Category Archives: Kulturkampf

Did ‘Aaron Burr’ et al. play into Trump’s hands?

hamilton-public

I like putting “Aaron Burr” in headlines. It lets me pretend that I’m living in times in which “the damn’ fool that shot him” was alive and active in our politics. Not that I like Burr much. But it puts me in a time when our presidential choices were between people like Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison (and Burr, who nearly won over Jefferson, but let’s skim over that).

Sigh…

Anyway, to follow up on yesterday’s post about the “Hamilton” incident (again, something that sounds like the kind of incident I’d rather be writing about than “Trump” incidents), there’s a growing body of thought out there that the artsy liberal actors played right into the hands of the president-elect. Even that Pence’s presence there may have been a deliberate provocation.

And that this sort of thing is likely to happen again and again because, you know, those Eastern cultural elites are just so predictable, and can’t help themselves. Strike them on their emotional patellar tendons, and they jerk.

From Catherine Rampell:

Trump, and only Trump, won this round in the culture wars. And with many more rounds to come, liberals need to find some way not to take his bait.

Maybe Pence decided to see the hottest show on Broadway because it’s the hottest show on Broadway. Or because it’s a Pulitzer-Prize-winning work by a bona-fide genius. Or because, with its story of a destitute autodidact pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, it has had documented appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike.

But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Pence attended Friday’s performance specifically hoping, or at least expecting, to stoke boos and a brouhaha that would ultimately rouse the Republican base — and distract from much more embarrassing Trump-related news.

Think about it. Trump could not have chosen a more perfect cultural foil than “Hamilton” if he’d designed the show himself. The show has — somewhat paradoxically — become an unwitting symbol of out-of-touch, cosmopolitan liberal elites.

Tickets to the smash hit can fetch thousands of dollars, making them inaccessible to all but the reasonably wealthy. The show is fawned upon by effete elites such as myself….

Most important, at least to Trump’s base, “Hamilton” has Hispanics literally taking the jobs of old white men…

A digression: Actually, I think by casting “people of color” (one of the odder, most stilted, most retrograde-sounding phrases currently approved by those Trump is pleased to bait) in the roles of the Founders, Lin-Manuel Miranda has struck a blow against political correctness. By portraying the folks too many would dismiss as “old, dead white guys” as people of every race and color, he has rescued them from the scorn of the sillier Identity Politicians and shown the universality of their ideas and accomplishments. It sort of says, Shut up about their race and gender and read what they wrote!

But back to Ms. Rampell’s point, which has also been made by duty conservative Marc Thiessen:

Hey Democrats, want help to rally the country around Donald Trump? Here’s a great idea: Have a crowd of wealthy, out-of-touch Manhattan liberals (who can afford $849 tickets to “Hamilton”) boo Vice President-elect Mike Pence while the cast of the Broadway show lectures him on diversity.

The Democratic Party’s alienation from the rest of America was on full display at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Friday night. And the left seems completely oblivious to how ridiculous it looks to the rest of the United States. Professors at Yale and Columbia universities and other elite schools postpone exams and cancel classes for students who could not deal with the election results. Kids in Washington schools cut class with tacit approval from administrators to march in protest of the results of a free and fair election. School officials in Montgomery County offer grief counselors to “help students process any concerns or feelings they have about the election.” (Funny, I don’t recall anyone canceling exams or offering my kids grief counselors when Barack Obama was elected).

People in the American heartland see all this, and they shake their heads in disgust. Today’s Democrats have become a party of coastal elites completely disconnected from the rest of America. Doubt it? Take a look at a county-by-county map of the 2016 presidential election. You can drive some 3,000 miles across the entire continental United States — from sea to shining sea — without driving through a single county that voted for Hillary Clinton….

They may be looking at it from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but it’s interesting that they both reached similar conclusions…

Civil rights veteran insulted by bathroom issue comparison

Twitter directed me to this oped piece, which originally ran in The Charlotte Observer. An excerpt:

Let us be clear: HB2 cannot be compared to the injustice of Jim Crow. In fact, it is insulting to liken African Americans’ continuing struggle for equality in America to the liberals’ attempt to alter society’s accepted norms.

Recently, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch compared HB2 to Jim Crow. Jim Crow laws were put into place to keep an entire race positioned as second-class citizens. HB2 simply says that men and women should use the restroom of their biological sex in government buildings and schools. This comparison is highly offensive and utterly disrespectful to those families and individuals who have shed blood and lost lives to advance the cause of civil rights. I take this as a personal slap in the face because I was an active participant in the civil rights movement….

The piece is accompanied by an old AP photo showing the author, Clarence Henderson, participating in a sit-in at a Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro in 1960. Which sort of establishes his credentials.

Thoughts?

