Friday, November 12, 2004

Am I missing something here?

In all of the post-election gum flapping about what Democrats need to do now, one consistent theme is the need to address red state cultural anxiety. The line of reasoning is that dems need to take a page from Tipper Gore's book and start criticizing the gratuitous sex and violence of today's pop-culture to prove they are in touch with red-state values without reversing long held positions. On Nov. 4 in Slate, Robert Wright wrote:
If Democrats felt a little freer to moralize, they wouldn't, of course, take over Bush's evangelical base. Still, without giving an inch on gay rights, abortion rights, school prayer, etc., they can make some inroads into the "moral" component of Republican support. But so long as they consider it their sacred duty to applaud Quentin Tarantino or to quietly endure Britney Spears, they may stay where they were this week: 140,000 votes shy in Ohio

And today, New Donkey writes:
We're the "wrong track" party when it comes to the cultural direction of the country, and we have to decide whether to bravely swim upstream out of loyalty to hip-hop and Michael Moore and Grand Theft Auto IV and Hollywood campaign contributions, or do something else, like at least expressing a little ambivalence about it all.

OK. Perhaps decrying the tawdry spectacle of American pop-culture will be the silver Sister-Soulja bullet the dems are after. They may as well go for it, and I hope it works.

But leaving aside cultural criticism's effectiveness as a tactic, I'm confused by the intended audience. It's a given that parents, particularly in red states, see Hollywood as a moral cesspool churning out ever more grotesque slabs of prurient, mind-warping crap. They may be right, but Hollywood isn't making billions of dollars each year selling its crap to itself. I just don't understand how people can watch television in rapt attention while complaining that the programs are destroying civilization. You either watch "The Swan" or you take the high road-you can't do both.

If Madison and Conner are punching each other's sweet widdle faces and cursing like sailors, are the people who make Grand Theft Auto games and Eminem records more to blame than the parents stuffing the kids' stockings with them? It's amazing to me that the electorate wants to hear politicians condemn the very tripe that they wallow in every day. If they don't like what's on TV, they should turn it off, and keep the kids away.

But I think the lesson to take away from this seeming paradox is that people don't vote their interests, so much as their hopes. They vote from the perspective of what they wish they were. So even if they are broke and morally degenerate with nary a second thought about the cultural sewage they pipe into their offspring's head, a lot of people vote for tax cutting bible thumpers catering to the interests of the people they think they ought to be.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ahhh, catharsis...

It's vulgar, it's largely inaccurate, and it's really, really funny. Check it out:
Fuck the South.

Some good advice

In Slate today, Timothy Noah explains the shifting nomenclature of the "christian right". Apparently they don't like being called the "christian right". Well cry me a freakin' river, Pat.

These pieces of crap have been turning simple descriptors like "left" and "liberal" into pejoratives for so long that we've had to turn to ridiculous designations like "progressive" to describe anyone that doesn't cotton to their brand of corporate socialism and christian theocracy. I say, let's give it right back. It's time for someone new to set the vocabulary of the debate, dammit! We should use the term "christian right" over and over and OVER like a mantra. It should get so ubiquitous that it starts to annoy us. Every time Ralph Reed hears the words "christian right" he should get so "christian right"-eously irritated the "christian right" vein on his "christian right" forehead should throb, and his "christian right" life should be shortened by a few "christian right" minutes.

I'm having fun already.

We sure dodged that bullet!

So Al Qa Qaa is old news, right? The electorate has processed the information and decided they weren't scared enough by this catastrophe to switch horses. Fine, no need to harp on it.
I'll harp on this instead:
American intelligence agencies have tripled their formal estimate of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile systems believed to be at large worldwide, since determining that at least 4,000 of the weapons in Iraq's prewar arsenals cannot be accounted for, government officials said Friday. A new government estimate says a total of 6,000 of the weapons may be outside the control of any government, up from a previous estimate of 2,000, American officials said. (emphasis mine, link via Kaus, void where prohibited)

Hmmmm, whose hands might the missile systems be in, if not "any government"? Could it be Satan terrorists? Looks to me like the "central front in the war on terror" is resulting in a lot of Thomas Friedman's "superempowered angry men" getting extra super-duper empowered!

OK, so the administration bungled the post war security situation by failing to plan for an insurgency, and they worked against the war on terrorism by failing to secure vast caches of weapons against looters, and their stated reasons for invading never materialized, but at least they aren't flip-flopping, liberal, French-looking, snobs. Man, we really dodged a bullet there with Kerry.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The New Senate

Josh Marshall seems to be hearing the opening strains of Vader's March as he looks toward the upcoming legislative session in Washington.
He links to a Fox News story discussing Sen. Arlen Specter and Bush's judicial nominees. This amazing quote appears in the story:
"As it stands today [Democrats] can block [a nominee]," said C. Boyden Gray, former legal counsel to President George H.W. Bush. But I also believe that the president and majority leader may well decide to change the rules given the elections ... The president has a very strong political support, potential support, for asking for and getting this change." (emphasis mine)

This is indeed an alarming prospect, but it has about the same chance of happening as I have of being named supreme overlord of the planet.

