed to make him a viable candidate.

In that last regard, so would a lot of other folks, who then could have prevented him from getting as far as he did.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 9, 2012 06:07 PM

Thank you - all of you - for your excellent and thoughtful comments.

I am just now reading them - have been out of commission for the past 3 days. Hopefully by this evening or tomorrow morning I'll be up to responding :)

Posted by: Cassandra at November 10, 2012 09:49 AM

Cass:

Happy birthday. :)

Posted by: Grim at November 10, 2012 11:43 AM

That wing of the movement will only with great difficulty ever make a home for you or me.

Thanks for the clarification, T99. It makes some things make sense. It’s discouraging, though.

I’m not sure the (men in the) Democratic Party ever really understood the problem you describe. They sounded like they did but I’m unconvinced and suspect their current approach to women is a perfectly logical extension of their earlier approach. I have some thoughts on this but those will have to wait until I’m blogging again.

So this suggestion works both ways. It's not just on Akin (and others like him) to find ways to communicate with you (and others like you) that are acceptable and unoffensive to you. There has to be a reciprocal duty.

In a universal sense, I agree with you, Grim. But in the specific case where a politician is the vendor and voters are the customers, that isn’t the case. It’s the politician’s responsibility to present his product in a way that his customers find acceptable. If my bakery makes the world’s best cupcakes in a spotlessly clean kitchen but the outside of my glass display case is smudged and greasy, I’m unlikely to have many customers. I can blame them for not asking to tour my kitchen or not being willing to just try the cupcakes - or I can polish up that display case.

Posted by: Elise at November 10, 2012 12:52 PM

I think there is a huge, huge difference between what Akin said and what Mourdock said. Akin said, in response to a question about whether abortion should be legal in the case of rape:

It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

I looked at the Physicians for Life site (I believe I found the link at Grim’s) and found that they are arguing the statistics indicate that the trauma of rape can affect a woman’s ability to conceive. It’s possible that’s what Akins was talking about (although in that case, my response is “So what? Whether it’s 10 women or 1000, the problem doesn’t change.”) But it sounds like what he’s saying is, “It’s rare for a woman to get pregnant if she’s truly forcibly raped. So if a woman gets pregnant and says it’s a result of rape, the odds are she wasn’t forcibly raped.” Is that what he meant? I hope not. But that’s what it sounded like to me.

And the end of his statement, although it often wasn’t quoted, speaks to one of T99’s points: Akins wants to punish the rapist and save the child but seems to give no thought whatsoever to the burden the woman bears in carrying a rapist’s child to term. How hard is it to say (to think, to believe): “I know this puts a terrible, terrible burden on the mother. But I truly believe every child, however conceived, deserves to live. I beg women in this situation to give up nine months of their lives to make this happen and I honor more than I can say those who have been strong enough to do this.”

Mourdock, on the other hand, made a statement that an audience from 50 years ago (maybe even 25 years ago) would find utterly unremarkable:

The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

He made it very clumsily but an audience from the past would translate his words into something like:

I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I believe every life is precious to God, even those that begin with the horrible situation of rape, and I believe God can bring help us all bring something good - an innocent child - out of even the most devastating events.

The problem is that many of us no longer have anything like that idea. The ideas of evil and free will and how those intersect with God aren’t part of our mental storehouse. Most of us aren’t going to translate what he said because we don’t speak the language. I probably couldn’t have done the translation myself a year ago but some C.S. Lewis and Ross Douthat’s book have at least given me an inkling of where Mourdock was trying to go with this.

And this is an example of the problem I see in conservatives making their ideas persuasive to those who voted for Obama: we don’t all speak the same language any longer.

Posted by: Elise at November 10, 2012 01:00 PM

We conservatives, and such Republicans who want success, need to carry our message into the neighborhoods where blacks, Hispanics, Asians live--and make our case, be it moral, economic, practical, etc. We need to write letters to the editor, editorials, and so on, and do this to the local papers, not just the national outlets.

But what message are we going to carry that we think will resonate? To argue that we have the better argument but we just didn’t make it clearly enough sounds an awful lot like Obama’s idea that he’s got the right policies, he just doesn’t communicate them well. On the other hand, to say that the people who voted for Obama would embrace conservative ideas if they heard those ideas because clearly those ideas are better for them is to wander into What’s Wrong With Kansas? territory.

My fear (close to conviction) is that conservative ideas don’t persuade because people don’t find what those ideas lead to particularly desirable. It’s as if we’re trying to come up with the right argument to persuade someone to buy a pickup truck when he’s not in the market for a pickup truck - he’s in the market for a sportscar. Or, worse yet, he’s in the market for a new computer and vacation in Hawaii.

