Monday, May 4, 2009

Is President Obama a Socialist?

Shaking my head in despair

I can't believe I have to right these words, but: Pres. Obama is not a socialist.

Go ahead and Google Obama + Socialist and you will come up with over 7.3 million hits. This is the duly elected POTUS, and we have to have a discussion about whether or not he is a socialist. The unfounded hysteria, I suppose, is based on the bank bailouts (TARP), the auto-industry bailout, and the stimulus bill.

Am I really writing this?

Socialism is state ownership and control over the means of production and distribution. Socialists, like the Socialist Party USA or the Socialist Party of America, call for nationalization of all or most of: the financial system, the health care system, the transportation system (including the production of cars, airplanes, and ships), factories, media, etc. They call for absolute income inequality and the abolition of classes. All of this to be achieved by militant action, if necessary, which they believe it almost always is.

I'm dreaming, aren't I? This can't be real.

The first piece of evidence that Pres. Obama is not a socialist, and I'd say its the biggie, is that socialists disavow and want nothing to do with Pres. Obama. They don't think he is a socialist. And they are not an especially humble or an easily embarrassed crowd. Nor are they the types to shun the spotlight. They appear to be absolutely giddy with all the new-found publicity they are receiving, but still don't accept the president as one of their own.

Now why is that?

As for TARP, a socialist would have used the financial crisis caused in large part by a lack of personal responsibility and regulation, coupled with immense greed and pride, to completely restructure the financial system and put government in permanent control. This is clearly not the case. The banks came asking to be bailed out, the government did so. The reason was because businesses and banks rely on short-term loans that are borrowed and paid back nearly daily, day in and day out. Because the banks had gambled and lost on the mortgage bubble, they had no money for these short-term loans which businesses need, as in have to have, in order to function. The government stepped in and guaranteed the loans and got credit flowing again.

Hey, that sounds like the capitalism! It is. There are basic regulations and oversight which dictate how the banks can use that bailout money, but there is no complete government control and the whole system is temporary until the economy turns around. Socialists would like to see complete control of the banking system, or something akin to the public utility system. This ain't that.

Every word I have to waste on this subject kills a puppy.

As for the auto bailout, I don't know what to say. They received an infusion of cash, again with them on their knees begging, to avoid catastrophic collapse that would have resulted in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs. It is not just the workers for the Big 3, but the workers of every industry that is supported by the Big 3, such as all the parts manufacturers. The government, again, has no real control of the companies and no permanent control whatsoever. Again, the government propping up capitalism until the economy recovers.

Is this what hell is like?

The stimulus gives the government control of nothing. It was federal money, mostly to states, for things like infrastructure and schools. It was a lot of money, and it is still unclear how effective it will be, but no threat of socialism. In fact, just about every Congressperson, Democrat and Republican alike, put pork in that bill. No one has clean hands on that one.

So what we see so far is that the federal government has just transferred millions of dollars into private hands. They took money from the masses and transferred it to the select few bankers, mostly. Does that sound like socialism? Sounds a little like bizzaro-socialism to me.

Please someone kill me.

That leaves us with health care. In that I want universal health care, which I laid out ad naseum on this site previously, to the degree that I want that certain industry universal-ized, I guess I am a health care socialist. Pres. Obama's plan is not a call for universal health care. It is not complete government control of the health care apparatus. That is what is needed, frankly, but he isn't willing to go that far yet.

So does anyone who wants government control of an industry a socialist? What about the police force? The fire department? Schools? Public transportation? Public utilities? TV and radio airwaves? The military? Does the public control of these industries stifle capitalism? Is anyone that supports government interference in these services a dreaded socialist?

We make decisions all the time that the government is best suited to control certain services and industries. Is health care so different from schooling and public safety?

Merciful, this is almost over.

I will say this again: Pres. Obama is not a socialist. He's not even close.

Suggestions to the contrary are conservative fear-mongering at its worst. Republicans have been out of office for a little over 100 days now and they are already acting like the ruin of America is upon us. They think that Americans are so dumb that they can't even see a socialist Manchurian candidate staring them right in the eyes.

They remind me of a Simpson's episode (Steve M. can help me out on this) where Marge kicks Homer out of the house for some indiscretion. Homer is forced to live in the kids' treehouse. Within less than a day, when he and Marge reconcile, his clothes are in tatters, the beard is full grown and unkempt, and he basically is a hysterical homeless man. He can't live without Marge for even a few hours. Republicans had unchecked power in Washington for such a long time that they are now not able to live without it for even just a few months, let alone years, and have turned to the sensational to help reclaim that power. Americans just are not buying it.

