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Friday, July 22, 2005

A response to a newly-linked site about the Republican Party:

In his "Never Scared" HBO special (very funny and thought-provoking, and well worth the price of the DVD), Chris Rock said that joining a political party was like joining a gang. In President Washington's farewell address, he said the following:

"I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

"This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy....

"It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

"There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose; and there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

"It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those intrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.... If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield."

Snave, the host of Various Miseries, has posited the theory that the Republican Party is the greatest threat to America, not terrorists. This theory is completely flawed and ignores several basic facts, which I will be mentioning later. First, the desire and the tendency to infringe upon the rights of others and destroy lives for the furtherance of one's own career and goals isn't merely a "Republican" or "Democrat" trait. Nor is Sensenbrenner the only McCarthyist in public service. Several other members of Congress have expressed that trait, and I believe it may be simply a case of power corrupting the corruptible. The most recent to display this trait on the Democrat side in Congress is Senator Durbin.

But if you want to look for racists, the most disgusting of the lot in Congress is a very senior Democrat: Senator Byrd, a man who as recently as 2001 used the "n-word" in a public forum and once served as a recruiter for the KKK, and later claimed that he was young and didn't know that they were a racist organization or that they had problems with anyone who isn't a conservative white Protestant. Bullshit. The KKK has been around since the 1860s-1870s, and in each of its incarnations, they never exactly hid what they believed, so pleas of ignorance are laughable at best, and a thinly-veiled attempt to whitewash a fact that has rightfully destroyed the careers of several Republicans to the point that they have been expunged from the Republican Party at worst. Considering his later actions, the latter is far more believable. The site to which the link belongs has some thought-provoking material.

I've mentioned the recent Kelo vs. Weare, CT and Gonzales vs. Rauch decisions in earlier posts, and these clearly illustrate that both Democrats and Republicans are more than willing to trample on individual rights to further their own agendas. This may leave you wondering what I think about the two major political parties. I don't wholeheartedly agree with people often, but I think Chris Rock was absolutely correct to equate political parties with gangs. The only difference between political parties and gangs is that parties use words instead of guns as weapons, and when it comes to people in power, the pen can be far mightier than the sword. So if asked my opinion of the nature of the greatest threat to America, I would have to go with the increasing polarization of both of the major political parties.

I think, and have said for years, that the two-party system is irreparably flawed, and that the only way to make elections about ideas instead of who looks and sounds better on camera is the creation and/or cultivation of viable third-parties. I think some Democrats and some Republicans are good people who have the public's best interests at heart, just as I believe that others of both parties are the opposite, and that most are somewhere in between. Therefore, I am an unrepentant independent, though if I had to pick a party affiliation, I would probably be closest to the Libertarians, though by that I mean their pre-1988 form. I believe I speak for everyone when I say that I'm sick and damned tired of having to pick a candidate from two almost equally awful choices.


Christopher I said...

Probably what mitigates against a viable third party in the USA is its first "past the post" constituency system in elections.

Proportional representation, as in Germany, where representation in parliament for any party corresponds with its percentage of the popular vote, gives smaller parties a viable voice.

In the USA, eliminating the electoral college when electing a president, might be a good start in breaking the two party system.

Snave said...

In my own defense (and in the defense of my weblog), I must say that the article I posted about Sensenbrenner was written by Bill Piper of, and the one about Karl Rove was written by Paul Krugman. I wrote neither. I am definitely a left-winger, and I do like to post articles that submit interesting views from the left; but sometimes I agree with them, and sometimes I don't. While I may tend toward general agreement, there are very few with which I agree completely. I consider myself more anti-GOP than pro-Democrat, anyway.

To say "Snave, the host of Various Miseries, has posited the theory..." is to say that the opinions presented were my very own, which in fact is not true. Whether or not I agree with those opinions may or may not be true, so an absolute statement on your part, about what I might or might not posit, could demonstrate the use of argumental fallacy. Be careful! "If he posts it means he must necessarily agree with it" may not always hold water, particularly if what is posted was not originally written by me. I don't really feel the need to post disclaimers such as "the opinions stated herein may not match those of this blogger". I mostly just blog in an attempt to get people to come around and make comments.

