Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We're All Liberals Now? Yes and No.

As you might recall, I recently commented that there should be a Euston Manifesto for conservatives. That call has acutally started to ignite a discussion and I wanted to focus on one part of that discussion here.

In a post today, Callimachus thinks the idea of a manifesto is somewhat ridiculous, because a true conservative doesn't exist. In reality he says "we are all liberals now."

Flag on the play.

I think one has to define what one means by liberal and conservative because there are many different meanings. Alan Stewart Carl agrees somewhat with Callimachus' statement and notes that for as much as the Left carps about George Bush, he is very much a liberal.

Well, what does that mean?

If you mean liberal in the American context (ie: Ted Kennedy is a liberal), then I don't see how one could call our current President a liberal. In the United States, Liberal usually means someone that is probably a Democrat and believes in certain things, such as government intervention in the economy. What we call Liberal is what many in Europe or Latin America would call a "social democrat" or even "socialist."

Michael P.F. van der Galiën
, a Dutch blogger, describes what "liberal" means on the Continent and we Americans get the name all messed up.

As a European liberal I have to admit that the meaning and use of the word liberalism in America is both confusing and annoying. I’m somewhat of a ‘proud liberal’. Whenever a person who advocates higher taxes, more government influence, more government programs, etc. is called a ‘liberal’, I shake my head and remember myself of the fact that the term liberalism has underwent quite a significant change in America.

Liberalism, in short, stands for as little government influence as possible. Some liberals (for instance there are progressive or development liberals) agree to more government influence than other liberal do (clasically liberals and liberal conservatives and think less highly of ‘the market’, etc., but generally Nic’s definitions are good and easy usuable.

Now, neither Callimachus or Alan meant liberal in the American sense, but in the more overarching sense, in that most people are "liberal" in the Western sense, (ie: liberal democracy). However, the Euston Manifesto was not a bunch of liberals, but a group of mostly people on the political Left.

I think Callimachus is wrong to say there are no conservatives. They exist and they are liberals as well-just a different kind of liberalism, classical liberalism, the type of liberalism advocated by people like Edmund Burke.

When I say that there needs to be a manifesto of some type for American conservatives, I am looking from the context of what is going on in the Republican Party. It is a party that has strayed from the principles of limited government, freedom, fiscal restraint and tolerance. Many in the GOP and those that have left, became frustrated with the GOP's lurch toward the far right, supporting tax cuts any all times, damning the fiscal implications; going after gays and lesbians and eroding civil liberties. Government has expanded in the Bush years, going in the opposite direction that it had during a Democratic presidency.

The party has been corrupted and there needs to be some gathering of people who say, we stand for limited government, free enterprise, equality of all persons, fiscal restraint and against reckless spending, bigotry, etc. The fact is, there are many people who are not "liberals" in the American sense, who want to stand up for what is decent and against that which corrodes our Republic. I think there are those who either see the GOP as a home or want to, but can't because of it's current sad state who want to state clearly who they are and what they believe.

So, yes we are all "liberals" now, in the larger sense. But I don't have time to simply discuss semantics when radicals are destroying the party whose orginal values mean a lot to me. So, I will push on.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Love and Justice

I grew up in as an Evangelical Protestant. About 15 years ago, I ended up in mainline Protestantism, mainly because it was more focused on issues concerning justice and well, they were more tolerant of gay folks like me.

Most mainline churches tend to be both theologically and politically liberal, so it has always been an odd fit for me considering that I tend to be socially liberal but a tad more conservative. One of the things I have seen in this more liberal church is how much emphasis they place on two things: love and justice. My liberal brothers and sisters tend to believe that Christian are called to love everybody and that everybody is welcome in the Church. I totally agree with that. Second, they place a belief in justice for those who are oppressed and that is also something I believe in. However, I tend to think at times we don't see the limits of either value. As a seminary professor once told me, justice and reconcliation (or love) can't be reconciled. I would add that they are held in creative tension and to rely too much on one is dangerous. With that I agree as well and this comes into play in the current debate concerning the Episcopal Church in the United States and the role of gays and lesbians in the church.

As you might well know, the the Primates (head of churches) of the Anglican Communion met in Tanzania recently. They gave the American branch of the church and ultimatum: stop ordaining gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions or leave the Communion.

Like I said earlier, this isssue could put love and justice at odds with each other. One the one hand, there are many Episcopalians that want to find some way to remain united despite the differences. They believe in trying to be loving even when they don't agree. And example of that comes from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori. She notes:

A parallel to this situation in our tradition might be seen in the controversy over eating meat in early Christian communities, mentioned both in the letter to the Romans and the first letter to the Corinthians. In those early communities, the meat available for purchase in the public market was often part of an animal that had been offered (in whole or in part) in sacrifice in various pagan religious rites. The troubling question in the Christian community was whether or not it was appropriate to eat such meat - was it tainted by its involvement in pagan religion? Did one participate in that religion (and thus commit apostasy) by eating it? Paul encourages the Christians in Rome and Corinth to recall that, while there may be no specific prohibition about eating such meat, the sensitive in the community might refrain if others would be offended. The needs of the weaker members, and the real possibility that their faith may be injured, are an important consideration in making the dietary decision.

