Friday, May 8, 2009

Advocacy and Partisanship

A lot of people don't like lawyers, me included (to get in on the joke, realize that I am a lawyer). A lot of people don't like lobbyists, me included. But I feel like they (or we) play an important role in democracy. This isn't a post about lawyers or lobbyists, though, it is a post about advocacy.

As lawyers we are taught to zealously represent the interests of our client. There is no requirement that we actually agree with our clients non-criminal or fraudulent position, we are to advocate for them regardless. This, on the surface, may seem to indicate an ethical compass with no true north. We are also programmed to give nothing unnecessarily to the opposition, instead making them earn every point in painstaking fashion. This, on the surface, may seem to indicate extreme obstinacy and an unwillingness to see the other side of the equation.

What all of this means to me, however, is that every person or business has the absolute right to full representation and that no charges or actions can be brought against them without the accuser having the onus of fully proving their case. This avoids situations where frivolous claims or charges are brought against a person, or where only people or entities with popular opinions have access to legitimate justice.

Politically I think we tend to fall into these same patterns. Most Americans prefer one political party to exclusion of the others. The intelligent ones on both sides don't agree with everything in the party's platform, but that party more or less represents their world view. So what happens, I think, is that in order to feel like an integral part of a group, and in order to justify their beliefs, people will defend their party to the fullest, criticize the other party to the fullest, and overlook the flaws in their own and the virtues in the other.

This is partisanship. And while we have stated many times that it is dangerous to blindly follow any party or ideology, I think partisanship is very, very good for democracy. It allows for full debate of the issues, it allows for minority point of view to be expressed and disseminated, it requires anyone who makes a charge or takes a public policy position to have to prove it to the public because the other side isn't going to just give it to you.

But what it also often requires is for the partisan to take a more extreme view than what she might be exactly comfortable with because democracy is also about negotiation and compromise. Which leads partisans having to take sides, sometimes, with extreme factions of their party in the hopes that the political compromise will be more to their liking, which is often the case. Do I agree with every position that the Sierra Club or Green Peace or the ACLU or gay rights groups take? Of course not. Do conservatives agree with every position that Limbaugh or Hannity or Coulter take? Of course not.

But we play along because if we start from a moderated position and the other side starts from a more extreme position we end up with a compromise skewed against us instead of comfortably in the middle.

The side effect of all of this, of course, is that emotions tend to take over where we intend only rational and reasonable debate. This, again, isn't necessarily a bad thing. We cannot, no matter how hard we try, free ourselves of our emotions. Nor should we, but we shouldn't allow them to take over. I think the best advocates are those that color their reasonable arguments with well-placed emotion.

So this blog will keep going forward with our liberal stances. We'll take positions that will shock some, cause others to roll their eyes, and cause some to throw their hands up in the air and give up. We can certain improve in some areas, like our tone (you may not realize this, but SO and I tend to have sarcastic personalities, which is fun for us, but annoying for others, especially because sarcasm is hard to convey in writing). In doing so it is never our intention to offend or belittle, nor to imply that opposing points of view are stupid or uneducated, nor to unfairly generalize based on group identification. We don't think all conservatives are dumb rednecks and we don't disillusion ourselves that all liberals are educated and tolerant.

We are proud Mormons and proud liberals, though, and we don't see a conflict, and we are going to keep advocating and explaining our positions. And no amount of uneducated conservative thought is going to change that.*

*Did that sarcasm come through? I can honestly never tell. If you could have seen me wink and smile after that last line, you'd have gotten it.


Randall said...

This is off topic because there is no topic of this on which to post. So here it is.


We keep running into this issue where you represent the church’s position about something in a way that seems completely incompatible with almost everything I have heard or read the church say.

As an exercise, I am going to select one of these issues. I am going to list the structure of the position I know the church to have, and I want you to agree with the statement, disagree with the statement, or convince me that that statement is not the view of the church. Please be highly specific on the exact “quote” that causes you to believe that one of the statements is absolutely not the position of the church.

As a lawyer, you can appreciate the structure of this exercise. I would say it is something of a deposition.

Topic Homosexuality

Note: I have read the same material that you have that the church acknowledges that there may be a biological component in the tendency toward the potential of homosexual impulses. That given these are the statements I am challenging you to confront directly.

In each case I am confident that nearly all “liberals” will disagree with the statement and that the church supports the statements. Address them directly point by point.

