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Friday, October 12, 2012

Democracy vs. Ideology

If political debates have become the new "must-see-TV", last night's Vice Presidential debate delivered something between what David Brooks called "'The Honeymooners' versus 'Family Ties'; Ed Norton versus Alex Keating."

To my mind, it was neither of these. It was less a debate and more a "Family Feud" with Martha Raddatz of ABC News functioning as half professional moderator and half Richard Dawson (he was my favorite) as host.

The Honeymooners
Joe did Delaware proud - and helped Obama more than anyone might have imagined. He never let young "Lyin' Ryan" get away with factual errors, frequently pointing out that "I was in the room with the President" when certain decisions were made.  He called him out on his lack of substance, saying at one point, “Stop talking about how you care about people,” he said. “Show me something.”

Mr. Ryan’s predictable response: You said the stimulus would fix the entire economy and it didn’t. But he had no responsible answer for increasing growth.

Ryan, for his part, demonstrated a surprising knowledge of foreign policy although it was disingenuous and bumbling. Again, he lacked substantive responses to the specifics of any Republican - much less the Romney-Ryan - plan for Iran's nuclear stockpiling, and agreed with the administration’s planned 2014 pullout from Afghanistan but still thought it was a bad idea, although he didn't really say why.

Ryan offered little in the way of economic proposals beyond the tried and untrue Republican solution of cutting taxes and spending and ridiculing the Obama administration’s stimulus program. The Vice President, who was in charge of that program, showed Mr. Ryan’s hypocrisy on the subject by pointing out that the congressman had asked for stimulus money for his state of Wisconsin, just as other Republicans did even as they vilified the program.

It's amazing to me that Romney-Ryan team continue to give us Republican policy "solutions" to the economy which mirror the very same Bush policies which got us into this mess in the first place. 

I had to give Ryan points, in defending Romney's hateful "47%" remark, when he pointedly said, “I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.” But Biden retorted sharply: “But I always say what I mean. And so does Romney.” 

Beyond the wearisome posturing and "war of words" that so many find so "entertaining", what I saw last night on the stage of Newlin Hall on the campus of Centre College in Danville, KY was an almost classic confrontation between Democracy and Ideology. 

Family Ties
Never was it more clear than when the conversation came 'round to the matter of abortion.  Despite Ryan's seemingly softer stance that, in a Romney-Ryan administration, abortion would be allowed in cases of rape, incest and the endangerment of the life of the woman, a dangerous truth was inadvertently told. You might have missed it if reproductive rights is not on your particular radar screen. 

Ryan made a predictable assertion that the issue was more an issue of "State's Rights". It was a clear admission - he admitted in a rare moment of truth-telling - that his position is shaped and formed by his Roman Catholicism. 

Biden, also a Roman Catholic, quickly pointed out that the next President will likely appoint the next two Supreme Court Judges - something Romney, a former Mormon bishop, has also mentioned as being important to his reelection, while saying that he does not see one law that he would change. 

Right. Get it? It's the old political "one-two" punch.

Ryan talks about how abortion should be determined in the individual state legislatures while Romney knows that, if he's President, he can appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court and let them do all the heavy Tea Party lifting and reverse Roe v. Wade. 

Biden saw though all that and called it for what it is: "Malarkey". He said that his RC faith makes him who he is but he would never impose his religious beliefs on others, including the right of a woman to make her own decisions regarding what happens in and to her own body. 

The Romney-Ryan Republican administration would remove that right "by any means necessary" - attacking it on the state and federal level. Religious ideology and "state's rights" trump a woman's right to self-determination.

I know that, to many people, reproductive rights is a "social issue" that has little or nothing to do with the "more important" issues of the economy and unemployment, the debt and foreign policy. 

I want to suggest to you that reproductive rights is a bellwether issue which exposes what is at the heart of this political campaign. 

It is nothing less than Democracy vs. Ideology. 

That's why Romney-Ryan have got bupkus - zero, zip, nada, nothing - of any real substance to offer except their religious beliefs about what is right and who is good - no matter whose rights have to be compromised. Meanwhile, the entire Constitution - which they seemingly cherish - is trashed on the single constitutional issue of Religious Freedom.

They seem oblivious to the fact that Religious Freedom not only guarantees freedom OF religion but freedom FROM religion.  I'm not talking atheists here. I'm talking about the constitutional guarantee that no one will be forced to live under the religious ideologies of others. They also seem to have no clue that the "terrorists" they fear are religious ideologues whose perspective on women (and, wealth, poverty, human sexuality and religious freedom) is dangerously close to their own.

You hear it in the rhetoric of "takers" vs. "makers" and in Romney's despicable "47%" and Ryan's hateful "30%". You hear it in everything from the Republican tax plan, to their firm line on immigration to their aggressiveness on foreign policy - even suggesting that a war might be in the offing with Russia. 

It's not Democracy. It's religious ideology. 

Family Feud
Or, in Joe's words, it's "Malarkey!" - which is what you say because you can't say "Bull***t" on live, national network television.

How will this all play out with the people?

