Category Archives: UnParty

Why CAN’T I be a conservative-liberal, or liberal-conservative?

Lincoln was as radical a change agent as this nation has seen -- but his chief goal at every step was to conserve the union.

Lincoln was a conservative liberal. He was as radical a change agent as this nation has seen — but his chief goal at every step was to conserve the union.

The answer is, there’s no reason I can’t. In fact that’s what I am. But dang, it’s hard to explain to people, even though it seems natural to me.

Harry Harris and I were having a good discussion about political labels — ones that people apply to their opponents, and ones they apply to themselves (which can be just as irritating sometimes) — on a previous post. The thread started here.

The last thing Harry said about it was this:

My experience with self-labeled persons has been colored by encountering the very aspect of labeling that you parody. A frequent irritant is the conversion of an adjective (conservative, liberal) into a noun – “a conservative” or a whatever. What is it you want to conserve, Mr Conservative? What liberty do you want to unleash, Mr. Liberal? The assumption of a label, other than as a general description, often leads to a forced skewing of one’s understanding of many important ideas or issues. It often then promotes group-think and seeking-out only opinion or fact that would reinforce the prevailing attitude associated with that label. Many of us are overly binary in our thinking, and I believe the prevalence of self-adopted labels promotes such thinking as we basically throw ourselves in with that group. Then starts the name-calling. Now we feel almost compelled to label “those people” as leftists, liberals, commies, gringos, flat-earthers, knuckle-dragging reactionaries, or tree-huggers. I’m a liberal, Southern Baptist, Jesus-follower. The first few parts of my label are just adjectives. I’m probably more conservative on matters of church polity than my “conservative” Southern Baptist brothers and sisters. I’m more conservative on child-rearing related to behavior and decorum than most – but more liberal on allowing children to question and reject my theology and values. I ran a strict classroom with clear and strongly-enforced limits – but those limits allowed as much discretion and freedom as my students could handle – tailored to the situation. Was I liberal or conservative? I changed my mind and my practices on issues as experience dictated. Was I liberal or conservative? Or did I not let labels get in the way.
Labels can increase polarization, and self-adopting those labels equates to giving in to that polarization in my opinion.

Lots of good points there. My response ran along these lines…

The thing is, despite how irritating it has become to hear them, “conservative” and “liberal” are perfectly good words, implying perfectly good things. If only the people in and around our political system hadn’t dragged them through the mire over the past 50 years.

It’s a good thing to be conservative. It means, more than anything else, that you respect tradition — which is a value I cherish. It means respecting those who went before you, instead of assuming that “progress” means you’re better and wiser than those old dead dudes (which you’re not, especially if you have that attitude). It implies caution and responsibility. It means you don’t go off half-cocked. It means you respect the fundamental institutions of society — the family, the church, and yep, the government and its component institutions, such as the police, the military and the public schools.

“Liberal” also means good things. It means you favor liberty. It means you believe in pluralism, and freedom of conscience — including the views of people who don’t share yours. It means openness to new ideas. It means a willingness to change things if they aren’t as good as they should be. It means being generous. ALL Americans should be liberal, including conservatives, because conservatives believe in our institutions and underlying principles, and the essence of our system is that it is a liberal democracy.

The ideal public servant, in light of all that, would be both liberal and conservative, and I see no contradiction in that. For instance, you can have a deep respect for, and deference to, existing institutions while at the same time wanting to improve them. It means you can be a change agent while being cautious and responsible in your approach to change.

But folks who’ve been brainwashed by our parties, and by media that cover politics like is HAS to be a competition between two mutually exclusive teams (the sports model of coverage, which I despise), aren’t able to conceive of the two concepts going together. Language that should bring us together builds walls between us.

This leads to a great deal of misunderstanding. A lot of folks thought I was nuts, back in 2008, when I said I was happy either way the presidential election came out. The two parties had nominated the two people who I thought were the best candidates — John McCain and Barack Obama. It was the greatest win-win situation I’d seen in my adult life — the choice in November was between the two people we had endorsed in their respective primaries. Force to choose, I chose McCain over Obama — but I was pleased with Obama’s victory. Of course neither man was perfect — no one is. But they were both awfully good.

That made some people think I’d lost it, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

I am conservative, and I am liberal, or I try to be. We should all strive to be both, as I defined them above. We should use these fine qualities to unite us, not as a means of separating us — which is what I’ve seen, unfortunately, for most of my adult life.

John Adams was a conservative liberal. He was a revolutionary, but a conservative one, who cherished the rule of law.

John Adams was a conservative liberal. He was a revolutionary, but a conservative one, who cherished the rule of law.

The problem is pulling that one lever to vote straight ticket

2 thoughts

For some reason, when someone links to my blog, it sometimes shows up as a comment awaiting my approval. I don’t know why. Anyway, that happened today, and it led to a response from me, so I thought I’d share it.

I was being quoted in the context of a much longer post. Actually, I’m not sure why what I had said fit into this post — as the writer said, it was about conservative propaganda, and as he or she said, my point comes from the center — but it did, so I’m just going to address that portion of the post.

The writer was referring to this post from this past Election Day. It was one in which I (and others) objected to people who actually vote on Election Day “late voters.” I then went on to object to the term “ticket-splitting.” My point was that there should be no such term, that the practice should simply be called “voting.” As opposed to what people who pull the party lever and ignore the ballot itself, thereby abdicating their responsibility to think, to discern, to discriminate, to make decisions about each individual candidate, to vote.

Here’s the passage of mine that was selected for quotation:

You know what I call ticket-splitting? “Voting.” True voting, serious voting, responsible voting, nonfrivolous voting. I am deeply shocked by the very idea of surrendering to a party your sacred duty to pay attention, to think, to discern, to discriminate, to exercise your judgment in the consideration of each and every candidate on the ballot, and make separate decisions.

If you don’t go through that careful discernment, you aren’t a voter, you are an automaton — a tool of the false dichotomy presented by the parties, a willing participant in mindless tribalism.

Sure, you might carefully discern in each case and end up voting only for members of one party or the others. And that’s fine — kind of weird, given the unevenness of quality in both parties’ slates of candidates — but if that’s where you end up.

And here’s what the person quoting it had to say about it:

Kernel of truth:
Human beings are certainly tribal, just in general. The idea that political parties are becoming tribes is an obvious extension of this, especially bolstered by worrying observations like increasing polarization of political opinion in the U.S. and (very likely related) increasing physical separation (segregation) between red (suburbs/country) and blue (cities) tribes. You also don’t have to look very long or hard to find a person who has a basic, surface-level understanding of politics, who doesn’t have an elaborate, well-thought-out intellectual theory of politics guiding their positions (in fact, their positions might be a contradictory mish-mash of things) but know very well who they’re supporting in the next election.