I have a very dear friend, decent guy, about my age (late 50s), very liberal (in the Democratic party sense). I wanted to talk to him about municipal officials threatening to forbid Chick-Fil-A from building in their cities because of the head honcho’s support for “traditional marriage”. He was unhappy with the situation because “both sides are right”. To me, the officials were not within 10 million lightyears of right; to him it’s a balancing act between freedom of speech and morally correct support for gay marriage. What can I possibly say that will persuade him freedom of speech is an enumerated right for a reason? He does not see any inherent value in a system where people can say whatever they want, without government interference, even when what they say is wrong, hurtful, evil, cruel, or stupid. There are millions of people just like him - like all the people who shrugged at the HHS mandate regarding contraceptives. It’s not that they see what I see and disgree; they don’t even see what I see.

Okay, last comment for now. Sorry to give you more to read, Cassandra. I gather from Grim’s comment that it’s your birthday so I wish you a very happy one.

Posted by: Elise at November 10, 2012 01:20 PM

Elise: I totally agree that Mourdock's statement wasn't even in the same ballpark with Akins', and I probably shouldn't have mentioned him in the same breath. His (comparatively minor) error was that it's bad form to preach God's will to people who are going through something that you can never experience. I should hesitate, for instance, to tell a paraplegic soldier that his injury is God's will. No doubt it is, and someone might conceivably be able to get that idea across to him if the soldier is very receptive and the speaker is very skillful and lucky. But as a comment in a public, political discussion in an atmosphere charged with religious divisiveness it is almost guaranteed to be a disaster. In that context it is obtuse, smarmy, and condescending. How could he imagine he could get away with it to an audience that did not share his views on either providence or the essential humanity of a fetus? If he doesn't understand that he can't take those shared views for granted, he shouldn't be allowed outdoors alone.

The common mistake between Akin and Mourdock is a fatal levity about the burden of the pregnancy and the horror of gestating a child begotten by a filthy rapist. By airily waving away that part of the problem, they almost guarantee that their endorsement of Job-like patience will not connect with half of the intended audience. Who listens to advice about how to bear a burden from someone too dense to understand the nature of the burden in the first place?

Half of the problem in the abortion issue is persuading people to empathize with the helpless fetus. We don't serve that purpose very well by showing a complete lack of interest in the viewpoint of the brutalized, unwilling mother.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 10, 2012 02:17 PM

Hey, Cassandra, is it your birthday? Mine was three days ago. Happy birthday!

Posted by: Texan99 at November 10, 2012 02:18 PM

...it sounds like what he’s saying is, “It’s rare for a woman to get pregnant if she’s truly forcibly raped. So if a woman gets pregnant and says it’s a result of rape, the odds are she wasn’t forcibly raped.”

I didn't read Akin's remark like that at all. I heard, first of all, "rape that actually occurred, as opposed to a cynical and false accusation of rape," followed by "under these circumstances (i.e., an actual rape), pregnancy is rare but it happens." Which I considered to be droolingly ignorant pseudo-medicine. Then I heard, "given pregnancy from rape, the baby's life still should be preserved. It should be the rapist, exclusively, who's punished, not an innocent child."

To argue that we have the better argument but we just didn’t make it clearly enough....

But that's what I'm talking about. We didn't make the argument at all. Nor Romney nor his team went into the neighborhoods and talked to "the folks." They made speeches at their rallies and hoped enough of a cross-section would show up, and hoped that enough of their word would get around. Didn't happen. Some things have to be done directly, and not by remote control.

...to him it’s a balancing act between freedom of speech and morally correct support for gay marriage. What can I possibly say that will persuade him freedom of speech is an enumerated right for a reason?

To begin, we're not going to persuade every one. Our own Revolution was supported by only a rough third of the population. But one argument (not the only one) points out that without free speech, there can be no gay marriage; without insulting speech, there can be no control over government, and so no freedom.

There also are moral arguments to be made. Cassandra has long lamented the lack of moral argument that conservatives (don't) make. She has made some, I've made some in my books and at my blog. But we're just two--more conservatives need to be making these, as well as economic, utilitarian, etc arguments for the conservative value set.

I can't--nor should I try to--predict which arguments should be made in what circumstances--those should come out of discussion with our listeners, not determined a priori and then delivered at our audience. The speechifying should be summaries of already developed and widely spread and clearly taught principles and positions. (And that teaching isn't at all limited to our educational system--even a decent one.)

...the burden of the pregnancy and the horror of gestating a child begotten by a filthy rapist.

I've been weighing, in my own mind as I work through this particular problem, 9 months of the inconvenience of pregnancy against the 80 years of a life that hangs in the balance. The only pregnancies with which I've ever dealt have been my wife's and my daughter's. Good point out, T99.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 10, 2012 05:27 PM

So what are you, Cass, 29?

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 10, 2012 05:28 PM

Happy Birthday, Grim :)

It's not my birthday - I'm a boring Taurus. Today is the Marine Corps Birthday. But happy birthday to you, Tex!

Posted by: Cassandra at November 10, 2012 05:43 PM

Ladies:

Today is the Marine Corps' birthday. I'm not actually sure when Cassandra's might be. :)

Elise:

In a universal sense, I agree with you, Grim. But in the specific case where a politician is the vendor and voters are the customers, that isn’t the case. It’s the politician’s responsibility to present his product in a way that his customers find acceptable.

