The Fourteen Commandments, For Democrats
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
by Ted Baiamonte
[Editor's Note: Mr. Baiamonte is the author of what he describes as "the classic" UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS. He also authors THE DUMB DEMOCRAT, which he describes thusly: "A blog devoted to the bold idea that while Democrats think they are caring and sensitive they are, sadly, just plain dumb, and often deadly" and can be accessed via the URL http://thedumbdemocrat.blogspot.com/. His "Fourteen Commandments" below appear to be principally intended as something of a "training guide" for the use of those who oppose the Democratic Party of the United States of America and might wish to take on adherents of that Party in political debate but they seem also to be for the possible edification of those who affiliate themselves with the Democrats, hence the latter part of the title of his piece.]
Below are the 14 Commandments for Democrats. After years of exhaustive archaeological digging they were recently discovered in ancient Greek archives dating back, pending carbon dating for certitude, to approximately the 4th Century BC. They promise to revolutionize our democracy by, at long last, organizing our participation in a meaningful way. Sadly, most Democrats have become accustomed to participating in our democracy by merely venting their feelings. This of course leads nowhere except to huge numbers of people screaming or venting or ranting at each other and then electing politicians who do the same thing. In this process, truth becomes a casualty.
The Democratic Commandments offer a rational methodology with which to approach democracy. Not surprisingly, it resembles the method used in modern courtrooms throughout Western Civilization, which also had their origins in ancient Greece. In the future, when you have political intercourse with a Democrat you can say, for example "you're violating C2", i.e., Commandment Two. Because the method is so simple, in time, Democrats will know before they speak or write, much like Pavlovian dogs, which Commandment they are about to violate. Not only is the method simple, but so are the Commandments. They are simple enough to almost guarantee that even the most emotional, rant prone Democrat will question why on earth he is irrelevantly venting his fact free, silly feelings in the course of a political debate. So, if you're a Democrat please keep the Commandments in mind before you speak or write, in the interest of truth and to avoid the embarrassment of public training. If you are a Republican, use the Commandments freely as the most efficient way to train Democrats. Training them for democracy works best when it is simple, consistent, and very focused; the Commandments make this possible for the first time ever. Below please find your free copy of
The Democratic Commandments:
1) Democracy is a fact based debate
2) Feelings are not facts
3) Meaningful conclusions come from facts; not feelings
4) Personal attacks or psychological smears do not establish or change relevant facts
5) Fear of debate means your position is weak; not that you are above debating or democracy
6) Feelings based politics only encourages 30 second TV commercials
7) A debate is won only when you have asked a question(s) that cannot be answered
8) Our Constitution is based on freedom from government
9) Democrats do not believe in the American concept of freedom
10) Freedom has made America the greatest country in history
11) Too much gov't has made all other countries throughout history worse, or deadly
12) Democrats should be outlawed or reformed as a threat to freedom and to humanity
13) American values must be promoted around the world to save the world
14) Gov't must promote religious values as the basis of the Constitution and the human soul
Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:
I am not here going to take on each and every one of Mr. Baiamonte's "commandments". I do, however, wish to address at least a few of them.
First of all, as regards his notion in his "C12" (to borrow the short-hand nomenclature for individual commandments that Mr. Baiamonte himself uses in his piece) that "Democrats should be outlawed or reformed as a threat to freedom and to humanity":
Putting aside the issue of the overall efficacy of outlawing a Major Party in the United States which garners a rather large number of votes in each and every General Election nowadays held in this country, I fail to see how doing so might advance the very cause of Freedom itself. Freedom (insofar as the concept is expressed politically through the system of Representative Democracy inherently a part of the American Governmental System) clearly implies that it is the voter who should be free to decide whether or not a Party might be a threat to that very Freedom and, if the voter so decides, not vote for that Party: thus, I hardly see how the actual outlawing of said Party could, in itself, be in furtherance of Republican Democracy; certainly the outlawing of political Parties does not seem at all fit to be a "Democratic Commandment" (for where therein appears the inherent right of a voter to, if he or she might so wish, vote for the candidates of the Party Mr. Baiamonte himself would like to see banned? Democracy allows someone to disagree with Mr. Baiamonte as much as it allows someone to agree with him!)