Tribal chauvinism can be scary — the ability to ascribe Deep Differences between in-group and out-group justifies (and thus creates) violence. People instinctively wish to bridge gaps between groups. Doing so stems future violence and can even be an ego boost to the person capable of doing so — being able to see how both sides are just tribal takes the person able to see it out of the realm of primitive partiality into the era of enlightenment and clear sight free from petty bias.

Why is the use of “tribalism” messed up?
There are at least three things messed up about analyzing political disagreement as largely tribalism.

First thing: it disrupts public democratic discourse by giving people the ability to dismiss people’s positions as born from blind, unenlightened loyalty rather than being sincerely held. The ability to say, “Well, you WOULD say that because that’s your tribe’s Doctrine” is not a good way to engage with fellow citizens’ opinions.

Second thing: it elides the very real differences and very real societal implications that different positions have. Whether Muslims should be banned, in my opinion, really really isn’t a matter of, “Well, you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to. Who’s to say what’s right, really?” The concept of political disagreement boiling down, ultimately, to tribalism spreads a weird moralized amorality throughout society, where the ability to see the value of both sides becomes valorized (morally lauded) much more than the ability to take a side decisively (such preference for one over the other is close-minded, unenlightened, tribal). I’m not saying being able to see the logic or reasoning behind the other side is bad — I will never ever turn my back on the importance of empathy. But if your idea of enlightenment extends to “seeing through the bullshit of each side impartially” and no further, not to being able to evaluate the merits and awfulness of various positions, choose a side, and fight for the more moral option, your ability to see free from bias serves you and no one else.

The example above finds it unusual that someone would uniformly choose politicians of one party after careful evaluation because the “quality” of candidates varies so much that there is likely to be overlap, which means that a straight ticket will probably select a bad quality candidate over a better quality candidate. However, this doesn’t really make sense to me as someone for whom political positions are the main criteria of “quality” in a candidate. The two parties agree on a lot, but on the issues they don’t agree on, it is very rare for me to agree more with the political positions of a Republican over even a very right-wing Democrat — my notion of “quality” does not suggest there is much overlap at all. It’s true that serious issues like corruption / criminal behavior might make me consider voting for the other candidate, or a very odd politician who runs on issues no other politician has a stance on might warrant a closer look. However, I think the view that political differences seem like the least relevant consideration only makes sense when you’re in the center.

In the place of political stances, there is an unspecific notion of “quality”, and as you can see in the post, the state of being indifferent to political differences is morally valorized.

Third thing: as someone who is not a centrist, I will tell you that you can have zero loyalty for a political party (in fact, actively have an antagonistic relationship with both), and still have a very clear preference for one party’s politics. Having a preference between two teams ≠ being guided by tribalist loyalties. It just means your politics are not located midway between the teams.

Instead of / when you encounter “tribalism” you should:
Recognize that the existence of tribalism as a psychological feature of humans doesn’t negate very real differences between political stances. Recognize that while it’s good deed to reduce partisan bias in the world, there are sometimes things much worse than being partisan, and sometimes doing the right thing means decisively taking a side and fighting for it, rather than saying “well, I can see the value of both sides”.

Yes, I know that a lot of people hate it when I say “I can see the value of both sides,” and they let me know it, but this was not a case in which I was saying that.

Pleased that this writer was approaching my point thoughtfully, but distressed that my actual point had been ignored for the sake of concentrating on a word (“tribalism”) that was neither here nor there, I responded:

I’m glad you found my blog worth quoting, and I appreciate your thoughtful approach.

But you didn’t address my point.

No one’s trying to paper over differences, or call genuine disagreement “tribalism.”

I’m attacking the indefensible practice of party-line voting. I’m talking about people paying ZERO attention to the relative qualities of individual candidates, and simply pulling the party lever, choosing the very worst candidates that party is offering along with the very best. I’m referring a gross form of intellectual laziness, which I would think — given your thoughtful approach — you would abhor.

A person who pulls that lever abdicates the profound responsibility, as a voter, to think, to discern, to honestly compare each candidate to his or her opponent(s).

Sure, I can see how you can be a Democrat and vote for Democrats most of the time because you more often agree with Democrats. But it would be absurd to say, to assume, to believe, that ALL Democrats are automatically better than ALL Republicans, and vote accordingly, without taking a moment to test your proposition with each candidate on the ballot. In other words, without thinking.

If you’re really, really into being a Democrat (and of course it works the same way with Republicans; I’m just choosing the side you’re more likely to go with), then you will usually vote for the Democrat. In a particular election, you might even end up voting for every Democrat, without engaging in intellectual dishonesty. It seems to me unlikely, but then I can’t imagine agreeing with either party — or any party in the world — on everything. But a person who truly leans that way might legitimately do that.

But if he or she has not thought through every choice on the ballot before arriving at that 100 percent, we have an abdication of responsibility.

And then — you ever notice how irritating it can be when you want to change what you wrote in a comment, but there’s no edit feature (yes, I’m trying to be funny)? Well, those of you who complain about it so much can feel a little Schadenfreude at my having experienced it myself today. So looking back and seeing I had expressed something poorly, I had to add, immediately:

Rather than “I’m attacking the indefensible practice of party-line voting,” I meant to say, “I’m attacking the indefensible practice of party-lever voting.” As I go on to say, it’s OK if you end up voting for every candidate of one party or the other — as strange as voting that way seems to me.

The irresponsible thing, the indefensible thing, is doing so without having considered the individual candidates and their relative qualities in each contest on the ballot.

SC’s American Party has a candidate in the 5th, too

American Party

The American Party started by Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace awhile back (not to be confused with the George Wallace version) is probably the closest organized group out there to the UnParty (a.k.a. the Grownup Party), even though I can’t bring myself to buy into some of its precepts.

So I’m going to run this release about their candidate for Mick Mulvaney’s 5th District congressional seat in its entirety, since you probably haven’t seen it:

The special election in South Carolina that will determine on June 20th who replaces Republican Mick Mulvaney in the US Congress is an early bellwether of the current sentiment in America.
Are South Carolina voters in the 5th Congressional District satisfied with our present political status quo, or are they ready to make another choice and pick a new, constructive approach to our many challenges?
The American Party candidate, Josh Thornton, provides that new choice – and direction!
Please take a minute to read his candidacy announcement below as well as the press release from a courageous Republican candidate in the race who acted on her convictions by withdrawing her candidacy and switching her support to Josh Thornton and the American Party.
Whether you live in the 5th District or not, please consider helping us send a message to Washington DC, and America, that we are tired of the gridlock and division constantly perpetuated by our present dominant parties. It is time to fix our broken politics – and, it can begin in this special election!


