Thursday, October 21, 2004

Things that weigh on me

There is a sense I have that this country has been going down a wicked path for some time now, under both Democratic and Republican presidencies and Democratic and Republican congresses.

There was a time not too long ago (within the lifetime of my septuagenarian mother, for example) when people in this country didn't lock their doors on a regular basis. Not just in small towns or rural areas, but in places like Oakland, California and Brooklyn, New York.

I think it is worth asking why.

There was a time not that long ago when people in villages, towns and cities had no problem with "developement" per se; when most people were happy to see a new building go up on the main street of their town; when a new house being built meant someone new to greet and get to know.

What has happened to this country?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Questions of Life

The Democrats and Republicans both have real problems with their positions on matters of life, considered in a moral framework.

Melinda Henneberger has a great column in which she discusses exactly the dilemma that lefty pro-lifers (and that is emphatically NOT a contradiction in terms) face.

I am for much more stringent regulation of the environment, against the Iraq war (in fact, almost any war) against the death penalty, for a massive effort to alleviate poverty through government activism, for the rights of indigenous peoples, very pro-union...

And against abortion. More explicitly, I do not believe that a woman should have a right to choose to get an abortion any time she wants one. I believe that abortion should only be a possibility where the loss of the fetus is an unintended but unavoidable effect of saving the mother's life (as in the case of ectopic pregnancy). I believe this because I consider a fetus to be a human being, worthy of protection by the law.

This position is all but forbidden in the institutional Democratic party. So, even though I agree with them on practically *everything* else, I hesitate to vote for them because of this ONE issue. And I am unable to be pursuaded by the argument that goes, "Hey, you agree with us on everything else, so why let this issue get in the way?"

Because this issue outweighs "everything else" for me, and does so because "everything else" does not kill as many people as abortion does. There are thousands of abortions per day; the iraq war has killed perhaps 16,000 since the beginning (US and Allied deaths plus Iraqi civilian and military deaths). Appalling as this is, that's less than a week's worth of abortions.

Considered merely as a matter of political strategy, the fact that the Democrats will not allow a range of opinion on abortion is losing them large parts of the country (the plains states, the south).

The Democrats have a natural constituency in the more socially conservative (and economically depressed) parts of the country, if they make issues of ECONOMIC justice their no-compromise issues, and allow for a range of opinions on the social issues. Thomas Frank touched on this in his recent book, "What's the Matter with Kansas," but I'm taking it a step further; while Frank argues that the Republicans have used the social issues to divide the working class in order to push an economic regime that is almost uniformly bad for those same socially conservative voters (a charge with a lot of merit, in my view), he probably wouldn't agree (because he is liberal on the abortion issue) with the obvious way to counter this: run democrats in the plains and south who are more conservative on the abortion issue, and who push hard for economic justice with the rest of the democrats. The national Democratic leadership won't let this happen, and their inflexibilty on this is against their practical interests (getting a majority in the house), and also makes it harder (becasue they are usually swept in the midwest) to push for the rest of their program.

Flame me if you want, but understand that I consider liberals my friends on every single issue but abortion.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Thoughts on the Debate, and going forward

The consensus is that Kerry won the Debate, and I agree. Actually, I'd say the President had his ass handed to him. He lost, and badly: worse, ingraciously. He seemed like a schoolyard bully who has finally been bested -- sulking, fuming, as he helplessly watches his world fall apart.


Let's not get cocky. Not any of us, and especially not Kerry. The next debate will be a town-hall format, and the president will be able to use applause lines effectively. He will also be able to use his ability to connect with an audience to his advantage. Remember all the grimaces, head-shakes, etc, that Bush is taking heat for? They were bad (very) in last night's debate format. In a "town hall meeting" format, however, those same gestures could be used to signal his supporters to (for example) laugh when Kerry is speaking. Or to communicate a "can you believe this guy?" message, quickly followed up when it's his turn by something like "You know, I was shaking my head when he was speaking, because I wonder, with a lot of you, [some talking point]." In short, this will be more his turf, in terms of format and setting.

Kerry needs to be on his toes, and so do his supporters.