July 29, 2004

what it was

My last blog post discussing leadership clearly missed the mark with most of the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon readers, so let me take a moment to discuss leadership and where I see that it is lacking.

Over the course of my life, the United States has faced a number of pressing challenges. An arguable list, presented in no particular order, of the most pressing would include: Poverty, Healthcare, Education, the Federal Debt, Terrorism and of course, the Cold War. That is one down, with five to go, which is pretty pathetic when we have heard so much about these problems from our leaders for the last four decades.

I do not mean to suggest in any way that there are available magical fixes because clearly, each of these items are substantial. What is amazing is that with all of the talk, very little has changed with regard to these five pressing issues. Stop and reflect if you will on the rhetoric you have heard-there has been a lot of it. Yet year after year, nothing changes and for the most part, exclusive of some short term Clinton era progress on the Federal Debt, things are pretty much unchanged from where we were thirty years ago.

But of course there is that sixth item: the Cold War.

While often we credit Reagan with winning the Cold War, I think that is somewhat misplaced. Reagan’s focus on this issue and his moving speeches make this a natural thing to attribute to him. I think if one is honest, however, credit is much more diffuse and belongs to the entire march of the Federal government from Truman down to Reagan including the Congress and bureaucrats who supported them. Our leaders were constant in recognizing the threat of communism and while specific policies along the way may have been misconceived, the big idea still held our focus.

The truth is that fighting the Cold War is the only thing I can think of in my lifetime that has been largely outside the realm of politics. I am not conveniently forgetting McCarthyism, Vietnam or any of the other splinter controversies that arose which clearly had political dimensions either. I’m making the point that the big idea, that Communism was dangerous to freedom and must be countered, was something with which few Americans disagreed.

Many people now argue, and to some extent I agree, that the failure of the Soviet block was more a matter of inevitability than of the West’s resolute stance. I think that is an interesting discussion, but not the one I’m seeking at the moment. My interest is rather in the singular focus we had as a nation on the Cold War and the question I ask is why can’t we have that focus on the other five issues of our time? Or at least one or two of those issues?

The truth is that we now have a fundamentally different and more self interested political elite that only cares about the issues as political tools. There has always been politics and back room deals in America and I certainly don’t mean to paint a pristine picture of our past. But it is true that in the past our leaders did often actually arise to challenges that confronted us in meaningful non-partisan ways.

But this is not our America today.

I was a political junkie much of my life. I remember the day it started clearly. I was young and Nixon was on TV resigning as President. I was too young to understand, but knew that my Parents were big Nixon supporters and that it was all a big deal. I actually watched much of the Watergate hearings even though it was way beyond my ability to understand-clearly I was a strange kid. And I did not miss much until about 1995.

By 1995 I had been watching the political back and forth for over twenty years. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the Clinton era budget wars. I cast my vote for the GOP for many years largely because of my perception of the GOP as being the fiscal conservatives. Guess what? Nothing changed! It left me wondering what had I been watching all of these years if it was not meaningful policy discussion?

Finally this bumpkin got it: What it was, was political football.

Football is exactly the right description too. The object is to win points by scoring on your opponent. The best way to score, is beat the opponent into submission. Nothing matters but that your team wins and even a little stickum and steroids doesn’t bother the fans that much if it is to their team’s advantage. Now I really enjoy seeing this played out on a real gridiron, but not in policy debate.

What we need is someone who can rise above all of this political noise and get to the business of solving problems. But this will never happen from the two major parties because the object for them is to win the game. Solving problems will inevitably involve compromise on the part of most Americans and it will take real leadership to both arrive at and sell compromise.

So I ask the ether, who we should turn to? I ask this important question seriously because I do not see that person anywhere I turn.

Ultimately, responsibility for all of this falls on We The People. We elect these vermin. Place the blame on us. All too often as individuals we fall into the trap of blaming the other political party, but my Grandma had it right those many years ago: “Its them Fat Cats”.

Given the track record of the past forty years, if you vote for a Democrat or a Republican, I simply think expecting substantial change is at the very least unreasonable. And I would suggest that perhaps if you are content to cast a vote for one of these two options, perhaps a part of the problem is you.

