Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Beyond the Echo Chamber, No. 2: Unbeatable Values

"Reason cannot establish values, and its belief that it can is the stupidest and most pernicious illusion."
Allan Bloom, Closing of the American Mind

"Better to be a contrite sinner than a saint with a broomstick up your ass ..."
Martin Luther, Table Talk (1566)

Once again the best minds of the Republic turn to the subject of "reforming" the troubled Democratic Party. Two useful articles in this regard, from Armed Liberal at Winds of Change: The "Values" Gap and A Democratic Reformation.

Let's get the heckling out of the way. This is, by my count, the 12745th attempt to reform the Democratic Party, not counting the energetic efforts of Theodore Roosevelt as New York City Police Commissioner. Most of them, however, don't get past the first wistful thought. A previous example (from Charles Peters, the grouchy old founder of The Washington Monthly):

The problem with the Democrats is that they have succumbed to the politics of greed and special interests. To which the Republicans succumbed long ago.
And that's as far as that got, not that we were hoping for much. Fortunately, Armed Liberal has more patience than Peters, not to mention a more up-to-date set of mental furniture. And he correctly sees that the Democrats' political problem is a cultural problem, at the center of which is the tricky philosophical subject of Values.

Why should I, a creature from the GOP lagoon, care? Because the Democrats' problem is a problem for the entire country. It has debased public debate, degraded Americans in general, inflicted unnecessary grief, alarmed the Canadian immigration authorities, and wasted a spectacular amount of time.

What is it that the unreflective portion of the Democratic Party doesn't understand about values in America? Here are my top picks:

1. America is Good. More specifically, the idea of America is superior to the program of any imaginable political party. To put it another way, your party is not your nation. Your party is subordinate to, and subservient to, the needs of your nation and your fellow countrymen, or it is nothing but a public nuisance. (This is the biggest values problem that the Democrats have, though it is probably not the most fundamental.) If you are only in the game so long as your team is winning, then you have no moral right to be in the game at all - though you still have a civil right to participate. Which brings us to number two:

2. Civil Rights. Imagine the indignation at suggesting that there is any defect in the way that Democrats understand civil rights, but there is. They do not understand the most fundamental things about them - the fact that everybody has them, even Garth Brooks fans. They also do not understand that having the right to say something does not make you right, and if someone points this out to you, they are not violating your rights.

3. Values are Your Friends. Truly, many Democrats look on "values" as being nothing but a Republican political liability. Hence their relentless snooping after Republican sexual behavior, to fuel their self-gratifying charges of hypocrisy. Democrats, on the other hand, are imagined to be immune to value judgments, since (it is implied) they don't really believe in values. This pretty much sums up the philosophy of the Clinton Administration for the last three years of its existence.

An interesting example of how many Democrats look at values, one which periodically surfaces whenever Supreme Court vacancies are discussed: Some seriously argue that conservatives ought not to overturn liberal court decisions, because being "conservatives" they must respect Stare Decisis and not upset existing law. The logical converse of this is ignored: liberals, being "liberals", have no business appealing to Stare Decisis. But they do it anyway, because principles and values are treated as a kind of joke, which only Republicans are bound to respect because of their peculiar beliefs. Kind of like the way that only Republicans believe in God, which brings us to number four:

4. In God We Trust. When the village atheist runs for Public Utilities Commissioner, he ought to speak respectfully of religion, even if he has none himself. He ought not to warn the electorate about the menace of religion, because they're not stupid. When they hear themselves being demonized, they know they are listening to someone who would love to take away their rights in a selfish paranoid attempt to protect his own. This is incredibly basic no-brainer Politics 101, yet it goes right over the heads of some people - especially people who imagine themselves to be smarter than everyone else. Which brings us to number five:

5. Elitism is for inbred aristocratic morons who deserve the guillotine. Nuff said.