Liberal Messaging 101: The Case for Government

Written by: Michael Baharaeen

As a polarized country and an even more polarized Congress refuse to come together to work on the tough issues facing our country, some veteran political observers have identified about a severe problem1: Republicans have uniformly aligned against any and every policy proposal put forth by Congressional Democrats or President Obama, ostensibly for the sake of “not compromising their principles.” In an attempt to keep the government running and not seem as intransigent as the other side, a sizeable bloc of Democrats have compromised along the way, fearing that unadulterated policy grid-lock would be even worse than making a few concessions to their colleagues across the aisle. Instead of pressing forward with the change we were promised in 2008, Democrats have been forced to temporarily manage the system on the right side of the 50-yard line, with the Republicans pushing them ever closer toward their own end zone. (To be clear, this would result in a safety for the Democrats, not a touchdown.)

The problem, as an exasperated Toby Ziegler – the president’s communications director from the fictional television series, The West Wing – mentions in Season 5, is that if they can’t form another New Deal, the beleaguered White House should at the very least “[fight] for the old one, instead of haggling with Republicans over how much to cut.2” That statement perfectly summarizes the feelings of many liberals right now, myself included.  Democrats have been caught playing into the Republicans’ theme of “smaller government is better.” And, as Paul Krugman recently stated, if Democrats were simply willing to take control of the narrative, point out what Republicans mean when they decry “big government” and what their attempts to scale it back would actually produce, they could strike a reverberating chord with voters3.

Last week Mitt Romney made the mistake of accidently being honest when he described what his party should be doing to help shrink government.  While on the campaign trail, he derided President Obama: “He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers,” and without skipping a beat, claimed, “It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.” What does this tell us? Well, it is pretty clear that the typical image Republicans try to forge in voters’ minds of “big government” as buildings full of mindless bureaucrats has been sullied, at least in the short term. People now understand what shrinking government actually entails. In fact, the citizens of Camden, New Jersey, saw these effects earlier this year when the city was forced to cut about half of its police force, resulting in a subsequent spike in crime and longer response times for emergencies4.

When voters see a causal link as clear as New Jersey’s, they begin to understand the benefits government actually provides. Kansas City voters understood this as well. In the 2010 midterm elections Missouri voted to put both Kansas City’s and St. Louis’s earnings tax up for a vote every five years. What the campaign against that petition tried to elucidate to Missourians was that the earnings tax was essentially what allowed the two cities to run their day-to-day business. Naturally, residents of those cities wanted to protect these services, and voted against the proposition.  Unfortunately, the rest of the state (on which this proposition had minimal impact) was not as privy to this campaign, and voted to allow the quinquennial votes to occur. When the first referenda were held in both cities in April 2011, voters overwhelmingly rejected repealing the tax and phasing it out. But again, the point must be stressed: it took a persistent campaign to explain to voters what life would be like without the services that were funded by the earnings tax.

It worked on the local level, and it could certainly work at the national level. Gaffes from the Romney camp are becoming commonplace, and every once in a while he reveals Republicans’ true intentions, providing Democrats with an opportunity to take over the national conversation and shape it to their liking. This is the perfect time to craft a narrative of the importance of government and the good it can do to take on an ever-increasing voter malaise in the body politic. First, liberals must recapture and cultivate an image of government not as profligate busybodies sitting in cubicles at the IRS, but rather as teachers, police officers, firefighters, park maintenance crews, and the like. It is imperative that Democrats capitalize on what appears to be Mitt Romney eschewing groups of public workers who form the backbone of our society.

Once this visualization has been made, Democrats must then begin explaining to the public the good that these public servants (i.e. “government workers”) can do. Government teaches a good majority of kids in this country…for free. Government stocks the shelves at your public library and keeps your parks clean. It helps maintain and perform upkeep on roads and bridges. Government is a 3-digit phone call away if you have been injured or robbed, or if your house is on fire. Government provides health care to a vast number of Americans, including senior citizens (Medicare), veterans (the VA), children (SCHIP), the poor (Medicaid), and now other parts of the middle and working classes (the Affordable Care Act). It created and maintains a social safety program for senior citizens to prevent them from falling into poverty once they retire and no longer have a steady income. Government provides unemployment benefits as temporary relief to those unable to find work, and also helps students from struggling families continue on to higher education through Pell grants. Government keeps your air and water clean, and ensures the safety of the food you eat. Government ensures that you are paid a fair wage (and Democrats in government are always seeking to make it a more livable wage).  Government protects your property. Government prevents national and multinational corporations from merging into giant, anti-competitive monopolies, which would squelch any chance for small businesses to survive, let alone thrive. Most recently, government set up a new bureau whose sole purpose is to protect consumers from unfair and predatory actions by producers and lenders.