* Know that when I am talking about Republicans, here, I am mostly referring to the Washington and media elite like Boehner, Cantor, Gingrich, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, etc. I understand the average Republican still has his or her head on straight.


Doug said...

Jacob S.
I agree with you that Barack Obama is far from being a socialist. I believe he might more appropriately be referred to as a "corporate oligarchist". "corporate oligarchy" is defined as: "a form of power, governmental or operational, where such power effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals or influential economic entities or devices, such as banks, commercial entities that act in complicity with, or at the whim of the oligarchy, often with little or no regard for constitutionally protected prerogatives" (Wikipedia). I continue to hope that the electorate will be able to influence President Obama to act on his more populist impulses.
Perhaps our focus should turn to adopting more "democratic socialist" policies. In a nutshell, democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. They believe that in order to achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives. Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But they do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, they believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect. These objectives are accomplished gradually, through democratic means, not via militant revolution.

Jacob S. said...

Thanks, Doug. I've actually never heard of Democratic socialists, that is something I'll have to read up on.

Randall said...


Since we have abandonded reasonable discourse for exasperated whining that someone has the audacity to disagree with you, let me hit your rebuttle point by point.

Its pointless to argue over the semantic of whether Obama is a socialist. Each of us has the luxury of defining the term socialist in their own way and hence including or excluding Obama from that list.

Socialism in broad sense represents the following
1. Increased government control of the economy
2. Increased government control of business
3. Increased taxes
4. Increased redistribution of wealth
5. Increased government control and funding of health care and other services
6. etc.

You continue to rant that Obama is not a socialist, and semantically, we have to admit that he has, in his 100 days, socialized the entire country. But in 100 days he has
1. Had government created ownership of major banks
2. Forced banks to borrow money and enhance government ownership
3. Created plans to literally triple government spending
4. Used government to buy and control the auto industry. ( He fired the president of GM which is itself a scarry idea that government can fire a CEO )
5. Planned new tax systems
6. The president wants to create
7. Created new government structures

We can argue semantics, but any reasonable person will have to admit that the nation is more socialistic than it was 100 days ago. And all the plans I hear for the future move the country radically and quickly in that direction. His actions
1. Increase Government
2. Centralize economic power in the government
3. Increase Government control of the private sector
4. Increase Taxes
5. Increase the Role of government in nearly every aspect of the economy: medicine, industry, banking, manufacturing, and this new government created “green industry.”

I am not comforted that the formal “socialist” party unaffiliated with Obama. That is an absurd argument. Just because he is not a “socialist” or member of their party does not make him not a socialist. Just because I am not a member of the NRA does not make me not a gun rights activist.

Once and for all, and I really am not going to repeat myself on this one. Comparisons of politicians to Hitler and Mousillini do not imply that Obama is going to start tossing little girls into ovens. The Holocaust was a component of the Facism but not the defining element of it, and irrelevant to the observation at hand.

A group of people, living under a functioning constitution, allowed a leader to emergem within their system, who, in a time of national crisis, promoted increased government control of the economy, growth of government, nationalization of industries, and increased the influence, scope, scale and power of government in every way. This had an effect of reducing pluralism and creating a sycophantic (look it up) allegiance to a single personality in which a country was seduced into abandoning its freedoms for “change” for “hope”. The comparison is valid, relevant, and completely applicable to this situation.

Hitlers anti-Semitism, and his empirical tendencies are issues unrelated to the comparison and the lessons we must learn about surrendering great power to any leader in a time of “crisis.” Lets not fight over this again.

Randall said...


By the way comrade Doug made my point for me.

"democratic socialism" is still represents collective control over individual property and business. Thanks for proving my point.

If the group controls individual money, property, commerce, and business we have ( drum rol please )


Yea, doesn't it feel good to just say it.

Isn't it fun to be in the little elite group of people who get to decide who needs what and who should get what and who deserves what. Wow its great to be one of those people.

Of course all of this is specifically unamerican and alien to all the founding principles of individual freedom, private property, and free-enterprise that are at the foundation of this country.

If you want to live in Sweeden or France, please for the love of God go. Flights are leaving daily. Lets let Amercia keep being the one place in the world not ruled by the mob.

