Thursday, June 09, 2005

Truth, Religion and Pluralism

With all this talk about democracy and pluralism, it's necessary to say a few words about religion, especially Christianity, and the truth claims it makes, as well as the pluralism (or relativism, take your pick) that it has taken to so often denouncing.

Christians tend to sling around the word "truth" rather haphazardly, as if there was one truth that everybody was obligated to uphold or that Christian truth has only one dimension.

In actuality, Christian truth really exists in two dimensions. The first dimension of truth is what I would call "inner truth". This inner truth is truth in the sense that the verses and books of the Bible agree with one another and that the Bible's many passages can be linked into a form of consistent doctrine.

For example, the ten commandments stipulate that the seventh day of the week is to be the holy day, the day in which all work ceases and humanity is to worship god. The seventh day of the week is, according to our calendars, saturday. Yet most Christians do not worship on this day. They worship on sunday. There are a variety of explanations for this change from the biblical statute. The most common is that because christ arose on sunday, the church changed the holy day to sunday. Other than a few new testament references to the christian church breaking bread together on that day, there is very little in the way substantion for this new claim, but because worship on sunday soon gained the blessing of the state and the church during the Roman era, sunday has continued to be the day that most christians honor by going to church.

So what is the biblical truth here? Well, needless to say, there is not a universal consensus in the christian world about what the truth is on this matter, or even to what degree any day should be honored and if so, how. In any event, this is one example of "truth" in the bible and in church. And again, needless to say, issues like these continue to be of considerable debate and because many christians have not come to a consensus on them, various denominations and creeds based on the bible have proliferated.

The second dimension of religious truth is what I would call "universal truth". Universal truth is that truth that is held to apply to matters beyond the church walls and be applicable for all communities, all societies, everywhere in time. Now, while this is a common assumption among christians, or at least those christians that appear on TV, it is seldomly challenged openly. However, universal truth as it is based on the bible is extremely difficult to verify. In fact, I don't know of any portion or teaching of the bible that is verifiable, except that of bible prophesy. And the proof claims of bible prophesy are themselves matters of dispute within the christian world (see Daniel 7-9; Mark 13; Matthew 24). All of this makes christian attempts to regulate society on the basis of biblical truth or at least the truth expounded by their church or creed highly suspect.

So christian calls for absolutism, demands to adhere to their "truth", and attempts to coerce others into following their own beliefs and behavior should be openly challenged and opposed.

So if truth isn't verifiable from the bible, than what is truth, and how can it be used to establish norms and procedures for society?

Fortunately for the pluralist, this impreciseness regarding any universal "truth" is recognized as the problem that it is, and because of that, allowance is made for the development of society and the interest to accommodate different points of view and rights of others that have been the hallmark of the modern era. For many christians, this view is intolerable, a condition that is made the worse by the chorus of words heard from the pulpit urging its followers to reject the changing conditions of society on the basis of biblical "truth", although most members in the pews are not often admonished to search the bible for the truth themselves and are urged only to conform to those "truths" that their church or pastor has deemed meaningful.

Bulworth Interviews Mr. Subliminal

Bulworth: Thank you, Mr. Subliminal, for joining us today.

Mr. Subliminal: My pleasure (republican leaders have never earned an honest living).

Bulworth: Now, I want to turn to the comments of Democratic chairman, Howard Dean.

Mr. S: All right (Republican Party is exclusive).

Bulworth: I think you would agree with me that Dean was way out of line when he criticized the Republican Party the other day.

Mr. S: Well, as you know, Dean does not speak for the party (Republicans are for the rich, white Christian men)

Bulworth: Do you think Dean was right when he called Republicans "weenie dogs"?

Mr. S: Dean's doing a great job but I sometimes wish he would take on targets other than the Republicans (Republicans purple heart bandaids)

Bulworth: Do you think Dean should apologize to the Republicans in Congress whose feelings he might have hurt?

Mr. S: I would hope that he would clarify his remarks to say that he really loves Republicans (Janice Rogers Brown Social Security Democracy=slavery)

Bulworth: Will Dean be asked to resign?

Mr. S: Dean's doing a great job but he will have to learn to speak more nicely (Downing Street Memo)

Bulworth: Do you like Republicans?

Mr. S: Some of my best friends are Republicans (Justice Sunday)

Bulworth: Do you think Republicans are hard working?

