Friday, December 01, 2006

Who Am I? What Am I Doing Here?

And Why Am I Running For President?

Does that V remind you of V for Vendetta? A little eery isn't it?

I've complained about this guy before, and I doubt he'll get the nomination. But he's all too representative of the DLC, "sensible" centrist type who has no real philosophy or message except to regurgitate mindless cliches and platitudes.

Of course the addition of HRC, Evan Bayh, or Bill Richardson to the race won't change this dynamic much. Thankfully we were spared the candidacy of Mark Warner who would only have deepened the emptiness.

David Brooks actually had a readable column the other day in which he challenged Republicans to concentrate more on offering solutions to policy problems instead of retreating into philosophical debates about the nature of the state and other abstractions.

Democrats, I'm afraid, have the opposite problem. They're all about solving policy problems--as they understand them--more affordable health care, better education, etc, all non-controversial goals to be sure, but it seemingly isn't driven by any coherent philosophy of government.

Yesterday also witnessed one of those election deconstruction efforts sponsored by Larry Sabato and broadcast by C-Span. There were separate panels comprised of representatives from most of the prospective 2008 candidates, one for Democrats and a separate one for Republicans. There was of course lots of talk about money, who can raise it, who can't. But very little policy stuff and even less discussion of what government should be about. And of course, no sense of how Democrats should think about, much less address, the array of problems presented by the Christianist right, who despite their losses this time around, aren't going away any time soon, if only for the reason that the issues that concern them are, however misguided and malignant from my perspective, originate from some sort of philosophical view of life and government. I used to think, and still tend to think, that Democrats are just generally afraid to address these issues. But another more worrisome idea should also be considered: Democrats don't talk much about these issues because they aren't driven by any deeply rooted philosophical understanding or appreciation for the nature of man, the role of the state, or the politics of conflict that renders these issues contentious.

While Democrats should be thankful for their gains this year, they should recognize that at some point, they will need to not only deliver, but be prepared to tackle the so-called wedge issues that Republicans will certainly continue to raise in the future.

Somewhat along these lines, Glenn Greenwald wonders how come politicians don't address issues like this:

(3) One of the oddest and most damaging aspects of our political discourse is that some of the most significant issues -- ones which have the greatest impact on our laws and government -- somehow become too controversial for mainstream political figures even to mention, let alone seriously debate. An orthodoxy arises which one cannot even question, let alone deviate from, while still maintaining political viability.

One such topic is the role which our commitment to Israel plays in shaping U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. But another equally significant topic is the rationale behind ongoing drug prohibition laws and the havoc those laws wreak on every level. As this post from McQ illustrates (h/t Mona), opposition to drug laws and their accompanying Draconian enforcement efforts (along with still more Draconian laws to enable enforcement) is a political position which finds considerable support across the ideological spectrum. Despite that, opposition to drug laws still remains strictly off-limits for any mainstream political figure. It is hard to see exactly what accounts for that dynamic.

Yes it is. What do Democrats think about drug policy?

Or how about the Separation between Church and State? Greenwald again:

(2) Whenever you think that Bush followers cannot descend any lower into un-American authoritarianism, they always prove you wrong. Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, has said that he will take his oath of office on the Koran rather than the Bible, since -- as a Muslim -- he happens to believe in the Koran and not the Bible. Dennis Prager has a column (cheered on by various extremists) insisting that Ellison "not be allowed to do so," arguing that "if you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress":

What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible.

If you hadn't read that for yourself, wouldn't it be hard to believe that someone is actually arguing this? Prager is essentially asking: What has happened to America where now it seems that people can decide for themselves what books they will believe are holy? The viewpoint which Prager derisively attributes to the "Muslim and leftist supporters" of Ellison happens to be one of the core founding principles of the Republic: "it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book."

James Joyner and Stephen Bainbridge both provide excellent rebuttals, including Joyner's pointing out the rather obvious fact that requiring elected officials to take their oaths on the Bible would constitute a textbook case of a "religious test" prohibited by Article VI, and would almost certainly violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as well.

As always, it is the most basic constitutional principles -- which were previously beyond challenge -- that are placed in doubt by the most rabid Bush followers. And these attacks on our constitutional values are, with no sense of irony, waged in the name of defending "America."

Where are Democrats on the big Constitutional issues? If the next campaign is all about "jobs, healthcare and education" I'm going to be sick. And not very willing to open my checkbook.

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