Me, I’m just glad it’s North Carolina that has stepped into this big time, and not us. Mr. Henderson would probably not agree…

Apparently, there ARE pro-life Democrats in South Carolina

They’re out there.

Despite our perception of the parties being monolithic on the issue of abortion, in South Carolina, that’s not quite the case.

It's not as monolithic as you might think.

It’s not as monolithic as you might think.

At least not among Democrats.

Remember when the S.C. House voted last week to ban abortion at 20 weeks or later, sending the bill to the governor?

Well, all 29 of the votes against came from Democrats. No shock there.

But it should be noted, at least in passing, that eight of the 79 votes for the bill came from Democrats.

To be specific, these Democrats:

  1. Rep. Mike Anthony from Union
  2. Rep. Bill Bowers from Hampton
  3. Rep. Grady Brown from Lee
  4. Rep. Laurie Funderburk from Kershaw
  5. Rep. Wayne George from Marion
  6. Rep. Jackie “Coach” Hayes from Dillon
  7. Rep. Russell Ott from Calhoun
  8. Rep. Robert Ridgeway III from Clarendon

You can find the vote breakdown in the House journal for that day.

Is there a commonality? Well, they’re all from smaller, more rural communities rather than any of the metropolitan centers of the state. Your big-city Democrats — such as Beth Bernstein, Chris Hart, Mia McLeod, Todd Rutherford and James Smith — all voted against.

Their reasoning for stepping out this way? I don’t know. If I had time, I’d interview all eight, but I don’t have the time right now. Maybe some of them would say they’re not pro-life, but have other reasons for their votes.

It’s just that I’ve noted this pattern on previous votes having to do with this issue, and I’ve never seen it get any media attention, so I thought that this time, I’d at least point out what the record shows.

And yeah, it could use some followup.

But in the meantime, I see it as positive. At least on the Democratic side, we have some representatives in South Carolina who think for themselves, even on an issue seen as the ultimate litmus test.

What?!?!? They’re having a HEARING already on the Bathroom Bill?

This is just bizarre, people. They’re already having a hearing on Lee Bright’s Bathroom Bill — Wednesday morning.

We’re talking about a bill that fits neatly, or should, into the “people can file a bill about anything, but that doesn’t mean it will go anywhere” category.

Lee Bright

Lee Bright

If anyone in the State House agrees with Bright that this is a needed bill, I’ve missed it. Oh, I’m sure some would vote for it, but I’ve missed the groundswell that called for immediate action.

And yet, in the blink of an eye by State House standards, they’re having a hearing on this? While critical legislation that speaks directly to lawmakers’ core responsibilities languishes? So did lawmakers deal effectively with road funding and DOT reform and ethics reform when I wasn’t looking, thereby clearing their decks for this stuff?

This thing was introduced less than a week ago. Unfortunately, the news story didn’t get into what I want to know, which is how this hearing came about — who decided to schedule it, and how. It doesn’t even mention which committee is holding the hearing.

In any case, it says Bright hopes he can have the bill to the Senate floor by next week. And given the speedy hearing, I suppose he has every reason to hope that.

This is absurd…

 

Good for Nikki, trying to stay out of the Kulturkampf (I think)

The governor prefers to wave this one off...

The governor prefers to wave this one off…

What the governor is saying about the Bathroom Wars is a bit oblique, and probably deliberately so:

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday that a bill that would limit what bathrooms transgender people can choose is unnecessary because South Carolinians already are respectful to people from different backgrounds.

“When we look at our situation, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious freedoms that are being violated,” she told reporters. “Like it or not, South Carolina is doing really well when it comes to respect and when it comes to kindness and when it comes to acceptance. For people to imply it’s not, I beg to differ.”…

The governor said South Carolina’s 17-year-old state law protecting religious freedoms already covers banning transgender men and women from using bathrooms of their choice.

“We don’t think we need to do anything further to require people to feel like their religious liberties are weakened at this point,” she said….

Whether the governor is saying we don’t need new bathroom laws, or that maybe we do need them but we’re covered on that point, I’m a little fuzzy on.

But I do get that she’s saying that there’s no need to follow Lee Bright down this rathole.

And that’s good, right?

South Carolina has enough on its plate wrestling with down-to-Earth, pragmatic matters that should be fairly easy to solve, but seem to be beyond us. Like funding roads. I have always felt that in South Carolina we needed to save up all the political capital we can muster to address those things, since they seem to be so hard for us and yet are so basic to keeping a state up and running.

We really don’t need to join the national shouting match over this. Which is where Sen. Bright would take us…

Trump abortion comment may be the ultimate example of his malevolent cluelessness

Donald Trump, engaged in what passes for 'thought' with him.

Donald Trump, engaged in what passes for ‘thought’ with him.

