Political Discourse

September 29, 2004 | 157 comments
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During this election season in the U.S., I have been troubled repeatedly by the tone of political discourse among my friends, in my community, on the internet, and in the mainstream media. I have been astonished by the extent to which the dominant motivation for political action has become hate. Most people I know are voting against a candidate for president, not in favor of ideas that might improve our country or the world. Last night, while reading in Alma 43 with my family, I perceived in the portrayal of Zerahemnah elements of both major candidates for president, and read with sadness the description of the then-wicked Lamanites — symbolic, in my account, of those who allow themselves to be manipulated by purveyors of hate. Consider the following passages (emphasis added):

Zerahemnah appointed chief captains over the Lamanites, and they were all Amalekites and Zoramites. Now this he did that he might preserve their hatred towards the Nephites, that he might bring them into subjection to the accomplishment of his designs. For behold, his designs were to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites; this he did that he might usurp great power over them, and also that he might gain power over the Nephites by bringing them into bondage. And now the design of the Nephites was to support their lands, and their houses, and their wives, and their children, that they might preserve them from the hands of their enemies; and also that they might preserve their brights and their privileges, yea, and also their liberty, that they might worship God according to their desires. For they knew that if they should fall into the hands of the Lamanites, that whosoever should worship God in spirit and in truth, the true and the living God, the Lamanites would destroy.

Contrast the Lamanites and Nephites, the hate-mongers and the normal folk. Pretty poignant.

157 Responses to Political Discourse

  1. The Untergeek » Political Discourse in America on September 29, 2004 at 7:50 pm

    […] ical Discourse in America
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    A healthy debate is taking place over at Times and Seasons about the declining level of politica […]

  2. Times and Seasons » X-Files on October 29, 2004 at 4:08 am

    […] ead. Which I took as a light-hearted joke. Until he repeated the same threat publicly on Times and Seasons. The message was clear: don’t ask too many questions if […]

  3. Geoff B on September 29, 2004 at 6:49 am

    Gordon,

    Commentators on both the left and right these days are guilty of stirring people up to hatred. I make it a personal policy of trying to avoid commentary and opinions that are intended to manipulate me to hate. The moment that some comment starts making me mad and spiteful, I reject it as manipulation. That doesn’t mean it may be factually incorrect, it just means that the way it is presented is wrong. The Anybody But Bush crowd and Michael Moore are primarily responsible for this type of manipulation today, but it is worth noting that there are commentators on the right (Ann Coulter comes to mind) who also use rhetoric intended to stir up disdain or hatred. I try to reject both types of arguments.

  4. Quinn McCoy on September 29, 2004 at 7:26 am

    Peace was what was preached by all the great men of history, including and escpecially Jesus. It is a true commentary that has been stated. Both sides cultivate and use hate to garner the vote. Pointing out that something is wrong is acceptable, however, using hate to belittle the other side is always wrong. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

  5. Jeremy on September 29, 2004 at 8:32 am

    The Anybody But Bush crowd and Michael Moore are primarily responsible for this type of manipulation today

    I take issue with this. My own bitterness towards the current administration predates the current campaign by about four years. It’s not a campaign issue, it’s a widespread disenchantment with policy decisions and institutional rhetorical tone that have made those on the left adopt a strident campaign timbre. I’m no big fan of Michael Moore et al, but I recognize them simply as Johnny-come-lately reactions to equally negative and long-entrenched outlets and figures like Limbaugh, Coulter, Grover Norquist, etc. And as a lefty, can’t help but be paranoid when those on the right call for a “more civil tone” — I have the image of Karl Rove extending his hand with a buzzer concealed in it. The sad fact is, negative campaigns are effective (see widely discredited Swift Boat claims, or the smear campaigns against Max Cleland and John McCain, for example), and the DNC feels like it has taken too many hits to try to play nice anymore.

  6. lyle on September 29, 2004 at 8:46 am

    yes, moveon.org…a veritable lovefest.

  7. Jeremy on September 29, 2004 at 8:47 am

    Some helpful guidelines for civil debate can be found here.

  8. David on September 29, 2004 at 10:39 am

    Thanks Gordon.

    Perhaps the policy of “hating the sin” but “loving the sinner” should be translated to “hate [or strongly disagree with] the policy” but “love [or at least refrain from hating] the politician.”

    For policy reasons, particularly since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I decided that I will not again vote for President Bush. I admit that there are aspects of his personality, and the personalities of the other members of the administration, that rub me the wrong way. It is hard to keep my strong disagreement with Bush administration policies (with respect to Social Security privatization, NCLB, foreign relations, preventive war, taxation, the deficit, the Patriot Act, etc…), from transforming itself into anger and intense dislike of the individuals.

    But Gordon’s point is that it is wrong to be motivated by hate, or something like it, even if the other side is wrong, just as the spirit of contention is wrong, even if we are contending for a good cause.

    I need to keep chanting to myself the words from Sting’s cold war era song, “The Russians love their children too”, but substituting “the Bush administration” for the “Russians.” http://www.afn.org/~afn30091/songs/s/sting-russians.htm

    That is, while I strongly disagree with the Administration policies on many (but not all) issues, and will not again vote for the party in power, I can refrain from vitriolic commentary and, if it remains a struggle to find complete love and compassion for the individuals, to pray for that kind of charity in my heart and try to check my feelings of annoyance and deep negative sentiments.

  9. Randy on September 29, 2004 at 10:49 am

    I don’t know that it’s productive to argue about the relative merits of Coulter versus Moore or who is “primarily responsible” for the current state of affairs.

    Let’s talk about something more basic. Who on this blog is really willing to give up this type of political campaigning?

    To all you leftist wingbats, would you give up moveon.org if it meant having to tolerate Bush for four more years?

    To all you right leaning lunatics, would you give up the Swift Boat campaign if it meant enduring a Kerry presidency?

    I think to most of us, the ends justify the means. Sure, we all agree that it would be great if this type of thing didn’t happen and elections were decided purely on the merits. But I’m not aware of anyone who is willing to unilaterally disarm simply because it is the right thing to do. The problem is that unless folks are willing to take that stand, complaints about the current state of affairs ring hollow.

  10. Renee on September 29, 2004 at 10:52 am

    Follow the money. The most civil campaigns aren’t about pride and power and greed. Frankly, I’m not sure how anyone who isn’t somewhat of a megalomaniac runs for office in this country yet some still do. Of course if they get it they will end up either leaving over the glut of beaurocracy or getting absorbed into said mentality. Our present state of govt (no matter which party was or is running the show) is mostly about obtaining more money for themselves or their campaign contributors. In the ideal world public service would be about service to the public, not lining various pockets and creating loopholes that harm humans and the environment. But we’re not in an ideal world. What can you do but vote your conscience?

  11. Kevin Ashworth on September 29, 2004 at 11:24 am

    I agree with the comment from Geoff about the commentators being guilty. (Are we commentators, or commenters when we comment on T&S posts?) Commentators are frequently a main source of hate, but not the only ones, of course. Sensible, moderate, intelligent people — these much-needed voices are exactly the ones that cannot succeed in the political media biz these days. (Although, I think the analysis of Brooks and Shields on PBS is very successful and not hateful.)

    The Dems went for love at their convention, the GOP for hatred. (An oversimplification, but an accurate summary if you have to paint it in black and white.) The result of this, plus a prominent negative attack campaign, is a big lead for the GOP. Hate and negativity work, as Zerahemnah knew all too well and as many Democrats wish their party knew better. Let us follow this good lesson of the B of M and try not to let hateful politics work on us.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find Randy’s words hateful. Are you using irony? Please say yes. If so, that’s cool, but I can’t tell. If not, can you explain what otherwise unattainable “ends” are yours by using the words “lunatics” and “wingbats.” If they can only by obtained by your language, I suppose it’s “justifiable,” but I can’t see what these ends might be and thus your philosophy rings hollow to this voter.

  12. John H on September 29, 2004 at 11:30 am

    I’ve always said the hatred comes from the basic sameness and similar methodologies of both groups. Conservatives often have a holier-than-thou attitude – the worst thing Bill Clinton could’ve done is have sex in the Oval office. Liberals, on the other hand, have a smarter-than-thou attitude – George W. Bush’s greatest sin is being stupid.

    Of course, both betray these positions. To a conservative, morality means no homosexuality, adultery, p0rn, etc. But the Enron’s and Halliburton’s of the world aren’t a big deal. Sure, they’re still wrong, but they rank somewhere in between having dandruff and watching CNN instead of Fox news on the sin list. Liberals have seen the light, they’ve figured it out, and now they’re just waiting for the rest of us to get brains like they have. But apparently being smart doesn’t preclude a lot of liberals from making outlandish comparisons between Bush and Hitler, and calling Ashcroft a fascist. Moveon.org recently blamed the Florida hurricanes on Bush and his environmental policies. Yes, it’s true – they’ve officially dropped off the deep end.

    Andrew Sullivan authored a piece in Time magazine that compared the Passion of the Christ to Fahrenheit 9/11. While I don’t always agree with his specific comments, especially about the Passion (which I thought was ok – not great but ok), I think his overall sentiment gets it right:

    “Both movies were appealing to what might be called their cultural bases. They weren’t designed to persuade. They were designed to rally the faithful, to use the power of imagery to evoke gut sentiment, to rouse the already committed to various forms of hatred or adoration.

    Gibson and Moore—two sides of the same coin? Absolutely. There are times when the far right and the far left are so close in methodology as to be indistinguishable. And both movies are not just terrible as movies—crude, boring, gratuitous; they are also deeply corrosive of the possibility of real debate and reason in our culture. They replace argument with feeling, reasoned persuasion with the rawest of group loyalties.

    It is a sign of how far the culture war has gone that almost no one condemns both movies. If you’re a Fundamentalist red-stater, Gibson is a hero. If you’re a leftist blue-stater, Moore is, in the words of the New York Times, “a credit to the Republic.” The truth is that both movies are different but equally potent forms of cultural toxin—poisonous to debate, to reason and to civility. And the antidote is in shorter and shorter supply.”

  13. Russell Arben Fox on September 29, 2004 at 11:36 am

    “Maybe it’s just me, but I find Randy’s words hateful. Are you using irony? Please say yes. If so, that’s cool, but I can’t tell.”

    I’m pretty certain it wasn’t irony; it was hyperbole, turning one party’s rhetoric back on itself. And I think Randy’s point is tragically correct: most of the talk about maintaining a “civil discourse” remains just that: talk. In an increasingly polarized society (or, at least, a society in which the political elites are increasingly polarized; the data is much more ambiguous regarding the population at large), giving up a weapon–even an obviously, cruel, hateful, cheap, destructive weapon–seems like being willing to countenance evil. Good-hearted, moral, ethical Republicans will still, when it comes right down to it, claim that John Kerry is a coward and sexually suspect, if they think that might give them an edge; good-hearted, moral, ethical Democrats will still, when it comes right down to it, claim that George Bush is a moronic fascist, if they think it’ll do the same for them. I have no confidence, in a world in which an unregulated and privately-owned media speeds and spins every political discussion into the most controversial and contentious form possible, that deliberation and the unilateral acceptance of rules will experience much of a revival. (Which is why I think the return of political sanity in the U.S. will require some top-down changing of the rules, but that’s a debate for another forum.)

  14. Randy on September 29, 2004 at 11:45 am

    Kevin,

    I have no intent to be hateful. But I don’t think ironic is the right word either. I was hoping to be equally disparaging — in a good humored, over-the-top way — of both the right and the left. I don’t really think that most people left of center (including myself, on most points anyway) are wingbats; and I don’t actually think that my brothers and sisters on the right are lunatics. My point is that all of us love our politics. We are happy to point out flaws in others, but don’t see those same flaws in ourselves. We are eager to criticize hate when it flows from those we disagree with, but are take no action to stop it or criticize it when it benefits those we endorse.

    I’m not saying that the ends do in fact justify the means. I’m saying that most of us act as though they do.

  15. CB on September 29, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    I’d like to offer a different perspective.

    I don’t think the tone of political discourse is worse than ever. American political campaings have usually been bare knuckle fistfights. I’ve been reading recently about Lincoln. The Lincoln-Douglas debates are usually viewed as the epitome of statesmanship, but both men managed to get in a few solid punches below the belt. Douglas accuses Lincoln of being too dense to realize that the nation had already existed for 83 years half slave and half free. Lincoln accuses Douglas of flip-flopping on votes. Same old, same old.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not surprised when someone throws an elbow – politics is a contact sport. When I see something from Moveon or Ann Coulter, I recognize it as coming from a partisan source, discount accordingly, and enjoy the spectacle.

  16. Mark B on September 29, 2004 at 12:06 pm

    As long as we’re listing hateful commentators, why not include Marianne Jennings. whose screeds appear in the Deseret News. What makes it really appalling is my suspicion that she is religiously one of us (the brief bio at the ASU business school website shows two degrees from BYU) and it seems of all people we ought to rise above the Al Frankens and Ann Coulters of the world.

  17. Nathan Tolman on September 29, 2004 at 12:46 pm

    Jeremy said

    I’m no big fan of Michael Moore et al, but I recognize them simply as Johnny-come-lately reactions to equally negative and long-entrenched outlets and figures like Limbaugh, Coulter, Grover Norquist, etc. . . . The sad fact is, negative campaigns are effective (see widely discredited Swift Boat claims, or the smear campaigns against Max Cleland and John McCain, for example), and the DNC feels like it has taken too many hits to try to play nice anymore.

    Since when has the DNC played nice? Does anyone remember the Reagan years and their vitriol back then? Republicans/Conservatives were considered, for the longest time, as racists, bigots, and homophones, just for having opposing views on these issues. They still are concidered such in some places. You make it seem like the Dems were just playing nice until the big bad Republican meanies came along and beat up on them. If you can claim that Moore is a reaction to the Rushes of the world, I can just as easily claim Rush is a product of the verbal beatings of Democrats before him, plus, I find those that accuse Rush of hate, confuse disagreement with hate. If you really want hate, try Michael Savage.

    The process Gordon describes has been used by some on both sides as long as there has been politics.

    John H.,

    How is the Passion of Christ a “potent form of cultural toxin.” Who did it attack on the left? Who did it advocate attacking at all?

  18. Matt Evans on September 29, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    “Most people I know are voting against a candidate for president, not in favor of ideas that might improve our country or the world.”