American Party Candidate Announces for the Fifth Congressional District Special Election to Fill Seat Vacated by the Trump Appointment of Mick Mulvaney

 

My name is Josh Thornton. I am a 41 year old educator from Rock Hill, SC. I have been a private and public school educator for 19 years. I have been happily married to my wife, April, for 16 years and we have a 10 year old son. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Math education from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

Josh Thornton

Josh Thornton

As a resident of York County for the past 13 years, I have voted in too many unopposed elections or elections with only two unacceptable choices. As a result, I am running for Congress in the 5th District of SC. The House of Representatives of the United States was formed to give voice to every man and woman in our country. When you look at past elections and the current list of announced candidates for the 5th District, most are established career politicians, party officials, long term insiders or party activists.
I am running for Congress for several reasons. One being that the people of SC need a candidate who is not just another political partisan, but instead is someone who represents a positive choice for badly needed progress. South Carolinians need to ask themselves if they were positively motivated during the last election cycle. Or, if they were instead, merely choosing between the “lesser of two evils”.
We need meaningful competition in our political races in SC. For example, we need competitive general elections, not just competitive Republican primaries. It is time that South Carolinians had a substantially different choice in our elections. That new choice is Josh Thornton of the American Party.
The 5th Congressional District’s special election is a unique opportunity for the voters of our district to send a message to Washington, and to our Nation. We can make it clear that we are tired of choosing between a partisan “warrior” with a “D” or with an “R” next to their name- a partisan who follows the mandates of their party, even when it inevitably leads to harming our nation and dividing our people.
Our two party system is a broken system that is causing unprecedented gridlock. Republicans feel forced to vote in favor of the President and Democrats feel forced to vote against the President. This is catastrophic for the American people, because they often vote according to their Party mandates and at the expense of their constituencies. An American Party Congressman will be able to vote in favor of a Presidential policy when it is positive for their district and their Nation and to vote against policies that would be detrimental. An American Party member of Congress will be able to function as an independent public servant whose only objective will be to benefit the majority of the citizens of their district and their nation.
Government should be by the people and for the people; not, by the rich and for the party. It is time to give the people of SC a new choice and a new approach to governing. We have never needed it more than now.

Republican Candidate for the Fifth Congressional District Race Decides to Support the American Party and Its Candidate

 

Penry Gustafson of Camden, SC has suspended her campaign to run for U.S. Congress. She had previously announced publicly she would be filing as a Republican in an already expansive race to fill Mick Mulvaney’s 5th Congressional District seat. This statement clarifies the reasons for her decision and the change in plans for her political future.

“Where and when one starts politically is essential. I want to make absolutely certain to choose the right place for my personal beliefs and political ideology. More importantly, my family has always come first before career, and at this moment, I am needed more there than anywhere else.”

Her desire to bring back decency and common sense to public office is what drove her to enter the race. “I could not turn away from this wonderful opportunity to prove that the average citizen can seek public office along with the career politicians that seem to drive every single election.” Her slogan “Voice for All” refers to all citizens, all voters, all potential voters. She claims “Open, balanced solutions to complex problems is what is needed right now to calm the rocky waters.”

Her platform issues included bringing back trust, respect, and honor to our publicly held positions; providing an alternative choice for voters outside establishment candidates; supporting and implementing term limit legislation for all publicly held positions; working toward racial reconciliation; and using a fiscally responsible approach towards a workable balanced budget.

Having never run for office, Gustafson naturally decided that the Republican Party would be her best chance at winning any future elections in South Carolina and was advised that doing otherwise would be “political suicide.” She has been a voting Republican since 1988. However, after intense review and consideration, Gustafson is now supporting and plans to represent the third largest certified party in the state, the American Party. A modern and moderate party founded in 2014 in SC, The American Party, addresses our growing political dysfunction and offers more choices for the voting public.

Jim Rex, American Party Chairman says, “The American Party welcomes the involvement and support of Penry Gustafson!The Party was created by former Republicans, Democrats,and Independents who believe we need a new choice and approach to politics in our State and Nation. Penry Gustafson’s considerable talents and attributes-along with her unselfish patriotism-will be animportant addition to our efforts to fix a broken system.”

Gustafson intends to support Josh Thornton, a Rock Hill educator and American Party candidate. Finally, Penry proclaims, “We need viable candidates not beholding to special interests, lobbyists, or the two-party system, who can truly represent everyone.”

Please check out: thornton4congress or, call 803-360-4417 to talk about how you can help.

The LAST thing we need is more partisanship

The usual partisan nonsense is even more pointless than usual in the face of the Trump crisis.

The usual partisan rubbish is even more pointless than usual in the face of the Trump crisis.

There’s an argument I keep having with Democrats lately, on social media and elsewhere.

On one such occasion recently,  I went on at some length in writing. And as y’all probably know, I hate to spend time typing something and then not put it on the blog. So I’ll share it with you.

This was on an email thread started by friend of mine who has a long list of people he regularly shares things with. On this occasion, he was sharing this story from The New York Times: “Who Hasn’t Trump Banned? People From Places Where He’s Done Business.”

Well, I couldn’t read the Times piece because I’d exceeded my free reads for the month, and I have no intention of subscribing. But I was able to read this response from another recipient of the email — someone who you can see is obviously a Democrat (and someone I’m not going to name because I have no indication he meant it to be published):

An answer:  do not normalize the Administration in any way whatsoever.

An answer:  daily resistance.

An answer:  reorganize the left-of-center ship—and well, frankly, be organized—and call failed leadership to account.

An answer:  approach 2018 as if the everything is on the line (it is).  It’s time to stop playing backyard croquet campaigns.

An answer:  Democratic officials need to stop endorsing Republicans.  (I can’t even believe I live in a state where that is necessary to type.)

I responded thusly:

I agree with [the gentleman] that Trump must not be normalized, and that he must be resisted daily — which I certainly do on my blog.

I disagree VEHEMENTLY with his apparent assumption that the answer is more partisanship… Especially his assertion that “Democratic officials need to stop endorsing Republicans…”

There is nothing MORE likely to normalize Trump than to treat this problem as just another inning in the absurd left-right, Democratic-v.-Republican game.

You really need to get out of that “left-of-center” rut and recognize that Trump is a phenomenon that has no place on the left-right spectrum. He is a unique problem, unlike anything this country has ever seen.

And conservatives — real conservatives — are just as capable of seeing that as liberals. If not more so — at least they can see this is not about the usual partisan games.

You need those people — and people like me who reject the whole left-right thing altogether (and are fed up with it) — on your side in the matter of Trump.

