Tag Archives: Republicans

The Eye of the Beholder

Yesterday, I posted about a recent court case that required a judge to define the limits of permissible discrimination.

In a very real way, however, discussion of that case and the merits of the contending arguments begged a couple of important preliminary questions: what is discrimination? when does the day-to-day practice of making choices—discriminating between possibilities A, B and C—cease being a reasonable activity we all engage in and become a socially destructive practice in which privileged people oppress those less powerful or advantaged?

Where does that line get drawn?

Recent research suggests that the general public is polarized around the answers to those questions, and that the polarization mirrors political affiliation.

The partisan lens through which many view the social and political world also impacts perceptions of discrimination: as the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2015 American Values Survey shows, Democrats and Republicans have a very different understanding of the nature of discrimination in the U.S. today—and who are the most likely targets of it.

Not surprisingly, Republicans are far less likely to see discrimination against historically marginalized groups than are Democrats. (Click through to see several interesting graphics representing responses to questions about discrimination from self-identified Republicans and Democrats, contrasted with responses from the general public overall.)

As the study’s authors note, the difference in perceived discrimination tells us a lot about the partisan differences in policy.

Overall, the pattern is clear: there is considerable daylight between those on the left and those on the right when it comes to perceptions of discrimination in America today. Perhaps then, it is not surprising that Democrats and Republicans have such divergent opinions on issues ranging from black Americans’ protesting unfair government treatment to legislation protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination. If you don’t perceive discrimination against certain underrepresented groups or marginalized communities to be especially severe or widespread, then these protests and policy proposals might appear to be solutions in search of a problem. If, however, you believe that the discrimination against these groups is particularly severe, then such protests and policy demands are understandable and perhaps even a necessity.

A big part of our current political dysfunction is a reflection of the fact that conservatives and liberals occupy different realities.

Sort of reminds me of that old song, “Two different worlds….”

Welfare for Our Constituents is Okay— For Yours, Not So Much

A comment to an earlier blog alerted me to a remarkable provision in the House GOP’s version of this year’s agriculture bill: they want to restrict a summer program intended to feed poor children who rely on school lunches during the rest of the year to rural children only.

As Politico reported,

And in a surprising twist, the bill language specifies that only rural areas are to benefit in the future from funding requested by the administration this year to continue a modest summer demonstration program to help children from low-income households — both urban and rural — during those months when school meals are not available.

Since 2010, the program has operated from an initial appropriation of $85 million, and the goal has been to test alternative approaches to distribute aid when schools are not in session. The White House asked for an additional $30 million to continue the effort, but the House bill provides $27 million for what’s described as an entirely new pilot program focused on rural areas only.

Democrats were surprised to see urban children were excluded. And the GOP had some trouble explaining the history itself. But a spokeswoman confirmed that the intent of the bill is a pilot project in “rural areas” only.

At Ten Miles Square, Chad Stanton has a pretty persuasive analysis of this offensive measure. After referencing Paul Ryan’s recent remarks about “inner-city men,” he writes

Let me be clear. Offering food aid to children in rural areas while denying that same aid to children in urban areas is a poorly disguised attempt to replicate the effects of Jim Crow policies. The impetus for the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t merely a desire to be able to sit in the same classroom as white people (although the continued reality of segregation is undeniable), but to demand rightful access to the resources that black tax dollars paid for. Republican attempts to limit aid to “rural kids only” is a thinly veiled challenge to the laws designed to end Jim Crow policies. Combined with recent efforts of voter suppression and the refusal to amend the Voting Rights Act, the Republican position amounts to open contempt for black Americans’ rights as citizens.

Racism doesn’t explain everything. But it explains a lot.


Needs No Elaboration

Sometimes, the bare facts speak for themselves.

From a recent Pew polling release: “In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.”

There’s evolving, and then there’s regressing.

Tomorrow it will be 2014–and 57% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats reject long-settled science upon which all biology is based.

Happy New Year.

I Was Wrong

Yesterday I blogged about something I’d gotten right. Today, I’m going to admit being wrong.

When people first began talking about a “war on women,” I thought the rhetoric was over the top. Sure, there were some retrograde legislators in statehouses around the country–not to mention Washington–but that’s always been the case. Attacks on Roe v. Wade have been a staple since the case was first decided, and the persistent efforts to roll back a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy have long been an unpleasant but relatively minor part of the political landscape.  I never believed those who insisted that–given a chance–the attacks would intensify, and even extend to contraception.