I am not suggesting that by not voting that this Curmudgeon is somehow not a part of the problem either. Many of you have pointed this out to me through private email and the blog. So please know that I harbor substantial guilt over the matter and hence my obsession with the subject of where to turn in this time of crisis. I may not know what the answer is, but I know at least two items on this multiple choice quiz which are no answer at all.


Blogger David R said...

Well, as depressing as it is to admit, there's not much I would disagree with in this blog. I don't think not voting is the answer, however I certainly understand your reluctance when always faced with a "lesser of two evils" choice.

I think the most important point you make is that, ultimately, We the People are responsible for the complete failure of our political system to offer up any decent choices. My experience has been that the leadership types we desperately need show up occasionally very early in the process, and they are very quickly weeded out.

I believe that we truly do get the government we deserve. The American public, to the extent that they participate in democracy at all (which is an embarrassingly low percentage), are so lazy as to not be able to digest anything more than sound-bite politics, so self-absorbed that they base their decisions mostly on rank self-interest, and so intellectually challenged that they cannot remember what was told to them longer than two months ago.

I don't particularly blame the politicians for this state of affairs. Their primary job is, after all, to get elected. If they don't get elected, what difference does it make what they believe? And can anyone, by definition, be considered to have great leadership qualities if they can't win an election? The politicians are, by and large, playing by the rules that the American people have set for them.

When I look at polls that purport to measure what the American people are really thinking, that's when I get really depressed. I'm sure you can think of many examples. How many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11? Just to name one chilling, bone-crushingly depressing example.

Which comes first, a great leader, or a public with enough sense to recognize and elect one that comes along? It's an interesting question. I personally think that nothing will change, and we will not get the kind of leadership we need in government, until the American people are ready to accept it and, frankly, give enough of a damn to pay attention to what's out there. Sadly, I think it's going to take more tragedy and misery on a level that will make 9/11 look like a picnic before that happens. And then it may well be too late, if it isn't already. I sure hope I'm wrong.

Many people listen to Vote For Me (thanks for the reference!), and think it is a song that ridicules the politicians. In fact, I think I can state with a fair degree of certainty that the intent of the song is to ridicule the American public that so completely fails at the basic democratic task of choosing its leaders wisely. I guess that pretty much sums up where I think the real problem lies.


5:57 PM  
Blogger Brackenator said...

A cure for the things mentioned would be a great accomplishment like curing cancer, diabetes, AIDS, or any number of plagues.

Whereas the Cold War was always depicted as US against THEM, the remaining issues are more or less US against OURSELVES or the human condition. This is probably the most difficult since we not only have to do what we detest most, that is look at how we conduct business and interact on many levels.

It has been said that man's greatest ally and enemy is himself. And I will probably come out sounding like a Marxist for part of this.

We have a history that has specific classes for specific functions, whether you are from Europe, Asia, the sub-continent of India, Africa, there is a division of society. There are those that rule, those that are in the military, those that plan, and those that work. In other words we all come from a society that has differences or what we traditionally call castes. You can argue that is easier than ever to change castes these days, but that is not the point of this response.

I will address three things that our Curmudgeon has brought up: Poverty, Healthcare, and Education. Three things that we can possibly take care of the easiest at home. But there is a problem. Remember earlier I addressed that man can be his greatest ally and enemy. As we look closer at those three problems we should be able to spread prosperity easing poverty, as poverty eases the availability of healthcare and education should take care of themselves. In an egalitarian society that would be the case.

In our society we tend to group ourselves in cliques of haves and have-nots. I have money, I have education, I have influence, etc. The have nots feel oppressed by the haves, even though the haves may not be doing any oppression. The fact is the "Status Quo" that society has manufactured would have to change to allow the solving of Poverty.

Next let us look at healthcare. It should be available to all at a reasonable price, yet if we nationalize it, it turns into a nightmare of bureaucracy. If you take the a small example of London, England. The hospitals in the east and south are much worse than those in the north and west. There is more money going to where the suburbs and the rich are located. Does that sound equal? Where ever there is nationalized medicine, there WILL be inequalities. Just ask our neighbors to the north.