This isn’t about winning the next inning of the perpetual game in 2018.

This guy has to go. And you know who has to reach that conclusion? Republicans in Congress.

Yep, we’re a long way from that happening right now. Republican members are tiptoeing around as though in a minefield.

But you and I and everyone who understands what a threat to the nation Trump truly is should do anything and everything we can to give them room to reach the right conclusion.

And every time a Democrat tries to make it about party, that makes Republicans more likely to close ranks. In other words, it normalizes the situation.

You know where you could start to make the situation better? By supporting and encouraging Republicans who have the guts to stand up to Trump. Sure, it’s just Graham and McCain so far, and writers such as Bill Kristol and Bret Stephens. But the more of this bad craziness that Stephens wrote about today that we see, the more likely others are to wake up.

… IF the rest of us don’t chase them back into their partisan comfort zones. Which I see too many Democrats are eager to do.

MORE of the partisan nonsense that has turned off people across the political spectrum, from Sanders’ supporters to Trump’s, is most assuredly NOT the answer to this national crisis.

It’s time to rise above, and help all Americans, not just those of your own ideological ilk, to see what’s at stake…

I wrote all that in response to an email thread on Jan. 31. Since then, I’ve seen more and more instances in which Democrats act like this is business as usual. For instance, there is talk of pulling out all the stops to try to block Neil Gorsuch from the Supreme Court. Which is insane. It shows that these Democrats completely fail to understand what is going on — or, they don’t care.

Gorsuch is a highly qualified nominee and representative of the kind of judge that a mainstream Republican would nominate. If Democrats waste what tiny amounts of political capital they have left (were it gunpowder, they’d hardly have enough for a firecracker) on this, then they’re saying Trump doesn’t pose any sort of extraordinary problem for the nation — because they’d do the same with any Republican president.

It’s hard to think of a better way for Democrats to normalize Trump than to fight Gorsuch with all their might.

Bottom line, it just looks increasingly unlikely that the Democratic Party is going to play any kind of constructive role in helping the country out of this mess. Which leaves it up to the rest of us.

Well, that’s the UnParty response. What’s yours?

Sho Baraka could head up the Faith and Family Left Party

sho-baraka

Remember a couple of years back when Pew Research Center offered a group of political typologies that sought to find better ways of thinking of our political proclivities than “right” and “left?”

I took the test, and it put me in what it called the “Faith and Family Left.” Briefly Pew defined the group thusly:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives. Compare groups on key issues.

At the time, my reaction was “faith and family OK, but left?” If was not a perfect fit, but better for me than the other options, such as “Solid Liberals,” “Hard-Pressed Skeptics” or “Bystanders.”

And then I didn’t think about it much until I was listening to NPR this morning and heard an interview with a guy who could very well be the chairman of the Faith and Family Party, were that group to form a party.

He’s a hip-hop performer named Amisho Baraka who was talking about how uncomfortable he is with both major political parties. He recently described his predicament this way in an essay (you know me; if I’m going to get interested in a hip-hop “artist,” it’s going to be one who also writes essays):

As a black Christian in an urban environment, I consciously struggle to give my allegiance to either political party. In this way, this election gives many white evangelicals a sense of what it’s like to be a black believer in America today.

As an African American, I’m marginalized by the lack of compassion on the Right. As a Christian, I’m ostracized by the secularism of the Left. As a man, I’m greatly concerned by subversive attempts to deconstruct all “classical” definitions of manhood.

I fraternize with a remnant of people who have the cultural and theological aptitude to engage both Carter G. Woodson and G. K. Chesterton. We walk the tightrope between conservatives and progressives. We share an anxiety and sense of displacement in the current sociopolitical landscape.

I have had zero interest in either candidate this election. Many people are fearful about the next president, as they should be. Our newly appointed chief will likely nominate Supreme Court justices. The thought of either candidate appointing justices scares me. Many Clinton supporters seek a secular utopia that progresses past logic. Many Trump supporters want to resurrect bigoted ideologies. Neither of these Americas is great to me….

I can sort of identify (especially with “sense of displacement in the current sociopolitical landscape”), right up to the point when he says he’ll vote, but not for Hillary or Donald. I can’t begin to agree with that. That is truly an assertion of false equivalence, to use the terminology of some of my critics here. Dislike Hillary all you want, but she’s the only semi-normal person in the country in a position to save us from Donald Trump, and a vote for anyone but her is inexcusable. I don’t care how tightly you have to hold your nose.

But anyway, I think this young man’s political journey is worth watching…

What’s different about Hillary Clinton this time

Where's Waldo -- I mean, Hillary? When I shot this way back in May 2015, she was surrounded by the usual suspects, from the SC Democratic Women's Council.

Where’s Waldo — I mean, Hillary? When I shot this way back in May 2015, she was surrounded by the usual suspects, from the SC Democratic Women’s Council.

Today, our good friend Doug (who for some reason is calling himself “Douglas” this week) Ross got me going when he said this about Hillary Clinton:

She is running to win the votes of her faithful followers…

Which made me say no, not this time…

I think that was true in 2008 — very much so. It’s one of the things that made Sen. Barack Obama look so good by contrast. At that time, her support base seemed made up of:

  • Diehard loyal Clintonistas who, for instance, still saw Bill’s impeachment as something that the “vast right-wing conspiracy” had done to THEM, rather than arising from Bill’s actions.
  • 1970s-style feminists who were just excited as all get-out because she was a woman, pure and simple.
  • The Democratic Party’s angriest partisan warriors who were hyper-anxious to “take the country back” after the Republicans holding the White House for 8 years.

By contrast, Barack Obama ran as not only the post-racial, but post-partisan candidate who wanted to lead us beyond the bitter sniping of the Clinton and Bush years.

This time, though, it’s different. Not necessarily because she, Hillary Clinton, is different, but because of the overall political environment in which this campaign is occurring. It’s pushed her into an entirely different role.

Now, she’s not the representative of an old ’60s-’70s “New Left” — she in fact spent most of the past year fighting to  survive a huge challenge from someone who represented that far more than she ever had.

But nothing recast her role as much as the way Trumpism took over the GOP.

Circumstances have conspired to make her the sole representative remaining from either party of the broad, moderate governing consensus of the post-1945 America. There’s a category into which you can fit every president (and most if not all major-party nominees, but especially the presidents) we’ve had since FDR, regardless of party. And she is the only person left — now that the likes of Jeb Bush and John Kasich are long departed from the scene — who fits into that category, or even lives in the same universe as that category.