Donald Trump outdid himself yesterday, managing to alienate everyone on both sides of the abortion divide with his utter malevolent cluelessness:

APPLETON, Wis. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came under fire Wednesday for saying that women should be subject to “some sort of punishment” for undergoing illegal abortions, a position that antiabortion and abortion rights groups alike emphatically denounced….

This prompted plenty of comments to the effect that Trump had evidently not thought carefully about the issue — which would mean that he has treated this issue the way he treats all others.

Say “Donald Trump thinking about issues,” and I picture a flat rock skipping across a pond before it runs out of momentum and eventually sinks to the bottom. Trump is the rock, in case the metaphor is too complex for you.

I would take it another step, though, in this case. I think what he said reflects that, to the extent he’s thought about the issue at all, he still holds a view (left over from his “very pro-choice” days, back when that was more convenient for him) of us pro-lifers propagated by those who oppose us: That our opposition to abortion arises not out of a concern for the unborn life, but from a hostility to women and their interests.

To the extent that something one would characterize as “thought” passed through Trump’s mind before he spoke in response to prompting from his interviewer, it seems to have been along these lines: “This is the way those pro-lifers think, so since I’m pretending to be one of them, I’ll say that.”

Mixed in with that, we should probably take into account his general preference for sounding “tough,” whatever the issue. The tougher — and the stupider — he sounds, the more his base seems to like him.

So where does this leave us? With this guy still the GOP front-runner, which means that unless a miracle can be pulled off at the convention, the allegedly pro-life party will be represented by someone who holds actual pro-lifers in contempt, while the left will characterize him the way this NYT headline yesterday did: “Donald Trump, Abortion Foe, Eyes ‘Punishment’ for Women…” Even though Trump is as much of a “abortion foe” as the aforementioned flat rock.

Presidential campaign generally produce much heat, and little light, on the abortion issue. But things seldom go this dark…

You know you’ve gone too far in attacking Obama when the WSJ defends him

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Meant to post this the other day…

I kind of went “Huh?” when I saw that Marco Rubio had been critical of President Obama’s visit to a mosque, saying POTUS is “always pitting Americans against each other.”

From Trump and Cruz I expect such non sequitur grumbling. Not from Rubio.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board agreed with me the next day:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio gave PresidentObama a hard time for his speech Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and we wonder if the Florida Senator read it. The speech was one of Mr. Obama’s best attempts to fulfill the promise he made in 2008 to promote racial and political comity.

We’ll admit to expecting worse, since Mr. Obama has typically addressed the issue of Islam by apologizing for Western behavior (2009 in Cairo) or analogizing Islamic State to the Christian Crusades (2015 National Prayer Breakfast). But in Baltimore he sought to reassure Muslims about their place in this country by invoking the best traditions of American religious freedom and tolerance….

Yeah. That’s pretty much what I heard.

Where the Boys Are: Gloria Steinem redefines feminism

I might have to stop quoting Madeleine Albright.

Y’all know how I like to cite her “indispensable nation” explanation of America’s role in the world.

Well, after she said this, in the context of supporting Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, I may have to give the Albright quotes a rest:

While introducing Mrs. Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, Ms. Albright, 78, the first female secretary of state, talked about the importance of electing a woman to the country’s highest office. In a dig at the “revolution” that Mr. Sanders, 74, often speaks of, she said the first female commander in chief would be a true revolution. And she scolded any woman who felt otherwise.

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. “It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”…

Yikes. Really? You think hell is organized that way? Huh.

Then there’s what Gloria Steinem had to say on the subject:

Ms. Steinem, 81, one of the most famous spokeswomen of the feminist movement, took the sentiment a step further on Friday in an interview with the talk show host Bill Maher. Explaining that women tend to become more active in politics as they become older, she suggested that younger women were backing Mr. Sanders just so they could meet young men.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said….

Yikes.

You know, over the decades, I’ve often had to get people to explain to me what feminism actually is. Is it that we’re supposed to appreciate that women are different and value them as they are instead of uphold masculine modes of being as the ideal? Or is it that we’re supposed to believe that there are no differences? Sometimes it seems it’s one, sometimes the other.

That’s confusing enough (and apparently, the answer is “either,” depending on the brand of feminism to which you subscribe). But now, I’m definitely going to have to go back to Remedial Consciousness Raising, circa 1970, because Gloria Steinem, who I thought was supposed to embody feminism, has really thrown me for a loop…

Face it: The Pope is an equal-opportunity meeter

And now today, folks are making a fuss over this story:

Pope Francis met with a friend who is gay, and his partner, while in D.C.

A longtime friend of Pope Francis who is openly gay said Friday that he and his partner met with the pontiff during his recent trip to Washington, adding a new layer of fodder for Americans who are riveted by this pope and are scrutinizing his words and actions for affirmation of their own views….

