The ‘Values’ Gap

Jeff Jarvis points out that ‘values’ were the driver for Bush in the exit polling.

: The NBC exit poll includes some fascinating and surprising data. Among the issues that mattered most to voters, the top issue was not terrorism or Iraq.

The top issue (21%) was “moral values”; 78% of those who cared about that went for Bush, 19% for Kerry. That’s a huge difference. Read this one as you will (MSNBC commentators see it as code for Vietnam and the Swifties).

I disagree a bit on what it’s about.

I’m off to some work meetings early today (will try and comment more later) but want to shamelessly recycle an old post from Armed Liberal on exactly this subject to kick off some discussion.
“Screw Them” Kos, over at the Guardian, demonstrates why he has no clue as to what happened:

So how did Bush even get this far? By demonising an entire group of people — gays and lesbians. By cynical appeals to religion. By slandering a true war hero. And, most importantly, by scaring people. You see, terrorists would detonate a nuclear bomb in a major city if Kerry were elected. Only Bush can protect us.

And those efforts, as I have written before, were all aided and abetted by a well-oiled message machine the likes of which the American left is still unable to match.

No, Kos, you ignorant tool. The problem isn’t the message machine; it’s that the core activists in the Democratic Party have managed to walk away from the values that most people in this country hold, and persist in looking at the electorate as if it’s the one with the problems. The majority of people in this country don’t want gays put in camps, they don’t want a theocracy, they don’t believe in ‘shoot first, talk later’. And as long as you believe they do, you’ll lose, and you’ll take my party with you.

And, by the way, Bush took Clark County by about 1,600 votes.

(originally posted Dec 1, 2002)

I’ve been thinking about the whole “coast” “heartland” thing, as noted by Yglesias and others, and had a hard time finding a way into the issue until last night.

We were driving home from the movies, Tenacious G, Middle Guy and I (we saw 8 Mile again, because the two of them wanted to), and I was punching the buttons on the stereo in the Mighty Odyssey Minivan when a discussion broke out.

The top 3 buttons on the stereo are taken up by the three major stations that TG and MG listen to (I tend to listen to the CD’s in the changer because I hate commercials).

KCRW, the local NPR station; KZLA, the local corporate-owned country station; and KROQ, the local corporate-owned alternative rock station.

The voting politics are complex. I’m totally fickle. I’ll mostly turn things off; KCRW when it gets too sanctimonious or the World Music interludes become intolerable; KROQ when the grindcore songs come on; KZLA when really bad country-pop gets played. TG likes KCRW and KZLA. MG hates KZLA.

So when we got into the car, some awful Incubus song came on, and I punched KZLA, which was playing a current country hit called “The Good Stuff”. In case you don’t listen, here’s a typical lyric:

Not a soul around but the old bar keep,
Down at the end an’ looking half asleep.
An he walked up, an’ said : “What’ll it be?”
I said: “The good stuff.”

He didn’t reach around for the whiskey;
He didn’t pour me a beer.
His blue eyes kinda went misty,

He said: “You can’t find that here.

“‘Cos it’s the first long kiss on a second date.
“Momma’s all worried when you get home late.
“And droppin’ the ring in the spaghetti plate,
“‘Cos your hands are shakin’ so much.
“An’ it’s the way that she looks with the rice in her hair.
“Eatin’ burnt suppers the whole first year
“An’ askin’ for seconds to keep her from tearin’ up.

“Yeah, man, that’s the good stuff.”

And Middle Guy looked disgusted and asked me “Why the hell do you listen to that stuff, anyway? How can you like the Vines and this?” That answer’s another issue…

But what I told him was that I liked the sound of good country music, and then started talking about the changes in country since I’d started listening to it, and that today it was almost the last music about love, fidelity, loss and hope, and that I liked that.

And that one thing that I missed from rock was the hope and yearning that used to be a part of it back when I was Middle Guy’s age.

And, as these kind of talks tend to do, they got me thinking.

I’d been thinking a lot about the Great Cultural Divide…the whole red/blue thing, and I had a brief moment of clarity.

It’s all about country music.