Now let us take a look at education, perhaps our brightest possibility. If we want the Federal Government to take care of it and make it more equal, then the Federal Government would like to establish parameters of a return on investment, or in other words greater control. Because the history of this country is that public educations were a right of the state and local governments, we would be ceding control to the Feds. Depending on where you reside that may be a good or bad thing. I do not mean to drift off topic.

Let us take the example of the Philippines. They have guaranteed education from primary formation through career or college. They have a large educated population as well as one of the largest unemployment rates in Micronesia and the South Pacific. The problem there is the lack of employers. That is not to say if we had as large an educated populace per capita that we would share that problem.

I guess my point is back to the same as our blog host. If we want to combat something, then we have to attack it with the same vigor as we combated the Cold War. Maybe we should pick one as our primary focus for domestic and one for foreign policy. With the rhetoric that you hear from the beltway boys, and ALL, I do mean ALL, of those running for national office do not represent a change in one way or the other. The bourgeoisie are still in charge oppressing the proletariat. That status quo.

An election should not come down to a lesser of evils. It should inspire us to rise to the ideals we admire and pick a candidate for whatever office that exemplifies them or makes progress towards them.

I do not have a solution for the status quo. Do you?

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the problem is the two party system and I have a solution. We need to round up all of the Republicans and shoot them. :)

I guess that won't work... just a thought.

David, I really don't have to reply to Tony any more.. you keep typing exactly what I'm thinking... very scary... next I'm going go out and get drunk and put some barrel in my car. :)

Brack... I have started to get accused of that Marxist thing alot lately. In fact, I just ordered Das Kapital... I need to find out if they are right. :) btw... national/federal public education YES, universal healthcare YES (some hybrid between government/private sector that hasn't been invented yet... but will for sure eliminate $million dollar ceo salaries from the delivery system).

In the end, the real problem is US... not US as in the citizens... US as in Tony, David, Brack and Dorf. I've seen us... it's US. :)

btw... make sure you guys read my Dr Phil letter to the terrorist at the end of the previous blog. :)

David... if you need ANY of the Bush bashing books, just let me know. I have all of them. :) That started to bore me (although I enjoyed it for several months)... now I'm on to Cuomo's book "Why Lincoln Matters" and a book called "The Right Nation".

Dorf / Common Good

11:25 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

DavidR, Dorf and the Curmudgeon having a lot of agreement. Should we alert the presses? This is kind of like the Beetles getting back together or something.

I have a question because at least three of the posters, DavidR, Dorf, and JG have questioned my not voting as being the right thing to do, but I don't see an option for me. I don't feel I can cast a vote for a Democratic candidate because of the Abortion issue which I feel very strongly about. I can't vote for the GOP primarily because of their hostility to civil liberties and our Constitution. The Libertarians don't work for me even as a protest vote now because of their self-destructive preachiness and lack of dignity.

I have a lot of sympathy with the position that Kerry will be far superior to Shrub. DavidR had won me over on that for a time. But the more I reflected on Abortion and the fact that both parties favor judges that are result oriented on this issue, I finally came to the point that I just can not endorse a candidate that will contribute to sustaining our present abortion policy.

Help me out here, what is a boy to do? I am down to the point where it pretty much seems like to find an acceptable candidate, I will have to run myself. It isn't that I am unwilling per se, but I don't think I have the energy, time or money to mount what could only be a token campaign in a single state. It is all well and good to say get out there and make a difference, but I am still struggling with how.

Brackenator said it well: "An election should not come down to a lesser of evils. It should inspire us to rise to the ideals we admire and pick a candidate for whatever office that exemplifies them or makes progress towards them."

That is the essence of what I am trying to say.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


As I suggested yesterday, we really need to start adding another choice on every ballot... it would say something like "None of the above"... or "All of these choices are found wanting" or "I would rather vote for Ronald McDonald" or ..... At least then everyone COULD go vote their conscience. Anytime "None of the above" got more than 50% of the vote, we would have a do-over... like California only more preemptively. I don't think the founders had any clue what we would be left to work with 217 years later.... maybe it's time for NEW RULES... as Bill Mahre says. :) Let me try a few.


