Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The sky is falling

So says this Chicken Little, whose new book details the ways in which the Christian Right threatens almost everything she holds dear. It’s on my shelf, and I’ll let you know how much I think you ought to be worried once I’ve read it.

In the mean time, you might consider the political program she proposes to deal with the threat. For example,

Ultimately, a fight against Christian nationalist rule has to be a fight against the anti-urban bias built into the structure of our democracy. Because each state has two senators, the 7 percent of the population that live in the 17 least-populous states control more than a third of Congress’s upper house. Conservative states are also overrepresented in the Electoral College.


According to Steven Hill of the Center for Voting and Democracy, the combined populations of Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, North and South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Alaska equal that of New York and Massachusetts, but the former states have a total of nine more votes in the Electoral College (as well as over five times the votes in the Senate). In America, conservatives literally count for more.


Liberals should work to abolish the Electoral College and to even out the composition of the Senate, perhaps by splitting some of the country’s larger states.(A campaign for statehood for New York City might be a place to start.) It will be a grueling, Herculean job. With conservatives already indulging in fantasies of victimization at the hands of a maniacal Northeastern elite, it will take a monumental movement to wrest power away from them. Such a movement will come into being only when enough people in the blue states stop internalizing right-wing jeers about how out of touch they are with "real Americans" and start getting angry at being ruled by reactionaries who are out of touch with them.


After all, the heartland has no claim to moral authority. The states whose voters are most obsessed with "moral values" have the highest divorce and teen pregnancy rates. The country’s highest murder rates are in the South and the lowest are in New England. The five states with the best-ranked public schools in the country -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and Wisconsin -- are all progressive redoubts. The five states with the worst -- New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi and Louisiana -- all went for Bush.

Or this:

Liberals can use this strategy too. They can find issues to exploit the other side’s radicalism, winning a few political victories and, just as important, marginalizing Christian nationalists in the eyes of their fellow citizens. Progressives could work to pass local and state laws, by ballot initiative wherever possible, denying public funds to any organization that discriminates on the basis of religion. Because so much faith-based funding is distributed through the states, such laws could put an end to at least some of the taxpayer-funded bias practiced by the Salvation Army and other religious charities. Right now, very few people know that, thanks to Bush, a faith-based outfit can take tax dollars and then explicitly refuse to hire Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims. The issue needs far more publicity, and a political fight -- or a series of them -- would provide it.

She’s also concerned that "secularists lack the right’s propaganda apparatus." I guess she’s never heard of the MSM, so she’s at pains to invent it: "Liberals need to create their own echo chamber...."

Hat tip: Touchstone’s David Mills, who offers some commentary as well.

Discussions - 28 Comments

Christian nationalist rule ...

Hmmmm ... Virtually all of our Founders could classified as such.

Actually, the Founders designed the Senate and the Electoral College to achieve precisely what she is complaining about (i.e., temper raw democracy with regional/state and elite interests. Once upon a time the POTUS wasn’t even elected by the people. The woman needs a civics lesson.

Assuming also this author is of Jewish heritage (given the last name), it makes you wonder why she would be so hostile to Christianity. True, there is a long medieval history of Christian anti-Semitism, but godless governments have done a much more thorough job of killing the Jews. And I don’t think it’s saying too much to note that, in a world where much of Islam is extremely hostile to Jews, fundamentalist Christians tend to be pro-Israeli and favorably disposed to religious Judaism. Either the woman hates her own heritage or she fears religious people, period.

Tyranny of the Christian Right By Michelle Goldberg, rewritten:

The largest (well not the largest) and most powerful (o.k. not the most powerful) mass (i.e. catholic) in the nation -- evangelical Christianity -- has set out to destroy (not actually destroy but more accurately to save the babies of)secular society.

Whenever I talk about the growing power of the evangelical right with friends, they always ask the same question: How do we join? Usually I reply with a joke: Keep a bag packed and your passport to heaven current. Ha ha.

It’s one thing to have a government that shows contempt for civil liberties; America has survived the Clintons. It’s quite another to have a mass -- the largest and most powerful catlick mass in the nation. The Constitution protects minorities, and we secularists, ladies and gentlepeople, are a minority.