    Polls have consistently shown 80-90% of Bush supporters to be voting for Bush, and only 10-15% to be voting against Kerry. Among Kerry supporters, only 45% are voting for Kerry, and about 50% are voting against Bush. So about 80% of people voting against a candidate (something you suggest is troublesome) are Kerry “supporters,” and only 20% are Bush “supporters.”

    If most of the people you know are guilty of voting against a candidate, it is statistically probable that you know a disproportionate number of Kerry supporters.

  19. John H on September 29, 2004 at 1:09 pm

    “How is the Passion of Christ a “potent form of cultural toxin.â€? Who did it attack on the left? Who did it advocate attacking at all?”

    I’m not having another debate about the Passion of the Christ. I posted the quote as representative of what the culture war has done. People are more interested in watching movies that validate their worldview than actually having a discussion. Whether they listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Michael Moore, they’re more interested in excercising their neck muscles by nodding a lot than in learning or having discourse. That’s all the quote meant – I don’t think it was intended to offend Mel Gibson and his loyal followers.

  20. Nate Oman on September 29, 2004 at 1:13 pm

    I suppose that the ideal against which we are measuring our current sorry political debate is a world in which we focus completely on “issues,” by which I take it we mean something like policy prescriptions.

    There are two reasons, it seems to me, that focus on issues is probably not as grand as we would suppose. First, we really don’t necessarily have a great idea of what issues will be important in the future. Sure, there are some constant concerns, but no one thought in 2000 that the primary issues facing the new president would center on terrorism, war, and foreign policy. Hence, it is not clear that we really know which issues we ought to be focused on.

    Second, there are simply more important issues that anyone who is not a full time politico can possibily hope to assimilate.

    Given these two points, it seems to me entirely reasonable to focus on the personality of a candidate. Do you think he or she is trust worthy, smart, decent, indecisive, etc. The reason is that you want to have the right person facing the issues that you frankly don’t have the ability to foresee or the time and resources to thoroughly understand.

    The focus on personality, however, will obviously tend to lead to rather nasty discussions, since it actually is reasonable to assess whether some candidate is stupid or bad.

    Finally, I would like to eco those who have said that (1) efforts to decide who started this or who is worse are really rather silly. No Democrat will say, “We started it; we are worse.” No Republican will say, “We started it; we are worse.” This ought to tell you something about the quality of the insights offered. (2) I disagree with those who think that current politics are unusually nasty. Study the presidential election of 1800. For those who worry about the politics of personal destruction, consider this: Thomas Jefferson tried to get Aaron Burr, his former Vice President, tried and executed (as in hung by the neck until he is dead) for treason.

  21. danithew on September 29, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    Matt Evans’ statistics showing that Bush supporters really like Bush and that Kerry supporters really hate bush (as opposed to supporting Kerry) jive with what I’ve seen going on.

    I’m wondering how much of that actually has to do with Kerry’s lack of charisma or whether it is actually a weakness suffered by other presidential candidates who have gone up against incumbents (in the past)? Anyone remember? It’s not the kind of thing I kept track of and for some reason I’m too lazy to go over to google.com.

  22. John H on September 29, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    Danithew:

    I’d argue it’s because Republicans tend to be more loyal to people than ideas. Bush is their man, period. The guy could launch a nuclear missile at Tokyo tomorrow and some of them wouldn’t budge, I swear.

    Not that the other side is any better. Bush doesn’t represent their ideas, so they seem to think that justifies a white hot hatred of him.

  23. Matt Evans on September 29, 2004 at 1:29 pm

    Questions 7 and 8 of this Washington Post poll shows the “vote for” and “vote against” numbers for the past 6 months. According to their most recent poll:

    Bush supporters:

    84% are voting for Bush
    14% are voting against Kerry

    Kerry supporters:

    41% are voting for Kerry
    55% are voting against Bush

  24. Rob on September 29, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    Nate:
    So politics of personality are the preferred mode of political discourse and decision-making for uneducated masses? Unfortunately, you are correct that most citizens are oblivious to most policy issues. However, they are also most oblivious to the real personality of the candidates. And since the most important issue, as you described it, is to know who to trust in governing, that is a serious problem, since the true personality and ability to govern is screened from all but the most curious of policy wonks.

    When presidential politics boils down to–one guy looks grumpy, one guy smiles but maybe its a sneer, we’re in real trouble. How many people are going to vote for Bush because he looks (he has manufacturd through carefully scripted media) like a nice guy when if you look into how he governs, he’s been irrascable. Any time you dig into how he really governs, it looks really ugly–emphasis on loyalty above truth, ideology over information, well-to-do over underpriviledged, consolidation of power over community-building. Bush has dismantled the environmental regulations that we depend on for clean air and water and healthy communities. He consistently says one thing and says another–Clean Skies means more pollution, Healthy Forests means more logging. True, Bush and Co. are masterful at what they do. But what they do, as opposed to what they say, is the problem.

    This isn’t to say that Kerry is a perfect candidate. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve heard, or will get a chance to hear, how he would really govern. That’s a huge problem from his campaign…though since I’m not is a swing state, I don’t get to hear as much of what he might be saying. Basically, as a Texan, I’m disenfranchised and my vote won’t count in the presidential election.

    The real victim in all this is Truth–with that upper-case T (or even a lower-case one if you prefer). While everyone was upset by Clinton’s lie, the sheer amount of disinformation we’re facing now is orders of magnitude above what we saw during the Clinton administration. And most people aren’t seeing that, because they aren’t taking the time to really look at what is going on in their government.

    Hello–when has the constitution hung more by a thread than when it has been proposed that we drag it through the mud of sexual politics and suspend individual liberties in the name of National Security.

    Step up, oh ye Elders of Israel. Rescue the constitution…

    …if you dare!

    Or you can just attack the messenger ;)

  25. Brent on September 29, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    Reading through all this, I kept thinking of the Church’s last statement about voting. I’m having a hard time finding it, but there’s a section that says, basically, that the leadership urges members to consider the issues thoughtfully and vote for the candidate who most closely matches the member’s views. I like that: most closely. Obviously, no single candidate is going to get them all. And on that note, I have to say I’m more radical, in that I believe the biggest problem with current American politics and the basis for much of this discussion is founded on a two party system. How can one or two parties in power “most closely” represent the will of the people? Besides, it’s much easier to control two parties through money and influence. Has anyone ever noticed that most modern democracies post USA formation are parlaimentary-based? Just throwin’ it out there.

  26. Rob on September 29, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    Sorry, my last line should have read:

    Or y’all can just attack the messenger ;)

    Wouldn’t want anyone to feel like anything I said was calling them out personally (nor that they were left out intentionally, if they felt unincluded).

  27. danithew on September 29, 2004 at 1:52 pm

    Israel is remarkably democratic, meaning that there are a lot of parties involved in the election process. Every party that gets a certain percentage of the votes will have some kind of representation in the Knesset.

    As a result there are parties that are based entirely on one issue — parties that want to legalize marijuana, environmental parties, parties for the elderly … as well as more mainstream parties that represent Russian Israelis, religious sephardic Israelis, religious ashkenazic Israelis, secular right-wing Israelis, secular left-wing Israelis, etc. and etc. It’s very interesting to see that up close after growing up with only a two-party system.

    I wonder how Mormon American political discourse would change if it were in a broader political context (similar to Israel’s) that allowed for representation for more than two political platforms.

  28. Nate Oman on September 29, 2004 at 2:04 pm

    Rob: I didn’t mean to imply that the inability to really assimilate issues is a problem because the population is dumb or uneducated. I think this is a problem for EVERYONE, even the smart and the educated. It seems to me that we are kidding ourselves if we think we really have solid grasp on all of the issues or if we think we are clairvoiant enough to know everything that will be important four years from now.

    You can either accept this TRUTH or you can punish the messanger :)

  29. Adam Greenwood on September 29, 2004 at 2:16 pm

    I reject the equation between the Passion and Fahrenheit 911. The second is political, the second isn’t. The second is on the attack, the first isn’t. In a discussion of lies, smears, and hate in politics, the Passion has no place. If you really want to be evenhanded, bring up the Clinton Chronicles.

    But that desire to be evenhanded is part of the problem in the first place. People who are somewhat objective observers of the political fight understandably try to prove their objectivity by criticizing both sides equally. And of course they can always find something to criticize on both sides because no party or candidate has entirely clean hands. All have sinned to some degree.

    But because the critics of objective observers are so evenhanded, they are also useless. If both sides are equally guilty, then none are. Voters will make their decisions without any regard to the civility or political decency of the candidates, because, hey, both candidates are equally bad. And because voters ignore civility, candidates and parties know they can get dirty with impunity. And when one candidate does the other candidate responds, because nothing is to be gained by staying aloof. But if objective observers did make distinctions between campaigns, then slowly, messily, we might see an improvement.

    And frankly, I don’t see how one *can* objectively be evenhanded. It defies belief that the institutions that are political parties and political campaigns don’t have differences in cultures. It defies belief that the candidates don’t have differences in personality and character. It defies belief that the vagaries of politics wouldn’t make dirty tricks more attractive or more necessary to one side than the other in any given year. And given all that, it defies belief that all parties and candidates are always and everywhere equally bad.

  30. Rob on September 29, 2004 at 2:24 pm

    Nate:
    While you are arguably correct in asserting that it is impossible for anyone to be fully informed on all the issues, I think the problem is more that most people aren’t educated about ANYTHING., even though a strong understanding of at least one issue should be within the grasp of everyone, and at least a basic knowledge of other issues shouldn’t be beyond most as well. A couple hours each week of research can get you a long way in understanding what’s going on. Of course, that cuts into our reality TV time.

    Maybe one of the attractions of Bush is that he (at least seems to) personifies this willfull ignorance that so may people relate to? (BTW, this is more of a question than an assertion on my part).

    As for punishment, we’re all reaping the fruits of our collective ignorance, and shell-game artists who take advantage of that ignorance.

    And as long as I’m on the shell game analogy, I love how so many LDS members are easily distracted by Abortion and Gay Marriage, when there are many, many more issues out there that are being radically changed while we all join the media hype about Abortion and Gay Marriage and other things that don’t matter because there isn’t really support for huge policy changes either way.

  31. Last_lemming on September 29, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    Does anyone remember the Reagan years and their vitriol back then? Republicans/Conservatives were considered, for the longest time, as racists, bigots, and homophones…

    It is indisputable that Raygun was a homophone.

  32. danithew on September 29, 2004 at 3:00 pm

    Maybe someone should do a Bloggernacle poll to see who would become president if the Bloggernacle’s votes determined the end result. It seems there are more self-avowed liberals but maybe it’s just because they screetch louder than the conservatives. :) This could be a BCC: thing to do. What the heck happened to their occasional polls anyways?

  33. Matt Jacobsen on September 29, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    I fail to see how voting against a particular candidate is such a bad thing. If the things in a campaign that stick out the most happen to be things I disagree with, then I will vote against that candidate. I agree that hating the candidate for their views is wrong, or voting against a candidate because of minor personality traits is silly. But I would like to be able to vote against George Bush because I hate unjust war and against John Kerry because I hate abortion. It may very well be that voting against one candidate doesn’t necessarily mean that their opponent holds the view I exactly agree with, it’s just my way of saying, “I don’t like issue X, and if you make it a flagship of your campaign then I am going to make you pay.” Take the candidate with the most favorable sum of all the issues I want to vote for or against, and voila! that’s my vote.

  34. Aaron Brown on September 29, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Answer: We’ve just become lazy and disinterested over there. All any of us care about anymore is the sound of our own voices.

    Aaron B
    BCC

  35. Randy on September 29, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    Dan,

    I’ve heard others say the same thing–that T&S is made up mostly of liberals. There surely are more liberals here than in the average sunday school class, but I don’t think that there are more liberals than conservatives here in raw numbers. (Of course, if I were wrong, I would get a warm fuzzy feeling inside!)

    It doesn’t look like you can do this anymore, but if you would have looked at the “most frequent commenters” section here at T&S before the switch to WP, you would have seen that virtually every top spot was occupied by a political conservative (i.e., you, Brent, lyle, Frank, John F. (not that “other” John ;-) ), Kingsley, etc.), and that was excluding folks like Matt, Adam, and Nate.

    In short, the screetch I hear is a bit different from the one you hear.

  36. danithew on September 29, 2004 at 3:38 pm

    I think the WordPress coders figured out a way to use php to filter out ultra-conservatives.

  37. Kaimi on September 29, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    Dan/Randy:

    I do intend to eventually get a comment leaders script running again. The last snapshot of the comment leaders on the old site, pre-MT-meltdown, shows the top 10 then as:

    Clark Goble (1230 comments)
    Lyle (1026 comments)
    Kingsley (488 comments)
    Steve Evans (425 comments)
    Daniel (419 comments)
    Bob Caswell (385 comments)
    john fowles (368 comments)
    Brent (355 comments)
    Frank McIntyre (312 comments)
    Gary Cooper (281 comments)

    That’s 6 strong conservatives (Lyle, Kingsley, John, Brent, Frank, Gary). One liberal (Steve). One libertarian/liberal (Bob). And two centrist/conservatives (Clark, danithew).

    That chart excludes the bloggers. When you factor in me and Kris on one end, Matt and Adam on the other, Nate and Gordon in the middle and Russell kicking against the pricks, it’s still hard to classify the site as liberal, in my opinion.

  38. danithew on September 29, 2004 at 4:01 pm

    Kaimi,

    I like being described as a centrist/conservative. I’ve been working my way a bit left from my old self for some time now. Not that I’ll be writing as a guest blogger for Political Juice anytime soon. :)

  39. Frank McIntyre on September 29, 2004 at 4:20 pm

    Kaimi,

    If you have it handy, I’d be curious to see the top twenty numbers for July and August.

  40. Adam Greenwood on September 29, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    I don’t know how useful that list of top commenters is. Websites are always in flux, so I think it matters that most of those people don’t comment anymore. What would be interesting would be, say, the top commenters in the last four weeks. I think you’d find that T&S averages out as being to the left of the Mormon center (which I think unfortunate) and right smack in the American middle.

  41. Frank McIntyre on September 29, 2004 at 4:32 pm

    Found it in the cache. T&S is, it would appear, a place of change. June was a little more liberal than August, and September was starting out to be fairly liberal before the crash.

