Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Interesting proposal at Secede from the Union:
WHEREAS, the self-flagellating "liberal guilt" of Enlightened, educated, kind-hearted, large-minded, civilly secular, inclusive, self-interrogating non-Republicans serves only to support the Republican agenda; and
THEREFORE, I have decided to personally secede from the Union.

I am joined by several others in the formation of a literal State of Mind that is, and will always be, separate from the United States of America, a nation I have loved and whose freedoms I would defend with my life. In the U.S.A., my devotion has been rewarded with cruelty. In the new State I propose, devotion is citizenship. A generous conception of humanity is the only law.
This whereas clause makes a good point. In another post, she develops this argument by referring to this article in The Stranger, the relevant passage of which is the following:
To red-state voters, to the rural voters, residents of small, dying towns, and soulless sprawling exburbs, we say this: F--- off. Your issues are no longer our issues. We're going to battle our bleeding-heart instincts and ignore pangs of misplaced empathy. We will no longer concern ourselves with a health care crisis that disproportionately impacts rural areas. Instead we will work toward winning health care one blue state at a time.
Drawing on this reaction to the urban-rural divide that has developed as the decisive difference in the country and the way in which the divisiveness it engenders serves the Republican agenda, she writes:
They don't want our help or pity or the benefit of our urban knowledge or our graduate degrees, but they do want our money. They don't want our caring, our patriotism, our tolerance, our AIDS-awareness education, our environmental concerns, our acceptance of foreigners, disabled people, racial and ethnic minorites, poor people, or gay people, but they do want us to keep making television shows and movies about sex, urban life, greed, and war. I wonder if there is a way to say "f--- you" to rural America -- no, you can't have our money and we're not going to distribute entertainment to you anymore. You've made your nasty bloody bed; now lie in it.
Jim Holt's article in the NYTimes Magazine put this sentiment into a form that I think is useful: taking an issue that is traditionally Republican and putting it in service of Democratic principles and purposes. In this case, it is states' rights. This is essentially the thrust of the "secession" movement in concrete terms (though one may also secede to the State of Mind).

Shortly after the election, Juan Cole offered a gesture in this direction regarding gay marriage .
But if Democrats were sly, there is a way out. The Baptist southern presidential candidate should start a campaign to get the goddamn Federal and state governments out of the marriage business. It has to be framed that way. Marriage should be a faith-based institution and we should turn it over to the churches. If someone doesn't want to be married in a church, then the state government can offer them a legal civil contract (this is a better name for it than civil union). That's not a marriage and the candidate could solemnly observe that they are taking their salvation in their own hands if they go that route, but that is their business. But marriage is sacred and the churches should be in charge of it.

If you succeeded in getting the government out of the marriage business, then the whole issue would collapse on the Republicans. You appeal to populist sentiments against the Feds and to the long Baptist tradition of support for the US first amendment enshrining separation of religion and state.
Thus, this is using a states' rights argument to undermine the wedge issue upon which the Republicans depend.

All of this sounds like a plausible idea, but the recent debate regarding Peter Beinart's article in the The New Republic (see also Noam Scheiber's critique also in TNR) raises a different concern. As Scheiber summarizes the argument, Beinart
argues that Democrats lost the election because they failed to convince the country they had a compelling agenda for winning the war on terror, or that this agenda was their highest priority.
Peter [Beinart] further argues that there are structural forces within the party that prevent it, or its candidates, from fully embracing national security issues--namely, the party's reflexively dovish left-wing, best epitomized by Michael Moore and, which he dubs "softs." Peter writes, "Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel"--the meeting where anti-Communist liberals decided that the struggle against totalitarianism would be the central struggle of cold-war liberalism. He concludes that "the hour is getting late," by which I take him to mean that Democrats will not regain their political footing until they put the fight against Islamo-fascism at the center of their agenda.
This seems to be a concern that Democrats will have to deal with in the coming years. How can Democrats turn their traditional concerns into a credible strategy for dealing with the country's concern to fight Islamo-fascism? (As Kevin Drum is arguing, we would first have to hear a convincing argument as to why this should be our pressing concern, because it does not prima facie rise to the level of severity or urgency that the fascist and communist aggressions posed in the 1940s.) My point is that the talk of secession, while tempting and valid on the level of domestic policy, does not address what may be the fundamental shortcoming of the Democratic party: foreign policy.

Don't get me wrong. I recognize that the President is himself surprisingly weak on terrorism, as is apparent in the fact that the War on Terror has required no sacrifice from the American citizens and is actually compatible with unprecedented tax cuts during wartime. Furthermore, the Republican party has treated it so unseriously as to use it politically as yet another wedge issue like abortion and gay marriage, actively shunning any concern for bipartisan agreement or international alliances. According to Beinart, all of this could be the source of devastating critique if the Democrats could turn the tables and adopt a truly serious approach to Islamo-fascism. Whether that is true, I do not know, but it seems to be the concern Democrats will have to face before the next election cycle.

[By the way, Secede also has a nice post on modernity and fundamentalism here.]


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