Or, rather, it’s all about the worldview that country music encapsulates.

Here’s a counterpoint. My subscription to Harper’s hasn’t run out yet, although I won’t be renewing it in spite of the flood of imploring letters and postcards I’ve received from their subscription service, and in this month’s is a classic explanation of why (not available on the web):

‘Comfort Cult’
On the honest unlovliness of William Trevor’s world
By Francine Prose

If part of what we seek from art is solace and consolation, an interlude of distraction, a brief escape from our daily cares, even a glimpse of happiness – and who, in these disturbing times does not, or should not want all of that and more? – it is simple enough to understand why the products of what we might call Comfort Culture should dramatically outperform a writer like William Trevor in the marketplace of analgesic entertainment. The Lovely Bones is narrated from heaven by a fourteen-year-old girl who has been raped and brutally murdered by a neighbor (think Our Town with dismemberment) and who receives as compensation for her earthly travails, an afterlife that includes a nice apartment, plenty of teen-girl magazines, a paradisical version of high school, and a front-row seat from which to observe the folks back home coping with their grief and puzzling over her killer’s identity. No such comforts are provided the unfortunate young women dispatched by Hilditch, the creepy serial killer in Trevor’s Felicia’s Journey; indeed it is characteristic of Trevor’s bravery as a writer, and of his passionate sympathy for even the most loathsome outsiders and misfits, that a good part of the book is written from the point of view of the demented and delusional Hilditch himself.

(emphasis added)

First, I can’t help myself, but the idea of a literary critic with the name ‘Prose’ does give me the giggles…

…but to get back to culture; while I can see a sensitive reading of Felicity’s Journey and a sympathetic nod to the loathsome outsider as a steady part of the programming on KCRW, and a speed-metal version on KROQ (in fact the song probably already exists), there is no way that sympathy would be found on KZLA. No contemporary country song would celebrate that kind of brutality and despair. We’re talking about a fundamental difference of worldview and taste, and this issue ought to serve as a pathway into understanding the gap between the worlds.

I Voted

Just back from voting with TG; when we dropped Middle Guy off at the local high school there was a line of 20 – 30 people outside the gym, which is being used as a polling place. We drove four blocks to our polling place and found – no parking because it’s garbage day, and half the curb is taken up with trash cans – and there were another 20 – 30 people waiting in line.

It was chilly, and I felt bad for the guy in running shorts and a t-shirt. He was fine with it, though.

One of the election volunteers – they don’t get paid enough to be called staff – was walking up and down the line showing people how to use the ink-stamp voting machine.

Saw some neighbors, chatted a bit about the surf and how long everyone has lived in the neighborhood, and went in and voted.

It felt very damn odd to vote for a Republican.

But as I walked out, I was full of faith. I don’t know who is going to win, but in the long run, I trust the people in line with me – the ones who got out of bed early, got the kids to school like us, and stood looking serious and thoughtful in the chill fall air – and I trust the friendly, competent people who ran the polling place. Our process is our strength. It’s not in attachment to any specific outcome, but in our commitment to the process and our trust in each other that we demonstrate our citizenship.

I’ll put my trust in the decision of the people in line with me, and the millions like them, any day.

He’ll Be My President

This was originally posted in September, but I want to make sure people today keep it in mind.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve felt the pressure to get off the fence and declare for one candidate or the other. Commenters here, and people in my personal life, have pushed me to ‘fess up that I’m a Bush supporter, or admit that I’m too much of a Democrat to cross the line.

Thinking about this feels kind of like having a chipped tooth. Every time your tongue curls over and touches it, you get a flash of pain, and yet you keep going back and doing it again.

And then, as I wrestled with it – with Kerry’s opportunistic failure to be honest about where we stand in foreign policy; with Bush’s stream of failures in post-invasion Iraq and domestic security – I realized that there’s a much bigger issue afoot.I remember the bumper stickers disclaiming responsibility for the Nixon/Humphrey election – “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for McCarthy” which in today’s discourse have been replaced by bumper stickers saying “He’s Not My President” and trying to disclaim responsibility for a whole Administration.

Well, you can’t. And yes he is. And yes he will be, whoever he is.