    June 2004

    lyle (297)
    Kingsley (192)
    Frank McIntyre (131)
    Nate Oman (118)
    Jim F. (98)
    Adam Greenwood (91)
    Admin (90)
    clarkgoble (89)
    Dan Burk (80)
    Gary Cooper (59)
    Rob (58)
    danithew (57)
    D. Fletcher (56)
    Julie in Austin (54)
    Russell Arben Fox (50)
    Kingsley (49)
    Ben Huff (45)
    Eric James Stone (45)
    John David Payne (42)
    Steve Evans (41)
    Julien (37)
    Gordon Smith (35)
    greenfrog (34)
    Grasshopper (32)
    Davis Bell (31)
    Melissa (31)
    Jack (30)
    cooper (29)
    Matt Evans (29)
    Chad Too (28)

    July 2004

    danithew (218)
    john fowles (172)
    Kingsley (126)
    Jim F. (124)
    Kaimi (88)
    Nate Oman (84)
    Gordon Smith (73)
    Steve Evans (70)
    Clark Goble (59)
    D. Fletcher (56)
    Kristine (53)
    Jordan Fowles (53)
    Frank McIntyre (52)
    lyle (50)
    Rob (45)
    Silus Grok (43)
    Adam Greenwood (41)
    Julie in Austin (37)
    Ethesis (Stephen M) (35)
    John (35)
    greenfrog (34)
    Randy (34)
    John H (32)
    Chris Grant (29)
    Bob Caswell (29)
    Ben Huff (29)
    Matt Evans (28)
    Jack (27)
    Hellmut Lotz (25)
    Davis Bell (24)

    August 2004

    john fowles (129)
    Kaimi (123)
    danithew (122)
    Jack (76)
    Adam Greenwood (73)
    Frank McIntyre (71)
    Kristine (63)
    Nathan Tolman (52)
    Ethesis (Stephen M) (51)
    Gordon Smith (48)
    Ashleigh (46)
    greenfrog (45)
    Matt Evans (44)
    Jordan Fowles (43)
    Bob Caswell (43)
    Julie in Austin (42)
    Bryce I (42)
    Renee (42)
    Chad too (40)
    diogenes (39)
    clark (38)
    Jim F. (37)
    obi-wan (35)
    Nate Oman (34)
    Eric James Stone (31)
    clark (31)
    Ryan Bell (30)
    John H (29)
    lyle (28)
    Greg (28)

    September 2004

    Kaimi (19)
    Nathan Tolman (17)
    Mark B (12)
    Jack (11)
    Charles (11)
    John H (10)
    danithew (10)
    Bryce I (10)
    obi-wan (7)
    Ivan Wolfe (7)
    john fowles (6)
    D. Fletcher (6)
    Aaron Brown (6)
    Chris Grant (6)
    Susan F. Peterson (5)
    [spam redacted] (5)
    greenfrog (4)
    ed (4)
    [spam redacted] (4)
    Sylvia’s Daddy (4)
    Clark Goble (4)
    lyle (4)
    Maria (3)
    Marc B. (3)
    Randy (3)
    Jeremy (3)
    Chad Too (3)
    Matt Evans (3)
    Ryan Bell (2)
    Gordon Smith (2)

  42. Nathan Tolman on September 29, 2004 at 4:43 pm

    John H. said:

    I posted the quote as representative of what the culture war has done. People are more interested in watching movies that validate their worldview than actually having a discussion.

    I would agree with you, but why is it so? In my department, if it was widely known I was conservative, I would be ostracized, I know of cases of professors not getting tenure because they voiced things that ran counter to the prevailing liberalism, and just for clarification, I think Conservatives could be just as nasty. In discussions with people who disagree with you, there is allot to loose and little to gain, unless you are total strangers. People tend to get worked up on politics and some will take it out of your hide, figuratively and sometimes literally.

  43. Kaimi on September 29, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    The old comment leaders page is still functional (though it ends at around 3 September). It’s at

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/moreleaders.php

    and

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/commentleaders.php

    Frank,

    You write: June was a little more liberal than August . . .

    June 2004

    lyle (297) Conservative
    Kingsley (192) Conservative
    Frank McIntyre (131) Libertarian / Conservative
    Nate Oman (118) Centrist / Conservative
    Jim F. (98) Centrist / Liberal
    Adam Greenwood (91) Conservative
    Admin (90) [Note — this is Kaimi — I posted the first comment of that month under “Admin” and it lumped them all under that ID afterwards, since it tracks by e-mail address] Liberal
    clarkgoble (89) Centrist / Conservative
    Dan Burk (80) Liberal
    [break after 80 seems like a good break point]

    If that’s “more liberal” than _anything_, then we’re a pretty conservative site. Especially when you look at raw numbers. Lyle had almost 300 comments that month. Adding together some numbers, we’ve got:

    Conservative: 580 comments
    Centrist / conservative: 207
    Libertarian / conservative: 131
    Centrist / Liberal: 98
    Liberal: 170

    Total conservative: 918
    Total liberal: 268

    Percent of top posters comments by total-conservative commenters: 77.4%
    Percent of top posters comments by total-liberal commenters: 22.5%

    All in all, I would say June was a pretty conservative month. . .

  44. Steve Evans on September 29, 2004 at 4:51 pm

    Wait a sec — I’m a LIBERAL, Kaimi?? Wow. I always thought of myself as a disaffected Canadian libertarian.

    For ye curious-minded, the polls shall indeed return to BCC. Perhaps I’ll start a poll regarding preferred poll topics.

    Adam: “T&S averages out as being to the left of the Mormon center (which I think unfortunate).” This is the craziest thing I’ve heard all day. If T&S is left of center, then what’s center? The Daily Universe? Meridian? What’s more interesting is that this would somehow be unfortunate. Where would you want T&S to be, Adam? You strike me as a CTR man — at least, no liberal wears those kinds of vests :)

  45. Randy on September 29, 2004 at 4:51 pm

    Adam’s got a good point that some folks don’t comment here anymore. But even if you were to look only at the last three or four months, I don’t see much support for the notion that liberals outflank conservatives. But perhaps we are counting people differently. (September does look more liberal than usual, but it also looks like there were less than a week of comments recorded.)

  46. Adam Greenwood on September 29, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    Of course we’d also want to know what the commenters were commenting about (political or not?), and perhaps whether they were mostly ignored ( a la one of the top commenters in June) and whether or not one of the reasons most of the top commenters appear to be conservative is because in some discussions they’re the lone conservative voice responding to multiple liberals, and this is too complicated, my head is starting to spin.

  47. Rob on September 29, 2004 at 4:56 pm

    Given the numbers, I have to ask…

    Adam, who told thee that thou hast a liberal blog here?

  48. Kristine on September 29, 2004 at 5:12 pm

    I think what’s more interesting than the numbers (or at least as interesting) is the feeling on *both* sides that one is in hostile territory, surrounded by enemies. We have a fairly regular e-mail discussion among the bloggers that goes something like this:

    Kristine: “help! help! Adam’s oppressing me!”
    Adam: “No, I’m not, you’re oppressing all of the conservative mainstream Mormons who visit our site, and I’m just trying to make them feel better.”
    Kaimi: “kids, kids, please be nice–we are trying to represent a spectrum here; we have one right-wing stalwart per leftist moonbat and several people sharing the middle of the road with the dead armadilloes.”
    Kristine: “well, OK, but Adam’s smarter than me, so that still makes it unfair. Harumph.”

    But it’s interesting that I, at one end of the spectrum and Adam and Matt at the other, each feels as though (s)he is defending the minority position from an opposing army of commenters. I don’t know if that’s a function of the nastiness of tone, or personal paranoia, or an inevitable feature of passionate discussions, or some other obscure group dynamic which Nate or Russell will step in and illuminate at any moment :)

  49. danithew on September 29, 2004 at 5:18 pm

    Hmmm … I clearly am out of the loop on those emails. :)

    Still, thanks for sharing the conversation as it was quite funny. I’m happy to be situated with the armored roadkill. :)

  50. Geoff B on September 29, 2004 at 5:20 pm

    You may want to consider the fact that T&S is definitely liberal compared to the expression of opinions in a typical Relief society/Elders Quorum/High Priest discussion. I think LDS members will be taken aback by some of the comments here — they simply aren’t used to hearing other members make those types of comments. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing (if it were, I wouldn’t continue to hang around here). It’s actually kind of nice to hear other arguments, even if I don’t agree with them. But they are definitely left of center compared to the usual range of LDS opinion at church.

  51. Kevin Ashworth on September 29, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    Regarding Randy’s comment #12: Excellent summary of your views. Makes perfect sense. Don’t know why it was lost on me earlier, but I guess I suspected it was an over-the-top something, even if not “irony.” Maybe I don’t understand the word. Neither does Alanis Morissette … but that’s another story.

  52. Ashleigh on September 29, 2004 at 6:10 pm

    As long as we seem to be headed in this direction, I’ve been wondering, what brings the conservatives to this site for this kind of unusual (by sunday school standards) discussion? I know what brings me here (I’m currently the reigning liberal nut-job, just try to out-do me),

    I’m lonely. T&S is liberal fellowshiping for me. The liberals and even the centrists are such a breath of fresh air. I like hearing coherent intellegent conservative ideas too, but if that was the only opinion allowed I’d never come back. If the majority of opinion sounded just like sunday school, as Adam would like it too, it wouldn’t be very valuable to me. I already have sunday school, thankyouverymuch.

    If you are a conservative you’ve already got plenty of comfortable places to dwell. Why waste your time here, listening to the unhinged ravings of people like me?

    (Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re here, just wondering why.)

  53. Kristine on September 29, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    Geoff, do you think there’s some of that “one drop” thinking going on–even one liberal comment sort of contaminates the whole forum and makes it seem way left of mainstream?

  54. Benjamin Huff on September 29, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    If we take a very blurry sort of average, this blog probably lands about in the American center. But the interesting thing is that so many very different viewpoints are so sharply represented . . . which completely defies any of the other categories! The fun thing is that any sort of blurry average is so unilluminating as to what really goes on here! What a great blog . . .

  55. Jack on September 29, 2004 at 6:39 pm

    I think you have to factor in the number of words per comment as well. Though Lyle is at the top for conservatives, his posts are usually short little snippits. By the way, what ever happened to Gary Cooper? I miss his posts.

    Ashleigh said, “If you are a conservative you’ve already got plenty of comfortable places to dwell”.

    Well, we conservatives may have the church, but you liberals have the world!

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. : ))

  56. Geoff B on September 29, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    Kristine, I will share two stories that may illustrate the reaction of a typical LDS member to T&S. The first was mine when I made one of my first comments. I can’t remember what the issue was, but my response was that the person who made the commentary was heading toward apostasy. Kaimi rightly reminded me of the T&S policy. I was pretty stubborn about it, but at the end of the day I realized that I should have made my arguments without accusing anybody of apostasy, which is what Kaimi had asked. The point is, however, that I was completely shocked that a Church member, somebody who wanted to associate himself openly with the Church, would make such a comment.

    The other story happened two weeks ago when I made the mistake of showing T&S to my wife, who is in many ways even more conservative than I (if you can believe it). She almost blew her top when she saw a Church member trying to justify SSM. She went running to our library and brought back the sayings of Spencer W Kimball and pointed to this prophet’s many sayings on the evils of homosexuality. Her point: how can you be a Mormon and uphold the prophets if you don’t agree with their most basic teachings?

    I tell these stories to point out that it is indeed difficult for conservative Church members to read even one of these types of comments (especially one that appears to directly contradict what the prophets have said) from people who profess to be members of the Church. We probably tend to remember these types of comments much more than we do the conservative retorts. I can also appreciate that many liberal Church members are more likely to express their opinions on blogs because it probably gets tiresome trying to do so in Elder’s Quorum or Relief Society when you’re out-numbered 10 to 1.

    Why do I keep on hanging around here? Sometimes the writing is excellent. I always learn something new. Matt and Adam often come through with posts I can agree with. And I truly do enjoy reading other viewpoints. That said, you’ll never see me hanging around Bcc. A bit too much diversity there for my tastes.

  57. Clark Goble on September 29, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Interesting statistics. So am I no longer the reigning poster of volume? I don’t tend to post on the more “social” topics so I’d expect my volume to have dropped a fair bit the past few months.

  58. Randy on September 29, 2004 at 6:59 pm

    Ashleigh,

    I’m hoping that conservatives hang out around here because they have come to realize that political commentary is generally not appropriate in Sunday School. ;>)

    (That’s actually true in my current ward in Atlanta and in my previous ward in Nashville; but decidedly not true in any of wards I’ve visited in Utah.)

  59. danithew on September 29, 2004 at 7:07 pm

    As a centrist-conservative (thanks again, Kaimi for the new label) maybe I can answer Ashleigh’s question as to why a conservative would show up here. Of course I can only speak for myself.

    I prefer a variety of viewpoints. Some people surround themselves with friends who will agree with them. I’d almost rather have a liberal non-religious friend to disagree with and discuss things with than a conservative religious friend who would always agree with me. T&S provides a bit of everything and yet almost everyone here (if not everyone) has a Mormon background so we can discuss things in a way that doesn’t seem possible anywhere else. That’s pretty unique.

    I really do find though that I’ve become more moderate and centrist in my thinking in recent years and as a result I almost end up disagreeing with everyone at some point. Hopefully no one is ever too offended though … I really pretty much dig everyone here. Hugs all around.

  60. Matt Evans on September 29, 2004 at 7:17 pm

    “Matt . . . feels as though [he] is defending the minority position from an opposing army of commenters”

    Kristine: I’ve never felt like a minority here, nor that my positions were unpopular among Mormons. Now, when I was an outspoken pro-lifer at Harvard Law School, I did feel I was defending a minority position (and oddly enough, I was!). This was especially apparent once replacing my pro-life signs became a full-time job because students and staff kept tearing them down.

    In the email exchanges we’ve had about the spectrum of bloggers at T&S, my wish has been to push T&S toward the Mormon middle. On the political spectrum, for example, Bush will probably win 75-80% of the Mormon vote, though only three of the ten permanent T&S bloggers will vote for Bush, and at least four or five will vote for Kerry. By the standard of preferred political candidate, T&S is an undeniably “liberal” Mormon website. The political spectrum is admittedly only one among many spectrums by which we could guage how well T&S authors represent Mormon attitudes, but it’s a convenient spectrum because the data’s easily accessed. Data for other spectrums is hard to find and hard to measure.

    Geoff B: my wife is almost always shocked when she reads T&S, and the only reason she’s not always shocked is because she’s read enough T&S to expect it.

  61. Ashleigh on September 29, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    Jack,
    I don’t actually find that a very clever answer because “the world” isn’t liberal. “The world” by definition must be centrist, or am I wrong, the beliefs that the majority of people hold will be view as centrist views. And the definitions change as society changes.