As you know, I have a real problem with market metaphors outside of the marketplace, and this is an area where I think there is a particular problem with this mode of thinking. The political space is supposed to be where we hash out our serious moral/ethical issues, decide which of them require laws, and then further decide what those laws must be. That means that the ideal politician will have the following qualities:

1) They will be honest,

2) They will be thoughtful,

3) While they will be respectful, they will not hide what they think in order to get elected so as to enact political policies that haven't been vetted by the public.

What you're describing is a system by which we turn politics away from being a form of debate for moral/ethical issues, and toward a kind of marketing. Political figures are either taught not to bring up issues that might upset voters, or else they are selected for not having very strong principles that might commit them to challenging voters' own opinions.

The marketing form of politics gives us things like the 'First Time' video: it's an exercise in branding, with the serious debate that we need entirely absent (a debate needed especially because we as a society now have a very serious division in values). We vote for Obama because he's "cool," and people will like us for being tied up with the Obama brand, because the brand is widely admired and people associated with it are obviously awesome for having spent their capital to secure a tie to that brand.

That's not morally problematic if the brand is Stetson or Harley-Davidson (or whatever brand you may prefer); it's not really meaningful, certainly not in the way we seem to take it to be, but it's not obviously harmful either. Within the market, it's a kind of play: you use things like purchases and brand-association to say something about who you are as a person.

That same mode, unproblematic in the marketplace, is hugely problematic if it becomes our political model. There the issue cannot be whether or not it is cool to cut spending; the issue has to be the disaster awaiting us if we don't. The issue can't be whether we like the brand of 'pro-Medicare' or 'pro-Defense,' but a serious examination of the issues around how to balance those programs.

Posted by: Grim at November 10, 2012 05:49 PM

Elise: I totally agree that Mourdock's statement wasn't even in the same ballpark with Akins', and I probably shouldn't have mentioned him in the same breath. His (comparatively minor) error was that it's bad form to preach God's will to people who are going through something that you can never experience.

While I also see a big distinction between the two men's remarks, it's a lot more than simply preaching God's will to someone who's suffering something you haven't had to go through.

That any particular event is "God's will" is something none of us can know with certainty. Mourdock isn't God and neither is Akin, and last time I checked neither was appointed by God to speak for Him. I don't claim to know God's will and I'll be damned if I want some jackwagon politician interpreting for The Almighty.

God have us free will, and even Christians disagree about how much of an active hand God takes in human events. To tell a woman who has been raped not only that it was "God's Will" (something you CANNOT KNOW - this is an opinion, not fact) is beyond insensitive. It's arrogant beyond belief.

Muslims no doubt believe all sorts of things we would never tolerate are "God's will" - if that is a good argument then we'd better start getting used to Sharia law in America.

The thing is, these folks aren't stopping there. They're citing their opinion of what God's will is as justification for forcing a woman who has been raped to bear a child she never wanted and could not prevent.

There's a moral argument to be made here, but "God's Will" ain't it.

I am quite capable of understanding (and honoring) the grace that might cause a woman to voluntarily decide to bear such a child, but that's quite a different thing from FORCING her to do so. And conservatives who lecture liberals about keeping government out of our lives are going to have to rethink their arguments if they can't see how utterly callous and hypocritical they sound.

The common mistake between Akin and Mourdock is a fatal levity about the burden of the pregnancy and the horror of gestating a child begotten by a filthy rapist. By airily waving away that part of the problem, they almost guarantee that their endorsement of Job-like patience will not connect with half of the intended audience. Who listens to advice about how to bear a burden from someone too dense to understand the nature of the burden in the first place?

Bingo.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 10, 2012 05:58 PM

There's politics, and there's campaigns.

The political space is supposed to be where we hash out our serious moral/ethical issues, decide which of them require laws, and then further decide what those laws must be.

This must needs be an ongoing process, involving all of us, not merely those we choose to be our politicians in our government.

In campaign season, we've thus already hashed much of that out, and we're choosing who will be our politicians, now they're contesting for actual election. The speechifying [during campaign season] should be summaries of already developed and widely spread and clearly taught principles and positions.

At this point, I have no problem with Elise's market metaphor. Metaphors, by their nature, are lossy summaries themselves, used for illustration. They can not be taken in any other sense.

The summary speeches (lossy, as all summaries are) are where our politicians say "This is what I stand for, and this is what I will work to implement in furtherance of those principles." Hopefully, they're telling us the truth about that, but now the onus is on them to sell themselves to us; it's no longer on us to convince them what they must do in order to be hired by us. If we've been doing our own duty as political animals in our society, we'll also be better disposed to recognize the lie from the misconception from the truth. And decide with which summaries we agree sufficiently to vote for this politician vice that one.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 10, 2012 06:06 PM

If Mourdock finds strength in the belief that God wills even misfortunes, that's great for him. Truly, it is. I know that many people find that belief a powerful support during trials and tribulations. And it's just peachy-keen that he was able to use this belief to make his peace with a horrible situation that he will never, ever have to face.

However, I'm an atheist. And there is no way in Hades I'll accept someone lecturing me that I must endure a nightmarish burden in order to conform to the strictures of a faith that I do not share. No way.

