Leeches on the body politic

(via Chris Sheil) Here’s a passionate if profane rant about those Bible Belt Republicans whose votes may or may not have been crucial to Bush’s election victory. It echoes and amplifies this passage from a MSN Slate article by Daniel Gross that I quoted at the bottom of a recent post:

In decades past, increasing Republican dominance of the House and Senate would have meant more fiscal discipline. But Republicans increasingly dominate the states that are net drains on Federal taxes¢â¬âthe Southern and Great Plains states¢â¬âwhile fading in the coastal states that produce a disproportionate share of federal revenue. (It’s Republicans, not Democrats, who are sucking on the federal teat.) What Amity Shlaes quaintly identified in today’s Financial Times as the “southern culture of tax cutting” has been married to the southern culture of failing to generate wealth and the southern culture of depending on federal largesse. The offspring is an unsightly deficit monster.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Apologies, Ken – I just traduced you on the other thread and said you must actually be off marking somewhere – speaking for myself, I’ve just decided to give in and pack it in and leave it all til Monday!

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

An interesting proposal for redrawing the map of North America.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Australia’s often said to have historically had a strong State because government preceded society and the cost of providing infrastructure fell largely to government. This is also claimed to have led to a “handout” mentality and a mindset where every problem we have we look to the state for a fix.

The Land of the Free and of self-reliance etc etc may not be that different. The absolutely excellent American writer Joan Didion in her recent book Where I Was From says of her native California:

From the start it was far less self-sufficient than it liked to pretend: the unfettered individualism depended on federal handouts.

So the same phenomenon might apply in California where the Governator faces off the “girlie men” of the Democrats…

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

This whole “rise of the Christian right” thing has been vastly overdone, imo. For a somewhat more balanced view of what really happened in the US elections, try reading this comment in Open Democracy
http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article-3-117-2212.jsp#two

The way people on this blog have jumped on Cardinal Pell for his (admittedly confused) article in the SMH suggests that you self-confident rational people have a bit of a phobia about Bible-believing Christians. If they truly are Bible-believing, the last thing they would be doing is imposing their values on others. Salvation cannot be imposed. Being a Christian is not a matter of doing the right things and ticking off all the boxes as you go. It is utterly unlike Islam in this respect, because Islam is implicitly a state religion, with an explicit agenda of imposing outward conformity (if not inward belief) with its tenets.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Alex

I couldn’t agree more. It’s a point that’s been made numerous times by moderate Christian commenters here and elsewhere. The conservative christian fundamentalists like Pell and the Pentecostalists aren’t typical of the great body of christians, whose emphasis is on Christ’s message of love, charity and forgiveness rather than on the hatred and intolerance that are Pell’s stock-in-trade.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Alex, I’d take issue with a couple of your comments.

First, I don’t think we’re phobic about Christians – I’m a Catholic of sorts myself. I think what we’re trying to do is defend the integrity of secularism in politics – which is a different thing. I also don’t know that Pell would see himself as a “Bible-Believing Christian”.

It is very true that the Christian belief is that belief must be freely chosen (something that was not observed widely in the Crusades, the Reconquest of Spain and for many Jews in the Middle Ages however). I suspect a lot of fundie Christians regard most of us mob as the devil’s property. What concerns me is not their propensity to impose their religion but rather to impose their values. Christianity seems historically to have had a deep desire to fuse church and state – and its aftereffects are demands that (secular) legislation embody (Christian) values.

I’ve stated a number of times that I have no objection whatsoever to anyone living their life according to ethical or moral values informed by a religious tradition but I object in the strongest possible terms to any attempt to legislatively impose such values on those who do not accept the authority of that religious tradition to determine their own ethics and style of life.

Secondly, Islam is actually a religion with little attachment to the state. Rather, it seeks to place the state in a subservient position to the Ummah or community of faith. Hence there is little secular law or jurisprudence and rulers have as their primary duty the protection and defence of Islam and can be deposed.

Yobbo
Yobbo
2022 years ago

Please Mark, how many times are people going to link to that stupid “jesusland” thing. How funny and perceptive would it be if someone colored in the coastal states and called them “Leninland”? That’s about the level of debate you are stooping to.

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

Mark, although Christians of whatever persuasion do not have the right to impose their ethical values on you, they have the right like anyone else in our society to argue that their own ethical position ought to be reflected in the laws of our nation, which then does become binding on you, me and everyone else. I don’t see why anyone should become paranoid about a prominent Christian doing just that (even – indeed especially- if they don’t argue very coherently or persuasively)

On your second point, although in the strict sense Islam is not a state religion, as you rightly point out, it does expect the state to be subservient to the moral precepts of the religion, as you also point out. The difference in practice is immaterial. Of course, for much of its history the Christian Church was in the same position. However, its founder certainly never intended this to happen (unlike Mohammed)and since the gradual separation of church from state, none of its followers have seriously propounded anything else. To suggest, as one commentator did on the thread relating to the Pell article, that Pell is promoting a theocracy, is absurd. He is simply promoting the view, common in Christian circles, that moral values that do not have an external frame of reference are ultimately worthless, because there is no reason to prefer them to any other set of values. (And please don’t get me started on the shortcomings of utilitarianism. We could be here for a long time.)