So yeah, you’ve got the standard Clintonista hangers-on, sure. But you’ve also got independents like me, and you’ve got pretty much the entire Republican national security Establishment, all rooting for her to win this.

Because she’s all that’s left for any of us…

hillary-dwc

Primero país, y después partido

At the risk of making Trump supporters’ heads spin (They’re speaking Spanish in my presence! Make them stop!), I share with you this new Hillary Clinton ad, which features Carlos Gutierrez — who was George W. Bush’s commerce secretary for four years — explaining that he’s supporting Clinton in part because, as a lifelong Republican, he can’t possibly support Trump.

For you gringos, the translation:

gutierrez-mug“Donald Trump doesn’t have the qualities necessary to be president. I know, because I served in the Cabinet of George W. Bush for four years,” Gutierrez says in Spanish. “I was born in Cuba, but this country gave me my success. I’ve been a Republican my entire life, but first I’m an American. Vote for Trump? I can’t. It’s dangerous and we don’t want to go back. Hillary Clinton has the experience and I trust her. For me, country first, and then party.”…

It’s a good ad. I especially like the UnParty sentiment: “Primero país, y después partido.”

Here’s another like it…

The really shocking part of PPP’s poll of South Carolina

A face in the crowd: Who knew, when she appeared here in May 2015, she'd be so close here now?

A face in the crowd: Who knew, when she appeared here in May 2015, she’d be so close here now?

Yes, it’s startling to see Public Policy Polling — an outfit that Nate Silver says skews slightly toward Republicans — showing South Carolina as in play in the presidential election. (See “Clinton/Trump Race Tight in South Carolina,” Aug. 10.)

Seeing Hillary Clinton only 2 percent behind Donald Trump — just within the 2.7 percent margin of error, making this a dead heat — is something most of us doubted we would see again in our lifetimes. (Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to win here, in 1976.)

But what’s truly shocking, to me, is how much support Trump does have:

The closeness is a function of Democrats being a lot happier with their party’s candidate than Republicans are with theirs. Clinton is winning 84% of the Democratic vote, compared to Trump’s 77% of the Republican vote. Although neither candidate is well liked by voters in the state Trump’s favorability, at 38% positive and 56% negative, comes in slightly worse than Clinton’s at 38/55…

That’s right, 77 percent — an overwhelming supermajority — of Republicans are willing to vote for Trump. Only 4 percent of them — less than the percentage ready to throw away their vote on Gary Johnson — is willing to back Hillary.

Perhaps that doesn’t surprise you. If it doesn’t, I think that’s because you’re making the mistake of thinking of this as a normal election, just another standard-issue contest of Democrats vs. Republicans, in which Republicans should be expected to back their nominee as a matter of course.

To that I say, stop trying to normalize this election! There is nothing normal about it! There hasn’t been since a year ago, when Trump started outpolling actual, normal Republicans!

If an actual, sane Republican were the nominee — Bush, or Kasich, or maybe Christie before he sold out and backed Trump — then fine. I wouldn’t like that mindless, reflexive vote for the party any more than I usually do (regardless of the party), but at least it would be something we’ve come to expect as normal.

This is not. This is inexcusable, unthinkable. It is an abomination.

But you know what is worse? That Trump has a bigger lead over Hillary among those who are “independent or identifying with another party” than he does among the overall electorate!

I’m sure that doesn’t include any of you loyal UnPartisans, but still. It’s shocking…

PPP

FYI, the UnParty almost ran its first candidate this year

The candidate that wasn't, posing on the State House steps (for the ADCO website, NOT for a campaign!)

The Candidate Who Wasn’t, posing on the State House steps (for the ADCO website, NOT for a campaign!)

Actually, “almost” is a little strong, but the UnParty’s unleadership did think about it a good bit. (You think Ethan Hawke was good as Hamlet? That was nothing compared to this.)

I just got off the phone with both Micah Caskey and Tem Miles, who are in a runoff for the GOP nomination for Kenny Bingham’s House seat. I plan to post something about both of them before the day is over. (OK, so it took me until the next day.)

But before I do I should tell y’all something that I’ve mentioned to a handful of people, but not to you or the world at large:

When I heard that Kenny Bingham, my representative, was stepping down, I immediately thought about running for the seat myself — as an independent, of course. (I’ve told Messrs. Caskey and Miles this.)

Ever since I left the paper, I’ve thought about the fact that, after all these years of telling politicians what they ought to do, maybe I should get off the sidelines and do something myself.

The most logical office for me to run for would be the House. My understanding of state government and issues is far greater than my knowledge of local government. And the idea of trying to raise the resources needed to run as an independent for Congress, especially in my über-Republican district (represented by Congressman-For-Life Joe Wilson) was too high a mountain to contemplate climbing. Anyway, I think people should hold other offices before aiming that high.

And the state House would be easier than the state Senate.

But I wasn’t interested in running against Kenny (or my senator, Nikki Setzler), largely because I think he’s done a good job over the years. Also, I didn’t see how I could beat him.

So this seemed like my chance. And a good one, in one sense, even though an independent is always at a disadvantage: If I ran, I would run overtly against both political parties. I would tell voters exactly what I think of the parties, and that I was running because I didn’t want Columbia to become any more like Washington than it was. (I’d tell them a lot more than that, but that would be the thrust of my elevator speech.)

I’d be running against my opponent’s parties, not the opponents themselves.

If that pitch was ever to be effective, it would be in a year in which voters are highly disaffected from the parties — with most Republicans picking a non-Republican for president, and almost half of Democrats going with a non-Democrat. And when disgust with the partisan gridlock of Congress is at an all-time high.

If I would ever have a chance, that is. My chief handicaps would be:

  • Running as an independent, period. Despite all that disaffection, voters in this country for the most part have no practice at wrapping their minds around the concept of an independent candidate. It takes a lot of explaining, which means you start out in a hole. You run as an independent in a Republican district like mine and people assume you’re really a Democrat and trying to hide it. (Sure, I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words explaining my distaste for both parties, but how many people will go read all that?) Beyond that, it’s a hugely difficult task logistically — you have to gather thousands of signatures on petitions to get on the ballot. (At least I think so — I didn’t get to the point of actually going to the election commission and finding out all the rules.)
  • Raising the money. Because I simply cannot self-finance, even partially. I can’t spend what I don’t have. And raising money is hard for me, just as it’s hard to go out and sell ads on the blog. Not my forte. (I have raised money with some success — such as when I was on the Habitat board. But asking for money for a cause like that is far easier than when the cause is me.) Which means I’d be ill-equipped to overcome the difficulties that an independent would have with fund-raising to start with.
  • This is the biggie: There has possibly never been a candidate for public office in South Carolina who is on the record (on the easily-accessible record) on as many issues as I am. And none of my positions have been crafted to help me win elections. (In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time urging pols to do the right thing even when the right thing is unpopular.) I don’t regret any of them, but the fact remains that there are thousands of cudgels out there for an opponent to beat me with. And while every one of my opinions is chock full of nuance and careful rationale that I think would help if the voter bothered to go read it, a lot of them could be misrepresented with devastating effect.