That is all.

Posted by: colagirl at November 11, 2012 12:11 AM

That may all be water under the bridge: even if you were right, you're talking about how things used to be in an America that is gone to the grave. We're not getting out of this through persuasion. You might pick up a few seats in 2014, to sit in 2015, but that's very late to do any good. I think the game now is resistance and defiance.

At this point the action moves to the states. If we're going to resist this, the House serves a function; but otherwise, all the initiative is about state resistance to Federal authority. The governors of Virginia and Florida have already announced that they won't implement Obamacare's exchanges. I'll be pressing my state government on the point; perhaps you'll want to as well. If enough states outright defy Federal authority, we can delay implementation and force a reconsideration of the policy.

That isn't a market metaphor. You can't buy your way out of this, and you can't talk your way out of it. If you're going to get out of it at all, you'll have to fight your way out.

Happy Veteran's Day, by the way.

Posted by: Grim at November 11, 2012 12:36 AM

My remarks were directed toward Mr. Hines, not to the piece cross-posted.

Posted by: Grim at November 11, 2012 12:39 AM

No, I don't think I'll be jettisoning all attempts at persuasion in favor of using force against my recalcitrant neighbors. I'm still going to be looking for ways to reach voluntary, bilateral agreements that show my respect for them as independent human beings, which means that the market and not the sword will continue to be my dominant metaphor.

There's no surer way to fail to persuade me than to try to use force. People can constrain me physically with force, not mentally. I will always be free here inside my head.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 11, 2012 08:52 AM

I am a fiscally conservative female. My bible is the Constitution. I voted for Obama in 2008. I came to deeply regret that decision. However, the Republican party somewhat offends me because I am an atheist. When I hear "God's will", it is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I think free contraception ought to be provided, hence the need for abortions declines. I don't like abortions but I think they ought to be provided in a protected and sterile environment. I was appalled at the remarks by Akin & Mourdock. I only voted for Romney because a vote for Gary Johnson who have been wasted here in Florida. I think religion should be removed from politics...I don't care what any candidate thinks about abortion or what his/her religion is. I want to know what they are going to do to reduce the deficit, not start wars based on flimsy speculation...sigh...I guess I should be a Democrat, but I don't want to be.

Posted by: Ellen at November 11, 2012 08:59 AM

Colagirl, I so hear you. "God's will" is an argument that has great power when I am speaking to someone (1) who believes in submission to God in the first place, (2) who is being asked to bear a fate that has already landed on her, and (3) who already believes that the only way to avoid that fate would be to do something she knows to be wrong. Lacking those three shared assumptions, it can only be a useless insult, not a way of making peace with the inevitable.

Which speaks to Cassandra's point about free will. We submit to God's will in the context of things that happen to us, not in the context of things that are under our control. For things that are under our control, there is another kind of submission, which is to something that's more often called God's law, or (if you're not a theist) whatever moral code you live by. In speaking to people who don't believe abortion is wrong, especially under extreme circumstances like rape, there's absolutely no point going on about either God's will or God's law. All they're going to see is a horrible situation that they're free to prevent without doing anything wrong. The only thing stopping them is some power-hungry psycho who is trying to force down their throats a religious scheme that strikes them as primitive and heartless, as if an Aztec priest had materialized to demand that they sacrifice themselves on a bloody altar in order to make the crops grow. Far from electing him to office or even giving him another moment of their time for persuasion, they're more likely to shoot him to prevent his doing more mischief.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 11, 2012 09:10 AM

Sounds like we should take abortion off the table as an issue on which we can persuade those who voted for Obama to listen to our take on things. And I apologize for my part in turning this thread in that direction - the (apparently) most polarizing topic in politics is not the right place to start this discussion.

Posted by: Elise at November 11, 2012 09:10 AM

I disagree -- it's the perfect place to start the discussion, because it is the perfect example of the complete futility of trying to persuade voters to your candidate without troubling to understand the viewpoint the voter is starting from.

We may well conclude that this issue is far too difficult for us to expect results at the voting booth, and it's no doubt true that we'll do better finding common ground on other issues. That will still leave us with the two tasks that the abortion debate makes crystal clear. First, how to get our candidates not to shove their feet in their mouths on the abortion issues. Second, how to take the voters' viewpoints into account on the more fruitful issues that we'd like to move on to.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 11, 2012 10:04 AM

Tex,

By all means continue to persuade people. There's nothing wrong with that; it's just, strategically, there isn't time for it to achieve the effect of stopping Americans from being bound under this law. The only field of action still available is in encouraging (which is still persuasion) our state governments to defiance and resistance of Federal demands.

But they, of course, have a legal right to that defiance. They are not slaves of the Federal government (although, since we can be ordered to use our wealth to buy whatever Congress demands, and to pay to Congress an annual tax on our existence, apparently to some degree we are).