Earlier, everyone was going on about the Pope meeting with the Kentucky clerk who didn’t want to sign off on same-sex marriages. Like that meant something. Even though the Vatican says it didn’t:

While conservative opponents of same-sex marriage have hailed the Francis-Davis meeting as validation of their cause, the Vatican said Friday that the encounter was not meant as an endorsement of all of Davis’s actions and views.

“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” a Vatican statement said….

Face it, the guy likes people. He meets with them. From old friends to fallen-away Catholics such as Kim Davis.

That said, while I fully understand why the pontiff wanted to hug his gay friend, I don’t know why he met with Kim Davis as opposed to the millions of other people he could have had short private meetings with. Perhaps, as some conspiracy theorists have it, he was duped into it. Although I doubt that. This pope doesn’t do what he doesn’t want to do.

And he likes people. Including people you, or I, would rather he not meet with.

Personally, I was a little disappointed that he met with Ms. Davis, and not exactly for the same reasons that those who think people who oppose same-sex marriage are “haters” were. Every gesture makes a point (and this Pope is a genius of gestures and what they communicate), and any useful point to have been made by meeting with the clerk — re religious freedom — was made far more effectively and appropriately in his meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Little Sisters are clearly in the right in their assertion of religious freedom — speaking from a Catholic perspective. And you know, while a lot of people who want him to be something else tend to forget it, the Pope is Catholic. They are a private, religious entity that the government is trying to force to do something against their beliefs.

Kim Davis, by contrast, is an elected public employee, with an obligation to perform her duties in complete accordance with the law as it exists, not as she would wish it to be. If she wishes to avoid conflict with her conscience, she can resign her public office. Big difference between that and being a private actor, like night and day.

Although it occurs to me that the difference between public and private, so obvious to those of us who live with and embrace the 1st Amendment, may not seem quite as stark to an Argentine of Italian abstraction. I don’t know. In any case, if he did meet with Ms. Davis to make a point, it likely would have been more about standing up for your principles than about same-sex unions or even contraception.

(Although, that said, his willingness to meet with dissidents here, in a free country, makes it seem even worse that he didn’t meet with Cuban dissidents in that oppressive country. I have a theory about that: He’s trying hard to open up Cuba to the Gospel, and doesn’t want to push too hard while the Castros are being so welcoming. The stakes are higher there, and gestures can have more severe consequences, especially upon those very dissidents, once the Pope leaves. He was, after all, a guest in both countries — and this country is infinitely more tolerant of in-your-face political gestures than Cuba is.)

Anyway, people shouldn’t overreact to these things. We get these extremes. The Pope meets with Kim Davis, and they’re all like, “He hates gay people!” Instead of concluding that, unlike a lot of people, he just doesn’t hate Kim Davis.

Then he meets with his gay friend, and they’re like, “He loves gay people!”

Well, of course he does. He always has, and always will. He’s that kind of guy. He loves everybody…

The Little Sisters of the Poor are all about love, too.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are all about love, too.

Scoppe: Lawmakers have more constructive things to do than go off on Kulturkampf chase

And she’s right. From her column today:

Last week, the committee voted to distract itself from the intensive reviews it has pledged to complete this year of the huge Transportation Department and nine other state agencies, adding an investigation into the relationship between Planned Parenthood and four state agencies.

Now, there are circumstances under which it might be a good use of the panel’s time (or at least not a bad use) to jump into the political firestorm that has been raging nationally since the release of secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials talking cavalierly about harvesting and selling aborted fetal tissue to medical researchers.

It certainly would make sense, for instance, to add that line of questioning if the panel already were reviewing the agencies it plans to call in for questioning: the Medical University of South Carolina and the departments of Health and Environmental Control, Health and Human Services and Social Services. But it’s not.

It might even be a worthwhile question for the panel to pursue if no one else was examining whether any fetal tissue was being harvested in South Carolina, and whether any state funds were supporting that. And if there were anything to suggest that what we know has happened in California and Oregon might be happening here. And if the committee weren’t already overloaded.

But none of that is the case….

Cindi and I disagree on the abortion issue, if I remember correctly. But I could be wrong about that; we never really got into it, as an issue for the board to address. Why? For the same reason I moan when I see our public conversations careening off into Culture War territory: At least here on the state level, such issues do little beyond dividing us into irreconcilable camps. Nothing is resolved, and everyone is so embittered that there is no appetite for seeking consensus on other issues that we could, conceivably, agree on.