1) the ballot box idea above
2) term limits... what the heck are we waiting for... two of the Senators at the Dem convention have been in the Senate for over 40 years... that's just not right.
3) you have to vote in order to be able to have kids... kind of a Darwin thing. Note: we added option #1 above for your voting conscience.
4) Nobody from Texas can ever hold national office again. I'm ok with sunsetting this... say 60 years... I want to be long gone before that can happen again.
5) Anyone newly elected to Washington has to pass a test. If we can hold kids and teachers ACCOUNTABLE... then it is reasonable that no Congress critters or Presidents are dumbasses.
6) A new law will make it illegal to hold public office if you have worked with pesticides earlier in your life. #4 will cover most of this, but hey, I'm from Oklahoma and you never know... we sent Inhoffe to the Senate remember.
7) All elected types are given a quota of "golden oldies". For example, any GOP member will only be able to say "Smaller government" and "it's the people's money" say 1,000,000 times. Once that threshold is reached... you start running into fines and electric shock. On the Dem side an example would be any sentence with the words "common good". :)
8) The California do-over will be perfected and applied to Washington. We have proved we are very capable of dumb choices... we need an out.
9) We need to make it easier for actors to get elected. It is becoming apparent that we are all toast no matter what we do or who we elect.. so we may as well enjoy the acting coming out of Washington in the mean time.
10) Shoot all Republicans.... Oops... sorry... that keeps coming up doesn't it.
11) No Senator has access to medical care until everyone is covered in the US. With all of their geezure issues, we should have 100% medical coverage within a couple of months.
12) Anyone who claims God is talking through them will be required to prove it. Any small miracle will do. Our current president says God is talking through him... I had no idea God was so bad with the English language.
13) I think we need a 4th branch of government. It would be called Research and Development or something. It would be devoted to these NEW RULES I'm talking about. Sure.. it will be a bit tricky with that Checks and Balance thing... but think of the fun.

I know I have missed many good NEW RULES... add yours.


9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's another good NEW RULE, just to let you know and can be just as Fair and Balanced as Foxs News.

If you are a presidential candidate who claims to be for the "average" guy and you have more than... say 2 homes... then it will be a new rule that you have to give 1 of your homes to an actual "average" guy when elected. Think about it... it could be a real hoot. Maybe call it the Downtrodden Lottery or something.


10:23 AM  
Blogger David R said...

Oh curmudgeon, you know me so well. Why, why do I always rise to this bait? I can almost hear your snickers as you wrote your last post. "...DavidR won't be able to stay away from this one...hehe..." Do you have a side bet with someone on how long it will take me to respond? Is this some kind of sick game with you? :-) I really begin to think I need professional help in order to let go of this obsession I have with helping you to see the light. :-)

Seriously, though, I'm sure you are aware that single-issue politics is a major contributing factor to the dumbing down of political discourse in this country. The Republicans count on people who think just as you apparently do. I don't mean people who agree with you on the abortion issue, I mean people who make that single issue a litmus test.

So, my advice is to vote Republican. In fact, vote far right-wing religious Republican, if you can. Every chance you get. Then the abortion issue will be addressed to your liking. Personally I don't see this as even being in the top 5 major crises that require immediate action by our leadership, but if that's what does it for you then by all means re-elect Bush and Tom DeLay too while your at it.

However, you indicate that it is not that simple in your case. You also say you will not vote for the Republican candidate out of concerns for civil liberties and the Constitution. So there are apparently a couple of more issues that are disqualifiers for you besides abortion. Having been through this so many times before, did you perhaps anticipate my "single-issue politics" litany?

Your evident concern for civil liberties as well as abortion (a set of beliefs that, held together, serve to prove the true genious of your intellect, by the way) does not deflect my charge of single-issue politics. If each of these things: abortion, civil liberties, preserving the Constitution, becomes a disqualifier in and of themselves, then that is still single issue politics.

If you would refuse to vote for anyone who didn't agree with you on issue A, then it doesn't make you any less single-issue oriented just because you also wouldn't vote for someone who doesn't agree with you on B, or C, or D.

What you are really guilty of in this case, is serial single-issue politics, which is perhaps even worse. In serial fashion, you mow down candidates and government programs one after another, as each fails one of your many disqualification tests.