As to this:

e submit to God's will in the context of things that happen to us, not in the context of things that are under our control. For things that are under our control, there is another kind of submission, which is to something that's more often called God's law, or (if you're not a theist) whatever moral code you live by. In speaking to people who don't believe abortion is wrong, especially under extreme circumstances like rape, there's absolutely no point going on about either God's will or God's law.

You've just conflated two things in a way that makes it seem more pointless than it is. You're arguing that "God's law" is the same as "the moral law," except that it holds for nonbelievers under the second name; but that this is also another name for "God's will."

The latter doesn't follow, and it's the problem with an argument from God's will. Will is fiat; there needs be no reason we can understand for it. Law, in the case of the moral law or God's law, is rational, and can be argued for rationally.

Furthermore, the real problem isn't that God's law doesn't have an analog that can work just as well; it's that God's will doesn't. An appeal to God's will to an atheist is an appeal to an authority and a category they don't recognize; of course it won't be persuasive.

However, an appeal to the moral law -- whether or not couched in Christian language -- can be persuasive. There is a very strong moral argument to be made here; in fact, the opposing moral arguments are quite weak.

If the moral law and God's law are the same (Kant apparently thought something like this), then there's nothing lost by appealing to the one instead of the other.

Posted by: Grim at November 11, 2012 11:16 AM

And, by the way, the alternative of 'sticking a foot in their mouths' is just what I was worried about at the beginning: abandoning principle in order to win votes. If there's a moral argument, the political space is exactly the right space for making it. If we walk away from making our moral arguments in that space, we will lose everything that matters over time. A society that compels evil, however prosperous, cannot be a society that we can justify living in.

You won't find that you are 'free in your head' in such a society. The moral law lives in your head too, and it will not leave you free to sit by.

Posted by: Grim at November 11, 2012 11:18 AM

I don't think I'll be jettisoning all attempts at persuasion in favor of using force against my recalcitrant neighbors.

I don't share Grim's view that all is lost, the "good" America has gone to the grave, but he makes a valid point, and one that's actually of a piece with my own: This must needs be an ongoing process, involving all of us.... and At this point the action moves to the states. ... If enough states outright defy Federal authority.... The one is an aspect of the other. We have to broaden the front.

This isn't an invitation to the states to resist at gunpoint; it's an invitation, which some states are now taking up, to refuse to comply. Any violence--via the courts or the gun--will be initiated by the Feds, and it will ruin their argument.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 11, 2012 12:31 PM

The governors of Virginia and Florida have already announced that they won't implement Obamacare's exchanges. I'll be pressing my state government on the point; perhaps you'll want to as well. If enough states outright defy Federal authority, we can delay implementation and force a reconsideration of the policy.

I agree this is a valid and legal option and I like the idea of States refusing to set up Obamacare exchanges in principle. I'm not sure, however, how much good it will do.

As I understand it - and I may be mistaken - if a State does not set up an exchange, the Federal government will make an exchange available to the people of that State. The way the law is written, such a Federally-provided exchange should not be able to offer subsidies while a State-provided one should. I believe one of two things will happen.

People in a State which refuses to set up exchanges will be outraged that people in the next State over are getting health insurance for free or for cheaper while they are not and will insist their State government set up a State exchange so they can get cheaper health insurance too.

Alternatively, the Obama Administration will simply begin providing subsidies to people in the Federally-created exchanges, regardless of what the law says. The more than 50% who voted for Obama will be perfectly happy with this because it is a nice thing to do.

Posted by: Elise at November 11, 2012 01:58 PM

I believe one of two things will happen.

The fight for our nation's soul always has been ugly. Contingencies like this--and others--should be planned for so that they can be countered or preempted. They're not a reason to not continue the fight.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 11, 2012 02:05 PM

I tend to agree with Elise - under the current law, if the states refuse to cooperate the federal government just goes around them and that state's citizens and businesses pay more.

I don't particularly mind them trying but I suspect the practical result is that a lot of folks will lose the policies they already have, have them downgraded, or simply pay a lot more. Public support for noble gestures rarely survives contact with the price tag.

How do states plan for this contingency, Eric? I'm not arguing with you so much as asking. Because I don't see the way out for them, and if I'm missing something I'd really like to know what it is.

I live in Maryland but my employer is incorporated in VA. Our insurance has already gone up 19% just this year in anticipation of the increased costs of Obamacare. I'll be shocked if I still have medical insurance by 2014, but at least we'll all be in the same boat.

You have no idea how much that comforts me :p

Posted by: Cassandra at November 11, 2012 04:59 PM

Elise, I think your second scenario has a 100% chance of occurring. We have established that there will be no penalty worth noticing.

Grim, your response makes it even more clear to me that there is zero percentage in most people attempting to talk to each other about what "God's will" means. I'll just say that, while the phrase can be used to mean "unexpected blessings can come out of horrific trials," it's unlikely to be taken that way unless the horrific trials are happening to the speaker. When the speaker is fat and happy, it will nearly always be heard as something like, "I'd feel bad about your tragic circumstances if I hadn't found a private path to complacency. Also, I won't do anything practical to alleviate your situation, because now I feel OK about it."