For similar reasons, we stayed away from such things as the same-sex marriage debate (and of course, when I was on the board, so did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.) Now some would say that issue has been resolved, this latest mini-drama in Kentucky notwithstanding. Of course, a lot of folks think Roe v. Wade settled the abortion issue. It did not. But I do think the gay-marriage issue is different. We’ve moved much closer to consensus on that, and the issue is not the sure-fire source of pointless division that it was not long ago.

Abortion, of course, is as divisive as ever.

And it’s distressing to see our lawmakers, who have only recently started getting serious about providing oversight of state agencies, to waste energy on something that accomplishes nothing beyond giving members a chance to signal on which side of the irreconcilable divide they stand.

Why on Earth did Jeb Bush say ‘women’s health’ when that’s not what he meant?

What’s amazing about Jeb Bush getting into trouble over what he said about Planned Parenthood — which led to his having to issue a clarification — is that he essentially handed the cudgel to his critics and begged them to beat him with it.

Here’s what he said:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has been criticized recently by some conservatives for serving on the board of a charity that gave money to Planned Parenthood, called for the organization’s defunding during an interview Tuesday with a Southern Baptist leader.

“If you took dollar for dollar, though, I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” said Bush, to the cheers and applause from the audience of 13,000 Southern Baptists during his interview with Russell Moore at the denomination’s missions conference….

Obviously, what he meant to say was, I don’t think we need to send half a billion in tax dollars to the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Because, you know, that’s what we do. And that was the context of the statement.

But instead, he adopted the language of the people who use “women’s health” as a euphemism for abortion. This is something we all know and understand, whatever our positions on the issue. If we didn’t know that, we would have a terrible time following political debates. Anyone who thinks “women’s health,” in a political context, refers to fighting breast cancer or putting free clinics to promote overall health in poor neighborhoods is a person who’s going to be very confused about what is being discussed.

So why would Bush use the preferred euphemism of his opposition on this issue, thereby enabling them (with towering cynicism) to paint him as actually being opposed to, you know, women’s health? (Which is something that no one is against, which is why they say that instead of “abortion.”)

It’s inexplicable. Will he continue this trend? Will he start stating his position on abortion to be “anti-choice?” Will he express his objection to Planned Parenthood as being that it “prevents us from controlling women’s bodies?” Will he start wearing an actual sign on his back saying, “Kick Me, Hard?”

We all know that Donald Trump has said some stupid stuff lately. But on this, Jeb Bush voluntarily stuffed both feet in his mouth, completely unnecessarily.

Justices find right to marry, extend it to same-sex couples

Here’s the main news:

The Supreme Court on Friday delivered a historic victory for gay rights, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live and that states may no longer reserve the right only for heterosexual couples.

The court’s action marks the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion and the nation’s jurisprudence. Advocates called it the most pressing civil rights issue of modern times, while critics said the courts had sent the country into uncharted territory by changing the traditional definition of marriage.

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. He was joined in the ruling by the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

All four of the court’s most conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented and each wrote a separate opinion, saying the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people….

In his first-ever dissent, Justice Roberts asked, “Who do we think we are?” He argued that same-sex marriage was rapidly gaining acceptance across the country legally, and that the court, “in a government of laws and not of men,” had no business pre-empting that democratic process.

Here’s the text of the opinion.

Camille Paglia on identity politics

Camille Paglia is a feminist, which I am not. She is also an atheist, which I am not — although I like her observation that “God is man’s greatest idea.”

But she and I have some common ground on Identity Politics. The WSJ quoted this over the weekend. Here’s a link to the full interview, at reason.com:

reason: For you, what is the essence of feminism? Is it using the lens of gender to explore every given issue? Is it a formal gesture? Is it a methodology, or is it a set of political positions that can’t change?

Paglia: I am an equal opportunity feminist. I believe that all barriers to women’s advancement in the social and political realm must be removed. However, I don’t feel that gender is sufficient to explain all of human life. This gender myopia has become a disease, a substitute for a religion, this whole cosmic view. It’s impossible that the feminist agenda can ever be the total explanation for human life. Our problem now is that this monomania—the identity politics of the 1970s, so people see everything through the lens of race, gender, or class-this is an absolute madness, and in fact, it’s a distortion of the ’60s. I feel that the ’60s had a vision, a large cosmic perspective that was absolutely lost in this degeneration, in this splintering of the 1970s into these identity politics.

I like people who refuse to fit in boxes, whose thoughts range beyond them. I may not like them all over — I’m less enchanted with the “vision” of the 60s, if I’m understanding her correctly — but in spots.

S.C. lawmakers discuss U.S. Constitutional convention

When I saw this this morning:


I had nothing to go on, so I facetiously responded, “Here we go again. Tell the boys at The Citadel to break out the red flag…”

But based on the reporter’s subsequent Tweets, I’m guessing this is what it’s about:

Amending the U.S. Constitution to make marriage between only a man and woman. (Main sponsor: Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley)

That one kinda snuck up on me. I missed that story when it ran. Or maybe I saw it, and missed the thing about Grooms wanting a U.S. con-con, which was only mentioned in a bulleted sidebar, not the main story.

