Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Deconstructing the Social Conservative Vote

In response to Taleena's comment to an earlier post, let me deconstruct the "social conservative" vote.

"Social Conservatives" = "Political Christians."

There. Having in one fell swoop decrypted 50% of current political newspeak, let me expand my remarks:

Catholics = Traditional blue-collar lunchbox Democrats. The Democrats ran working class Catholics off the reservation in 1973 with their embrace of Roe v. Wade to the exclusion of all else. Non-pro-abortion candidates were barred from speaking at national conventions and from having any voice in platform committees. Made the jump to Republican identity with Reagan's 1980 campaign. Still feel more comfortable with the Dems social emphasis. Would bolt in a New York minute for a pro-life Democratic candidate.

African-American Christians (AME and others) = Since 1964 Democratic. Their shift from the Republican Party is the second greatest political blunder in modern US history. When the Party of Lincoln® stood by during the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, even the Democrats freezing black delegates out their 1964 National Convention couldn't stop the tide. Except for a few free-thinkers, this block is has linked cultural, church and political identification together in a way only dreamed of by Jerry Falwell at the height of his mid-1980s power.

This block has stood by the Democrats through 30 years of neglect and abuse and I see no sea change coming. The continued trashing of conservative blacks such as Thomas, Rice, and Steele shows how diligently the A-A community polices itself to repress aberrant voices. However, the rise of A-A leaders such as Barak Obama may indicate a new insistence that the Democrats respond to a wider spectrum of A-A concerns rather than the hustlings of a few poverty pimps. (Al Sharpton, call your office!) While the RNC has continued to reach out to black groups such as the NAACP, expect few black Christian voices to speak out for Republican candidates in 2008.

Evangelical Christians = Solidly Republican. (Who everybody thinks about when you say "social conservative") The greatest political blunder in modern US history was when Democrats, drunk with political power of Watergate, were goaded by their most left-wing elements to demonize Evangelical Christians. For most of my lifetime, most Evangelicals had an other-worldly focus, tending to ignore political involvement (seeing it akin to re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic). But the leftward swing of the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and 1970s radicalized some evangelical leaders.

Their political concerns reviled by the DNC, shut out from main-stream media, Evangelicals had formed a parallel cultural, social, and educational structure. Many Evangelicals, untutored in either Theology or Political Science, were easily directed by para-church leaders to the Republicans. Evangelicals saw the world (and hence the political process) as an arena with good guys and bad guys. People who went to church tended to be good guys. People who said you were an ignorant, snake-handling, redneck for going to church tended to be bad guys. And the more Evangelicals swung rightward, the more the Democrats demonized them. It was a self-reinforcing feedback.

Evangelicals have been Republican's most stalwart base, sticking with the party even when they were marginalized. Since 1984 every Republican presidential candidate has had to have a "born again" story to include in their stump speech. GWB quite frankly has a stem-winder.

Wither "Social Conservatives?" What will 2006 and 2008 bring? I think that rank-and-file social conservatives will vote for a McCain or a Guliani, if they feel that they have a conservative Supreme Court to guard the legacy of their gains of the last 20 years.

Will Democrats be able to tell a convincing narrative to Evangelicals? Perhaps. Gov. Mark R. Warner of Virginia might be able to do so. But to do so he will have to Square the Circle and Untie the Gordian's Knot, both of which I will detail in a later post...

Blasphemy in Narnia

Todd, over at Life on a Pacific Island, has a posting about C.S. Lewis's reservations about live-action versions of the Narnia chronicles. Todd says, essentially that if only Lewis could have seen Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, he would have rested easily.

Here is the relevant passage:
...I am absolutely opposed – adamant isn’t in it! – to a TV version. Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare. At least, with photography. Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) wld. be another matter. A human, pantomime, Aslan wld. be to me blasphemy.
I think what Lewis is objecting to is the grotesquery of portraying the godhead in pantomime. I feel rather certain that Lewis would never object to the convention of of the masque, or to the portayal of the godhead in passion plays. It is the pantomime that raises his ire.

However, Lewis seems to feel that animation would be an acceptable. And how is Aslan portrayed in the upcoming movie? Digital animation.