Of course, government has its problems; it always has, it always will. Inefficiencies are inherent to an institution which takes into account the voices of so many. But that is why it is imperative that we continually try to improve it, not weaken it. Ziegler later summarizes, “No matter what its failures in the past – and in times to come, for that matter – government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind…an instrument of good.5” It may take time, but if we choose to give this view a chance, we can all ultimately be better off.

1 http://www.amazon.com/Even-Worse-Than-Looks-Constitutional/dp/0465031331

2 http://communicationsoffice.tripod.com/5-05.txt

3 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/15/opinion/krugman-we-dont-need-no-education.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

4 http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2011/01/officers_down.html

5 http://www.mrc.org/node/29187

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Why 2012 Is Crucial for Democrats

Written by: Michael Baharaeen

The 2010 midterm elections brought to power a juggernaut of Republicans. With the drastic influx of GOP legislators – more Republicans in offices across the country than at any time since 1928 – our country has seen unacceptable behavior from our government. We have seen these majorities impede progress and development, while simultaneously taking away rights that have been granted to the people for decades. Democratic voters were found asleep at the wheel in 2010, and the past two years not only show the cataclysmic results from such an action, but they are also a teaching moment for progressives nationwide: 2012 matters.

Pundits and political operatives will often casually suggest every two or four years that “this election is the most important one in the last x number of years.” While this sort of “crying wolf” eventually creates a numbing effect on the public, it has never been truer, at least in my lifetime, than for this year’s elections. There is an incredibly clear distinction between the two parties: one is fighting for “good government” policies, and the other would mostly like to see a full unraveling of many New Deal programs. There is no question that the decisions voters make in November could have lasting ramifications for decades to come.

States

After November 2010, Republicans saw majority gains not only at the federal level, but also in governorships and state legislatures. It is difficult for even the most ardent of GOP supporters to claim that these newly formed coalitions were not working in tandem across the country to implement very similar policies. In addition to the growing suppression of abortion rights and the abdication of federal funds for high-speed rail lines by GOP governors (something that would help bring us further into the 21st century), the Republican Party compiled a checklist of destructive policies with which they began marching forward, state by state.

Drug testing for welfare recipients. By doing this, one can only assume that Republican lawmakers are equating all poor people with drug addicts. Otherwise, why not drug test everyone who receives any kind of government benefits, including their wealthy, bailed-out Wall Street donors1, as well as Medicare and Social Security recipients? Perhaps students who go to public schools, or anyone who checks out a book at the library? Maybe even those who dare take advantage of the government service that is our public road system? No, these drug tests are only being administered to the most destitute among us. Leave aside for a moment the fact that even the ultra-conservative Drudge Report acknowledged that only 2% of Florida welfare recipients failed their drug test2, or that the Miami Herald reported that these programs actually cost the state more money than it sought to save by depriving all of those purported druggies of their welfare checks3; from a moral standpoint, there should be no excuse to humiliate the poor in such a manner.

Tax cuts for the rich & balancing the budget on the backs of everyone else. Naturally, the Republicans wanted to appear to care about fixing the economy, even though as most regular observers of politics know, it would be very politically convenient for them if the economy were still suffering in 2012 so that Obama could take the blame. In states with Republican governors, the modus operandi has been to cut taxes so that the “job creators,” a convenient euphemism for the richest one-percent of income earners, will be able to create more jobs. But if this renewed drive for supply-side, “trickle-down” economics had even a shred of efficacy, wouldn’t it be plausible to think that unemployment rates should be going down at a much quicker rate across the country, especially given that Corporate America has amassed a staggering $2 trillion? It would be. Instead, the rich have received over 90% of the gains made since the recession, and yet unemployment is still over 8%. However, these results have not deterred GOP governors one bit from continuing to press forward with these policies. Even economic dilettantes should know that cutting taxes — taxes being revenue to the government — means that the government has less money to spend. So how do GOP lawmakers solve this problem? They end up targeting programs that are sacrosanct to the poor and to the working and middle classes, including Pennsylvania’s governor, who signed into law devastating cuts to higher education4.