The current rule requires 60 votes to impose cloture on a filibuster, which given the Senate's makeup, is possible but not likely. A change in that rule requires a 2/3 majority of 67 votes-even less likely. Unfortunately for Mr. Grey and President Bush, a majority leader can't simply decide to change the rules. The Senate is still a parliamentary body, which means that its members have to vote on things to get them done, crazy as that may sound in view of the new "mandate".

I actually see this kind of talk from Republican senators and the administration as an encouraging sign. They are clearly feeling their oats after Tuesday, and have the hubris knobs cranked to 11. Senator Frist and the president may want to ask Dwight Eisenhower how easy changing the cloture rule is. In 1956 and 1957, with astronomical approval ratings, the Eisenhower administration and Minority Leader Knowland tried to achieve a change in cloture rules to avoid a filibuster by southern Democrats against civil rights legislation. Public opinion was firmly in favor of the change, the Republican delegation was solidly behind it, and the liberal wing of the democratic caucus was fairly foaming at the mouth to amend the cloture rule. And yet the southern Democrats won the day.

Certainly this outcome is largely attributable to the legislative juggernaut of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Russell, but it stands as a warning to those who would attempt to monkey with Senate rules. Even under the best of circumstances, it's difficult to do. And I know there aren't any LBJ-caliber legislative geniuses on the left side of the Senate aisle, but given the proven willingness of the Democrats to filibuster Bush's nominations, I'm not ready to panic.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Interesting times indeed...

If it's a curse to live in interesting times, we Americans are well and truly cursed. Consider the following: Voters in 11 states votes to ban gay marriage on Tuesday. That would be precisely 100% of the states where such initiatives were on the ballot. In Dallas, Texas, however, voters elected a lesbian sheriff. A latina lesbian, at that. In Dallas. Dallas Texas. Just when you think you've got a handle on things...

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Repubs Ratify Rovism!

(How that for a Kaus-style headline?)
I think the big news in this election is that Karl Rove's strategy of pandering to the Republicans' evangelical base has worked. The top concern listed by Bush voters at exit polls was "moral issues", i.e. gay marriage:
"It was like the churches just got fed up - it was like a balloon that just burst," said Phil Burress, leader of the Cincinnati-based Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, a group that put the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on the ballot. "We had a massive turnout, and lots of people are saying it gave the president the victory."

So I guess we can expect a lot of talk from Republicans about gay marriage, family values, etc. in the next few years, as it seems to have been a winning strategy for getting nervous theocrats out to the polls. I can hardly wait.
There are some silver linings, though.
The youth vote was 54% for Kerry, up from 48% for Gore in 2000. Add in the younger voters that opted for Bush in spite of his evangelical pandering rather than because of it as well as whatever percent went for Nader or Badnarik, and it's clear that the theocratic demographic ("theographic"? Maybe not) is on it's way out. In twenty years, the electorate as a whole will likely be far more socially libertarian than it is now. Which is why the religious right is working so hard to enshrine its intolerance in the constitution.
Unfortunately, Bush's influence on the Supreme Court could still be in effect in twenty years. But if my read on the numbers is right (and it is), Senate Democrats still have the ability to filibuster against particularly noxious nominees. And I think it's safe to expect some will be fairly noxious. I can only hope the Dems in the Senate take their role in judicial confirmations more seriously than they take their role in declaring war.

Some election night thoughts...

It looks like it's going to Bush, but Ohio is still looking a little squirrelly, so I'll hold my tears for the time being.
I have one big, albeit simple, question right now, though. Where in the sweet name of Jesus are the young voters? The vaunted youth vote seems not to have materialized this year. As a recently retired member of the 18-24 demographic, I'd like to ask you youngsters just where in the bloody hell were you today? Were you not up enough on the issues to make an informed decision? Crack a damn newspaper once in a while-it's not that hard! Were you too busy with work or school to make it to the polls? Get an absentee ballot-it's really easy! Do you think that your one vote doesn't make a difference? After 2000? You can't seriously think that. Just what in the sam-hill will it take to get you to go out and vote? I'm at a loss. P-Diddy's exhortations didn't get it done, unprecedented Democratic and Republican get-out-the-vote efforts didn't get it done, clear recent evidence that each vote matters didn't get it done. What do you people need?!
I don't understand any people who don't pay attention to the political process. But apathetic young people baffle me the most. After all, they're the ones who are likely to be around to watch and feel mistakes coming to fruition.
Or maybe the 3 grey hairs on my temples are no anomalies, and I'm actually just getting old...
It seems that the absolute numbers of young voters was higher than in 2000, but their percentage of the overall electorate was the same. That's a little better. Good enough? No.