But those aren’t the things that cooled my ardor to run. Two factors stopped me. (Or at least, stopped me so far. I’m 90 percent sure I won’t run. Let’s see how this runoff ends up. But the truth is, I’ve now waited so long that I’ve made the already-long odds close to impossible.) Here they are:

  1. Some people I liked — and who I thought would be strong Republican candidates in the general in this Republican district — filed to run. I liked Bill Banning when he was my county councilman, and was sorry to see him lose his seat. And I had breakfast with Micah Caskey (I was curious to meet him because my mother was friends with his grandparents and great-grandparents in Bennettsville) a couple of months back. I agreed with practically everything he had to say about why he was running. And oh, yes — he’s a combat veteran. I didn’t talk with Tem Miles until today, but knowing I liked both Bill and Micah, and that they would both be formidable opponents, was enough to seriously discourage me.
  2. I had a bad spring with my asthma. For the first time in years, it wasn’t under control, and I couldn’t do my daily workout — and undertaking a campaign of going door-to-door nights and weekends was just unimaginable for me. I’m better now, by the way, but I lost a lot of precious time. You’ve got to feel GREAT to undertake something like this, and I didn’t there for awhile.

So anyway, now you know where things stand — or might have stood. I thought you should know this stuff before I write about either of these candidates, which I hope to do within the next 24 hours…

When I told Kenny Bingham himself that I might run, he was kind -- he didn't laugh.

When I told Kenny Bingham himself that I might run, he was kind — he didn’t laugh.

Yeah, but a Libertarian is the OPPOSITE of what I seek

Libertarian Gary Johnson senses an opportunity after Super Tuesday:

GOV. GARY JOHNSON’S RESPONSE TO SUPER TUESDAY PRIMARY RESULTS

March 1, 2016, Santa Fe, NM — Former New Mexico Governor and 2016 Libertarian candidate for President Gary Johnson released the following statement regarding the results of the Super Tuesday primaries:

 “I actually believe I may have won Super Tuesday.unnamed

“With the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton trains becoming more and more unstoppable in their respective parties, I believe a real majority of American voters are going to be left without a political home in November.

 “To those millions of voters, a successful two-term Governor with a solid record of fiscal responsibility and defense of civil and personal liberties could well be the ‘mainstream’ option. The LIbertarian nominee will be on the ballot in every state in November, and I hope to be that nominee.

 “Both of the major parties are succeeding in alienating more voters than ever before. The Democrat establishment is effectively shutting down its challengers, and Republicans are clearly rejecting their establishment. The net result may be that more Americans than ever before will be looking to a truly independent, experienced and proven candidate.”

 ####

He’s got it right when he says a lot — or even, as he puts it, a “real majority” — of us feel that we don’t have a home in either major party.

But while I can’t speak for the rest of these “millions,” I want Gov. Johnson to know that, as a communitarian, a libertarian is the last thing I am looking for.

Sorry to disappoint.

Great idea! Maybe I’ll become a Republican. Or a Democrat.

Had to smile when I saw this a moment ago:

An excerpt from the story:

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell joked that he identifies as a Republican to annoy the GOP’s right-wing.

“Yes, I’m still a Republican,” he said about his party affiliation during the Washington Ideas Forum in Washington, D.C., according to the Daily Mail.

“I want to continue to be a Republican because it annoys them,” Powell quipped to host Walter Isaacson.

“I think the party has shifted much further right than where the country is and it should be obvious to party leaders that they cannot keep saying and doing the things that they were doing and hope to be successful in national-level election in the future, not just in 2016,” he added.

Powell said a small faction in the GOP is alienating voters with their rhetoric on immigration.

“I think most Republicans understand that we need immigration, we are an immigrant nation [and that] it is in our best interest to do it,” he said….

I think I’ll follow his lead and become a Republican. And a Democrat.

Oh, I know! I’ll become a Libertarian! That would drive them nuts

The political points made by Pope Francis to Congress

Yeah, it’s kinda uncool and even tacky to interpret the Holy Father’s words in political terms, but this is a political blog, so I thought I’d share this NPR piece, “The 10 Most Political Moments In Pope Francis’ Address To Congress.” Here are the 10 moments, with my comments appended.

  1. Embracing John Kerry — Significant because of Kerry’s position on abortion, which got him in trouble with the hierarchy several years back.
  2. A call to rise above polarization — See, I knew it! Both the Democrats and Republicans may want to claim him, but this Pope is UnParty all the way!
  3. A call for the country to open its arms to immigrants and refugees — Because you know, America, you are a nation of immigrants.
  4. A reminder on abortion — Hugs or not, don’t forget that you’re still wrong on this one, Secretary Kerry.
  5. Strongly advocating for abolishing the death penalty — Another aspect of the Consistent Ethic of Life.
  6. Poverty and the necessity of ‘distribution of wealth’ — Not a big applause line with the GOP members, I imagine (I didn’t actually see the speech).
  7. Business should be about ‘service to the common good’ — Which means, don’t be like VW.
  8. Calling on Congress to act on climate change — God, who made the Earth loves it, and we are its stewards.
  9. Anti-war message and a call to stop arms trade — OK, so he had some admonitions to throw my way, too. And I don’t disagree, much as that might surprise you.
  10. The importance of family and marriage — As y’all know, I’m definitely totally with him there. As my grandchildren grow, I’m more and more about it all the time.

NPR said:

There were political messages that challenged the orthodoxy of both American political parties, but, in this 51-minute address, there were a lot more points of emphasis Democrats are happy about — and that put some pressure on Republicans.

But here’s the thing: If you’re Catholic — meaning that the you believe the things that Catholics believe, rather than just being culturally a mackerel-snapper — you can’t be comfortable in either of the two major parties.

Occasionally over the years, when people have asked me where I am on the political spectrum, I have said I’m not on the spectrum; I’m Catholic.

Today, the Pope reminded me why…

Do the right thing: A party release I can get behind

Jaime Harrison, right, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the GOP's Matt Moore.

Jaime Harrison, right, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the GOP’s Matt Moore.

No, this is not a Spike Lee joint.

Y’all know I give the parties a lot of grief and love to pick apart their press releases, but I want to give Jaime Harrison props for this one:

SCDP Chairman Call On State Legislature To “Do What’s Right”

Columbia, SC – The South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison issued the following statement on the South Carolina state legislature’s confederate flag debate this week.

