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[politics|cancer] The government shutdown and the ACA and me

When you get right down to it, I have never seen a rational basis for the conservative opposition to the Affordable Care Act. After all, the core of the ACA was a proposal originating from the Heritage Foundation, a deeply conservative think tank. The template for the ACA was a highly successful state-level implementation led by then-Republican governor and later GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The basic mechanism of the ACA is to swell the customer rolls of for-profit insurance companies competing on policy price and features, relying on the free market.

Why is this such a threat to American freedom? In all but name, the ACA is a conservative program implemented from conservative proposals rooted in conservative ideals.

And now the government shutdown. Which doesn’t even defund the ACA itself, just pretty much everything else. Are the Republicans so infuriated at the success of their own ideas that they must punish the entire country and economy. How does this make sense?

As for me personally, without the ACA I would be bankrupt or dead by now. Likely both. One of the first provisions of the ACA to come into effect was a ban on the lifetime spending caps most health insurance policies historically enforced. As a long-term cancer patient, I’m now about 25% over the spending cap my own insurance policy used to have. Without the ACA, my last year and more of treatment would have been completely uncovered. This would have required me to spend about $250,000 out of pocket, or go without treatment.

So opposition to the ACA is quite literally saying to me, “Go ahead and die already.”

As [info]ericjamesstone said to me a while back, anecdote makes bad law. (That’s not a precise quote, but I believe that’s the sense of what he told me.) My death would just be an anecdote, not a policy point. But my life is kind of important to me.

And in all the angry conservative rhetoric about the ACA, I have never seen any proposals that would keep me personally alive.

So this furious, unprecedented opposition to a piece of settled law — passed by Congress, signed by the president, litigated to the Supreme Court — that will benefit both me personally as well as tens of millions of other Americans, makes no sense to me either as a matter of policy or as a matter of my individual situation.

Does it make sense to you? Have you seen anywhere a fact-based explanation of why the ACA should be so vigorously opposed?

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[politics] More on why I am not a Republican

Most of this post will be familiar to long-time readers, but every now and then I am moved to address the topic again. I occasionally see references to myself through the various blog alert services that say things like, “I stopped by Jay Lake’s blog, where I learned that as a conservative I am immoral and evil. I’m not going to read him anymore.”

Sorry to hear that, but I call them like I see them.

I lived in Texas from age 18 to age 36. The first four years of that (1982-1986) I attended the University of Texas at Austin. The Young Republicans were a huge presence on campus, happy, youthful Reaganauts everywhere. And that weird fusion between conservative politics and Evangelical Christianity was already well along in Texas in those days. So over the years I heard over and over again how liberals were immoral, Democrats couldn’t be trusted, that anybody who supported progressive policy [x] was in league with the devil. It was a comforting, self-valorizing stream of rhetoric for Texas conservatives that didn’t have much grounding in fact, and for the most part brimmed with hypocrisy. And it made me very allergic to conservatism, even when my own political opinions were still pretty fluid. Such posturing and ad hominem attacks aren’t the kind of posture someone arguing from a position of strength needs to rely on.

It’s also the case that over the years, I’ve developed a strong sense of intellectual honesty and self-reflection. This is part of my atheism, part of my empirical outlook on life. I am certain that I fail at least as often as I succeed in upholding those values, but I return to them over and over again, as my personal touchstone.

In the years of and since the Reagan ascendancy, the Republican party, and many American conservatives, have lost their capacity for either intellectual honesty or self-reflection. At this point, in the 2010s, the GOP has transcended even the parody that people like me could see of what was happening in the 1980s. The stance against teaching critical thinking, for example, because it might undermine traditional values. That literally sounds like a joke, until you realize it’s the real thing, from the Texas Republican Party platform. Or the fact that no major Republican politician will admit to knowing the true age of the Earth, or speak up for the extremely solid science behind evolution. This is basic reality. Not debatable policy points like tax structure or immigration form. Not legitimate ideological or philosophical differences. This is the world as it is. Which the GOP will not admit to, for fear of losing voters from its cherished base.

