Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bill Clinton and Joe Gandelman on divisive politics

Over at The Moderate Voice, Joe Gandelman praises a Bill Clinton speech decrying political divisiveness:

He told his left-leaning audience of about 500 journalists to consider opposing views and appreciate the value of working with people who differ with them. He urged them not to turn public figures into "two-dimensional cartoons."

While he doesn't agree with much of the Bush administration policies, Clinton said, he has come to understand President Bush better. Clinton said Bush has "an intuitive intelligence," provoking laughter from the audience. But Clinton said he meant that seriously.

What concerns him more, he said, is a particular strain of the Republican Party that he said has gotten control in Washington. Reminding his audience that he grew up in the South as a native of Arkansas, Clinton said right-wing ideologues and "ultra-conservative, white Southerners" have "demonized" those who think differently from them.

Some will no doubt roll their eyes at Clinton's preaching and argue that he still downplays the demonizing that liberals do (including Al Gore's denunciation of critics of race-based preferences as people who "use their color blind the way duck hunters use a duck blind -- they hide behind it and hope the ducks won't notice"). Still, these days I find a bit of hypocrisy better than honest bashing.

Joe's own comment is worth reposting in its entirety:

The politics of demonization (which is also practiced by some Democrats as well) has infected the content and tone of national debate, the tenor of generally-polarized radio talk shows and, most definitely, the blogosphere where some think that if someone writes a differing idea they MUST be the Enemy.

There was even a case of a progressive blogger being driven from posting because his anonymous identity was exposed (see here and follow up here). It's quite notable that you don't see bloggers exposing the identities (or running the private phone numbers on their blogs) of people they AGREE WITH. Just why do you think that's the case?

I met this same progressive blogger who wanted to protect his identity at a Stanford University conference on blogging last year. How? Another progressive blogger at the conference made a blanket statement swiping at conservative bloggers and THIS progressive blogger got up to DEFEND the integrity of conservative bloggers on the panel and some others associated with them as people who seriously debated issues in good faith.

And, indeed, later I was invited to drinks at a table that included that same anonymous blogger on the left and several bloggers on the right, who proceeded to energetically discuss political issues but but weren't out to destroy each other — and who didn't feel that just because someone disagreed they were the enemy and that they would not read or link to them or would de-link them.

So there are thoughtful, constructive people with different ideas out there in politics and the blogosphere. Will the political and blog cultures drive them away?

The answer, I suspect, is yes. I often disagree with Joe Gandelman, but he deserves nothing but plaudits for being a voice of moderation in the blogosphere and being open to discussion across the lines of right and left. Thanks, Joe.


Revenant said...

One minor quibble (de rigeur, I suppose); anyone who thinks we live in a colorblind society deserves pretty much anything they get, verbally.

You realize that that completely undermines the lip service you paid to reasoned debate? You're saying that vicious invective is not merely acceptable, but *deserved*, if people speak against what you see as a holy, unassailable Truth.

In any event, I can think of a number of major bloggers, such as Instapundit and the Volokh Conspiracy, that aren't particularly guilty of demonization of opponents.

Cathy Young said...

Rob --

Of course, the problem is that Gore's swipe at "those who say we live in a colorblind society" was (pardon the pun) a red herring.

Critics of race-based preferences in public-sector hiring and contracts as well as college admissions were arguing that the law should treat people in a colorblind manner; not that society is already colorblind.

Revenant said...

Revenant, the existence of racism is not an opinion, or a "holy, unassailable Truth". It is reality.

Since "color-blind society" does not mean "a society in which no racists exist", that's irrelevant. The term "color-blind society" refers to a *society* which does not judge people by race. The belief that our society is still racist is merely your opinion. It is not a fact.

Besides, the fact that affirmative action is racism and those who support it are racists is also a simple, objective reality -- they support discriminating against people based solely on their race, and if that isn't racism NOTHING is. Are liberal supporters of affirmative action who deny being racists also deserving of whatever invective is hurled at them, should they dare deny their racism?

Reasoned debate assumes reason on both sides

Yes, but most people's political and moral beliefs aren't arrived at through reason in the first place. Few conservatives used reason to arrive at the belief that homosexuals destabilize society, and few liberals used reason to arrive at the conclusion that nationalized health care will be an improvement over our current system. If they'd used reason none of them would believe those things. They believe those things because humans have a natural tendancy to accept whatever the people they socialize with already believe.