As I have long noted, there will never be a candidate or a goverment program that will satisfy your many requirements. So pretty much all candidates, all parties, and all government efforts to alleviate social problems fail some disqualifying litmus test of yours. You say you don't seek perfection, but you do seek something far closer to it than humanity, or policitians, are typically able to provide. It has ever been thus in our discussions.

Life, and political candidates, unfortunately, cannot pass such a gauntlet of tests. You have disenfranchised yourself ever since you finally wised up and figured out that nobody was offering your brand of perfection. Not even close. Well, join the club.

You know, I agree with all the stuff about we shouldn't have to choose between the lesser of two evils. It would be a wonderful world if we didn't have to do that. But you know what? I'm 42 years old and I have rarely encountered any major choices in life that haven't been exactly that. My idea of perfection is apparently way "out of the mainstream", since public life has rarely offered me any choices that I considered inspiring.

Notice I say "public" life. For inspiration, I look inside myself. When operating in the public or political life, I choose the lesser of two evils. It seems to me that is just the normal way of things, a constant struggle to try and do the best thing amongst a series of unpalatable choices.

I understand your distaste for the choices presented to us. Your duty as a citizen has nothing to do with liking it or being satisfied with it, and simply casting a vote does not indicate that you are satisfied with the choices.

Your duty as a citizen in a democracy is to make the best choice from what's available. It's politics, man, it involves compromise and usually giving up on most of exactly what you want in order to achieve some of it. I will respect your right to opt out if you choose, but I will never endorse it or respect that decision.

Bottom line, if you decide to perform your duty and vote, then you need to write down all the issues you care about. Come up with some kind of point system to rank them according to how important they are to you. Then for each issue mark the candidate whom you think will best advance your cause on each issue. If neither candidate addresses the issue, then give no points. Add up the points for each candidate, throw in a little gut instinct, and there you go. You will have to swallow the fact that you will have points left on the board that neither candidate can win. Maybe more than half of the points. You will have to accept a less than inspiring choice. Most times you will have to accept a "lesser of two evils".

That's the way it is. That's life. Imperfect and complicated and frustrating. Deal with it. Your duty as a citizen is to choose. If you decide to opt out of that duty, that is the most ineffectual, unrealistic, and unhelpful choice of all.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

OK. I confess. I was baiting you (DavidR) a bit. Your response, as expected, cuts to the heart of the matter.

I am not comfortable being a serial single issue non-voter (serial single issue voter was brilliance, I have to admit). Here is where I am at right now. If you threw out Abortion as an issue, and I did the issue weighting analysis that you describe, the scale would tip slightly to Kerry. Libertarians would come in second and the GOP a distant third.

The problem is, I can’t throw out Abortion. I’ve tried to isolate that in my mind intellectually, but keep failing because the moral question is such an important one to me. So much so that I have been tempted to vote for Shrub on that narrow issue alone. Anyone who knows me must realize the cognitive dissonance this causes. These are core being types of issues for me and I can’t compartmentalize them and pretend they don’t matter because of issues of pragmatic politics or even mootness.

Note as important as fiscal conservatism was to me when I was younger, that isn’t even affecting my balance scale because civil liberties and abortion are so much larger than the day to day practical politics. As I attempt to pick the lesser of the evils, I have trouble weighing out evil in a quantitative fashion. These two items, civil liberties and abortion (which are closely related) are HUGE for me. I’m not sure I can just simply weigh them because I have tried.

All of this is merely complicated by the fact that I don’t believe that either of the major parties or their favorite sons give a hoot about their respective platforms or nominal constituencies.

OK, I am properly chastised. And I don’t even completely disagree with the chastisement. Maybe I should return to my Libertarian Party protest vote? I can cast that vote in spite of them being pro-abortion because I know they have no chance of winning in the our current social and political climate. I just wish there was a protest vote that more fit my actual beliefs. Simply voting against the status quo is at best only marginally better than choosing between two evils if somehow I could manage to make that latter choice.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Now I understand, try as I might, how I don't seem able to rile Tony up with some of my emails. He has been reading yours... and in comparison, I am tame indeed. :)

I should go retract my attempt at humor... this is a "serious" blog/message board. :)

I should probably sit back and let you and Tony continue, but I did have a couple of comments.