But once you allow doublethink and deliberate intellectual dishonesty into your worldview, there are no more brakes. Climate change denial is built on the same pattern as evolution denial, but driven largely by funding from major Republican donors. Like evolution denial, these are knowing, self-conscious lies, deceits and rejections of reality being pursued for short-term political gain.

Almost without exception, the conservatives and Republicans I know personally are decent, humane people who honestly believe that they’re doing the right thing with their votes and their campaign donation dollars. But when you support a party whose political fortunes are based almost entirely on counterfactuals, from evolution denial to the idea that guns make society safer to abstinence-based sex education to supply side economics — all those and many more are cherished Republican stances that don’t meet even minimal tests of provability in the real world data — you support a party that is contributing aggressively to the decline of American competence, as well as the decline of our technological and political leadership worldwide. Republicans are actively working to make our children stupider, cripple our science and destroy our economy. Anyone not committed to the ideology can easily see that. And the self-same lack of intellectual honesty and self-awareness required to be a Republican in the first place makes it overwhelmingly difficult for those decent, humane people I call friends to see what their votes and dollars are actually doing to America and the world.

Do liberal-progressives get it right all the time? Hell no. And the Democratic Party is frankly full of shit on a lot of issues. The ‘Third Way’ Democrats have been Republicans in moderate suits for years. But at least liberal-progressives have some sense of intellectual honesty and a grasp of the real workings of the world. And we’re not working to undermine science, technology, education and culture in the name of continuing to generate enough angry white guys to keep our voter base motivated.

In the end, I’m not a Republican because I have self-respect. I can’t vote for a party whose very basis is such continuous, profound and reflexive intellectual dishonesty. In a different political world, I might well be a conservative, but I can never be a Republican.

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[politics] A cranky email on guns, and a gracious reply

Last week while driving back from a lunch date with [info]kenscholes, I heard Oregon state representative Dennis Richardson (R., 4th district) on OPB’s Think Out Loud. He was discussing gun laws in Oregon with host David Miller. Miller began asking Representative Richardson about 2013 HB 3006, a measure that invalidates federal firearm laws in State of Oregon. This bill is ridiculous on a number of levels, including being blatantly unconstitutional, and is very clearly intended to be red meat for Oregon’s rural conservative voters.

Richardson acted like he’d never heard of the bill, and seemed very taken aback by Miller’s questions. He sounded genuinely surprised at Miller’s description of the contents of the bill. The host finally stopped and asked Richardson if he was a sponsor of the bill. Richardson said he’d have to get back on that.

As it happens, Representative Richardson is manifestly a sponsor of HB 3006.

I found this profoundly irritating. From my perspective, this was a classic example of the persistent liberal-progressive question about most conservative political positions: Are they stupid or evil? Either Representative Richardson could not remember which bills he sponsored in the Oregon House, or he’s so intellectually dishonest that he would flat out lie about a bill that pertains to a current cause célèbre in American political life. Neither of those options seems consistent with being a competent, ethical representative.

So I wrote him a snotty email.

That night, I got back a very gracious reply. I don’t have permission to quote it here, so I will not, but suffice to say that Representative Richardson took the time to write me in some detail about how and why he had prepared for his interview with Think Out Loud, and that HB 3006 was not on the list of topics he’d been provided with in advance. He further observed he’d had no idea what HB 3006 was because the last time he’d seen the bill, it was in draft without a bill number.

Now, I can argue with a lot of Representative Richardson’s response. For example, how could he not realize that talking about gun control might well include an aggressively partisan and in-your-face bill he’d co-sponsored? But what I admire and respect about his response was that he ignored the graceless tone of my challenge to his on-the-air comments in favor of engaging on the substance of issue as he saw it.

Here’s an excerpt from my response to his response:

As for the topic at hand, yes, we’re probably not likely to agree. I understand and respect that gun ownership is a Constitutional right, but the Constitution has been wrong before. In its original form, the document enshrined both slavery and second-class citizenship for women through restriction of the franchise. Over the years of our republic, Americans have redefined what is right for us as a society through the framework of Constitutional amendments. For my own part, I don’t see how anyone of good conscience and moral awareness can support a right that costs 80 Americans their lives every single day, most of those deaths preventable or avoidable except for the widespread presence of firearms.

