?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Darwin and Democrats - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Darwin and Democrats [Sep. 14th, 2005|12:56 pm]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

I am taking the coolest class this semester, Church and State. We are required to take one course that qualifies as "perspective," and this one looked much better than the deceptively-appealingly-titled "Film, Literature and the Law," which former victims pronounced the nastiest bit of law school they'd ever endured (the good thing about the law school grapevine is you find out about the deadly courses and can steer clear from at least some of the rocks).

This week we are discussing the creationism vs. evolution debate, starting Monday with the Scopes trials and finishing up today with Intelligent Design. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the Flying Spaghetti Monster would be a topic of class discussion during my law school career, but there ya go.

All this has me thinking, pondering how the Democrats lost the hearts and minds of the American heartland, and if it is even possible for them to ever get them back. Willam Jennings Bryan, the star prosecutor and the man frequently portrayed as a knuckle-dragging Bible literalist against the backdrop of Clarence Darrow's erudite itellectualism, was a Democrat and a man who spent his life fighting for the little guy. He supported unions and fought for decent working hours and social reform. His objection to the theory of evolution came from his horror at Social Darwinism, a philosophy that treated the downtrodden as lesser beings whose deaths would strengthen the human gene pool by eliminating the weak. The notion that a greater good was served by not helping the poor was abhorrent to him. He was a deeply religious man who knew his Bible well, but he was not anti-intellectual - he had himself studied evolution and adhered to the theory until he saw it being twisted in this manner. His belief that it was wrong came from his observation of its abuse.

The pro-science side of the debate, however, cannot be simply identified as the Republicans. There was no neat flip-flop of sides, no Great Vowel Shift of political sentiment that explains away the differences. No, the good, Democratic folk of Dayton, Tennessee - who'd been teaching evolutionary theory to their kids for decades, since all science textbooks of the time did - staged the entire arrest of John Scopes (who couldn't honestly remember teaching evolution at all) in response to an ad by the very young ACLU, which was looking for a Tennessee teacher to volunteer to be arrested in order to challenge the anti-evolution law that Tennessee had put on the books and then promptly ignored - the science textbook chosen by the Board of Education taught evolution. Any teacher would have done the job, but the Dayton civic fathers snatched up the opportunity to bring commerce into their community in the form of the Scopes Monkey Trials.

Think about it. The theory of evolution and the church lived side by side for a number of years before Scopes, and for a good long time afterward, parallel and in relative peace. God created the universe, and evolution explained the science. It's only a problem if you have to insist that mythic truth and scientific truth be the same thing - which is where Fundamentalism creates all kinds of problems. But that is another debate.

The thing is, until the last few decades, the Democratic party stood for the rights of the little guy, and for the basic values of morality - the stuff we call family values today. God talk was not verboten, and they weren't afraid to say that some things were wrong. But somehow, in the attempt to make people not just free but absolutely equal, things like family values and morals got cut astray and the Republicans - no slouches, and not in the least afraid of pissing people off - snatched them right up. They have never really dropped their Social Darwinism, but now they couch it in terms of spiritual superiority instead of genetic. But they are canny, and can count voters, and will cheerfully take in any mouth breather capable of pulling a voting machine. They will sell these people a litany of smug superiority and moral hatred, black and white answers to all life's problems, while heartlessly poisoning their water and destroying their environment, and people will take it because they want solid answers.

The Democrats have painted themselves into a terrible corner. They can't speak out against anything except big business and intolerance, because they will insult a constituency, and you can't have that. But there's no guidance in that. There is only a continuing litany of complaints and attacks on what the heartland feels are basic truths.

Now, I'm not saying that back in the halcyon days of sweeping Protestantism, America was a place of perfection. Believe me; I grew up in a backwater town where the fact that I was Catholic meant some of the kids at school weren't allowed to talk with me. Certainly the civil rights movement and the women's rights movement and the environmental movement, all spearheaded by Dems, are tremendous improvements in our ways of life. But recall: Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister, and he talked about God a lot. The Christian God. In today's world, his message might be lost to the censure of those concerned with noninclusivism. And that would be tragic.

The Democratic party is well on its way to being a fringe political group, leaving us with an essentially one-party system. The way I see it, they have two choices: accept that role and keep pushing on the fringe, or learn to step on some toes, risk hurting some feelings, and move back toward the center.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: zero_design
2005-09-14 05:24 pm (UTC)
The kinda creepy thing is just how quickly the Dems seem to have lost their way. Clinton was in power only 5 years ago - it feels like we've been trapped in a decade or more of Bush and his cronies.