    Not to mention the fact that even if, as a liberal, I did “have the world”, I’d still be a Mormon oddball, and thus, still lonely.

  62. Kaimi on September 29, 2004 at 7:36 pm

    Matt writes:

    On the political spectrum, for example, Bush will probably win 75-80% of the Mormon vote, though only three of the ten permanent T&S bloggers will vote for Bush, and at least four or five will vote for Kerry. By the standard of preferred political candidate, T&S is an undeniably “liberal� Mormon website.

    I don’t know if that’s the most accurate characterization. Without trying to “out” anyone politically, I think that at least some of the perma-bloggers are going to sit the election out entirely, out of disgust with both candidates (perhaps combined with apathy towards the political process as now constituted). For that matter, I suspect that a lot of church members are also going to skip voting entirely, for the same reason.

    I don’t think that particularly solid evidence exists to say that there are five Kerry votes among the perma-bloggers. Possibly not even four.

    Now, even if there are three, you’re correct to note that it’s a little different than the general Mormon demographic.

    But if the Mormon demographic breaks down like this (and this is my guess);

    40% not voting
    40% Bush
    15% Kerry
    5% other

    and the T & S demographic breaks down like this:

    40% not voting
    30% Bush
    30% Kerry

    Well, that’s different from the Mormon norm, but not such a drastic deviation.

  63. Ashleigh on September 29, 2004 at 7:42 pm

    It seems to me there are a myriad areas where the mormon middle is represented, why would the most desirable outcome of T&S be a reproduction of a bunch of forums that already exist?

    Also, your very own comment guidelines encourage a very open, inclusive, and (gasp) shocking diversity of discussion. These rules could be changed to create a more mormon centrist discussion, but I think the result would be a lot less interesting than what you have now.

  64. Bryce I on September 29, 2004 at 8:11 pm

    T&S differs greatly from the Mormon mainstream in that a relatively large percentage of us live outside of Utah. New York is grossly overrepresented (Manhattan temple notwithstanding), and Boston and DC, the other cities in the East Coast axis of (what? did I say something?) seem to have a substantial showing in comparison to the size of the Church in those cities.

    Also obvious, but so far unstated, men seem to outnumber women here (on the Internet, you never can tell, though :) by quite a wide margin, and the average age of the poster here is quite a bit younger than the LDS average, I would venture to guess (especially since family sizes seem to be shrinking as I get older).

    All of which is to say that politics aside, this is hardly a representative sample of the English-speaking LDS world, so it should not be shocking to find that the politics on average differ from the LDS mainstream. I would guess that the younger urban segments of any population group will tend to be more liberal than the group as a whole. I would hardly call this site liberal, however.

    The thing I like the most about this place is that even though we share a common faith by and large, I can’t take very much for granted, other than that ideas will be discussed thoughfully, energetically, and intelligently, for the most part.

  65. Jack on September 29, 2004 at 8:26 pm

    Ashleigh, I ment the “world” as in “Babylon”. I was just trying to give you a good old friendly dig in the ribs. Of course, I realize that it may have come across a little more like a full handed back- slap followed buy a full-throated guffaw revealing the blackened teeth of red necked flag-waving bircher who does Amway as his “real” job.

  66. Julie in Austin on September 29, 2004 at 8:36 pm

    FWIW, this permablogger is a Libertarian and will vote accordingly.

  67. Adam Greenwood on September 29, 2004 at 9:45 pm

    Ashleigh,
    There are a couple of assumptions embedded in what you’re saying that I disagree with.
    (1) That there is really no need (no possibility?) for a more intelligent exposition of the religiously and politically conservative Mormon position than is currently generally available in Sunday School and MeridianMagazine
    (2) That a religiously and politically conservative Mormon world view is not capable of being interesting except in conflict with other world views. Underlying this is either, I would say, (1) an assumption that the religiously and politically conservative Mormon world view is inherently devoid of interest for whatever reason, presumably because it is unreasoned/reflexive, or (2) that worldviews in general are uninteresting, which is to say that ‘interest’ lies in defending and attacking a worldview, not in exploring the implications of that worldview.

  68. Jim F. on September 29, 2004 at 9:50 pm

    Julie, is permablog anything like permafrost?

    Rather than have Kaimi or Matt out me, I’ll just say it: I’m voting for Kerry, not so much because I think he’s a great candidate but because he is acceptable, and I continue to believe that the way we entered into the war in Iraq was wrong.

    In local elections (Utah), I’ll vote for a candidates in both of the two major parties and perhaps a Libertarian. (I’m still deciding about the Libertarian.)

    I accept the designation as Centrist/Liberal if it is helpful, but I’m not really sure that it is helpful. My instincts are generally contrarian.

  69. Bryce I on September 29, 2004 at 9:53 pm

    Reconsidering my previous post, I think I let my perceptions of the Bloggernacle as a whole color my post. The crowd here isn’t quite as urban as I was thinking (although it is still quite a bit more urban than the LDS community at large). I think I was remembering being surprised at the number of people who responded to Kaimi’s brilliant post on The Three Degrees of Glory in New York City, which was one of the first non-College Bowl related threads I posted on here.

    Another over-represented group is people living in college towns or cities with a significant university presence, which would also be expected to skew somewhat to the left.

    And I haven’t said anything about the lawyers . . .

  70. Adam Greenwood on September 29, 2004 at 10:00 pm

    If your guess is spot on, Kaimi, than for politically-active Mormons you’re suggesting a breakdown like this:

    Mormons: 72% – 28%
    T. and S.: 50% – 50%

  71. Bryce I on September 29, 2004 at 10:02 pm

    Does Times and Seasons need a **shudder** poll feature?

  72. Adam Greenwood on September 29, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    Didn’t the phrase ‘Off with your head’ come up in a conversation between you and me, Bryce I.? I believe it did.

    It was then, as now, appropriate.

  73. Gordon Smith on September 29, 2004 at 10:59 pm

    I posted in the wee hours of the morning, then got very busy at work. I have finally caught up on the comments. Here are a few observations:

    1. I continue to resist classification on the political spectrum for the convenience of those who want to play the us-versus-them game. Although I am often thought to be a “conservative” in Madison, I am usually cast as a centrist on T&S, partly (I suspect) because there is no other place for someone who does not fit the binary world of “conservatives” and “liberals.” These classifications irritate me because they shield so much from view and cause us to divide when our goal should be to unite.

    The point of my original post was to suggest that political discourse in the U.S. has much the same quality as political discourse under Zerahemnah, where political leaders attempt to rally their followers around a platform constructed on hate. They didn’t use the words “liberals” and “conservatives,” but they preyed on the separate identities of Lamanites and Nephites to increase divisions, to start wars, and to bring each other into bondage, if possible. The “winners” in this system are the leaders themselves, not the common people, who have goals that do not depend on division among the people.

    2. If anyone cares, I am planning to register a “No” vote in the presidential election. That’s right: I intend to write “No” on the ballot. I thought about voting for myself, but I don’t want to be president, and what if my write-in candidacy caught fire? (tic … for those who need it) Bush and Kerry both disappoint me repeatedly, and I have grown weary of casting a lesser-of-two-evils vote in presidential elections.

    3. In the midst of the debate over whether T&S leans left or right, several people have been complimentary of the T&S community as a place where Mormons of many views can assemble and discuss a wide variety of issues with others who also are striving to learn. T&S is a special place that does not occur in nature. It seems to me that the “political slant” of T&S (if there is one) cannot be measured by the political predilictions of the principal bloggers, whose primary role now seems to be discussion starters. I like that role, and I like the things I learn from all of you. Thanks.

  74. Ashleigh on September 29, 2004 at 11:51 pm

    Yes Adam, I think I may be guilty of those assumptions to a degree.

    1. There may be a need for another more conservative forum, but not so much for *me*. (it is all about me, isn’t it?)

    I suspect this is true for a lot of the people who frequent T&S, it is the difference that makes it work (for me). So I still don’t agree with your vision of a perfect T&S reflecting your view of a perfect church. If you want to create such a forum go for it, but I think it’s silly to lament that T&S is not that forum. And I didn’t mean to imply that Sunday school and/or Meridian are not intelligent, sometimes yes, sometimes no, just like here.

    2. Re: “conservative Mormon world view is not capable of being interesting except in conflict with other world views”

    This again is true to a degree for me. Just as I doubt that you spend a lot of time trolling around feminist sites, I don’t find much interest in strictly conservative Mormon discussion. I get it at church, with my family, around most of my friends and acquaintances. And it’s just not my bag, baby.

    Imagine yourself surrounded all the time, constantly by feminists and feminist discussion. Would your lack of interest imply that A. Feminists are inherently uninteresting, or B. That a feminist worldview is only interesting in contrast to other worldviews. OR C. would your lack of interest simply imply that you have other interests.

  75. Ashleigh on September 30, 2004 at 12:00 am

    Oh, and Adam, I’d still be interested in why you contribute to T&S, if you are interested in answering.

  76. Matt Evans on September 30, 2004 at 12:08 am

    “The point of my original post was to suggest that . . . political leaders attempt to rally their followers around a platform constructed on hate.”

    Gordon,

    Other than the few people carrying BUSH IS HITLER signs at International ANSWER rallies, I don’t see any political activity that could be characterized as hateful. Sure, Republicans and Democrats paint each other in an unfavorable light while putting the best gloss on themselves, but that falls far short of hate. What do you have in mind when you say the platforms are “constructed on hate”?

    I also don’t understand why you don’t plan to vote. The First Presidency has urged members “to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully and then vote for those they believe will most nearly carry out their ideas of good government.” One of the candidates is closer to your ideas of good government than the other. Only in theory is it possible that they be equidistant or equally wrong. It’s our religous duty, it seems to me, to figure out who is better. Being weary shouldn’t be an excuse. Being a law professor, you must have ideas about what makes a good justice. The next 30 years of Constitutional law may depend on which candidate wins the election, and one of the candidates will pick better justices than will the other.

    And if today’s political climate is too hot to warrant participation, what do you make of those who voted for Lincoln despite the promises of several states to secede from the Union if he won? Should people have sat on their hands to avoid the contention? Should Samuel Adams have caused so much heat at the South Church? Or Patrick Henry raised the roofs of Williamsburg? And what can you make of the Declaration of Independence? Talk about heat — try telling your family that you just committed treason against the crown! Returning to the Book of Mormon, what about the hero Captain Moroni? He too was willing to fire it up.

    Thank heavens there were people in those hot circumstances that didn’t flee the fire but wrought good things. Come on brother, do your duty and get involved!

    (As you can tell, apathy and indifference really irritate me. I believe indifference is far more dangerous to our political system than is heated rhetoric. The system functions as it does (i.e., negatively) precisely because people are apathetic. If more people were knowledgable and involved, the tone of the campaigns would be better. My disdain for apathy is probably what makes Captain Moroni resonate for me, even if I don’t follow his example of threatening the apathetic with the sword.)

  77. Russell Arben Fox on September 30, 2004 at 7:23 am

    I’m afraid, Gordon, that I must agree with Matt. Of course, your reaction isn’t a purely, or even primarily, apathetic one; it is a disappointed one. And moreover it is a disappointment shared by a large majority of your fellow citizens. But as Matt implies, such disappointment is self-fulfilling; to reject political engagement (despite how admittedly contrived and even meaningless a vote in this national election may be insofar as any real “engagement” goes) is only to raise one’s demands for what would be worthy of engagement in the future, thus allowing for further disappointment when national candidates (inevitably) fail to deliver, thus leading to even more frustrated non-engagement, and hence further disappointment, etc. Eventually, you could become one of those intelligent people who think all politics is a sham and silly (of whom there are many millions), and thus not worth your time at all. I can respect a principle quietism, and may that’s what you’re getting at, but it sounds to me more like a rejection out of annoyance.

    Moreover, I was a bit perturbed by your comment “there is no other place for someone who does not fit the binary world of ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals.'” This is certainly not correct. Granted, our political system prevents almost all minority parties and political movements from gaining much of a foothold, for a variety of reasons; the “conservative” and “liberal” ideological groupings have an incredibly strong grip on American political discourse and engagement. But they don’t have an absolute grip; there are alternatives. I guess you may have only been referring to political/ideological debates in the context of T&S…but even here, at the nexus of all our religious/political discussions, that still isn’t correct, is it? We’ve gone round and round among ourselves on how “liberal” and “conservative” cannot be restricted to simple (possibly disappointing) categories. And several of us have rejected those categories regardless. Julie votes for libertarians. I vote for socialists. I think there is more going on here (at T&S and in America) than your (no doubt justifiably) frustrated comment implies.

  78. Russell Arben Fox on September 30, 2004 at 7:31 am

    With Jim’s and Gordon’s intentions now publicly stated, to we have sufficient data points to set up a T&S permablogger model for the upcoming presidential election? My guesses:

    Gordon will abstain from voting for a president.
    Julie will vote for Michael Badnarik for president.
    Jim will vote for Kerry for president.
    Kaimi will vote for Kerry for president.
    Kristine will vote for Kerry for president.
    Nate will vote for Bush for president.
    Adam will vote for Bush for president.
    Matt will vote for Bush for president.
    I will vote for Kerry, if it looks like Arkansas is in play and my vote could contribute to a Kerry win in this state come November 2; otherwise I will vote for Ralph Nader or some other progressive candidate on the ballot.
    For the life of me, I can’t make any guess whatsoever about Greg. If he’s revealed any intentions in the past, I’ve missed them. Care to enlighten me, Greg?

  79. Kaimi on September 30, 2004 at 7:38 am

    I’ll be voting for the person I voted for last time. John McCain.

  80. danithew on September 30, 2004 at 8:01 am

    I’ll be voting for Bush.

  81. Russell Arben Fox on September 30, 2004 at 8:11 am

    About my possible Kerry vote…

    Kerry’s election to the presidency will be, in my view, an unhappy event. For example (again, as Matt implies), Kerry will almost certainly have the opportunity to nominate multiple Supreme Court justices, and there are numerous changes afoot at lower levels in the judiciary that Kerry’s nominations could either slow or put a stop to. While I recognize the complexity of the issue, I generally don’t like judicial impositions on the polity as a whole, especially in connection to social issues (which is also why I have doubts about some of the chosen strategies of those who have opposed the moral activism of the judiciary in recent decades); Bush’s nominations have been part of effort to change that aspect of our current judicial environment, and it’ll be a shame to lose whatever corrective progress we’ve made. Kerry will very likely disappoint and frustrate me on issues relating to trade, abortion, many more.