Randall said...

Sorry I can't let this go

Doug's "economic democracy" is jsut another clever way of describing socialism. If I take everyone's property and businesses in the town away from them, and then have a vote about who gets what, that socialism my friend. The act of voting doesn't change the action of removing property and resources from individuals and corporations, putting them in the hand of the government, and letting the "people" decide who gets what.

Socialism socialism socialim

Thats why these stupid countries always use the word "people" a lot, eve notice that. Its the "peoples" factory, the "peoples" leaders, the "people."

What's lost, of course, is the individual.

Jacob S. said...

Oh, Randy, I was just having a little fun. Everything not italicized was reasonable and rationally laid out. You can't begrudge me a little light-heartedness, can you? I have no problem, as I've stated and acted throughout my undistinguished run as a blogger, with people who "have the audacity to disagree" with me.

Now, as to the proposition that each person can define socialism however she wants, that cannot be. That would make any argument on any issue pointless and absurd. I can't just define the word "murder" to include anyone who has taught law at the University of Chicago and go around calling Obama a murder because, hey, I can define it however I want.

We, as a society, have to decide on a meaning for the word socialist, and we have. It is a political philosophy which encourages the collective/governmental ownership of the means of production and distribution. This is pretty well universally accepted.

It is simply not the case that Obama has started us down that road. Yes, government is bigger. Yes, there were bailouts. But there is not even a hint of collective control of the means of production or distribution.

In a very broad sense I agree that the further you move to the left the closer you are to socialism. But we are talking a few feet to the left where socialism exists fifty miles away. You could just as rationally argue that any movement to the right brings us closer to fascism, but no one is arguing that conservatives are fascists.

I know what sycophantic means and I did find that condescending and offensive. I can use big words too, but I don't flout it.

Finally, I understood that you were not implying, by comparing Obama to Hitler and Mussolini, that Obama was an anti-semetic mass murderer. But what do you think the American people thinks when that comparison is made?

The desired effect of the comparison is create the most negative and astonishing connotation possible. You could have just as easily used Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro, two socialist leaders without the underlying connotation of mass-murders, and gotten your point across.

Jacob S. said...

Two more things, because I really am enjoying this discussion.

First, the *size* of government is not how we measure socialism. It is the *control* the government exercises. Reagan and Bush increased the size of government and government spending just as much, if not more, than any other president. Government debt skyrocketed under Reagan and Bush. But, just like under Obama, the government did not start controlling the means of production and distribution.

Second, the point was not that Obama was not a card-carrying member of a socialist party. The point was that socialists fundamentally disagree with his policies. He is way too far right for socialists. So the NRA/gun activist analogy is not where I was going. If the NRA looked at your opinions and records and then concluded that you were in no way a gun rights activist, you would have a pretty hard time convincing anyone that you were, in fact, a gun rights activist.

Randall said...

One more thing comrade,

Why do all of these debates sound like Kruchef's debates in the United Nations. Is someone really arguing whether individuals and corporations should have power over their own money? Really?

Ok. back to the old morality of the masses stuff. Wow, I thought we were past debate forever. Guess not.

Jacob S. said...

"Is someone really arguing whether individuals and corporations should have power over their own money?"

Somewhere, probably, but not here. What we are arguing is whether or not that is what the president is doing. I'm arguing nay, you, yea.

Andrew said...

I'm willing to bet a very large chunk of money that nobody under the age of 40 even cares about Socialism. Sorry, but that boogeyman only scares the old folks, and if anything associating Obama with Socialism only raises the opinion that people have of Socialism.

I think most of this sort of talk is actually aimed at the Republican base; their in-fighting is leaking out into the general discourse as an incoherent and disconcerted party searches for its soul. Good luck with that, I hope that the more moderate version wins out -- otherwise Jeff Sessions won't be able to hold fundraisers in strip clubs anymore.

Doug said...

Randall wrote: "Of course all of this is specifically unamerican and alien to all the founding principles of individual freedom, private property, and free-enterprise that are at the foundation of this country."

The United States was founded in opposition to a monarchy supported by a landed aristocracy. Our country's Founders wanted to make sure that their radical idea--a country governed by We the People--would never be replaced by a king and a bunch of nobles.

