Elder Brown Defines Political Extremism

Mormon Heretic apostles, BYU, General Authorities, history, Leaders, Mormon, Mormons, politics, war 169 Comments

There are a large majority of Mormons (especially here in Utah) that think the Church is wedded to the Republican Party.  A very interesting letter was read here in Utah on Mar 22, 2010 as Utah prepared for the upcoming Caucus Meetings. Let me quote something very interesting from the letter.  (The full text from the LDS Newsroom can be found here.)

“Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of various political parties.” (Emphasis mine.)

Why does it seem that many Mormons don’t seem to believe this, despite the church’s oft-quoted emphasis that the church is politically neutral?

On May 13, 1969, Elder Hugh B Brown of the First Presidency quoted John Gardner, former secretary of health, education, and welfare under Lyndon B. Johnson.  Gardner gave a very interesting definition of political extremism:

Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: An excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all. . . . Blind belief in one’s cause and a low view of the morality of other Americans–these seem mild failings. But they are the soil in which ranker weeds take root . . . terrorism, and the deep, destructive cleavages that paralyze a society.[John Gardner, No Easy Victories (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 8, 9.]

The text of Brown’s speech can be found here.  Almost exactly one year prior to Brown’s speech referenced above, he delivered the Commencement Address at BYU in May 1968.  Most of you remember his now famous speech called “Profile of a Prophet.”  It’s a fantastic address as he outlines a legal argument to a Canadian judge on why Joseph Smith is a prophet.  I recently listened to the entire speech.

During the first 3 minutes of the speech, Brown gives a few jokes and advice, and then he gave a few words about Politics, before addressing his main topic of “Profile of a Prophet.”  I’d like to quote his words of advice to the graduating students.  I’d like to highlight some things I find particularly interesting.

“You young people are leaving your university at a time in which our nation is engaged in an increasingly abrasive and strident process of electing a president. I wonder if you would permit me as one who has managed to survive a number of these events to pass on to you a few words of counsel.

First, I’d like you to be reassured that the leaders of both major political parties in this land are men of integrity, and unquestioned patriotism. Beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others. Be skeptical of those who attempt to demonstrate their love of country by demeaning its institutions. Know that men of both major political parties who guide the nation’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are men of unquestioned loyalty and we should stand by and support them, and this refers not only to one party but to all.

Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which will enable you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent. I’ve found by long experience that our two-party system is sound. Beware of those who are so lacking in humility, that they cannot come within the framework of one of our two great parties.

Our nation has avoided chaos, like that is gripping France today, because men have been able to temper their own desires sufficiently, seek broad agreement within one of the two major parties, rather than forming splinter groups around their one radical idea.

Our two party system has served us well, and should not be lightly discarded. At a time when radicals of right or left inflame race against race, avoid those who teach evil doctrines of racism. When our Father declared that we, his children, were brothers and sisters, he did not limit this relationship on the basis of race. Strive to develop that true love of country, that realizes that real patriotism must include within it a regard for the people of the rest of the globe. Patriotism has never demanded of good men hatred of another country as proof of one’s love for his own. Require the tolerance and compassion of others and for them. Those with different politics or race or religion will be demanded by the heavenly parentage which we all have in common.

-Hugh B. Brown, Commencement address, Brigham Young University, May 31, 1968

I posted a slightly different version of this post on my blog.  The first few people commented that the politicians of the 1960’s must have been “Men of Integrity”, but our current politicians are not.  Let’s look at the 60’s for a moment.  Lyndon B Johnson’s ratings were so low, that he chose not to run for re-election.   Robert F Kennedy was shot and killed just 1 week after Elder Brown’s address, joining his brother John who had been shot and killed just a few years prior.  Martin Luther King Jr had been killed just 7 weeks prior to this address (on April 4.)

John F Kennedy had a reputation as a bit of a womanizer.  In 1968, Americans were quite sour on the VietNam War.  The sexual revolution was in full swing, and the Women’s Liberation movement was well under way.  The Bay of Pigs was a disaster in Cuba, and we had just gone through the Cuban Missile Crisis.  People were building bomb shelters for fear of Nuclear War with the USSR.  The Cold War was as cold as it ever was.  Suffice it to say, this decade was a time of tumult.

In the 1968 election that Brown referred to, Nixon won a 3 way race over D-Hubert Humphrey, and I-George Wallace. Let’s not forget that Wallace was later shot in 1972, and we all know what happened to Nixon. I didn’t know what happened in France in 1968, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently there were some big-time riots, strikes, and protests that almost brought the French government down.