    It is possible that he’ll be able to make progress on items that I support: comprehensive medical reform and coverage, a re-organization of Bush’s in-principle-defensible-but-in-practice-underfunded-and-terribly-executed education policies, and some others. But given the level of Republican opposition he’ll face in Congress, I doubt it. In all likelihood, the only areas where Kerry will really be able to make much of a direct difference will be areas where I’m not going to like what he’ll do.

    With one exception: Iraq. I’ve never particularly voted on the basis of foreign policy preferences before, but this case foreign policy is making the difference for me. I supported the Iraq war; my support was always confused and hesitant, but basically I agreed with the “liberal” (in the Wilsonian sense) argument for acting pre-emptively against a potential threat in the context of mounting a principled, “civilizational” challenge to the culture of tyranny which has warped the Islamic world. I’ve since come to the conclusion that I was wrong to support the war–not necessarily because the principles I agreed with are fundamentally flawed (though they may be; I’ve a thought a lot harder about the relationship between prudence and sovereignty over the last year or so), but because I’ve come to the conclusion that their employ by Bush and those closest to him was fundamentally exploitive. I don’t think he’s a bad or necessarily stupid man. I think he is a careless, unconsciously manipulative man; I think he has tunnel-vision, and he is untroubled by taking others down his tunnel with him. He sees an end to his tunnel, and he thinks little about the costs (to others) of getting there. Is the world, and the people of Iraq, better off without Saddam Hussein? Of course. Should Bush and Co. be held accountable for the incompetent, politically abusive, strategically damaging, needlessly offensive, cruelly blinkered, globally irresponsible way in which Saddam Hussein was removed from power? Definitely.

    The fact is, in many ways I should really like Bush. He is genuinely conservative and compassionate, in ways that I approve. If he had half the wisdom of a man like Tony Blair, who is at least willing to acknowledge mistakes before Parliament, I wouldn’t be nearly so worried about his (let’s face it, likely) re-election. But he doesn’t appear to have that wisdom; his sense of the world around him instead looks to be quite small. And the students and ward members I know serving in Iraq right now deserve better than that from their commander-in-chief.

  82. Russell Arben Fox on September 30, 2004 at 8:13 am

    “I’ll be voting for the person I voted for last time. John McCain.”

    I write-in vote Kaimi? Makes sense to me. I had to write in Ralph Nader the first of the two times I voted for him.

  83. Kristine on September 30, 2004 at 8:32 am

    Actually, since I don’t think Massachusetts will be seriously in play, I may cast a protest vote, too.

    I’ll write in Jim Faulconer!

  84. Kaimi on September 30, 2004 at 8:51 am

    That changes the chart to:

    Gordon will abstain from voting for a president.
    Julie will vote for Michael Badnarik for president.
    Jim will vote for Kerry for president.
    Kaimi will vote for McCain for president.
    Kristine will vote for Jim Faulconer for president.
    Nate will vote for Bush for president.
    Adam will vote for Bush for president.
    Matt will vote for Bush for president.
    Russell will vote for Kerry for president.

    Bush: 3
    Kerry: 2
    Other: 4
    Unknown: 1

  85. Chad Too on September 30, 2004 at 9:16 am

    When I lived in Nevada, we always had the option of voting for “None Of The Above” in state elections. At the time, if NOTA won the election the second highest vote-getter would win, though I understand there is a movement a-foot to give NOTA some teeth — some sort of special election with new candidates required if NOTA wins.

    Oh, how I’ve wished for the NOTA option since!

  86. Matt Evans on September 30, 2004 at 9:22 am

    Kaimi,

    It’s interesting to know who is voting for who, but it would be more instructive to see how people would vote in an instant-runoff system. We are a politically liberal Mormon blog because a disproportionate number of our authors prefer Kerry to Bush.

  87. Kristine on September 30, 2004 at 9:47 am

    Matt, why, exactly, is it “more instructive” to reduce people’s complex views to the sum of their choices in an oversimplified, binary situation?

  88. Nate Oman on September 30, 2004 at 10:02 am

    Russell: I am puzzled by your Iraq comments. Are you claiming that Kerry should be a elected as a way of punishing Bush for past misdeeds or that Kerry would provide better handling of the current situation?

  89. Russell Arben Fox on September 30, 2004 at 10:59 am

    “Are you claiming that Kerry should be a elected as a way of punishing Bush for past misdeeds or that Kerry would provide better handling of the current situation?”

    A fair question. Obviously, in many ways I am contemplating voting in exactly the way which Gordon criticized: I’m voting against a candidate rather than for one. This isn’t to say that I don’t think Kerry could take actions which would put the situation in Iraq (and regarding the struggle with Islamic terrorism as a whole) on better footing; I do. But also think that there is something to the idea of using the vote as a way of expressing a demand for accountability. There are numerous examples of CEOs of major corporations (an example rather pertinent to Bush’s personal style) who make mistakes, bad decisions, or fail to take responsibility for alternatives, who end up being fired by their board of directors, even though in general their record is defensible. It’s a reasonable act of demanding some level of confidence and trust in the competence of the person at the top. Perhaps the actions of many likely Kerry voters–especially dismayed “liberal hawks” like myself–can be understood in those terms.

  90. Nate Oman on September 30, 2004 at 11:05 am

    Russell: I think that some rather major mistakes were made in the war and occupation in Iraq. On the otherhand, I am not at all convinced that Kerry would do a better job. Indeed, I am at a loss to figure out what he would do differently in Iraq other than give less optimistic speeches about it. However, I am simply not comfortable with casting a vote on a purely ex post perspective.

  91. Russell Arben Fox on September 30, 2004 at 11:13 am

    An addendum: one can vote (or take almost any sort of public action, for that matter) either instrumentally or expressively. That is, you can vote with an eye towards maximizing your ability to affect outcomes, considering votes as tools of production, and the act of voting as a matter of relating oneself to sources of power within a polity. Or, you can vote with the intention of situating and identifying yourself (to others, or just privately) in relation to a principle, an idea or movement, whether or not outcomes will actually be affected by such situating.

    Probably no is ever purely one or the other. I’m certainly not. Twice I voted for Ralph Nader, not because I thought he could become president, and certainly not because I wanted him to be president (he would have been terrible at the job), but simply because he stood for and articulated certain arguments which I wanted more attention paid to. Of course, both times I lived in the state of Virginia, where the triumph of Republican candidates was assured. Now I live in Arkansas, and its 2004, and while some of the things Ralph Nader and other progressives stand for still seem important to me, not all of them do, while conversely some things I didn’t think were particularly relevant four years ago now seem vital. All this changes my calculations. I don’t particularly care for either major candidate; while there is some I like about both, there are many things I dislike as well, and neither are interested in certain issues which I care about. So, should I express myself through voting for the “protest candidate” that will at least give voice to something which is otherwise mostly unheard? Or should I try to leverage my vote in the direction of an outcome which will have consequences in regards to a matter (namely, Iraq and the war on terrorism) that is both pressing and immediately in the president’s power to do something about? It depends on whether it seems as though Arkansas has a chance to be a viable tool towards achieving my prefered end. If it doesn’t, the expressive aspect may drive my choice more than the instrumental.

  92. Nate Oman on September 30, 2004 at 11:19 am

    Russell: Why not simply be expressive. Mathematically there is zero possibility that your vote will effect any outcomes anyway. (Of course, mathematically its inherent expressive value is limited as well. Is the message all that much different if Nader gets 50,000 votes rather than 50,001 votes in the Natural State?)

  93. Russell Arben Fox on September 30, 2004 at 11:34 am

    “Is the message all that much different if Nader gets 50,000 votes rather than 50,001 votes in the Natural State?”

    It might be if I’m the 1. Not all public recognition finds its significance numerically; I’ve just outed myself to this blog and the friends and fellow discussants I have here as a Nader voter (actually, I think I did that in another thread a while back), and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t actually voted for him. Is it significant? To me it is. Is it to anyone else? Well, it’s got you talking to me about it, hasn’t it?

  94. Chris Grant on September 30, 2004 at 11:38 am

    CB’s mention of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in the context of the discussion here about political partisanship in times of war, reminded me of a passage I recently read in Allen Guelzo’s Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President:

    “[As war approached] Stephen A. Douglas, still the Northern Democrats’ greatest figure, bravely urged Northern Democrats to support Lincoln and resist the secessionists. Jacob Dolson Cox heard him in Columbus, Ohio, just after the fall of Sumter, demanding that ‘the Union must be preserved and the insurrection must be crushed’ and pledging ‘his hearty support to Mr. Lincoln’s administration in doing this.’

    “But it would have been unwise to count on the disappearance of an animosity so old and so ideological. . . . [Democrats’] very presence in Congress allowed them the opportunity to question administration military policy, impute the most outrageous motives to administration actions, and begin training a new cadre of anti-Republican congressional leaders. . . Democrats would agree with Republicans that the Union ought to be preserved, but they would soon raise persistent objections about how to do the preserving, what degree the containment or abolition of slavery should figure in that preservation, and how to treat public dissent from administration policies. In the end, the Democrats in Congress might have lacked enough votes to do more than (as a disgusted Republican put it) ‘oppose everything and propose nothing,’ but they had the capacity to generate electoral mischief, and Lincoln could not ignore them.”

    Sound familiar?

  95. Matt Evans on September 30, 2004 at 11:47 am

    Kristine, the virtue of the instant-runoff system is its dispensing with the binary options altogether. Each voter lists their preferences in order. You could, for example, vote:

    1 = Jim Faulconer
    2 = Kaimi Wenger

    438 = Hillary Clinton
    439 = Howard Dean

    907 = Oprah
    908 = John Kerry

    240,672 = Condie Rice
    240,673 = David Letterman

    78,652,078 = Jay Leno
    78,652,079 = George W. Bush
    78,652,080 = John Ashcroft
    78,652,081 = tafka Prince
    78,652,082 = Rush Limbaugh

    114,484,531 = Paul Rueubens

    and so on.

    From your list we could deduce most of your political beliefs, attitudes and priorities. Though analyzing your complete list would be ideal, the single data point of a voter’s relative ranking of Kerry and Bush indicates certain political values, even if neither candidate is the voter’s first choice.

  96. Kaimi on September 30, 2004 at 11:56 am

    Matt,

    The problem with that assessment is that Bush carries a good deal of personal credibility baggage. Thus, any binary choice between the two is likely to produce skewed results.

    Would a “conservative-liberal” test be particularly accurate if it asked people (in 2004) to choose who they preferred between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon?

  97. Kaimi on September 30, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    For example, I tend to place a premium on perceived integrity. My personal list — who I would most like to see in the white house — is headed by two names: John McCain and Colin Powell.

    This isn’t a vote for Jim Faulconer — that’s two well-known and politically powerful Republicans, and they’re my #1 and #2 choices, respectively.

    So why is it again that placing Kerry above Bush makes me a liberal?

  98. Jack on September 30, 2004 at 12:04 pm

    Russell, do you have any family or friends currently serving in the military? Perhaps if you had a son or a daughter dodging bullets in Iraq your voting would reflect a more practical rather than ideoligical position on the up coming election. We can dissagree untill doomsday about the prudence of envading Iraq, but for goodness sake lets not write-in Mickey Mouse on th ballot believing that in the long run it would save lives in Iraq.

  99. Russell Arben Fox on September 30, 2004 at 12:23 pm

    “Russell, do you have any family or friends currently serving in the military?”

    Nope, no family. But, as I mentioned in my comment explaining my possible vote for Kerry, there are former students of mine as well as members of my ward serving in Iraq at this moment, and I care about them. It is partly for their sake that I would like to see someone more responsible running this war. As I hopefully made clear (though perhaps I did not), the fact that I will likely vote for Kerry this November actually represents, as I see it, a (for me somewhat unusual) triumph of practical concerns over ideological ones.

  100. Kaimi on September 30, 2004 at 12:46 pm

    At Sons of Mosiah, Logan wrote:

    It wouldn’t take a very strong challenger for me to choose him or her over Bush. But Kerry is trying hard to test the limits of just how weak that challenger could be.

    Choosing between those two, I’m in the same boat.

  101. lyle on September 30, 2004 at 1:04 pm

    i voted strait libertarian last election (in utah). don’t know if my vote encouraged libertarians to continue being the strongest 2nd party in Utah (they run more candidates than Democrats do); but hey…I tried. Russell has a point, eh? :)

  102. Nate Oman on September 30, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    Chris: Are you suggesting that President Bush should jail potentially undesirable congressional candidates during campaign season, a la Lincoln in Kentucky in the 1862 elections? Perhaps he could also threaten unruly state legislatures with arrest, a la Lincoln and the Maryland legislature in 1861.

    I kind of like it…

  103. Adam Greenwood on September 30, 2004 at 1:10 pm

    Interesting comments by all.

    Ashleigh,
    I stick around, first, out of a sense of duty. I feel that members of my stripe are unnecessarily disengaged from the intellectual and cultural spheres, and that they would benefit from seeing an intelligent and educated person who shares their views and is interested in these spheres. I believe that liberal and/or unorthodox and/or simply unhappy Mormons benefit from seeing that an intelligent and educated person can be conservative and orthodox and content with the church. Until a genuine example of such a person comes along, I’ll have to do. :(

    I stick around because my goals are being accomplished to a degree. We don’t always argue. Sometimes we all start from the same page and move from there. Sometimes I learn things. And, even when instant dissension and debate drowns what I thought would be a promising line of thought (the thread about mothers sacrificing themselves for their unborn children and the distinction between the heroic and the good is one example), at least the idea is out there and perhaps the kingdom is advanced a little.

    I stick around because it is not impossible that T&S will become what I hope it to be. A forum where common ideas can be built from, but where dissent keeps it honest.

    I stick around because I helped found this thing and I feel an affection for it.

  104. Matt Evans on September 30, 2004 at 2:04 pm

    Kaimi, while polls have shown that the vast majority of conservatives support Bush and the vast majority of liberals support Kerry, you’re right to point out that some conservaties prefer Kerry and some liberals prefer Bush. Two prominent liberals, Ed Koch and Ron Silver, were even willing to endorse him at the Republican Convention, so ranking Bush and Kerry is not a perfect indicator of one’s political ideology. My point to Kristine was to show that how a voter ranks Kerry relative to Bush is one more data point (in addition to the data point of who they support for president) that helps us closer approximate the person’s ideology. Two data points are better than one.