The mass I’ve described aims to supplant enlightenment rationalism (a real cool phrase which stands for unenlightened irrationalism) with what it calls the "World Christian Conspiracy." Oooooh! The phrase is based on the conviction that true Christianity must govern every aspect of public and private life, and that all -- government, science, history and culture -- must be understood according to the dictates of scripture. (Note how I define how they think so I can vilify it. Pretty neat huh? That’s called setting up a straw man. Kinda like throwing rocks at a scarecrow.)It’s an ideology adhered to over the last 2 centuries, plus, by millions of Americans, some of whom were very powerful. Men like ... oh, I can’t think of their names off hand, but ... you know, that guy with the cherry tree? Honest Abe whatshisname?, ... oh yeah I remember one, Franklin Roosevelt (some unnamed source told me about the time FDR went on a boat trip with Winston Churchill and made everyone get off the boat while FDR preached a surmon -- what a character!). It’s what drives a great many of the fights over getting Christ out of Winter break and the Easter Bunny out of Spring break, God out of the pledge of allegiance and off our money now dividing communities all over the country.

Lobster in a pot, with the water heating up slowly is a recipe for polarization.

Expect increasing drives to pass legislation to force heterosexual teachers to pretend to be gay.

It must be the side that elevates reason above the commands of the ACLU. Otherwise, God help us all.

Dain, I put another comment down in the blog entry originally on birth right citizenship... but this woman’s views are clearly an example of the templates(in this case religious) of social organization focusing in particular upon victimization.

My challenge to you: Give me an example of social organization based on religion, race, ethnicity, or language that does not use for the purpose of rallying its members the language of victimization.

The Chinese are quite clannish, and yet they don’t speak the language of victimhood. Islam was quite aggressive at its inception, and yet it thought of itself as a manifest winner, not a set of victims. Basically any majority group would exert cultural hegemony and unite its segments using the ascribed status, but they wouldn’t use the language of victimization. More examples? The Romans? The Athenians (quite arrogant, as were the Romans, but also heavily into their own identity). The English? John, what are you getting at? Identity isn’t necessarily rooted in seige mentality...it’s far more fundamental than that.

John,

My challenge to you: Give me an example of social organization based on religion, race, ethnicity, or language before the 1960s that used victimhood as an excuse for special treatment.

Just more progressive mental masturbation. None of that poppycock will go anywhere. They are scheming for power so they can tell other people what to do with their money, property, bodies and families.

She should be happy to live in a residual christian society. Most actual christians are laid back and respect other people’s personal lives. They certainly are not like progressives with their restrictive laws and regulations about what you can do with your own property.

I wonder how she feels about Islam? No need to discuss power structures, the muslems will eventually have to kill you if you don’t believe.

Mr. Knippenberg, you said, "She’s also concerned that ’secularists lack the right’s propaganda apparatus.’ I guess she’s never heard of the MSM, so she’s at pains to invent it..."

Do you seriously subscribe to the notion that the MSM is a propaganda apparatus for the secular left?

Also, based on your intro. remarks, it seems that no one need wait for your review to know "how much [you] think [one] ought to be worried" about the issues that Goldberg addresses. You and the non-"troll" readers ("troll" is apparently defined as anyone who disagrees with any conclusions drawn by NLT bloggers, unless the dissent comes from Dain, and/or even further to the right) here at NLT have given the book a pre-emptive thumbs down.

Also, despite your deeming her a "Chicken Little" who’s crying that "the sky is falling," I wonder if you noticed this in Goldberg’s article that you linked to (but maybe didn’t read?), which seems to contradict the caricature you’ve drawn of her:

"I am not suggesting that religious tyranny is imminent in the United States. Our democracy is eroding and some of our rights are disappearing, but for most people, including those most opposed to the Christian nationalist agenda, life will most likely go on pretty much as normal for the foreseeable future. Thus for those who value secular society, apprehending the threat of Christian nationalism is tricky."

Hardly sounds like "The sky is falling!" to me.

"After all, the heartland has no claim to moral authority. The states whose voters are most obsessed with "moral values" have the highest divorce and teen pregnancy rates. The country’s highest murder rates are in the South and the lowest are in New England. The five states with the best-ranked public schools in the country -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and Wisconsin -- are all progressive redoubts. The five states with the worst -- New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi and Louisiana -- all went for Bush."