Think about this: 3,500 people died on 9-11. We have spent a trillion dollars and caused the deaths of 100,000s of people in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the years since then seeking to redress that wrong. Imagine what our society would be like today if instead we’d spent that trillion dollars at home on violence abatement?

Rather, Americans choose to accept 30,000 largely preventable deaths a year as part of the cost of a free society — a cost no other free society on Earth is willing to tolerate. I am extremely confident that history will eventually judge American gun culture very harshly indeed. For the sake of all those deaths every year, I would like to see us get on the right side of that history now, not a generation or two from now.

I doubt Representative Richardson and I will ever agree. Anyone who can sponsor a measure as extreme as HB 3006 is on the far side of lunacy from my perspective on sane social policy. But I appreciate his willingness to engage with me constructively. It’s given me pause for thought.

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[politics|religion] Where should the rules come from?

Yesterday on Facebook, a conservative friend said, I suspect part of the issue is that most writers and artists of the last 150 years working in the fantastic field have been (more or less) refugees from religion, of one sort or another. To them, a more perfect (or at least more fun) world is a world where god and church… are just not present. God and church mean rules and we work in genres inhabited (more or less) by people who hate rules. On their persons. On their choices. On their thoughts and ideas.

(No link, because I don’t want to accidentally create a dog pile.)

As it turns out, I somewhat mistook the context of my friend’s remark, but I still wanted to repost what I said, because I think it may have some value. Below is a synthesis of several comments of my own:

I think you’re oversimplifying terribly. I don’t know a single liberal or atheist who doesn’t believe firmly in the social contract, and the social contract requires rules. Frankly, from our point of view, it’s conservatives who have been abandoning the rules in working so hard over these past decades to void much of the social contract.

As an atheist myself, and definitely a proud refugee from religion, I write about religion all the time in my fiction. See my entire Mainspring series, as well as my Green series, as well as a large percentage of my short stories, as well as Death of a Starship, whose protagonist is an Orthodox priest, and my yet-unpublished Sunspin, one of whose key characters is also a Christian priest. Portrayed with loving care and as much internal honesty and morality as I can manage, not with liberal snark.

To oversimplify on my part, the fundamental disagreement you’re so casually alluding to isn’t over the question of rules vs. no rules, it’s over the source and meaning of the rules. I don’t think any single faith should be the source of societal rules. How would you as a conservative Christian feel about living in a society based on rules drawn from the Sharia, for example? That’s how I feel about living under Christian rules. Though in all fairness, the vast majority of the secular rules I favor and the Christian rules I presume you favor are in alignment.

In my personal case, I have a particular allergy to both Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, but I also work pretty hard to talk about religion fairly in my writing. I’m an atheist, but I’m not a fool, and religion is one of the defining human experiences/institutions.

Likewise, on the political front, the assertion that the US is a Christian nation is obvious religious fantasy when contrasted with the blackletter content of the Constitution as well as the writings of the Founders taken as a whole in context (as opposed to cherry picking ‘gotcha’ quotes). Nonetheless, it is an act of intellectual idiocy to deny that we are overwhelmingly a Christian nation in a cultural and historical sense. To me, freedom of religion means freedom from religion. That in turn is the single most important protection any particular religion or denomination or sect or individual faith-holder has in pursuit of their own religious freedoms.

To sum up, those of us who reject religion in our own lives are not the libertine1 anarchists of conservative fantasies. We’re just people who think there are better ways than arbitrary faith in revelation to organize society. Better for everyone, including faith holders.

1. Well, okay, I personally am something of a libertine, but that’s not the point here.

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[cancer|politics] The high cost of living, and conservative opposition to my doing so

I was reviewing my insurance carrier’s summary statement of benefits for Q4 of 2012 when I noted that my current course of chemotherapy costs them, after contract adjustments, about $25,000 per session, for a course of twelve treatments. That’s $300,000 right there. Not counting the costs of the port surgery last September, the liver resection coming up shortly, the related hospitalization, many sessions of medical imaging, and my ongoing pharmaceutical costs. All which collectively put this round of cancer well over $400,000 at the carrier’s cost. Closer to $600,000 in nominal cost.

