Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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More Galston/Kamarck

James Pinkerton highlights the role of religion in Galston and Kamarck’s "The Politics of Polarization." Noting a recent visit by evangelist Joel Osteen to the New York metro area, he observes that, while Osteen is "entirely apolitical," it is hard to overlook the potential political consequences of the faith-based worldview he is promoting. Since Osteen’s New York metro audience is two-thirds African-American and Hispanic, this is bad news for Democrats, if they cannot overcome the well-documented public perception that they are hostile to religion.

Discussions - 40 Comments

As always, the Democratic control of the big media will come in handy. Being an evangelical is far from a guarantee against voting for the Democrats. For one thing, people can be fooled. For another, the New Deal/Great Society mindset is very, very powerful. And finally, Americans quickly get tired of war, as the polls make clear. The Republican party at the moment is heading down, not up.

Was Judith Miller part of the "Democratic control" (i.e. the tired "liberal bias" trope) of the big media when she was cheerleading the WMD claims for the White House?

Are you tired of the war yet, Mr. Frisk?

Look everybody, J Montgomery must have done some "research" and come across a Judith Miller article about WMD’s [he must be very proud of himself too because he continually puts up the information on commentary in other posts (see post #40)] It must be a pretty fantastic article. According to him, it is not merely one explaining that, if WMDs do exist, then the war in Iraq is crucial for national security, but rather an article showing conclusively that the media is in fact not liberal but rather conservative!!! (as we all know, the WMD aspect of the Iraq justification could not possibly have been bad intelligence, but rather yet another vast conspiracy of Bush and Co. to make the American people complacent sheep. Well done J Montgomery, keep slicing those holes in the swiss cheese theory of the American Right!!!

No, I am not "tired of the war," J.
I am goddamned proud of the war, and
and I want to finish it by winning. First things first. Peace is not a value in its own right. We want a CERTAIN KIND of peace, not the peace of the graveyard. You do not "support the troops" if you do not support their mission.

I am certainly "tired" of people who do not have the character to support the troops just because the going got tough.

Mr. Frisk:
How do we "win"? And, isn’t it possible to support the troops by recognizing that they are serving their County by risking thier lives, respecting them, sending care packages all while not being in agreement with the decision to launch a war?

Nick, I would say this: You can support the troops while disagreeing with the decision to launch the war.

But you cannot support the troops without supporting the successful prosecution of that war, once it is launched.

Mr. Frisk, WHY is it, in your view, that one "cannot support the troops without supporting the successful prosecution of that war, once it is launched." ??

Nick I would like to thank you for your care packages if you have sent any, and also for your support of the troops if you do support them.

If by "supporting the successful prosecution of the war" Mr. Frisk means wanting us to win... then I would agree with him that you can’t support the troops without wanting us to accomplish the mission... While it is my personal belief that you can oppose the war and support the troops I also am aware that it is easy to look for supporting evidence for your opionions on the war, and thus feel justified at the expense of american lives and bad tidings.

On the other hand just because a war is launched does not mean that there isn’t a time to fold. It is perfectly justifiable to ask the cost of accomplishing the mission. Those who do not ask the cost of accomplishing the mission cannot support our troops, they speak of the weakness of democracy in waging war, but all this means is that they lament the good old days of the feudal system when serfs weren’t tabulated as national resources, but rather as drains... mouths to feed... a malthusian mindset requiring war to wean the populace for the hard winters, and rainless summers of the future.

Unless you are a quatermaster or D.A. Civilian you don’t support the troops... not literally anyways unless you count your tax money in which case all american citizens support the troops. We always put the mission first, we do it because it is our duty and our job to do so. As soilders we don’t have time to figure out where we stand or if the war is good or bad in the larger sense. Public support for or against the war should be grounded on sound reasons and sobber judgement. I doubt that it is, but regardless in the end supporting the troops simply means voting for and supporting the politicians that you believe will act in the best interest of the nation. Hopefully people realize that the troops are public servants, we do what the politicians (Col and above...) tell us is crucial to national security, we do it in your name, and in the name of your interests. The people are not public servants to the troops, the troops are public servants to the people. In truth we support the american people, to ask the american people to support us blindly is foolish. We would soon get caught in a loop... the american troops would be serving the american people via the decisions of the politicians, but the american people would be serving the politicians because they were supporting our troops. As a soilder I support the american people, As a quartermaster I support our troops. Don’t be fooled into doing your nation a diservice because you think you have to support the troops.