Writing more than two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson argued for a tax on accumulated wealth because he knew that if wealth was passed down from one generation to the next, those lucky inheritors would turn into new aristocrats. You don't hear about the Founders passing on fortunes because most of them didn't believe in doing so. Thomas Jefferson himself died in debt.

Despite Jefferson's warnings about the danger to "the state" of the accumulation of "excessive wealth," such a tax was not actually put into place until 1916. The estate tax was one of many reforms put into place during the Progressive Era, a period from 1898 to 1918 when ordinary people rose up against the robber barons and monopolists who had created an aristocracy of wealth, power, and privilege in this country. President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, advocated for the estate tax in 1906, arguing, "The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government."

Taxes are the means we use to fund our society, which includes the government institutions that make it possible for people to accumulate wealth.

Today, we are dealing with multiple problems created by allowing free market philosophy to set policy in our country. Conservatives have been more than willing to allow corporations to take powers--like controlling our health-care system--that they would never allow to the government. We are long overdue for a correction to this damaging approach to governance. President Obama is presiding over much needed reforms required to correct the excesses of the free market approach and the abuses of its modern Guilded Age. If that is socialism, I am all for it!

Randall said...

Now that you have waxed the moral arbiter in civlilty in your blog. Let me quote you on several quotes of yours.

Quote from your comments

I can't believe I have to right these words, but..
I'm dreaming, aren't I? This can't be real.
Every word I have to waste on this subject kills a puppy.
Is this what hell is like?
Merciful, this is almost over.
Suggestions to the contrary are conservative fear-mongering at its worst.
They think that Americans are so dumb that they can't even see a socialist Manchurian candidate staring them right in the eyes.
They remind me of a Simpson's episode

I think this is a good representation of you basic tone in your main rebuttle. I think my quote was they think "a good dose of kynsian economics and socialism is just what the doctor ordered." I'm not going to assume that you accept certain givens any more, because you don't as often as not. So let me say that I think that it is a fair representation of Obamas and Pelosi's legislative agenda in the first 100 days as "a dose of socialism"

So on your point that we only start "name calling when we have nothing intelligent to say," I suppose that is an indication that none of my analysis, insight, is intelligent but is only name calling.

Perhaps you might review these quotes and ponder which of us is having a more detached and objective approach?

So this is my plan

I am extracting My, Byrons, and your "Is Obama a socialist" essays and I am deleting the names. I am sending them to virtually everyone and I am going to ask the following questions.

Which one is based on more analysis of history?
Which one is most objective?
Which ones are written better?
Which ones are more patronizing?
Which ones are more dismissive?
Which ones are most whiney?
Which ones construct better argument?

As these appeared in that sequence, I will list them as they appeared.

Among the panel I have assembled for this are journalists I used to work with in my freelance career, teachers, professors, business people, lawyers, etc.

I think I will assist your cause by producing a broad dissemination of your views to the local community via email infrastructures that exist regionally. I'm sure that will improve your readership.

I think many people will be especially interested in knowing that w Pelosi and Obamas position on abortion is the same as the church, as is their position on homosexuality the same as the church's, as you stated so eloquently.

I think folks are going to be especially interested in understanding how being mormon compels morally toward the federal welfare system and socialized medicine. Who would have guessed that the words of the Book of Mormon and general authorities are actually arguments for higher taxes and income redistribution. I think the entire community deserves to be enlightened into the understanding that it is the democratic party with its leaders like Pelosi, whose values truly resonate with traditional Christian values and the Mormon cosmology and not neanderthals like Romney or Reagan.

You don't have to thank me, its the least I can do.

Randall said...

I will send you a copy of the email inquiry's and the responses. I'm certain that we will discover that I and Byron are just another redneck unenlightened bible thumping Limbaugh zombie. I'm certain thats what we will discover. Its a hard pill to swallow for us but I guess its time.

Jacob S. said...

Randy, do whatever you want. I'm not sure if you read in the other post but the comment I made about "name calling when we have nothing intelligent to say" was directed, clearly and obviously, to the anonymous person who wrote that I am delusional and added absolutely nothing else. It wasn't directed toward you or your friend Byron.

This is my blog, it is written mainly for other people that share my views. If I want to address the question of Obama and socialism with a little bit of (poorly executed) humor, it doesn't mean I hate you or dismiss you. It means not everything has to be so serious all the time. It means I'm having a little fun. Don't take it personally.