And I think that the attitude that denies legitimacy to an opponent – which is not nearly the same thing as rolling over for that opponent on policy issues – is far more dangerous, and will do far more damage to my country than either candidate can possibly do if their opponents most feverish claims prove to be true.

Michael Totten has a good column over at TechCentralStation about why hawks like me shouldn’t hyperventilate over the prospect of a Kerry victory.

Former Lee Atwater staffer Pitney has a great column on partisanship up at SFGate.

OK, here goes: I doubt that all wisdom lies on my side of the political spectrum. I do not think that all the people who disagree with me are crazy, stupid or evil. Though I’m voting for President Bush, I hardly believe that the election of Sen. John Kerry would bring on the end-times.

Behind all this invective lies a sense of certainty that I don’t share. Political issues are largely about the future, and nobody can be sure what the future holds. Will Social Security go bust? Would a privatized system work better? We free-market conservatives answer yes to both questions. We make a strong case, but some smart people reach different conclusions. Until the future arrives, each side should ponder the possibility that the other side may have a point.

There are two powerful issues here.

The first is that, like it or not, we are all citizens of the same polity. As much as TG is committed to the issue of gay marriage, she shares the political space with Cathy Seipp, who opposes it with equal fervor. They can choose to define themselves by their differences or by what they share – which is actually a lot.

That sense of shared citizenship ought to be the root of our patriotism, which manifests itself in any number of small and unheroic ways – the taxes we willingly pay to keep open schools when we have no children, the traffic lights we don’t run because it would be wrong. Instead we narrow our focus on the small circle of people whose beliefs reinforce ours, and whose shared sense of powerlessness and entitlement – after all, in this system none of us entirely get our way – lead us down a path to rage and frustration.

And it leads us off a cliff as well.

The incredible strength of the West lies in the fact that Western culture, uniquely as far as I know, facilitates open clash of certainties.

Reality is far more complex than any of us know, than any of our ideologies can express, and than any of our policies can deliberately shape. Politics is the realm of the “wicked” problem.

In my daily life, much of what I do is deal with organizational failure.

The primary cause of organizational failure is the unwillingness of those in charge to listen, to look, at adapt to new facts or changing circumstance. We try many ideas, and some of them prove out – or prove out for a period of time. We have to be open to abandoning them if we are going to succeed.

Those who criticize the conduct of the war in Iraq have valuable things to say, as do those like me who support it. The tension and arguments between us are not a bad thing, they’re a good thing, because out of that kind of process we arrive at better policy and better answers.

But that implies an openness to argument, as opposed to a struggle to simply upend the other, which is where we are today.

That implies that you think that we’re all part of one team.

I think we are. I think I’m not only on the same team as Totten and Simon, but as Atrios, Blackfive, Kevin Drum, Captain Ed, and even “Screw Them” Kos.

Whoever is elected in November will be President of all of us. I don’t know who it will be – and I’m not making this appeal because I secretly think it will be one or the other and I want to ‘bind the wounds’ – but I’ll have no problem saying “President Kerry” as I have no problem today saying “President Bush”.

Either man will be my President – and yours as well.

A Window into Kerry’s Foreign Policy

Michael Totten was incredibly kind to put this up yesterday, during our outage. It’s a significant enough issue to me that I wanted to put it up here as well to trigger more attention to the point, and discuss it with the WoC community.

Richard Clarke and the other experts in Middle East policy have set out an excellent case – for not letting their expertise guide our Middle East policy.

Their new work is sponsored by the Century Foundation, and is called ‘Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action‘. Let’s take a look.

The international jihadist network of radical Islamic terrorist groups is far more extensive than just al Qaeda, and it has conducted twice as many attacks in the three years since September 11, 2001 as it did in the three years prior to that date. Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action (Century Foundation Press, 2004), assesses the nation’s successes and failures on homeland security and calls for a stronger, more effective strategy for dealing with jihadists, including al Qaeda. The forthcoming report offers a detailed action plan for neutralizing the international movement at the core of worldwide terrorism. The report also describes the nature of the jihadist threat; provides comprehensive profiles of the various jihadist groups; and offers a rationale for the effort and money that would be needed to make the plan a success. The plan presented in the report builds on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and serves as a road map for winning the war against the jihadists.