"Snave, the host of Various Miseries, has posited the theory the theory that the Republican Party is the greatest threat to America, not terrorists. This theory is completely flawed and ignores several basic facts..." suggests that I, or my entire blog, is "completely flawed", "ignores facts" and may be without merit because of an opinion that was posted there (and not necessarily my own opinion, in these cases). This demonstrates the use of the fallacy known as "poisoning the well", in which unfavorable information (be it true or false) about person A is presented, creating the illusion that any claims person A makes will be false (or in the case of your statement re. me, "completely flawed" or ignorant of facts). There are times when what I post may be flawed and may ignore facts, but there are other times when I like to think that truth must hurt for those who disagree! 8-)

Speaking of facts, if one considers that facts, like science, can be chosen to support whatever theory a person believes or does not believe, could this make such matters relative to the approach of a person in their blog writing and comments? Could it then follow that if person A (you, in this case) disagrees with "facts" presented (which may or may not even be actual facts!) by person B (in this case, me) then person A might be tempted to poison the well as a way of getting readers to bypass their critical thinking skills to come to person A's side of the argument and dismiss person B's argument out of hand. I do like to believe in most cases, use of "poisoning the well" is unintentional.

I enjoy your blog, and I believe there is as much we would agree on as there is on which we would disagree. Once again, I must say it's refreshing to read posts by someone (you) who appears to be independent-minded and who is not afraid to offend people. Like the rest of us though, your logic is not infallible. Mine certainly isn't, thus I have been examining argumantal fallacy during the last few years. Many of us bloggers could stand to pay attention to what we write, so that we don't end up sounding as fallacial as the pundits who like to try and trick us all through their own argumental fallacy. I don't like it when I catch myself sounding like an absolutist or an authority (of which I attempt to be neither) so I try to sprinkle my comments with the occasional "I think" or "I believe". Sometimes it can be helpful.

Finally, while it may seem that I focus entirely on the Republican party as an evil, I'm aware that terrorism is a big problem. I can save my ideas on the approach to that issue for another time. I must pose the question: is focusing solely on terror a way to distract people from some rather nefarious things politicians are doing here at home? I won't say it is, but I'm saying I think it could be. I think that terrorism is a huge problem. I also think that most Republicans aren't a huge problem, but their leadership is. But that is just my opinion, not necessarily a fact.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I don't disagree with the fact that the Republican Party leadership is a big problem; I simply believe that their party is not alone in that. From my observations, I believe there's a strong case to be made for saying that the Democratic Party leadership is an equally major problem. It's the blame game, and there's more than enough to go around for everybody.

My belief is that the increasing polarization on both sides of the aisle is having a detrimental effect on our society, and that this is occurring less out of a genuine difference in beliefs and more in an attempt to pander to their core constituencies and get their few minutes on the evening news. Does this serve America well and properly? No. Is this a way to effect positive changes and the maintenance of current positive behaviors in our government and culture? No. So I find myself faced with the conclusion stated above, that being that the leadership of both major political parties are at fault. There are individuals in both parties I like, but by and large, I have no use for any of them.

I'm sorry for attributing someone else's thoughts to you, Snave.

Snave said...

Don't worry about it, I'm too sensitive sometimes anyway! Thanks for a concise response to my long-winded thingie!

I certainly do agree with you about the increasing political polarization. I believe it's a huge problem. Lately I have been encouraged here in Oregon to see that some folks within the state's Democratic party are trying to add a statement to its platform, emphasizing that the Oregon Democratic party also supports the right to keep and bear arms (the GOP doesn't have a monopoly on the gun issue here in the West). The people who are trying to get that platform addition going are from the part of Oregon where I live, where things are mostly GOP, and where Dems can rarely if ever win elections due to their party's perceived stances on the environment, gun control and land use. Sadly, lots of Democrats out here are pretty moderate on those issues, me included, because many of us hunt, have farms or ranches, have friends who farm or ranch, work in the timber industry or have friends who do... and we like our timber products.

I think that if both parties could move a bit toward the center in Oregon it would be very helpful. As it is now, nothing gets done in our state legislature, it's just stalemate after stalemate. I tend to get disgusted with both sides because it seems to me that neither has the word "compromise" in their vocabulary. I won't go quoting Rodney King here although I'm tempted...