The current controversy brings a desire for justice on the one hand into apparent conflict with a desire for fidelity to a strict understanding of the biblical tradition and to the main stream of the ethical tradition. Either party may be understood to be the meat-eaters, and each is reminded that their single-minded desire may be an idol. Either party might constructively also be understood by the other as the weaker member, whose sensibilities need to be considered and respected.

God's justice is always tempered with mercy, and God continues to be at work in this world, urging the faithful into deeper understandings of what it means to be human and our call as Christians to live as followers of Jesus. Each party in this conflict is asked to consider the good faith of the other, to consider that the weakness or sensitivity of the other is of significant import, and therefore to fast, or "refrain from eating meat," for a season. Each is asked to discipline itself for the sake of the greater whole, and the mission that is only possible when the community maintains its integrity.

Using text from the Apostle Paul, she tries to uphold the idea of keeping community in the midst of differances. That is obviously a Biblical tradition and one that all Christian should respect.

But are there limits? My take is yes. There are times that trying to keep the greater whole together has to be sacrificed for the sake of justice.

The Anglican group, Integrity, which works for gay/lesbian equality, was less charitable than the good Bishop. Their news release states:
“The primates of the Anglican Communion have utterly failed to recognize the faith, relationships, and vocations of the gay and lesbian baptized,” said Integrity President Susan Russell, responding to the communiqué released today from Dar Es Salaam.

The Rev. Michael Hopkins, immediate past President of Integrity had this
reaction: “Jesus weeps, and so do I. If the House of Bishops (or any other body with actual authority in this church) capitulates to these demands and sacrifices gay and lesbian people to the idol of the Instruments of Unity, it will have become the purveyor of an “anti-Gospel” that will (and should) repel many.”

I don't think there are easy answers here. Reconcliation is important and I think more than anything we should try to hold together. The church is not made up of people who all think the same and we are much richer when we are diverse. However, at what point must we sadly, break relationship for a while? When someone makes unreasonable demands and could inflict pain on another, is it not time to chose justice over love?

Love and justice are always in tension. I think at times we are going to lean one way or the other. My own view is that the Episcopal Church hold fast to their gay positive views and if it means they have leave, then they have to leave. However, they should do it lovingly and to always extend a hand of welcome in case they come to themselves. I believe as Christians we are called to love in all are actions, even when it means breaking relationship with someone for good reasons. What bothers me about the Integrity statement is that it is all justice with little love.

One thing that I wish pastors would do more is preach and teach the "greyness" of our Christian walk. We mainline Protestants think that we can love and welcome everyone and have justice, but things don't work so well easily in real life.

I have no idea if this all makes sense to people, but I just had to share.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Good News from the Equality State

It is wrong for one segment of society to restrict rights and freedoms from another segment of society. I believe many of you have had this conversation with your children.

And children have listened, my generation, the twenty-somethings, and those younger than I understand this message of tolerance. And in 20 years, when they take the reigns of this government and all governments, society will see this issue overturned, and people will wonder why it took so long.

My kids and grandkids will ask me, why did it take so long? And I can say, hey, I was there, I discussed these issues, and I stood up for basic rights for all people.
-Dan Zwonitzer, Wyoming Republican State Senator.

I think you need to highlight those Republicans that stand up for gay rights, and this is one of those cases. State Senator Dan Zwonitzer along with two other GOP senators voted against a bill that would not recongize gay couples married in Massachusetts. You can read the rest of his speech here.

In a time when presidential candidates are bowing before the far right, it's refreshing to see a Republican elected official stand up for what's right and not what's popular.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

McCain and Fawell, Together at Last

"This is my faith, the faith that unites and never divides, the faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. That is my religious faith and it is the faith I want my party to serve, and the faith I hold in my country. It is the faith that we are all equal and endowed by our creator with unalienable rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
-Senator John McCain, February 28, 2000.

Remember when John McCain called people like Jerry Fawell and Pat Robertson, "Agents of Intolerance?"

These days, we are seeing a John McCain who is basically whoring himself to get the vote of people whose religion is less about "binding together" (which is what religion means) than it is about dividing people.

And we thought Mitt Romney was the only flip-flopper.

