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November 22, 2004

Comments

Kevin B.

Haha!
This is why I read your blog, Mahatma. You have such a great way of cutting though the fat and get back to the bone of truth.
Well said, again.

David St Lawrence

Beautifully written!

Maureen's anger rendered her opinions useless a long time ago. She perceives the recently elected Republicans as an Apocalyptic Horde. Perhaps she should pay more attention to her medication level.

Her intelligence is undeniable, but operating on garbage data produces only garbage results. She has drunk so deeply of the party KoolAid that she may never be capable of balanced and thoughtful discussion.

DJ

While not venturing to comment on the entire entry, I would like to point out, gently, the inherent inaccuracy in one statement: "They strongly disagree with the majority of voters on the issues. Sadly, they live in a democracy where the majority rules."

If you re-examine the thinkers who created the Constitution, you will find that the tyranny of the majority is one problem the framers were intimately familiar with and were trying to avoid in this new government they were creating. In our time, with years of stable government behind us, it is quite easy to fall into the habit of thinking that "majority rules" is what the Constitution and the Federal government are all about, but they were intended for the inverse: keeping the majority from eliminating the minority point of view.

Peter Konefal

The framers were quite a compelling bunch weren't they?

The tyranny of the majority, or the spectre of the mob enjoys an interesting historical and political dimension.

On the one hand, liberal democracies such as the US are founded on the principle of majority rule democracy, as Mahatma aknowledges; on the other, as DJ points out, democracy is a potentially uncomfortable idea.

Many conservative thinkers have historically regarded the majority as a suspect group (especially in the 1920s and 30s, when Bolshevism threatened to dislocate 'the masses' from the accepted order of things).

As Winston Churchill aknowledged, somewhat cynically, and paternalistically, 'the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter'.

In other words there is an antagonism between governing with the consent of the majority, and a frustrated paternalistic approach to the majority when "they are all idiots". Some argue that liberal-democratic-capitalist Government has evolved (or devolved) into a war of advertising images and public relations, with an insidious underlying dimension: the public is so politically inept and incapable of rational analysis and debate, that a 30 second commercial necessarily emphasizing emotion and fear will sway their decision.

In Canada and the US, television commercials are used to varying degrees in political campaigns, and this use is still controversial; indicative of a certain attitude or belief about democracy and the tenuousness of a majority.

Moreover, the reduction of "politics" to a purely procedural dimension (voting every four years) also stems from a potentially elitist and cynical view of 'democracy' (necessarily excluding popular civil action/protests, volunteering, participation in civil society, and participation in the market (buying, working) as 'political' activities).

JonofAtlanta

ummm, David.. trust me, her intelligence is NOT undeniable..

Peter

I looked over her column; her wording is certainly a bit over the top. However, like I always say, she's certainly entitled to her opinion. Its also the op/ed section, so this is generally where the papers political perspective is found. And politics, at worst, ends up at times being little other than "I'm right, you're wrong, and now I'm going to call you names!"

However, the part I agree with is the Bush campaigns shredding of a "war hero's" past. We can all disagree about whether Kerry is a "war hero," but the bottom line is, he did go to Vietnam for his country. Yes, he elaborated on that history for political purposes, but I still say it's particularly vicious to mock his purple hearts and cast doubt on his military record.

I hate to say this, but he DID go to Vietnam. Bush and Cheney didn't.

But, all the rest of it aside, I think Kerry was still one of the weakest democratic candidates since Duckakis (in terms of just making political blunders).

Peter

Here it is:

Visigoth:

A member of the western Goths that invaded the Roman Empire in the fourth century A.D. and settled in France and Spain, establishing a monarchy that lasted until the early eighth century.

How this relates to republicanism I have no idea...

mahatma

"Democracy is the universal principle which asserts that the common man knows what he wants in a politician and deserves to get it, good and hard."

H.L. Mencken, Journalist/Curmudgeon - RIP

Kevin B.

Peter,

I haven't registered and read the entire Times article, so I don't know whether it's Dowd's words or your words in your post that credits the Bush campaign for the 'shredding of a "war hero's" past'.

Regardless of who it came from, however, I would disagree with that characterization. Bush himself, and the actions and statements of his re-election campaign spokesmen, were very gracious in regards to Kerry's Vietnam service.

If the reference was to the Swiftboat Vets, they were not associated or affiliated with the Bush Campaign and any members of his campaign who were found to have even any second-hand or loose affiliation voluntarily took a higher road to step aside to remove even the appearance of any conflict of interest.
This is in stark contrast to the tangled web of connections between ACT, MoveOn, and the Kerry Campaign leadership, lawyers, etc. who did not step aside. Not to mention the communications that, according to Bill Burkett's email newsletter, went on between himself and members of the Kerry Campaign prior to his now-famous fax of 1972 MS Word documents from Kinko's to cBS in attempt to discredit Bush's military service.