Mr. S: I'm sure they're good Americans (Are we going to war with Iran?)

Bulworth: Don't you think Dean was wrong to malign white Christian men?

Mr. S: Democrats embrace all types of people (Guatanemo Bay torture)

Bulworth: After all, Republican leaders have never said anything bad about Democrats.

Mr. S: We are all Republicans, We are all Democrats (Democrats enemy normal americans)

Bulworth: What do you think will happen in the Michael Jackson trial?

Mr. S: I trust the jury will make the right decision (record budget deficit)

Bulworth: What do you think happened in Aruba to that young, good looking white girl from Alabama?

Mr. S: I sure hope she's found alive and if not that the perpetrators are brought to justice
(Tom DeLay Mariana Islands sweatshops)

Bulworth: Once again, thank you, Mr. Subliminal, for joining us today.

Mr. S: My pleasure (ann coulter).

Democracy as Pluralism

John McGowan, the blogger at Public Intelligence, but who is also guest blogging over at Michael Berube's perch, weighs in on the Republican assault on democracy:

Because liberalism aims to insure peace and prevent tyranny in pluralistic societies, it often works to establish zones of mutual indifference. Liberalism strives to place lots of individual actions outside the pale of politics, beyond interference from the state or other powers. And, culturally, it strives to promote tolerance, where tolerance is, at a minimum, indifference to the choices and actions of others and, at best, a recognition that diversity yields some social benefits.


Except for what are generally weak claims for the benefits of diversity (weak not in the sense of being unconvincing, but weak in the sense that no very major social benefit is claimed and some costs are acknowledged), the liberal argument for non-political interference, for privacy and individual autonomy, is primarily negative. Conflict is the result of trying to tell people what to believe and what to do, so we are better off cultivating a talent for resisting our inclinations to insist that others see the world and run their lives the way I do.

But liberalism also provides a positive response to pluralism. It guarantees, through freedoms of speech, the press, and association, and through the institutional mechanisms of election, jury trials, and legislative deliberations, the active engagement of citizens with one another. Liberals should, I believe, promote in every way possible the existence of a vibrant, accessible, and uncensored public sphere (or, to use another term for it, civil society). In short, liberalism proliferates the occasions where citizens of different opinions, backgrounds, creeds etc. mingle with one another, express their views, and argue about specific issues. And, in some but not all cases, these settings have to move to a decision that is then accepted, even when not very satisfying, by all the parties involved.

The key point here is that democratic procedures of decision-making, which guarantee to all interested parties their chance to say their piece (their chance to sway others by argument) and use the vote and majority rule to adjudicate differences, is a vital liberal expedient for keeping the peace. That's because democracy, amazingly enough, has proven an astoundingly effective way to get people to accept peacefully the fact that they have ended up on the losing side of a political debate that was resolved by a vote.


The larger point, however, is the decline of the commons... So I am definitely talking about a perennial problem in all liberal democracies. Liberalism is always kicking against the pricks, is always struggling against powers' desire to exclude, to consolidate, to have it all its way. Establishing and maintaining a vital public sphere is never easy.

First off, I want to paraphrase John's essay and say that what John is suggesting here is that the essential dilemma in American politics is between those who favor and want to continue the process of pluralism (liberals, progressives) and those who do not (conservatives). Obviously I agree with this viewpoint and think much of our current debates either avoid this conflict, or otherwise tilt to the wrong side of it (in the case of Faux News, Ann Coulter, etc, it's not a matter of tilting--it's an all-out assault on the assumption and value of pluralism).

I also want to highlight what otherwise might be marginalized in his essay by suggesting that, as John says, "Liberalism is always kicking against the pricks." In other words, liberals are tempted to think that there was once a golden age of liberalism that conservatives have gradually and subtedly taken away. I think this perception is false, in that the American story has always been one of trying to push the boundaries of prejudice and power to including more people (whether they be of another race as in past struggles, or whether they be of different religious preferences and sexual norms, as is the primary struggle today). But I don't think it's accurate to believe that the current conservative juggernaught is in some way a change from a more liberal, Democratic era. I don't believe it is.

Probably best to recognize, as Bilmon does in his post from the other day, that liberals are for the most part going against the grain of conformity and authoritarianism in their support of minority rights and interests.

Finally, it's again worth noting that for conservatives, the "problem" is "personal responsibility" or the supposed lack thereof, meaning that government and society's role is a punitive one, designed to make people "behave" and conform to nationalistic or imagined majority norms.