The report’s authors are Richard A. Clarke, Glenn P. Aga, Roger W. Cressey, Stephen E. Flynn, Blake W. Mobley, Eric Rosenbach, Steven Simon, William F. Wechsler, and Lee S. Wolosky—all experts on various aspects of national security, intelligence, counterterrorism, military operations.

They divide the problem into segments:

1. Focus on Winning the Struggle of Ideas.
2. Invest in Education and Development in Islamic Nations.
3. Implement Tailored Strategies for Key Countries.
4. Defuse Sources of Islamic Hatred for the United States.
5. Improve U.S. Intelligence and Law Enforcement Organization.
6. Reinvigorate Efforts to Combat Terrorist Financing.
7. Bolster Special Forces and Improve Their Coordination with Intelligence Community.
8. Accelerate Security Investments for Ports, Trains, and Chemical Plants.
9. Strengthen and Improve Oversight of Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Efforts.
10. Improve U.S. Energy Security by Reducing Reliance on Middle East Oil.

Looking at their point, one by one, we begin to see a very different strategy than the one pursued by President Bush, and one that is likely to be close to the center of what a Kerry Administration might do.

I don’t have time to go through these point by point, but let’s touch on the areas where I have significant problems.

They open with “Winning the Struggle of Ideas.”

I’ve said for quite a while that we will ultimately win this war when we win the battle of ideas. Their idea of how to do it and mine are quite different, though. The summary of their proposal looks like this:

The U.S. must erode support for the jihadists in the Islamic world through what the 9/11 Commission called the “struggle of ideas,” but we cannot do it alone. Traditional propaganda mechanisms…international broadcasting, for example…are a small part of the solution. U.S. activities in Iraq, as portrayed by the Islamic news media, make it difficult for the United States government to successfully promote its values and ideas among the world’s Muslims. The messenger is as important as the message…and right now any message delivered from the United States is greeted with suspicion in the Islamic world.

Therefore, other countries, respected non-governmental organizations, and individual Islamic leaders must take the lead in appealing to Muslims to denounce intolerance and terrorist violence committed in the name of Islam. These efforts need to celebrate our common values in order to overcome misunderstandings and neutralize terrorist propaganda. The role of the U.S. government should be to stimulate these groups and then wait backstage.

As part of this struggle of ideas, the United States and Europe must demonstrably welcome Islam as a part of their cultures. On this front, the European Union should have two priorities: fighting anti-Islamic discrimination in its member countries and initiating discussions on Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

Their argument is simple: the US government can’t fund or otherwise encourage radio or televison networks that will have any significant impact on public opinion, because being associated with the U.S. is deadly. So let’s go their own detailed discussion of the impact of U.S.-funded media. Talking about al-Iraqiya, Al-Hurra, and Radio Sawa, they say:

…all three of these outlets have quickly achieved significant market share and at least a modicum of credibility among their listeners and viewers (see Figures 5.1 and 5.2, page 96). Polling data show that 74 percent of Iraqis watch al-Iraqiya on at least a weekly basis and 21 percent of those consider it “objective.”9 Al-Hurra, though not boasting ratings as high as al-Iraqiya’s, still claims a respectable average adult viewership of 29 percent in a dozen urban areas surveyed in North Africa, the Levant, and the Gulf region. Just over half of its viewers rate its news coverage as “very reliable” or “somewhat reliable.” Finally, Radio Sawa has staked out a weekly following of 38 percent of listeners polled in six Arab countries, including a high of 73 percent in Morocco. Remarkably, four of five listeners feel its news meets the same reliability criteria. Thus, on the basis of both market penetration and trust, these initiatives certainly appear successful at first glance.

While they next explain away these statistics as due to ‘novelty’ or limited by the limited availability of satellite TV in Iraq, the facts are the facts; with a very limited effort, we’ve got a substatial amunt of attention from the Arab world – and it’s certainly not the case that there will be fewer satellite dishes in Iraq next year than this.