I really wonder where the Democratic Party would be right now if at the beginning of the whole sex scandal Slick Willy had just said "Yup, I have slept with the help. My wife knows, she understands. And outside of that, it's none of your damn business." If just that one moment of displaying a spine would have been enough to reshape the future of the party.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kmg_365
2005-09-14 05:28 pm (UTC)
If just that one moment of displaying a spine would have been enough to reshape the future of the party.

I don't think it would. The party's "vision" is being clouded by the ultra-left, which is out of step with mainstream America. And while they may consider mainstream America to be ignorant Bible-thumping rubes, it is mainstream America that will win them elections.

Although her motives are rather transparent, the party should follow the lead of Hillary who, in her run up for the 2008 presidential election, is moving more to the center.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: kmg_365
2005-09-14 05:25 pm (UTC)
But they are canny, and can count voters, and will cheerfully take in any mouth breather capable of pulling a voting machine.

Now, Gini, you don't actually think Republicans are the only party guilty of this, do you? ;-)

Certainly the civil rights movement and the women's rights movement and the environmental movement, all spearheaded by Dems

I thought the Dems voted against civil rights initially. Probably wrong, though.

The Democratic party is well on its way to being a fringe political group, leaving us with an essentially one-party system. The way I see it, they have two choices: accept that role and keep pushing on the fringe, or learn to step on some toes, risk hurting some feelings, and move back toward the center.

Honestly, if the Dems want to really be a viable second party, they need to move away from the fringe, stop attacking, and offer solutions to problems. And no, saying Bush's plan is wrong is not a solution. Catering to the far left helps win primaries, but not the general election. Even though I am a Republican, I would prefer the Dems be a viable second party and not a looney Soros/Moore/Pilosi directed party.

It would also be nice if we could get to a point where being a Christian wasn't a bad thing, or a subject of ridicule and derision.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-14 05:31 pm (UTC)
Now, Gini, you don't actually think Republicans are the only party guilty of this, do you? ;-)


Nowadays? The Dems can't recognize a voter for the life of 'em.

I thought the Dems voted against civil rights initially. Probably wrong, though.

True, Southern Dems were ag'in it.

Christianity needs to be saved from the Fundamentalists as well as preserved in the Democratic party. The whole middle is being ignored, really.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: apocalypse_0
2005-09-14 05:43 pm (UTC)
I'd generally agree, tho I don't think the Dems are so superior in their approach. They've aggressively courted their fair share of mouth-breathers, with their notion of trying to be all things to all people, rather than drawing more lines about where they stand, and where they stop.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-14 06:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, no doubt. They just don't have any idea how to do so anymore.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: wyrrlen
2005-09-14 05:43 pm (UTC)
As a non-christian, I feel particularly perplexed by the Democratic party. They're no friends of mine, but with all certainty they tend to not be the same as the fundamental christian conservatives that are represented, though admittedly not dominated, by the side on the right.

I'm not sure if Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or anyone else not a WASP in America feels this way, but I always get concerned when I hear that both parties need to come to a center that is more Christian. The 2001 census showed a ten percent decline in Christianity over ten years from 1990 to about 80% (with about a third of that being Catholic). If we are a country with a decline in Christianity, why alienate an ever-growing population of Americans?

That's not to say that Christians aren't going to be the "big heavy" in politics for some time - perhaps 40 more years. They will play a role and always be a part of politics. Rather, I question whether we need to set up two political parties in this manner: One for the fundamentalist christians, and one for the tolerant christians. Wouldn't it be easier just to have the sensible tolerant party of all religions and the crazy-mofo-they're-going-to-convert-you party?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: shawnj
2005-09-14 05:51 pm (UTC)
I don't know if it would be easier, but it certainly sounds more attractive to me.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: terpsichoros
2005-09-14 06:00 pm (UTC)
The Democrats definitely have a "God Problem", but there's more than just that. Lots of their traditional constituents don't believe in their economics anymore. Many analyses of the Democrats ask "Why are blue-collar people voting against their economic interests?", and come up with the "values" issue, or the "God problem". (cf What's the Matter With Kansas.)

To some extent, the analysis is right, but it misses something which is beyond the ken of most Democratic thinkers: lots of "working class" people no longer think that the Democrats' policies are in their economic interests, either. Not everyone without a college degree believes that relations between management and employees are necessarily inimical, nor that hurting corporations helps their workers or their communities. Economics isn't zero-sum, and more and more people get that. The Democrats have held on pretty well on this issue, however, because the Republicans' policies aren't well-calculated to either do real economic good or to appeal to the blue-collar (or pink-collar) worker who doesn't want a union. If the Republicans got more sensible on economics, the Democrats would be finished.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-14 07:04 pm (UTC)
Good point. We're all floundering on that one.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: bonerici
2005-09-14 06:44 pm (UTC)
well i sort of disagree with your whole premise here.

first of all, if you look at the natural constituents of the democratic and the republican party you'll see that the democrats are naturally the city folk, they are naturally pro-science, the intellectuals and labor combined (both of them urban political groups).