For liberals, the problem is how to minimize the abuses of power, particularly as it concerns the rights and aspirations of society's "irregulars".

Needless to say, this has always been, and will undoubtedly continue to be, a struggle of monumental proportions, and a struggle in which there will likely be more losses than wins. Over time, however, liberalism hopes to advance the causes of the traditionally disenfranchised, establish the grounds for a productive and safe pluralistic society and to expand the room and tenor of the commons.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Go Read Bilmon's Whiskey Bar

He has a great post here on the Democratic Party's past, present and future fortunes. And I think he gets it mostly right, although I'm probably not as pessimistic about the Party's presidential prospects and don't find as much reason for defeatism in last year's presidential election as he and others do for reasons I've discussed previously.

Nonetheless, I think he has the bigger picture about right.

However, the question I find myself returning to is, to the extent we believe that Democratic Party fortunes have been adversely affected by a cultural "backlash" (Thomas Franks' term), why has there been and why does there continue to be this backlash? In other words, what is causing this backlash and why has it proven to be as significant as it has, at least in some areas of the country if election results are any guide and exit poll surveys are to believed?

More specifically, why, in an age of modernity, increasing urbanization and globalization, and comparative prosperity, has the language and politics of reactionism (nationalism, religious fundamentalism, among other isms) proven to be as robust as it has?

Undoubtedly there's no one single, simple answer to such an inquiry.

But because I think it's important, and because I have roots in it I think I can talk about it with at least some awareness of its complexity, I'll try to dissect the role played by religious fundamentalism.

The first comment I'd like to make about the subject is that religious fundamentalism as a reactionary and driving political force in America is certainly not anything new. It's influence has ebbed and flowed as society has changed and various national developments have affected it. So I don't think its re-emergence in the past three decades--especially in the last 10 years or so--represents some fantastically unique or original dimension of American political life.

The second comment I'd like to make is one that will sound rather counter-intuitive, but it is this:

Today's religious fundamentalism is not being driven primarily, or perhaps not even remotely, by, considerations of Bible teaching. For all intent and purposes, today's weekly church goer that reports voting for Bush is functionally biblically illiterate.

Today's religiousity seems to be comprised of an ever increasingly conservative Catholic church, and the emergence of the so-called "mega-church" phenomenon within Protestant evangelicalism.

Of the first, Roman Catholicism pays little regard for the Bible, but bases most of its authority on tradition.

Of the second, there seem to be two types: those that are overtly political; and those that are not. Both are "conservative", although the latter is conservative only in the small "c" sense of the word.

The overtly political strands are best represented by D. James Kennedy, the pastor of the Fort Lauderdale based Coral Ridge Ministries, and Rod Parsley, the pastor of the Columbus, OH World Harvest church. Both have shows on cable television, although Kennedy can also be seen on regular TV. Both shows are almost exclusively devoted to political issues, namely those of abortion, gays, school prayer, in particular, and that of a Christian Nation concept in general. If there TV shows are any indication, their "ministries" are almost wholely devoid of any meaningful Biblical instruction or commitment.

The second, less politically driven type is represented by Joel Osteen's Houston based Lakewood church, and Rick Warren's (The Purpose Driven Life) Saddleback church in Lake Forest, (southern) California. While neither are politically centered, both ministries represent the Christian church's attempt to reach a new, more modern society. Both use religion as a means of enhancing the lives of their parishioners. Some label them as "self help" religions, and in the case of Osteen, a type of "prosperity gospel". But neither are known as seriously doctrinaire leaders. Of the two, Warren is the more Biblically attentive, but neither is concerned with the task of interpreting and applying the full range of Bible narratives and instructions.

So for both the overtly political, as well as the more open groups, the Bible itself plays a rather small role, used only sparingly as the circumstances demand. Although I didn't include him here, The Houston based T.D. Jakes fits in generally with the more "open", self help type of religion, but again as with the others, his focus is not biblical interpretation.

Now, granted, there are some religious professionals on the circuit who are on TV and who are more biblically focused, such as Charles Stanley, and to a lesser extent, John Haggi. But in terms of where the mass movement in religion seems to be, it is of a less rigorously Biblically applied variety.

