Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Everything And Nothing

Most national commentators describe the battle for the soul of the Republican Party as being between traditionalists and reformers. The social conservatives and libertarians would disagree with that. We think the battle is between us. I resolve to look more closely at that traditionalist/reformer divide, to keep myself from either-or thinking on the matter. I imagine there is some overlap between the necessarily artificial distinctions.

But for the moment, let’s stay with that socon/libertarian dichotomy. The libertarians all seem to have friends who would be more sympathetic to the Republicans if it weren’t for the socons. We scare them. That word scare keeps coming up. Well, the libertarians scare a lot of middle America, I counter. Legalizing drugs, gay marriage, isolationism – these make people nervous. And of course the “unregulated free market” scares some folks as well, which is a problem that both the libertarians and the socons will have to solve for future elections.

It’s all about being scared, apparently.

What is it we are frightened of? Everything and nothing. Proponents of gay marriage often challenge the rest of society, How are you harmed, exactly? How does this measurably affect you? If you don’t like it, don’t look. Similar arguments are launched in the opposite direction about, oh, Christmas nativity scenes. How are you harmed, exactly? How does this measurably affect you? If you don’t like it, don’t look. While there often are some small measurables attached to these things, they are clearly not what everyone is getting exercised about. There is a sense that the entire society is being affected at some deep, if subtle level. A creche on public property makes some vague statement that Christianity is not just allowed, but essentially okay. A gay wedding makes some vague statement that homosexuality is not just allowed, but is okay. What is allowed to be visible (or audible) is a statement of a society’s values – and we want them to be our values.

We care very deeply about these expressions of who we are as a society, locally or nationally. Some people don’t want to see strip malls. Some don’t want to see litter. Some don’t want to see sexual advocacy in the children’s section of the public library. Zoning, historical districts, wilderness areas, nude beaches, prayers before football games, public smoking, girlie magazines at the convenience store, transvestites, mosques, loud music next door, ORV’s, communications towers, homeless people, Wal-marts…We don’t want to see it! Or we do. It says something bad/good about us as a people. We want to feel that the place is ours, that it expresses us. I don’t want to live in a society that…

People from the cities like to see variety. People from the towns want to be with the like-minded. If you don’t like it, move. No, you move. Me? But I live here. So do I. Some of us like to be as accommodating as possible to the sensibilities of others. Some of us like to be in other’s faces, because it’s good for them, dammit.

There are some few issues where there is a measurable effect on a few individuals. Those will be a distraction at the moment. Let’s stick with what we’ve got here – the place you live as an expression of you, and how that is the subterranean driving force behind all political argument.


M. Simon said...

Well the libertarians have a few counter scares coming up.

1. The key to Afghanistan is opium. And the fight with the Taliban this coming spring promises to be a very fierce one. I have let my Republican contact in Congress in on this. A friend of mine who is well connected on the Democrat side has as well. The deal is: you can legalize opium or you can win Afghanistan. Choose.

2. Some time in the next 5 years we are going to be involved in a war with Mexico - either to preserve the government from the narcos or to fight the narcos once they get control.

3. Marijuana decriminalization is coming. Mississippi voted for med-pot. Friggin Mississippi. Michigan voted for pot decrim - the 13th State so far - I believe.

The socons are going to lose their drug war. Legalization is scarier to some socons than it is to the American people. And when the MSM hammers the Republicans on the subject and the party shrinks further the libertarian Republicans will have another - you idiots - message for our socon friends.

The deal is: Cultural Socialism works no better than Economic Socialism. Government force can't fix the culture any more than it can fix the economy.

Have a nice day.

M. Simon said...

And just to cheer you up further:

"The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It's possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government." - William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995

Our government is corrupted from top to bottom by the drug war. It happened during alcohol prohibition. Why should drugs be any different?

And to see how it has corrupted our police already you might want to have a look at testilying.

When all this comes out - and it will - socons will get the blame. He. He. He. He. He.

Socons either get in front of this or get their moralistic/governmental approach to cultural problems further tarnished. With further hurt to the Republican brand.

Have a VERY nice day.

M. Simon said...

If thine eye offend thee - pluck it out.

BTW re chreches - etc.

The problem was NOT having them on public property. The problem was having them and and nothing else. It kind of looks like an establishment of religion. Now that there is balance the issue is not near so hot.

M. Simon said...

Or take my oh so religious town of Rockford, Illinois. I think it has one of the highest numbers of churches per capita of any where in America.

And a very high number of strip clubs per capita. In fact - before the authorities shut it down as a public nuisance - we had a strip club run by a former minister. He had a reputation for treating his strippers and his customers better than any other strip club in the area.

Now this in a town that was once full of billboards saying "Jesus IS Lord".

Correlation? Causation? Happenstance? Who knows?

karrde said...

'Tis a very strange thing.

In general terms, I usually fall in with the So-Cons.

I am under the age of 30 (barely), and I know the general cultural reflex that looks at drug addiction and screams that is bad stuff.

I also get the sense of a slow cultural change signified by things like medical marijuana laws. Everyone seems to know someone who does pot recreationally, or know where to get pot if they want it.

Is this what the generation that grew up in the roaring 20's felt about Prohibition?

I don't know.

Drugs (and their legality/illegality) are one part of So-Con-ishness. Is it a linchpin? Is it important? Will it pass, as well?

