Category Archives: Partisan strategy and framing

Who is Worthy of Love?

This originally posted on June 6th, but I’m reposting in light of the announcement of Paul Ryan for VP.

This video on Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and a foremother to our current extreme right politics, is educational to me. It’s outrageous really, she says that a weak man or woman is beyond love. The interviewer asks:

I: If a man is weak, if a woman is weak, he is beyond, she is beyond love?

Rand: He certainly don’t deserve it, he certainly is beyond.

I: There are very few in this world, by your standards, who are worthy of love?

Rand: uh, unfortunately yes, very few.


The video was created by Think Progress, an unashamedly progressive but non partisan info center. Even though Paul Ryan has recently turned against her, her work is still undoubtedly read, seen (Atlas shrugged came out on film last spring), and admired by a healthy portion of the Republican leadership and constituency. From a National Review – an unashamedly conservative magazine – piece this spring:

“You know you’ve arrived in politics when you have an urban legend about you, and this one is mine,” chuckles Representative Paul Ryan, the Budget Committee chairman, as we discuss his purported obsession with author and philosopher Ayn Rand.

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

Several have called Ryan out on his rewrite, such as Lawrence O’Donnell here. O’Donnell’s delivery is a bit dramatic (to a discredit), but start watching at 5:00 to hear an expanded version of Paul Ryan’s own speech on Ayn Rand. The post, The Hording Hoarde discusses the clash of Rand’s philosophy and that of Jesus.

Rand eventually found it necessary to accept social security and Medicare. Her thoughts were recorded in a paper she did called, A Question of Scholarship:

The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism. Those who advocate public scholarships, have no right to them; those who oppose them, have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.

It does indeed sound like a paradox. Talk about getting the facts to fit the frame! I wonder if she still found herself worthy of love while she had cancer from smoking too many cigarettes? Jesus would have.

Chart courtesy of UPWORTHY.com.

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Weak and Wimpy Candidates

Wow! What fireworks! The gloves are off, fists are flying, the big guns have appeared: the wimpy words.

The world may be focused on London and I suppose gaffes that recall the prime minister’s backside are super offensive to some (for the rest of the world it sort of proves the stodgy stereotype of the English), but the overseas gaffes are nothing compared to what is now going on.

There is a storyline building about Mitt Romney that is fatal to any Republican (and probably any other) candidate, and unless he does some fancy posturing, it is threatening to stick. Romney is being painted as a wimp.

Anyone recall another “wimp” president? It could be argued that the moniker of “wimp”, was the impetus of George W. Bush‘s presidency – to return honor to the family after his dad was labeled with the charge.

The word “wimp” or “weak” is the harshest disparaging remark one could make about a conservative and the charge has now been leveled at Romney by Newsweek – the same publication that put the nail in the coffin of George H. W. Bush‘s presidency. The idea has online news sources chattering as well, like in this article Mitt Romney’s Wimp Factor. The article points out how Romney seems afraid and running every time he’s pressed on an issue. Perhaps this kind of talk is what has him posturing as Commander in Chief this week while he snuggles up to Israel and sabre rattles in Iran’s direction.

We already know how sabre rattling turns out when it is nothing but cover for a non-existent domestic agenda and insecure self image. It’s not good. A war with Iran would surely be the beginning of an entirely new era – one that could make our current economic, environmental and political situation look like a Sunday School picnic.

Testosterone and attempts to prove manliness in the face of scrutiny or ridicule have acted as a genocidal force on our planet. Letting “the wimp factor” factor into military decisions takes away the trust that the People – Americans in this case – have in the Commander in Chief and the mission. We’ve stopped doing military in defense; we are now seen as the world aggressor.

Dick Cheney fully remembers what happened to George Bush Sr., he was Secretary of Defense. He also is fond of profiting from war as he did with Haliburton/KBR (and perhaps still does) he also is a big fan of fracking, helping to create the loophole that exempted fracking from the Safe Water Act in 2005 (article here) – which he also did to stuff the pockets of Haliburton.

Perhaps that’s why a day or two after “the wimp factor” story came out about the new Newsweek cover, Cheney decided to start getting loud about how he thinks Obama is one of the weakest presidents ever. He’s worried. You don’t really hear a lot our of Cheney these days – he lays low, doing his profiteering thing until a campaign needs someone to stir up the hawks, then he steps out to remind us that we do need a “strict father” that is focused on making money and kicking some butt.

Why are the words “weak” and “wimp” so significant? For conservatives, they are the reddest of flags that let them know that they don’t like a person. “Weak” and “wimp” say that the subject is not strong, is not decisive, and cannot be relied upon. They are not manly, have no nerve, and “chicken out” of fighting. Instead of seeing diplomatic measures as being a pragmatic way to save lives, money, the environment and energy, is seen as nuanced weakness. Conservatives operate on more of a black and white decision making system, if you’re not into “fight”, you must be into “flight”.  Progressives understand that every circumstance has multiple issues and causes at hand, learning about the situation and making deliberations are likely in order when deciding something as destructive as war.

