A Response to the Collective Political Insanity Commentary
Tuesday, September 9, 2003
by Daryle Hendricksen
I just wanted to quickly respond to your 28 August Commentary, where you compared the "political insanity" of the Ten Commandments controversy with the "insanity" of the charge that the Republicans are "undermining our democratic institutions."
While I agree with your observations in both cases 100%, I would like to point out that there is one rather important distinction between them. The Democratic Party, and leaders within the Democratic Party (specifically Gray Davis, leaders of the California DNC, the National DNC, and presumably Bill Clinton, who is assisting Gray Davis with his attempt to retain the Governorship), are openly supporting this charge against the Republicans. In other words, this is a position supported by so-called "mainstream" Democrats. This charge (that Republicans "steal" elections they cannot win) is a ridiculous charge that has been thrown around much too often since the 2000 Presidential election. If you don't like the rules then work on changing them!
On the other hand, the Ten Commandments controversy is really a "religious-right" issue. To the best of my knowledge, there are no "mainstream" Republicans who have latched on to this issue. There has been no attempt to demonize Democrats because of the court decisions regarding this issue. Even the more right-wing talk show hosts (many of whom have allowed Judge Moore to present his case to the people) haven't gone as far as to suggest the courts were wrong in these judgments. The Supreme Court (who helped George W. Bush "steal" the 2000 election, you remember) refused to even hear the case! This is an issue some extremists within the Republican Party have latched onto, but it hasn't gained any traction with so-called "mainstream" Republicans. The bottom line is that most reasonable people understand that Judge Moore is violating our Constitution's anti-Religious Establishment clause!
So, while these are both excellent examples of "political insanity", I find it difficult to blame the Republican Party (or the "right" in general) for independent actions of one segment of that party. On the other hand, the Democratic Party should be ashamed of the way in which they are insulting every person in California who supports the recall. There will always be "extremists" on both sides to come up with ridiculous (and "insane") arguments for their opinions (and there is nothing wrong with allowing those "extremists" to express their views). I am far more concerned when "mainstream" organizations (such as the DNC) become a part of that insanity!
The DNC should simply focus their efforts on winning the election in California, rather than complaining about how UNDEMOCRATIC it is to conduct a recall ELECTION! Ugh!
Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:
I pretty much agree with Mr. Hendricksen's analysis for the most part: his point that one has to take into account the essential difference between "extremist" or "fringe" "political insanity" and such "political insanity" which then becomes something of a mantra within the "mainstream" of a political Party (especially when it happens to be one of the two Major Parties- if only because the Democrats and Republicans, taken together, have such a large effect- through their respective actions- on the American political process as a whole, an effect no Third Party or other political organization on the political margins can ever hope to achieve!) is, of course, well taken. However, I want to here take the opportunity to address certain implications which could conceivably be gleaned from at least some of what Mr. Hendricksen has written, implications that possibly take his basic argument at least somewhat too far: I am not at all suggesting that Mr. Hendricksen necessarily would accept these implications I myself here perceive, yet I think it is most important- where not also just plain fair- to point these out.
First off, I am going to somewhat defend the Democrats a little bit here (but not too much!-- for I agree with what Mr. Hendricksen has said about the actions of many- if not most- of the "mainstream" Democrats opposing the California Governor Davis' recall). Much of the hyperbole that Mr. Hendricksen decries (as I myself already had in my original Commentary on the subject to which Mr. Hendricksen is responding above) is largely a byproduct of the Party as organization, for there is something innately human about the "tribe" rising to the defense of the tribal member- especially if it also be a tribal leader- who is accused/attacked (however rightly or wrongly) by those from other competing tribes: famous family feuds- such as the Hatfields and McCoys in Appalachia- have arisen as a result of this particular aspect of human social behavior. And how many times have we seen, say, a male suspect arrested for a felony whose mother recites for the local TV cameras just how good a son he always was right after we have already seen the police spokesman who has similarly recited the "highlights" of the suspect's rather long "rap sheet" going back into the suspect's pre-teen years? A mother's son is always "the good son"-- well-- to his mother!... so it is in Politics.