First, to your Single issue litmus test. I think in general, I agree with your explanation that if we all hold out for perfection, nobody would ever vote. But for me, that is not the same thing as saying "I will strive to have NO single issues" that are litmus tests for me. The abortion issue is a deal breaker. It's not the same thing as talking about tax policy... the consequences for one side of the issue is more dangerous backroom medical procedures for our wives, sisters, etc, and for the other side it is murder. It's a deal breaker for both sides. I even agree with you that I rate many other issues much higher... keeping a city from getting nuked for example..., but it still results in a litmus test for me.

Now let me make an attempt to explain Tony. I have been analyzing that complex human being for some time. :) Tony speaks in terms of "absolute truth" about everything... personal salvation straight through politics. We go round and round ... with him calling me a relativist, a utilitarian without values, etc. and me calling him rude and nuts. As you can see, his vocabulary is much broader than mine. I would challenge Tony with "how can a Christian apply their understanding of Absolute Truth" to a secular democracy, and ever be satisfied unless it leans theocracy. Christians see the world as falling apart if church rates go down, and those of us with other beliefs systems don't even see that on the radar. We use other measurements for the state of the world... social justice, human compassion for each other, foreign relations (i.e. worldly stuff as opposed to supernatural stuff). Let me say this a bit differently... wouldn't an ideal president for one who believes in Christian absolute truth be a Christian theologian that leaned as far towards theocracy as possible ... without actually using the bible as law. And the opposite of that... the ideal candidate for me would be a president that kept his religion private (or at least didn't feel a need to include it in every speech), and served a secular society equally regardless of religious beliefs.

In short... we are a split society... those who want to lobby for an Absolute Truth in their democracy, and those who prefer a more secular path. It's kind of hard to seperate those differences into your point system.


12:59 PM  
Blogger David R said...

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world, and those who don't :-)

Nice post, Dorf. You correctly point out that my point system voting method is an oversimplification of the decision-making process. Even if one could absolutely follow this method, the Curmudgeon would still end up in the same quandary, giving 1000 points on abortion and 995 points on civil liberties and no more than 50 points for anything else.

I also especially liked your (Dorf's) theory on what kind of presidency would be most ideal if you were of a Christian moral absolutism bent. It seems logical that an unconstitutional melding of religion and state would be the most effective way to advance Christian values. I think that would make a -very- interesting topic for a future Curmudgeon blog.

There are indeed some issues for each of us that, try as we might, are almost impossible to keep from becoming litmus tests. In my case, one would be not actually a policy issue but an intelligence test. I would find it extremely difficult to vote for anyone that strikes me as being a complete moron, regardless of how they stand on policy grounds.

Curmudgeon, here's an idea that might help. When faced with a quandary such as yours, perhaps you could try to break down your primary issues of abortion and civil liberties into smaller pieces. That way, instead of the two candidates breaking about even in our theoretical points system where Bush wins on abortion and Kerry wins on civil liberties, you might be able to discern a clear winner between the two.

I realize this may be bordering on the hated moral relativism, and I'm trying not to go there. But what are the underlying values that constitute your belief on the abortion issue? I hear many anti-abortionists repeat the mantra "Abortion is murder". Ok, if you believe that, fair enough. Does that mean that the primary value we're promoting here is that we're against murder, and abortion is just one form of murder? What about all the other forms of murder? Lying to go to war, is that murder? What about capital punishment? How about denying adequate health care to the extent that people die needlessly only because they don't have money to pay for it. Is that a form of murder? And how about, well, actual encitement to murder? Wanted dead-or-alive, bring-em-on, that sort of thing.

I think you see where I'm going with this. Since you are having such a difficult time deciding because neither candidate advances your core values, maybe you need to try defining your core values in a more specific manner.

If abortion is truly the only form of murder that matters to you, then I don't think this idea helps you much. But I don't think that's the case. For one thing I think the Republican media campaign of the last two decades has succeeded somewhat in defining abortion for you as an issue that defines murder of any kind. This is the kind of oversimplified wedge/values issue that they live by. So maybe dig a little deeper into why you are opposed to abortion, and you might indeed find that one candidate addresses, or at least seems to care about, those underlying moral issues much more so than the other.