But apparently I've offended you. Not my intention, I apologize. I don't have any idea what your little experiment will prove, but I have no problem with it. I've never claimed to be the most eloquent, the best writer, or the most brilliant political mind. I have no background in journalism or business. I just started this to get a conversation going and present a different point of view than the majority one in our church and community.

I'm sorry this ended so negatively for you.

Jill said...

No no,
Its my fault.

Here some ideas of future essays for me
" How the Church promotes its pro-choice agenda"
" Pelosi, Chrisitan hero"
" Harry Reed, now why can't he be prophet?"
" Homosexual relationships championed by the Proclamation to the World"
"King Noah, 20% taxes and non-progressive. Where is the social justice?"
"Captain Moroni the war monger, why couldn't he just use Diplomacy?"

I'm starting to feel like I am seeing the light after all this time.

Shawn O. said...

"local community via email infrastructures that exist regionally"

Randall, I'm not sure if by the above you mean a list-serve, or just e-mailing your brightest friends. Either way, I'm really curious to see who exactly is included in the "local community."

Are the professors in the humanities, or the sciences? Are the lawyers in criminal defense, or environmental law? Are the journalists sports writers, or political commentators? Are the people on your list democrats or republicans (or neither)? Is there an equal mix of each?

Dissemination of knowledge is a wonderful thing, but I'm not sure why you want to select an arbitrary panel, and have them grade the "essays" of this blog according to some imperious set of criteria.

What will it prove? Are the results repeatable with any group of individuals, or are the parameters of your test the main source of variability?

This blog was designed to elicit constructive criticism and encourage formative debate about Mormonism and Democracy. While it is obvious that all of us are passionate about both subjects, I fail to see how your experiment advances either.

Steve M. said...

Great post.

As for the Simpsons episode, it's "Secrets of a Successful Marriage," the final episode in Season 5.

Here's a great scene from that episode.

Randall said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jacob S. said...

We've stated several times in this blog that we fully and un-apologetically support the Church's position on abortion.

Since this is my site I am removing Randy's post about abortion because of 1) the graphic imagery that I feel has no place here, and 2) the attempt to smear me as pro-abortion despite a simple search that would have showed the contrary.

Shawn O. said...

Randall, your comments are inane and offensive. If your goal in posting such an outlandish "essay" is to provoke animosity and perpetuate ignorance, then you will likely succeed.

Do not EVER assign a set of beliefs or ideology to all members of a group based on the opinions of some extreme members.

I'll be VERY specific so that I am not blamed for "semantic" misinterpretation. 1) All Mormons are not republicans. 2) Republican doesn't not mean moral, nor is the inverse true. 3) Not all liberals support abortion.

Stop thinking in absolutes. It is a dangerous and silly approach.

If you agree to stay on topic, refrain from condescending gibberish, and engage in relevant conversation then your posts are welcome. Here the inverse IS true.

Randall said...

Topic for tomorrow

Democrats wage war against boy scouts.

Democratic delegates boo the Boy Scouts of America
The Washington Times

Valerie Richardson
Published 8/18/00

LOS ANGELES — When Gloria Johnson learned that a group of Eagle Scouts was about to take the stage at the Democratic National Convention, she immediately went into action.

She and other California delegates grabbed poster board and markers and made signs that read, "We Support Gay Boy Scouts." As the uniformed Scouts took part in the opening ceremony, the delegates, seated in the front of the hall, waved their signs — and booed.

Under normal circumstances, jeering at children is the sort of behavior that might get a delegate sanctioned, if not booted from the convention altogether. But anyone who expected the Democratic leadership to scold the Boy Scouts of America bashers is attending the wrong convention.

Support for homosexual rights has become an integral part of the Democratic orthodoxy, as unassailable as the party's pro-choice or civil rights planks. Since the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts can ban homosexual leaders, the Democrats have sided squarely with homosexuals in condemning the decision.

Indeed, Democratic National Committee spokesman Rick Hess was careful to avoid criticizing either the Boy Scouts or the delegates, instead stressing that the party is staunchly committed to homosexual rights.

Most Democrats support the work the Boy Scouts do," said Mr. Hess. "At the same time, we want to see gays and lesbians treated with respect. Democrats across the board support equal rights for gays and lesbians and we want to make sure they're not discriminated against."

The Boy Scouts, meanwhile, were shocked by the negative reception. The Los Angeles Council of Boy Scouts sent a half-dozen Eagle Scouts and an adult leader to the event at the request of Democratic organizers, said council spokesman Joey Robinson.