1. The act of homosexuality is an egregious sin. The Church is very clear that the practice of homosexuality is a sin, a serious one. It is against the law of chastity and a person engaged in such behavior may not enter a temple, go on a mission, or have a position of leadership in the church, because it is sinful, wrong, and immoral. Homosexuality as a practice is wrong, bad, and evil.
2. All homosexual sex will always be a sin because it is outside of the boundaries of marriage; and the church will never recognize homosexual marriage. So by definition, all homosexual sex will always be sinful.
3. Homosexuality cannot be the basis of an eternal union and is inconsistent with the Church’s notion of family.
4. Pervasive homosexuality in a society is evidence of its moral decline and its moral unsustainability. It is, as a point of fact, that it was predatory homosexual behavior that led God to completely destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament. Homosexuality had become so pervasive that the angels from heaven were lusted after from the “gay community” of Sodom and Gomorrah.
5. Normalizing homosexuality destabilizes traditional concepts of gender and family, and a civilization which encourages the normalization of this practice will bring upon itself the wrath of God (that is almost a direct quote from the Proclamation to the World)

Now, I think that you will avoid confronting these 5 statements directly. I think you will give some soft-spoken opinion, mix in a couple quotes you had to search really deep to get from the church, and try to avoid them.

I think you will do that because if you accept the statement, you are operating against the liberals, if you deny the statement, then you are opposing the church in print, and if you say the church doesn’t agree with the statement the burden of proof, as I’m sure your aware of at some level, is not on your side.

So lets see if you accept the challenge. If you avoid it will come back again and again.

Other topics of future “depositions” abortion, the sexual revolution, drugs, euthanasia, eugenics, etc.

Good Luck

Randall said...

More on topic but as extension of my last point.

On the question of partisanship. I concur that this is a question of "world view"

If I went to the Republican National Convention and read " Proclamation to the World" the arena would break out in applause.

if I went to the Democratic National Convention and I read " Proclamation to the World" they would boo and hiss and I storm the stage.

For just a second pause, and consider that, and know the truth of that statement. Because it is true.

Oh yes, it is all about "world view"

If they would boo the boy scouts doing a flag ceremony, they would boo you reading the Proclamation to the World. I don't think you would even be able to finish it.

No culture war? No who has their head in the sand. Again and again they tell us that these are times when men's hears will wax cold, when men shall me lovers of themselves, etc. Every prophet ancient and modern has prophesied about these times.

No culture war? What happened to that war started long before the world began, a war that will build to climax and is building before us? Is that another war we can deny and ignore?

I say not. That war is thrust upon us and we are "enlisted till the conflict is ore"

I'll take my world view

Randall said...


I have bounced around in my response to may of these postings, responding to some, spinning of others into my own diatribe, etc. What ensued was the classical eternal tennis match between the liberal and conservative paradigm. I think that everyone is well versed on the talking points of this debate generally, so I don’t see much point.

Then it occurred to me, the reason I am compelled to respond to this liberal website among so many, is the title “The Mormon Left.” It is the fusion of the liberal ideology with Mormonism that compels me to respond with such urgency. Jacobs’s central hypothesis, of course, is that Mormonism is not just barely compatible with modern liberal ideology, but that the principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compel one towards liberalism.

It is this point to which I will address all further conversations postings on this site, as it is the largest and most important question at hand. I assert, of course, that the principles, policies, and practices of the Mormon Church are utterly incompatible with the ideology of contemporary liberalism. In most aspects, in fact, I assert that these ideas are mutually exclusive. This is not a conservative observation, as I’m sure that most adamant liberals would be surprised to hear the Mormon Church considers itself and its membership, fellow liberals. I think that would as shocking news to ACLU members as it would be to most Latter Day Saints.

As a note: I intent to use the word left, liberal, and liberalism interchangeably. As the author of the site uses the word “liberal” in his subtitle, and describes himself as such, I am confident that this is not an issue. Inversely, I will use the terms the right, conservative, and conservatisvism interchangibly as well.

It’s important to note that this is not a partisan discussion. The author did not call his site “The Mormon Democrat,” in which case we would be examining only the political and legislative questions at hand. The Author used the tern “the left”, which covers a broad range of political, social, and cultural ideas which involve the democratic party in some aspects, but move beyond politics into deeper questions of religion, morality, justice, education, and the deepest aspects of our civilization.