Without the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare) lifting the lifetime spending caps on health insurance, given the costs associated with my last three rounds of cancer, I would be running out of insurance somewhere in the middle of this session when I hit my carrier’s old $1,000,000 lifetime spending cap. That was the value of a human life before Obamacare.

If you’re a conservative who thinks Obamacare is some kind of socialist plot, at the moment that socialist plot is the only thing keeping me alive. In opposing Obamacare without an equally sensible and humane replacement of some kind, you’re telling me in so many words my life is worth less to you than your own political convictions or the profit margins of insurance companies. Given that most conservative opposition to Obamacare is based on blatant untruths that have achieved the status of cherished beliefs on the American Right, for example, Sarah Palin’s so-called “Death Panels”, you’re actually telling me my life is worth less to you than your own self-valorizing paranoid fantasies.

So until conservative America comes up with a better idea, it can fuck the fuck off. I wouldn’t wish the cancer hell I’m living on anyone, but people who oppose healthcare reform are wishing for me to be trapped in this hell until death.

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[culture|politics] National blind spots

As long-time readers of this blog know, I’ve been pretty exercised about the United States’ national healthcare policies (specifically healthcare finance, not healthcare delivery) for a long time. This was true even before I became a cancer patient and got to experience much the madness first hand. I am similarly exercised about certain other issues, such as our firearms policies (viz recent blog entries) and education policies (specifically, that we have a political and social system that allows Creationists to take control of public education, leading to monumental wastes of time and effort and the horrific mis-education of children as characterized by the Dover decision).

But we also get a lot of things right in this country. To name a few, healthcare delivery (as opposed to healthcare finance), where when the United States is at our best, we are generally the world’s best. Aviation policy, where most of the world follows FAA standards. The research-industrial complex that has delivered everything from Teflon to the Internet for the whole world to use. Higher education, where again, at our best we are generally the world’s best. Our First Amendment protections for freedom of speech and freedom of worship, which provide us with at least the potential for maximum personal expression and individual freedom of thought.

So what I wonder is about our national blind spots. If our healthcare finance system so wonderful, how come nobody else in the industrialized West has anything like it? If our national social policy on firearms is so conducive to personal liberty and a free society, how come nobody else in the industrialized West has anything like it? Quite demonstrably, more often than not when the United States get something right, the rest of the world tends to either develop in parallel or follow along. Yet no one will touch our healthcare system or our firearms policies with a bargepole. And those countries tend to have much better healthcare outcomes than we do, and much lower rates of violent crime. As Americans, we seem incapable of perceiving that.

In other words, if our policies on healthcare and firearms are such a good idea, how come no similar societies are following our example?

History will judge us harshly for some things — leading the path in climate change denial, for example. Our obsessive militarization of world affairs, for another example. But history will be simply baffled by other aspects of American culture, such as our vicious healthcare policies and our national obsession with placing deadly weapons in the hands of every citizen who ever dreamt of having one.

Blind spots. Destructive blind spots.

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[politics] There’s no objective reason for reality to have a liberal bias, that’s a conservative choice

There’s no objective reason for reality to have a liberal bias, but it most certainly does these days. When the GOP elected to pursue an anti-science, anti-education, anti-reality electoral strategy in their long term effort to generate more angry white guys, they explicitly and knowingly placed themselves outside of the reality-based community. That privileging of faith and ideology over objective evidence put conservatives on a permanent collision course with reality.

This wasn’t done by people who were idiots. It wasn’t done by people who didn’t know what they were doing. Atwater, Ailes, Rove, et alia, knew exactly what they were doing, and they did it anyway. Votes in each electoral cycle were always a much higher priority for Republicans than either the long-term success of the country as a whole, or even the long-term success of their own party. In effect, they solved a short term problem — dissolving the old FDR-LBJ Democratic coalition, and maintaining the energy of that newfound base for the GOP — by letting someone else deal with the consequences much later.