Secondly, there is his "C4", which states that "Personal attacks or psychological smears do not establish or change relevant facts": putting aside the issue as to just how factual his "C12" (addressed by me in the preceding paragraph) might or might not be, Mr. Baiamonte himself engages in what might be termed a "psychological smear" in titling his blog THE DUMB DEMOCRAT in the first place. Now, Mr. Baiamonte has every right, of course, to call the Democrats "dumb" if he so desires-- that's his opinion and he is certainly entitled to it! But coming from someone who, earlier in his piece, criticizes those who "have become accustomed to participating in our democracy by merely venting their feelings. This of course leads nowhere except to huge numbers of people screaming or venting or ranting at each other and then electing politicians who do the same thing", his "C4" comes off as being at least somewhat disingenuous.
Mr. Baiamonte also has stated- in his "C2" and "C3"- that "Feelings are not facts" and that "Meaningful conclusions come from facts; not feelings", yet he conveniently forgets that his claim that Democrats are "dumb" or that they are "a threat to freedom and to humanity" is more feeling (in the form of his opinion) than fact (however many facts he might bring to bear and which allow him to come to this opinion): either that or he has merely set up a list of "commandments" for everybody else but which he himself does not at all feel the least bit obliged to follow.
But I am far more concerned with contradictions inherent in Mr. Baiamonte's "commandments": I will here only address the following-- the interrelationship between his C8: that "Our Constitution is based on freedom from government" and his C14: that "Gov't must promote religious values as the basis of the Constitution and the human soul".
Let me start by addressing Mr. Baiamonte's C8: Our Constitution is based on freedom from government.
This "commandment" is, to begin with, highly oxymoronic-- for a Constitution defines the very structure of government and the Constitution of the United States is certainly no exception as regards the American Federal Government (similarly, the Constitutions of the several States of the Union define the very structure of State and- by extension [since it is principally the creature of the sovereign State and, thus, has no inherent sovereignty of its own]- local government: thus, Mr. Baiamonte might well have claimed "Our Constitutions are based on freedom from government"). None of those within the Patriot cause during the American Revolution sought Freedom from Government per se; instead, they sought freedom from a tyrannical (as they themselves used this term) government- that of the nascent British Empire (as they themselves perceived it). The Patriots recognized that Freedom was certainly not an absolute and they also certainly realized that freedom from government could only lead to anarchy; thus, once they had declared their independence and deposed (in most of the Colonies which were Royal Provinces) the representatives of the Crown who had hitherto governed them, they wrote Constitutions for these now independent States in which were enshrined the basic concept of the rule of Law balanced by the equally basic concept that the Law which so ruled was, above all, bound to respect the Rights of the People (Rights which the Patriots honestly felt the British Empire and its Crown and Parliament had ignored or suppressed).
After all, the very Declaration of these States' Independence openly stated most firm "self-evident" "truths" that "all men" (and, as I have so often pointed out in my writings for this website, we today would say "all persons", though I strongly dispute the modern feminist's claim that the term "men" was here at all intended to be gender-specific) "are created equal" and are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" and specifically opined that "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men [italics, obviously, mine], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". Thus, as adopted under the imprimatur of American Independence, the first State Constitutions, above all, secured and protected Rights; and no Law which failed to so secure and protect Rights was to be considered valid. The Patriots, yes, sought refuge from government that sought to ignore or suppress Rights rather than secure and protect them but not freedom from government per se: although Thomas Paine, one of the leading intellectuals of the Patriot cause, himself wrote- in his Common Sense "Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one", he clearly recognized that government, however "evil", was- indeed- "necessary"- the key was to keep government from getting to its worst state and, at its best, maintain the rule of Law and- through it- the securing of Rights which, in turn, would maintain Liberty (one of the specifically enumerated "unalienable Rights" in the Declaration itself).