Peter Murphy
2022 years ago

Please Mark, how many times are people going to link to that stupid “jesusland” thing[?]
16300 so far, Yobbo.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Well, yobbo it’s kinda cute.

Alex, thanks for your reasoned response. I guess there are two issues here. The first is that the theory of a liberal democracy – and as Ken said on the other thread its core value – is that the State should not determine how people themselves choose to live their lives, except insofar as harm is done to others. This is implicitly accepted by the way the “pro-choice” argument is couched in terms of harm done to foetuses rather than an absolutist theological position. Thus, while I do not deny the right of any group to seek to have its value preferences reflected in legislation, I think that the over-riding principle of non-interference is so important that I will strongly resist their views. This in turn reflects the normative principle of the separation of religion and politics and the formation of policy by reasoned debate in the interests of the whole community.

As to the history of church/state separatism, I’m unconvinced that people like John Ashcroft and George W. Bush understand it very well. You are quite right about the church’s founder, but the legacy of the Constantinian imposition of Christianity as the state religion, and the Papacy’s attempts in the Middle Ages in competition with the Holy Roman Emporers to set up something which would have been akin to a theocracy continue to have effects. The Catholic Church, for instance, resists measures by the new Spanish government which effectively disestablish it, and vociferously opposes referenda in countries like Ireland and Italy to legalise civil divorce. Catholic politicians in Poland seek to have God invoked in the preamble to the EU constitution. Catholic bishops in American refuse communion or say they would refuse communion to John Kerry and other Catholic Democrats in a clear attempt to influence election results… and there’s also a Calvinist tradition of the “godly community” which plays its part in legitimising the moral agenda of some Protestants in Australia and America.

I agree with you that it would be much more in keeping with the spirit of the Gospel to attempt to shift people’s views rather than impose legal sanctions on certain behaviours. And I think that the focus on sexual behaviour, reproductive rights and so on is massively out of tune with the real message of the Gospels as well.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

I’m not a big fan of the Pells and their ilk for much the same reason as many have discussed here but nothwithstanding that I am interested in a reading a definition of what you all mean as “secularism in politics”.

John Howard used the term “values neutral” and many complained that it sounded like he was saying that values are not taught in state schools. Notwithstanding the perception of semantic clumsiness, I knew what he meant, and i agree with it.

What I’m saying is the criticisms of Pell and Christian Right posaitions may be partially or mostly valid but I don’t like the values being taught in the State education sector either. You can call it teacher bashing if you want but when you don’t like the dish you tell the waiter.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

I think I may differ slightly from Mark, and take a similar position to John Quiggin. That is, church/state separation doesn’t require that religious leaders must keep out of political debate. They have as much right as any citizen to participate and advocate policies and laws that they favour, and inevitably their advocacy will be shaped by their religious beliefs. What they don’t have any right to expect (and won’t receive from this little black armadillo) is that others must defer to, respect or accept their opinions/demands merely because they are religiously based. Pell is perfectly entitled to advocate his case, and I’m equally entitled to expose his arguments for the shallow, authoritarian, illiberal, anti-democratic nonsense they are.

mark
2022 years ago

Sam, there are a great many Conservatives — most so-called Christians — calling the election “a victory for moral values”. Had Kerry won, only the wingnuts would’ve called it “a victory for Soviet-style Communism”.

Let’s be at least a little realistic here, eh?

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

Mark, I acceppt your comments on church/state separation, but as regards the attempts by the Church in Spain/Italy to influence policies, their hearts arent really in it. How could they be, when the respective birth rates are 1.1 and 1.2? I know “if God is with us, who can be against us” but I don’t think they take that seriously.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

“What they don’t have any right to expect (and won’t receive from this little black armadillo) is that others must defer to, respect or accept their opinions/demands merely because they are religiously based. Pell is perfectly entitled to advocate his case, and I’m equally entitled to expose his arguments for the shallow, authoritarian, illiberal, anti-democratic nonsense they are.”

Count me in Ken FWIW but as we stand side by side fighting off this attack from the forces of darkness I hope you won’t be cross if I piff the odd bit of percussive ordinance back over our shoulders at some of our so called allies who have up until now at least been much more successful at infiltrating our institutions than the Pellists.

Cameron Riley
2022 years ago

mark, the jesusland map is dumb, I live in a red state and it isn’t much different from the blue state I lived in three years ago. There are better cartograms on the web which show the make up of voters.

