The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Democrats and values

I'd missed [1] Matt Bai's piece in the Times Magazine, under the plaintive hed Democratic Moral Values?

He warns Dems against Schiavo smugness - a variety of Schadenfreude over the revolting excesses to which the GOP felt it needed to go in order to pander to the lunatics that give every appearance of having a veto over the running of that particular asylum.

He draws the parallel of Dem fanaticism on issues like abortion:
Legislation limiting gun ownership or legal decisions restricting school prayer seem eminently reasonable, because they reflect urban and secular values that, to most Democrats, constitute an obvious moral imperative.

The left in the US - in earlier times, under the Progressive banner - has a long history of sanctimoniously foisting its own values on others. Prohibition was perhaps its first most notable triumph. (It seemed a stunningly good idea at the time.)

Its years of most sustained success came, as Bai points out, in the 1960s:
to Democrats, and to most Americans, government's integrating swimming pools seemed clearly to be right, while government's banning books seemed clearly to be wrong. But as often happens in law and politics, the specific circumstances that created each impulse were outlived by the conflicting precedents they established.

What started as an army of liberation became an army of occupation, in the perceptions of more than the Christian Coalition [2].

Dems rightly mock the Christian right and their legislative representatives for their claims to a monopoly on truth and their desire to force their 'truth' on everyone else.

But - and it's not something one tends to see much of from the left - Bai points out that there is intolerance on the Dem side, too.

And suggests that a turn towards consensus is, or should be, in the offing. Back to the Clintons.

It's necessary to distinguish intent from action, though: on abortion, say, where stridency is noticeable from some elements of the Democratic Party, one could make the case that courts and legislators have already split the difference between the no abortion and abortion on demand positions [3].

And, had it not been for stridency on the part of pro-abortionists, the current state of law and practice would be much closer to the anti-abortion postition than it is.

A suspicious mind would finger abortion as having been identified by the Dems, no less than by the GOP, as a wedge issue to excite the base.

Whereas - to take an example much discussed here - the bankruptcy bill did not seem to generate similar passion among Dems, for all its noxious effects.

(There is a line of argument that those on the left of the aisle should stress positive Democratic values relating to care for the sick and the elderly and the like - social stuff in the New Deal tradition [4].

Trouble is, these values don't have the juice that abortion, gun control, homo-marriage and the like have: and the Dems are the Abominable No-Men about that sort of value.)

  1. Perhaps because it doesn't seem to have had much play round the 'sphere.

  2. One example discussed here a good many times is affirmative action: in particular, the infiltration of diversity as a justification for AA when that of correcting the effect of discrimination was feared to be inadequate.

  3. The death by a thousand cuts programme is alive and well - on April 24 I mentioned HR 748 the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act - a sort of abortion Mann Act - as being close to passage in the House.

    The latest (on THOMAS, at least) is that a rule has now been passed.

  4. The list of possible Dem values does not - cannot - include either universal health care or a moratorium on the death penalty. Which is amazing for Europeans of all political stripes to contemplate.


A Google search on "democratic party" "universal health care" produces a telling crop of items: plenty of references to state Democratic platforms; and Nader and Kucinich get a fair number of namechecks.

From official national sources or presidential nominees, not a great deal.

Why is universal health care so hard for Dems? Kerry planned to increase coverage, of course - but, if his plans were enacted, there would still be an irreducible mass of uncovered Americans.

It's almost as if that hard core of the uncovered is worn as some kind of talisman against allegations of unAmericanism. If you covered everyone, you might as well be living in the People's Democratic Republic of Canada.

Which is like - a fate worse than death, of course [1].

  1. North of the border, the cancer of muscular do-goodism is terminal. (Think Sexual Harrassment Panda meets the Terminator!)

    Being nasty in the cause of niceness - giving rights to one group the better to beat up on another. (I mentioned the latest from the language fascists on April 4.)

    The function of Canada in the US healthcare debate is to suggest (falsely, I think) that universal health care necessarily comes with a heavy price in lost liberty. In any case, as the high school and university free speech cases chronicled here might suggest, the enthusiasm for crushing dissent in the name of social engineering is far from unknown in the Fifty States.

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