Step one in persuading people to bear a terrible burden is at least to acknowledge that it's a terrible burden. If you imply it's not, you're wasting our breath, because they've stopped listening to you. How far would we get persuading voters that a particular war was a just war and crucial to the national welfare if we said, in effect, "Sure, some people may die, but how important is that, really? There probably won't be many, and besides, everyone dies eventually." Those things are literally true, but we'd be nuts to express ourselves that way.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 11, 2012 05:27 PM

I'll be shocked if I still have medical insurance by 2014, but at least we'll all be in the same boat.

In my darker moments, I'm convinced that's the desired outcome for a lot of Leftist policies. Better that 99% of us have the same crummy health care (the rich will always get great health care) than that 90% of us have great health care and 9% of us have mediocre to spotty health care. That's why envy is such a corrosive sin: when I'm envious I don't care what I have; I only care that you don't have anything better. (I really am gloomy today, aren't I?)

And, Eric, I'm not saying we shouldn't fight. I just honestly don't see how to do it. The best I've come up with is for the Republicans to say:

Okay, Democrats, you say you can make everything wonderful but we're in your way. So here's the deal. Even though we control the House and can filibuster anything in the Senate, we'll go along with whatever you want with the following exceptions:

We won't rubber-stamp Supreme Court nominees; you have to pick someone reasonably reasonable.

We won't rubber-stamp international treaties; those have to be reasonably reasonable, too.

We won't give you blanket amnesty for illegal aliens.

We won't give you whatever you want in regard to voter turnout (e.g., voter ID; Civil Rights Act).

Other than that, do what you think best and we'll see where we are in four years.

I know that's not possible - Republicans are not a monolithic block that can be tied to such a stance. And I'm not sure it's wise - who knows how much damage the Democrats could do? And I'm not sure it would work - even with that kind of deal, I'm sure the Democrats would find a way to blame the Republicans when everything went to hell in a handbasket. But a girl can dream, right?

Posted by: Elise at November 11, 2012 06:13 PM

How do states plan for this contingency.... I'm not arguing with you....

Yes, you are. You always argue with me. [g]

One thing that's being missed is that the states that don't comply, even if they have these Federal subsidies for health welfare (it's no longer insurance) will have lower prices generally, compared with those states that meekly comply and provide their own...exchanges. The non-compliant states will be able to divert their funds to better uses--that's where us citizens [sic] of these States come in, to ensure that. Plus, the Federal subsidies for this purpose are illegal under Obamacare, and suits that block them will win. Folks do vote with their feet--look at California and Illinois. The movements will drive down labor costs in the states with those lower costs. This mini-migration will have a small effect, though, at least for the next few years. The obvious differences in costs-of-living will be plain, though.

The big thing is that we--the rest of that "all of us" that I mentioned above--are citizens of our States as well as of the United States. We plan for this by "encouraging" our State governments--that's what elections are for. And we don't comply, also. Here's one civil "disobedience" move that really uses the point of civil disobedience campaigns, and it isn't even really disobedience: as soon as this portion of the law takes effect, cancel all health insurance policies. It'll be readily available--no refusal--at need, anyway. At need, then buy it. And cancel when the illness/injury/whatever is covered and committed to being paid for. Don't buy again until the next need. This will point up the absurdity of the law.

In the meantime, stay in the messaging, and fire politicians at every election that don't straighten up and fly right, and elect those that do. This sounds like pie in the sky, certainly, but this last election showed that politics still are local and that the conservative message still wins at the local level, up through much of the Federal level.

We need, as some of us have pointed out, to make the moral case, as well as the economic and utilitarian case. But as many of us also have pointed out, the morals and the economics are on our side. It's a long, generational struggle, and we'll lose many more battles. We'll win the preponderance of them, though, and we'll reverse the tide.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 11, 2012 06:32 PM

Here’s what I’d like the Republicans to say about the vast majority of issues - including all “value voter” issues:

We think those issues should be settled by the voters at the State level. Period.

If someone asks a candidate for the Presidency or the Senate or the House what his or her position is on abortion, he or she should just say, “See above statement.”

Why should a party that honors the Tenth Amendment have a *national* position on abortion, home ownership, marriage, agriculture, adoption, tort reform, or - for crying out loud - education. Leave those to the States.

Maybe we could start a new party, say the New Federalist party and only take positions on issues we think should be handled by the national government. People could run for State and local offices under the New Federalist umbrella and take whatever position on other issues is appropriate for their State, country, or municipality.

Posted by: Elise at November 11, 2012 06:43 PM

Plus, the Federal subsidies for this purpose are illegal under Obamacare, and suits that block them will win.

It's a long, generational struggle, and we'll lose many more battles. We'll win the preponderance of them, though, and we'll reverse the tide.

I'm not convinced of either of those statements. If Chief Justice Roberts could find a tax in the Obamacare penalty, all bets are off. (I'm not saying he's necessarily wrong - I don't know the legal issues well enough - I'm just saying there's probably a way to find Federal subsidies in there, too.)

As for winning over time, I don't see anything that convinces me of that - and much that makes me fear otherwise.