All of this is to suggest that the emerging new religious institutions should not be thought of as monolithic or as necessarily representing a divide between modernist and fundamentalist. I believe its more nuanced that that. Obviously, the less political of the mega church movements represent the least dangerous facets of religion and represent the most likely partners in any new Democratic faith venture that is more secular than patriarchical.

Under Their Skin

From the Poor Man:

a lot of techniques have been tried to make Republicans care that they, and their party, are supporting torture. Reporting facts has been tried, unsuccessfully. Releasing graphic photographs was also tried, to no avail. Asking nicely didnt work, begging didnt work, and guilt-tripping didnt work either.

But there was one thing that hadnt been tried yet, not really, not until Amnesty tried it the other day:

name calling.

Childish? Can be. But effective. Report, photograph, explain, analyze, moralize, all useless. But it the post-modern world of the modern right wing, where objective facts are socially constructs and the endlessly mutable text is all that really is, there is still one thing that has the power to inspire a reaction: words. Pick your word carefully, like, say, the word gulag, and watch the fun begin:

And from Arthur Silber

I see that Drudge has now launched what promises to be a full scale war against Howard Dean, making Dean into the devil incarnate. Im sure it will be all over the right blogosphere within hours, if it isnt already. Take the major warning: if you dare to tell the truth in unflinching, unapologetic terms, the rightwing propaganda machine, aided by our craven, servile media, will destroy you.

The offending language is the following:

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, unapologetic in the face of recent criticism that he has been too tough on his political opposition, said in San Francisco this week that Republicans are a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. Its pretty much a white Christian party.

The Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people, Dean said Monday, responding to a question about diversity during a forum with minority leaders and journalists. Were more welcoming to different folks, because thats the type of people we are. But thats not enough. We do have to deliver on things: jobs and housing and business opportunities.

I also noted this passage later in the story:

Dean, speaking in a roundtable discussion Monday, downplayed the controversy over his rhetoric.

This is one of those flaps that comes up once in awhile when I get tough, Dean said. We have to be rough on the Republicans. Republicans dont represent ordinary Americans and they dont have any understanding of what it is to go out and try and make ends meet.

Dean said that he had been addressing the matter of Americans standing in long lines to vote.
What I said was the Republican leadership didnt seem to care much about working people, he said. Thats essentially the gist of the quote.

I detect a pattern here. The conservative empire doesn't much care about facts or pictures or problems, but name calling just drives it batty. More of this, please.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Republicans Announce Vision for America

This is just the beginning.

What you wear.

What you read.

What you say.

What You Should Know

Guess who's beating breasts about unnamed sources?

By Matt Taibbi

Give the American media a story about American interrogators defacing the Quran, and journalists are so appalled there's no time for fact checking before they dash off to see the latest exhibition of Piss Christ.
—Ann Coulter, on the Newsweek scandal

Ann Coulter has taken up the cause of journalistic ethics. Last week she joined 100 million other Americans in courageously denouncing Newsweek magazine, which has now entered the pantheon of entrenched, all-powerful anti-American conspirators. It joins, among others, Bill Clinton, the ACLU and Piss Christ creator Andres Serrano.

In the safe haven of its secret underground lair, this apparently tireless bund of traitors concocted a brilliant scheme to screw up the attribution on a story about the Quran being flushed down toilets in Guantanamo Bay. They might have succeeded, had not Ann Coulter and a few other brave souls stepped in to defend the besieged minority of true patriots.

It was humorous to see how quickly Newsweek lost its cachet with Middle America. So long as it went about its usual revolting Neanderthal literary mission—wrapping 4000 words of inane speculations about the historical Jesus around breathless updates on the value of Martha Stewart stock (Pie Chart, p. 37!), and startling new insights about "the real George Washington"—no one had any problem with Newsweek.

An ethical magazine is one that uses up its news pages asking questions like Can smiling prevent cancer? and makes sure at least twice each calendar year to do a "What the fuck is wrong with our ungrateful, disobedient children?" story, so that angry suburban parents have something to read in the doctor's office while they wait to have their bunions shaved. That—plus the occasional feature on Shrek 2 as the crowning achievement of the human creative impulse, and the odd investigation into why cell phones in restaurants are so darn annoying—is what good journalism is all about.

As is almost always the case when our population works itself into an indignant furor over some fresh moral atrocity, virtually every respected commentator in the country leaped onto the soapbox once it became clear which way the wind was blowing. Windbag after windbag lined up to denounce the use of unnamed sources as a crime roughly equivalent to the buggering of orphans.