    As you increase the sample size of data points, the margin of error will continue to diminish until we can accurately deduce your political preferences.

  105. Rob on September 30, 2004 at 2:06 pm

    Russell:
    What evidence do you have–besides his say so–that Bush actually is compassionate. His policies against the environment, against the poor, and against open governance seem anything but compassionate. So he calls the families of 9/11 victims or soldiers killed in Iraq. Any president would do that. I would assert that Bush is driving forward the most uncompassionate agenda we’ve seen since…we’ll, we’ve never seen one this bad in our lifetimes.

  106. Matt Evans on September 30, 2004 at 2:36 pm

    Rob, please define your unique definition of compassion. I’m confused by your use of the term to describe environmental policies or ‘open government.’ And even by the word’s traditional meaning, I don’t see why you imply that compassion means being generous with other people’s money. Christ never said such a thing.

  107. Greg on September 30, 2004 at 3:26 pm

    I’ve been out of town for several days and am slowly making my way through this discussion. But to answer Russell’s question above, I am now a registered Democrat and will be voting for Senator Kerry (four years ago I was independent and voted for Nader, and most of the Green ticket). The reasons why include No Child Left Behind, the Clean Skies Initiative; the Healthy Forests Initiative, the tax cuts, the Patriot Act, the prescription drug act, and the proposal to privatize social security. Like Russell, though, the most pressing issue now is Iraq and its (highly deleterious, to me) effect on the nascent War on Terror.

  108. Rob on September 30, 2004 at 3:39 pm

    Compassion for me is being mindful of and helping those who are in need. Future generations who are losing clean water, clean air, and lots of species are needy. Big energy corporations and people who make their money from investments rather than salaries, are not needy.

    As for being generous with other people’s money–we believe that governments have the right to tax…so they aren’t stealing (D&C on appropriateness of constitutional law, Christ on rendering unto Caesar, etc.). Even Bush believes in the right to give away tax money…in the form of corporate subsidies. Matt, maybe you don’t believe in them. But your Boy Bush is only in the White House because he does. He’s the paymaster and he’s paying those who got him where he is. This may be “business as usual” and I would quickly join you in contesting this.

    However, giving tax money to take care of the needy is compassionate. Giving it to your funders and those who are the most well off in society is not compassion, call it whatever else you want.

    As for open government, again, those who are invited to the table get the goodies, and the records are locked away from everyone else. That is not helping those who most need info, those who don’t have other means of getting that info, those who can’t just “call their congressman” and get the goods on the latest policies.

    Bush prioritizes those who have (who don’t need) over those who don’t (who have needs). That makes him at best uncompassionate. At worst…well, don’t want to slip into ‘hateful’ rhetoric.

  109. Russell Arben Fox on September 30, 2004 at 3:49 pm

    “What evidence do you have–besides his say so–that Bush actually is compassionate.”

    Knowing your views as I do Rob, I’m not going to make a big issue out of this. Let’s just read “compassionate” (however inaccurate or incomplete a definition this may be) as “willing to recognize the government’s role in addressing problems.” I’m not judging his personal qualities. As far as my rather contrived definition goes, Bush has, in fact, pushed forward government assistance in terms of education, the arts, medical benefits, and other areas. Hence, “compassionate.” (Do I think his programs in any of these areas have been either sufficiently funded or particularly well-executed? For the most part, no. His No Child Left Behind Act, for example, was a program which in principle could have and should have been connected to a set of comprehensive–and expensive–school choice-related reforms that would have resulted in the first truly serious break poor children would have received from the public school system in decades. As it is, NCLB is draining local school systems of their resources and shrinking cirriculums across the country to a simplistic test-based agenda. Good idea, no follow through.)

  110. Chris Grant on September 30, 2004 at 4:14 pm

    Rob: Is a person more compassionate the more money he/she taxes from the rich and transfers to the poor?

  111. Kaimi on September 30, 2004 at 4:51 pm

    Chris:

    Why not? Given the decreasing marginal utility of money, it seems like the most likely configuration to maximize utility is to distribute wealth from rich to poor. (Abba Lerner has discussed this).

  112. Adam Greenwood on September 30, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    What an odd response, Kaimi. Is utility maximization your definition of compassion?

  113. CB on September 30, 2004 at 5:13 pm

    Who is more compassionate:

    A) A person who votes for lower taxes but who donates generously to private charity, or

    B) A person who votes for higher taxes but does not give to charity.

  114. Jack on September 30, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    So bush takes the guff for pushing NCLB when for the last 50yrs the public school system has been going down the toilet. I’m not saying that I think its the best solution (or any kind of a solution for that matter), but I think we need to admit to ourselves that public school is very near to a point of crisis in this country and IMO no amount of money thrown at it is going to fix it. It needs major internal reform before we can even begin to think about what a budget can do.

  115. Chris Grant on September 30, 2004 at 8:54 pm

    Kaimi wrote: “Why not? Given the decreasing marginal utility of money, it seems like the most likely configuration to maximize utility is to distribute wealth from rich to poor.”

    So Gus Hall was much more compassionate than either McCain or Powell is?

  116. ronin on September 30, 2004 at 9:10 pm

    Liberals and Leftists also seem to off in la-la land whan it comes to understanding the threat that Wahaabi inspired islamic terrorismposes to the civilised western world, especially the USA. These guys are no the heroic, freedom fighters like the Sandinistas or like the many followers in latin America marching in the footsteps of Comrade Che. The profound unwillingness to accept the dangers of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is perhaps the reason why folks of the leftist persuasion are so bent on opposing the war on terror or many of the other actions the current administration has taken.
    If even the horrible attacks of Sept 11th cant get folks of the liberal -left persuasion to see and realise what kind of danger our society and our civilistion faces, I dont really know what to say. Seems to me to be some kind of willing blindness – a desire to now want to believe that colored folks like myself, just cant be “bad” after all, cuz, it is only th erepublicans, the religious, the NRA members, and the corporations who are the real bad’ entities in our society.
    End of rant.

  117. Steve.Evans on September 30, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    By the way, folks, in response to popular demand and in a timely fashion, we at BCC have brought you the brain candy you crave: a new poll. This one comes with extra politics! You know you want it…. even you, Geoff B!

    Go here!

  118. Russell Arben Fox on October 1, 2004 at 1:08 am

    Since this has turned into a basically open political thread…my take on tonight’s presidential debate is here . Bottom line: I think it was actually a pretty substantive, revealing debate, surprisingly enough. It’s not implausible to imagine that some minds could actually be changed by it, which is more than you can usually say for these events. Not many minds, of course, but a few–and likely more toward the Kerry side than Bush’s.

  119. Gordon Smith on October 1, 2004 at 2:44 am

    Between work and Church calling, I was not able to participate in this discussion all day, and I missed this debate this evening, though I was pleased to see reports that confirm Russell’s judgment that the debate was “pretty substantive.” Although the discussion here has passed me by, I wanted to respond to Matt and Russell, so here goes …

    Matt: “Other than the few people carrying BUSH IS HITLER signs at International ANSWER rallies, I don’t see any political activity that could be characterized as hateful.” When I turned on the television to watch the local news tonight, the first story I saw was about a local community in which several homeowners with Bush-Cheney signs in their front lawns woke up this morning to find swastikas burned into their lawns. When I walk down State Street, I am accosted by people who implore me to support their efforts to defeat the “liar in the White House” or other similar things. When I go to work, I hear my colleagues openly mock Bush for just about everything. They hate Bush in the same way that many people with other political agendas hated Clinton, and they use the tactics of hate to rally the troops. You were right that I know more Kerry supporters — check that, Bush detractors — than Bush supporters, but in Madison this election is about hate.

    Matt: “One of the candidates is closer to your ideas of good government than the other. Only in theory is it possible that they be equidistant or equally wrong.” I have been pondering how to most effectively explain the error of this view, and have thought to tell a quick story. I have a friend who is a Southern Baptist. He told me once that a person who steals a candy bar is just as far from God as a person who commits adultery. While this struck me as somewhat odd, I realize that if we believe that no unclean thing can dwell with God, then he is right. In a similar way, both candidates can be equally far from my idea of a good president.

    Of course, you will say that every candidate will fail under this standard, and you would be right if I demanded perfection of my candidates. But I don’t. I will vote for state and local candidates who fall far short of that standard, but only if they clear a minimum threshold. Bush and Kerry do not clear my minimum threshold.

    Matt: “Come on brother, do your duty and get involved!” Is Kaimi doing his duty by voting for McCain? Is Julie doing her duty by voting Libertarian? Did Russell do his duty by voting for Nader? My “No” vote is a protest against the major party candidates. It means just as much to me and just as little to the outcome of the election as Kaimi’s and Julie’s and Russell’s votes. I fail to see why doing my duty requires me to vote for Bush or Kerry. By the way, as Russell correctly observed, my vote is not a sign of indifference, but of frustration. Why are frustrated people expected to plug their noses and vote for one of the declared candidates?

    Russell: “I was a bit perturbed by your comment ‘there is no other place for someone who does not fit the binary world of “conservatives” and “liberals.â€?’ This is certainly not correct….” You are right, and you also correctly surmised that I was referring to political/ideological debates here at T&S, though my criticism could have broader application (as you note, “the ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ ideological groupings have an incredibly strong grip on American political discourse and engagement”). The fact that some members of the community act outside of the binary world (you forgot to include me on your list!) does not diminish my point, which is that these categories are harmful to reasoned political discourse.

    Russell: “to reject political engagement … is only to raise one’s demands for what would be worthy of engagement in the future, thus allowing for further disappointment when national candidates (inevitably) fail to deliver, thus leading to even more frustrated non-engagement, and hence further disappointment.” This seems like a strange criticism to me, at least coming from you. Why do you interpret a protest vote as rejecting political engagement? Were you rejecting political engagement by voting for Nader? How do you distinguish our votes.

    One last shot: I was happy to hear Chad Too mention the NOTA option. I decided on my course of action by reflecting on corporate elections, in which some large shareholders have registered protest votes by “just voting no.” If you aren’t familiar with corporate elections, they are even more impoverished than our presidential election. Typically only one slate of candidates appears on the ballot. Voting no was a vote of no confidence. My vote is a vote of no confidence, and it is not apathetic or irresponsible.

  120. Russell Arben Fox on October 1, 2004 at 8:08 am

    “This seems like a strange criticism to me, at least coming from you. Why do you interpret a protest vote as rejecting political engagement? Were you rejecting political engagement by voting for Nader? How do you distinguish our votes?”

    Nader is a person, with an organization and an attendant slate of positions and proposals; “none of the above” has neither. I respect a vote of “no confidence,” and I think it does represent a legitimate act of protest and/or engagement…but only in parliamentary societies, where some substantive meaning can be derived from a declaration of “no confidence.” No such meaning can be derived from a “no” vote in a winner-take-all election systerm. Which is why, as I mentioned a while back, we ought to change at least some of the rules of our system.

    I don’t mean to be overly critical, especially if you’d like your “no” vote to be understood as just such a rebuke to the rules which give us such limited choices. I can see the expressive power in a rebuke. But, perhaps wrongly, I read your declared intention to vote “no” as something much more simple (and, I think, simplistic): a “pox on both your houses; you both suck” kind of vote…which I just don’t believe to be a good or worthy response. My apologies if I misinterpreted you.

  121. Gordon Smith on October 1, 2004 at 8:49 am

    Russell, There is no need to apologize. Two points about your response:

    1. You assert that a vote of no confidence has no substantive meaning in our system. Two problems with that. First, if I am the only one who takes this course, it still has meaning to me. This strikes me as very similar to Kaimi’s vote for McCain as a principled stand in favor of integrity. Second, if I tell people this idea and it catches on, it would become meaningful, even if the system provided no formal rules for recognizing it. I have no aspirations for this, but I make the point merely to say that we do not need to have rules legitimating action before the actions take on substantive meaning.

    2. I don’t understand why my “no” vote must be a “rebuke to the rules which give us such limited choices” before it is “good or worthy.” Perhaps my vote would be more noble if it were cast as a protest against the two-party system, rather than against these two candidates. On the other hand, what if I don’t know whether my vote is such a vote? The fact is that I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the distinction between a vote saying “give me more choices” and “these choices stink.” Those seem like pretty close cousins. Why does my vote need to imply a certain “fix” for the broken system before it is valuable?

  122. Gordon Smith on October 1, 2004 at 8:57 am

    P.S. to Russell, A frightening thought just occurred to me in light of this exchange. Is it possible that I am being more radical by voting “No” than you were by voting for Nader? Under your conception of this, I am operating completely outside the system (no NOTA option on the ballot), while you were working within the rules (allowing write-in candidates).

  123. Rob on October 1, 2004 at 9:18 am

    “Is a person more compassionate the more money he/she taxes from the rich and transfers to the poor?”

    Not necessarily. But someone who consistently takes money away from The Public (that’s what a tax cut is…taking money that we all contribute to the public pot and cutting back on $ for poor folks) and gives it to rich people instead of the poor, cannot be considered compassionate.

    Basically, conservatives like Bush want government to fail so people won’t want it and rich people can keep their money.

    More progressive folks want to solve the problems in the world and recognize that using public money is one (if not the only) way to take care of problems that effect everyone.

  124. Chris Grant on October 1, 2004 at 9:43 am

    Rob writes: “But someone who consistently takes money away from The Public (that’s what a tax cut is”

    What an interesting difference one’s perspective can make. Some of us view taxes, not tax cuts, as money taken away from The Public.

    “Basically, conservatives like Bush want government to fail so people won’t want it and rich people can keep their money.”

    Fascinating theory.

  125. Nate Oman on October 1, 2004 at 9:44 am

    “Basically, conservatives like Bush want government to fail so people won’t want it and rich people can keep their money.

    More progressive folks want to solve the problems in the world and recognize that using public money is one (if not the only) way to take care of problems that effect everyone.”

    Now I see! Conservatives are mean agents of the rich and progressive folks are public-interested problem solvers. Why haven’t I seen it earlier!

  126. Chris Grant on October 1, 2004 at 9:45 am

    If it had been, say, Dan Quayle, rather than Senator Kerry who made the remark about “Treblinka Square”, the media would have crucified him. Real bad.

  127. Chris Grant on October 1, 2004 at 9:53 am

    The National Review editors floated the mirror-image theory to Rob’s during the 1992 presidential campaign when they twitted Senator Gore for giving less than 1% of his income to charity and said: “Maybe Mr. Gore was trying to strengthen the case for federal poverty programs.” But they, unlike Rob, seemed to be joking.