Posted by: Elise at November 11, 2012 06:46 PM

I'll be shocked if I still have medical insurance by 2014, but at least we'll all be in the same boat.

Of course you'll have medical welfare; it's the law. You just won't need to buy it until you're actually sick or injured. The law says so. The insurance welfare will be available to all at need.

I'm sure the Democrats would find a way to blame the Republicans when everything went to hell in a handbasket.

And The best I've come up with is for the Republicans to say....

They're going to do the one, anyway; they've been doing it for years. Set that aside. The answer to this is to point out that the demonizing is a cover of the fact that the Dems don't have a plan of their own. Repeatedly. Republicans--and conservatives--haven't been very good at this; as Eastwood once said, we're not given to hotdogging. We need to learn. We need to learn to fight on their turf. Just with reasoned argument, not simply shouting louder than they.

Also--stop reacting to them; take the initiative. Make them react to us. Propose concrete solutions, and then pass them in the House, forcing the Senate to do what they did for two years: run and hide. Dem timidity and dishonesty gave us the Senate in the last election; we gave it back because of poor candidate choices not because they had a better message.

Concretely proposed solutions work--Ryan's Medicare solution left the Dems criticising him and his solution; they had no plan of their own--and that tactic and failure took Medicare out of the problem column for the Republicans and gave it the potential for being a Republican plus--which we gave back by ignoring the opportunity.

Immigration is coming up, finally. Rather than rolling over, or responding to Dem "ideas," propose a complete, and Republican, solution. Here's one: tightly secure the borders, make it easy to enter legally, deal with the existing population of illegals. And it's a package deal: no one or two of these will work; it must be all three, together. I've written elsewhere with more concreteness on this; I'll not go over it here. The point is, the Dems have no solution; it's only a cudgel with which they beat Republicans. (Gutierrez' solution, and Rubio's rehash of it, are both woefully inadequate.) Take the cudgel away with a real solution. Pass it in the House, and send it to the Senate--force them to deal or punt.

The House did this with the budget. Keep doing it.

Master technology. That ORCA turned into a disaster at the moment of truth didn't help, but it's no excuse.

You're right, T99, the Republicans can't be the Party of No--and for the last two years, a unified (enough) party wasn't, in the House--they were the Party of Solutions, and forced the Senate to be a Do-Nothing Senate, with nearly 40 jobs-related bills passed out of the House and cynically ignored by the Dems in the Senate. That the NLMSM tried to cover all of this up--it'll continue to do that; deal with it.

And so on with other problem areas.

Master technology. That ORCA turned into a disaster at the moment of truth didn't help, but it's no excuse. Get better. Bypass the NLMSM. Use the NLMSM. Don't limit ourselves, as I've also said before, to the national outlets. Local papers have voices, local radio and TV stations have voices. We need to be involved in this, too, not just our politicians.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 11, 2012 07:01 PM

Elise: At the risk of a shameless plug, read this. I have nearby some other posts on the rest of the Court's opinions, also. And yes, I have a Constitutional lawyer friend who agrees with me on this. Which isn't proof of my rightness, but maybe it lends some credibility. Also, no SCOTUS ruling is final; they're just hard to overturn. And that's as it should be.

As to the rest, we'll only lose if we give up. That's entirely up to us.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 11, 2012 07:08 PM

Here’s what I’d like the Republicans to say about the vast majority of issues - including all “value voter” issues....

Then you say it, first. We all have to say this, first, and make it clear from the jump that those politicians who want to work for us must act on this our way. They need to know what our requirements are before they become our candidates. After they're candidates, even at the primary level, it's too late.

If someone asks a candidate for the Presidency or the Senate or the House what his or her position is on abortion, he or she should just say, “See above statement.”

And the response comes back, "So you don't think the Federal government should protect a woman's freedom to choose? Don't you think our individual liberties are universal; they should vary, instead, with the whims of the states?"

What's your answer? I don't disagree with you, but we need to be several iterations into the argument, not just at the present move.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 11, 2012 07:16 PM

Elise:

Here’s what I’d like the Republicans to say about the vast majority of issues - including all “value voter” issues...

Your proposal sounds just right to me.

Posted by: Grim at November 11, 2012 07:30 PM

And the response comes back, "So you don't think the Federal government should protect a woman's freedom to choose? Don't you think our individual liberties are universal; they should vary, instead, with the whims of the states?"

What's your answer?

The individual rights enumerated in the Constitution are universal and should be the same from State to State. The Supreme Court, in Roe v Wade, decided that the right to an abortion was among the rights enumerated in the Constitution. I disagree but I'm not the slightest bit interested in re-litigating this during the campaign or as [President, Senator, Representative]. If the voters ever decide they want to re-litigate it, there's a process by which they can amend the Constitution but that's up to them, not me.

Next question (or iteration, if you prefer).

Posted by: Elise at November 11, 2012 08:36 PM

At the risk of a shameless plug, read this. I have nearby some other posts on the rest of the Court's opinions, also. And yes, I have a Constitutional lawyer friend who agrees with me on this. Which isn't proof of my rightness, but maybe it lends some credibility.