Strict voter ID laws. One of the most basic rights to the citizens of this country, granted by both state constitutions as well as the U.S. Constitution, is the right to vote. Efforts to encumber that right, while historically are usually deemed unconstitutional, are nevertheless now pervading the country, with 180 of these bills having been produced in 41 states since January 20115. And, unsurprisingly, they almost completely target Democratic voters — the young, minorities, and even senior citizens (who want to see their Medicare and Social Security protected). What is the justification Republicans have given? To stop voter fraud, of course! Obviously, this problem must be rampant if so many state legislatures are bringing legislation forward to stop it, right? Well, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, the chances of lightning striking someone are greater than the chances of discovering voter fraud6. Politifact.com corroborated the ACLU’s claim that in Florida, a state seeking these types of laws, voter fraud is less common than shark attacks7. So what is the actual purpose of these laws, then, if there is no significant problem?  The answer is simple: if successful, key Democratic voting demographics will be disenfranchised unable to vote. This will have a nice buffering effect for the Republicans in 2012, for even though there is growing outrage over their policies, the affected voting blocs will be unable to retaliate.

Union-busting. Continuing the theme of suppressing Democratic supporters and dismantling progressive foundations across the country, Republican governors and legislators in several states have moved forward with swift union-busting measures. Unfortunately, they have been largely successful. Subsequent to the passage and implementation of anti-union legislation in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Tennessee and Maine, among others, union membership has drastically declined. Since 1954, union membership nationwide has gone from 39.2 percent of workers to a dismal 11.9 percent (in a country of 300 million people, that difference is much larger than it may appear at first glance). In Wisconsin the AFSCME, the second largest group of public sector union workers, saw its membership plummet from 62,818 to 28,745. Similarly, the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin lost 6,000 members, almost 35% of its membership8. Keep in mind: these losses came within one year. So why is this phenomenon so unique to Republican-controlled states? As the Center for Responsive Politics has shown, three of the top ten groups who spent the most money in 2010 were unions, the only sect in the top ten which gave to Democrats9. Suffice it to say that the less power this Democratic stronghold has, the less money they will be able to give to the Democratic Party come election time. It is an ingenious plan, and if successful could have reverberations throughout the Democratic community for decades.

A Brief Note on the Presidency

As many who know me are aware, I have several qualms with President Obama. While I think he has made great advances for the country in some areas, I have been disappointed with his conservative tendencies in others. However, I plan on voting for him 2012, as should every individual (particularly Democrats, even the disillusioned ones) who wants to maintain some sort of mitigating figure in power to prevent the Republicans from exacerbating even further the problems they have caused. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the more liberal Supreme Court justices, has mentioned that she only plans to remain on the bench for another three years.   Should President Obama lose, there is a possibility that the Supreme Court could go from a 5-4 conservative tilt to a 6-3 configuration. If this happens, mark my words: first on the docket will be a challenge to Roe v. Wade, followed by a conservative wish list, from reinstituting school prayer to English as the national language.

The other obvious reason for reelecting the president is because there is no guarantee that Democrats will either regain control of the House or maintain control of the Senate. However, should that indeed happen, Obama would be the last roadblock to streamlining the Republicans’ wish list of conservative policies. Some political observers have suggested that even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, he will make an inexorable shift to the middle. But will he be willing to wave a veto threat at a Republican-controlled Congress over legislative initiatives he thinks are too radical?

I have laid out the evidence. Citizens of states which were drastically impacted by the Republican ascension in 2010 realized the consequences of their democratic apathy and immediately sought to remedy them. There is no guarantee, though, that long-lasting damage has not already been inflicted upon our country. Whether or not we want to believe it, 2012 could potentially shape the direction of our country for the next century. Democrats, progressives, and anyone interested in moving our country forward need to see the past two years as a teaching moment and prepare to fight back.

1. http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/08/10/wall-street-donations-shift-to-gop-amid-financial-reforms/

2. http://www.drudge.com/archive/147680/only-2-fail-scotts-welfare-drug-test

3. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/20/2758871/floridas-welfare-drug-tests-cost.html

4. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42018121/ns/us_news-life/t/pa-governors-higher-ed-cuts-draw-protests/

5. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/#47512867

6.  http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/policy_brief_on_the_truth_about_voter_fraud/

7. http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2012/mar/02/aclu-florida/shark-attacks-are-more-common-voter-fraud-florida/

8. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/#47512867

9. http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2010&chrt=V&disp=O&type=P

Same-sex Marriage and Gay Rights: Some Instructive Links

Written by: Matt Seyer

Readers of “Surprise!  New York Is Not On Fire!” have asked that I give a more serious take on the issue of gay rights.  The following is a group of videos, cartoons, and images concerning the issue.  They range from the silly to the uplifting.  I’ll hopefully write a more thorough piece eventually, but for now let this serve as a transition post from complete satire to slightly serious.