I think it was a much more divisive time than today, though today is a very divisive time.  I don’t understand why our country has become so partisan, and why we don’t try to work together more.  People are gravitating to the extremes of MoveOn.org, and the Tea Party.  Brown saw a similar time of rancorous partisanship in the 60’s, and quoted Gardner:

As these antagonisms become more intense, the pathology is much the same. . . . The ingredients are, first, a deep conviction on the part of the group as to its own limitless virtue or the overriding sanctity of its cause; second, grave doubts concerning the moral integrity of all others; third, a chronically aggrieved feeling that power has fallen into the hands of the unworthy (that is, the hands of others). . . .

Politics can always bring out a lot of rants, and often both sides will have “grave doubts concerning the moral integrity of all others.”  I’m sure all of you have your pet political issues.  Can we avoid these antagonisms as we discuss the state of our country?

What say you?  Are you guilty of Elder Brown’s definition of political extremism?  Can you disagree with either President Bush or President Obama without questioning their integrity, just as Elder Brown did with Presidents Johnson, Kennedy, and Nixon?  Do you demean the institutions of the Congress or the Supreme Court because you don’t agree with particular legislation or court rulings?

Comments

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Comments 169

  1. “Know that men of both major political parties who guide the nation’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are men of unquestioned loyalty and we should stand by and support them, and this refers not only to one party but to all.”

    1. Does this apply to the United States only, or universally?

    2. Have there ever been instances of elections (in any country) where a party turned out not to be loyal to the country’s worthier traditions and institutions?

    3. Is a person’s duty to moderate political divisiveness satisfied by a resolution to remain on the sunny side of the precedent set by the other side during the last swing of the political pendulum?

  2. MH,

    In general and in the past I would tend to agree with what a member of the 12 said 40 years ago. Along these lines, I would generally agree that the men and women of both parties are generally doing their best for the country. With this said, I would say we have never, maybe with the exception of Wilson, had a President that has so many ties to extreme, radical groups and people as does Obama — Wright, Alinsky, Pfleger and the like. This would include the most radical administration this nation has ever seen. This guy is destructive to this nation and its founding principles. I have no issues calling him corrupt.

  3. I think political extremism is wrong. But, put in context, at the time the comments were made neither major political party supported gay marriage, elective, partial birth abortion, government-run healthcare, or any of the other policies that are anti-family, destructive, or both. Recognizing that certain parties’ platforms have drifted so far away from what is right that they are completely contrary to the Gospel is not political extremism.

  4. st1305 and Sam — it looks like the Church is still trying reach you.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    LDS Newsroom — The Mormon Ethic of Civility

    SALT LAKE CITY 16 October 2009 The political world is astir. Economies are faltering. Public trust is waning. Individuals feel vulnerable. And social cohesion wears thin. Meanwhile, stories of rage and agitation fill our airwaves, streets and town halls. Where are the voices of balance and moderation in these extreme times? During a recent address given in an interfaith setting, Church President Thomas S. Monson declared: “When a spirit of goodwill prompts our thinking and when united effort goes to work on a common problem, the results can be most gratifying.” Further, former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley once said that living “together in communities with respect and concern one for another” is “the hallmark of civilization.” That hallmark is under increasing threat.

    So many of the habits and conventions of modern culture — ubiquitous media, anonymous and unsourced online participation, politicization of the routine, fractured community and family life — undermine the virtues and manners that make peaceful coexistence in a pluralist society possible. The fabric of civil society tears when stretched thin by its extremities. Civility, then, becomes the measure of our collective and individual character as citizens of a democracy.

    A healthy democracy maintains equilibrium through diverse means, including a patchwork of competing interests and an effective system of governmental checks. Nevertheless, this order ultimately relies on the integrity of the people. Speaking at general conference, a semiannual worldwide gathering of the Church, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asserted: “In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay.” Likewise, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton emphasized that the virtues of fidelity, charity, generosity, humility and responsibility “form the foundation of a Christian life and are the outward manifestation of the inner man.” Thus, moral virtues blend into civic virtues. The seriousness of our common challenges calls for an equally serious engagement with reasonable ideas and solutions. What we need is rigorous debate, not rancorous altercations.