I'll give you some examples of Glenn Reynolds demonizing

One hundred percent of the human race demonizes people *some* of the time. The point is that Reynolds does it rarely, and usually when it is deserved (e.g., referring to ANSWER's fringe-left protest movement of 2002-2003 as being "on the other side" -- ANSWER is run by enthusiastic supporters of the Baathist, North Korean, and Cuban regimes).

Cathy Young said...

Yes, that's the example, Rob, but what I meant is that this happened on Bill Clinton's watch and was said by his veep.

Revenant said...

No, it's the objective reality I live in

And that, right there, is the problem -- most people do the same thing you do, and equate their subjective opinions to objective reality.

You claim that this is a racist society. Ok, so where are the frequent, majority-supported racist statements and acts of racial discrimination that all racist societies are, by definition, riddled with? The sad fact is that your "objective reality" of a racist society is sadly lacking in the one thing normally considered a requirement for objective truth, namely any evidence of existance whatsoever.

Sure, you can point to hate crimes... which are condemned by society. You can point to racist statements... which are condemned by society. You can point to racist organizations... which are condemned by society. But all your pointing to those things proves is that you're completely wrong, because the fact that those statements, actions, and organizations are shunned by society is itself proof that society is not racist. A racist society is a society which discriminates on the basis of race, and ours hasn't done that in decades.

Affirmative action (which, by the way, I am very leery of) doesn't discriminate against people *solely* because of their race, unlike Jim Crow laws

Racism doesn't stop being racism just because you think the people your racist policies favor deserve special treatment. All racists think that. But you are, in any case, entirely wrong -- there is no "past injustice" requirement for receiving affirmative action benefits. Ask a Chinese- or Japanese-American college applicant if you have any doubts about that. Saying "we've noticed that a large number of people of Color X are failures, and a large number of people of Color Z are successful, so we've decided to discriminate against all Zs and in favor of all Ys" is racism, plain and simple. Good motives count for nothing.

"...a recognition by Saddam that the "anti-war" movement is objectively on his side..."

Nice weaselly use of "objectively" (He finishes with "And I think he's right.").

Yes, but since Reynolds was correct, it is hard to see how that could count as "demonization". The anti-war movement of the time consisted of a tiny percentage of the American public, drawn almost entirely from the extremist, America-hating fringes of the far left (ANSWER, Noam Chomsky, etc) and right (David Duke, Pat Buchanan, etc). It didn't become dominated by mainstream liberals until well after Saddam was out of the picture and the occupation had started to drag on -- then the Johnny-come-latelys like Kerry and Gore hopped on board.

Hussein recognized that the anti-American protesters were helping him. He just failed to realize that they didn't comprise a significant force in American public opinion, which overwhelmingly favored the war.

Revenant said...

this is the kind of crap that gets spewed out to a very large audience every day

Um, so you're blaming *Limbaugh* for the fact that some left-wing blogs celebrate the deaths of American soldiers? Wouldn't it make more sense to blame the people who run those blogs? I suppose you could argue that Limbaugh is misrepresenting left-wing blogs. But the fact that the most popular lefty blog in America is run by Markos "Screw Them" Zuniga -- the Coulter of the left-wing blogosphere -- makes that a tough sell. About the nicest thing you can say about the leading leftie blogs is that they only *occasionally* celebrate enemy victories.

If you wonder why more and more liberals are getting "uncivil", this is why.

That presumes a belief that left-wingers used to be civil in the first place. A look at 20th century American history tells a very different story about left/right relations.

Revenant said...


You've made a lot of claims and arguments, so I'll respond in as concise a manner as I can

(1): Your poll and other polls of 12/02 show war supporters outnumbering opponents between 5:3 (your poll) and 2:1 (others, such as this). So, yes, overwhelming support.

(2): You describe modern America as merely "paying lip service to racial equality", demonstrating that your opinions on race relations in America are hopelessly out of touch with reality and thus beneath my notice. So I'll leave it at that.

(3): You snark at my "hoping for the best" approach to race issues. I observe merely that your approach is to fix the problems of institutionalized racism by encouraging more institutionalized racism, which achieves the dual goals of both being morally wrong and being the one thing we know for certain *doesn't* make society better.

(4): With regard to the immigration debate being "laced with racism" (I'll assume your failure to provide examples -- which I know you think are very important -- was due to a typo) you're confusing ethnocentrism with racism. A hefty chunk of America has always reacted negatively to the introduction of millions of foreigners in a short span of time, whether they're white (like the Jews and Irish) or otherwise (like the Mexicans).