We’ll start with the silly.  Here’s a very clear illustration of what gay marriage would and would not entail:

How Gay Rights Is Nothing Like Legalizing Bestiality

Next, we’ll indulge in some more satire.  First, we have a faux representation of opposing arguments:

Ten Reasons Why Gay Marriage Should Be Illegal

Second, The Partisans tell us all about what’s natural in the wonderful world of sex.

We’ll make a slight shift to the serious now.  Here, Ellen Degeneres has a brief conversation with Senator John McCain.  The best Senator McCain can come up with is that they have a “respectful disagreement” that marriage is between a man and a woman.  Imagine a country where if a large portion of the population has a “respectful disagreement” about whether Jewish people should be allowed to vote, then the country declares that they cannot vote.  Sounds fair, yeah?  Because human rights can be thought of that way, I suppose.

Inspired by the Zach Wahls video (see below), this Iowa grandmother decided to give her views on gay marriage.  Her reaction to her son’s coming out is probably typical of most families.  Less typical is her change in perspective.

The Golden Girls give us a brief return to the humorous.  Despite the fun attitude, the message couldn’t be simpler or more poignant.

“For The Bible Tells Me So” is a documentary about the relationship between homosexuality and Biblical teachings.  This is a brief clip that demonstrates that homosexuality is not a choice.

One more piece of satire before the heavy-hitters.

On August 8th, 2010, Ted Olson — the conservative lawyer who represented President Bush in Bush v. Gore — appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss his recent victory in overturning Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in California. Throughout the interview, host Chris Wallace attempted to trip up his guest with a series of familiar Republican talking points, all of which Olson repudiated.  [Olson is featured prominently in the next post of this series.]

I’ve often heard that it’s only a matter of time for gay rights to become a reality; that the older generation will die out, leaving a more tolerant and accepting generation in its place.  Here, Senator Gronstal, from the Iowa state senate, comes to agree with that idea.

This Zach Wahls video has gone viral since its initial upload.  Mr. Wahls speaks to us about living with two mothers.  He offers us a unique perspective, a resonant and moving message, and proof that the sexual orientation of one’s parents has “zero effect on the content of [one’s] character.”

Diane J. Savino tells it like it is.  She gives an especially good response to those who would champion the “sanctity of marriage.”

The fact that it is appearing on a list of gay rights links will likely ruin the intended effect of this video.  Let me assure you, though, that I did not see that ending coming.  It makes you ask, “What’s the difference, really?”

Last but certainly not least, we have a preview for the documentary “Second Class Citizen.”  The documentary details the gay rights movement from its beginning as a reaction to discrimination to a widespread call for justice and equality.  I dare you to be unmoved after watching.

Perspective on Conservatives and Liberals: An Addendum

Written by: Matt Seyer

I have two more articles for all of you lovely people!  They both specifically talk about conservatives, so you won’t gain a whole lot in the way of a better understanding of liberals, but they’re still solid pieces.

The first is an older article from Forbes that was posted a few months ago.  I felt it deserved reposting simply because it fit the theme of conservatives and liberals.  The article asks why Republicans are embracing intellectually-subpar candidates for the presidency, and attempts to give an answer.

“Why Do Republicans Gleefully Embrace Idiots as Presidential Candidates?…The question naturally begs a larger question: How can a country, with the world’s highest national GDP, and absurdly complex systems regulating everything from credit default swaps to nuclear missile safety, possibly allow onto its national stage men and women of such transparently inferior intellect?”

The second article is a blog post written by Corey Robin.  It is a summary/introductory post that discusses the major themes of his book, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.  Robin takes a serious look at the claim that modern-day conservatism is some kind of radical strain of traditional conservatism, a notion endorsed by such public intellectuals as Paul Krugman, P.M. Carpenter, and Andrew Sullivan.  His conclusion: it’s really not all that radical.  This is a fascinating read: beautifully written, erudite, but fun all the same.

