Sunday, November 28, 2004


Between several good posts in several places and the holiday, I have more than a few things to say, notably about religon and morals. However, I'm exhausted and don't want to write, as I've been doing light design all day. Why write then? Because I must procrastenate; through a convoluted internet process, I've received the single most boring introductory email ever written by man. Lest the author ever read this, I'll be circumspect, but I have to complain. I netstalked this person good and proper before getting this email, so I know with complete certainty that they could have said something interesting, and yet no. Argh. Time to go deal; more either later or tomorrow.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Democratic Morality

As I've commented over at Neil's place, there is at least something to be said for moral issues in this past election and most particularly looking forward. I've been (obviously enough) seduced by George Lakoff's philosophy about morality, but it's more than that. I've been talking to a red-state, conservative christian friend and feel it's worth talking about what I've heard, even though people don't necessarily explain properly what's going on in their minds.

First, it should be clear enough that, much though we lefties like to talk about homophobia and hatred and closed-mindedness, what accessible values voters care about is what we might call societal morality -- the idea that we as a people should approve certain behaviors and disapprove others based on our shared morals. Now the more raving postmodernists among us probably abhor that idea, and even I'm made philosophically uncomfortable by it, but I think most of us would be willing to pony up that such a thing is practically important. After all, half of marriage is societal expectations of the married couple, and these things help make marriages work.

What do values voters think about societal morality? Mostly that we should have some, it appears -- that it's important that our culture embrace some set of values. Politically, "American Values" certainly is a concept, and since it's ill-defined, it's not even that hard to stand for. Culture warriors certainly do, filling that empty idea with racism, sexism, religious intolerance, and homophobia*, and they then roundly denounce the left not so much for not having their morality but for not having any morality at all. This one we walk into eyes open: the continuing fashion of moral relativism makes embracing morality of this type and on this plane profoundly distasteful, even to me, and much though I hold myself and those around me to strong moral standards, the idea that we as a society should advocate morality is something I, as a good lefty intellectual, want to distance myself from. All of this is in spite of the fact that progressives have a strong shared moral code -- we just don't talk about it.

So let's step up. I don't just mean articulating values that drive us to enact policies here, I mean firmly and powerfully advancing a (the) coherent societal morality that guides progressives in their political thinking -- respect for others and fundamental fairness being two of the first pieces. After all, it's hard to fight something with nothing.

PS: I've been watching D. L. Hughely on Bill Maher's show -- there's a man we should send to Congress right quick. He's no Obama, but his heart and his rhetoric are very much in the right place.

*Some open and some not; my associate's positions, on closer examination, are based more on a 50's style "traditional morality" mixed with genuine Christian love, which admittedly carries its own dose of homophobia and sexism, but of a type I think non-radicals would find less vicious.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Well &*&%

One way or another, there are a few things that this election makes clear, in two big points with two corollaries:

-It's time to give up argument. George Lakoff's position about framing and values (see Moral Politics and Don't Think of an Elephant) I believe completely, but they're not enough. To even contest your opponent's points coherently seems to be useless, so it's time for the power of talking points and repetition. We'd do best to pick the five most plausible things we can agree on doing and spin them forever.

-This means truth is definitely dead. The simple fact that large majorities of W's supporters believe proven false things about the war on terror is everything we need to demonstrate that you win no points for being right. By this I mean let's get comfortable with lying a lot and the rest of the disingenuous business.

-Managing the press is everything. I'm talking tequila and I'm talking brown-nosing, leaking, spin, and large-scale manipulation, and I mean now.

-Therefore, negativity is unbeatable. A negative story endures, it has substance and depth and exploration; a positive story lasts one day and dies. Attack and defense is all that cuts through the screen, and which would you rather be doing?

In short, Neil, you finally win this one -- it's time for some of us to lower ourselves to their level. Let's cowboy up.