“South Carolinians are ready to move forward and put what has divided our state behind us for good.  That is why we are thankful Governor Haley has joined the Democratic Party’s call to do what’s right: to remove the confederate flag, the pole, the fence and all it’s remaining remnants.

I’m so proud so see Republicans working with Democrats and demonstrating what can happen when leaders come together for something bigger and better than politics.
We are also very proud of all of the efforts and support of our friends across the nation, but ultimately resolution of this issue will come down to South Carolinians, particularly our representatives in the SC House of Representatives.
Dr. Martin Luther King once stated ‘Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right?  And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take it simply because it is right.’

It is time for South Carolinians and our representatives to stand together and do what is right.”

# # # # #

It’s got one tiny thing I would change to make it perfect: I’d praise the governor without having to congratulate my own side by saying, “Governor Haley has joined the Democratic Party’s call to do what’s right.” I sincerely doubt the governor did it because Democrats won her over; she did it because she realized on her own it was the right thing to do.

But ignore my quibble. The spirit behind this is laudatory — doing what’s right, working with whoever you have to work with, for the betterment of South Carolina, instead of for the advantage of a party.

You MUST watch this video, in which Lindsey Graham gets choked up talking about his friend Joe Biden

 

This is an extraordinary clip, which I thank Norm Ivey for bringing to my attention. HuffPost sets it up this way:

When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) celebrated his retirement from the Air National Guard last week after 33 years of military service, he was greeted at the ceremony by an unexpected guest: Vice President Joe Biden.

Though they hail from opposing parties, Graham and Biden have long had a close friendship, going back to their years serving together in the Senate. The South Carolina senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate was particularly touched that the vice president attended his military sendoff.

Over the weekend, The Huffington Post spent a day with Graham on the campaign trail in Iowa for the latest installment of our original series, ’16 And President. We’ll have the full episode up next week, but the above clip is a short preview of what’s to come….

In it, our senior senator chokes up talking about Joe Biden, about whom Graham says:

If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, then it’s probably… you’ve got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation. What’s not to like?… He’s THE nicest person I think that I’ve ever met in politics. He is as good a man as God ever created…

This is one of the more touching illustrations I’ve seen of my oft-stated thesis that politicians — despite what you may firmly believe — are people, and not monolithic representations of good and evil, as most partisan rhetoric would have it.

Graham Biden

Noticing the way Graham stands out from the crowd

This is less of a revelation to SC media -- or should be.

This is less of a revelation to SC media — or should be.

Some national writers are taking greater notice of some of the reasons why I’ve always been happy to endorse him.

In a piece headlined “The most interesting presidential candidate you’re not paying any attention to,” Chris Cillizza of The Fix noted that Graham stands out in ways other than the fact that he’s never been married (which has also been getting him some ink).

After noting all the usual horse-race stuff that has Graham well out of the running, Cillizza shares a reason why he should be a contender:

Okay, fine.  But if you stop and actually listen to some of what Graham is saying — particularly on the subject of bipartisanship — you realize that he’s one of the most interesting candidates in the field and one of the few who can genuinely sell himself as a change agent.

Here’s Graham answering a question from “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd about how he would address political polarization in Washington:

I think there’s a market for a better way. When I talked to that young guy there, I said, you’re going to have to work a little longer, pal. If I’m president, I’m going to ask you to work a little bit longer. What do people do between 65 and 67, they work two years longer. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil showed us what to do. I’m making a bet here. I’m making a bet that you can talk about problem-solving in a Republican primary and still get the nomination. I’m making a bet that you can openly embrace working with Democrats and still get the nomination. I’m making a bet that with a war-weary public, you can rally them to go over there and keep the fight over there before it comes here. Now, if I lose those bets it doesn’t mean America is lost, it just means I fell short. To a young person in politics, listen to what I’m doing here and see if it makes sense to you. There is a growing desire by the public at large to stop the B.S. I feel it, I sense it, and I’m running on the idea that if you elect me, I’ll do whatever is necessary to defend the nation. I’m running not as a candidate for a single party but for a great nation.

If you believe the American people when they say they want leaders who are willing to work with one another and take positions because they believe in them not because the policies are popular, it’s hard for me to imagine a better message than that paragraph from Graham above…

Yep. We know that about him. And some of us like that about him, and count ourselves lucky to have him representing us in Washington.

After pausing to recite yet again how slim our senior senator’s chances are, the piece concludes:

To me, though, Graham’s candidacy is a sort of campaign thought experiment: What if politics produced a candidate that had lots and lots of what the public said it wanted but in a somewhat unlikely package (a Southern-drawling lifetime politician) and without the buzz and fanfare that surrounds the so-called “top tier”?

Could a candidate like that possibly hope to break through?

It would be nice to think so.

SC’s American Party feels good about inaugural outing

They didn’t get anybody elected, but the new party started by Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace is counting its blessings after Tuesday’s vote. And if you think about it, they did pretty well in their initial effort to break up the mindless two-party paradigm:

THE AMERICAN PARTY SHINES DURING INAUGURAL ELECTION

Columbia, S.C. – The candidates of South Carolina’s newest political party, the American Party, received more votes than that of any other third party’s candidates in Tuesday’s elections.

While only nine months old, the American Party of South Carolina out performed every other party except for the two major parties on Tuesday with American Party candidates receiving, collectively, more than 153,000 votes.unnamed

“We are extremely proud of our candidates and the positive way in which they ran their races,” said American Party Chairman Dr. Jim Rex. “With few financial resources and no television ads, we showed that ideas do matter and that voters are seeking more options at the polls than they have been getting.”

Rex pointed to the extremely low voter turnout at about 43 percent as a sign that voters are disenchanted with the status quo candidates.

As it stands now only a handful of voters in one of the major parties, during their primary, decide who our leaders are in South Carolina. Voter participation in general elections is getting lower and voter apathy is growing. Voters are getting fed up with the two-party status quo system and are staying home on election day.

While the major parties are becoming more and more extreme, the American Party is  focused on problem solving and governing from the middle.

According to Rex, it’s not just about who won or lost on Tuesday. The American Party is in this for the long haul to change South Carolina . Change does not occur overnight, but the American Party has made great strides in a very short time. The party believes that the political middle represents the largest portion of our electorate and that those voters are hungry for a fresh approach to politics.. “We will work to get beyond a system hijacked by partisan extremists and get back to governing. It will take a few election cycles, but we are on our way,” said Rex.