"I think whatever the national policy is, the kids don't set the policy. When you boo the policy, you're booing the kids," said Mr. Robinson.

Fortunately, he said, the Staples Center was so noisy during the Tuesday night ceremony that none of the boys heard the booing, although the adult leader did.

Delegates who participated in protesting the Boy Scouts yesterday said they had nothing against the boys, but wanted to send a message to the Democratic Party for inviting the Scouts.

"Of course, we're not against the kids — it isn't about them," said California delegate Craig Christensen. "But there were groups that could have been picked that haven't been so blatantly discriminatory. . . . It was a thoughtless thing to do."

Alex Mallonee, a California delegate who didn't participate in the demonstration, said he sympathized with the homosexual delegates.

"I think it was odd that they had the Boy Scouts up there, given the situation," he said. "It was pretty insensitive."

This year's convention has almost twice as many homosexual delegates as the 1996 gathering, thanks to recruiting efforts by the national party. Mr. Christensen said there are 212 openly homosexual delegates at this year's convention, up from 125 four years ago.

Delegates give credit to the DNC, which instructed state parties to work on making their delegations reflect their states' minority composition. For many states, that meant setting "targets," which are different from quotas, Democrats insisted.

When states submit their delegation plans, the DNC asks them to have their delegations look as much like their voters as possible," said Mr. Hess. "This is wholly different from quotas — this is Colin Powell-type recruitment."

In California, that meant setting "targets" of 5 percent homosexual men and 5 percent homosexual women. The California delegation ended up with 34 openly homosexual delegates, the largest concentration of any state.

Delegate Jeri Dilno said the state party would have appointed homosexual delegates if the caucuses fell short of those goals. "A friend of mine was appointed that way the last time [in 1996]," she said.

The Georgia delegation also set a goal of 5 percent and met it by electing five openly homosexual delegates out of 105, said delegate Annette Hatton.

Wisconsin delegate Jane Fee, 73, who was born a man but has been taking female hormones and dressing like a woman for the past dozen years, said he "came as part of the female quota." But since he never had a sex-change operation, he acknowledged he fulfills the Democratic sex quotas all by himself.

"Actually, the diversity that we show in the Democratic Party, whether it's by quota or not, indicates that we really are interested in having all of America represented by the party," said Mr. Fee, a father and grandfather who used to be known as James.

As for the Boy Scouts, Miss Hatton added that she never heard any booing during the ceremony, although other delegates and news accounts reported booing.

Michael Perez, chairman of the National Stonewall Democratic Federation, called the protesters "very supportive of the kids."

"We're 100 percent behind the kids," said Mr. Perez. "We don't agree with what their establishment came up with. There are gay Boy Scouts out there, and we want them to know we support them."

Rep. Jennifer Dunn, Washington Republican, didn't see it that way. "The Boy Scouts are revered by most people," she said. "It's the kind of thing that reflects badly on the Democratic Party."

• Bill Sammon contributed to this report.

Randall said...


There really isn't a mechanism to post comments unrelated to a specific article so I am going to use this one.

Obviously you are used to dealing with people less thick skinned than me. I'm not offended and I don't dislike you in any way. I will, however, follow your lead in terms of tone on your blog.

I'm going to ask you to consider a couple of things thoughtfully and not immediatly react and consider these thoughts.

Liberals often have this general notion that they believe that conservative or traditional thinking is a result of a lack of exposure or awareness to alternative views. This is not baseless as many conservatives ( the NASCAR vote I call them ) are quite honestly not highly introspective and are just going with what they know. Each of our parties has its equivelant group. We accept them because we are more or less sympathetic with their general view even though we know that they are not reflective, evolving, or dynamic.

There is a group of people, and now you have met at least one, who are conservatives because after exposing themselves to a wide variety of ideas, and careful consideration of their own moral position, and reflecting on the causality of history, conclude that their views are conservative and traditional. Not traditional because thats what they know, but traditional by choice, by intent, and after thoughtful enlightenment.

Again, each of our camps has this group as well, thoughful, intelligent, articulate, introspective, and evolving.

When liberals write in a tone that presumes that all conservatives are intransigent stubborn unenlightened monolithic robots, we find that tone patronizing and dismissive, and quite frankly, elitist. At that point we become more, shall we say, confrontive.