The basic error was in cultivating conservative Christianists who (among many other toxic errors of thinking) place their faith in Creationism above the absolutely overwhelming evidence for the Theory of Evolution. This immediately privileged personal belief over objective reality. In the years since the GOP first began stirring the Christianist pot, that privileging of personal belief over objective reality has extended to other matters of science such as climate change denialism, as well to matters of ideology, such as the supply side economics myth that tax cuts promote growth.

None of these positions are positions that anyone comes to from an objective evaluation of the evidence. There is absolutely no evidence-based position for evolution denial whatsoever, that’s just a matter of very theologically confused people mistaking private faith for external reality. The very slender potential evidence-based position for climate change denial collapses at even a cursory examination — the BEST project proved that decidedly, though it wasn’t exactly in objective contention before Dr. Muller decided to test the data in line with conservative assertions about flaws in climate science and came to realize they were flatly wrong. The tax cut benefits promised by supply side economics have never materialized in the thirty years since Arthur Laffer invented the theory as a gag on a bar napkin, but the GOP is currently busy suppressing the evidence against one of their most important pet theories. (Obviously they learned from the BEST project what happens when someone takes an objective, evidence-based look at a core conservative idea that can’t be defended on its own merits.) Talking about the Republican position on women’s reproductive health as so clearly evidenced in this past election would take up half a dozen more blog posts, but suffice to say that in this most recent election cycle the GOP boldly proved on the national stage over and over again that cherished conservative beliefs about reproduction, contraception and pregnancy wouldn’t pass muster in a reasonably well-run junior high school health class.

In other words, you have to have faith strong enough to ignore reality in order to hold any of these conservative positions. Which pretty much forces reality to have a liberal bias, as the natural world doesn’t care what your pastor or Rush Limbaugh or the GOP party platform says.

There is no objective reason for reality to have a liberal bias. It does so because conservatives have painted themselves into an intellectual and philosophical corner over and over and over again. Both the conservative movement and the nation as a whole would be far better served by them coming to their senses, so our national arguments can be constructive ones about how to deal with what’s happening in the world around us, rather than the endless, ridiculous culture wars the GOP has damaged our society with in an effort to generate more angry white men.

We can only hope, but I do not find much cause to do so.

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[politics] More on the wretched character of Mitt Romney, as demonstrated by Money Boo Boo his own self

Since Mitt won’t stop talking about politics, I’m not done talking about Mitt.

In my post right after the election [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], I observed:

Apparently last night somebody did an emergency character transplant into the profoundly mendacious and opportunistic Romney, because he didn’t go down the Bush road. I’d like to say good for him, but I flat don’t believe this was for any moral or patriotic sensibility. Not given Romney’s extremely well documented track record. Someone was cutting their losses.

[info]ericjamesstone had this response:

I believe I have more insight into Romney’s character than you do, and I think you’re wrong about his motivation. I think he conceded gracefully because that’s what a presidential candidate is supposed to do when beaten. Even Richard Nixon knew that.

As I said at the time:

I am certain you do, actually, without argument. My insight into Romney’s character comes entirely from the conduct of his campaign. Which did not encourage me to think well of him in the slightest, given everything from his 47% remarks to the profoundly and knowingly mendacious Jeep-to-China ads. The person who said those things and approved those ads is not a person anyone could reasonably assume to be of solid character.

That campaign legacy is Romney’s public character, regardless of who he might be as a private person.

Again regardless of his private character, Romney’s statements since the election have done nothing except confirm my abysmal assessment of his public character. The gracefulness Eric attributed to Romney the day after the election has been completely absent from the combination of entitled peevishness and sheer ignorant malice emitting from Romney since. At this point, even conservatives ought to be awakening to how close we came to electing Mr. 47%, and the degree of his fundamental disdain for ordinary working Americans of all political persuasions.

“What the president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked.”

“It’s a proven political strategy, which is give a bunch of money to a group and, guess what, they’ll vote for you. … Immigration we can solve, but the giving away free stuff is a hard thing to compete with.”