"Unless hard digging provides real verified facts, the anonymous stuff should be flushed down the toilet," croaked USA Today founder and renowned press ethicist Al Neuharth.

Added the Arizona Republic, in a house editorial non-hysterically titled "Sources of Shame": "Accepting the word of unnamed sources is traveling in landmine territory."

Martin Peretz of the New Republic went so far as to draw a general conclusion about the seamy character of all journalists from the Newsweek episode. "All of Newsweek's penitential protestations notwithstanding," he said, "what emerges from this episode is the image of a profession that is complacent, self-righteous, and hopelessly in love with itself."

It's funny. The only time anyone thinks to blast the use of "unnamed sources" is when the mistake occurs in that rarest of phenomena in mainstream journalism: the dissenting piece of investigative journalism.

The reality is that unnamed sources are used about 10,000 times a day by the more patriotic and upstanding members of our working press, only they're not used to wonder about the goings-on at places like Guantanamo Bay. Instead, they're used to kiss ass and make icons out of morons—to turn George Bush into Winston Churchill, Dick Gephardt into Eugene Debs, Tom Clancy into Tolstoy.

Most consumers of news magazines will recognize the format, which typically involves an unnamed spokesman whispering that such-and-such Croseus-rich politician is a great lover of NASCAR races, or lies awake at night worrying about the poor: "Aides say Kerry is particularly concerned about the plight of the southern white jobless, whose situation deeply touched him when he last visited..."

The practice is especially common in campaign journalism and in the political profile genre, where it never offends self-appointed trade moralists like Marty Peretz. Newsweek, the current "unnamed sources" villain, is and always has been the very worst offender in this area.

No one bitched at the magazine on January 24 of this year, for instance, when reporter Richard Wolffe wrote a slobbering cover profile on the "Bush you don't know" that was filthy with unnamed sources.

An example from the text:

Bushs leadership style belies his caricature as a disengaged president who is blindly loyal, dislikes dissent and covets his own downtime. In fact, Bushs aides and friends describe the mirror image of a restless man who masters details and reads avidly, who chews over his mistakes and the failings of those around him, and who has grown ever more comfortable pulling the levers of power.

This, just months after Bush himself admitted during a presidential debate that he really couldn't remember any mistakes that he'd ever made, and after Bush himself admitted that he doesn't even read newspapers, let alone books. (During the 2000 campaign, Bush carried around the same copy of a biography of Dean Acheson for six months in an effort to convince reporters he was a reader.) Yet Newsweek allows Bush aides to insist, as unnamed sources, that Bush agonizes over his mistakes and is an "avid reader."

In another part of the article, Wolffe quotes an unnamed "Republican senator" on the matter of Bush's command of detail:

When he wants to be, hes a real stickler for details, says one Republican senator. When he calls you to talk about a bill, he knows the nitty gritty. You dont get the sense hes been reading the Cliffs Notes guide to an issue.

So you think Newsweek didn't work hard enough to confirm the Quran-toilet story? How hard do you think Richard Wolffe worked to confirm that George Bush "knows the nitty-gritty"? I bet he burned up the phone lines working on that one.

They just throw this stuff out there week after week, and no one ever complains about it. That's because kissing ass is not a crime in America, while questioning the government often is. At least, you better not screw it up if you try. God help you then.

The most absurd aspect of the Newsweek scandal was the whole idea of a "media out of control." Many people, even allegedly responsible people like Peretz, took the position that the post-Watergate American press is now so sick with self-love and power-lust that it reflexively sheds its ethics whenever it smells blood.

In Santa Maria, California this week, I am one of over 1500 media personnel accredited to cover the Michael Jackson trial, one of the most pointless and idiotic news stories of all time. By the thousands, we chase tornadoes, wring our hands over Brad and Jennifer, film babies fallen in wells, do one-hour interview specials with Scott Peterson's cellmate.

Once every year or so, one or two of us steps out of line to cover some serious matter involving war or corruption or torture. If that's "out of control," what would we be if we were really working?

Volume 18, Issue 21

Thanks to Mutualist for the link.

Is This As Good As It Gets?

Last week was a really good week. I went to Drinking Liberally and had a good time. There were several attractive progressive women there, fellow bloggers like the great Alt Hippo were there, and we all got to hear and be inspired by the efforts of local communities and grassroot-oriented activists to change the labor practices of WalMart--America's largest and grinchiest employer.