During 2015 the American Party will be organizing in each of South Carolina’s 46 counties while working on the party’s “Recall Election” initiative launched in September. The initiative is aimed at enhancing governmental accountability by amending the State Constitution to give registered voters the option to recall elected officials who violate the trust placed in them by the electorate.

More information on the American Party of South Carolina can be found on facebook and on line atwww.americanpartysc.gov.

Showing a noble, inspiring faith in the possibility of politics

Sue and Jim Rex, at the American Party booth at the SC State Fair.

Sue and Jim Rex, at the American Party booth at the SC State Fair.

I went to the fair today, and saw the usual booths for the Democrats and Republicans, and stayed away from them.

But I stopped to chat at the American Party booth, because one of the founders of the party was there — Jim Rex.

Jim invited me to sign the petition to get a recall power onto the ballot — a measure that would allow voters to dump politicians who have broken the law.

I told him no, I don’t hold with recall petitions. I think elections come soon enough. Although I admit that allowing recall only in cases of illegality is a lot less objectionable than the kind they have in California and other places, which allow voters to dump pols between election on a whim if they choose (thereby eliminating even the rare glimpses of political courage that we occasionally see in non-election years).

Then, we segued into a polite argument about term limits, with me getting on a rhetorical high horse and saying I just have more simple faith in politics than he does. I trust the voters to decide for themselves whether they want somebody for one term, two terms, three terms or 20 terms.

I said that if he wanted to do something about cynical incumbents, noncompetitive elections and apathy, then go to work on a federal constitutional amendment that would end the way we apportion districts in this country. THAT is the cause of all the ills he deplores.

Anyway, looking at the picture I took above of the Rexes causes me to check myself — I shouldn’t have said I have more faith in politics.

There is no greater faith in our system than stepping out and starting a new party, and sticking to it and working as hard at it as the Rexes have, along with Oscar Lovelace and others.

Frankly, I find it inspiring, even when I disagree on policy proposals

The worst idea the new American Party has come up with

I really groaned when I saw this:

Party to undertake “Recall” initiative for elected officials

In the interest of holding our elected officials accountable and in keeping with our Party’s core principles, the American Party is undertaking a RECALL initiative in South Carolina. This initiative is aimed at enhancing governmental accountability by amending the State Constitution to allow registered voters to recall elected officials who violate the trust placed in them by the electorate.

We would like to invite you to join us at our press conference to announce this initiative:

Thursday, September 25th
10:00am
1st Floor State House Lobby
(enter through visitor’s entrance under the north state house stairs)

Please be on hand by 9:45am. Contact Scott Malyerck at (803) 446-2881 with any questions.

Thank you for your continued support.

Dr. Jim Rex and Dr. Oscar Lovelace

This alternative party had already succumbed to the temptation of embracing other populist nostrums that sound far better, to the unthoughtful, than they are in reality — term limits, for instance.

Recall petitions are as bad as government by plebiscite, which I half expect Messrs. Rex and Lovelace to embrace next.

One of the worst thing about politics today is that elected officials are so busy looking over their shoulders, fretting about the next election, that they seldom pause to govern. This would make the looming pressure of election hover over them even more ominously and destructively. The perpetual campaign would, if anything, be even more omnipresent.

We need lawmakers who can step away from whatever fads and fashions are running through the electorate at a given moment long enough to deliberate and govern. This pulls them in the opposite direction.

This is disappointing.

The best thing I’ve ever read in a newspaper advice column (and the best political commentary I’ve read in a long time)

Bryan Caskey brings this to my attention as being “right in your wheelhouse of looking past partisan politics and seeing people as people,” and I very much appreciate it.

Sorry, Miss Manners, but this easily qualifies as the best thing I have ever read in a newspaper advice column. No contest.

It starts with a letter from a young man who describes himself as “ more or less a liberal democrat with very progressive values,” who “just can’t deal with my father anymore” because “He’s a 65-year-old super right-wing conservative who has basically turned into a total asshole intent on ruining our relationship and our planet with his politics.”

Right off, you want to give this kid a slap upside the head. Or I do. Figuratively speaking, anyway. But Andrew W.K. (born Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier) does something much, much better, and along the way gently makes me feel guilty for wanting to slap anyone upside the head, even figuratively. He begins:

Andrew W.K.

Andrew W.K.

Go back and read the opening sentences of your letter. Read them again. Then read the rest of your letter. Then read it again. Try to find a single instance where you referred to your dad as a human being, a person, or a man. There isn’t one. You’ve reduced your father — the person who created you — to a set of beliefs and political views and how it relates to you. And you don’t consider your dad a person of his own standing — he’s just “your dad.” You’ve also reduced yourself to a set of opposing views, and reduced your relationship with him to a fight between the two. The humanity has been reduced to nothingness and all that’s left in its place is an argument that can never really be won. And even if one side did win, it probably wouldn’t satisfy the deeper desire to be in a state of inflamed passionate conflict.

The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world. The world is being hurt and damaged by one group of people believing they’re truly better people than the others who think differently. The world officially ends when we let our beliefs conquer love. We must not let this happen….

But you should just go ahead and read the whole thing. It’s amazing. It runs the gamut of things that ought to be said again and again with fierce conviction, from the UnParty view of politics to a theology of Love.

Who is this sage, Andrew W.K.? Well, Wikipedia describes him this way:

Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier (born May 9, 1979), better known by his stagenameAndrew W.K., is an American singer-songwritermulti-instrumentalistentertainer,motivational speaker, and music producer. He was the host of the television seriesDestroy Build Destroy. As a musician, he is known for his singles “Party Hard” and “We Want Fun“.

Apparently, on the side, he also dabbles in wisdom. And at least in this case, does so better than anyone I’ve read recently…

The passing of Howard Baker

baker

This came in a little while ago from The Washington Post:

Former senator Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, who framed the central question of the Watergate scandal when he asked “what did the president know and when did he know it?” and framed portraits of history with his ever-present camera while Senate majority leader and White House chief of staff, died June 26 at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. He was 88.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said longtime aide Tom Griscom….

That’s me with Baker in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1980. I had just arrived to cover him as he campaigned for the presidential nomination. It’s a shame that he didn’t do better than he did.

And it’s a greater shame that there are so few pragmatic centrists like Baker left — a fair-minded conservative who did not hesitate to grill the Nixon administration to discover the truth.

We still have Lamar Alexander, who comes out of that same commonsense Tennessee Republican tradition — people who gained high office before the Reagan revolution, and before the hardening of ideological positions on both ends of the spectrum. Our own Lindsey Graham is made from a similar mold — although, being of a later generation, he is more marked by the partisan wars than Baker ever was.

But the Howard Bakers, the Sam Nunns, the Scoop Jacksons… they’re all gone. And we’re worse off for it…