Note the wimpy words, they are a little different than typical political mud slinging. Candidates can be called dumb, arrogant, selfish, evil, dishonest, manipulative, womanizing, ugly, disconnected…there are lots of descriptors flying around but the wimpy words are harder to shake – American’s don’t want a weak president.

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An Honest Conservative’s Response

Some of you may be following along and know that I’ve recently done a presentation on some of the concepts I try to talk about on this blog. One of my principles in modern political discourse is that people will relate to and follow along with values more easily than policies or programs, so values is where you need to begin connecting with your audience.
For the presentation, the room was full and I had several interesting conversations following the program. One was with Mike Butrum, the Government Affairs Director of the Asheville Board of Realtors, a self proclaimed conservative. His response relates to the discussion from last week, Authority Rules (or does it?). He offered me some constructive criticism, see if you agree with some of these excerpts…

Rest assured, I was very much intrigued by the subject matter and by your presentation. The political discourse  certainly needs a more “Civil Tongue” for sure. I think there is real substance within the presentation. I also think you are open minded in as much as you asked for feedback so I’m taking the time to offer some from my perspective. Keep in mind, I’ve always thought it doesn’t matter as much what as person says  but more important what they hear. I also fully subscribe to the notion that what a person says is generally not the way it’s heard. With that said, let me try to explain what I heard.

I do not agree at all that conservatives see authority as a basis for structure in their lives or in their discourse. I think conservatives value freedoms and private rights. It’s been my personal belief that too much authority is  wrong particularly in the executive branch of government.. Now, if the prescribed answer to this is, I don’t realize how progressive I am, then I have a bridge for you to buy in Brooklyn. That’s demeaning. If it’s possible to spin freedoms and private rights  into some form of authority then I would be all ears. We have sufficient and proper authority and it’s called the Constitution of the United States. Of course the debate over this document that the Constitution is not and is not designed to be a living document is one worth having. The founding fathers purposely made it difficult to change the document but it can be changed and it has been 27 times. To allow a temporary executive to change the document on a whim would merely allow another temporary occupant to change it again.

He does not like emotion in the political discussion and decision making process:

…I was in a war and unlike today, I did not volunteer. My daughters husband has volunteered and has made 13 appearances in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the U S Army Special Forces Aviation Unit. He volunteered, took his chances defended America and is proud of his service and so is his family. To be against the war is to be against the warriors mission.  He help bring down a dictator, an enormous task and incredibly worthwhile to the world and especially to the people of Iraq was necessary and important. If the current administration doesn’t totally demean the efforts of hundreds of thousands of veterans, we will give another country the taste of freedom and the ability to join with all other free nations to develop their economies that end up helping all that participate especially America. It’s not emotion that works. It’s common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not very common. Have American’s become so complacent that we no longer have an obligation to others that need our help? Do we offer them our cold shoulder? How many lives have been lost due to complacency?  Is it because we feel that we need to pay more attention to our own problems. After 16 trillion dollars of debt, mostly given to Americans, how much is enough?

Emotion in political discourse is bad. Passion is good. Crying and laughing to me are emotions. If you laugh at the supposed ignorance of the other side in the political debate, that’s wrong. If you cry because your candidate lost, that’s wrong. Passion on the other hand allows for a vigorous debate without resorting to degrading your opponent. Passion will allow for a person to live with their losses and offer compassion to the other side all the while critiquing there efforts and trying to improve their arguments. As I stated in our brief discussion before I left on Wednesday night, bad manners are innate. Good manners are a learned trait.

Allow me to point out a classic example that occurred that night. I sat down in the front of the room(I’m somewhat hard of hearing) and I was drinking a beer which I sat down on the table in front of my chair. I stood up to engage a friend in conversation in front of the table. A lady came and sat down in the seat next to the one I was occupying. She placed her bag on by seat. I noticed this and politely said that’s by beverage and my seat. She said nothing. During my conversation, a gentleman sat down at my seat and spilled my beer. He asked if he had done that. I stated, that was my beer. I went on to say that apparently, I’ve lost my beer and my seat. Neither said anything and I went to the back of the room where I missed some of your presentation due to the bad acoustics. My point is, and this is real not fained, although no one has a lock on bad manners, liberals are the worst. I advocate on behalf of the REALTOR Association before city council, county commission, state legislature and at times our congressmen. I take no political side in these discussions. I advocate for the REALTORS and let the chip fall way they may. Liberals are not generally nice people in the debate. No sense of manners or even half truths. Anything goes. I’ve always wonder where does their sense of decorum go when they debate politics. They despise conservatives with a visceral hatred. Is it a sense of entitlement? Is it because their mothers never taught them manners? Are the just bad to the bone? What is it? It’s virtually impossible to have a meaningful discussion with zealots and disciples from either political party.