I won’t bother reiterating the analysis made over and over again by commentators on the left and right about the so-called “extraordinary financial gifts”. Romney’s clear assumption is that tax cuts for the wealthy and items like the carried interest deduction are not “extraordinary financial gifts”, but rather that they’re prudent fiscal policy, while doing things like working to provide universal healthcare to all citizens regardless of economic class or political affiliation represent a giveaway the government can ill afford. That’s a very typical conservative viewpoint, to believe that government benefits to their preferred interest groups are critical Federal programs, while government benefits to their disfavored interest groups are wasteful public spending. That’s why student loan interest rate abatement is “mooching” but farm price supports are not. Students tend to vote Democratic, farmers tend to vote Republican.

Except government doesn’t work that way. It’s not about punishing people you disagree with or who vote the wrong way. It’s about enabling both individuals and society as a whole to progress and prosper.

This ignorant disdain of the social contract and the role of government in the lives of its citizens is completely consistent with Romney’s 47% remarks, and very far off the moderate tone he pretended to adopt during the late stages of his campaign while desperately trolling for votes from the political center. I won’t even go into the “stupid-or-evil” dynamic inherent in his fact-free and untruthful reference to the Limbaugh-FOX talking point about “free contraceptives.” Either Romney knows he’s lying, as he has countless times before; or he doesn’t know he’s lying because he’s dangerously embedded in conservative epistemic closure — which would you prefer for president, profoundly dishonest, or proudly ignorant of reality?

Romney’s post-election remarks are not a continuation of graceful concession. These are not the words of a statesmanlike politician contemplating the reasons for his election loss. This isn’t even consistent with the good character we might expect from a junior varsity sports team that lost their playoffs.

This surliness is sheer, old fashioned frustrated entitlement. This is the stereotypical shallow lack of self-awareness of the extremely wealthy being played out on the national stage to the deepening embarrassment of Romney’s own party. This is Mitt Romney’s wretched character being imprinted as his shameful public legacy as surely as Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are John McCain’s shameful public legacy. Oddly, much of the GOP is coming to agree with me on this.

If Mitt had simply gone quiet after his surprising concession speech, I might have reluctantly come to agree with Eric’s assessment. But he chose to speak up, to rationalize and justify and condemn; and once again perform one of his endless pivots. At least his Republican primary opponents, who had the political qualities and intellectual depth of the Seven Dwarves without their personal charm, possessed the courage of their convictions. The only conviction Mitt Romney is demonstrating now is his conviction that he deserves more than the rest of America, simply for the magnificence of his existence.

But then, we knew that all along. That’s why he lost, remember?


[personal|politics] Why I am not a conservative

Conservatism “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, when no one is inclined to do so.” — William F. Buckley

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about why I’m not conservative in the political or cultural sense. I don’t mean why I’m not a Republican — given the toxic mess the modern GOP has evolved into, I hope that should be painfully self-evident to anyone not ideologically committed to the party line — but in a larger, more general sense.

Certainly there are a number of signature political and cultural issues that I feel strongly about. I’m not sure they’re inherently issues that ought to fall along a divide between conservatives and liberal-progressives. The anti-intellectualism of climate change denial and evolution denial are more artifacts of how the GOP has approached its electorate than anything that should arise naturally from divergent political views. There is literally no legitimate argument for evolution denial except religious vote pandering. The legitimate political argument over climate change ought to be over solutions and approaches, not endless nitpicking over evolving data sets and climate models and cynical hairsplitting.

Likewise women’s health and reproductive health. If, like evolution denial, you take the religious vote pandering out of the equation, it’s not clear to me why any conservative worthy of the name would consider government intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship a worthy political goal. I grant that there is a principled stance in opposition to abortion, but there are far more rational approaches to dealing with that problem than the endlessly self-contradictory contortions of the American right on contraception, sex education and reproductive rights. Again, increased government intrusion into private life doesn’t strike me as a worthy political goal for anyone of a genuinely conservative bent.

Setting those issues aside, which shouldn’t really be conservative shibboleths anyway, it would be reasonable of me to favor a small government approach comprised of fiscal prudence and a careful fostering of opportunity through the classic (or at least stereotypical) American values of hard work and self-reliance. And in truth, I couldn’t argue much with that ideal. The devil, of course, is in the details. What constitutes “small” government? What kind of fiscal policy is “prudent”? How best do we foster opportunity?