I think that Lewis was very close to correct when he uses the phrase "buffoonery or nightmare." I have seen the trailers and, while I saw no buffoonery, the moment when the wolf turns to the camera and speaks is going to be nightmare fodder for many children.

Of course, years from now, small children will see this movie and smile to themselves at the simplicity of the animation, wondering how mother and father could have been at all upset. But the first generation of children seeing this movie in theaters are going to be profoundly impressed by this telling of Narnia.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Happy Birthday, WFB

I love stories about the behind-the-scenes activities that make up a great political campaign. I have an odd sort of soft spot in my heart for the 1964 Republican party who, in nominating Barry Goldwater on the first ballot, showed the world that they would rather be right than be successful. That's why I enjoyed the following anecdote about a wonderfully hare-brained scheme cooked up by William F. Buckly:
William A. Rusher
Connoisseurs of conservative intrigue are largely unaware of a remarkable idea that occurred to Bill Buckley in or about the late spring of 1964. Barry Goldwater was well on his way to amassing the number of delegates that would (and eventually did) assure his nomination for president on the first ballot at the Republican convention in San Francisco in July. But thereafter he would have to face President Lyndon Johnson in the general election in November, and not even Barry’s warmest admirers were very optimistic about his chances of beating the formidable Texan, who had succeeded the martyred John Kennedy just a year earlier.

It was at this point that the ever-inventive Br’er Buckley hit upon an idea that would, to put it mildly, have transformed the campaign: Nominate Dwight Eisenhower as Goldwater’s vice-presidential running mate! No one was eager to be the person to ask Ike (who at this point was three and a half years into his retirement in Gettysburg, PA) for his consent. But Bill, consumed with enthusiasm for the idea, was willing to let that problem slide while amassing support. He consulted constitutional lawyers, who assured him the Constitution didn’t bar the nomination. (The Constitution would prohibit Eisenhower from running again for president, but not for vice president.) And I believe he managed to enlist Admiral Lewis Strauss, one of Washington’s wise men, in the cause.

But that was about as far as the idea got. The scheme turned out to be one of those in which Bill’s awesome ingenuity simply overpowered his political practicality. But what a race it would have been: Goldwater & Eisenhower versus Johnson & Humphrey!

William Rusher served as publisher of NR from 1957 to 1988.

The link above points to many fond stories about Bill Buckley on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

If I can add my own story. (And why not? This is my blog!) I was a young man, raised in a warm, wonderful family of FDR Democrats. I was taught to properly despise Republicans as the party of the rich. But two things happened:
  • First, I got a job and saw what the effect of government spending meant to my working-lad's paycheck.
  • Second, I discovered Firing Line and weekly saw the zest, brio, and bonhommie that characterized Buckleyism.
I was heartbroken when Firing Line went off the air, and I have found no replacement with the wit, depth, and plain good manners of it. Today's conservative media folk tend to be too poplulist and too ready to descend to the pit. This method has its rough attractions, but it at best provides new facts to buttress already-held positions, not incisive analysis and persuasion to re-align the viewpoint.

So here's to you, Mr. Buckley! I wish you many happy returns!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Republicans should Worry?


WHY THE REPUBLICANS SHOULD BE WORRIED, and the Democrats should be seizing opportunities: Driving in to work this morning, I heard this guy talking on the Hallerin Hill show, and he noted that he votes for the Republicans because of their stance on money and taxes, but that he agrees with the Democrats on a lot of other issues. If the Democrats would just lose their hostility to the idea of people getting rich, he said, they'd have his votes and millions of others.

I think that's probably right -- and I'd guess that Gene Sperling does too. That's why, as I suggested in my column yesterday, it's important that the pro-growth Democrats get a hearing. And while Republicans might prefer that they lose out, the truth is that sooner or later the Dems will be back in, and we'd rather see them sensible on economic matters when they are.

Of course, there's still the whole national-security issue, which for me is more of a dealbreaker than the economics. But I'd like to see more sense on that front, as well. Karl Rove may prefer the Democrats to chase the Democratic Underground vote and marginalize themselves, but I think the country would be better off if they moved in the other direction.

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