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The Triumph of Secularism

I wasn’t going to link this article by Christopher Hitchens, as much as I love the man, because I think he paints with (a bit) too wide a brush this time around. But since some people in my comments section insist on lumping me in personally with Christian fundamentalists, despite the fact that I’m a socially liberal atheist, here goes.

So here is what I want to say on the absolutely crucial matter of secularism. Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine—disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO—described as the victims of “despair.” The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as “insurgents” or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I’ll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn’t want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).

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George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries. The “antiwar” faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary—that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?

Hitchens seems to forget about the far-more reasonable secular liberals at his own Slate magazine (Jane Smiley’s awful guest column excepted). But his basic point stands. The American right is a better champion for secularism where it is most urgently needed. And for that they have my (partial) support.

The Liberal Case for Bush, Yet Again

Norman Geras has a question for his friends on the left.

The victims of a terrible, murderous oppression in the Kurdish area of Iraq, and those now yearning for a democratic breakthrough against theocratic tyranny in Iran, do not look for solidarity and support to the massed ranks of the marching left, the ‘peace’ movement, as it flatters itself to be; no, they look to a right-wing Republican president.

By your own lights, friends and comrades, is that not a truly extraordinary state of affairs? If it doesn’t cause you some troubling doubts, will anything ever?

I’m being a bit flip when I write these titles. My real intention here isn’t to get American liberals into the Republican tent. That is completely beside the point. What I’d like to see is a little international solidarity between the American left and the oppressed in the Middle East. When Middle Eastern liberals cheerlead Republicans instead of Democrats they know exactly what they are doing and why. The lefties in Paris don’t need your help, folks. Those in Iran and Iraq really do.

Some Advice

Virginia Postrel has some advice for political parties that lose elections.

I told you so. The party that hates America will lose. The party that imagines no positive future, offers no “vision thing,” will lose. The party that thinks it is better than the American people, that makes large segments of the voting public believe they are its enemy, that convinces people it wants the government to boss them around and destroy the things they love, will lose.

Guess when she wrote that? Yep. That’s right. She wrote it in 1998. When else (ahem) could such a paragraph have been written? She continues:

On November 3, that party was Republican. The GOP went down to humiliating defeat, losing close race after close race, plus many that weren’t supposed to be close. The party lost its solid grip on the South and collapsed in California. It managed to lose seats in the House, an extraordinary result that even Democratic pundits failed to predict.

And it deserved to lose.

No kidding. I might have voted for Republican candidates in an alternate universe, but I didn’t in this one. It may have been slightly unfair to think of Ken Starr as their guy the ballot, but only slightly. They ran against someone not on the ballot themselves.

Republicans sold out their economic base, invested all their hopes in scandals involving a president not on the ballot, and ran as the party of scolds, pork, and gloom. No wonder their voters stayed home.

This election was a test of the notion that Republicans can scorn anyone who talks about freedom, treat issues as matters of bribery rather than principle or vision, alternate between patronizing and ostracizing immigrants and women, regularly denounce American culture, and generally act obnoxiously toward the country they supposedly represent–and still win, because the Democrats are worse and Clinton is a sleaze.

Eighth Grade Caricatures

Because I’m a purple state kind of guy, I’m rankled by all the hectoring and sneering at the “Jesusland” red states. I feel like one half of my social circle is finishing up a week-long bitch-fest about the other half. Yeah, we just had an election and the losers are entitled to carp about it. Fine. That’s normal and perfectly understandable. But if you’re going to decry bigotry on the right, see if you can not act like a bigoted jerk yourself.

That goes for you, too, righties. Want to broaden the base of your party? Pay close attention to Matt Welch. He’ll tell you exactly how not to go about it.

Don’t Get Cocky

Immoderate Republicans are having fits about Arlen Specter, a liberal Republican from Pennsylvania, who is slated to head the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary. Specter, you see, isn’t too jazzed about packing the Supreme Court with righties.

Hugh Hewitt issues a wise warning.

The opposition to Specter seems headquartered at The Corner. Many friends post at The Corner, so I paused, considered their arguments, and thought it through. On reflection, it seems to me a very bad idea to try and topple Senator Specter from what in the ordinary course of events would be his Chairmanship. I hope my colleagues on the center-right that embrace pro-life politics will reconsider.

I understand that Senator Specter voted against Robert Bork, and that Senator Specter is not a friend of the pro-life movement. But genuine progress in the fight to return American public opinion to an affirmation of life before birth cannot be made through strong-armed tactics and almost certainly will not be lasting if it is accomplished through a putsch.