Today I don't know. If you saw my movie you might recall the opening scene where I'm watching a campaign video my team has produced lauding my support for welfare reform and family values, policy stances I embraced in order to get re-elected, all the while I'm sitting amidst the clutter of my office which also includes pictures of me with famous civil rights leaders from the sixties, with the unspoken but implicit thought being, What The Hell Happened?

I feel a little like that today. Not that I've sold out or anything. Just not sure whether my little spot on the Internets is worth anything. For instance, I turn to Alt Hippo today and see where he, perhaps in a mood similar to mine, takes a stab at rebutting the charge that "liberals hate America". Now, this charge has angered me a great deal. And the Hippo's attempt to deal with this nonsense is admirable. But I can't bring myself to try to answer this charge because to do so would mean that I accord it with some legitimacy and that in doing so I am implying that the charge and the subject is something that is worth my time. If I have to stoop to responding to charges like this from the blogistan, and to have to continue to return to it month after month, blog after blog, then "the terrorists have won."

Then I turned to James Wolcott's blog. It appears that the blogistan thinks there's finally a movie out now that affirms their reactionism and that won't make Michael Medved cry. Wolcott includes comments from the NRO:

Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ron Howard, is a thrilling piece of work. No, more than thrilling. I left the screening room this afternoon exhilarated, moved, excited, stirred and overwhelmed, convinced that Cinderella Man is one of the best movies ever made.


Braddock is no ball of fire. He's not motivated by a passion for boxing, like Maggie in last fall's hit, Million Dollar Baby. He doesn't even have the horsy competitiveness of Seabiscuit, subject of Hollywood's last inspirational-underdog-of-the-Depression venture. If Braddock is an underdog, he wears it well: He's doglike in his loyalty, gentleness, and nobility of spirit. When life gives him a kick in the pants, he accepts it uncomplainingly; when it tosses him a bone, he's sincerely grateful.


Cinderella Man is not really a movie about boxing, it's a movie about what it means to be a man. In the character of Jim Braddock, we can read what today's audiences are wistful for: a man who works hard to support his wife and kids, who teaches his kids to be honest, who communicates his delight in his wife with every glance.

This sort of commentary is so stupifying I don't even know where to begin. Fortunately Wolcott sums it up about as best as anyone could:

It isn't audiences that are wistful, but politically motivated critics who want to turn back the clock to that character-building time before the New Deal wove a safety net so that men didn't have to bash each other senseless to keep their families decently clothed and fed.

But is this what's it's all come to? I feel like we're going 'round and 'round in circles. Liberals hate America. Don't'cha just wish that America was like it was during its "goldenage"? Blah blah blah.

Like my friend Jack Nicholson asked in his movie, As Good As It Gets, "What if this is as good as it gets?" Is this as good as it gets? Is there meaning to life? Can the progressive community reach beyond the numbnuts to help advance the causes of justice, knowledge, and individual freedom? Or are we just doomed to an endless cycle of stuff like this:

...inside the gym, the crowd was clearly adoring. "Family values is what it's all about," said Joel Victory, 62, a stockbroker from Cleburne to the south. He had no problem with the setting, he said. "Look at your coins," he said. "Our currency is built on 'In God We Trust.' "

Monday, June 06, 2005

What's the Matter with Ben Nelson?

There was a Wash Post article on Sunday about Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. The Kos psts some of it here and goes on to say how we need to cut Senators like Nelson some slack, given the conservatism of his constituency and all.

There's some merit to Kos's argument. But once again, I have a hard time understanding how it is that a farm state like Nebraska would produce a Senator so beholden to the interests of the Chamber of Commerce. An audience member from an appearance the Senator made to the group praised him for his support on the tort "reform" bill. Now, I have a hard time believing that any more than eight people besides this audience member in Nebraska care about the tort "reform" bill or were even aware of its existence.

How is it that we've come to this point? Surely this is an apt illustration of the failure of the Democratic Party to provide a real alternative to the business-religious elite. I can understand why a Senator from Nebraska might not want to come off sounding like he's against religion, but what in the world would drive him or her to align with the Chamber of Commerce or to vote for such "reforms" as the class-action and bankruptcy bills? Surely not the actual interests of a majority of Nebraskans?