The republicans on the other hand are naturally the party of rural america. Anti-union, anti-science, pro-religion. (science and religion are mortal enemies, but that's a topic for another day). The republican party is the party of poor white trash in rural america and suburbia.

If you look what has happened in the last 100 years it becomes clear that there has been an incredible inbalance in american politics. The dixiecrats in the south had no business at all being a part of the republican party. It takes such a long time for families to change their political affiliation, despite what you see on the television, the most common thing to happen is that father, son, grandson all stay inside the same political party.

It's perfectly natural that the republicans have gained a majority because they gained the dixiecrats. This isn't about god, religion, or evolutionary theory, this is just a natural balance asserting itself. Look at how Texas turned from Democrat to Republican. Don't tell me that's about religion. It's about democrats waking up one day and deciding they weren't mad about the civil war anymore, taking Nixon's 1968 pledge to heart, and becoming the democrats they are supposed to be.

Ok, you want to know where the future of the democratic party should be? It's a natural urban party right? And if you look at the extremely wealthy, the Bill Gates and Warren Buffets, they are democrats, of course, because they are urban pro-science guys.

I think you can see what the future of the democratic party should be here. Democrats need to concentrate on explaining how they are pro big business.

I know it's distasteful to Hollywood democrats, because capitalism is "bad," but let's face it, Marx is dead, so we gotta push what should be a natural combination, rich businesses with democrats, poor white trash with republicans
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: toshfraggle
2005-09-14 07:11 pm (UTC)
so where does the girl fit that lives in suburbia, works as a professor (eventually) in a city university, and that is heavily involved in the arts in suburbia?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: bonerici
2005-09-14 06:46 pm (UTC)
it took 100 years for people who should have been republicans get over the civil war and finally vote for the party of Lincoln. If history is any guide, it's gonna take another 50 years before business realizes that its natural partner is the democratic party, not the republican one.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: culculhen
2005-09-14 07:07 pm (UTC)
I think you are being for too pessimistic for the democratic party, I agree with you that the democratic party should learn to step on some toes, But move back towards the center? if you look at its policies today, it is already in center. All that I lately hear is that the democrats should "return to the center" but I would hear what that "center" actually is because if you look policies, the democratic party is center nowadays. Last time I checked they didn't call for the communist revolution or something like that.

Of all the people I heard calling for the Dems to return to the center, not one actually gave one policy the majority of the party supported that was out of the "center" if there were such policies, they'd be touted and flaunted by the republicans long ago. The problem is that they are right in the center now. It leaves them pretty non-discript and gives the republicans the chance to use the only part still in view (the Dems fringe) as a bogey man to scare people with.

All I can conclude is that the party doesn't know how to do sell its politics anymore. it's got a PR problem, sure. something has to be done, yes. But moving the democratic party any more to the right would make them republican light and even more non-discript. Moving them to the left would enhance their profile more and give them more smoel, And give the Pr machine something to work with.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-14 07:20 pm (UTC)
You're right. I don't think that they should change their policies so much as reaffirm that their policies do not exclude the center of the country, do not require atheism or moral bankruptcy, and that it's okay to call bullshit.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2005-09-14 07:25 pm (UTC)
I respectfully disagree. I don't see people voting for a pale imitation of Republicans. The Dems in SC, where I live, play the right-of-center game all the time and get stomped by Republicans. It's all about the taxes, here and most places, I think. And the Dems lose at the left what they gain at the right when they drop their traditional liberal views and imitate the Republicans. If all the people who oppose the war, tax cuts, unfunded education mandates, etc., were to vote and were their votes counted honestly, the left could win.

I've been hanging around politics all my sixty-odd years, and I haven't seen central maneuvering by Democrats pay off. George Lakoff's linguistic analyses explain some of the reasons why they do poorly now, and a look at the war chests of Republican candidates vs. Democrat explain a good bit more.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: lacey
2005-09-14 08:13 pm (UTC)
What pisses me off so much is that you're right. And that's fucking scary.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: terpsichoros
2005-09-14 09:45 pm (UTC)
On the other hand, I've seen an analysis which is rather hard to discount. In 2000 and 2004, the state-level correlation between the white fertility rate and the percentage of Bush's vote is somewhere around 80%.