Almost all our disagreements are questions of semantics and our interpretation of history. If you would like to continue the discussion, I think I would like take some time and agree to the definition of certain key political and cultural definitions so that we are not arguing about syntax over and over.

Each of our camps has spokesmen who advocate our positions in ways which are a fusion of information and entertainment. An example of your camp would be the Sara Palin skits on Saturday Night Live, and examples of my camp are some of the conservative radio and TV personalities you list. Your generalization of all of them as a group of dangerous morons is simplistic and dismissive of the essential content of their message. Even if you don't appreciate the styling of their presentation, ( I didn't like the Palin skits at all ) there is content in the message that resonates to conservatives of all types, even the enlightened ones. I am not a Limbaugh fan, I find Hannity to be a bit populist, but I love the sharp biting wit of Ann Coulter, who although you would disagree with most of what she says, you should admit that she is intelligent and quick on her feet.

There are also less dramatic intellectuals in both camps who write thoughtfully.

I think I can simplify two essential concerns that conservatives have about their country.

The first is that conservatives are very fearful of a continuously growing and expanding federal power. They have seen how centralized power has been used historically to supress individual enterprise and opportunity and get increasingly nervous when federal ambition seems to be expanding dramtaically. This is a reaonable fear given the history of the twentieth century. For this reason conservatives are more comfortable with state governments, because the power is less centralized, and with civic governments. ( This debate of course is as old as the country itself in the constant struggle between Jefferson and Hamilton )

The second concern conservatives have is the seeming collapse of the Judeo-Christian moral structure which we see as the underlying foundation of our civilization. Since the cultural revolution of the 1960's, conservatives have been resisting the growing influence of the sexual revolution, the weaking of the institution of marriage, the drug culture, the normalization of homosexuality, and the collapse of the family as the central ordering structure of our society.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the foundation of our moral civilization was challenged with forces that wanted to replace the role of religion with secular humanism. The intellectual origins of this movement is an interesting topic too lengthy for this discussion. After WW2, these forces began to influence certain institutions in American society disproportiatly, these being education ( lower and higher ) journalism, television, and the arts. Liberals began to realize that their capacity to dominate social dialogue was a tool to the propogation of their values and ideals.

Frustrated with this, conservatives have responded with alternative media sources such as radio, the internet, books, and most recently, Fox News.

This has created a polorization of our society that is unprecedented since the civil war. We refer to this as the "culture war" a struggle over whether traditional American culture will be reformatted by the progressive human secular ideology which has grown over the last century.

Each side of this war has highjacked one of the the political parties as the political muscle for its cause.

I think it is certainly a reasonable observation to say that the DNC has become and aly to activitsit forces in the culture war such as the abortion rights people, the homosexuals, the militant racial social justice groups, etc. Just as the Republican party has become a political tool for traditional Christians, business advocacy groups, the NRA, etc.

It is in this culture war where a potential overlap with religious values occurs. It is difficult for LDS Republicans to see how and LDS could affiliate themselves with a political organization so beholden to forces that we see as operating specifically against the moral standards of the church and the essential cosmology of our faith.

Our inability to understand that leads us to be highly suspicious of democrats because of the parties seeming alliance with groups we see as advocates for moral anarchy and the moral decay of our cililization. This is a recent phenomenon since Mormons tended to be Republicans until the 1960's when the DNC became more influenced by these progressive forces.

There are certainly other issues, but these are the two primary ones. Honestly,I admire your tenacity to hang in there with your political philosophy. I think I would like to see you acknowlege that there are these factions within your party who yield a great deal of influence and which are at odds with tradiitonal Amerian Values. There are certainly elements inside my party that I am uncomfortable with sometimes. But by in large, I find a remarkable resonance between my faith and my politics. I hope you find the same as well.

I emjoy our conversations, but I would ask you to reconsider a tone that suggests that conservative ideas are just too tiresome and ridiculous for thoughtful consideration. I promise, if you do, I will open myself up to the question that there may be room for some moderation on issues I have seen perhaps too monolithicly.

In either case, let us acknowlege that the other is an intelligent, well informed peronal of great character and considerable insight. And, most of all, a brother in Christ. With that spirit, let us proceed.



Andrew said...

'It is in this culture war where a potential overlap with religious values occurs. It is difficult for LDS Republicans to see how and LDS could affiliate themselves with a political organization so beholden to forces that we see as operating specifically against the moral standards of the church and the essential cosmology of our faith.

