Political Theory and Punditry from a native of Flyover Country
I don’t care how cynical of a move this looks like on the GOP’s part. This is big.
Romney’s National Security Spokesman Is Openly Gay
A fact that doesn’t make it into the Washington Post. But I’m in no way outing Ric. He has lived with his partner, Matt Lashey, for the past nine years. Which is why this pick is interesting. For Romney to have an openly gay spokesman is a real outreach to gay Republicans, a subtle signal to moderates, and the Santorum faction’s reaction will be worth noting.
Something that to most of my generation is a non-factor.
I’d call that progress, wouldn’t you?
It’s rare to get an essay of relative length from Andrew Sullivan. When there is one, you read it. Here’s a paragraph I felt was especially insightful:
If I am wrong, and those remaining liberal Israelis who still believe in a democratic, pluralist Israel can find a way to remove the settlements and come to a 1967-based land-swap compromise, we may be able to view this Netanyahu-Lieberman era as a horrible period in a gradual path forward. But the one emotion I felt closing Peter’s book was sadness. I don’t think the data suggest that either a majority of Israelis or a majority of American Jews are prepared to challenge a policy of conquering and subjugating another people in this way. And Beinart’s book is very persuasive in showing how the mere act of occupation - the way it sets up inherent distance between Jew and Arab, and constantly humiliates the Arab - is profoundly shifting Israeli culture in such a way as to make the younger generations even less likely to compromise with “the other” than the older ones.
Deciphering Sullivan’s text requires more than a little background information on Israeli politics. Ze’ev Jabotinksy, for instance, is considered an intellectual father of the Likud party. His vision of a Greater Israel spanning the Jordan River, however, is surely one that very few Israelis still believe is tenable. While I concede that the Likud is both hardline and dominated by figures who refuse to accept contemporary reality, Sullivan may be stretching this narrative further than it actually goes.
If Israel was truly seeking to drive Arabs from the region, why were Israeli settlers forcibly extracted from Gaza in 2005? Since this was ordered by Ariel Sharon (who would leave the Likud to form the centre-right coalition Kadima), I can certainly concede that this cannot be considered a Likud policy. With that said, why haven’t Israeli settlements again begun to appear in the strip? If, as Sullivan suggests, hardline elements such as the Netanyahu family were truly pushing to make life for the Palestinians miserable enough to “self-deport,” couldn’t it be argued that they’re doing a terrible job? Surely Palestinian sympathizers (of which I regularly consider myself a part) don’t believe that people who have resided in an area for generations are going to up and leave en masse?
As my professor on the subject, Dr. Ari Kohen, has so frequently noted, Israeli politics is reactionary. Just as it appears a peace deal is nearing, acts of violence are surefire ways to derail the process. As much as I sympathize with the plight (yes, it is very much so a plight) of the Palestinian citizens, firing rockets and mortars into Israel is a guaranteed way to ensure an Israeli response.
Peace is a two-way street. The political faction controlling Israel clearly is pursuing policies that hurt the chances for long term peace. By failing to control violence within their own ranks, Palestinian leaders all but guarantee further electoral success for Israel’s hardline party. That may be unfortunate, but it is the reality of the day. Failure to recognize this fact will only prolong this struggle.
I share Sullivan’s belief that the settlement construction must cease for negotiations to move forward. Expecting Israel to proceed in negotiating with a Palestinian Authority that cannot control its own territory is, however, unrealistic. Were the mortars and rockets from Gaza to cease, reactionaries in Israel would have a much tougher time prolonging this conflict. This is an awful burden to place on anyone’s shoulders, but something must give if we expect to see a true two-state solution in the near future.
Andrew Sullivan is correct in suggesting that the Catholic Church has far too much interest in the sexual activities of its members and non-members alike. He’s wrong, however, to allow it to appear that theoconservatives have cornered the market on opposing liberty:
The theocon project is a radical attack on the core of modern freedom.
Why is the theocon project an attack on modern freedom?
Allowing a segment of the population to justify taking away freedom from others on account of religious belief is counter to the project of liberal democracy. In a pluralistic society such as ours, reasons must be offered for policy preferences. These reasons cannot be “The Bible says so” or “Christians are evil and so we must eliminate religion in our state.” If they are, we don’t live in a liberal society, but rather one resembling the nations we so love to hate in Southwestern Asia. I’ll repeat my point for emphasis: In a liberal society, you are free to believe whatever you’d like, but if you want to advance policy preferences, you’d best offer public rather than private reasons.
Ending the conversation here, however, would fall well short of how someone could better argue the contraception issue than the standard lines we receive from theocons. Sullivan suggests that contraception is a winning political issue for the President:
Contraception is popular. Even in conservative Mississippi, a recent ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to ban the morning-after pill failed badly at the polls. If this issue won’t work for the GOP in Mississippi, they’ll have a hard time winning a general election over it. And if the bishops think opposing Obama’s compromise will rally Catholics to their cause, they are even more out of touch than they realize. This will indeed become a wedge issue—between the bishops and their flocks. Yes, finally a social wedge issue that helps Democrats, not Republicans.
There is a stark difference between opposition to coercion being used to mandate free contraception as opposed to desiring to ban contraception. These are not the same thing. Saying that you oppose using government force to make people do something is not the same thing as opposing that thing. It’s opposing the use of force.
I have advanced arguments, for instance, that suggest that people should have the right to conscientiously object to paying for contraceptive care. Sullivan says that private individuals shouldn’t be allowed to refuse to pay for such care. Why? Would a Taco Bell owner’s sincere belief that the morning after pill is an abortion mean less than the Catholic Church’s opinion?
Sullivan doesn’t provide such an answer. To me, his lack of an answer to this question suggests the following:
1) We need universal care. This is a step toward such an end.
2) The desire of women to have free contraception should outweigh the conscience of employers.
3) Obama takes a longer range approach to politics, so he clearly hasn’t made a mistake in this case. He’s just thinking further into the future than we mere mortals can comprehend.
A policy that far better respects the modern understanding of “freedom” would seek to limit coercion, not increase the need for such action.
Theo-conservatives seem to oppose this policy because they oppose birth control in all forms.
Liberals seem to favor this policy because it is a step to enshrining healthcare as a right, which in turn creates a duty for others to pay for said right.
I’d suggest that one can favor having the right to access contraceptives without suggesting that someone else is obligated to pay for such goods.