“I wrote The Reactionary Mind for many reasons, but one of them was to show—contra Carpenter, Sullivan, Blumenthal, Tanenhaus, Krugman, and many more—that today’s conservative is in fact conservative. She hasn’t betrayed the traditions of Burke, Disraeli, Hayek, Oakeshott, Buckley, and Reagan: she has fulfilled them.”

Baffled

Written by: Matt Seyer

The theory of evolution is not a legitimate scientific theory.  9/11 widows are harpies who enjoyed their husbands’ deaths.  The Jewish religion is deficient and is in need of the perfecting grace of Christianity to make it whole.  Women should not have the right to vote, because they don’t vote in the country’s best interests.  Excess radiation acts as a cancer vaccine.  All terrorists are Muslim, and we should invade Islamic countries, kill their leaders, and convert the populace to Christianity.

It’s rare when so many bizarre and abhorrent views are held by one person.  But such persons exist, and Ann Coulter is one of them, and she’s pretty proud of that fact.  She’ll be at Truman tonight, and she’s being sponsored by the College Republicans (CRs).

I’m not mad.  I’m not going to go protest the event.  I’m sure Ms. Coulter won’t be speaking about any of the above views in her talk (though the Q&A is wide open to such topics).

More than anything, I’m confused.

I know a few of the CRs.  We’re not bosom buds, but we’re respectful to each other, friendly even.  For the most part, they’re kind and intelligent people.  They recognize the fringes of both the right and the left, and they detest and/or dismiss such extreme points of view.  Last semester, they brought another speaker, S.E. Cupp, who, though I disagreed with her on almost everything, was not…well…a nut.  She said her bit, fielded questions, and fairly accurately represented modern-day conservatism.

Ms. Coulter is an entirely different story.  Sure, she holds all of the usual views: gays and lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to marry; climate change is a farce, etc.  That’s not what bothers me about her.  It isn’t what has me confused.  What bothers me about Ann Coulter is that she embodies the worst kind of attitude imaginable: she’s mean and she loves it.  What confuses me is the notion that anyone would want that attitude and those fringe and often cruel views to come to Truman and to represent their organization and their ideology to campus.  It eludes me that the CRs whom I know would want to put this woman up in front of everyone and say, “When you think of a Republican, when you think of a conservative, think of her.”  I genuinely don’t get it.

When the College Democrats held our Exec retreat, we deliberated on the best speaker to bring to Truman.  We had a long list that included many popular and less well-known names.  One of the potential speakers was Bill Maher.  Lofty, I know; he’s not cheap.  It wasn’t very likely that we would bring him.  But I very loudly (too loudly) protested, going so far as to say that if we actually decided to bring him then I would actively fight against the decision and do everything I could to keep him from coming (ask someone who was there…I made an ass of myself).  Why?

Because Bill Maher is a prick.

I don’t care that Maher probably agrees with me on almost everything in terms of my ideology.  If we’re going to bring someone to represent our organization and our viewpoints to campus, we damn well better bring someone who is honest, fair, and respectful.  I don’t want mean people.  I don’t want to bring people who take pleasure in making fun of others, who value mockery and ridicule above careful discussion and serious inquiry, who find it more productive to be stubborn and insincere when dealing with those who disagree with them, who think the truth is something to be treated casually.

But maybe that’s just me (actually, it WAS just me at the retreat).

For me, bringing a speaker isn’t about having someone shout my views to campus.  It’s about showing my peers that there are decent and fair people out there who share my views and the views of the College Democrats.  It’s about starting a conversation.  It’s about opening new areas of discussion with those with whom I disagree.

I somehow doubt that Ms. Coulter will accomplish any of these things.

Ann Coulter isn’t a Republican.  She isn’t a conservative.  She isn’t to the right of the extreme right.  She’s just mean, and she enjoys it and uses it to sell books.  I have no idea what happened to her in her life to make her so spiteful, but whatever it was, I feel very sorry for her.  It baffles me that the College Republicans want to implicitly or explicitly tell Truman,

“This here, this is a Republican.”

Case Closed: Same-Sex Marriage and Proposition 8

Written by: Matt Seyer

If you don’t already regularly listen to Bill Moyers, you should.  The range of topics and the variety of people with whom he converses is staggering.  Moyers is pretty clearly liberal, but he makes a point of being fair and honest with his interviewees.

