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Friday, January 20, 2006

Equal time

One of my commenters, a penguin whose intellect I respect enormously, mentioned in her response to my last post that she was uncomfortable with political attitudes like mine, that forced lots of people into the same little boxes. Or something like that. She also mentioned, in passing, that a great many of the civic horrors I've attributed to the current El Jefe Junta also occurred under other (or, should I say, actual) Presidents... by which I would imagine she means 'Clinton', since, when people say that sort of thing these days in defense of El Jefe, they pretty much always mean 'Clinton'. He's become the boogeyman and universal scapegoat of the right wing, it seems.

I have a couple of things to say to that.

First, as far as people being put into little boxes -- I take this to mean my friend feels I am generalizing, and that's unfair. I further take this to mean that she feels there are many good conservatives out there... what El Jefe attempted to market to us, in the last two elections, under the label 'compassionate conservatism'.

I'm not going to talk about whether I've generalized or not; that's what you do when you're doing political analysis these days. I continue to stand by my main points: the modern day conservative party is entirely about regaining lost social dominance, for both white males and for the Christian religion, while liberalism is now and always has been about social equality for all human beings, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, or religious faith.

Having said that, let’s examine for a moment whether I am giving some sort of cruel short shrift to the true compassionate conservatives that are out there, somewhere, in the vast expanses of the United States.

To this I say -- I'm not from Missouri, but you're still gonna have to show me.

Show me the compassionate conservatives in Congress. Show me one Congressional Republican who voted against the recent Medicare D bill, which is currently screwing over senior citizens coast to coast while fattening the pockets of the pharmaceutical and the health insurance CEOs. Show me one Congressional Republican who voted against the much touted highway/energy bill before that, which is currently driving our gas and home heating bills into the stratosphere, benefiting no one but those who own stock in the oil industry. Show me a Congressional Senator who will vote against Alito's confirmation. Show me a Republican member of the House of Representatives who hasn't fought hard for the privilege of posing in a picture with Tom Delay over the last eight years. Show me a Republican Congressman who voted against the PATRIOT Act, or against the war in Iraq.

Of course, our elected representatives are just the head of the spear. Of course, the main body of the weapon has more mass, and should contain many more compassionate conservatives. Of course, of course. I have no doubt this is true. So, show me the compassionate conservatives who are taking homeless people into their own homes, or donating money to homeless shelters. Show me the compassionate conservatives who are adopting or fostering unwanted children, or who work on runaway hotlines. Show me the compassionate conservatives who are going to City Council meetings and demanding that low income housing and drug rehabilitation centers be built in their neighborhoods. Show me the swelling tide of young patriotic compassionate conservatives who are joining the military, or the Peace Corps, for that matter.

These are not idle or rhetorical questions, nor are they mere propaganda. Conservatives have no trouble turning out in large numbers when they feel it’s important enough. Thousands of conservatives have no trouble getting together in vigil for Terri Schiavo, in support of Roy Moore, in angry remonstration against Planned Parenthood centers. Conservative crowds similarly have no difficulty gathering in boisterous support of El Jefe wherever he travels in this great land.

So where, then, are the crowds of compassionate conservatives lining up to adopt unwanted children? To feed and shelter the homeless? To provide stern but loving examples of shining hope, faith, and succor for drug addicts and derelicts? Where are the compassionate conservatives demonstrating against child labor, against exploitation of undocumented immigrants, against illegal detainment and torture of prisoners, and for dealing with global warming before we have too many more disastrous hurricane seasons?

Well, a conservative reader might well sputter, those are all liberal causes! You can’t expect conservatives to take up cudgels for junkies, bums, unwed mothers, foreigners, terrorists, and other criminals and degenerates, for God’s sake!

And I say again… show me these compassionate conservatives.

Show me the compassionate conservative candidate who is running for any office anywhere in America on a ticket of anything but hatred and exclusion. "We need stricter immigration policies and a higher, better defended wall around America." "We need a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage." "We need bigger, better weapons to fight the war on Terror." "We need caps on lawsuits." And always, always, always, the clarion call to those who want to live in a civilized society but not pay for it -- "We need lower taxes."

Conservative candidates run on these slogans, conservative voters vote for these slogans. Where is the compassion in any of it? Where is anything, except “That offends us, you can’t do it, don’t spend our money on anything but us?”

Once more, with feeling – where are these compassionate conservatives?