Well, we have two more Presidential debates - the next one coming up on Tuesday. The President will have an opportunity to redeem his last, lack-luster debate performance. I expect him to work Romney over, demanding specifics and exposing his flip-flops and lies.

Have you noticed that the President lost points for being a "gentleman" and keeping his cool while Romney rudely interrupted and talked over both the President and the Moderator, but some people are lambasting Biden for being "rude" and "aggressive" while Ryan seemed to keep his cool for most of the evening - except, of course, when he sat there, looking at Biden as he exposed his duplicity, giving him his distinctive Eddie Munster smirks?

Makes me laugh when it doesn't drive me to tears of frustration.

It won't make any difference to those who are solidly Republican or Democrat, but it will make a huge difference in (1) continuing to energize the Democratic base, (2) hardening the resolve of the Republicans to get the Black man out of the White House and (3) swaying those "independent" or "undecided" voters, some of whom will be persuaded by style and others by substance. 

On The Family Feud, it never really mattered how good your answer was or how charming you or your family appeared. As Richard Dawson used to say, "And, the survey says........".

I'm a Democrat but I'm also enough of an American to put solid money on the fact that democracy is higher on the list than ideology.


Anonymous said...

The Vice President lied about the effects of the HHS mandate upon the Catholic Church.

It was such a whopper that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a slow-acting bureaucratic organization if there ever was one, issued a quick contradiction:

Since this issue has been front-and-center in Catholicism for months, I take it that the VP knew what he was saying was false, thus my use of the verb "lie." If he doesn't understand, then he's so out-of-tune of this major issue that he has no business being VP.

He also has little understanding of the Catholic approaches to the issues of Church and state. His personalized individualistic take on the Faith is contrary to the view of Vatican II's Gaudium et spes.

Now I'm going to have to rip up my homily for the weekend and write one responding to this whopper.

I'm wondering if you have any familiarity with the writings of the Founding Fathers. The idea that they sought to create a "democracy" is contrary to what we know about them. A "democratic republic" is far closer to their vision, and the idea that the right to life would be determined by 9 unelected justices would be beyond their comprehension.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael, Michael, Michael - have you actually read the USCCB statement? Looks like these celibate, mostly corpulent clerics can move quickly when they want to split hairs and protect their pathetic sense of male dominated paradigms of power and authority.

An exemption is an exemption and RC hospitals are exempt. They may not like the restrictions on their exemptions but - and, pay attention please - this is where RELIGIOUS FREEDOM comes in: No one - not no one not anybody - can impose their religious ideology on the civic rights and freedoms of others.

So, yes, they will still have to provide insurance that will cover the full range of health care for women. You know, just like they cover Viagra for men.

As for your assessment of the way the government works, well, I think you ought to return to your 6th grade civic books. They determine the right to life on issues of capital punishment. They also determined the political life of a former President who wouldn't have had a second term without them. Now, that's not only beyond comprehension, its a miscarriage of justice.

I'll bet your sermon on Sunday is going to be a barn-burner. I pity your poor congregation. They come to church, expecting to hear the Gospel preached and what they get instead is a political rant. No wonder you're losing members in drove, bud.

Bex said...

@Michael: You're happy enough with those unelected justices when they issue a ruling you agree with, right?

Anonymous said...

"So, yes, they will still have to provide insurance that will cover the full range of health care for women."

That's the problem, given that "health care" under the HHS mandate includes contraception, Plan B, and voluntary sterilizations. There is no right defined in the Constitution of the United States to these things, but there is a First Amendment acknowledging the free exercise of religion.


Marthe said...

Weary, so weary of the so-called ideological or political or social debates ... the core question: why do so many men believe so deeply that they have a right, duty and/or obligation to dictate, inflict, force their views on everyone else, most particularly onto women elses? Why can't they ever see that what is "correct" for them is only correct for them and forcing it on others steals those others of the "freedom" they treasure for themselves. Guys: dictating doesn't work, will not work, and it most certainly is not democracy or the way of Christ who spoke, worked, taught, but never tried to force belief because faith cannot be achieved by force.

JCF said...

the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a slow-acting bureaucratic organization if there ever was one, issued a quick contradiction

Slow-acting re their SACRED COW of abortion??? Not hardly!

When I want to know "the Catholic approaches to the issues of Church and state", I'll trust the Nuns-on-the-Bus, thankyouverymuch.

When I want to know the VATICAN diktat, I'm sure you can be counted on to provide it, xxMichael.

Obama/Biden 2012: for true Catholic values, and true Constitutional liberty!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Good point, Bex. You just bet he is.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael, Michael, Michael - See? It's freedom OF religion and freedom FROM the the religious beliefs of others.

Here's the thing that always confuses me. You say you don't want abortion - for any reason, under any circumstance - and yet, you are also opposed to women using contraception. So, women are left completely powerless and responsible if she becomes pregnant - the guy gets to walk away and not take any responsibility. Perhaps that's really what you want.

Your way - your religious freedom - even if it oppresses others. I think the RC Church has a long, shameful history of that, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, Marthe. Amen. Thank you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Spot on, JCF. That's the way I'm voting and for those reasons.