Anyone know if her comments in this paragraph are correct?

Susan, I suspect they are, but the spin she puts on it is false. The South has always had a "culture of honor," whereby violence is an acceptable solution to being dishonored or slighted...that is fading, slowly. Also, the Southern states have a disproportionate percentage of violence-prone minority populations. As for public schools, I sure "best" means "most expensive." The Blue States just love taxing the hell out of people.

See, Susan, aren’t you glad dain cleared that up for you? Violent behavior among Southern "values voters" is excusable and NOT indicative of hypocrisy because, firstly, blacks and Hispanics are really the ones to blame for those higher numbers and, secondly, the remaining violence is part of a "culture of honor" so it’s really not such a bad thing. There’s the truthful spin!

That’s right, troll. Everything I said was the truth. Now be sure to change your pseudonym to respond in another smartassed, meaningless post.

Susan - this site makes some interesting side-by-side comparisons of red & blue states on a number of issues. Their primary sources look to be the U.S. Census Bureau and the Statistical Abstract of the U.S. I found the divorce and suicide rankings to be fairly interesting.

Dain - It must be an almost terrifying responsibility to be in possession of so much truth!

Yes, troll, it is a weighty responsibility. Again, you’ve demonstrated that you don’t know sh.. from shinola. A far more meaningful divorce rate is per 1,000 MARRIAGES...and there’s no correlation between that and the red/blue state dichotomy.

Now, do you want me to talk about racial distributions and crime rates, or would you rather crawl back under your bridge?

Hey, there’s no arguing with an authoritative and trustworthy source like the Freeper named "Beelzebubba." (Only another FreeRepublic commenter, "omnidriod" dared to take him on)

If you want to talk about racial distribution and crime rates, have at it, but we’ve been blessed with that one from you here before, if memory serves...

Yep, right out of the "WiggleMaster Manual" -- when you can’t deny the evidence, question the source. Do you deny that divorces per 1,000 marriages is a preferable measure to a raw rate? If so, speak up and I’ll educate you, nimrod.

Craig,

My critique of the MSM ought to have been subtler. It is reflexively adversarial, more interested in bad news rather than good, more inclined to horse race (and body count) coverage and easy stories rather than delving into substance, and so on. There are individual exceptions to all these generalizations, of course. It’s also no secret that most reporters, especially those covering national news, are "liberal," though I wouldn’t say that those inclinations always color their coverage. On the other hand, there are plenty of examples of "agenda journalism" in the MSM.

Of course, journalists are distinguished from bloggers, pundits, and radio talkers, who are in the opinion business and whose biases are transparent. One of the great benefits of the blogosphere is its capacity to respond quickly and critically to alleged instances of journalistic bias and/or oversight.

Dain - your source, while also appearing to just be a random Freeper named "Beelzebubba," appears to have been trying to debunk a NYTimes article, NOT what I linked to. NEVERTHELESS, Beelzebubba (!!) stated that for the NYTimes piece "(t)he reported ’divorce rate’ is not the rate per marriage, but the rate per population." As ’omnidroid’ (!!) pointed out, that is simply not true. Go to the article that Satan incarnate (errr...Beelzebubba) is attempting to debunk and open the corresponding map (it’s over to the right). It is clearly labeled "Divorces per 1,000 Married Adults in 2003." Thus, the rates aren’t per 1,000 persons, but MARRIED persons. Actually, the stats cited in the NYTimes article by Belluck serve as a nice back-up to the stats I linked to earlier.

Yeah, sure, questioning someone’s source CAN be an evasive tactic, Dain, but come on, sending me a link to a homemade, 3-paragraph "report" from a Freeper who calls himself "Beelzebubba"? That would be like me sending you a link to a comment from a MoveOn.org forum! You know, it’s not like these divorce trends haven’t been pointed out before. Do you turn to Beelzebubba for "scientific conservative" advice on debunking evolution and global warming, too?

Does your WiggleMaster manual have a chapter on name-calling ("troll," "nimrod," etc.) and archaic-sounding insults ("you don’t know sh-- from shinola" - hey, thanks for not dropping the s-bomb on me, gramps!)? It appears you’ve studied that one closely, or did you pick that up in charm school?