Boy, was I wrong!

The elections of 2010 that swept conservative and Tea Party Republicans into office were evidently seen as authorizations to engage in a full-scale and increasingly demeaning attack on women’s reproductive rights.

It wasn’t just the offensive transvaginal ultrasound bill that has been characterized as “legislative rape.” During the first six months of 2011, 19 states enacted 162 new provisions aimed at reproductive health. There were “counseling” and extended waiting periods for abortions–including a South Dakota measure that requires “counseling” to include risk factors even when those risks are not supported by medical evidence. In Kansas and Arizona, laws working their way through their respective legislative processes would allow doctors to withhold accurate information about fetal abnormalities or risks posed by the pregnancy from women who might decide, on the basis of that information, to abort.

Fifteen states banned abortions after 20 weeks unless the woman’s life is endangered. Ohio went even farther, banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually between six and ten weeks. Still others passed measures making medication abortions difficult or impossible.

Then there have been the truly bizarre efforts aimed squarely at birth control and women’s health.

The recent Congressional effort to characterize contraceptive coverage as a religious liberty issue has been widely debated, but there have been other, less publicized efforts to deny women access to birth control. Several states have considered so-called “personhood” amendments that would effectively ban the most effective forms of contraception by equating a fertilized egg to a “person.” There have been repeated efforts at both the federal and state level to de-fund Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that huge numbers of poor women depend upon the organization for basic health services like pap smears and breast exams.

The (male) politicians who favor these and other punitive measures used to pretend they were operating out of a concern for women’s “informed” consent–since, as we all know, women are too stupid to make these intimate decisions unaided. But even that pretense is disappearing. We have a Republican Presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, on the record saying contraception is wrong because it allows people to do “wrong” things–i.e., engage in non-procreative sex.

If this avalanche of misogyny isn’t a “war on women,” I’d hate to see the real thing.

Gail Collins recommends investing in burqa futures. I think she’s on to something.

The Puritans versus the Modernists–Now in Technicolor

In his column in this morning’s Star, E.J. Dionne made the observation that Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman represent the two strands of Republicanism currently at war with each other. Santorum represents the social conservatives and Huntsman the economic conservatives–or, as Dionne puts it–the “modernists.” (No one knows what Romney represents–he’s pandered so long and hard I doubt if he still knows.)

Back in 2007, I wrote a book called God and Country: America in Red and Blue, in which I examined the religious roots of public policy disputes and posited that a significant number of our most intractable debates can be explained by precisely this conflict between those I dubbed “modernists” and those I called “Puritans.”  These differences are so intractable because they are cultural, not doctrinal–deeply embedded and wildly different views of reality rather than matters of dogma.

My research suggested that these differences are far more profound than we usually recognize, and they affect not just the political issues with visibly religious dimensions like abortion, gay rights, or the death penalty. Puritans and Modernists have utterly incompatible world views; they occupy starkly different realities. Those differences manifest themselves in (no pun intended) fundamentally different approaches to such ostensibly secular matters as economic policy, foreign policy, the environment and criminal justice.

Our contemporary Puritans are throwbacks to the early American settlers who came to these shores for a version of liberty that most of us would not recognize. The folks who braved the trip across the Atlantic came for the religious “liberty” to impose the correct religion on their neighbors. The notion that each of us should have the right to believe as we wished was utterly foreign to them. It would be another 150 years until the intellectual ferment of the Enlightenment would change our understanding of liberty to a more “live and let live” construction and would introduce mankind to the scientific method.

Most of us today live in a post-Enlightenment culture. We accept and value science. We understand liberty to mean our right to live our lives free of government control so long as we are not harming others, and so long as we respect the right of other people to do likewise. But there has been a persistent minority who never accepted these Enlightenment values, and they are represented by religious fundamentalists like Bachmann and Santorum who use the word “freedom” in the older, Puritan sense of “freedom to do the right thing”–and who believe it is government’s job to tell us what the “right thing” is.

(Interestingly, they never seem to doubt that they know precisely what God wants–that, as a friend once put it, God hates the same people they do. But that’s a phenomenon for a different post.)

Most religious folks, including most Evangelical Christians, have accepted modernity. They aren’t at war with science, and they are willing to argue for their vision of morality in a diverse and expanding marketplace of ideas. If the Republican party continues to embrace the Puritan worldview, if it becomes the party of the Santorums and Bachmanns, it will accelerate a process of marginalization that has already led so many of us to abandon the party.

And that’s not good for America.