Wednesday, October 11, 2006

'Values' Declines as Issue in Ohio

Economic Woes Boost Democrats

Although this Wash Post article might at first glance appear to be good news for Democrats this year, it may be at best only temporary good news for liberals.

This is because, aside from the fact no one has voted yet, there are two problems--for liberals--the article consciously or unconsciously brings out.

The first point is, to the extent that "values" issues are being subsumed this year by economic concerns, Democrats in Ohio (and elsewhere) are not confronting the cultural issues head-on. They're merely hoping voters care more about the economy and the Ohio Republican Party's scandals. So the debate about individual privacy, civil liberties, the separation of church and state, and social enlightenment generally just gets kicked to the curb this election cycle. If Democrats fail to address these issues, to take the radical right head-on, these issues, and the Democrat's problem responding to them will just hang out at the back of the bar waiting for the next election and Democrats will be back to where they started, or worse.

The second point, one the article is more explicit about, is the fact that to the extent cultural issues are a factor in Ohio, the leading state Democratic candidate is using his ministerial credentials and anti-gun control position as cover, helping to further mute, at least this year, the divisiveness and Constitutional implications of the radical right's authoritarian agenda.

In both cases, Democrats in Ohio (if not elsewhere around the country) are continuing to avoid the need to confront the Christian Right's rhetoric and agenda. And in the long run this is bad for liberals. It will mean future Democratic candidates will continue to emphasize their lack of ideology and their "centrist" positions, all the while what is meant by "centrist" or the center keeps getting shoved further right.

I recognize I may sound a bit too alarmist and pessimistic. After all, what are Democrats supposed to do in a state, and a country, where at least a large plurality of people believe the earth is 6,000 years old, slight majorities say the Bible is literal, inspired, and inerrant history, and larger majorities believe (or hope) that when they die they plan on making residence in heavenly mansions?

Well, if author Sam Harris is close to being prescient, our failure as a society, as a species, to confront our fear-based, non-testable, envidence-lacking assumptions and prejudices (particularly those concerning what happens to us after death) means we may fail to solve the most far-ranging problems facing the global community. Not to mention that if we fail to do so, we may also succeed in backing ourselves into a religious-fascist corner where individual liberities and the value of each human life are treated as a poor second cousin and given a back seat to puritanical religious demands, if not treated as treasonous, deviant subversions.

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