I read your summary and I find it supports my point more than yours. If Roberts so violated logic and Constitutionality to achieve his "tax" decision what keeps him - or any other swing vote Justice - from doing the same with regard to subsidizing Federally-instituted exchanges?

Posted by: Elise at November 11, 2012 08:41 PM

I wouldn't have formulated the answer in your way in the first place. My original answer would have been, "The question of abortion is a moral one, and the Federal government has no business intruding into an individual's morals. Thus, I will oppose Federal involvement in the matter from either direction."

My answer to the question I posed to your formulation flows from that--morality is not the venue for the Federal government, beyond the morality implied by our existing felony laws and as carried in the Constitution.

The next question then flows from this moral position, and I don't think the average Liberal can make as good a moral argument as can the average Conservative.

As to the Roberts argument, my point here is that wrong rulings by SCOTUS can be reversed, it's just hard to do. But being reversible, I have no fear of them beyond disgruntlement from the intervening inconvenience.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 11, 2012 09:50 PM

But the federal government intrudes into individuals' morals all the time. Almost everything the federal government mandates or prohibits can be formulated as a moral issue. And we're not even talking about a victimless crime.

It's not that it's a moral issue that's the problem. It's that it's a moral issue on which we lack a social consensus. We would have to build a consensus in order to reach an agreement about whether the federal government has a legitimate interest in protecting individual liberty from infringement by the state.

Slavery is a moral issue.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 11, 2012 11:00 PM

And it's a moral issue that we haven't made our own selves very well.

But that was a tactical suggestion that I made. I'll let the Liberals bring up the "everything is a moral matter" argument. Now we're talking morals, and not freebies or handouts, and I have confidence in the conservative position.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 11, 2012 11:07 PM

Good point.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 12, 2012 08:46 AM

I don't think the average Liberal can make as good a moral argument as can the average Conservative.

The average Liberal can't make as good a moral argument as can the average Conservative if he is speaking to Conservatives. If the average Liberal is speaking to non-Conservatives (not just other Liberals) he can make a spectacular moral argument - and has done so consistently for a long time. Fairness, income redistribution, the 99% versus the 1% - those are all moral arguments. So are the Liberal arguments in favor of abortion, welfare, government run/sponsored/controlled health care.

Furthermore, I think you're going to have a tough slog convincing people that it's wrong for the government at the national level to regulate morality but okay for government at the State level to do so.

And I will say again - although I take T99's point on this - that abortion is not the right place to start the discussion of how we persuade people who voted for Obama. (After all, we can't even persuade each other.) If we could persuade people for whom abortion is not a deal-breaker to listen to us on economic issues and on Bill of Rights issues, I'd happily leave the Democrats with all those for whom abortion is the most important issue in the world.

Posted by: Elise at November 12, 2012 09:26 AM

[The Liberal] can make a spectacular moral argument - and has done so consistently for a long time. Fairness, income redistribution, the 99% versus the 1% - those are all moral arguments.

I respond to the Liberal thusly:

What is "fairness?" If the 20% paying 70% of all income taxes isn't fair, what is fair? Give me a hard number. You speak of everyone paying their fair share--how is 50% paying only 0%-3% their fair share?

Income redistribution: where is the morality of capping a man's capacity and taking from him to give to another who didn't produce as much--even in relation to his ability? Do you disagree with that great Progressive T Roosevelt, who said that we should have an "economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him?"

The 99% includes all those evil rich who make more than $250k. Are you really aligning with them?

And so on. Better debaters than me can raise other responses. The spectacularity of the Liberal's argument flows from a lack of response, not from any inherent quality of his argument.

I think you're going to have a tough slog convincing people that it's wrong for the government at the national level to regulate morality but okay for government at the State level to do so.

That's your straw man; you defend it. I made no such argument. I said it was a 10th Amendment matter--by implication, and intent, a State's rights matter. But who are the States? The citizens of those States, not their State governments, which are mere employees. Pushing this down to the State level limits the scope of a group of citizens' choices, preventing your morality or mine from being foisted off onto others.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 12, 2012 12:26 PM

Elise -- I agree with you that arguing with Obama supporters on abortion is not the right place to start. But talking with each other about how we can make such a hash of presenting abortion arguments is a good way for us to learn how to argue better on other subjects.

I sometimes feel that I'd do more good in my life by getting across the following simple moral argument than by any other I could make: that maximizing equality means, in practice, minimizing overall prosperity, and that it's more important to increase the available extra resources so that we can take care of the really helpless, than it is to ensure that no one ever has less than anyone else. Wealth redistribution sounds compassionate but is cruel in practice. We need to persuade people that it's more important to achieve mercy than to indulge in empty feelings of mercifulness.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 12, 2012 12:44 PM

I sometimes feel that I'd do more good in my life ...

That whole paragraph is perfect, T99 - thanks. I'm going to print it out and use it as a cheat sheet. If it wasn't so long, I'd use it as my email signature. :+)

Posted by: Elise at November 13, 2012 11:05 AM

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