When key leaders of the still young Republic soon enough took the position that the Articles of Confederation were inadequate to the task of maintaining peaceful intercourse among the several States as well as incapable of preserving the Independence of those same States against increasing dangers both at home and from abroad, a Constitutional Convention was authorized in which was drafted the Constitution of the United States itself. These leaders certainly did not seek freedom from government: indeed, those who framed it at Philadelphia created- in essence- an Americanized version of the nascent British Empire from which the States had so recently declared independence and which, like that very Empire, had its own King (albehe an elective [though only indirectly so] one- the President) and its own colonies (in the form of Territories- though, from the start, it was assumed that these "colonies" might someday be able to attain Statehood on the same footing as any already established State of the Union). Yes, it is true that many of the Antifederalists opposed to ratification of the document saw this new Federal System as a threat both to the States and to the Rights of the People (no less than the British Empire had been) but enough Antifederalists came around to, however reluctantly, accept the new Constitution and, at the same time, had succeeded in raising enough criticism of the document to force the eventual addition to it of what is commonly called the Bill of Rights (thereby, hopefully, ensuring the protection of Rights under Law even at this new Federal level).
Therefore, it seems rather ludicrous to presume that a Constitution which describes (and even creates aspects of) government was intended to enshrine freedom from government... though I'll grant Mr. Baiamonte that it was intended to enshrine freedom from tyrannical (again, in the sense that the Patriots had used this term to describe the British Empire ruled by King George III) government, especially once the Bill of Rights had been included!
But, if only for sake of this discussion (for I certainly, as I have already outlined, disagree with it and have already explained why), let's accept Mr. Baiamonte's contention that the Constitutions of the United States (including those of the several States) are based on "Freedom from Government".
Here's the contradiction about which I am here concerned-- Mr. Baiamonte's C14: Gov't must promote religious values as the basis of the Constitution and the human soul.
Government is, most assuredly, not the institution which should be promoting religious values (and I am here assuming that Mr. Baiamonte is using "religious values" in its broader context- embracing morals and ethics, as well as general spirituality, beyond the mere teachings and/or dogma of one particular religion, denomination or sect). The promotion of morals and ethics- which I will, for purposes of this discussion, place under the rubric of "values" (without any reference to the concept of such values necessarily being "religious"- for even atheists have values [i.e. morals and ethics], as this is bolstered by my own observations and experience)- belongs in but three principal places:
1. the home (in particular, while one is still growing up, of course... at least legally [whatever familial pressures might otherwise be brought to bear], one theoretically becomes a "free agent" as regards one's morals and ethics upon attaining adulthood)
2. a religious (or equivalent) institution (but, as I have already pointed out re: my claim that even atheists have values, even this is not necessary)
and 3. one's own individual conscience (that is, one's own sense of what is right and what is wrong)...
Government?-- it's not even on the list!
Government's job is the making and enforcement of Law-- period.
In American politicolegal philosophy, government adopts policies for the general regulation of Society (these policies may be in the form of statutes passed by a majority present and voting in a legislative body [in sovereign political units- the States as well as on the Federal level- these must be signed into law by the Chief Executive (President or Governor) or, if the Executive vetoes the legislation, the legislature has to override the veto (usually by a supermajority) before the statute can become Law] or rules and regulations promulgated by an administrative agency authorized by statute) and thereafter administers said policies (the Executive is bound to- to use the language found in the U.S. Constitution itself- "take care that the Laws be faithfully executed"; the Judiciary adjudicates disputes between parties in a legal case that might come before a court and, in so doing, interprets and applies the Law to the dispute at hand). Politics- a word which is derived from the same root as "policy"- is basically argument and discussion over which policies should or should not be adopted and how or how not they should be administered by the government.