The sad thing is that McCain and Romney have not really read the tea leaves. While the far right might have some pull in the GOP, the average person is looking for a new kind of politics. American conservatism is in a crisis. George Bush has basically made his bed with the far right and we got a GOP that got us into an unwise war, ran up the deficit and targeted gays. This should not be what conservatism is all about, and McCain and to a lesser extent, Romney could have argued for a more sensible conservatism that was inclusive, strong on defense and the war on terror, respects civil liberties, and adheres to the old value of fiscal conservatism. Instead, they have basically tarted themselves up to get people like Fawell to like them.

What is interesting is that while McCain has gone to Relgious Broadcasters Convention to court social conservatives, Rudy Giuliani has opted not to go. It might be too early to look into what this means, but it is nice to see Rudy isn't trying to suck up to hard right in the way that McCain is. McCain very well might win over enough hard right supporters to win the nomination and yet lose the general, because he has angered centrists and independents like myself.

McCain can have his lovefest with Fawell and Co. Just don't expect liberal conservatives like me to join you.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A "Euston Manifesto" for the Right?

I've been wondering why there is no Euston Manifesto for the Right and Center Right. The Manifesto is signed by left-liberals who believe in defending democratic values and human rights. They were concerned in seeing so much of the Left that seemed more interested in Anti-Americanism and excusing terrorism, than they are in supporting democracy.

I am glad to see this coming from the Left. It is definitely needed.

But this presents a question: why haven't conservatives come up with something like this. At least here in the US, there are many who quite upset about the current trajectory of conservatism. Bloggers like Andrew Sullivan and John Cole are fairly upset at what is going on, so why are they not writing something that shows what conservatism should be instead of what is going on?

If there are any conservatives who read me, Republican or independent, would you be interested in developing a Manifesto of our own?

Hot Air and Other Thoughts (aka Venting My Spleen)

As the House of Representatives finishes up it's debate on the non-binding resolution that is expected to be voted on today, one word comes to mind:


I've listened to snippets of the speechifying and all I can say is that both sides seem to have big chips on their shoulders. The pro-war people (mostly Republicans) are basically saying a vote for the resolution is a vote for al Queda. Those who are anti-war (mostly Democrats) are using the time tell us all how stupid the President was and is and reminding us that the voters sent a message back in November.

Frankly, I'm tired of hearing all the certainties on both sides. It would be worthwhile to hear one lawmaker who isn't sure of what to do in this situation instead of providing easy answers that gives the rabid supporters of both camps good vibes.

I don't know what we should do in light of Iraq. Some say we should stay, but I don't know if this "surge" is going to do anything. Some others say we should leave, but then I don't know if that is a good idea either. The fact is, none of know what could happen in Iraq. We might have a good guess, but we don't know.

There are good reasons for both staying and going, but I would like to have our folks in DC be a bit less arrogant and more humble about this issue. Let's stop placing blame and start finding a way to solve this issue.

The other thing stuck in my craw is all the talk about how wonderful it is to have a "debate" about Iraq as if we haven't been allowed to talk about this issue since the war started. People have been sharing their opinions for years and that includes those on the Hill. What hasn't happened on the Hill is one of the second branch of government's duties: congressional oversight. That is what the prior GOP-controlled Congress failed to do.

Another thing that has bothered me is this. There is the old saying that goes, "sucess has many parents, but failure is an orphan." How true that is when it comes to Iraq. When the war started, a lot of the offical punditry was pro-war. For instance, Andrew Sullivan was basically slobbering over the president and being the Administration's number one cheerleader, as was Tom Friedman. Now, I'm not like some who want to fire pundits who got it wrong, but part of what bugs me that in many ways these journalists (and yes, most of them are journalists) kind of ran away from their duties. I've read some of Sully's entries from 2003 and it's interesting how much he had drunk the Kool-aid. He lavished extreme praise on the effort and heaped scorn on those who went against the war. Again, I'm not for some kind of witch hunt, but I do hold him somewhat responsible for not at least asking some questions about war. Sullivan talks a lot these days about a "conservatism of doubt" as opposed to a "conservatism of faith." What gets my blood boiling is that he failed to live up to his own beliefs. He never questioned if Iraq was wise, or if it was really tied to the real objective of getting binLaden. Sully and other pundits hold some sway over public opinion, so why weren't they more skeptical? You didn't have to be a Bush-hater to have some honest concerns.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Rudy Rising?

In 1996, Bob Dole was considered the GOP nominee simply because it was his turn. He was the Vice Presidential candidate in 1976 and ran for President in 1988. By 1996, many thought it was "his turn" to run for President and he did, losing to Bill Clinton.

As we head towards 2008, there was initial thought that this was John McCain's turn after having lost the bid for the GOP nomination in 2000. However, the old GOP rule of giving someone the nomination because it is their turn, may not apply in 2008. Why?

