Category Archives: Politics

You can't spell "Stupak" without almost spelling "Tupac." Coincidence?

The Day the Religious Left died

Note: I wrote this about a year ago and then never hit publish. It seems just as apropos today.

You may have heard that the Democrats have a religion problem. If that gives you a sense of deja vu, no wonder. There was a whole rash of articles with that same theme in the wake of the 2004 defeat. And the Democratic Party did in fact retool its message and engage in outreach to people of faith. 4 years later, they gained the White House, the House, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Now? Now their speech writers delete the phrase “the least of these” thinking it must be a typo. How did we get from there to here? I’m here to tell you.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted (that’s from Proverbs, for the speech-writers among you), but only if those wounds are from an actual friend. You can withstand a thousand attacks from the enemy, blocking their arrows and parrying their blows. A false friend, on the other hand, can sidle up right next to you, quietly slide a shiv into your lung, and that’s pretty much the end for you.

In the wake of the Obama landslide, there were a lot of questions about how this new political coalition would shake out. Winning so many swing states meant having a lot of moderate Democrats in the coalition, a group that became known as Blue Dog Democrats. A lot of those Blue Dogs were religious. Some even had heterodox views on matters like abortion. How would the party chart a course that kept these people together?

All of this came to a head in the fight to pass Obamacare. The Senate had passed a preliminary version of the bill; the House had passed another one. The Senate version broke with the normal rule of prohibiting federal funds from paying for abortions; the House version followed precedent. Every vote was needed to pass these things, and there were enough pro-life Democrats to prevent passage if they so chose.

So now the Religious Left had a choice. Which was more important to them: “Religious” or “Left”? They had to choose between the two. If they stuck with their faith, and the Party would attack them for disloyalty. But if they stuck with the Party, who had chosen to package abortion in with everything else and put them in this quandary, then in what sense was their faith even relevant?

This was a big deal at the time, as the political world wondered just what this group, led by Representative Bart Stupak. In their hands, they held the fate of Obama’s signature achievement. What would they do? What concessions would they extract in return for their votes? Would they just kill the whole thing?

Well, you already know what happened: they caved. The photograph you see here is of the signing ceremony for Executive Order 13535. This was billed as a compromise addressing pro-life concerns, but was roundly condemned by every pro-life group, both because it was unenforceable and because it didn’t address the actual worrisome provisions even if it had been enforceable. It was a lie and everybody knew it.

And I do mean everybody. This picture shows you the exact moment the Religious Left died. Before this point, the political world was abuzz with talk of the Religious Left. After this point, nobody thought the topic worth discussing. It was clear to everyone that the religious left was a paper tiger, a spent force. It would provide no unique political perspective; just an echo of the party line. No future attempts were made to court their votes, and soon the Democratic coalition forgot they existed (indeed, most of them were voted out of office shortly afterward). Stupak, after 18 years in Congress, didn’t even bother to run in the next cycle.

The bill they signed on for? That was used to sue Hobby Lobby because they didn’t want to buy abortion pills. It was used to sue actual nuns because they thought they didn’t need contraception. Not even the scary nuns you see in Catholic schools, but rather nuns who were dedicated to taking care of old ladies. Such was the contempt that the Religious Left’s allies held them, that by the time of Obama’s second inauguration, they declared that any Christian speaker would be unacceptable.

Even today, look at those few stalwart people in your Facebook feeds you might consider religious left. Did they speak up when the Supreme Court reminded us again that we are not allowed to vote on the sacred issue of abortion? Can you predict with ease what else they won’t speak up on? Do they offer you any perspective that you can’t get from the Areligious Left, or are they just an echo?

I told you that story so I can tell you this one:

We on the right face this same danger. Nothing will kill us so quickly as becoming a mere echo of the Republican party.

I’m not saying we have to denounce Trump at every opportunity as our leftward brothers demand. But don’t jump to baptize everything he does either. God has used nastier tools than Trump. Be wise as serpents.

Bullets

Elevated from the comments elsewhere:

Eich was basically punished for being on the losing side of a partisan dispute, and having confidential records leaked.

We have an ordered system for resolving partisan disputes. Maybe it’s not a good system, but eich was playing by the rules of the game. A game which led to his loss. At this stage he accepted the ruling of the agreed on mediating process, and did not seek extrajudicial means to promote his cause or punish his opponents. He now lives in a land with that many more laws he disagreed with.

The people who went after him won, but they weren’t happy with that. They went after him for daring to oppose them. (This is literally terrorism).

That’s a hell of a bullet.

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It’s also a betrayal of the good faith people who were sceptical about gay marriage or worried about a slippery slope, but held their noses or extended some trust and voted in favour for the sake of equality under the law. 100% guaranteed, there are people who voted in favour, who would not have, if they thought they were handing out a license for people on the tide of history to purge their political opponents.

Good luck getting them to vote in your favour next time. (Maybe they’ll even vote against you to spite you, seemingly irrationally. Welcome to trump.)

It’s also a betrayal of those good faith liberals who assured people that there was no slippery slope on the books. The kind of eminently good and decent people who can change sceptical minds, and get things done politically. Well done making them into liars, and good luck mobilising them with the same enthusiasm next time. Welcome to trump.

In contrast, thiel took targeted revenge against a supposedly progressive organisation for outing him as a homosexual as, you guessed it, a punishment for sitting on the opposite side of a political divide.

That’s not part of the formal provisions for resolving differences, like donating is. There’s no symmetry there. Liberals were donating against eich. Thiel was not outing liberals.

Welcome to.. people thinking twice before they out someone.