Genuis...his figures are accurate. It has to do with age structure. Red States are YOUNGER, and they have more RECENT MARRIAGES, and therefore more DIVORCES. If you look at marriages/divorces as he does, that’s the proper way to do this...it standardizes the rate of marriage in year X with divorces in year X. If we do it the way the NYT does, then you are comparing a lot of old married people with a lot of young married people. Surely that makes sense, even to you?

BTW, the same logic could be applied to most of the "red state" drivel applied by people like you.

Here is a truth about the Blue States vs. the Red. The Red states added together receive more federal government money than they pay in taxes. The Blue states pay out more than they receive. Some economists argue that demand for government services increases or decreases based upon the ratio of benefits to cost. The more you get for less the more demand for government spending increases. Of course blue states generally favor more government and red states less... Basically all statistics have to be interpreted/integrated into a larger context....and generally(in my opinion) Dain does a good job of this.

As for giving you an example previous to 1960...(I wasn’t alive then) but I would suspect that you leave me a softball in the case of the Germans...They used the language of victimization...(perhaps with some cause...although I mean this in refference to World War I and not in the context of blamming the jews). Communism used the language of victimization...and in a sense was an atheist religion(Ideology is probably best so I won’t count it).

I would argue that christianity has a very long history of playing the victimization/martyr card...(the first shall be the last and the last shall be the first)and that this continues today...Also modern muslims play the victimization card...and no doubt played it slightly before the year 1960 and the creation of Israel. Fear and a sense injustice is more often than not a strong impetus to action...and certainly I could dig up examples of this in the Peloponesian War....Certainly, the strong do as they please and the weak suffer what they must(this portion of the Melian Dialogue has always held fast) but claims to be weak...and exhortations to rize up and conquer least you be conquered... all of human history....for every winner there is a looser...and the winner has more to fear and so both engage to some degree in the rhetoric of victimization. The looser perhaps rightly (although this attitude is never right) and the winner either because he believes that he still doesn’t have enough or because he believes he is wrongly hated(and thus a victim of misrepresentation...thus the impetus to rewrite history...the correct way)Man has never extracated himself from society at large...if enough people believe a thing those shouting stop will still be shouting it when the tidal wave hits them(the victimization of the prophets/pundits/historians)!

Call me anything...just not late to dinner...but preferably call me wrong, it seems to me in our current global cultural environment(to include conflicting cultures) social organizations of a political bent with foundations in religion, ethnicity, race, language are focused upon either victimization or the fear of victimization...in each case with demands for special treatment/rules/laws/wars/jihad...and in general exhortations to create echo chambers and cells. I believe many americans are to some degree individualist and therefore turned off or to some degree immune to the cultural agitators and agitations. As americans we live our lives despite the culture...not because of it...liberal and conservative alike consider themselves (albeit for different reasons) counter-cultural...

Man is a political animal...but americans are less political...less culturally bound...less motivated by victimization or the fear of it...and it shows(both ways) in voter turnout.(by this I mean that voter turnout is low both because americans don’t feel victimized and because they don’t fear victimization...while those that do vote do feel victimized(especially dems lately(in terms of the tally)...but also the pro-lifers, social conservatives, limited government folk...)

John, are you determined to have the same argument over a variety of threads, regardless of context? Get one of your buddies there at NLT to start a good solid thread on whether or not identity must be rooted in "vicitimization" in order to work.

I do agree that the language of victimization is a great little mobilizer, but I don’t agree that the sense of victimhood is necessary for ascribed status to order people (e.g., white/black residential segregation), nor do I agree that the use of such statuses can be avoided by a good dose of Liberthink. If you try, the new tribe of "individualists" will become the new "us," and the new them will become "looters." Case in point...Ayn Rand. Underneath everything she wrote was grievance and victimhood of the hero-capitalist individual.

lol, wouldn’t making NY City a separate state have a significant chance of adding two new republican senators without adding any senators fo the Dems? I’m not an expert on NY but I’m sure that upstate NY is much more conservative then NYC and would elect more conservative Senators. What a bufoon.