I’ll let you know if it turns out I’m wrong and its about something else.

A U.S. Constitutional convention, eh? If we do that, can we straighten out the language in the 2nd Amendment this time, do something about that oddly placed comma? Not this one, the first one.

Where Cameron Runyan is coming from

File photo of Cameron Runyan in 2011.

File photo of Cameron Runyan in 2011.

Earlier this month, Cameron Runyan happened to run across my blog post from November, when I shared with y’all his written explanation of his lone vote against same-sex benefits.

He wanted to get together and “catch up,” so I met him for breakfast on Jan. 23.

At that time, he shared with me some of the story about how he came to be a lone culture warrior on Columbia City Council, among other things. I wasn’t sure at the time that I was going to write anything about the conversation, and took few notes (so Cameron, if I remember anything wrong, please let me know and I’ll correct it). Then I decided that I would write about it, but only after talking with his likely opponent in this year’s election, Tige Watts. I spoke with Mr. Watts Friday, making a point of taking more notes this time.

But first, the incumbent, starting with his conversion experience…

Cameron Runyan’s grandparents were missionaries, but he didn’t really get deeply into religion until just over three years ago.

He and his extended family were spending the Christmas holidays in the Caribbean. On Boxing Day 2011, he and a couple of other family members went out for a run (if you recall from something I wrote earlier that year, he had “disgustingly healthy habits”).

Suddenly, he could not go on. His muscles were seizing up, and he could hardly breathe. Apparently, it was a matter of dehydration or something of that sort — in any case, his electrolytes (which plants crave) were all out of whack. “The point of dehydration where I was is 50-60% fatal,” he added in a text to me today. “You more often die than live at that point. It was extremely dire and painful.” He thought this was it; he was dying. And as he lay more or less helpless on a bed in a medical facility later, trying to recover, he concluded that he was not happy with how he had lived his life thus far. He felt himself to be lacking the proper connection to something greater than himself.

Over the coming months, he plunged into a new sort of relationship with God, one with an evangelical flavor. For a time, his wife had a hard time dealing with the new Cameron. Then one day, he came home and she had undergone a conversion of her own. From then on, the Runyans were on the same journey, bringing their kids along with them.

For a good while, they attended services presided over by Det Bowers. Det was from Hampton County, where Cameron had grown up. And his life had followed in some ways a similar trajectory. Bowers was an attorney who managed Michael Dukakis’ campaign in South Carolina in 1988, and went on to become a preacher who would run to the right of Lindsey Graham in last year’s GOP primary.

But when Mr. Bowers gave up preaching, the Runyans ended up at Columbia’s First Presbyterian Church, well known as one of the most conservative large, brand-name congregations in the city. I showed my ignorance by saying that while I knew First Pres was pretty conservative, it wasn’t as conservative as A.R.P. Cameron said it is A.R.P. (which I think maybe I once knew, but had forgotten), and in fact the biggest Associate Reform Presbyterian church around.

A word or two about the A.R.P. denomination… While the only time I can recall entering an A.R.P. church was for Lee Bandy’s funeral, it looms large in my family tree. Look up the church’s history, and you see among the founders such names as Moffatt and Pressly, which are kin to my father’s mother. Erskine College is A.R.P., as was Erskine Caldwell, in spite of the sexually titillating books for which he became famous. In the years before my grandfather died in 1957, he and my grandmother had been living in a house on the edge of Due West owned by the president of Erskine. Billy Graham was brought up in an A.R.P. church, although he was later ordained as a Southern Baptist.

Among other things, Wikipedia notes that the denomination officially calls homosexuals “to repentance, cleansing, and deliverance in the saving power of Jesus Christ.”

So it is not surprising that when Cameron Runyan gets onto the subject of same-sex marriage, there is a good bit of talk about God’s will along with his objections to moral relativism, postmodernism and so forth.

I think I’ve fairly brought you up to date on that. Some other items from our conversation:

  • When he voted as he did on the benefits issue, I recall that a number of people expressed disappointment in him as a Democrat. Well, he doesn’t consider himself to be a Democrat any longer. (Remember, city council elections are nonpartisan.) As evidence of that, he pointed to his support of Mr. Bowers in last year’s Senate primary.
  • He didn’t want to talk about his relationship with Steve Benjamin who endorsed his candidacy last time around, and with whom he has been so closely allied for quite some time thereafter. But there are indications that that relationship is at best strained, compared to what it was.
  • While he is running for re-election in November, he says he won’t run again for this seat, after this time. I did not gather from that that he was retiring from politics; he just doesn’t want to hold this seat past one more term.
  • When I mentioned that it looked as though he had opposition, he said that yes, he’d heard that Joe Azar might run against him. He did not mention Tige Watts, whose yet-to-be-official candidacy has actually been the subject of some talk in the community.