Since the Republicans controlled Congress and the Executive, there has been an explosion of pork spending in bills. From Citizens Against Waste

Pork spending 1995-2004

Number of Pork Projects 1995-2004

I don’t consider this a regional divide issue. It is a party issue. When a party controls government it spends like there is no tomorrow, and completely without shame. They will use the public purse to their parties ends, and handing out pork projects to sitting members is one way.

Republicans were out of power in Congress for a long period, partly because state assemblies get to draw electoral boundaries. Consequently the rhetoric of a party out of power is one of small government and small spending.

But once in power and controlling two arms of government, their rhetoric turns to – only the state and our intervention can save you.

Already you can see the Democrats in the US, courtesy of their surplus credentials under Clinton, changing their argument to Democrats represent responsible government, small government, small spending etc.

Democrats vilifying the red states for having their hands in the federal welfare trough is an extension of that.

Another issue is that the red and blue counties do want welfare, just that they have different ideas as to what form that welfare should take. The red counties are predominantly rural, and as a pay off they got the $400 billion farm bill (about the same size as Au’s GDP).

For the blue counties which are urban, their idea of federal welfare is spending on schools, transport infrastructure, crime etc. The No Child Left Behind Act was $49 billion. If NY/Chicago/DC/SF/LA etc got a $400 billion education bill I am sure they wouldn’t be as upset about money flowing to red states.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Cameron, as I said in response to Yobbo, I just thought it was kinda funny. Wasn’t trying to make some serious point.

Actually, if you could point me to an online electoral map showing the blue/red breakdown by counties across the US, I’d be really grateful.

The irony of course with Republican pork is that Reagan campaigned for the line-item veto to prevent pork. If anything, the issue of pork and non-germane amendments, and the related issue of murdering bills’ intent in conference committee has become much worse under a Republican Congress – not to mention the decline in the investigative/accountability functions of Congressional committees.

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

Mark, the most insightful analysis can be found at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/
The advantage of the analysis shown there is that it gives both state and county maps, adjusted for population as well as unadjusted.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

I think alex has said what I mostly wanted to say.

for Ken to say Pell is a fundamentalist is crazy. Catholics can’t get in because their tradition is in conflict with the bible!

I do like Ken hyperventaliting against Pell though. Ken does know a silly argument.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Homer

I see I did use the expression “conservative christian fundamentalist” in relation to both Pell and the Pentecostalists in one comment above. That was careless. I’m aware of the distinction and I observed it in my primary post about Pell. I accept that Pell can’t be labelled a “fundamentalist”, at least if we take that to mean a biblical naive literalist, because Catholic teaching embellishes and departs from biblical literacy in lots of ways (most prominently pretty well everything about Mother Mary).

However, despite their differing approaches to biblical truth, in political terms Pell and the Pentecostalists are peas in a pod. Both seem to regard sexual morality/freedom topics as being far more important and worrying than issues that more liberal christians and humanists would see as first order issues: – peace, social justice (equality of opportunity and relieving poverty and disadvantage) and so on. The same is true of the Pentecostalists to an even greater extent, because their churches seem to have little or no involvement in practical charity/social justice programs (in contrast to the Catholic Church). It’s a strange set of priorities to my way of thinking. I’m not saying Pell is unconcerned about these things, but his public utterances seldom seem to focus on them. Then again, maybe it’s partly that the media focuses on those press releases and speeches, and ignores the ones about peace, social justice etc.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Thanks for the link, Alex.

Ken’s right in his broad assessment IMHO. “Integralist” is probably a better and more precise term for reactionary and ultra-Papalist Catholics, but the phenomena of Protestant fundamentalism, Catholic integralism and Political Islamism are closely linked in mentality and attitude. All are reactions to modernity, all have an ahistorical outlook (Pell and his mob are actually unfaithful to many Catholic traditions, the literalist approach to scripture was unknown to Calvin and Luther and Political Islamism ignores centuries of more enlightened Q’uranic scholarship), all tend to divide humanity into the saved and the rest, all have politicised religion.

Sammy
Sammy
2022 years ago

Neal Pollack sticks up for the South:

http://www.nealpollack.com/cgi-bin/blog/do.cgi/200411101441/permalink

Don’t Fuck The South [Nov 10, 2004]

I know I promised I wouldn’t post again this week, but I’ve been
receiving emails all day about this site
[http://www.fuckthesouth.com/],
because people think I’ll find it “funny.”

Cameron Riley
2022 years ago

Mark, in addition to the UMich link, there is the ESRI map that was commissioned by CBS. The UMich and ESRI all appeared in a Washington Post article this morning.

As to line by line veto, Clinton also wanted it as well. Congress is out of control, with a 95% retention rate, and gerry-mandering to the point where candidates dont even appear on ballots, what do they care.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Thanks, Cameron – I’d agree that the enormous advantages incumbents have in Congressional elections is a huge problem – which links into the power of money in US politics.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Cameron, there’s an interesting piece by Tom Englehardt on the politics of electoral maps here.