Interesting point about Ayn Rand(or the project in general)...but I wouldn’t concede the point of victimhood in her case. She argues that it is a victimhood by default, invariably because all previous ethics were rooted in the submission of the individual to some higher power... Atlas is a victim...but he is a victim of his own choosing, he has but to realize this and shrug.

Strangely enough, Scarrabia makes the argument you make in comparing her to Marx in the Russian Radical.

And the answer to why I continue a conversation over multiple threads...it isn’t due to a disregard of context...but an appreciation for integrating...of course radical contextualization would prevent integration...since no two dogs are alike.

I don’t want you to think that my only or main objection to discussion of culture is victimization...larger than this: It is submission of the individual to the tribe. Your first critique of the woman assumed that she was jewish and was somehow acting unjewish..."Either the woman hates her own heritage or she fears religious people, period." While I don’t disagree with your other points in the paragraph, I would argue that individuals can act outside of broad heritage/culture considerations... especially in America(and this is good). In short I resent the objectification of an individual based on race. I much prefer to objectify based on ideology...which is more self chosen...but I also realize that individuals are more difficult to break down. In America everyone is "dirty"(as opposed to being a pure example)....german/irish, this or that... at the end of the day I think we have to realize that many factors interact...after all if they didn’t insurance companies that aren’t allowed to discriminate based on race or religion would go broke because the actuaries would have nothing else to figure into the calculations...this is not the case.

lol, wouldn’t making NY City a separate state have a significant chance of adding two new republican senators without adding any senators fo the Dems? I’m not an expert on NY but I’m sure that upstate NY is much more conservative then NYC and would elect more conservative Senators. What a bufoon.

My goodness, you’re right! I hadn’t thought of that. But then, I never was good at math. Even in California, if both Frisco (I call it Frisco because they hate that) and L.A. both split off the dems will only break even in the Senate and might even lose a few House seats.

Re victimhood:

Sorry about that gents, I didn’t mean to send you off on a tangent. The point of my question in comment 6 was to suggest that there’s a difference between victimhood as a mobilizing force and victimhood as an excuse for entitlements.

John, the woman certainly was "objectifying" Christian nationalists (whatever that means). And Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity...and neither of them is wholly voluntary.

Actually, I’m having a little trouble following your line of thought. Evolutionary psychology teaches us that we ’think’ in categories, often dualistic categories (black/white, us/them, animal/vegetable). My prediction is this, John. You will spend your life desperately trying not to pigeonhole people, having to remind yourself not to do it at every turn. I much prefer to go ahead and us the categories people use to define themselves, reminding myself (when necessary) that there is this extra layer of existence known as the individual that occasionally requires special consideration. How often can we reall KNOW someone else? The radical decontextualization of individuals would be exhausting, inefficient, and probably foolhardy over time. Categories offer us the shorthand to live a complex social existence (and yes, I agree, they often do violence to us as individual human beings).

As for Rand, pishposh. She’s just another victimologist in my book. Yes, the individual has been subsumed...by whom? By other individuals who have the good sense to act cooperatively to attain important collective goals (aka ’survival’). The brilliance of America is not the radical liberation of the individual, but rather the maintenance of a balance between individual rights and communal rights. If you think about it, the right to speech, bearing arms, and religion are protected to make communal activities (i.e., political mobilization, revolution, and worship) possible. Political force in the past has not been aimed so much at the individual (who is relatively powerless), but rather at the atoms of a threating molecules (social movements, religious groups, insurgencies). Governments have never been afraid of hermits living on mountaintops smoking dope, shooting automatic weapons, and believing in bountique religions, John. This is where Rand and her Objectivist/Libertarian zombies miss the point: political and economic rights have not been rooted in the rhetoric of radical individualism, but rather on the pragmatic need to balance the state with civil society (i.e., groups). Radical individualism, by which I mean that the individual always supersedes the collective, leads only to hedonism and emptiness...it is anti-survival and deeply unnatural.

Sorry, folks, for the spelling and grammatical errors above. Pontificating requires more than a single cup of Joe, I guess.

"Pontificating requires more than a single cup of Joe, I guess."

Or, repetition of 6th grade grammar and spelling lessons.

Or, repetition of 6th grade grammar and spelling lessons.

Well, if you are going to be so petty as to snipe, at least use complete sentences, troll.

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