Joe- We have talked about this before, and you still seem to fall into the party line, though I really don’t believe that you believe it! If, in your words, there is "the well-documented public perception that they are hostile to religion, " then why do you contribute to that public perception?

"They" are not hostile to religion any more than "they" are hostile to the concept of government. "They" just like to keep the two separate, because "they" have seen what happens when one encroaches on the other.

If there is a public perception that the left is somehow against religion, I would submit that such a perception IS perpetuated by people in that monolithic MEDIA that many of you treat as one thing, instead of a mixed bag of many different "mediums" with many different voices. Where do we hear (or read) Rush, and Savage, and George Will, and Bill Kristol, and Cal Thomas, and Bill O’Reilly, and Hannity and Coulter and Buckley, and Saphire, and Bennett, and on and on and on?

As for religion, like most of my left-wing friends, and the Dems in the center, I reject your stereotypic suggestion that equates (1) a demand for the separation of church and state with (2) being against religion. That is simplistic, incorrect, and inflammatory.


I was careful to refer in this case to the public perception, reflected in polling data, which is noted and discussed at length by Galston and Kamarck (hardly members of the VRWC). As for your suggestion that I equate support for separation of church and state with hostility to religion, I don’t, at least until you explain what you mean by the former and the latter. There are surely some separationists who are hostile to religion and others for whom religious reasons are central to their stance. And there is also clearly a range of possible and plausible interpretations of the First Amendment, not all of which can be encapsulated in the phrase "separation of church and state." But I must go off to class.

SPC Lewis- Thank you!

Fung invited me to this conversation, and I appreciate what you have to say, SPC Lewis, but please allow me to disagree a very little with you: The term "Support the troops" has only gained popularity since we entered the war. If the concept was in the popular thought prior to the war, I think I could agree whole-heartedly with your assessment. The problem is the ex post facto nature of the sentiment. The concept implies support for the troops during war, and particularly during the war in Iraq. I would argue that one who desires us to leave Iraq with the war unfinished - in the stated opinion that preserving our lives is real support - is not really supporting the troops at all. The fact is that, since Vietnam, the US government can not deploy and support its troops without the popular - though nebulous opinion - support of the people. The harsh fact of our society is that people, by nature and by function, truly do support or hinder soldiers in war. What I mean is this: If real support for us means (and I think we both agree) victory in war, then quitting a very winable war is the antithesis of support. Quitting would mean that our service was, and is, in vain. Quitting would mean that our brothers and sisters who have died have truly died for nothing. Quitting would mean that all of the work, and fighting, and supporting, that we do as soldiers was for nothing. By all means, you can disagree with the war as a matter of principle. But once we are committed, the private American citizen can actually support, and will actually support, troops by fighting in the court of public opinion for our ultimate victory in that war. Conversely, the private citizen can choose to oppose the war. I argue that this position, regardless of the pogie bait sent in cardboard boxes, is not one of supporting the troops.

As an example, I would point to the Vietnam veteran. Though certainly not universally, the Vietnam veteran is, in many ways, broken - though healing remarkably well. He is broken because his people did not support him. Their lack of support did not lie in their open hostility toward him as a "baby killer" so much as it was absent in support of the war. Now, Vietnam was probably one of the most unnecessary, unjust wars we have fought - but for the veteran, for the trooper who fought, would it not have been better "support" if we had sought, as a people, a military victory? I argue that it would have been.

It is a fundamental right of the citizen to oppose the government and the wars it fights. If the citizen desires to do so, however, I think they should not presume to offer support for the troops.

I appreciate your thoughts and your service, SPC. What unit are you with? I would welcome this continued discussion with you over AKO.

I do not see how it is possible that the left could be against religion (in the broad sense). I do think they are opposed to particular forms of religion, (mostly Christianity), but every program that the left supports is based upon premises derived from religion.