    Civility is not only a matter of discourse. It is primarily a mode of engagement. The technological interconnectedness of society has made isolation impossible. Of all the institutions in the modern world, religion has had perhaps the greatest difficulty adjusting to the reality of give and take with the public. Today, and throughout its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continuously encounters the legitimate interests of various stakeholders in its interaction with the public. Rather than exempting itself from the rules of law and civility, the Church has sought the path of cooperative engagement and avoided the perils of acrimonious confrontation.

    Echoing this mode of civil engagement, President Monson declared: “As a church we reach out not only to our own people but also to those people of goodwill throughout the world in that spirit of brotherhood which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Speaking of civility on a personal level, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught Latter-day Saints how to respond to criticism: “Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But, to ‘love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]’ (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.”

    The moral basis of civility is the Golden Rule, taught by a broad range of cultures and individuals, perhaps most popularly by Jesus Christ: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). This ethic of reciprocity reminds us all of our responsibility toward one another and reinforces the communal nature of human life.

    Similarly, the Book of Mormon tells a sober story of civilizational decline in which various peoples repeat the cycle of prosperity, pride and fall. In almost every case, the seeds of decay begin with the violation of the simple rules of civility. Cooperation, humility and empathy gradually give way to contention, strife and malice.

    The need for civility is perhaps most relevant in the realm of partisan politics. As the Church operates in countries around the world, it embraces the richness of pluralism. Thus, the political diversity of Latter-day Saints spans the ideological spectrum. Individual members are free to choose their own political philosophy and affiliation. Moreover, the Church itself is not aligned with any particular political ideology or movement. It defies category. Its moral values may be expressed in a number of parties and ideologies.

    Furthermore, the Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible. As the Church begins to rise in prominence and its members achieve a higher public profile, a diversity of voices and opinions naturally follows. Some may even mistake these voices as being authoritative or representative of the Church. However, individual members think and speak for themselves. Only the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles speak for the whole Church..

    Latter-day Saint ethical life requires members to treat their neighbors with respect, regardless of the situation. Behavior in a religious setting should be consistent with behavior in a secular setting. The Church hopes that our democratic system will facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing. In his inaugural press conference President Monson emphasized the importance of cooperation in civic endeavors: “We have a responsibility to be active in the communities where we live, all Latter-day Saints, and to work cooperatively with other churches and organizations. My objective there is … that we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute for it the strength of people working together.”

  5. DP,

    And? What was uncivil about what either of us said? They did not say, don’t speak the truth, they said be civil. You can, should and must do both.

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  7. MH,

    Sure, that’s your opinion. The comparison is wrong, of course, and I would then turn that into a teachable moment.

  8. “But, to ‘love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]’ (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.”

    Yes.

    And yet the Church has traditionally venerated the American founding fathers, who were a hella lot more slanderous of George III (seriously, read the grossly propagandized list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence), and for arguably less cause, then some of the “extremists” are today.

    The problem I have with this thread, is that it plays into the hands of a whole ‘nother class of extremists — namely, those who try to tar objectively rational opinions with the brush of “extremism,” with its whiff of fertilizer & ammonia. “What we need is rigorous debate, not rancorous altercations.” Absolutely. But be too rigorous in your debate — at least, too rigorous from the incorrect direction — and you’re a Racist, or another Extremist, and your rigorously-crafted arguments must be ignored if not outright suppressed.

    We have a President who declared an intent to “fundamentally remake the United States of America,” and whose wife stated that watching her husband rise to the Presidency was the first time she was proud of her country. Those of us who believe that the founding principles of American civilization are fundamentally sound, and that the country needs to be refined, updated and reformed rather than fundamentally remade, can be forgiven for taking the President at his word that he’s after radical and not incremental change. If it’s extremism to oppose extremism, then make the most of it.

    In any event, there is a time and season for most everything. I don’t believe our times justify tarring and feathering tax collectors, vandalizing ships’ cargoes, burning customs ships, and so forth (even though the impositions that prompted those things two centuries ago seem almost laughably trivial compared to what we put up with today, with scarcely more practical ability to give or withhold our “consent”). But what is unacceptably “extreme” should and must vary depending on what the putative extremist is faced with opposing. Here’s another person speaking thoughtfully on “extremism”:

    But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

  9. I would submit that both Bush and Obama are basically men of integrity. I happen to disagree vehemently with both of them on different issues, but I believe they’re basically trying to do what’s right. You can’t become president without forming connections with individuals whose views others may find extreme.