Reasonable minds may, of course, differ (and frequently do so, which is precisely why we have Parties and Elections and such [without which this very website would have absolutely no reason to even exist! ;-)]) as to which policies are "good" or "bad", efficacious or dangerous, practical or downright silly. But, whatever policies government- made up of elected representatives of the People and persons appointed by and/or consented to by those very same representatives- at any level (Federal, State or local) might or might not adopt, and however persons, interest groups, factions, Parties and ideologies may react- positively or negatively- to said policies, these, too, must be reasonable. I myself call this the "STOP sign test":
Every State in the Union has a statute or regulation on the books which requires the erection of octagonally-shaped red signs with the large, white letters "S-T-O-P" at many intersections of roads where there is no stoplight regulating vehicular traffic. Every State, further, has a law on the books which reads something to the effect of At a STOP sign, a driver shall bring his vehicle to a full and complete stop. Generally speaking, the vastest majority of Americans think such a law (along with its concomitant signage) is, in and of itself, a good policy- a sound policy both practical and efficacious; political arguments over STOP signs (or, for that matter, the related stoplights) tend to most often revolve around where (or where not) these signs should be placed in and around a community, not over whether or not there should even be STOP signs.
One can, I suppose, argue that running a STOP sign (that is, failing to come to a full and complete stop at an intersection so regulated) is unethical or even immoral- that doing so violates the "values" (as I have defined them earlier) of the community, but running a STOP sign is, as far as government is concerned, merely illegal: any morality and ethics involved has nothing at all to do with it! The purpose of a STOP sign is not, as is commonly supposed, to make it more likely that you do not get into an accident and possibly injure or kill yourself; rather, it is, in part, to make sure you do not injure or kill others (whether in other vehicles or pedestrians) and, above all, to make sure that the flow of traffic is not impeded (in other words: the illegality of running a STOP sign is far more about making sure that a driver approaching a given intersection is not late getting to work than about another driver at the STOP sign possibly harming himself or herself, let alone others). Government has no other care as regards a STOP sign, nor should it (this is precisely why a driver pulled over by a cop after having run a STOP sign cannot legally evade the resultant moving violation citation on grounds that no one else- vehicle or pedestrian- was anywhere near the intersection in question; after all, a car entering an intersection with no one else around is not at all unethical or immoral!: but Law is the law, regardless of the morals and ethics- the values- of the actual situation... this is precisely what "rule of Law" means).
The legal term or art for what I have here called "the STOP sign test" is "Rational Basis": that is, a policy of government, at least in theory, must have a "rational basis" in order to pass constitutional muster-- in practice, however, we all argue about just how rational- or irrational- a given policy might, in fact, be!
Now, what about higher morality and its relation to Law? Isn't, for example, murder illegal precisely because it is immoral?
Why? Because if we all woke up one morning thinking it was perfectly OK to murder another person for any reason whatsoever, there would still have to be an enforceable law against murder on the books, else Society could not at all function (for just how safe would you feel leaving your home and going about your daily business if there were no laws against unjustifiable homicide?)-- if murder were legal, no one would go to work (or buy the products and services created by such work), the economy would then come to a screeching halt and Society would falter and collapse. The necessity for laws making unjustifiable homicide illegal and punishable by the severest penalties, therefore, has nothing at all to do with the immorality of murder, much as these laws themselves might have been descended, historically, from- say- the God of the ancient Hebrews commanding (as a moral requirement) Lo t'retsach ("Thou shalt not kill") and government, in a free society, enforces said laws solely on the basis of these being a good policy with a rational basis, and not because of any moral and ethical issues which might also be involved (no matter how many politicians, and how often, might tell the voters that morality is, indeed, the driving force of Law in order to get said voters to vote for them instead of, say, agnostics running in opposition [;-)]). In addition, even atheists believe unjustifiable homicide is immoral (certainly any atheist who murders is expected, by the public, to be held to the same account legally- and, therefore, must have the same mens rea [literally, "guilty mind" in Latin- that is, criminal intent]: knowledge that, in this case, killing another human being is wrong- as the most orthodox and traditional religious person who might do the same thing) and, therefore, an argument that murder is against secular law for religious reasons is rather impractical where one would expect such a law to be enforced against all, regardless of their respective religiosity (however this term might be so defined by anyone reading this).