Unlike Hugh and most of the folks at The Corner, I am not “pro-life.” Sorry. I’d like to be, just as I’d like to be anti-war. But I’m not. So, of course I’m biased in Arlen Specter’s favor. I’m counting on the likes of him to put the brakes on the Republican Party and get them to govern from the center. I may have voted for Bush this year, but sure as the stars come out at night I don’t support any right-wing social agenda. There’s no way my split-ticket vote can be construed as lending support to a mandate for either side. That’s the whole point of voting split-ticket. It is only half-hearted partial support. It is explicitly anti-mandate.

The swing-voting center put the Republican Party in power this year. 2006 isn’t very far away. The right had better look out. For we who giveth can also taketh away.

UPDATE: See also Andrew Sullivan.

Here’s a fascinating piece of data. The percentage of people who said in 2004 that their vote was determined by the issue of “moral values” was 22 percent. In 1992, if you add the issues of abortion and family values together, that percentage was 27 percent. In 1996, it was 49 percent. In 2000, it was 49 percent. So the domestic moral focus halved in 2004. Obviously, the war took precedence, especially if you combine the categories of the Iraq war and the war on terrorism more generally. Again: the Republicans should be wary of over-playing their hand. If they believe the entire country is the religious right, the backlash could begin very soon.

Yeah. Like, real soon. Watch it. Last week’s election wasn’t the last one.

Purple America

This is what America looks like.

Purple-USA.jpg

(Hat tip: Karrie Higgins via email.)

The Liberal Case for Bush, Again

This time in Iran.

Millions of Iranians expressed their satisfaction on the outcome of the US Presidential elections and George W. Bush’s victory by calling and congratulating each other. Many were seen walking in the streets and shaking each others hands or showing a discret V sign.

Many are speaking about the promises made by Mr. Bush to back the Iranian Nation in its quest for freedom and democracy.

As Iranians and especially the younger generations have become happy , those affiliated to the Islamic regime are seen deeply worried about their future.

(Hat tip: Roger L. Simon.)

Zombie Hordes of Theo-cons

Andrew Coyne utterly demolishes the silly idea that Bush won his re-election campaign by unleashing an army of fundamentalist Christians across the red heartland. I mean, he really blows that theory to pieces. Read it.

Then he asks:

When a candidate draws increased numbers of votes from groups not traditionally identified with his party, we usually call that “broadening the base.” So why the fascination with zombie hordes of theo-cons?

That’s real easy. It’s emotionally satisfying. The crazies are taking over is a lot easier to swallow than we fucked up and lost.

The Republican Party has a nut-job wing. Pat Robertson is real. James Dobson is real. Michael Savage is real. These guys have fans, and they voted. There’s no denying it. But there’s also no denying that if John Kerry faced Pat Robertson in an election the Republican Party would have to dig itself out of a smouldering crater.

45 percent of the people who voted for Bush are self-described liberals or moderates. (Earth to Democrats: That’s why he beat you.) Only 55 percent of the people who voted for Bush are conservatives. (See Andrew’s piece for the details.) And, as most of us know, there are many different kinds of conservatives. There are neocons and paleocons, Wall Street conservatives and religious conservatives. Not to mention plain old run-of-the-mill conservatives. It’s a fractious group of people who have little in common but, oddly enough, happen to wear the same useless label.

Zeroing in on only one of those factions and blowing it all out proportion will get the Democrats nowhere. It makes as much sense as Ann Coulter accusing every leftie in the land of being pro-terrorist. It’s not only dumb but exceptionally counterproductive.

If Kerry won the election I wouldn’t say it was because of Michael Moore and his stupid-ass movie. If it went that way it would have done so despite him.

(Hat tip: “American in Europe” in the comments.)

No Eulogy

I second Ken Wheaton’s pledge:

I pledge to do my best to unseat any U.S. politician, regardless of party, who sings the praises of Yasser Arafat upon the death of said terrorist, thug and henchman, a scourge to Israelis, oppressor and thief to his own people, and murderer of both.

An Exodus of Women

I really hope the Democrats don’t truly believe Bush won by riling up Bible-thumpers and beer-guzzling NASCAR fans. The political “right” is a bit more complicated than such a crude caricature. It looks like the biggest shift among the electorate from 2000 to 2004 was among women. Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of The Polling Company, notes the following:

The Disappearing Gender Gap: Senator Kerry posted just a 3% advantage (51%-48%) over President Bush among women, a significant difference from the 11-point margin for Al Gore over Mr. Bush in 2000.

Security Moms (married women with children who cite the war in Iraq or terrorism as the most important issue in deciding their vote) supported the President over Kerry by 18 points (59%- 41%, respectively).