I’ll define religion. It seems that religion is a collection of ideas (mostly about the qualities of people and how they should be treated) supported by the idea that these rules are established by an intelligent higher power to which humans must submit.

It is obvious that the New Deal and Great Society are justified by the belief that every individual has independent worth and should be cared for, if they are unable to care for themselves. This seems a very religious idea to me. Furthermore, these beliefs cannot be challenged because they are supposed to come from God, etc. If they do not, then there is no moral justification for taking other people’s money in order to prolong the life of another.

It seems that philosophers who attack the idea that humans owe positive duty towards one another (helping each other) always start by attacking the idea of an active God, or even the existence of God. Social Darwinists, Nietzsche, and Rand come to mind. It seems if one can abolish the idea of a controlling God then there can be no moral duty to help others. Then the duty would be strictly prudential.

Rawls is the only person I have read that attempted to create a moral duty to help others without the use of God. I think his approach fails because it relies on the prudence of people (aversion to risk of being mistreated) in order to create a pact one is morally obligated to follow (I am unsure how the duty of good faith arises, he is so unclear I was confused, I bet his editor killed himself).

If the left tries to ally itself with science, and discounts religion then it will become libertarian. I have no experience with scholarly scientific writings concerning evolution and genetics, but have skimmed popular treatments of the subject, and it seems the evidence is not favorable for "equality of man," etc. and other liberal beliefs. Liberals are friends of religion, but for some reason dislike Christianity (or at least certain forms of it).

"By all means, you can disagree with the war as a matter of principle. But once we are committed, the private American citizen can actually support, and will actually support, troops by fighting in the court of public opinion for our ultimate victory in that war."

The danger of this argument is that it means that as long as the government is able to rush us into war, it will have our support. "Hey, we’re there now, so no use complaining about it!" Insisting that a pointless war does indeed have some value does not make it so, and wasting MORE lives to keep trying to prove something just makes matters worse.

I do understand what you’re saying, and I’m sure it must be frustrating to hear that people back home are opposed to what you’re doing, but should the blame lie with those who oppose the war or with those who started it and botched it?

I’m not advocating blame. I’m simply saying that if you oppose the war, don’t presume to support the troops. Live with your decision to not do so.

LT - This IS bothering me, because there must be some way that "support" is not only in the eye of the soldier. That is, what is a serious person to do, if against the war, but definitely NOT against the troops? If I listen to SPC lewis, then I think that I can oppose war, and yet support the troops. If I listen to you, then is appears that I cannot.

I am thinking on my feet, here: What about firefighters? I expect that most of us support firefighters, and yet we do NOT support fires. That is too cute, I know, but hang with me here, a minute.

What if the mayor of a city purused a policy that increased the frequency and intensity of fires, such that the city’s firefighters were constantly, and needlessly engaged in their task? What is the citizenry to do?

Okay, I’ll dance to this silly tune:

Assuming, arguendo, that a mayor would or could do such a thing; assuming, arguendo, that the mayor is responsible for the inferno that is sweeping, for the sake of argument, out of control - we now have a whole lot of firefighters fighting and giving everything they have to beat these fires. Likely some, perhaps many, have fallen in the line of duty. All of them are volunteers. All of them want to fight fires - though recognizing the extreme horror and danger of doing so. All of them have trained their entire professional lives to do so. Now, to extend your argument and to view it in the light most favorable to your position, Fung, let’s just assume that it’s not our city that’s on fire - but by some weird policy, it was still our mayor’s policy that started the fire in the other town and it is our city’s firefighters that are engaged in fighting the blaze (because the other city’s firefighters are unable to do so). Suddenly, in a complete reverse of public opinion, the people of our fair city decide that - because our mayor is evil (though re-elected) - it is time for us to bring our firefighters home. After all, we abhor city-wide fires. Bring the boys home!, we cry. The mayor lied, and none of these firefighters should be fighting fires and dying for another city.

Are you grasping the absurdity of this? How would you feel if you were one of the firefighters? Again, assuming arguendo, that the fire was unjustly started by our mayor, what would the rest of the country, or the world, say if we just pulled out and left the ashes? Wouldn’t it be better if we supported the mayor in fixing what he broke; if we, as citizens of the city, supported whole-heartedly the efforts of the firefighters - even at the risk of more of their lives?