Putting oneself into the shoes of the Democratic Party of the State of California and the Democratic National Committee as the Recall petition signatures piled up and it began to become readily apparent that a Recall Election might actually be called, one cannot help but see them as having been placed onto the horns of a dilemma: surely neither Major Party would so easily let a Governor of that Party, especially one of so Electoral Vote-laden a State as California, simply twist in the wind! Thus, there was this quite natural propensity to jump to Governor Davis' defense early on: to not have done so would have had the core institutions of that Democratic Party which had already twice nominated Gray Davis to the job he at least currently holds already tacitly opining that his recall might actually be legitimate (in the sense that the Democrats would then be, in effect, silently agreeing that Governor Davis should be recalled). I don't see how anyone- regardless of Party or ideology- could logically expect the institutions of the Democratic Party as an organization to simply abandon Governor Davis wholesale!!
There seems to be this bizarre political trend in this country, which I personally find amusing (if only to keep from crying), where one side of an ideological battle simply can't understand it (though, in reality, they are only sardonically pretending not to understand, in a psychological bid to influence John Q. and Jane D. Voter-Citizen) when the other side which has just lost a particular round of the battle won't simply give up and let the first group unfetteredly have their way! For example, I have had more than one person who is Pro-Choice on the Abortion issue incredulously ask me- and with a straight face, mind you!- "why"- after, yet again, a Constitutional Amendment which would functionally overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade had failed of adoption by the necessary 2/3 of each house in Congress- "can't these Pro-Life people just see how wrong they really are?" Is the average Pro-Choicer really so naive as to truly expect the Pro-Life movement to just cry "Uncle!" and then disband simply because they've lost a procedural vote on the floor of one house of Congress? And what good would Democracy and Free Speech really be if that were, indeed, what actually happened?!
Yet I have seen similar political punditry- even among those who could be described as "mainstream" Republicans- crowing about how the GOP has, once again, "proven" its "moral superiority" and "adherence to principle" (the clear implication being that Democrats have no principles) by decrying even the Democrats coming to the defense of Governor Davis against Recall in the first place. "Why", these people seem to be asking- just as incredulously, "can't these Davis supporters see just how [bad, incompetent, corrupt, stupid- you pick out the adjective du jour!] the Governor of California really is?!" But I cannot think of a single Republican- "mainstream" or otherwise- I happen to know personally who would consider it at all "moral" or "principled" for the Republican Party establishment to refuse to, at least at the start, defend a Republican Governor who might someday face the same situation Gray Davis currently faces; and I certainly haven't heard any dyed-in-the-wool Republican simply accept the "fact" that a Governor of his/her Party is incompetent or corrupt simply because a Democrat said he/she was!
Keep in mind that, in the main, the opposition to Governor Davis which has fostered this Recall is political. If Governor Davis had been principally charged with immoral personal behavior (and there would then even be debate about how much that should play into a decision such as that the California voters will make come 7 October, as was the case during the national Impeachment Crisis of 1998 re: President Bill Clinton), the denizens of one Party attacking those of another Party for so knee-jerkingly defending one of their own might certainly ring the much more true. But the answer to the question of whether Gray Davis is a lousy Governor or not, whether or not he is incompetent to such a degree so as to necessitate his recall, is here a political one- not at all a moral one! It is, however, also a question to be answered solely- and finally- by the voters of California next month and, for their having charged that the voters even having a chance to ask and answer this question is- in and of itself- "undemocratic", many Democrats rallying around Governor Davis are rightfully scored... but let's not then turn this Recall into some kind of "test" that supposedly "proves" that one Party has the monopoly on such behavior as has been exhibited by these Democrats while the other Major Party would, of course (I here write fairly dripping of sarcasm), never ever do such a thing, the first implication I can see potentially flowing from that which Mr. Hendricksen has opined above!