What does pro-life really mean? Is it narrowly defined strictly as opposed to abortion, or are there other policies that are pro-life which have nothing to do with abortion? Is a candidate who opposes abortion necessarily "pro-life"? Always? Is the reverse always true?


2:05 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Good food for thought there. In our earlier correspondence, you made the very salient point that you felt Democratic policies would result in less total abortion. Broadening the discussion to talk about murder more generally tilts that scale even further. Your point is well taken indeed.

Let me add an aside on my view of abortion because it is such an emotionally charged topic. I do view it as murder, but I do not view most women getting abortions or doctors performing abortions as murders. In order to murder you have to have what is called a “guilty mind” and clearly, there is no intent in most cases to end a life. I view the situation as one in which many people are making a large error on a fact ... i.e. that a fetus is/is not a human life. I have little doubt that most people would not support abortion if they had a correct view on this particular fact. So, equating abortion with murder doesn’t exactly crisply focus things in the manner you suggest, though it is useful to me analytically.

Let me concede the point of abortion for the sake of discussion at the moment and approach the other issue: civil liberties. This one still bothers me because it was clear during the Patriot Act debates that the democrats totally abandoned their constituency on these issues at that most critical moment. Granted, I am generalizing to attribute this behavior to Kerry, but the these vermin do have a pack approach and that is part of what bothers me about partisanship. Given this background, it is hard for me to feel confident that after the almost inevitable coming “9-11 scale” terrorist event that they will not continue to cave to the public majority pressure. Still, you would be correct here to point out that the GOP will not just cave from the pressure, but rather lead the charge into a police state.

The only party out there that I have any confidence in from a civil liberties perspective is the Libertarians. Perhaps I should place my vote here on this analysis? I abandoned them on the basis that I found their policy notions were simple minded and lacking in utility (coupled with a hopelessly inept sense of marketing). But then circularity rears its ugly head because while I can concede abortion to the Democrats on the basis we discussed, I can not do that with the Looneytarians because they don’t have the positive policies that could help in a way that would lead to less abortion.

So OK, that leaves me with the Democrats and they hold a slight edge based on the possibility that they will be more civil liberty minded. At the very least, they will have the edge on rhetoric on that one and that could give me some small comfort. The question becomes then do I cast a vote for a Democrat that I think is marginally more likely to advance the issues of concern to me, or recognizing that the Democrat ticket is unlikely to produce any substantial change, go for the protest vote that at least has the potential of registering as a significant status-quo protest?

Hey, while this analysis hasn’t really moved me any particular direction at this point, but perhaps I and others have a clearer understanding of why this Curmudgeon is so flummoxed over the matter of voting.

2:55 PM  
Blogger David R said...

Curmudgeon, I truly enjoy these discussions. I have never met such a moral absolutist as yourself who is at the same time always willing to test the rationales for your beliefs and actions. Most people in this country could learn a hell of a lot from you, as I have. I say this with all sincerity, and knowing how meaningful this compliment will be to you, you are a credit to your Faith.

I'm encouraged (perhaps naively so) by the fact that in your last post you are thinking more about the question of how to vote, rather than whether to vote at all. I hope that wasn't just an oversight! Does Texas allow write-in votes for President? 'Cause, you know, I wrote a campaign song and everything.... :-)

11:10 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

From my perspective, I have always been looking for a reason to vote. I AM DYING FOR A REASON TO VOTE.

There are a lot of folks around that claim the mantle of Christianity or Moral Absolutism and do not bother to analyze what they are saying. I firmly believe this leads to a lot of the confusion that exists today. To me, testing my rationales at every turn is the only way to think and act because of all of my most heartfelt beliefs, perhaps the most important is my lack of faith in my own ability to see Truth clearly. That is to say, I don't question Truth, nor my ability to know Truth, but my ability to know Truth perfectly. And the inevitable imperfections that come from being a mere mortal should humble us all. Alas, it does not and for that my heart truly grieves.