And in addition, home-grown Iraqi media is spring up – Spirit of America is supporting Iraqi bloggers, radio, and television as a part of their ‘Friends of Democracy‘ project. Others are working on ‘peer to peer’ media and connections; and while those will not in the short term have the impact of mass media, they will have a significant impact nontheless.

Back to their key point; they say: “Therefore, other countries, respected non-governmental organizations, and individual Islamic leaders must take the lead in appealing to Muslims to denounce intolerance and terrorist violence committed in the name of Islam.” How, exactly, is this supposed to happen?

Well, they touch upon it in this section – a big part of the obstacle to mainstream Islamists combating terrorism is the assumed fact that disdain for the West comes about in part because we don’t do a good enough job of accepting Islam.

As someone who lives a mile and a half from an Islamic Center, I’m puzzled by this. How, exactly, is the U.S. and Europe not doing a good job of accepting Islam and it’s practitioners? And – more important – do they see any concern in setting the bar at we accept them – but they are free to, as they do in Saudi Arabia – freely discriminate?

The real answer – in their case – is in their point #4 – “Defuse Sources of Islamic Hatred for the United States.”

They dance heavily in this part of the document; here’s the key step (from the summary):

Large majorities of those living in the Middle East and North Africa evaluate U.S. foreign policy as out of step with their own world-view. On no issue is the divide greater than with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not surprisingly, the Pew Center recently found that 96 percent of Palestinians, 94 percent of Moroccans, 77 percent of Kuwaitis, 99 percent of Jordanians, and 90 percent of Lebanese believe that U.S. policies in the Middle East “favor Israel too much.” Given the importance of this issue in the Arab world, there is little doubt that these sentiments fuel much of the animosity felt by Arabs toward the U.S. While our foreign policy should never be dictated by foreign publics, the effect on public opinion of specific policies..remember the importance of the third and fourth concentric circles…should be a consideration in the formulation and implementation of policy. To that end, the United States should not alter its support of Israel, but should seek to revive the Israel-Palestinian Peace Process. The United States should not withdraw from Iraq before indigenous security forces are in place, but should cease U.S. military operations against urban areas, transfer rebuilding activities to Iraqi entities, and reduce U.S. goals in Iraq so that a withdrawal can be achieved at an early date.

(emphasis added)

So, by reformulating our policies to sit better with the Arab publics – publics that have been whipped into rage by a generation of anti-American and anti-Israeli government propaganda – we have a chance of ‘defusing’ the sources of Arab hatred.

Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Kennedy surely took the feelings of the Southern sheriffs into account when they mobilized Federal resources to combat Jim Crow. But I don’t think they are honored today for ultimately bending their policies to make them more palatable to the most intransigent opponents of integration.

Not only do I find the approach offensive and immoral, but I don’t believe it will work.

It is my habit to simply believe what people say; and what the Islamist terrorists have said – and what the works at the core of their ideology support – is the notion that this is a war against the modern West for the creation of a totalitarian religious state.

This isn’t a view that’s somehow historically unique to Islam. The various Christian sects spent a few hundred years trying to bring the world to God through the sword. But they had this largely beaten out of them by the 18th Century – that was one the key events that made the Enlightenment possible.

Read the whole thing.

For me, it solidifies my discomfort with Kerry and his advisers, and further secures my vote for Bush. If this becomes Kerry’s policy toward the Middle East, we’re in trouble.

We’re baaaack…

Joe will doubtless weigh in on the outage, but from my seat it looks like the Bloghosts folks have all been on vacation for the week leading up to Halloween (or out doing GOTV for their candidate).

There will doubtless be further discussion by Joe, and for all of us at Winds, my apology.

(JOE:) Bandwidth allocations reset automatically on the 1st of the month, and that’s why we’re back. has now been completely incommunicado and unresponsive, via email or other methods, to us and to other bloggers, for a MONTH. My advice to all bloggers hosting there would be to use Movable Type’s “Import/Export” button to export a current copy of their blog, along with a current version of all templates. The exported version of your site should be updated a minimum of once per week, depending on how many posts one is prepared to lose should’s problems become worse.