The War Against Modernity

OK, maybe Brad Carson was right. There seem to be large sections of our population who are engaging in an almost wholesale rejection of modernity:
Percent Who Believe in...
	Bible Inerrancy   Evolution 
USA	     33.5		 35.4
Britain        7.0		 76.7
Germany       12.5		 72.7
Italy	     27.0		 65.2
Philippines   53.7		 60.9
Poland	     37.4		 35.4
Russia	      9.9		 41.4
A chart like this might help to shed some light on why the Bush administration gets along so well with the current Polish and Russian administrations. Also, as Gallup notes today, further emphasizing Caron's point, those who reject modernity tend to vote Republican:It is not surprising to find that the biblical literalists who believe that God created humans 10,000 years ago tend to be more religious and Protestant. Given the recent emphasis on the importance of religion in the Nov. 2 presidential election, it is of interest to note that this "true believer" group tends to be more Republican than the sample average. I have to wonder, even beyond conservatives, how well will "reality based" arguments really work in our electorate? Both of the surveys I link in this piece show that our national understanding of evolution is equivalent only to the lowly figures of countries that were educated under totalitarian regimes. Reality is not something we have a very firm grasp of as a nation. That is not good for us in many, many ways.

What Another JFK Said

This was written by the most popular President of the 20th Century, in terms of average approval ratings: What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

But first, I would like to say what I understand the word "Liberal" to mean and explain in the process why I consider myself to be a "Liberal," and what it means in the presidential election of 1960.

In short, having set forth my view -- I hope for all time -- two nights ago in Houston, on the proper relationship between church and state, I want to take the opportunity to set forth my views on the proper relationship between the state and the citizen. This is my political credo:

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson did in their time of influence and responsibility.

Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose. For many years New York represented the new frontier to all those who came from the ends of the earth to find new opportunity and new freedom, generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the State of New York. These men and women, a living cross section of American history, indeed, a cross section of the entire world's history of pain and hope, made of this city not only a new world of opportunity, but a new world of the spirit as well.

There is more. It is a little outdated, but not much. I have written in the past that we as a party do not need to take up more liberal policies, but all members of our party, whether liberal or not, do have to defend liberalism. This is not a moral question, but rather one of electability as a party. We have been stuck at 18% for a while now, and considering the current ideological nature of the two coalitions, if liberalism does not grow, Republicans will remain the natural governing party of this country.

Who Are We?

I think that last night's first book club discussion went great, and I very much look forward to our next two (I better go buy I copy of What's the Matter With Kansas? pretty soon, however). Maybe this could really be the start of something truly useful.

I have been thinking a lot lately not only about what conservatism is, what is wrong with it, and what we can do about it, but who "we" are in relation to it. More clearly, I have been wondering a lot about what liberalism / progressivism actually is. Looking into ourselves and finding out who we are is at least as important as understanding our opponents.

Let me put this a different way--what the heck is liberalism / progressivism, and what is good about it?

There's more...

Liberalism on the Decline?

Not according to Harris:
	   Con	    Mod      Lib
1970's	    32	     40       18
1980's	    36	     40       18
1990's	    38	     41       18
2000's	    34	     40       18
If there was a major shift against liberalism, and I believe there was, it happened in the 1960's. Since that time, the percentage of the population that identifies itself as liberal has remained static. It is actually conservatism, whose self-identifiers peaked at 40% of the population in 1995 following the Republican takeover of Congress, that is actually experiencing a slow decline.

Looking back at 2000, where the exit polls indicated that only 29% of those who voted were self-identifying conservatives, all along there may have been some very real credibility to the Republican claim that in 2000 conservative turnout was depressed. While we will never know the cause of this with certainty, I doubt the conservative narrative of a hateful-liberal media and their evil DWI story was the main culprit. Instead, I would wager that a Republican nominee running on a platform to massively increase federal involvement and spending in education and health care was at least equally, if not more to blame. This time, however, after four years of Bush governing to the right, Republicans managed to turn out their base in proportionate size to their share of the population (and their GOTV effort is a lot more developed, grassroots and organized than many might believe), and it resulted in victory.

Fortunately, further comparing the Harris figures to exit poll numbers indicates that both liberalism and moderation have significant room to grow. The decade average among the three ideologies only adds up to 92%, with 8% either refusing or answering "neither." In 2004, according to exit polls, that eight percent entirely allocated itself to liberal (21%, +3) or moderate (45%, +5), while the number of self-identifying conservatives (34%, even) remained the same. In other words, it seems possible that the remainder, when forced to choose, all broke against conservatism. Selling this remainder on either moderation or liberalism to the point of self-identification is one of our most important tasks over the next few years.

Educate Me

There are two liberal issues that I think we should drop, if not run from the other side. Tell me why I am wrong about these issues (or right)

The first is gun control. Even though I have never owned a gun, and never intend to own a gun, this is an issue that has never resonated with me. Have any of our gun control laws reduced gun-related violence? Are there any further laws we could pass that would be more effective than just enforcing the laws we have? Forgive me if I sound a little NRA, but are guns really a major part of the problem with our violent society?

The second is faith-based initiatives. Now, I am not talking about adopting the federal grants for teaching abstinence, which I believe has been repeatedly shown to be bad policy. However, I think it is a good idea to eliminate some of the barriers that prevent the federal government from working with relief and charity organizations. Certainly, we do not want federal money going to those in need only if they attend bible study, but at the same time do we really want to deny people help because of an abstraction? I think Democrats running on keeping, even expanding, faith-based initiatives is a good idea. Shouldn't we encourage the efforts of those with faith to help people? As long as the funding isn't going to abstinence-only programs, which do not work, or with strings attached about attending the church / temple / mosque in question, which would be an establishment of religion, I think it is a good idea.

In both cases, we could argue that we are encouraging individual initiative: the charitable and community building initiative of those with faith, and the outdoor initiative of hunters, campers, hikers and fishers. I am working on a long post about the way liberalism connects to personal initiative, and I think we would have a much more coherent philosophy if we went along with these two ideas (I am not interested inc compromise on pretty much anything else, however). I think we could also argue that we are increasing individual freedom. What do you think?


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