There you go, I can write myself in. With that campaign anthem, I might shock even the pros: the Puppy Dog constituency is an ignored and untapped demographic.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was thinking about it, and part of the premise of your post is "the value of voting". Obviously it's a right, and it's the duty of a citizen in a democracy to participate by being informed and voting. That said, you and I both live in states where the presidential electoral votes are a given. Our votes will not matter as far as the outcome of the election. The elections have come down to a few swing states... and we aren't living in one of them. So if we expand your premise of "the value of voting" to the "how much value one adds to their democracy"... which seems like a much more important measurement... I would say that your Texas blogging far outweighs (or has the potential to) any presidental vote you cast in Texas. Take that a step further... if you or I go volunteer in a election campaign or engage in the education of the public or ourselves in our states... isn't that likely to offer more democracy value than our actual votes. My point is simply that if we all want to get real about the democracy thing... limiting that to voting really is bare minimum ... and not a huge contribution. I think I am a better citizen now because I'm more informed... but my participation is still limited to casting a vote and some random ranting/blogging. I would think the answer is a more informed VOTING public, which would hopefully make it harder for the elected types to play their games. You might say any citizen could be properly informed if they just made the effort, but I think I would disagree with that. We appear to have anything but a transparent goverment in Washington, and the mainstream media appears to belong to the money elite just like the government (the same money elite owns both). At some levels the individual can make progress toward being informed. For example, I heard one too many times the current outsourcing of our jobs was normal free trade... "textbook Ricardo Comparative Advantage they claimed".. How is the average voter suppose to be informed well enough to believe or reject that. Well... I read a book, watched economic debates on C-Span (Brookings rocks) and now I'm better informed when discussing Capitalism in our democracy. Better informed isn't the same as "adequately informed"... we all have busy lives (well... some of us use to have busy lives :), and there is only so much one can do on their own. I think in the end, it's going to take some kind of community GROUP interaction/education beyond message boards. Some kind of adult "informed voter boot camp" or something.... where the average voter is much more informed and much less like lemmings. Which brings up an interesting question.... should all citizens really vote? If you haven't had the time to become informed, do you do more good or harm if you vote. Obviously this is hypothetical because as I just said... most of the electoral vote is already decided. I used to call Tony the elitist when we were younger when he would ask such questions... but I have come full circle and now ask the same question. Maybe that 50% non-voting seqment of our population that everyone beats up on is actually doing a better civic duty by not casting a uniformed decision. Food for thought.

btw... David. You asked which comes first, the great leader or the great public. I say public, but I heard this comment yesterday that made me think of your question.

Something like this: Someone in Washington was making the point how bad all of the Congressmen were. Someone else said... "hey, if you think these guys are bad, you should see their constituencies". :)


8:37 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Of course uninformed voting is not an automatic win for our society. I have puzzled long over this. Based on my understanding of constitutional law, there isn't a lot we can do to put a test on eligibility to vote and I don't believe that there would be much support of a Constitutional Amendment along these line.

But, the founders recognized this problem and that is the reason for the Republican nature of our government. They recognized that the average Joe would not be up to the task of picking office holders, so they had us pick electors instead. I think we need to turn to these roots. Average Joe probably can pick someone from his community that will represent his interests. You get better informed people as the representation rolls up to a national level.

Unfortunately, the political climate is for more Democracy and less Republicanism. Very few people are willing to stand up and make this point for fear of offending the voters. Instead, we are about to start hearing the regular election year calls to make the Presidential vote on a strictly popular vote. I don't see how that helps our larger problems one bit.

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In recent years we have seemed unable to decide exactly what we want to be as a nation. We have been tempted to see ourselves as fifty seperate states or worse - 280 million disassociated individuals struggling for survival or dominance in a dog-eat-dog world - instead of seeing ourselves as members of a fully integrated society, interconnected, interdependent, growing stronger together by sharing benefits and burdens."

"That's what the nation needs -- an overarching grand concept."

"We yearn for a vision worthy of the world's greatest nation."

Mario M. Cuomo - Why Lincoln Matters Today More Than Ever

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of "bought off" media. I was watching Ridge announce the new terror alerts for New York and Washington DC. After several minutes into it, he says "we have such good information because of the leadership of this president". No reporter asked anything about that comment. Is it just me, or is it reasonable to expect my government to fulfill it's job of protecting the citizens WITHOUT A POLITICAL AD?

Common Good

10:59 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:28 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home