(5): Condi Rice is more popular than Hillary Clinton and roughly as popular as Joh McCain. She certainly could win the election, assuming she overcame her lack of experience in actually running for office.

(6): I didn't realize you were claiming Limbaugh had lied, as you neither said this nor offered evidence for it. Maybe he *did* lie, but the fact that you leapt to that assumption without bothering to check if it was true says more about you than it does about me. Limbaugh, from my perspective, merely accused leftie blogs of doing what I've seen them do before, so I saw no reason to be skeptical.

(7): For an example of Kos celebrating the deaths of Americans, I refer you to the "screw them" incident.

Finally, regarding the latest Kos post, I find it interesting that you consider cracking jokes about American soldiers' being tortured to death to be ok so long as it is done to tweak Bush appointees. But in any case, the problem with that tasteless joke is that Gonzales said it was "quaint" that the Conventions supposedly allowed for "commissary privileges, scrip, athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments" -- not that it was "quaint" that they banned torture.

And, of course, the fact that the Kossacks blame the entire thing on America for no rational reason whatsoever (Al Qaeda has been torturing people to death since the 90s) says all you need to know about their loyalties. :)

Cathy Young said...

Rob, can you please give me an example of racism in the government or the press during Katrina? With the exception of an incident in which a photo caption described a black man as "looting" and a photo caption by another news agency described a white man as "taking" goods?

Do you seriously believe that the survivors in New Orleans did not get adequate help because they were black, when mostly white nearby parishes fared no better?

I do believe there was an element of racism in the readiness to believe the wildly exaggerated accounts of rape, murder and general mayhem among the NOLA refugees; but ironically, these stories were spread primarily by the African-American city officials trying to impress upon the nation how desperate the situation was, and by media sympathetic to the victims. I can think of no statement more racist than Randall Robinson's false claim that blacks in New Orleans had started cannibalizing each other.

Synova said...

And this is why I have LONG said that the first black president and probably the first female president will be Republican.

Because too many people on the other side really believe in their hearts that a black person *can't* win and they base this, not on their own feelings, but on what they believe absolutely about *other* people's prejudices.

And immegration is about racism? It's not, maybe, about the "illegal" part of it? Or the realization that our border is a sieve that *anyone* can cross... even *non* Mexicans? Or maybe that most of us know recent legal immegrants and know just how hard they worked to get here and it doesn't seem fair? Or really and honestly about the burden on emergency services?

Part of me likes the idea of *completely* open borders. It's probably not practical, but it would have saved some of my new relatives the *years* of waiting as Jews in Uzbekistan, for visas to come through.

Calling something "racism" is a way to avoid discussing it as a true issue. It's a claim that dismisses those who disagree... deliberate marginalization.

I don't think that Condi will run for president and I don't think she'd WIN but it would be because she's too closely associated with the war that even supporters are tired of and wish was over... not because she's female or because she's black.

Hey, I *know* flyover country and its prejudices. The biggest jack*ss chauvinist bigot will make an exception for an individual they know without ever putting a dent in their beliefs about the group.

It's not what you know about people... it's what you know that isn't so.

Synova said...

Oh, and Giuliani in drag isn't an issue either...

Bugs Bunny wears drag all the time.

Revenant said...

I don't think that Condi will run for president and I don't think she'd WIN but it would be because she's too closely associated with the war that even supporters are tired of and wish was over... not because she's female or because she's black

Condi's biggest weakness is that she's not a politician; so far as I'm aware she's never run for office. Something to keep in mind, though, is that the single biggest thing the Republican Party has going for it, in terms of Presidential elections, is the Democratic Party's talent for nominating awful candidates. The Republican Party could nominate a trained seal for President and the Democrats would respond with a jellyfish. And probably a jellyfish that had been caught on camera burning a flag or something, too. :)

Revenant said...

With the exception of an incident in which a photo caption described a black man as "looting" and a photo caption by another news agency described a white man as "taking" goods?

Even in that case, the photographer of the "looting" pic had witnessed the subjects looting a store, while the photgrapher of the "finding" pic had merely witnessed them picking up items floating in the street. This Snopes article has details and links. What those two photographs really demonstrated wasn't racism, but rather how willing some people are to automatically assume that any action which *could* be due to racism, *is* due to racism.

Cathy Young said...

I remember reading about that in Salon -- thanks for the info, Rev!

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