3.16.2012

Republicans aren't evil, they're just different.

I'm trying to return to the core of my blog discussing partisan jingoism. It's one of the largest threats to our nation. It's the root of the gridlock in Washington D.C. and it's why a Senator who has done a great service for the State of Maine has retired. On a geopolitical scale, it also dictates our atrocious foreign policy.

Gerald Weinand of Dirigo Blue writes this morning (my emphasis):
At least during the Bush administration they tried to label actions like this “compassionate conservatism.” 
Today, after three years of a recession that neared a depression, and with the State still losing jobs (7,000 in 2011), Maine Republicans don’t even bother with the ruse. 
They simply lack compassion for others. 
How else to explain LD1862, An Act To Limit Eligibility under the Municipal General Assistance Program.

I am no fan of Paul LePage. Nor do I favor cutting General Assistance. I'm not going to deny the existence of apathy either. It's generally derived from a lack of understanding and we're all born ignorant. But it's also wrong to make a sweeping accusation that all of Maine Republicans lack compassion.

At a TED conference, while conducting a speech titled "The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives," speaker Jonathan Haidt polled his audience and found a massive majority of the people in the room were liberal. His response to this was:
This is a bit of a problem. Because if our goal is to understand the world, to seek a deeper understanding of the world, our general lack of moral diversity here is going to make it harder. Because when people all share values, when people all share morals, they become a team, and once you engage the psychology of teams, it shuts down open-minded thinking. When the liberal team loses, as it did in 2004, and as it almost did in 2000, we comfort ourselves. (Laughter) We try to explain why half of America voted for the other team. We think they must be blinded by religion, or by simple stupidity. (Laughter) (Applause) So, if you think that half of America votes Republican because they are blinded in this way, then my message to you is that you're trapped in a moral matrix, in a particular moral matrix. And by the matrix, I mean literally the matrix, like the movie "The Matrix."
I follow Gerald's blog because I generally appreciate his intelligence, but I have to challenge his latest attack. Without idiot hunting, has a Democrat proactively tried to understand the rationale behind these Republican endeavors?

While Republican priorities in cuts may differ, most will tell you they want to cut spending because we can't really afford much. State and Federal expenditure is a real problem, even liberals can't deny that.

Maybe conservatives are actually compassionate and they're willing to make difficult short term cuts for long term gains in welfare. Perhaps curbing spending is an attempt to prevent out government from turning belly up. The preservation of government is a key component of any liberal's ambitions. Or maybe there's some truth to classical liberal theories of economics that suggest the provision of welfare by government can be excessive. How many Democrats have studied economics to confirm or deny this? I don't fully agree with classical liberal theory, but economics is an incredibly complex system, and we shouldn't take our understandings of it for granted. Most liberals know from history that common sense doesn't work in science.

So why interpret Republican efforts to curb deficits as evil? That which we don't understand is not automatically wrong. Why not extend the benefit of the doubt to your neighbors and approach them in honest debate before assuming their motives are malicious?* Further, why would you give your proclaimed enemies ammunition to make the same accusations about you?

The words being used in this conflict may not be backed by guns and knives, but they are violent none-the-less. I'll separately address Republicans, but I encourage my Democrat or unaligned liberal friends to draw upon the inspirations from thought leaders on the left. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi's philosophies on nonviolence are just as applicable in the halls of the Maine State House as they are in the streets.

*Keep in mind that years of political bickering isn't going to go away the first time you attempt to approach someone across the aisle in honest debate. This is not an opportunity for a Democrat to say: Ok, I'll try it - then immediately launch back into vitriol when their Republican counterpart is skeptical and not receptive.

3 Intelligent Comment(s):

Gerald Weinand, Dirigo Blue said...

Jeremy:

I invite you to cross post your reply as a stand alone thread, and so appreciate your posting a link to it.

Perhaps I did paint with a broad brush, but when considering what the base of the Republican Party is like – and how the “moderate” wing would rather quit than speak out defiantly, I think there is some justification for it.

Of course, Republican members of the Appropriations Committee were instrumental in the compromise on the 1st Supplemental Budget from Gov. LePage. They deserve credit for that.

But where are the vocal criticisms? Is it unimaginable that the upcoming GOP Senate primary race will be a contest of which candidate can “out-right” the others?

Gerald

Bill Moss said...

Eh, I agree to disagree on this post, Jer.

The gist of what you are saying in regards to this specific bill might have points... But I honestly believe there are some truly evil republicans out there, parading in "compassionate" masks of Christianity and Morals.

I don't have to look any further than same-sex marriage issues or the Virginia abortion bill requiring vaginal probing to see that.

-Bill

Jeremy Corbally-Hammond said...

@Gerald - thanks for commenting! The vocal criticisms? I would like to see challenges to the Republican rationale for the cuts other than accusations of immorality. Republicans (and Dems) or certainly not above criticism. I would encourage that and I'll add that you're regularly good at it.

@Bill - Even if there were truly "evil" Republicans, they are few. My point was that most are not. Any large group of people is going to include idiots, including Democrats. I wouldn't want anyone to judge the Democratic party based on their most radical wings.

Regarding same-sex marriage (a topic I'm very passionate about - and the only political campaign I've ever donated to) it's hard to describe opponents of gay-marriage as evil. I know I'll get in trouble for this, but it's a civil rights issue that doesn't come close to measuring up against the abhorrent civil rights issues of our past, such as women's suffrage or the rights of African American's. Gays are marrying and living happy lives everywhere. While I don't deny that the lack of government approval is a serious smack in the face of our LGBT friends, or that gays receive a disproportionately higher level of distrust and harassment - the marriage thing is still a technical inconvenience that doesn't come close to sanctioned lynching or denial of their voting rights.

Regarding abortion - this is such a tough issue. I try to avoid talking about it in general. I will just say that I think one can sympathize with the issues brought up by both sides - despite the lurid tactics.

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