Two words: Rudy Giuliani. The former mayor of New York City, is turning out to the man the to beat and may end up stealing McCain's thunder. Now, it is still early and there are other candidates that might take the nomination like Mitt ( I was for gay rights, but now I have seen the light because I want to be president) Romney, but there does seem to be a buzz about "America's Mayor."

More than a few journalists have written off Giuliani because of his socially liberal views on abortion and gay rights. And yet for some reason, there is still in a buzz in some GOP circles.

It's too early for me to say whether Rudy has a chance. I think there are indications that he just might for a few reasons.

First, I think that many social conservative voters are waking up and smelling the coffee after last November's losses. Many may not be looking for such a true believer like President Bush, who might have fuliflled all their wishes and yet subjected them to stinging defeat. After such a loss, there might be some room for pragmatism and looking over someone's "faults." When push comes to shove, a major political party wants to win.

Second, he is a hawk, which will speak highly in this age we live in. Terrorism is still an issue and people want someone who will fight terror smartly. His experience on 9/11 cemeted his image in the minds of many that he was a tough fighter. Will that translate into a conflict with Islamic fundamentalism? I don't know. On the down side, he is very supportive of the President's policies in Iraq at a time when most people, including many Republicans, have lost faith in this war. He's going to have to explain how he would handle Iraq differently and set a time table to getting our men and women home. I don't think the American public will accept an open-ended commitment- I know I won't.

Third, Rudy might spark the interest of moderate Republicans and independent voters. The mistake of the past six years has been to focus on the far right and ignore centrists. We have seen the end result. GOP leaders may have had enough of Rovism and are ready to start building a true coalition.

Of course, all of this is speculative. The GOP might just fall back to its old ways and choose someone like Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who might be a darling in the primaries, but wouldn't play in Peoria. Rudy's liberal views on gay rights and his dressing in drag might offend some social conservatives enough to doom his candidacy. A lot can happen in a year.

However, Giuliani's enterance into this race might be the shot in the arm that the GOP needs. Only time will tell though if the base will accept the former Mayor or look for a "far right messiah" who supports their views.

Andrew Sulivan makes his case for Rudy, as does the "Boi From Troy."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

There's Nothing About Mary

I think it sucks to Mary Cheney.

It sucks because she is reviled by both the Right and the Left, and the only reason she is reviled is because she is the daughter of the Vice President, Lord Vader, I mean Dick Cheney.

Now, I don't like Dick Cheney. I think he has done tremendous damage to American democracy with his belief in an almost Imperial Presidency. I think he should be properly criticized for not saying anything as the GOP gay-baited in order to win votes.

That being said, I don't get all the venom that comes particularly from gays about Ms. Cheney. Andrew Sullivan, who seems to bounce from supporting Ms. Cheney to reviling her, supports
Dan Savage's latest rant which was pointed at Ms. Cheney. When Cheney says that her soon to be baby is not a "political statement," Savage retorts:

You’re a Republican, Mary, you worked on both of your father’s campaigns, and you kept your mouth clamped shut while Karl Rove and George Bush ran around the country attacking gay people, gay parents, and our children in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. It’s a little late to declare the private choices of gays and lesbians unfit for public debate, Mary.

So, because she worked on her father's campaign and she's a Republican, she doesn't deserve any privacy. Well, I wish she had said something, but I didn't expect her to. Why? Because it was her father. In the case with most political families, if there are any disagreements, they are usually kept away from the public. I mean, it's public knowledge, that Pappy Bush isn't happy with Bush Junior. But you don't see Senior saying anything publicly. You might not like that. I might not like that. But that's what happens in the world of politics.

What bothers me here is that we somehow expect Ms. Cheney to denounce her father and to have spoken out against the far right way back in 1989.

As I have said, I have no truck for Ms. Cheney's father or his boss. But we need to leave her alone. If she wants to support her dad and support anti-gay campaigns, then that's her choice. I may not like it (and I don't,) but it's her choice. She is the daughter of the veep, not the spokesperson for gay America.

In my view, some of the criticism that comes concerning Ms. Cheney is more about the fact that she is a Republican. I think for a lot of people, it is hard to see someone who is gay also belong to a party whose leaders are so anti-gay. As someone who has been part of Log Cabin Republicans for five years and has spoken out against bigotry, I am still viewed as someone who supports anti-gay politicians because I tend to vote more for people who have an "R" behind their name. Like some on the Right, some gay people can't let Mary Cheney be herself.

I know that some will get angry with my views, but let's just leave Ms. Cheney alone. Let her have her baby in peace with her partner. In time, I hope she will become more forceful and more willing to step out, but let that happen in her own time.

As the bumper sticker says, I will focus on my own damn family. My partner and I will live our lives. I will allow Ms. Cheney and Ms. Poe to live their own.

Two other voices for leaving Ms. Cheney alone can be found here and here.