In this particular interview, Moyers sits down with lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson.  You may or may not remember that these were the lawyers arguing against each other in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case which secured the 2000 election for President Bush.  They are on complete opposite ends of the political spectrum but have somehow found a way to come together on an unlikely topic of agreement: same-sex marriage.  Boies and Olson are currently working in concert to overturn Proposition 8, a ballot initiative which banned same-sex marriage in California in 2008.  They discuss their case as it stood back in February 2010 (the time of the interview).  In the process, they make an incredibly compelling argument for marriage equality for gays and lesbians; an argument that essentially amounts to knocking down any and all objections to marriage equality from the ridiculous to the very ridiculous.  The strength of the argument derives from its lack of partisan affiliation and from its constitutionality; it’s something we should all be able to get behind.

I was going to write a longer, more substantive piece on the case for same-sex marriage, but then these guys decided to do me a favor and do a video on the subject.  I can’t think of a more fitting conclusion my quasi-series on same-sex marriage.  Enjoy!

http://billmoyers.com/content/olson-and-boies-on-same-sex-marriage/

Some Perspective On Conservatives and Liberals

Written by: Matt Seyer

I get an instant headache whenever President Obama makes yet another attempt to appeal to Americans’ sense of unity and common purpose.  His strategy of bipartisanship and compromise has been around nearly since day one, and in my opinion it hasn’t served him that well.  In fact, Congressional Republicans have used this strategy against him on numerous occasions in order to engineer policies that give the appearance of universal benefits, but that in reality are largely keeping the status quo.  This process has repeated itself so many times over the years that we’ve lost sight of what ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ really mean.  Nowadays, ‘conservatives’ are anyone who stubbornly refuses to cede any ground whatsoever in policy negotiations and strictly adheres to worn-out standards and ideals.  ‘Liberals’ are anyone who eagerly sprints to the center in order to cooperate and to get something done, even at the expense of their principles, and are constantly unsatisfied with any leader they manage to put in power.

I think this picture of conservatives and liberals is somewhat accurate (at least on the popular stage).  However, I also think that it’s time for some self-evaluation.  Oddly enough, I’m going to make the same kind of appeal that the President has been making since day one.  We should learn more about each other and we should be willing to hear about our own flaws.  Real self-awareness is an incredibly valuable thing; tolerance even moreso.  Going into the 2012 elections, I think it’s time for a good hard look in the mirror.  The following are videos, podcasts, and articles on conservatives and liberals: their similarities, their differences, their common goals, and their disparate foundations.

“When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable?”

“Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president.”

“When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?”

“I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John ­McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. But as I contemplate my party and my movement in 2011, I see things I simply cannot support.”

“Reality Bites”

“Emanuel is a proud, lifelong Republican. Or at least, he was until recently, when he voted for Barack Obama, the first time he’s ever backed a Democrat. In 2008, Emanuel says, he was a “single issue” voter concerned about science and climate change. “I don’t like it when ideology trumps reason, and I see that the Republicans are guilty of that in spades at the moment,” he says.”

“How do Conservatives and Liberals See the World?”

‘Our country is more politically polarized than ever. Is it possible to agree to disagree and still move on to solve our massive problems?  Or are the blind leading the blind — over the cliff?..Bill and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries…“When it gets so that your opponents are not just people you disagree with, but… the mental state in which I am fighting for good, and you are fighting for evil, it’s very difficult to compromise,” Haidt tells Moyers. “Compromise becomes a dirty word.”’

“The Great Ideological Asymmetry Debate”

‘In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Chris Mooney brought back a popular guest from last year, Yale’s Dan Kahan, to discuss this very question-one that they’ve been emailing about pretty much continually ever since Kahan appeared on the show.  In the episode, Kahan and Mooney not only review but debate the evidence on whether “motivated” ideological biases are the same on both sides of the political aisle—or alternatively, whether they’re actually “asymmetrical.”’

“I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay”

[This essay, the last of the ones I’m providing, has a disquieting title.  However, I promise you that it attacks no specific religion and no specific ideology.  Indeed, it probably seems very out of place in a ‘Conservatives and Liberals’ post.  But it is absolutely worth the read, and its applications to the political climate of today are highly useful.  It is a resounding call for tolerance, acceptance, and respect.  Its message lacks an easy partisan brand.  It’s a message we all need to be reminded of every once and a while.]

“Almost every person of nearly every religion has no problem loathing and condemning the Westboro Baptist Church and its members, and perhaps with reason. They take freedom of speech far beyond what our founding fathers intended when they fought to give us that right, and they laugh at the rest of the world while they do…But today I don’t want to talk about those idiots. I want to talk about you. And me.”