Or am I just overlooking the fact that these firefighters are simply jack-booted, goose-stepping, automotons serving a dictatorial fool?

Again, attack me if you want on my last - but remember, you picked the tune.

Whoops, sorry Fred, I missed your comment. I don’t see how posting on the same topic, because it’s relevant, twice in one day, on two separate threads, qualifies as "continually," but if that’s what you want to call it, fine. I presumed the Judith Miller stuff was fairly common knowledge, and not requiring any "research" to speak of, seriously or sarcastically. Perhaps I’ll throw a few pearls your way soon on this, but for now, I’m on the road (and it’s not a Subaru!).

LT -- You and I got off on the wrong foot. On another post, I DID pick on wm for his apparent desire to lick your boots, and I refuse to give way merely because you are in the military.

That said, I certainly don’t think any LESS of you because you are in the military, and I am not clamoring to bring soldiers home. I am clamoring for Bush’s figurative head.

I want our foreign policy changed, I want the current inviestigations to continue, and I want America safe. I want our soldiers themselves to receive all the support they need to do a good job, and to come home safe. but, I don’t want any MORE Iraq’s and I want those responsible to be held accountable!

Nowhere have I said that I think that a pullout is the best option, but I HAVE suggested that putting a rosy face on this war is the wrong way to prevent future, needless, and unjustified wars.

And I’m not trying to put a rosy face on war. There is nothing rosy about destroyed human beings. I’m just trying to get some people to see the war through an accurate, and not a dark-tinted lense.

I can live with that.

Actually, Fung can’t live with that...he must be tired or can’t think of any snappy comeback. We all know he’s just not reliable (except at breaking his word).

And apparently Dain has an aversion to reasonable discourse.

Fung, I don’t have an aversion to reasonable discourse...however, due to Phil Thompson’s constant reference to grammar as a source of authority in argument, I couldn’t resist this:

I don’t want any MORE Iraq’s and I want those responsible to be held accountable!

Any more Iraq’s? Any more Iraq is...???

Phil, I’m guessing here, and maybe you can weigh in with your expertise, but should it not read Iraqs or possibly "Iraq"s? Again Fung, I’m sorry.

Yea, Fung, reasoned discourse until you throw another tantrum and swear off NLT, only to return (oathbreaker).

No one is forcing you to participate in my discussion with LT.

Fred - No problem. Apostophe’s for plural’s are one of my peeve’s. I wondered if that would get picked up!

Fred (Bills?), going back to your facetious comment #3...

You have attempted to pre-emptively negate anything I would have to add about Judith Miller and her pre-invasion reporting on the WMDs in Iraq by tossing out the straw man that I, in regards to the "WMD aspect" of the justification for the Iraq war, believe in a "vast conspiracy of Bush and Co. to make the American people complacent sheep." That’s absurd. I don’t beleve that the American people were "complacent sheep," they merely put their trust in the Bush administration and in various news sources that repeated the administration’s talking points regarding the WMD "threat." In some cases, the information put out by some sources, notably the articles about Iraq’s WMDs which were mostly written by Miller, and the persuasions offered by the Bush White House and its intelligence servants, appeared to feed each other. Eventually, in the "big media," the dissenting voices regarding Iraq’s alleged WMDs were drowned out by the voices insisting that they had them and they were ready to use them at any time, probably against US.

I didn’t make a sweeping generalization about the media one way or the other (ANOTHER straw man in the same comment, Fred!), but I DID want to know if Mr. Frisk considered Miller part of the media under "Democrat control," because if so, let’s not forget that the Dems seemed to be nearly as quick as the Republicans to give the Prez the power to launch the Iraq war, and a reporter for the oh-so-liberal NY Times was certainly giving a major assist to the (as we now know) invasion-planning White House in a whole series of articles that she wrote. Either her articles were a noteworthy exception to the Times’ liberal bias, or there was an amazing, coincidental symbiosis (or synergy?) between the needs of the Bush White House and these particular products of the liberal media.