Our inability to understand that leads us to be highly suspicious of democrats because of the parties seeming alliance with groups we see as advocates for moral anarchy and the moral decay of our cililization. This is a recent phenomenon since Mormons tended to be Republicans until the 1960's when the DNC became more influenced by these progressive forces.'

Personally speaking, this is where I lose the plot. I guess I don't perceive any sort of "culture war" going on, in the sense that I don't see a huge "Clash of the Civilizations" sort of thing between Good and Evil (conservative and liberal in the universe you describe). In fact I think the real forces of evil in the universe would like us to view the world this way, it's much easier to eat the sheep when the wolf is dressed like them.

The people who sell the notion of the "culture war" are doing exactly that -- selling. They're all people who stand to make a profit off this stuff (Limbaugh, Coulter, the Wash. Times, Fox news, and so on). And they're fabulous at it. People have bought into this notion so deeply that in certain crowds the thought of a "liberal" as President is cause for secession. Much of the Conservative movement looks like a multi-level marketing scheme, even the campaign apparatus is shockingly similar (direct mail, robo calls, etc). The best way to get rich off of a 10 step program for getting rich is to sell 10 step programs, and that's what Republicans seem to do.

Sex sells, and sometimes even moreso if you're short-selling it. A guy can get married 8 times, or walk out on his quadriplegic to marry a pretty rich girl and still have a fighting chance at being a Republican Presidential nominee. A recent study found that for one particular porn site, Utah ranked number 1 in subscriptions. I think the real culture war is going on inside the soul; what we see in the world outside is merely a reflection of that struggle.

So, IMHO, there is no "culture war" worth speaking about. There are changes happening as society evolves, and these changes have both positive and negative effects. As people invent things and find ways to be more powerful, those things will be used for good or ill. The real question is how you choose to live, how you exercise your stewardship over these things. What your neighbor does with them is his or her problem.

A final thought -- what to make, for instance, of that venerable institution known as the ACLU? On the one hand they're party to a suit concerning free speech in downtown Salt Lake City. On the other they're defending a returned LDS missionary in a lawsuit concerning the revoking of a scholarship because he served a misssion. Is the ACLU an "evil" influence or a "good" one? This isn't the only example, and as a card-carrying member of said organization I can attest that, for the most part, they act in good faith.

The world is not black and white.

Jacob S. said...

Both sides of the equation have wedge issues, and I think most of the culture war is a wedge issue. (Wedge issue, in my mind, meaning an emotional issue with little real impact on people's daily lives.)

Same-sex marriage, for instance, just doesn't get me worked up. I understand the church has come out against it, but it also said (and this is documented in the blog) that it wouldn't not oppose civil unions and that anyone that disagreed with its stance was within his rights to do so and in no threat of any disciplinary action. So an extreme minority of gay Americans are soon able to get married? That doesn't effect me at all. Sexual orientation is not a choice, even the church admits that, so how is there a threat of this ruining America or my religion? And why are we not more concerned with real threats to the family, such as pornography, abuse, divorce, etc.?

Abortion I've made myself clear on.

I don't know a single democrat that advocates legalization or normalization of drugs (outside of the pot-promoters, but that is an interesting debate for another time). We do tend to support more treatment and less jail time for non-violent offenders, which I believe is a more moral stance, anyway.

While I believe that these issues are important, I really believe they small in comparison to other issues such war, health care, poverty, and (my pet issue which I understand others scoff at the importance I put on it) the environment.

Two more things. First, the evidence is that Mormons have become even more Republican over the years. From 1917 to 1985, six of the nine governors (totally 44 out of 66 years) were Democrats. There used to be many more Democratic senators and representatives, as well. But I believe that the Republican party of the late 70's and 80's was so effective at pushing wedge moral issues such as abortion and gays, as opposed to Democrats who were so inept at pushing moral issues such as poverty and health care, that Mormons slid decidedly right. I know Mormons always have had a conservative lean, but I think it really accentuated in that era.

This is one of the reasons that I feel confident that the Democratic party will start picking up more politically moderate and liberal members of the church. One is normalization (regression to the mean) and another is a Democratic party much more adept at talking morals.

Finally, I have a post coming up on the issues of civility, respect, and partisanship that you mentioned, wherein we agree that they are important.

Jacob S. said...

P.S. Andrew, email us at the new blog email at the top of the home page, if you'd like, as I have a question for you.