I agree that it is particularly distasteful to criticize or minimize the service of any military personnel who served honorably. I have not seen any instance where the Bush Campaign itself disparaged Senator Kerry's military service, and cannot find that such a statement can be fairly made.

Peter Konefal

Kevin,

Your point is well taken about the lack of direct association between the swift boat ads and the bush campaign.

I assumed they were sponsored by the bush campaign, so if that's not the case, then I retract that particular criticism.

As far as the whole cBS - good one :) - episode, and the font sizes fiasco, I don't feel qualified to comment on all the details.

In my view from up here in the North (about 4 kilometres from Seattle) the whole election in general appears to have been strongly skewed towards personal attacks and viciousness - not good for America!
I talked to my family in Pittsburgh about this, and they agree; we live in a very divided and polarized time.

Kevin B.

Peter,

Thanks for your fair response.

While left-leaning skeptics characterized the Swiftboat Vets, et al. as Bush campaign shills, they are/were comprised of Vietnam vets and POWs from across the political spectrum (and some previously apolitical members) whose stated arguments to my knowledge never had the election of Bush in it's focus.
They primarily dealt with questioning the accuracy of Kerry's version of events while in Vietnam and the accuracy and legality of Kerry's antiwar activities upon his return, the effects those comments had on the duration and outcome of the war, and the treatment and safety of US POWs still in Vietam. This was the essence of their critical evaluation of Kerry's qualifications for leadership in light of those concerns. (Check Mahatma's archives for his thoughts on the Swiftboat Vets... I'd say in the Aug-Sept period-- I'm sorry that I don't have time to link them for you.)

There were, of course, individuals who participated in financial contributions to both the Swiftboat Vets organization and the Bush Campaign, just as there were individuals who contributed to both MoveOn.org and the Kerry Campaign. Neither of these are surprising, but are nonetheless not indicative of direct affiliation or sponsorship.

I too agree that personal attacks and viciousness are not good for the political process (although I don't think fair critical evaluation of a candidates character is necessarily a personal attack).

Every election year, people complain that that year is the worst ever. I seem to recall reading that the debate between the Chamberlain and Churchill camps were pretty polarized prior to the UK's entry into WWII as well, but I'm not at all unhappy with that outcome. I prefer English as a first language over German or Japanese (although with Japanese I wouldn't have to read the subtitles to watch anime.. but I digress.)
I'm not qualified to state whether it is indeed the case that these times are more divided than previous time, but we have at least moved past the Aaron Burr "Duel by Pistols" era.

As noted in comments to other posts here, Mahatma seems to be good at attracting a regular readership that is pretty fair-minded and articulate. Peter, I hope you don't mind that I would characterize you in that lot. (I've been sampling your blog at Mahatma's recommendation.)

I've said before in political discussions that if I were ever President (*shudder*) I would want good fair-minded advisors from both sides of the political spectrum to keep myself balanced. I don't know that such an arrangement would be practical in the real world, nor would I ever actually want to be President, but I do like to find good fair-minded moderate and left-moderate blogs to keep myself out of a conservative cocoon (Mahatma, for example, doesn't appear to lean as far to the right as I do in some areas.)
I'm not sure whether my efforts are always successful in keeping me balanced, however, as my reading of more left-leaning opinions tend to reinforce my own opinions to the opposite, more often than not.
Ah well. I think it's important to have the discipline to continue in the attempt of balance, anyway.

Thanks again for your comments.

Peter Konefal

Heh!

Interesting example of when a right wing politician is really desirable - Churchill. I think the appeasement strategy pursued by Chamberlain was the worst possible for that time. France could have stopped Hitler at Alsace Lorraine if they had just decided to do so; and in Czechoslovakia (they had superior firepower to the Nazis again).

I emphatically agree with you about the necessity of having knowledge of and understanding of many different political points of view.

Also, another issue is that when someone is called a 'conservative' or a 'right winger,' it lacks definitive focus, as there are economic conservatives and social conservatives (among many others). People often tend to confuse these two important aspects as one and the same.

Left wing critics such as Noam Chomsky also argue that there are noticeable differences between British Tories and American 'Neo-conservatives'.

Also, strictly speaking, the term liberal is again problematic. In Canada, the 'liberal party' (which I voted for) is more far right than the left wing New Democratic Party, but less right wing than the Conservative Party (led by Stephen Harper).

As Milton Friedman argues, liberalism is at the heart of any free market conservative's belief's. The notion that competitive capitalism should be allowed to operate without undue constraint from government, in other words, to have it operate 'liberally,' 'freely'.

Social liberals refer to people like Governor Schwarzenneger, while 'market liberals' is a term almost synonoumous with economic conservatism.

Its interesting to reflect on these ideas, largely inherited from the Enlightenment era, and how they resemble our own beliefs and self definitions of our beliefs today.

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