  128. ed on October 1, 2004 at 10:29 am

    Bush didn’t really reduce taxes. He only reduced current taxes, while raising future taxes. To cut taxes overall, you would need to reduce spending.

    But in my opinion, all this stuff about taxes and compassion is much less important than what is going on in Iraq. If you agree with that, I don’t see how you can be indifferent between the two major candidates. And if you’re not indifferent, it makes sense to vote for one of them.

  129. Matt Evans on October 1, 2004 at 10:52 am

    Gordon, to concisely respond to your comment, people who refuse to vote get the leaders they deserve.

    I think we have a religious duty to be engaged, and to say who we are for, and not merely who we oppose. I see no way to reconcile a refusal to choose with the injunctions of Mosiah and the First Presidency to participate in elective politics. People who vote for write-in candidates are participating and choosing and doing what we’ve been asked to do. If the moral thing to do this year is to not vote for president, because no one is worthy of our support, then only immoral people will determine who leads our country. And that’s not something Mosiah would stomach.

  130. Gordon Smith on October 1, 2004 at 11:15 am

    Matt, That is bizarre. Let’s just assume, for the sake of discussion, that all of the candidates were immoral to the point of being unacceptable to you. Let’s make it extreme: Hitler v. Stalin. Why would you care whether the immoral people choose among these candidates? How does your participation help? Why aren’t you just being complicit in the corruption? Obviously, things haven’t regressed to this point yet, but they have regressed beyond my ability to stomach. Maybe I just have a weaker stomach than you or Mosiah, but don’t fancy yourself morally or spiritually superior because you vote for one of these candidates.

  131. Matt Evans on October 1, 2004 at 11:27 am

    Gordon, I didn’t mean to suggest that one must vote for one of the two major party candidates. My point was that we’ve been called to participate and vote for someone, even if that person is unlikely to win. (Go Jim!)

  132. Rob on October 1, 2004 at 11:35 am

    Conservatives are mean agents of the rich and progressive folks are public-interested problem solvers

    Nate–I didn’t say they were mean…just self-interested rather than compassionate. Russell still hasn’t defended Bush’s compassion. As for Russell’s definition of compassion–“willing to recognize the government’s role in addressing problems” , (talk about a tortured definition!) I’ll agree that Conservatives (at least the ones Bush is playing to) believe in addressing problems as well as progressives are. Just different problems. Progressives are concerned–read compassionate–about the poor and needy. Conservatives (again, the ones Bush is playing to) define rich people and corporations as the needy. They believe that government does have a legitimate role–to consolidate wealth and priviledge in the hands of those who have it. Hense the tax cuts that benefit the investment class and corporations.

    At any rate…to claim that Bush is compassionate you have to make tortured arguments about what the definition of “is” is.

    As for taxes…if you don’t believe in them, then who has to pay for all the public goods we enjoy in our society. And don’t give me the “it takes away my free agency” line about taxes. You don’t have to pay those taxes. You can always move to a third world country that doesn’t enjoy the benefits of public investment in public goods (and hense don’t have to pay taxes for them). I can suggest some nice faevelas or invasiones in Latin America.

    Just don’t tell me Bush is compassionate when his “needy” are rich donors and corporations rather than poor people who are prejudiced against by current social policy and wildlife that is being pushed around by bulldozers.

  133. Chris Grant on October 1, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    “Progressives are concerned–read compassionate–about the poor and needy. Conservatives (again, the ones Bush is playing to) define rich people and corporations as the needy.”

    Does this ostensible dichotomy carry over into the way progressives and conservatives spend their own money?

  134. Chris Grant on October 1, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    Gordon:

    Forgive me if you’ve already answered this, but what was the last presidential election in which at least one major candidate surpassed your current standard of civility?

  135. Mark B on October 1, 2004 at 2:24 pm

    Forget civility. Didn’t it seem that one of the candidates last night was an inarticulate talking doll, whose inability to think was compounded by his inability to say anything but the three lines his handlers had programmed into him.

    There were several openings, but he didn’t take advantage of them, presumably because he was too nervous and over-programmed to say things like “Wrong war. Wrong place. Wrong time.” and “It’s hard work.” For example, when Kerry bragged about being among the first senators to go to the old KGB prison at Treblinka Square (why, did he latch onto the junket money faster than anyone else?), Bush could have pointed out that he got the name wrong. Treblinka was a Nazi death camp in Poland, the Lubyanka was the KGB prison no Dzerzinshky Square (pardon my spelling). But that’s a quibble.

    More relevant (and Kerry’s mention of John Eisenhower, and his father Dwight gave Bush, if only he knew, the perfect opening), would have been DDE’s statements about plans being everything before the first shot is fired, and nothing thereafter. But there was only that lost boy look as the string was pulled and the same old line came tumbling out once again.

  136. Chris Grant on October 1, 2004 at 3:13 pm

    As an inarticulate person myself, it doesn’t bother me having an inarticulate person as my President. (Okay, it bothers me a little bit: Every time I hear Tony Blair speak.) Maybe Republican debate performances of the past have lowered my standards, but I thought Bush did fine. I was at least happy to see that Kerry’s handlers hadn’t coached him in the same annyoning personal-space-invading-macho-headgame tactics that Gore’s handlers did in 2000. Bush, of course, wasn’t alone in his repetitiveness. How many years would it take Kerry/Bush respectively to take care of nuclear problems in the former USSR? Everybody now: “4 and 13″.

  137. Chris Grant on October 1, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    In regard to the inarticulate, repetitive talking doll, here are the counts I get from running the transcript through a word frequency analyzer:

    Total words: Kerry 7343, Bush 6588
    Unique words: Kerry 1231, Bush 1160
    Mean uses per word: Kerry 6.0, Bush 5.7
    Mean word length: Kerry 4.1, Bush 4.1

  138. Rob on October 1, 2004 at 4:11 pm

    Does this ostensible dichotomy carry over into the way progressives and conservatives spend their own money?

    Of course not. There is public and private morality. I would argue that it is best to be both. Many conservatives would argue that the private is more important than the public. Many progressives might not make private contributions (I’ve heard the arguments about Kerry’s tax returns, etc.). However, what is more problematic when you are dealing with millions of needy people in our society, and billions around the world? Your own personal contriibution (unless you are the Gates foundation, you won’t make much of a difference) or steering public policy and funds towards the problems?

    As Mormons we give our 10+% to the Church. Hopefully we give more to other charities as well. But we should be happy that we pay taxes (the Church doesn’t pave roads or build schools–at least not for our own elementary and high school kids).

    This is the big problem with the Republican “trickle down'” theory. Leave the money in the pockets of workers and they’ll buy more happy meals…but McDonalds doesn’t pave roads either. Some money has to go to take care of the shared needs of everyone in society that nobody can afford to take care of on their own. Businesses won’t do that. Individuals can’t do that.

    This is the problem with the “ownership society” that we have to destroy before Bush can implement it. It only benefits those who own, and those who can’t afford to own. Tough crap for them. We all know that it takes money to make money. So an oligarchy like an “ownershop society” will be a disaster for the poor.

    Can you imagine a society where only those who can afford to own clean water get to drink it, or own clean air, or endangered species, or roads…if you can, you may have a lot to answer for when faced with questions someday about how you treated the “least of these” who couldn’t afford to buy healthy water and air.

  139. Rob on October 1, 2004 at 4:16 pm

    Let me be clear before anyone else jumps in here…what I was trying to say was that an ownership society, where you can have anything in this world for money, is clearly an evil plan created by the father of lies and would be a disaster should we attempt to give it further power in our public policy.

  140. clark on October 1, 2004 at 4:44 pm

    Rob, why does an ownership society entail that you can have anything for money? It seems even in an ownership society there are clear boundaries that you can’t have for money. (At least not in a manner acceptable to society) Consider things like drugs or prostitution. Those are outlawed. If you can get them for money it is only by undermining society, not following it. Likewise bribery is very common in many socialist societies in Europe, but are looked askance at in our society, even though we are more an ownership society than Europe. We constantly worry and try to put checks on the influence of money in government. And so on.

    Surely to say that some things can be had for money is not to say anything can be had for money. That is we don’t deny the place of ethics in an ownership society.

  141. john fowles on October 1, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    Matt wrote much earlier: (As you can tell, apathy and indifference really irritate me. I believe indifference is far more dangerous to our political system than is heated rhetoric. The system functions as it does (i.e., negatively) precisely because people are apathetic. If more people were knowledgable and involved, the tone of the campaigns would be better. My disdain for apathy is probably what makes Captain Moroni resonate for me, even if I don’t follow his example of threatening the apathetic with the sword.)

    I empathize with this disclosure and would add that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy or indifference.

  142. Matt Jacobsen on October 1, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    Gordon –

    Just wanted you to know that someone out here supports his decision to abstain from voting for president. Not voting does not equal apathy. You obviously care about the leadership and direction of our country, why else would you be here talking about it? I would wager that you’ve done more to influence the outcome of the election by posting this topic than you would by casting a vote. If people start making you guilty then simply write-in Gordon Hinckley or Jesus or Vacancy — they’re just as likely to win as some third party candidate. Your conscience will be clear on all fronts.

    (I’m less worried about voters like Gordon than I am about people who spend 5 minutes thinking about the election and vote out of a sense of duty.)

  143. Matt Jacobsen on October 1, 2004 at 5:50 pm

    Looks like I didn’t completely make the change from third- to second-person in my previous comment. Sorry about that.

  144. john fowles on October 1, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    Russell wrote Bottom line: I think it was actually a pretty substantive, revealing debate, surprisingly enough. It’s not implausible to imagine that some minds could actually be changed by it, which is more than you can usually say for these events. Not many minds, of course, but a few–and likely more toward the Kerry side than Bush’s.

    I also enjoyed the debate last night and thought that it was surprisingly genuine and substantive. Contrary to Mark B.’s insulting assessment of Bush’s performance, I thought that he did surprisingly well considering his reputation for saying incredibly stupid things. And I was duly impressed with Kerry’s posture and presence of mind–he lived up to all the high expectations that NPR cultivated for him in advance of the debate (and he even acted like a prosecutor in court, as promised by NPR, at certain points in the debate).

    I have irritated many on this blog with my frequent conservative-leaning comments (and the rest have just ignored me). But in spite of that reputation that I have built up for myself, I will disclose (in the political outing spirit of this thread) that I am one of those as yet undecided voters. What this also implies is that I am currently extremely conflicted, because anyone who has been reading my comments for the past six months is surely convinced that I wouldn’t consider voting for anyone else except Bush–and yet I am saying that I am still undecided. My current anxiety about this election stems from the importance of this juncture in our country’s political fabric. A few points that I am belaboring right now:

    (1) The Iraq War: this is the most important and troubling item on my election-anxiety-list. Despite my socially conservative views (which I very much regret having expressed ad nauseum on this blog for the simple reason that it became apparent to me that my arguments weren’t effective but rather merely annoying; after all, why should I have bothered to write anything when Matt always says anything I want to say more thoughtfully, analytically, and concisely than I ever do?), I am a committed internationalist. (This may come as a surprise to some of you shocked by how I engaged our Belgian friends on Jim’s thread about random European and French thoughts.) The one thing about President’ Bush’s approach during his presidency that has been more uncomfortable to me than anything else is his attitude towards international cooperation and foreign policy in general.

    I admit that when we invaded Iraq, I fully supported the notion. But at the time I also believed that Iraq had WMD that were immediately deployable, and I was also very moved by Saddam’s torture chambers, rape rooms, and genocides (I even commented in a heated discussion at the time that if it were true that even one woman was raped in front of her children by Saddam’s soldiers, then that would be enough reason to invade and liberate Iraq). For the record,

    (a)I don’t believe that Bush lied about WMD. I think that he honestly believed that Iraq had them. Faulty intelligence is to blame (by the way, does anyone else think it is probable that the WMD are in Syria???).

    (b) I very much disagree with anyone who claims that Bush violated any international law in invading Iraq, or that a further resolution was necessary to do so. The Bush Administration has very competent lawyers who made sure that that US was covering its back legally.

    But I have become convinced over the course of our experience in Iraq that the arguments that Kerry made about Iraq last night are right on:

    (a) We rushed in; we should have been more careful; international cooperation would have acted as a check on such a rush to war; we could have affirmed the right to act preemptively while still giving the weapons inspectors more time and building a broad, grand coalition like in the First Gulf War.

    (b) The War in Iraq has been a disaster in the war on terror. Please don’t misunderstand me: I think that we are safer right now because Bush has brought the war to the terrorists’ doorstep, but that is only a short-term solution. Kerry is correct in pointing out that any real or practical ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda before the invasion were tenuous at best; now, on the other hand, Iraq is both a geographical haven for terrorists and a major call to arms for Islamicist terrorists throughout the world.

    (c) Most significantly, Iraq is truly a distraction and a huge mistake in the hunt for Bin Laden. We should have pursued that job to the end instead of refocusing on Iraq.

    Full disclosure: constant battering by the left has also numbed my senses so that I have actually caught myself thinking, who cares about the Iraqi women? Forget the rape rooms. Let them suffer. We shouldn’t invade Iraq or any other country to liberate them or alleviate suffering or genocide. We are criticized if we do invade and we are criticized if we don’t invade. It is not worth the money to continue in the role as international policeman. Let the other countries devour themselves or fight amongst themselves to eventual ruin. All this is to say that by allowing myself to use the rape rooms as a justification for invading Iraq, I fell prey to very bad foreign policy and even worse Realpolitik.

    (2) Judicial nominations: this point is in inherent conflict with the above point about the Iraq war. I have come fully around to Kerry’s side on the Iraq War. If that were the only issue, I would vote for him with a clean conscience. But that is only a short term–or immediate–concern. A deeper concern is the fact that the next president will likely fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. So where I can ignore Kerry’s party’s repugnant social agenda (pro abortion, pro SSM, anti tax cuts, etc.) as far as the Iraq war is concerned because of the immediate importance that the resolution of that issue is to me, and I can vote for Kerry the individual as executive, I cannot ignore Kerry’s party platform when it comes to the nomination issue. This is the issue where I have heightened anxiety, because despite a personal liking of Kerry, his background and education (minus his cheating on his first wife), how can I ignore the party he belongs to when it comes to judicial nominations? Only Bush’s nominees will hold themselves to strict interpretation of the laws rather than the exercise of force or will in the judicial office to further a preferred social agenda. If I want a turn for the good in the Iraq situation, I have to sacrifice the judiciary, which could have far graver long-term consequences if the ever-growing “penumbra” of so-called “rights” that left-leaning judges have found “emanating” from constitutional provisions created for completely different purposes is any indication.