Bex said...

@Michael: And since my religion doesn't prohibit contraception, plan B or voluntary sterilization, why would you have the right to prevent me from the free exercise of it guaranteed in the Constitution?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Exactly, Bex. But, I'm thinking the answer is: Then, don't work for a Catholic organization.

Don't try to tell him that he's contributing to unemployment. He'll probably just start talking about the virtues of "sacrifice".

Bex said...

If that's his answer, then my next question would be, why should Catholic organizations have the right to discriminate against me because of my religion?

With these types sacrifice is good as long as they don't have to do the sacrificing.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I won't put words in Michael's mouth - but I know he's busy because he had to rip up his sermon and write a whole new one all on account of this post - but I think you can get a hint of the real answer in Marthe's comment.

Timothy said...

How glad I am to see that you fulfill every one of those Scriptural 'codes of conduct' that you have set for others, Elizabeth. You really must be congratulated.

Matthew said...

Warning begin epic rant: the real issue in this case (re Michael) is the degree to which we give any religion a pass on enacted laws or regulations due to claims of religious freedom. The supreme court has held they don't get much of a pass. Many religious rights activists disagree with that stance but it is the conservatives on the court that have championed it, not the courts liberals who would allow more exemptions. When native Americans wanted to smoke peyote it was the courts conservatives who said they could not violate a law of application to all. What if a hospital was owned by jevohas witnesses and they did not want to provide blood transfusions, what if you had a religion that had a holy book of scripture that said it violated their religious freedom to have to comply with building code regulations and a permits process? Would we allow them to build a hospital that is structurally unsafe because it violates their sincerely held religious beliefs to comply with building codes? Extreme examples yes, but the constitution does not makes exemptions on the basis of the weirdness of your bible or holy book. The courts conservatives did this because up to know all of the court cases dealt with what Some might call whack doodle religions. Bizarre claim to be exempt from law. And jt was the conservatives on the court who rejected the claims when some liberals would have allowed more exemptions to the law. It is TRUE that this is maybe the first time that a mainstream religion has lost a fight in the political process. In the past Christians were generally able to get their exemptions in the political process and not rely on the courts. Which is why the court cases have been about odd religions. Some feel legitimately that this violates the religious freedom of the catholic church (Michael) and they may be right. I will concede that. But if you open this spigot there is no way for the outcome of this situation not to carry all the way out to the bizarre religions. You cannot constitutionally draw the ljne at catholocosm. Which is why almost all constitutional law experts agree that the church will lose this case. Unless the court goes political and sets a standard for the catholic church that will not apply to other religions. Which is probably despite the faux anger from the catholic church they never challenged these laws at the state level for decades as they have been enacted at the state level, the states have to obey the federal constitution too. Gosh, why didn't they sue when these laws were first passed at the state level? But now that it is federal. They are mad and going to sue. But i know a few native american activists that hope they win because if so, it means they (and others) no longer have to obey the nations drug laws as long as you claim such laws violate your religious tenants. End of epic rant.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Why, thank you, Timothy.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

It was a good rant, Matthew. Thank you. I'm afraid your intended audience is tone deaf on this matter.

Anonymous said...

Time for a few responses:

@Bex: "And since my religion doesn't prohibit contraception, plan B or voluntary sterilization, why would you have the right to prevent me from the free exercise of it guaranteed in the Constitution?"

I wasn't aware I had the right to prevent you from walking to the local pharmacy, Planned Parenthood, or secular hospital and obtain these products/procedures. But do so at your own expense. The federal government has no constitutional mandate to compel one private party (e.g. the Catholic Church) to pay another private party (e.g. an insurance company) for a product or service. Whereas the First Amendment provides for the free exercise of religion.


Anonymous said...

@EK: "You say you don't want abortion - for any reason, under any circumstance - and yet, you are also opposed to women using contraception."

Two intrinsic evils, very simple moral case. Especially since it is extremely rare to become pregnant while remaining in premarital chastity.


Anonymous said...


If you look back at the some of the contentious political debates at the state level, you will find plenty of Catholic outrage and politicking. My own state of California featured battles over no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage (twice now), and legalized (and state-funded) abortion. The only thing unique about the current argument is the national scope of it.

BTW I have opposed some SCOTUS rulings with respect to peyote, so I'm not "in the bag" for conservative jurisprudence on the religious liberty issue. I just look at the First Amendment and see a clear right for the free exercise of religion. I see no such constitutional reference to peyote, abortion, contraception, and the like. This equating of constitutional rights with whatever 51% of Congress can pass or what 5 of 9 SC justices think is maddening to me, even long before the HHS disgrace.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

What about married women using contraception - with their husbands' enthusiastic endorsement? Is that evil, as well?

What if a married woman has an illness and getting pregnant would threaten her health status or her life?

What if people are so poor they can't afford the six children they have and don't want any more?

Are you seriously going to tell me that contraception, in these situations, is evil?

Wait. I already know how you are going to answer that.

I suppose it's true: Simple minds think simplistically.