Seeing that I don’t have Lexis-Nexis access right now and I’ve already blown too much time on this no-doubt futile argument, I won’t link you to any of Miller’s pre-invasion WMD articles (they’re probably in the paid archives, in any case, but I’m not sure), but I will link you to these articles which do a pretty good job of timelining, cataloging, and analyzing them (esp. the first): "Weapons of Miller’s Descriptions," "The Times Scoops that Melted," "Miller, the Fourth Estate, and the Warfare State,", and "Why Judith Miller Can’t Catch a Break."

Judith Miller played an important role that effected the Bush White House long before Plamegate made the news.

"...however, due to Phil Thompson’s constant reference to grammar as a source of authority in argument..."

Not exactly true, Fred. OK, so I’ve mocked "Fat Mike" and "Mack Sandpaper" a few times (come on, some of their mistakes practically BEG for a little mocking!), but I hardly use grammer as a "source of authority." Still, blatant and frequent grammatical mistakes do detract from the strength of an argument. Everyone makes a typo or two, but it’s hard to take a comment seriously when it has lines like, "Unless your all just going to do the same thing no matter who he picks next."

I know Phil, I was actually just trying to pick a not-very serious fight because the back-and-forths of this blog birghten the dark drudgery of studying Civil Procedure and Contracts. When did you guys become so civil?

Oh, oh! Can we mock Phil for misspelling grammar in his defense of picking on people for typos!!?!

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

I say go for it, Dominick! That Thompson guy grinds my gears with all of his nitpicking. Typical liberal hypacrite!

Mack, do you ever find yourself looking words up in the dictionary to make sure they’re spelled wrong when you post? Your consistency is asounding.

J. Mont, I haven’t had time to read those articles you sent my way, but I’ll get to them. Straw-man arguments are fun, and you should at least appreciate that they put the ball in your court.

asounding = astounding (wink, wink)

Fred- isn’t it funny how when you want to talk about someone else’s typos, you make one yourself? I gave Dominick the chance to pounce on me by spelling "grammar" with an "e," and boy, did he take it! But there IS a clear difference between a typo and using a word like "hypacrite," which is pretty much what I was trying to say in my last post.

What are you talking about Fred? Yes, I make some spelling mistakes from time to time. I might use the old hunt and peck method, but I still type fast!

And Phil, just admit you screwed up.

It is funny, isn’t it? but hell Phil, the elitism of grammar nazis only deserves as much.

LT, I agree with your comments. Basically I would prefer that people like Fung didn’t say that they "supported the troops."

This being said I think people like Fung who don’t "support the troops" are not unpatriotic. They are not unpatriotic because responsible use of freedom requires devotion to reason (as they see it). He may be wrong but, if he believes he is right the patriotic thing to do is to argue against the war. My problem with "support the troops" is that it is a warm fuzzy. In some people it is very touching, and you can tell how much they care. But... It can also be used as a sort of package deal, as you say the term "support the troops" has only regained popularity since we entered the war.

In other words I want to argue that if he cannot say that he "supports the troops" he can still say that he is patriotic. Was Emmerson a patriot when he opposed the Spanish American War?

As a side note, I am not sure Vietnam was as unjust or as unprofitable as some argue, my father was a Marine radioman in that War. While we know some of the cost of Vietnam, and the anger back home, it is even harder to calculate the benefits... In my opinion all the Asian Tigers owe a portion of the success they have today to the american lives lost in Korea and Vietnam, if we had not stopped communism it might have spread over a much wider area, before crumbling beneath its own contradictions. In the end I would like to think that Vietnam was a success. In any case the world is probably better off because of it, but maybe not the United States since it shared more of the cost, and is possibly seeing less of the benefit since it may be paying for it in terms of jobs being sent to these Asian Tigers.

I would argue that in the case of Iraq we already have a military victory, although we are a long ways off in terms of the war on Terror. Hopefully someday all of the middle east will be sprouting "Norwegian style liberal democracy" and not of the 9th century Viking type. Given Iran’s current posturing I don’t think I will hold my breath. I am no expert on things but I always felt that Iran would have been a better target, once again I guess it goes back to "support of the troops." I also wish we could do something about Syria, but with Bush’s support where it is any such discussion is out of the question...

by the way my ako is [email protected], I am in 1/77 FA running Het missions under 28th trans.

Did you take a look at those articles, Fred?

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