    (3) Finally, abortion and SSM. It has been comforting to know of Bush’s straightforward stance on these issues. And yet, despite my hatred of our infant holocaust in this country (40+ aborted babies since Roe v. Wade), I actually think that abortion can be warranted in narrowly tailored circumstances (basically the same areas in which the Church has said that abortion can be an option) and before a certain point in time (I favor Liebermann’s view on this). But I feel like voting for Kerry would be a real step into the dark on these issues.

    So I am still undecided, but on the Iraq issue, I am definitely on Kerry’s side. Should I then vote for Kerry despite my other misgivings in order to contribute to a solution to Iraq? That is what is plaguing me. Even if I vote for Kerry, you will never see me actually buying into the idea that abortion has anything to do with “choice” or abandoning the view that “pro-life” has nothing to do with oppressing women and everything to do with protecting the human dignity of innocent human life. The liberals at T&S will likely still find me as repugnant. But will I forfeit any conservative allies I might have won in my participation here? . . . .

  145. Adam Greenwood on October 1, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    Well, John, I believe who you choose to vote for in the privacy of your own bedroom is a purely personal matter, none of my concern at all. That is the gravament of a recent penumbral emanation, am I not right? So just be sure to mark your ballot at home, and we conservative allies will hold our peace.

    :)

  146. Jack on October 2, 2004 at 2:06 am

    John Fowles:

    You spoke of Bush’s bad handling of the war by pointing out those things that are practically irreversible i.e., the disadvantages of rushing in without international cooperation, Iraq becoming a haven for terrorists and the war being a distraction from the hunt for Bin Laden.

    I would ask; with the execption of gathering international support (of which I’m not all that optimistic) will Kerry be in a better position than Bush to reverse the irreversible?

    I think it’s better to consider which of the two will better handle the situation from here on out.

    I too find myself shaking in my boots a little over this election, and the thing that scares me the most is the political chaos and civil war that may errupt in Iraq with out a strong foreign presence there. Lets not kid ourselves into believing that the UN can find their backside from the darkside of the moon when it comes to that kind of prevention.

  147. Mark Mason on October 2, 2004 at 3:32 am

    Gordon I appreciate your perception of the political environment of our current election. However, I see hatefulness filling people in general. I find President Hinckley’s recent address (In Opposition to Evil) pointing out the connection clearly between debauchery and violence and the kinds of books we read, music we listen to, and television and movies we watch. The hatred and anger seem to consume so many people worldwide. Searching through the news is numbing when faced with so many deaths, shootings, home invasion robberies, and on and on.

    I am reflecting on a comment made by Wilford Woodruff in 1893. President Woodruff referred to D&C 38:12 that reads, “the angels are waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned.” He said, “I want to bear testimony…that the day is come when those angels are privileged to go forth and commence their work. They are laboring in the United States of America; they are laboring among the nations of the earth; and they will continue. We need not marvel or wonder at anything that is transpiring in the earth” (M.S. 58:738-739).

    The anger and hatred exhibited among people today testify of the times: the wheat truly are being separated from the tares. I like what Brigham Young and the Twelve said as the saints were gathering to Nauvoo: “The wheat and the tares must grow together till the harvest; at the harvest the wheat is gathered together into the threshing-floor, so with the saints—the stakes are the threshing floor. Here they will be threshed with all sorts of difficulties, trials, afflictions, and everything to mar their peace, which they can imagine, and thousands which they cannot imagine, but he that endures the threshing till all the chaff, superstition, folly and unbelief are pounded out of him, and does not suffer himself to be blown away as chaff by the foul blast of slander, but endures faithfully to the end, shall be saved. If you are prepared for all these things; if you choose rather to suffer afflictions with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a little moment, come up hither” (Epistle from the 12 inviting all saints to gather to Nauvoo to assist in building the temple. Mon 15 Nov. 1841. HC 4:451-452; see Matt. 13:30).

    However, the peace we seek will not be found worldwide prior to the appearance of Jesus Christ. In fact the building up of Zion, the establishment of peace through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the return of Jesus Christ will be the only thing that can establish permanent peace on this earth (Ps. 102:16; Bruce R. McConkie, “Building Zion,� Tambuli, Sept. 1977, 12). I see the overflowing anger among people as more evidence that the wheat and tares are being separated and as greater motivation to live righteously (see JST Matt. 13:39-44).

    A comment about the Times & Seasons: it’s wonderful to find a resource I have been searching for now for months. I too am a graduate from the BYU Philosophy department and it is good to find a place where intelligent gospel conversation is occurring. Kudos.

    Mark @ Virtual Theology

  148. john fowles on October 2, 2004 at 10:29 am

    Jack I agree that the UN itself would be a terrible choice for peace-keeping troops. But I think that Kerry will be able to get international support because he will listen to the views of other countries and not dismiss them out-of-hand. I don’t think that Kerry would or should get our troops out of there right away–he knows that we have to stay the course and see success there. But he seems willing to move more cautiously in many aspects of this conflict and he will be more flexible.

  149. Ivan Wolfe on October 2, 2004 at 10:56 am

    John – I always wonder which countires Kerry will bring to the table.

    We already have 30 countries with troops there. Kerry called them “the coerced and the bribed” – so I don’t see Kerry “listen[ing] to the[ir] views . . . and not dismiss[ing] them out-of-hand.” He already has dismissed out of hand every country we have their helping us.

    So, I gather that Germany and France are more important than Japan, Austrailia, Poland, England, etc.?

  150. Mark B on October 2, 2004 at 10:58 am

    John Fowles suggested that my comparing George Bush to a talking doll was insulting, and Chris Grant gives us a word count to show (I think) that John Kerry was more repetitive than George Bush.

    In the first place, I don’t think that the comparison to a talking doll was any more insulting than Fowles’s reference to the “incredibly stupid” things that Bush has said in the past. And, I have no desire to insult Bush. I watched the debate hoping that he would do well, and was sorely disappointed. Do I think Bush is intelligent? I don’t know, and Thursday’s performance certainly wasn’t evidence in favor.

    Chris Grant’s word count statistics appear to be meaningless, unless there is some further indication of the groupings in which the repeated words appear. I suspect that you could find passages in great literature or in great political speeches that rank the same as Bush’s performance Thursday, but that tells us nothing about the way that the words were put together.

  151. Chris Grant on October 2, 2004 at 11:09 am

    Mark B writes: “Chris Grant’s word count statistics appear to be meaningless,”

    By which you mean that the statistics do not support your subjective impression. Most talking dolls that do nothing but repeat over and over and over again the same preprogrammed lines don’t manage to use 1000 unique words in a little over a half hour of talking. If you drop the hyperbole and speak of the President the way you would speak to a brother face-to-face, I’ll drop the statistics.

  152. john fowles on October 2, 2004 at 11:15 am

    Ivan,

    I certainly don’t think that Germany or France are more important than those who are helping us. I am particularly grateful that the English above all the rest have stood with us (the British government, that is, and not the people, who are overwhelmingly against us).

    I also don’t think that a Kerry victory would mean any practical change on the ground in Iraq as far as numbers of troops. The US will still shoulder almost the entire burden (as it has long done now in international engagements, including the Cold War). But if Kerry were to win, the administration would be conciliatory towards alienated allies and the general attitude about the war would change. Until recently, I have dismissed the importance of a UN mandate in this operation, joining the millions of conservative Americans who found it meaningless. I have reconsidered my position on that and feel that gaining wider support in the international community in this effort, even if it doesn’t translate into actual aide on the ground (which it likely won’t), is indeed essential for its psychological implications, if nothing else. If the terrorists see that they are confronting a united world in this struggle, it will certainly demoralize them. It might also prevent Al Qaeda from recruiting so easily in disaffected Arab countries.

    Bush says that the advantage in keeping him at the front through the rest of this conflict is that his certainty provides the soldiers with high morale. But his certainty is tending more and more towards inflexibility and even arrogance in the face of grave mistakes that have been made. Those are things that make me nervous, despite the fact that I support his position on myriad other issues and that I think he is a far more genuine and straightforward person than Kerry.

  153. Ivan Wolfe on October 2, 2004 at 11:20 am

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, John.

    Because if Kerry is elected, I think our current allies may just decide to leave, rather than work with president who has insulted them not once, but several times.

    I also think Bush is not arrogant. In fact, even though I was against invading Iraq when it happened, I am rather struck by what I precieve as Bush’s humility in all this.

    I see humility, you see arrogance. In the end, we probabaly won’t know, since we can’t read his mind.

  154. john fowles on October 2, 2004 at 11:25 am

    Actually, I agree with you that Bush displays much humility in his lifestyle, beliefs, and role as president. I admire him a lot. I was referring to the very specific issue of inflexibility with regards to Iraq. It just seems that Bush is unwilling to take any different approach, and that seems to be leading us into a quagmire that I didn’t think Iraq could be when this thing started. An international mandate seems like just the right medicine at this point. And this is where the issue of arrogance comes in, and only on this one point.

  155. Mark Mason on October 2, 2004 at 2:40 pm

    Gordon I appreciate your perception of the political
    environment of our current election. However, I see hatefulness filling people
    in general. I find President Hinckley’s recent address (In
    Opposition to Evil
    ) pointing out the connection clearly between
    debauchery and violence and the kinds of books we read, music we listen to, and
    television and movies we watch. The hatred and anger seem to consume so many
    people worldwide. Searching through the news is numbing when faced with so many
    deaths, shootings, home invasion robberies, and on and on.

    I am reflecting on a comment made by Wilford Woodruff in
    1893. President Woodruff referred to D&C 38:12
    that reads,

    "the angels are waiting the great command to reap down
    the earth, to gather the tares that they may be burned." He said, "I
    want to bear testimony…that the day is come when those angels are privileged
    to go forth and commence their work. They are laboring in the United States of
    America; they are laboring among the nations of the earth; and they will
    continue. We need not marvel or wonder at anything that is transpiring in the
    earth" (M.S. 58:738-739).

    The anger and hatred exhibited among people today testify of
    the times: the wheat truly are being separated from the tares. I like what
    Brigham Young and the Twelve said as the saints were gathering to Nauvoo:

    "The wheat and the tares must grow
    together till the harvest; at the harvest the wheat is gathered together into
    the threshing-floor, so with the saints—the stakes are the threshing floor.
    Here they will be threshed with all sorts of difficulties, trials, afflictions,
    and everything to mar their peace, which they can imagine, and thousands which
    they cannot imagine, but he that endures the threshing till all the chaff,
    superstition, folly and unbelief are pounded out of him, and does not suffer
    himself to be blown away as chaff by the foul blast of slander, but endures faithfully
    to the end, shall be saved. If you are prepared for all these things; if you
    choose rather to suffer afflictions with the people of God, than to enjoy the
    pleasures of sin for a little moment, come up hither" (Epistle from the 12
    inviting all saints to gather to Nauvoo to assist in building the temple. Mon
    15 Nov. 1841. HC 4:451-452; see Matt. 13:30).

     However, the peace we seek will not be found worldwide prior
    to the appearance of Jesus Christ. In fact the building up of Zion, the
    establishment of peace through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and
    the return of Jesus Christ will be the only thing that can establish permanent
    peace on this earth ( Ps.
    102:16
    ; Bruce R. McConkie, “Building
    Zion
    ,� Tambuli, Sept. 1977, 12). I see the overflowing anger among
    people as more evidence that the wheat and tares are being separated and as
    greater motivation to live righteously (see JST Matt. 13:39-44).

     A comment about the Times & Seasons: it’s wonderful to
    find a resource I have been searching for now for months. I too am a graduate
    from the BYU Philosophy department and it is good to find a place where
    intelligent gospel conversation is occurring. Kudos.

    Mark @ Virtual
    Theology

  156. Mark B on October 2, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    Ok, Chris, here goes.

    Mr. President. I don’t agree will all the decisions you have made, and I am especially concerned about the decision to invade Iraq. It has harmed our alliances with many nations that ought to be our friends, and apparently has diverted us from the mission of tracking down the leadership of Al Qaeda, including Osama Bin Laden. The toll in American lives has been small by the standards of other slaughterhouses of the 20th century, but they are the first lives lost in a war that we chose to begin, without having been attacked first. Still, I have enough concerns about John Kerry that I am [Chris, note the present tense] leaning toward voting for you, although my vote in New York won’t make a bit of difference to your re-election.

    So, I watched the debate on Thursday hoping that you would be effective in stating your case. Instead, what I heard was a repetition of the same phrases over and over again: Quoting Kerry: “a colossal mistake” and “Wrong place. Wrong time. Wrong war.” and “It’s hard work.” I would have expected you to talk of the difficulty of conducting a war in accordance with plans, since things always change once the shooting starts. I thought you might have questioned Kerry’s commitment to carrying out the mission of getting us out of the mess with something better that “First you voted for the $87 billion and then you voted against it.” What about his record of voting for defense spending in 20 years in the Senate?

    And, since you had this opportunity to speak to such a large number of our fellow citizens, why did you act at times as if you wished that the light would go on and you could safely quit talking? Had you really run out of things to say? Unfortunately, it looked that way. And, despite some people’s belief that I had preconceived ideas about you that slant my view of the matter, remember that I sat down to watch the debate hoping that you would do well, and in that I was disappointed.

    You had a great opportunity to make your case, and I’m afraid that you missed your chance.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that I have decided to vote for Sen. Kerry. I may just have to vote for Ralph.

    Now, back to you Chris: OK, I’ll admit that the talking doll analogy was hyperbole. It’s just that there were some phrases that came up again and again and again, in virtually the same language. Finally, the word number analysis fails to measure the “vainly repetitive” nature of a speaker’s words. Contrast Lincoln’s “of the people, by the people, for the people” which has only five unique words or Churchill’s “We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills.” Note all that repetition “we shall fight . . .” [Of course, I should be careful quoting Churchill lest it remind you of who that enemy was that he was vowing to fight.] Repetition is an effective rhetorical tool (See Matthew 5), and word count analysis doesn’t begin to tell us whether a certain instance of it was effective. As you may have noted, I don’t think that the President’s repetitions in the debate were effective. Instead they appeared to be the responses of a man who didn’t have any further explanations or defenses of his record.

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