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So Thiel took 1. carefully targeted revenge, against someone for 2. unilaterally attacking him, and 3. going out of bounds to do so. 4. in a normal, precedented manner. 5. not in contravention of any interpartisan Geneva convention. 6. in a direction for the better rather than the worse: We don’t want people attacking their political opponents just because they are their political opponents. We do want people to think twice before exposing people’s personal lives to hurt them.

The people who ousted eich took 1. indiscriminate revenge (this is huge, the main ) against someone for 2. participating in the normal political process, symmetrically, just like their allies. 3. They had not been attacked or harmed by eich, -in fact they had won. With 4. an innovative new way to strike at enemies outside accepted bounds 5. in contravention of the necessary civility and acceptance of the other side’s right to peacefully campaign that is the cornerstone of a peaceful democratic process, and if it comes to it, basic order and stability.

How could this happen?

Been kicking around several possible narratives for the Trump win. Not sure which is most likely, and it’s not like I correctly predicted it, so I’m interested in feedback, and maybe fleshing them out later.

1. You meddle and you haven’t the right.

Democrats have been pushing a lot of unpopular policies. Pushing a massive, and massively unpopular, thing like Obamacare through on a strict party-line vote (and using shady procedures at that) broke the system, and mobilized the opposition like nothing else could have. Without that, you don’t get the Tea Party, and you don’t get the subsequent Republican sweeps. When Obamacare didn’t work, the stimulus didn’t work, and the promised hope and change and transparency didn’t materialize, Democrats turned to SJ to prove to themselves that they were the good guys. This meant pushing gay marriage on everybody, picking fights with people over their bathrooms, generally lecturing everyone to their right, and showing absolute disdain for the working class. This was unpopular. Voters vote against unpopular things.

2. SJW’s did it.

They changed the rule of politics so that it was not safe to be on the losing side. Heck, Proposition 8 and Eich showed that it wasn’t even safe to be on the winning side, because the left would simply declare the vote null and void and then fire you. Evangelicals felt very uneasy about Trump for a number of reasons, and could have been split from him or convinced to stay home if it hadn’t been made very clear to them that if they didn’t hang together they would surely hang apart.

3. Put your points into Charisma instead of Corruption next time.

Hillary was basically the worst possible candidate that could have been chosen, corrupt in just about every way you could come up with. For every Trump scandal, she had something equivalent or worse; she couldn’t even hit him on treatment of women without looking like a hypocrite. She is unlikable. She has never managed to win a contested race. Anybody else would have won this.

4. Trump was actually a really good candidate

Celebrities are masters of all the skills involved in winning an election. We’re just lucky that it’s much better to be a celebrity than a politician, so most of them don’t make the jump. This idea was mooted at Marginal Revolution about a year ago. See all Scott Adams’ (yes, the Dilbert guy) Master Persuader theory.

5. Nobody cares about all that. It’s the economy, stupid.

That economy has been crappy, and Hillary was promising more of the same. Plus (and I suspect this is extra important) Obamacare hit a whole lot of people with huge rate increases (up to 80%!) a week or two before the election. Everybody had to know exactly who was responsible for that, and it had to be fresh in their minds when they entered the voting booth.

See also this speech by Michael Moore of all people. This election cycle is so weird I am linking positively to Michael Moore.

No, I'm not actually linking this to the prophecy

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone

When Bush won in 2000, Rove was hailed as a political genius. He had figured out how to build an “Emerging Republican Majority.” The country had realigned against the Democrats. This view was bolstered when Republicans gained seats in the midterms (normally sitting presidents lose some), and then Bush won reelection in the face of much leftists fury. Not only that, but Republicans gained seats in Congress, and control of the Senate. Rove was right. Demographics had doomed Democrats.

But the Iraq War wore on, and the economy went down. Two years later, mid-terms delivered a “thumping” to Congressional Republicans. Democrats gained control of both houses of congress, as well as 6 governorships. Maybe Rove wasn’t right after all.

And then Obama happened, coming from nowhere to win the Presidency, more Representatives, another governorship, and filibuster-proof control of the Senate. Democrats had total power. Rove was wrong. Now people were talking about the Emerging Democratic Majority. Demographics were going to doom the Republican party, which would spend at least a generation in the wilderness.

And then 2 years later Republicans took back the House (63 seats!), 6 governorships (in a redistricting year, letting them set up some nice gerrymandering ), and cut the Democratic margin in the Senate down to nearly nothing.

But then Obama won reelection, so that must have just a been a blip. A week ago, pundits were very seriously discussing how the Republicans had probably painted themselves into a corner on the national scale, and were doomed to become a regional rump party.

What a difference a week makes. Republicans now control all houses of Congress. They hold the presidency, and he will appoint at least 1 judge to the Supreme Court with a friendly Congress to confirm his pick. They hold 34 governorships (which is in many ways more important the Congressional numbers). Republican-controlled state legislatures outnumber Democratic ones by more than 2:1. Days after the conventional wisdom was that the Republican Party was dying, it is now the strongest it has been in 2 generations.

I haven’t seen any talk about Permanent Majorities yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s coming. Don’t believe it. All of this can be wiped away by the next decade. This is both a note of warning to my right-wing friends and comfort to my left-wing friends. If Republicans pursue a lot of unpopular policies (or go all in on corruption) like the left did, they will be tossed out.

Of course, dear leftist friends, if you double down on lecturing people about how terrible they are and how superior you are (like I warned you against a year ago), prepare for that Senate margin to become filibuster-proof. In two years, Republican are defending 8 Senate seats. Democrats are defending 25. Nine of those are in states Trump won.

You have that long to get your house in order and figure out all the issues you ignored while crowing about how the Republicans were in disarray. The rot set in long before the structure collapsed.

He who has eyes, let him see.