At this point some people would point out that conservatives do the same thing and I would agree. However, the contempt that progressive liberals have for their opponents can only be learned and having the opportunity to have hired hundreds of young people in my career, I have come to the conclusion that colleges and universities are the grounds on which these emotions have been spawned. Extremely disappointing. In my day, we would enter college with a mind full of mush but come out thinking for ourselves. Today, and for the past three decades and more, student’s come out truly believing that liberal concepts and anti capitalism is the better way. They loose love of country in the process. They loose a need to join a church, they raise environmentalism to the level of a form of religion. But there is hope. To me it’s like potty training a baby. Babies are adamant against this necessary basic need at first but they finally get it. At least most do. Some remain committed to the cause their entire lives never understanding the simple concept that dumping where they live is harmful and has no redeeming value. Interestingly, after the 60’s anti government movement, most of the combatant’s turned their significant aptitudes toward accomplishing something. In the process the finally “Got It”. Capitalism is what has made America what it is. Warts and all. A democratic Republic. Most of these people flourished in the process.

Without capitalism, America cannot and will not work. America is unique. American’s believe that you have to do and pay your way. We are teaching people that this is no longer necessary. If anyone has the slightest doubt about this concept, just look where we are headed. If you have the slightest doubt that the direction of the country could be wrong, you have an obligation to do something about it. America and Americans have been given this power. It’s called the vote.   I know some people hate America  but so far, in all of humane mankind, America represents the best hope. I have traveled the world many times over. I can assure you, the most downtrodden people in America, live a higher standard of life then most of the people in the world. If the bleeding hearts really were serious about helping the most needy, then join Mother Theresa’s church, go to India and make an effort. If environmentalism is your calling then go to Russia to the yards where they have parked their old nuclear fleet, dip one cup of water and dispose of it properly, you would do more good then anything going on in America.

Lastly, as I stated when we spoke on Wednesday, I would suggest that you consider doing this worthwhile presentation with a conservative offering a point counterpoint message. Rehearse so that both of you find something you can compromise on. Something of substance. Doing this will allow you make the same presentation without pandering to the audience. The audience will always discount a pandering message. It would also give the presentation substance and credibility. Singing to the choir is not very fulfilling. …

I appreciate the thought put into the feedback, and permission from Mike to reprint. I know that we are not going to totally agree, but we have to be able to talk to each other.

I am especially interested in the challenge to the idea that authority is not the driving value for conservatives – that freedom and private rights are a higher priority. Conservatives definitely have a social conservative bent (faction?, branch?) that is not about freedom. GLBT rights would be a non issue if conservatives embraced their freedom of expression and freedom to live under the same protections and benefits as the rest of us. In a local school district, religious conservatives have pushed the idea of “religious freedom” a la religious literature and representation in school so far that kids will find freedom from religion to be difficult. Encouraging small town monopolies – like Wal-Mart – actually lessen the options and quality of life for folks in the surrounding area. Polluting industries that go unchecked and unregulated reduce the freedom that health gives us.

These are the values worth exploring, what do you think?

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Democracy and Plutocracy Don’t Mix

Today Bill Moyers speaks for me.

There is the case of disagreement – I think the government should function like A, you think the government should function like B. Then there is the setting: am I a subject in a King’s court or an equal at the table of collaborators? Two ideas might be “equal” in merit, but if one side has most of the resources and power, their idea will be the one carried out.

Biased media” is a meme in point. It doesn’t matter how liberal a reporter, anchor, or host is – their minders are not going to allow information to disseminate information that could hurt their bottom line. It’s not about Democratic or Republican, Left or Right, it is about adding money to the vast wealth of the corporate media giants, to the plutocracy.

I wanted to include a George Carlin clip here as well, the two clips are nice compliments to each other. Of course Carlin’s language is less than civilized – I think it is totally warranted in light of the uncivilized conditions being wrought upon American workers, but its got a few foul parts. So be warned NSFW. Here’s  George Carlin’s take on the American Dream in three minutes.

To illustrate Carlin’s point on education, here is an excerpt from a recent article by TPM:

The Republican Party of Texas’ recently adopted 2012 platform contains a plank that opposes the teaching of “critical thinking skills” in schools. The party says it was a mistake, but is now stuck with the plank until the next state convention in 2014.

The plank in question, on “Knowledge-Based Education,” reads as follows:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.Elsewhere in the document, the platform stipulates that “[e]very Republican is responsible for implementing this platform.”

Contacted by TPM on Thursday, Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Communications Director Chris Elam said the “critical thinking skills” language made it into the platform by mistake.

“[The chairman of the Education Subcommittee] indicated that it was an oversight of the committee, that the plank should not have included ‘critical thinking skills’ after ‘values clarification,’” Elam said. “And it was not the intent of the subcommittee to present a plank that would have indicated that the RPT in any way opposed the development of critical thinking skills.”

Knowledge really is power.

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Renegade State in Our Collective Union

Florida Governor Rick Scott has decided what is right and is quite content to let the rest of Americans deal with his choice. He is tampering with the voter rolls in Florida.

The values he states are admirable, “We just want fair elections”, he told the SunshineState News. Huffington Post says, “Scott said the push to remove ineligible voters was needed to ensure that legitimate voters did not have their ballots diminished.” We can all get behind these ideas – that’s why he is stating them – and not the policy that will “accomplish” this in his view. It is true, we all do want fair elections. What is not agreed on is the methods of achieving fairness Continue reading

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