Speaking of Mr. Watts, I’d best turn to my post about him…

 

Runyan stance may generate an actual challenge this year

Remember Cameron Runyan’s solitary stance on a vote dealing with an aspect of the same-sex marriage issue?

There was a flurry of rhetoric at the time to the effect of “somebody oughta run against this guy.” There was a Twitter feed and everything — although the last Tweet was Dec. 10.

Well, “somebody” may. Free Times is reporting this:

On Nov. 18, Columbia City Council voted — by a count of 4-1 — to extend benefits to the spouses of city employees who are in legal same-sex marriages, including legal marriages from any of the 50 states. Councilman Cameron Runyan cast the lone dissenting vote.

Avatar from the "Replace Runyan" Twitter feed.

Avatar from the “Replace Runyan” Twitter feed.

A day later, on Nov. 19, longtime Columbia political consultant Tige Watts posted the following on his Facebook page: “As God is my witness, I will do everything I can to make sure Cameron Runyan is not re-elected to Columbia City Council 349 days from now.”

It’s looking like Watts wasn’t kidding.

On Monday afternoon, Watts told Free Times that he is heavily considering a run for the at-large seat on Columbia City Council currently occupied by Runyan. Watts says he is in the process of preparing campaign materials and would likely make an official announcement at the end of the month.

Runyan’s at-large post is one of three seats that will be up for election in November…

 

Graham on Paris terror attack

Since reading about the terrorist attack in Paris this morning over breakfast I’ve meant to post something but been busy.

So I’ll share what Lindsey Graham put out, to get a conversation started:

Graham on Terror Attack in Paris

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on this morning’s terrorist attack in Paris which has left at least 12 people dead.

 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the families, and the French people in the wake of this horrendous attack.

 

“Simply stated, radical Islam – through extreme violence and intimidation – is trying to replace our way of life with theirs.  I have no doubt they will ultimately fail, but the question is how many will be injured or killed before that day arrives?

 

“Here at home, we must use this horrific attack as an opportunity to reevaluate our own national security posture.  I fear our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding.  Through a combination of poor policy choices made by the Obama Administration regarding detention and interrogation policies, and budget cuts approved by the Congress with President Obama’s support, I believe our national security infrastructure designed to prevent these types of attacks from occurring is under siege.

 

“President Obama should immediately change his interrogation and detention policies as we are gradually losing the ability to detect, disrupt and prevent future terrorist attacks.  In addition, it is time to restore the necessary funding to our intelligence-gathering and national security operations.

 

“I fear we can expect and must prepare for more attacks like this in the future.  ISIL is well-funded and has an entrenched command structure that is actively inspiring terrorist attacks throughout the world.  And while President Obama has the right goal in destroying ISIL, I fear the policies he is using are grossly insufficient and leave our homeland increasingly exposed.

 

“Finally, we should acknowledge that radical Islamists have no limits when it comes to destruction and the taking of human life.  That is why it remains imperative that we never allow radical Islamic terrorists to acquire weapons of mass destruction.  While today’s attack in Paris involved conventional weapons, I fear the terrorist attacks of the future could be even more lethal and even more tragic if these organizations acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.  Denying them this capability is the challenge of the time.”

 

#####

Nice to see left and right getting together to back a pregnant woman

This morning, I ran across this Tweet from a pro-life organization:

Later in the day, I got this release from the Population Connection Action Fund, which I gather is not exactly what anyone would call rabidly pro-pregnancy:

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Peggy Young v. UPS, a pregnancy discrimination case. We are appalled that in the year 2014 pregnant women continue to face injustice in the workplace at the hands of employers whose actions are wrongly legitimized by lower courts’ narrow interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Population Connection Action Fund stands firmly with Ms. Young in her fight for rectitude against UPS. No pregnant woman in the United States, or any country for that matter, should be stripped of her right to receive valid accommodations from an employer if she has a substantiated medical need…

I’m glad to see folks from both sides of the Culture Wars banding together to defend a woman in need.

Of course, if you read a bit further in each organization’s statements, you get to language where they are gulfs apart.

But I take these blessed moments of togetherness wherever I can find them.

Here’s an NPR story about the case that brought them together…

Runyan defends his lone vote against same-sex benefits

I hadn’t really pictured Cameron Runyan as a culture warrior. But here, in the process of defending a vote, he takes on moral relativism, postmodernism, and other newfangled stuff.

Not the sort of stuff you usually hear city councilmen going on about.