    I love what Hugh B. Brown said on many occasions. He’s one of my heros.

  10. I think his DrPepper’s point was this line from the Church’s statement.

    “the Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible”

    I think statements like these are are exactly that.
    “certain parties’ platforms have drifted so far away from what is right that they are completely contrary to the Gospel”
    “the most radical administration this nation has ever seen. This guy is destructive to this nation and its founding principles.”

    And, Thomas, do these statements sound like “objectively rational opinions” or do they have a whiff of “fertilizer & ammonia”.

    I say that we all agree that we need moderation and balance in all things. But something is wrong when Utah votes as a block. The Democratic Party of Utah’s party platform is pretty center left. I would venture that more LDS folk would agree with the current Mormons = Republican stance. But the demonization of the Left in Elders’ Quorum hinders the balance that the Church is calling for.

  11. “First, I’d like you to be reassured that the leaders of both major political parties in this land are men of integrity….”

    The irony, of course, is that Elder Brown gave this reassurance less than six months before the President, and leader of one of the two aforementioned political parties, became…Richard Nixon.

    “Can you disagree with either President Bush or President Obama without questioning their integrity?”

    Well, of course. I can disagree with someone by calling him mistaken, unwise, innocently ignorant, conditioned by an unquestioned and misguided ideology, or vain. That said, if the guy actually does act without integrity, “civility” doesn’t require that I ignore it.

    “Do you demean the institutions of the Congress or the Supreme Court because you don’t agree with particular legislation or court rulings?”

    No. However, when the people who flesh out the marble institutions demean the institutions by acting in excess of their authority, or without integrity, then I do criticize the people who have done the demeaning.

    I wonder, by the way, if one of the reasons the Church emphasizes civility in democratic debate (apart from the sound Christian principle of it) is that cultivating a societal sense of politeness to authority serves the Church’s interests as well.

  12. Species,

    I would refer you to the Obama (both) quotes Thomas cited. These are destructive and radical. Not only that they said them, but they are trying to implement them.

  13. I think it’s all a matter of perspective: Just using the examples in #6 (Sam): “…gay marriage, elective, partial birth abortion, government-run healthcare…”

    Re: gay marriage: There are lots of ways to look the issue. Taking the “other” side just for the sake of argument – people are arguing that non-traditional marriage should be able to be defined by the participants and not the majority. This mirrors the stand of the Church for a good portion of its history regarding polygamy. I would argue that polygamy seemed stranger and more “dangerous” to a larger percentage of the US population at the time we practiced it than gay marriage does today.

    Re: a socialized form of healthcare: D&C 51:3 talks about “every man being equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs”. Many people may argue that “government-run healthcare” may be closer to this ideal than the current system where so many people are without healthcare.

    So “evil” is certainly a matter of perspective…

  14. “But something is wrong when Utah votes as a block. The Democratic Party of Utah’s party platform is pretty center left.”

    Yes, but the Utah Democratic delegation typically votes as a block with the rest of the national Democratic caucus, which — irrespective of how centrist the Utah Democrats are personally — is not “pretty center left.”

    As for whether st1305’s thoughts are “rational” versus “extremist,” what about them has a “whiff of ammonia and fertilizer,” i.e., leads to the logical conclusion that the man is brewing up a bomb in his backyard or something?

    Barack Obama is, probably more than any previous President, a creature of the post-1970s American non-hard-science academy, which has become measurably more one-sidedly tribal since that time, and whose thinking has coalesced around some notions that I find even most rank-and-file Democrats think are extreme. The talk of “fundamentally remaking” the United States, and earlier comments faulting the Constitution for focusing on “negative rights” instead of “positive rights” — all these and other things lead to a reasonable conclusion that the President does, in fact, have some serious issues with at least some of the “founding principles” of this country — if nothing else, the emphasis of negative rights over positive rights, which he’s acknowledged disliking — and would like to replace those principles with something else.

    No, he’s not going to suspend elections, or do any of the things the Left accused George W. Bush of plotting to do the last go-round. (“He BETRAYED this country! He PLAYED on our FEEAAARRRS!!!!”) In fact, he’s almost certainly not going to do any one discrete thing that, taken in isolation, is particularly extreme. The danger, to the contrary, comes from slouching along on an unsustainable course, adding incrementally to previous errors, until one or other of the Founders’ paranoid musings about the fate of unfettered democracies ends up being borne out.