This fits with what I said yesterday. Lots of people who supported Gore last time switched to Bush this time because of the Terror War. It almost certainly cost John Kerry the election. The Democrats are free to pretend otherwise. They can go right ahead and pick another softie in the primary in 2008 and watch what happens. We’ll go through this again and again if that’s what they want.

I’m not buying the now-popular theory that says Bush won because he whipped up an evangelical frenzy against gay marriage. John Kerry also opposes gay marriage. Both Bush and Kerry are in favor of civil unions. Kerry bragged that his position on gay marriage is exactly the same as the president’s. (I think they’re both wrong, for whatever that’s worth. I’m to the left of both of them on this question.) Besides, my state of Oregon voted to ban gay marriage and also chose Kerry in a landslide. The gay marriage debate was barely whispered here. It didn’t help Bush at all. Lots of people around here saw no contradiction voting against gay marriage and also for Kerry.

Terrorist Death Watch

So. Yasser Arafat might be dead. Finally. I refuse to say anything nice about the recently dead when the recently dead are enemies of the United States, civilization, and humanity. I’m with Jonah Goldberg.

He’s a bad man who’s been terrible for his people and if there’s any justice, when he dies he will receive 72 virgins who look exactly like him.

Exit Polls

So why were the exit polls wrong? Here’s a guess. Perhaps most of them were conducted in cities, not small towns and rural areas, skewing the results toward Kerry. Urban voters are more likely to be Democrats, after all. This is just a guess, though. As far as I know, media outlets haven’t published their exit poll methodologies.

Repeal Jane’s Law

My esteemed temporary Insta-colleague Megan McArdle goes by the handle “Jane Galt” on her blog. I first discovered her when she coined Jane’s Law.

Jane’s Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.

Now that we have a fresh start, of sorts, can we try to prove her wrong? She’s been right for as long as I’ve been paying attention to politics. But all things must someday come to an end.

Left-wing Blogosphere Reactions

John Kerry’s side of the blogosphere offers a diverse range of views of Bush’s victory.

Marc Cooper: Could there possibly have been an incumbent more easy to knock-off than George W. Bush? A real-life opposition party would have been insulted to be matched with a such an unworthy and frail rival. The Democrats, by contrast, got their lights punched out.

Tbogg: I look at the big map and all of the red in flyover country and I feel like I’ve been locked in a room with the slow learners.

Andrew Northrup: The national Democratic Party needs to shift to the right, culturally, in order to compete nationally. No choice. Wah wah wah, I’m going to go vote for Nader, wah wah. You should have voted this time.

Jeff Jarvis: Good for you, Kerry, for conceding. Thank you.

Daily Kos: [I]t’s clear the Democratic Party as currently constituted is on its deathbed. It needs reforms, and it needs them now. Quite frankly, the status quo simply won’t cut it. Howard Dean for DNC Chair.

Oliver Willis: We’re telling the world that we endorse the last four years, and give thumbs up to more evil. Sick.

Ezra Klein: I, like most of us, fell for the echo chamber. Daily Kos, MyDD, Steve Soto, Pandagon, and all the other blogs are run by good people with positive intentions, but if they’re you’re primary source for information, you’re outlook is perverted by an overwhelming amount of good news and a general disdain for the factual accuracy of bad news. It perverts your perspective and, because the sample group is so totally different than most of America, it begins to twist your political predictions and assumptions of what works…

Kevin Drum: MOST IMPORTANT EVENT….RECONSIDERED… I’ll plump for the Massachusett’s Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. The result was nearly a dozen initiatives across the country to ban gay marriage and a perfect wedge issue for Republicans. For the second election in a row, it looks like the president was chosen by the courts.

Matthew Yglesias: With a majority of the popular vote and expanded margins in the House and Senate, we’re going to see Bush Unleashed — something that will probably be much crazier than what we’ve seen over the past four years.

Andrew Sullivan: George W. Bush is our president. He deserves a fresh start, a chance to prove himself again, and the constructive criticism of those of us who decided to back his opponent.

Who and What I am Not

Michelle Catalano speaks for me.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to address the throngs of Chicken Littles who seem to be out in full force on the net today. I just want to clear up a few things, as you all seem to be pretty misguided in more than one area today.

I voted for George Bush.

I am not a redneck.

I do not spend my days watching cars race around a track, drinking cheap beer and slapping my woman on the ass.

I am not a bible thumper. In fact, I am an atheist.

I am not a homophobe.

I am educated beyond the fifth grade. In fact, I am college educated.

I am not stupid. Not by any stretch of facts.

I do not bomb abortion clinics.

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