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     Politics and patriotism
    Filed under: — David @ 8:26 pm

    I have come to the conclusion that negative campaigning is unpatriotic. It goes like this:

    A negative campaign creates and encourages an atmosphere and attitude of mistrust, smugness, and superiority. Everything is put in terms that make it sound like only an idiot would disagree (remember the definition of bigotry?). It polarizes people in a way that makes it very difficult to have a reasonable discussion about the issues without it degenerating into shouting and name-calling. This is bad for democracy because it teaches people not to consider the other side of the story, so they’re not going to be as informed when they vote. Carrying on a practice that is harmful to democracy - especially as part of an effort to become president - is unpatriotic.

    That is why my vote is influenced at least as much by the tone of a campaign as by what they say about the issues… assuming they get around to that part.

     Marriage and bigotry
    Filed under: — David @ 4:41 pm

    I have a theory that the LDS church wouldn’t take a stand on Proposition 8 unless the idea of marriage being only between a man and a woman could be defended without getting religious, and bringing up issues of separation of church and state. So I developed my own de-religionated explanation.

    I believe that gender - the differences between men and women - is an important part of who and what we are as human beings, and it must be allowed to play its part in order to have a healthy society. I can think of no better place - not even a close second - for gender to play its role in our lives and our society than in the marriage relationship. I believe that part of what marriage is about is learning to deal with, and benefit from, the fundamental and inherent differences between male and female. To take gender out of the definition of marriage turns it into something much different, and I believe much diminished. It denies the importance of gender, and I think that detracts from our humanity.

    It seems to me that the biggest challenge that something like Proposition 8 faces is the assumption that it’s based on homophobia and/or religious beliefs that don’t belong in the state constitution. Many people seem to make this assumption without making any effort to really understand the opposing point of view. I bet most supporters of Prop 8 can describe the opposing point of view pretty well, but the reverse doesn’t seem to happen much.

    One of the most disturbingly ironic images I’ve seen is a “Yes on Prop 8″ sign vandalized with the word “bigot” spray-painted on it. Vandalizing someone else’s campaign sign is itself an act of bigotry, and using the word bigot that way is utter hypocrisy.

    When it comes to these issues, neither side has a monopoly on being the victim of prejudice and bigotry. I think there’s a misconception about what what “bigot” actually means, and an assumption that it only applies to people who are homophobic or racist. So I looked it up.

    bigĀ·ot n. One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

    I’d say that describes the sign vandals.

     Not so tough
    Filed under: — David @ 7:42 am

    Bob Shieffer:

    Are each of you tonight willing to sit at this table and say to each other’s face what your campaigns and the people in your campaigns have said about each other?

    John McCain:

    Well, this has been a tough campaign. It’s been a very tough campaign.

    Barack Obama:

    Well, look, you know, I think that we expect presidential campaigns to be tough.

    (Unsurprisingly, neither one of them really answered the question.)

    So “tough” is a euphemism for “full of mud-slinging”. I think that just sounds silly. Negative campaigning is full of cheap shots, and that doesn’t qualify as tough.

    And unfortunately, Obama is right: our expectations for presidential campaigns - and political campaigns in general - are low.

    We’re starting to see where low standards will lead. Congressman John Lewis has illustrated this with an extreme example. Many people, especially presidential candidates, have criticized him for going too far. Personally I think the comparison he makes is actually valid and important. Negative campaigning is a slippery slope, and the bottom of that slope is a horrible place to be.

    Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse. … George Wallace … created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. … As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.

    It is true that on a few occasions John McCain (but not Sarah Palin as for as I am aware) has taken a moment to insist on more civility while his followers sometimes literally call for Obama’s head, but it is too little too late, and it contradicts most of the other things he says about his opponent. You say that we don’t know who “the real” Obama is, that he “pals around with terrorists”, but really we shouldn’t be afraid of him becoming president? How are your supporters supposed to reconcile those statements?

    Rather than take responsibility for creating an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and hate, McCain tries to distract us with counterattacks. He wants John Lewis’ remarks denounced, but when his own statements are denounced he feigns innocence. Meanwhile he’s still slipping down that slope.

    It’s insulting to me that I’m supposed to accept this behavior, and actually want these qualities in a president. Just like I’m insulted every time a politician talks about his opponent’s voting record. Look, he voted for something bad! He voted against something good! And I’m supposed to believe it’s all neatly black and white. Then it turns out the “good” bill was fatally flawed, or that this outraged politician actually voted the same way as the opponent he criticizes.

    When a politician - any politician - talks voting records, I ignore what he or she is trying to imply about his opponent, and instead look at what it says about the speaker. And oh so rarely is that a complimentary view.


    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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