The only legal relationship between Government and Religion in the United States of America is the one found in the first portion of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The courts have since held that this provision is applicable to the States (as well as their local governments, because these are mere creatures of the States, as noted earlier in this piece) through the Fourteenth Amendment; but, even if this might yet be seen- now nearly 60 years after the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township, NJ (330 U.S. 1), perhaps the key case regarding this concept- as fairly smacking of "legislating judges" or even "judicial activism", such objections are largely mooted by the fact that the Constitutions of the several States now contain similar provisions (the one found in the Constitution of my own State, New Jersey [a Constitution that, ironically, was adopted in the same year as the Everson case was decided, 1947], is fairly typical: No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; nor under any pretense whatever be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his faith and judgment; nor shall anyone be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing of any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right or has deliberately and voluntarily agreed to perform. There shall be no establishment of one religious sect in preference to another... [N.J. Constitution: Article I, paragraphs 3 and 4a]-- far more detailed than the Federal provision, to be sure- but it basically sets out what those who adopted the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment in the First Congress and, thereby, sent it on to the States for ratification, by all accounts, generally believed to be the purpose of the Religion-related clauses in that Amendment.)
Requiring (or, should I say, "commanding" [;-)]) government to promote religious values puts government in the position of choosing just which religious values to promote to the detriment of all those who do not necessarily share these religious values, where such governmental activity would not also be in gross violation of the provisions of both the Federal and State Constitutions I have touched upon in the previous paragraph: this may well be fine as regards a government operating under the political and legal philosophy of, say, Afghanistan while it was still under the control of the Taliban but it has absolutely no place in the Free Society that America professes itself to actually be. Put another way: a government which sees as its mission the promotion of religious values is, in and of itself, a tyrannical one (once more using "tyrannical" in the manner in which the Patriots would have used this term) and, thereby, a threat to Freedom: and it is this very notion- as much as the actual acts of terrorism it fuels- which makes the philosophy of Al Qa'eda so odious to we Americans. It is hypocritical to argue that we Americans should adopt a governmental philosophy equally as odious simply because the religious tradition from which it might flow (Christianity, still the predominant religion in the United States, as opposed to Islam) is different.
Above all, government which promotes Religion is not promoting the Freedom from Government Mr. Baiamonte himself claims is at the heart of American Constitutionalism. If a government is trying to get me to follow religious values (or, for that matter, moral and ethical precepts apart from any religious connection) "contrary to my faith and judgment" (to borrow language from my own State's Constitution), it is certainly not allowing me freedom from government! One's religious views, morals and ethics- in short, one's values- are one's own: they belong to no state and to no church (here using the term "church" in its broadest context, as a convenient term of art to apply to any religious institution or congregation, non-Christian as well as Christian) to which one does not "deliberately and voluntarily" (to, again, borrow the language of my own State's Constitution) adhere.
In the end, and even more manifest than the inherent contradiction between his C8 and C14, Mr. Baiamonte's contention that "Gov't must promote religious values as the basis of the Constitution and the human soul" is very much his own opinion (no better- though, at the same time, no worse- than my own opinion that he is very much mistaken): in other words, his "C14" is only his own "feeling"- and not at all much of a "fact"; therefore, once again, Mr. Baiamonte fails to practice what he himself preaches in his own "commandments". In addition, Mr. Baiamonte's "commandments", along with the two paragraphs which precede them, are- in the main- himself "venting or ranting at"- in his case, Democrats and it is rather difficult to interpret them in any other context. In any event, these "commandments" are hardly generalized propositions to be applied to the actual workings of Republican Democracy.