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Understanding Bush's Power Losing Ohio

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Religion, Taxes, and Programs

by Christopher Chantrill
November 20, 2004 at 7:00 pm

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MANY DEMOCRATS think they are losing because Karl Rove is a genius or because the American people are dumb.  But maybe they are losing because they are wrong on the issues.

The first thing that Democrats have got wrong is their war on religion.  The party that was once the champion of Catholic Irish and Italians has become a bigoted enemy of all enthusiastic Christianity.   In the Fall 2002 Public Interest, Bolce and De Maio found that about half the delegates to the 1992 Democratic National Convention frankly hated “fundamentalist Christians.” They rated them at zero on a “feelings thermometer” from 0 to 100.   After 11/2, the anti-religious diatribes of Dowd, Kinsley, and Krugman tell us that things have got worse.  What is there in the Democratic program of tolerance, diversity, and helping the underprivileged that requires this anti-religious bigotry? 

The second thing that Democrats have got wrong is their war on Reagan-Bush economics.  Democrats cannot bring themselves to admit that the Reagan-Bush program of sound money and low tax rates is good for America.  So they flop around with fashionable diversions like Rubinomics, the notion that budget balancing promotes lower interest rates.   Meanwhile the world is illuminated with the rocketing red glare of nations like Ireland, Russia, and China that have pushed tax rates down and growth rates up.

The third thing that Democrats have got wrong is their one-size-fits-all philosophy of government, the idea that the only way to shape society is through comprehensive and mandatory government programs—government education, government pensions, and government health insurance—run by an enlightened and educated elite.  The one-size-fits-all folly began in the 1830s and 1840s when today’s elite Democrats were high-toned Whigs and decided, in reaction to the populist Jacksonian Democrats, that the nation needed to educate its children to Americanism in a centralized and uniform Common School system.  Since then, as Progressives, New Dealers, and Great Society reformers they have applied the one-size-fits-all education template to social insurance, pensions, health care, and the environment.  Today, Republicans are trying to tame these monopoly giants before they bankrupt the nation—with no help from Democrats. 

If the Democrats could just tame their obsession with these three shibboleths, they would take power from the Republicans in a moment.

Democrats could call off their war on enthusiastic Christianity and still practice their own religion of creativity.  Tolerance, remember, means putting up with people when you disagree with them.

Democrats could call off their war on low tax rates without betraying their commitment to the poor and the marginalized.  Come on Democrats!  What do you really want?  To make the rich pay for your programs, or to punish them with punitive rates?  The share of income taxes paid by the richest Americans has gone up during the last quarter-century of Republican tax cuts.  So what’s the problem?

Democrats could call off their knee-jerk defence of the one-size-fits-all welfare state and work with Republicans to reform it.  The idea is to empower people, isn’t it, rather than experts and bureaucrats?

The dirty little secret is that if the Democrats could do these three little things, there wouldn’t be a need for Republicans any more.  Democrats would get to rule the world.  But don’t hold your breath.

It seems more likely that the Democratic war on religion, the hatred of supply-side economics, and the devotion to government solutions is hardening into a liberal fundamentalism.  Just as Social Gospelers like Harvard President Charles W. Eliot a century ago provoked traditional Christians into returning to the “fundamentals,” the success of Republican conservatism is driving Democrats back to their liberal fundamentals, the glorious days of FDR, Social Security, Give-‘Em-Hell-Harry, Happy Days Are Here Again, and the Civil Rights Movement when Democrats were winning and all was right with the world.

You have to feel for the Democrats.  Twelve years ago, when Bill Clinton won the presidency, it really looked as though happy days were here again after the Reagan nightmare.  The Democrats had won back the White House and had a solid Democratic Congress.  Then the Republicans unaccountably won the Congress in the sweeping mid-term election of 1994.  Then the dastardly Clinton haters nearly drove the reelected president from office in 1998.  Then the Republicans “stole” the election in 2000.  Then the Republicans won back the Senate in 2002.  Then the stupid/incompetent/evil Bush won reelection in 2004, and increased majorities in both House and Senate.  How much worse could it get?

It could get a lot worse.  In The New York Times readers reacted strongly to an article recently that suggested that maybe Democrats should get more friendly to religion.  Do that and we’re out of here, they wrote in several letters to the editor.

Go ahead, pal.  Make my day.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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