If those were the arguments we were having in American electoral politics, I might be voting quite differently. Then again, I might not. What I am never, ever voting for is Bible-based hatred, knowingly distorted educational policies, discrimination again women and LGBTQ people and people of color, deliberate distortions of science and policy to protect entrenched business interests, the further restriction of class mobility and upward concentration of wealth, and the politics of fear and paranoia — all things that Brand Republican has worked very hard to proudly stand for during my entire voting life.

So, well, here’s me not being politically conservative as the conservative movement in America has defined itself in this era. I’m not interested in generating more angry white guys. That strategy is a political dead end and a social disaster that poisons the wells of this country for everyone regardless of their political affiliation or gender or ethnicity.

But culturally? I think the real issue is that William F. Buckley was flat wrong. History moves whether we wish it to or not. Times change regardless of our fears. The old days were never as good as we like to pretend, and today is never as bad as it seems. The Myth of the Golden Age is older than the golden age itself. Even Cicero said, “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.”

Change is inevitable.

The proper response to the change of history isn’t to stand athwart it yelling “Stop!” The proper response is to grab the reins and direct progress as best we can. To change, to move forward, is both inevitable and desirable, at least as our civilization is constituted today. To pretend otherwise is to deny reality at its deepest level, and to deny oneself the opportunity to help guide that future.

I cannot be a cultural conservative, because I believe too firmly in tomorrow, and not enough in yesterday. The nature of change makes no other response rational. Conservatism is a fear response to change, a way of saying, “things cannot possibly be better than they were”. Me, I’m wired for hope that things can always get better.

As a culture, as a society, as a nation, we shouldn’t be arguing about whether tomorrow is coming. We should be arguing about where it is going.

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[politics] The conspiracy theory of elections

Note: This is a fusion of recent observations I have made in various posts, with some editing to pull it together.

There’s something I’ve continued to wondered about since election night. Given the Romney
campaign’s apparent astonishment at their loss, and other signals such as Karl Rove’s near meltdown over FOX calling Ohio for Obama Tuesday night, I wonder if the GOP leadership thought they had the fix in with the voter ID restrictions, voting machine errors and early voting shenanigans in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. We have a lot of evidence of that being the intention, such as PA State Rep. Mike Turzai’s statement that voter ID laws were going to allow Romney to win the presidency.

My current hypothesis is that the GOP figured either on winning Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio outright through a combination of voter suppression and a certain amount of ballot rigging (especially with the electronic voting machines in PA miscounting Obama votes for Romney), or to lose by a close enough margin that the voting irregularities would given them sufficient smokescreen to launch a Bush v. Gore attack on the outcomes. The clear lesson Republicans learned back in 2000 was that if conservatives can cloud the popular vote sufficiently, a partisan Supreme Court will hand them the presidency regardless of legal merit or national interest. The Supreme Court’s own shame-faced disclaimer that their ruling in Bush v. Gore could not be considered as future precedent confirms this right on the plain face of the facts.

Under this hypothesis, the only way they could lose would be if Obama won by a large enough margin to make recounts and challenges moot. And given the GOP’s demonstrated willingness to read polling data with the same ideological blinders they use for virtually everything else, that would have been the genuine surprise.

Maybe I’m being a bit too paranoid, but this idea would explain a lot of what’s bothering many commentators around the Internet about the apparent utter lack of preparedness on the part of the Romney campaign for a loss. They had the fix in after all, with Rick Scott and John Husted and so forth. Nothing about that would be out of character for the way the GOP has operated in the Atwater-Ailes-Rove era since the rise of Reagan.

Combine this with the current conservative hysteria over the evils that will rain down on the country like Old Testament retribution now that Obama has been re-elected, and you have a very ugly portrait if completely unsurprising of the conservative mind. As I’ve said before, liberal-progressives were afraid of a Romney presidency precisely because of what he said he would do. Conservatives are afraid of an Obama presidency precisely because of what they imagine he might do. It’s two completely different world views, reality and conservative mania, that don’t even align well enough that they could reasonably be said to compete.

To that end, I hate to report that there are no black helicopters over my house, no FEMA troops in the streets, the local golf courses are all still open, and all the area churches seem to be open and prospering.

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