Well, perhaps they’re to be found in the right wing blogosphere. Yes, surely we’ll find some compassionate conservatives here. Let’s go to Google and punch in “Cindy Sheehan” along with the name of any well known conservative bloggers… Michelle Malkin, say, or Jonah Goldberg, Peggy Noonan or that crazy woman over at Atlas Shrugged, any of the Power Tools crowd. Sure we’ll see some compassion here, some empathy, some sympathy for a mother who lost her child in battle…

Hmmm. No, no… not unless ‘whore’, ‘tramp’, ‘bitch’, ‘cunt’, and various other epithets can be considered compassionate…

I don’t know. I look for ‘compassionate conservatives’, but I mostly find a lot of mean, selfish, hateful people. Which, I suppose, is why I tend to try to stuff them all in the same little box (and oh, if only I could really do that, what a wonderful world it would be).

Now, as to various civil outrages being committed on Clinton’s watch, well, I suppose maybe that’s true. I might have just missed it. Maybe Clinton lied us into a war that half of his constituents and everyone else in the world, nearly, was vehemently opposed to, that violated international law, and that needlessly killed 100,000 plus foreign nationals and 2000 plus American troops… and counting. No, wait… Clinton supplied troops to a U.N. sanctioned police action, none of them died, and the world praised us for our humanitarianism as a result. Um… okay… maybe Clinton authorized indefinite detention of enemy combatants? Um… no. But Clinton certainly set up a network of secret facilities on foreign soil where foreign detainees could be tortured? Uh… nope, sorry, he didn’t do that.

Well, he must have done something. Did he send FBI agents around to see what books American citizens are checking out of the library? Well, no. Did he reserve the right to disobey every bill he signed into law, if he felt like it? Hmmm… no, no, I can’t see where he did that. Did he establish free speech zones? Push for Constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage and flag burning?

Well… no, no… and… no.

Geez. He’s like… what is that… zero for eight? What a slacker.

All told, I’m going to stick by my earlier analysis.

But I do, sincerely, appreciate all thoughtful feedback.


At 4:35 PM , Anonymous The always esteemed Scott said...

Push for Constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage and flag burning?

I realize this is totally nick-picking, but didn't Clinton sign the Defense of Marriage Act?
Small potatoes, I know.

It seems to me that politics has become just another spectator sport - you choose your team, and stick with it, no matter how reprehensible the players are.
Particularly if you win.

At 6:31 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

It's not nit picking, it's a good point. However, two things:

1. DOMA isn't a Constitutional amendment. That's what Bush is pushing for. DOMA also doesn't forbid gay marriage. It simply 'quarantines' it by allowing one state to refuse to recognize unions done in another state.

2. DOMA blew through both Houses of Congress with overwhelming majorities. Clinton needed every scrap of his political capital to stay in office; had he wasted some of it on a veto that would have immediately been overturned, well... it wouldn't have been smart, and it might have cost him the Oval Office. We'll never know, but he chose to live to fight another day.

At 12:25 AM , Anonymous The always esteemed Scott said...

It simply 'quarantines' it by allowing one state to refuse to recognize unions done in another state.
...which makes it pretty much unconstitutional, doesn't it? It's been awhile since my 7th grade civics class, but doesn't that violate the equal protection clause?

Upon reflection, I do know someone who could probably be considered a 'compassionate conservative'. This guy, who I'll call "Jim" because it's his name, is an older gentleman, he's a devout Christian, and a definite conservative, perhaps even by American standards. He also spends every Thanksgiving and Christmas feeding homeless people, and donates regularly to charity. He's someone I have a lot of respect for, even if I disagree with him on nearly everything. I figured that despite our differences, even he would see the Iraq war for the travesty that it is.

Not so - he seems to have a blind spot where the war is concerned, believing all of Saddam's WMD were transported across the border to Syria before the invasion.

Had I been less stunned by this, I might have been able to discuss this with him further; as it was, I kind of said 'I don't believe it' and the conversation ended.

At 11:02 AM , Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

...First of all, I'm not a conservative. This penguin has two wings, the left one a whole lot stronger. I'm not a defender of any politician in general. Maybe some have idealistic intentions when they start running but what happens to these people when they get into office is not good. And in general I hate as much as you do what they're doing in congress with our money and our privacy.

I bring up Clinton not as an example of "hey, Democrats do it to!!" but because I simply didn't like the guy and a lot of the things he did. If he were Republican I would have thought the same thing. And I don't like Bush, either. Because of the inherent corruption and manipulation it takes to become president of this country, I've never voted for a major party candidate. But I do believe in voting because people all over the world have died for the right to vote, and without at least dragging my tail out to my local polling place each November, I don't feel like I have any right to complain. And someday, someday, I hope to walk into that booth and have someone to vote for, instead of someone to vote against.