I can't tell.

Simon, I do agree with you about Mexico. The power of gangs in Mexico vis-a-vis the government of Mexico is a portent of trouble. It is a festering sore that is as dangerous of nuclear weapons in the hands of rabid Middle-Eastern dictators.

I also agree (logically) that the Drug War is as deleterious to society as the Prohibition. I fervently hope that everyone understands that ending the Prohibition didn't end the problems of drunkenness, nor the legacy of corruption in cities like Chicago.

Once the disease of corruption has set in, it may be impossible to uproot.

On things not related to the War on (some) Drugs, I don't know.

M. Simon said...


Every attempt to legislate vice into oblivion has led to vice + crime.

And yet socons keep falling for that trick. If you have studied the matter you know that Economic Socialism is at best a brake on the economy and at worst causes retrograde motion.

Cultural Socialism (using government power to end sin) always leads to an increase in crime. But socons - being the simple folks that they are - keep falling for the empty promises of Cultural Socialism.

So we have two parties whose main features are: Democrats - they know Cultural Socialism doesn't work. Republicans - they know Economic Socialism doesn't work.

I'm looking for a viable party that knows Socialism doesn't work. Period.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think more than anything I object to the extremity of your statements, m. simon. Whatever the strategic value of legalizing opium, for example, it is not solid to claim that it is an either/or for Afghanistan. To predict war with Mexico on the basis of narcoterrorism is to pretend to know more than you possibly can. Suggesting a connection between strip clubs and religiosity on the basis of your subjective impression looking around you is nothing like evidence. It is not true that every attempt to regulate vice leads to vice + crime. We have less litter and irresponsible dumping. We have less drunk driving and public drunkenness. No 8 year olds in bars, no bear-baiting, no cocaine in patent medicines. We punish incest and managers feeling up the salad girls. Don't be absurd in your effort to be dramatic.

It is these oversimplifications that lead you to your either-or conclusions. You stereotype socons and attribute societal evils to them on the basis of slender evidence. You keep tabs on only one side of the balance sheet. It is ultimately unpersuasive not because there is nothing to what you say, but nothing that you hear. You can call something cultural socialism until you are blue, but it doesn't make it so.

M. Simon said...


The skirmishes with Mexico are already starting. Bush has proposed a $400 mn package of arms to Mexico to counter the narcos. However, there are some who believe since the narcos have so infiltrated the Mexican government that such arming would amount to arming the narcos for the most part. Thus Bush is not pushing the idea very hard.

And how can I be sure of a war with Mexico? I have only been predicting it for 20 years. I have said as the narcos march north taking control of one government after another that it was just a matter of time for Mexico. Well it is 20 years on and we already having border skirmishes.

Bear baiting? Well bears are hard to hide. Chickens - well it could be a farming operation. So cockfighting is still happening. And you know - it is illegal.

As to your other points - changes in the culture are more effective than the law. Laws are only effective when 99+% decide to obey them. And that decision is more cultural than government enforced. You can always pay government to stop what few want to do and call that a success.

For instance I think government in North America could be profitably put to use in preventing stampedes of elephant herds. And we could count that as a government success.


BTW Brit military commanders in Afghanistan think that fighting opium in Afghanistan is enlarging the Taliban's political base.

From Drug War To Real War covers Mexico and Afghanistan. You might find it of interest.

And of course you are correct cocaine and opium are no longer in over the counter patent medicines. Now a days they are only freely available from criminals. I'm not sure putting criminals in charge of distribution is an improvement. YMMV.

M. Simon said...

The evidence of social conservative involvement in alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition, and the public (socialist) school movement is not slender. It is well documented.

You unfamiliarity with the evidence does not make the evidence slender.

In addition at the turn of the 19th Century (1900) Progressives and Social Conservatives were allied. Why? At that time people were convinced that the state could end poverty - well in keeping with social conservative desires - and that the state could promote the correct culture (the public school movement was a result).

Since that time social conservative have come to their senses about economics. They have yet to see the folly of socializing culture - although the decline of public schools is starting to wake them up.

As the drug war turns into a shooting war at our southern border a further awakening is bound to come as mere criminality (well it is happening to "those folks" - not a concern of mine) has been ineffective in moving social conservatives politically.

As a wag once put it - if law enforcement was equal in all neighborhood re: drugs, the drug war wouldn't last a week.

We see mass murders re: drug prohibition about once a year. However, as long as the murders happen for the most part to "those people" the reaction of the general public is not outrage it is more like mild disapproval. "Too bad about that family". Not: we must end this stupidity and bring safety to "our" neighborhoods.

The criminal justice system is not stupid about this.

Let us look at marijuana - 60% of the use is in the white community. However 10% of the population (blacks) make up 35% of the arrests, 47% of the prosecutions, 60% of the convictions, and 72% of the incarcerations.

As long as it is happening to "them" and the poor (the well off can go to rehab or lawyer their way out of the problem) no problem.

Clergy Against The Drug War.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

You have continued to avoid my actual points and spin off on tangents more to your liking. Where you swing close, you do not answer my either-or complaint. That cockfighting exists at all is proof that laws against it are ineffective? That opium has some effect in Afghanistan means it has determinative effect?

I am content to let my arguments rest as they are against your comments to all readers fair and foul who may chance by.