For I have visited enough blogging and other web sites catering to conservatives of all stripes and Republicans in particular where I have seen more than my share of claims that the California Recall Election "will now give Republicans the chance to take back an election that was rightfully ours" or some such similar drivel. "Rightfully [the Republicans']"??!!... I hate to have to inform these people that Bill Simon lost last November (the fact that Mr. Simon has also dropped out of this year's Recall race adding even more fuel to the argument that the 2002 California Gubernatorial Election was not "rightfully" his at all-- at this writing, he [once nominated for the job by the Republicans of California] certainly doesn't seem, to me, to be someone most Californians would even want as their Governor!) And I certainly can see how a Democrat who opposes Governor Davis' recall, upon seeing the plethora of such opinions as I have cited, would be sorely tempted to thereafter be responsive to the argument that- re: California post-2002, at least- Republicans are attempting to "steal" an election they could not win last year by having petitioned for a statewide Recall Election. This, of course, doesn't make it right simply because one has gone ahead and made that claim- for it is the results of the balloting on 7 October that will alone determine the veracity, or lack thereof, of that particular argument. However, I can easily see how more than a fair amount of the Democrats' hyperbole may well be fueled by this notion- among more than a few Republicans- that, somehow, it was Gray Davis himself who "stole" November 2002!
The second implication I can see in that which Mr. Hendricksen has opined is that, somehow, the "religious-right" behind the protests against the removal of the Ten Commandments "monument" from the courthouse in Alabama is not all that connected to the views of the "mainstream" of the Republican Party (a further implication derived from this being "certainly not in the way the equivalent 'lefties' seem to be so interconnected with the 'mainstream' of the Democratic Party"). Again, I am not- by any means- suggesting that this would necessarily be Mr. Hendricksen's view but I have seen and heard more than enough political commentary by those who do accept just such an implication as flowing from the very position he has taken above.
Right after the U.S. Supreme Court's Lawrence decision, that overturning the sodomy laws in those States which still had them on the basis of their being violative of the Federal Constitution, Senator Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) decried the decision and then went so far as opining that this decision meant that it was high time to finally adopt a Constitutional Amendment defending the current Marriage Laws of the several States that ban marriage between persons of the same sex. Putting aside the question "what does Sodomy as an issue of constitutionality have directly to do with the issue of legalized Gay Marriage?", it has to be admitted that the "religious-right" has been the prime mover behind much of the anger at the Lawrence decision and that this wing of the GOP also happens to not at all be displeased by the fact that the leader of the Republican Party in the United States Senate (certainly a "mainstream" political position, unless one wishes to argue that Senator Frist does not really have the support of "mainstream" Republicans [in which case, how did he then get the job once Trent Lott left it?]) accepts their position on these issues (since it is the Tennessee Senator himself who drew the- frankly, unsupportable- connection between Lawrence and Gay Marriage). One, thus, can't so easily claim that the "religious-right" is so distant from the "mainstream" of the Republican Party.
The fact that, yes, the "mainstream" of the Republican Party has generally either kept their mouths shut, or- when opening them- has opined that Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore went much too far, should not be taken to imply that the "religious-right" and the "mainstream" do not often willingly "get into bed together" on a host of other potentially controversial issues which could also fall into the category of "political insanity" as I used the term in my Commentary on the subject. In addition, I know far too many "mainstream" Republicans who tell me they do not at all understand why a monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama State Judicial Center should be "such a big deal" when the U.S. Supreme Court Building itself recognizes the Ten Commandments as part and parcel of the development of what became Anglo-American Law (an issue I have already addressed in the Commentary to which Mr. Hendricksen is responding above): and all of this- the comments I just cited as well as Senator Frist's immediate response to the Lawrence decision this past June- strongly suggests to me that "political insanity" on the Right, such as the Ten Commandments controversy about which I happened to write, may not be the province solely of the "religious-right" after all!
In the end, no "mainstream" political organization- regardless of Party- can claim complete immunity from such "political insanity"!!