And to another point, I used to work with a woman who was very, very liberal, was an artist, worked to raise money for aid for the homeless, aid for AIDS, aid for anybody who needed help who wasn't getting it. Yet when a homeless man moved into her vestibule she called the police.

And speaking of selfish and hateful, I heard recently from a friend who still attends the Unitarian church in which I was raised. A man who came in wearing a military cap was derided as strongly as if Bush himself had walked into the room. Yeah, they're open minded, as long as everyone agrees with them.

And as for compassionate conservatives, I've always hated the term, because compassion knows (or in the best of worlds) should know no ideology, political or spiritual, but if you must slap a label on one, I remember something about Kathie Lee Gifford (laugh if you must) doing a whole lot of stuff about children working in sweatshops. (yes, they were working on her clothing, but when she found out, she put a stop to it immediately and then went on some sort of crusade)

I just don't like generalizations. Congressional Republicans as a group might have been bouyed up on a power trip from being in power too long, but Republicans (as individuals) put their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else. Had dinner with one lately?

I married one, and that's about as open-minded as a left-winged penguin can get.

At 1:51 PM , Blogger Julia said...

Thank you!

You, along with you lady friend, have brought attention to one of my pet causes, foster kids and the adoption of them.

At 9:54 PM , Blogger Highlander said...


I meant to give a hat tip to you and SuperGirlfriend for bringing the unwanted kids crisis to my attention. It's entirely my bad that I didn't. But I got it from you guys first. My sincere apologies to you both.

Opus-ate of the Masses,

Again, as I said in the entry... when you do political analysis, you generalize. It's how it works; politics is a study of mass movements, not the individual.

As to the rest of it, I am, honest to God, just sick of Clinton bashing. Sick sick sick sick SICK of it. I did my share when he was in office, and I'm not wild about the guy as a human being. And he certainly wasn't my idea of a Democrat, much less a liberal. But here's the haps -- a real liberal can't get elected in today's America, or the America of the 1990s, or, for that matter, the America of the 1980s.

We've seen enough over the past six years to finally be able to see past Nader's rhetoric. There IS a difference between the two parties, and the two candidates are NOT indistinguishable.

For all Clinton's problems and flaws, and they are legion, I would get down on my knees and thank Whoever Runs The Universe if Bill Clinton were still in office, or if Al Gore was. Both are far from perfect, but neither are actively trying to perform a corporate de'tat in my country, either.

I don't know how else to put it, so melodramatic as it sounds, I'm simply going to say it: Bush, Cheney, and their crew are evil men. They are amoral, unscrupulous, mean, and power mad. They are also enormously foolish, massively short sighted, and terrifyingly greedy. They are destroying this country and the world. If Al Gore had become President, well, I cannot begin to count the enormous number of evils that I am sure would not have been enacted, but I am fairly sure that to start with, America would be part of the Kyoto Protocols, and who knows, maybe our last two hurricane seasons wouldn't have been as devastating, and the catastrophe of New Orleans would never have occurred.

I guaran-goddam-tee you that about 100,000 Iraqis who never did shit to us would still be alive, and quite a few more would still have their arms and legs.

I was in Florida in 2000, and I voted for Ralph Nader on principle, and while I still think the principle was sound and he was the best person running to cast a vote for, nonetheless, it was a profound and staggering mistake, perhaps the worst I have ever made in my life. Nader should not have run, he should have endorsed Gore. His, and my, only excuse is that there is simply no way either of us, or anyone else, could have seen things getting this bad this fast.

But they have.

Back to earlier points... are there compassionate people out there, on all points of the political spectrum? Of course. And are there hypocrites out there as well, on all points of the spectrum? Certainly. There are, I do not doubt, as many liberals who will gladly write checks for a cause while crossing the street to avoid an actual homeless person or AIDS victim, as there are so called Christians who have never even dreamed of loving their neighbor (maybe his wife) or turning the other cheek in their life.

I have no doubt your husband is a fine man. I used to play D&D with a great guy named Jim King, who was an avid Republican and a huge Ronald Reagan fan. Nice guy, but how do you vote for someone who thinks people are homeless by choice? I don't know. Jim did, though.

Regardless of individual quirks, I am talking about mass movements and social philosophies. And liberalism is about equal justice, access and opportunity for all, while conservatism is about social dominance, the preservation of privilege, hatred, bias, and exclusionism. That's my analysis, and I'll stand by it.


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