In other words, the Democrats are the party of blacks and white people with no or few children, while the Republicans are the party of white people with more children.

(Reference available on request - the site is often considered to be racist, but the particular finding is sound, and the logic of that particular argument has almost nothing to do with race.)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ice_hesitant
2005-09-15 05:47 am (UTC)
Yup. Uneducated illiterates have lots of kids and uneducated illiterates vote for Bush. It's not hard to predict a correlation between the two.:P
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ice_hesitant
2005-09-15 12:42 am (UTC)
The natural opponent of social darwinism is secular humanism, not religion. Social darwinism is a pretty term for naive capitalistic laissez faire. Perhaps the Democrats should stfu about the lowest-common-denominator red herring of "family values", grow a backbone, and start aggressively promoting left-wing values like charity, altruism, friendship, and warmth. Secular humanism can be their vision, and they certainly have the advertising budget to harp on about it.

Evolution isn't Moloch, and it certainly has no praise for the path of least resistance. It's not teleological -- it does not require us to backstab for short-term gain or even to do abstain from action. Helping others is good for the helper, because the helper inevitably becomes one of many and reduces risk for oneself. Altruism is perfectly natural -- we fucking evolved it, and so has every other fuckdamn social animal on this planet -- and very in keeping with left-wing values of helping your fellow human.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: chayatapa
2005-09-15 07:06 am (UTC)
Finaly, some sanity.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: inspectorjury
2005-09-15 11:50 am (UTC)
Very well put. I am really impressed. You have put into words the feelings I've been having about the Democratic Party. You have done it in a way I never would have been able to.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: thanoslug
2005-09-15 02:14 pm (UTC)
Perhaps it is just my bias but I don't see the Democratic party as being the party of the "little guy". The policies of the Democratic party tend to be things that sound good or let people feel good as long as they don't delve too deeply into them.

As an example, welfare. Having the government help folks out who are having trouble sounds like a nice and decent thing to do. However, welfare policies have created a class of people in our country who feel that they are entitled to government assistance. It destroys work ethic. Why should I go out and get a job if the government will pay me to not work?

The Democrats have largely become the party of the kook left fringe. (I realize this is not true of all Democrats but it does seem to be true of a large portion of the party leadership) Personally I think it's cool - as long as they stay that way the Republicans should be able to stay in power even though they seem to be completely inept at defending their policies.

I think you have done a pretty good job of noting some of the weaknesses of your party. I am also heartened by your apparent inability to actually understand the Republican party. It is this inability of Dems to understand what we as conservatives actually stand for that gives me hope that the Dems will not be able to turn their party around and that we will be able to go on winning elections.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-09-15 02:26 pm (UTC)
Republicans talk a good game about responsibility and caring for people, but I am unconvinced that you ever really abandoned Social Darwinism. You are shielded from the true ugliness of it by the very social programs you excoriate - do you honestly think there would be a single pristine national park or stretch virgin forest if the market economy you espouse were let off its leash? Do you think the air would be as breathable, the water as drinkable?

Republicans talk a great game about the shamefulness of social welfare for individuals, but they are quite generous with it when it comes to big business - tax breaks, bailouts, protectionist legislation. Where's the Social Darwinism of making companies bear the true costs of their mistakes and only the strong survive?

I absolutely agree with you that the entitlement mentality engendered by the welfare system is a serious problem, and that education has suffered at the hands of reformers. I think better solutions are necessary. I just don't think you have the keys to the castle any more than the Dems do.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: heartbeat1981
2005-09-15 04:57 pm (UTC)
Essentially the problem is that the democratic party is percieved as being not just irreligious, but anti-religious. Indeed a significant part of party leadership is anti-religious.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: heartbeat1981
2005-09-15 04:57 pm (UTC)
specifically anti-christian.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: ex_bookkeep
2005-09-15 06:28 pm (UTC)

Dependency

I think one of the real problems in both parties is their growing effort to encourage folks to depend on government. Democrats want individuals to depend on government, Republicans wants larger entities (both lesser government and business) to depend on Federal help. Democrats seem all too ready to prop up the individual welfare state, which could provide for everyone but no one wants to live like that. Republicans want to build business (The Military-Industrial Complex) bail out business (Banking & Credit Cards) and squish State government into quiet compliance with Federal hegemony (Federalism run rampant in the Judiciary). The recent events of Hurricane Katrina only contradicting this trend out of a need to scapegoat.

Electorally, people who work in welfare corporations are more likely to vote than people living on welfare. Neither party seems interested in articulating a vision that inspires people to do for themselves. Corporate welfare trumps Individual Welfare, so Republicans are the more appealing for the moment.
(Reply) (Thread)