Anyway, I pass it on verbatim:

Cameron Runyan for Columbia City Council
Why I cannot support the redefinition of marriage
My recent, lone vote against providing homosexual couples with marriage benefits has caused quite a stir in the capital city of Columbia.  I hope this will shed a ray of light on my action.
Let me first address two primary issues.  First, nothing I say below on this topic means that I do not care deeply about the people who are in the midst of these issues.  I do care, and will continue to care for them.  I also pray that as they read this, they can be as respectful of my worldview as they require others to be of theirs.  Second, there was a time in my life when I believed, like an increasing number in our culture, that what is truth for one person may or may not be truth for another person.  I believed that we should essentially let people do whatever makes them happy within their version of truth.
However, a few years ago, my eyes were opened to the reality that the increasing moral relativism of our post-modern culture is contributing to the unraveling of the societal foundations we all depend on.  Because so many in our culture now see all moral issues as being relative to the individual, we are quickly becoming a society where any absolute moral truth no longer exists.  Nowhere is this more apparent than with the contemporary issues surrounding human sexuality.
Twenty-five years ago, there was not one country on the planet where same sex marriage was legal.  Today, the push to redefine marriage and sexuality has become the issue of utmost moral urgency in our culture.  This movement has led us to redefine gender and the central institution of the family in ways that no previous generation in the history of the world could imagine.  We now face the once incomprehensible notion that a person can choose their gender and, further that they can choose the type of marriage arrangement they desire within their chosen gender.  The fruit of this unprecedented revolution is that absolute moral truths have been exchanged for a relativistic belief system in which nothing can be known with certainty.
City Council’s vote addressed same sex couples but the impact of this moral revolution extends far beyond that because once moral absolutes are removed, anything goes.  Even Facebook is in on the revolution.  Users there can now choose from more than fifty different gender options.  Earlier this year in Utah, a judge struck down that state’s anti-polygamy law opening the way for polygamous and polyamorous marriages.
In Germany, the restraints are even being removed from incest to allow for sexual fulfillment.  A recent ruling there declared, “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”
Historic women’s colleges are now being forced to accept transgender men and are, ironically in the position of discriminating against women in favor of men.  On other college campuses, students are being encouraged to choose their “preferred gender pronoun” and to change them as often as they wish.  These students may literally choose to be male today, female tomorrow and to have no gender next week.
The moral revolution in the educational arena is also entering our high schools as well.  In a Kentucky high school, a child who was born a boy, but now identifies as a girl, has recently been allowed to use the lady’s facilities along with the school’s girls.
At the end of the day, I have been elected as one of three at-large, city wide officials to represent all the people of our state’s capital city.  The balance of council did their job representing one portion of Columbia.  I have chosen to represent the rest.

In service,

Cameron Runyan

Councilman, City of Columbia, SC

Maybe the terrorist who killed Foley was a British subject, but there’s no way he was a ‘Westerner’

News reports such as this one challenge our convictions about citizenship and identity in a modern, pluralistic, liberal democracy:

The beheading of an American journalist at the hands of a London-accented extremist prompted deep reckoning among Britons on Wednesday over the particularly vicious role their countrymen are playing in the destabilization of the Middle East.

Security officials in London have been sounding the alarm for more than a year over the large number of foreigners in Syria, with the chief of Scotland Yard telling reporters last week that about 500 Britons are among the thousands of Westerners who have joined the fight….

I’ll confess right now that my first reaction is one that is unworthy of someone who prizes living in a pluralistic society. My first thought is, “That was no Englishman. That was a foreigner who had lived in England.”

But then, I have to correct myself: If Scotland Yard says there are “500 Britons” fighting for ISIS, then I have to take it to me that they hold British passports (I sincerely doubt that the Yard is referring to the old ethnic identity of Briton, as in the people who lived in Albion before the Angles and the Saxons showed up.)

And if they hold UK passports, then they are Brits. They are British subjects, with the same rights and privileges as Sir Paul McCartney or Hugh Laurie or David Cameron. That’s the way it is, and the way it should be. To say they are less English (or less British) than James Bond because they belonged to a culture that made them likely to become Islamist terrorists is to deny what separates us from the cultural fascists of ISIS.

However, all of that said… I still don’t see how they, or the 100 or so Americans among the terrorists, can be called “Westerners.” That implies a cultural orientation, one which these fighters categorically and viciously reject. Western culture is something they are against, presumably. They may hold passports from Western nations, but everything they are cries out against all that is Western — including our pious, correct insistence that legally, they are just as British as Monty Python.

Terrorists such as these challenge our vocabulary. We must choose our words carefully, as we are trying to define a new thing, a thing that if it had its way would kill us all. A decidedly unWestern thing…