As indicated earlier, I intend to prove, inexorably, that “liberalism” in its current referenced syntax both by its advocates and its detractors, is utterly incompatible with the principles and practices of the LDS church specifically where policy and ideology converge ( i.e. prop 8) and generally in terms of essential philosophy, cosmology, and world view.

To accomplish this we need to address the question in three sections. Each of these sections will be three specific cycles of dialogue. These three statements stand to stabilize my assertion like a three legged stool.

Let it be known that this entire thread of discussion will be preserved and disseminated via email through a broad network of emails communications. Of course, no one knows how far such communications can spread, but I am aware of at least a hundred people who will actively monitoring the discussion on both sides.

The rules of engagement will be to remain civil, non-personal, but to avoid obfuscation of essential questions or diversionary tactics. In the face of such tactics, we will become more…insistent.

These are the three legs of the stool.

1. An examination of the principles, policies, and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as those principles begin to touch and overlap on social, cultural, or even political considerations. We will be using scripture, quotes of general authorities, and writings from Presidents and Apostles. For the purposes of this discussion we will only use published materials from known church authorities, prophets, or other materials approved by the church.
2. As examination of the principles, practices, and philosophies of contemporary “liberalism” This is a more difficult challenge as there is not central authority of liberalism as an organization. To accomplish this, then, we will use declarations of organizations and institutions who are self described “liberal activist” groups, quotes from “liberal” leaders, official press releases from “liberal” organizations, etc. Despite the lack of one central filter, there is astonishing unity of these factions in their sympathy and resonance with each other, which we will demonstrate. An example of these organizations would be the ACLU,, the NEA, New York Times, NAACP, DNC, etc.
3. A contrasting analysis between the principles, practices, and policies of the LDS church and the collective view of these “liberals” on the same questions and issues. In this section we will juxtapose the two ideologies and see if, in fact, there is this unifying resonance between “liberalism” and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as Jacob asserts.

As noted, the three sections will be produced independently. In each case we will post the analysis of each of these primary questions and invite response. Remember, this is not a discussion of the “content” of these ideas per se, the purpose of this entire enterprise is to discover whether there is or is not this unity between the church and “liberalism” that Jacob so vehemently insists exists, and I vehemently insist does not.

I will post each section at the frequency of once per week. At this point, I am going to challenge Jacob to post the text as an actual posting, with a note as to its origin, and not as a simple comment of one of his posts. This is of course, his choice. He must understand the entire content will be, as described, disseminated independently. I will be happy to forward you the mass emails as they go out if I know your email address.

And so, that said, let us examine this fundamental and interesting question which could not be more relevant than now. Despite Jacobs assertion that there is no culture war, President Eyring writes on the first page of the new Ensign,” There has been a war between light and darkness, between good and evil, since before the world was created. The battle still rages, and casualties seen to be increasing.”

With that urgency, let us honestly examine this critical issue. There will be 4 more postings, one for each of the three legs of the stool, and a final conclusion based on an analysis of the information discovered.

Let us begin.


Jacob S. said...

You assume a lot of things about me. You seem to assume that I fear man more than God. That my allegiance lies first with a political party and second with my faith. That I would refuse to call a sin a sin for the sake of politics. You assume incorrectly.

Of course I believe homosexual acts are sins. Of course I know that homosexual relationships cannot be the basis of eternal happiness. For you to assume I am apostate and deny this is absurd.

Does homosexuality destabilize a nation and culture? Yes, inasmuch as all sin does so. Are you suggesting that all sin, according to Mormons, be against the law? Should keeping the Sabbath day holy be the law? The Word of Wisdom? Fornication? Adultery? Tithing? These are all required to achieve eternal life and the lack of practice of them all erodes our culture.

So what vehicle do we use, in a democracy, to promote what we know to be Truth? The political process? My feeling is that this governmental compulsion, which you in other areas find so repulsive, will never lead to righteousness. It is through our good examples and missionary work as members of the church that this will be accomplished.

Finally, the "almost direct quote" from the Proclamation on the Family is anything but. The Proclamation, which my family and I hold sacred and try to follow to the letter, never uses any of the following words of your nearly direct quote: Normalizing, homosexual, destabilizes, traditional, concepts, civilization, encourages, practice, wrath.

What it says is: "We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

Homosexuality, which we both agree is not a choice and therefore not something that we can encourage or discourage, any more than some physical feature, contributes much less to the disintegration of the family than many, many other factors. We should absolutely be striving to protect the family, but we disagree that government and politics is the tool of choice.