  15. Mike,

    No evil is not a matter of perspective, evil is evil. I believe the church spearheaded the SSM fight in California. Where they civil?

  16. Mike, a language quibble: “…the current system where so many people are without healthcare” should properly be “where so many people are without health insurance.”

    “I would argue that polygamy seemed stranger and more “dangerous” to a larger percentage of the US population at the time we practiced it than gay marriage does today.”

    In either event, both the Church’s advocacy for plural marriage, and the present push for “gay marriage,” were/are extreme departures from the contemporary norm.

    And I would disagree, btw. Polygamy, though abhorred by the anti-Mormons of Brigham Young’s day, at least had precedents in the Bible (and Martin Luther, briefly). Gay marriage wasn’t even on the nineteenth-century radar; heck, those guys were barely a century removed from outright hanging people for the “crime against nature,” which as far as I know was never the case with polygamy — despised as it may have been. Mention polygamy to the typical Victorian moralist, and she’d have scowled. Mention “gay marriage,” and she’d just stare at you with blank uncomprehending eyes: Does not compute.

  17. Part of extremism, in my opinion, is stretching someone else’s position to an extreme. Thus, when Ronald Reagan called Medicare “socialized medicine”, he was being extreme. When people on this thread call the health care reform bill “socialism” (or Marxist or Communist), they are being extreme.

    One can differ about the appropriate role of government in financing or regulating the provision of medicine without labeling those who disagree as “socialist” or Marxist.

    It was not that long ago that Ronald Reagan claimed that Medicare was socialized medicine and evil. Interestingly, the GOP, in campaigning against health care reform, sought the support of older people by claiming that health reform would adversely affect their Medicare. As some older Americans argued: “We oppose socialized medicine, and keep your hands off my Medicare”)

  18. St1305: Objectively, yes. In the eyes of Prop. 8 opponents, the Church’s support (of a measure designed to reject an extreme redefinition of marriage) was hateful extremism.

    See, here’s the problem: Since we’re going to be called “extremists” anyway, there’s the temptation to do a Patrick Henry and “make the most of it.”

  19. “One can differ about the appropriate role of government in financing or regulating the provision of medicine without labeling those who disagree as “socialist” or Marxist.”

    Yes. You can call the system “corporatist,” which (in the original sense of the word, not the underinformed leftist’s misunderstanding of it) is closer to the truth than “socialist” (which traditionally refers to the state taking outright ownership of productive assets). Corporatism is when the government leaves the furnishing of goods and services in nominally private hands — but controls economic policy so thoroughly that the so-called private firms are for all practical purposes arms of the State (and typically run by, and often for, a politically connected aristocracy).

    But (a) this is probably too involved political philosophy for the average bear to process, and (b) not even self-declared socialists use the traditional socialist formula of state ownership of the means of production anymore, so “socialist” has come to include “corporatist” (again, the original meaning of the term) within its scope.

  20. MH,

    Comparing MoveOn to the Tea Party? When will people finally stop this false equivalency as if the left has any identical insanity as that of the Tea Party! The Left’s opposition to George Bush and the war in Iraq was based on actual sound reasoning, and in the end were proven right. If someone on the left compared Bush to Hitler, they were shouted down not only by those on the right, but also those on the left. There just isn’t a comparable group on the left to match the insanity of the Tea Party.

    This segues well into my answers to your questions…

    What say you? Are you guilty of Elder Brown’s definition of political extremism? Can you disagree with either President Bush or President Obama without questioning their integrity, just as Elder Brown did with Presidents Johnson, Kennedy, and Nixon? Do you demean the institutions of the Congress or the Supreme Court because you don’t agree with particular legislation or court rulings?

    I consider myself a moderate, and America’s politics shifted hard right around me, thus for me to stand my ground, my rhetoric sounds harsher that would be if those on the right didn’t drift so far toward insanity. I never questioned Bush’s loyalty to America, or his integrity. But he was badly wrong on almost everything. And it wasn’t really his fault. The fault was his ideology. If I demean any institution it is because the members of that institution are not adhering to the standards of that institution. So for example, Judges Alito and Roberts and Thomas are not impartial, and let their closeness to their business worlds lead them to make wrong decisions (like Citizens United). That decision should never have occurred that way if Roberts, Alito or Thomas put aside their biases and ruled dispassionately. Thus I demean them, because they are doing America wrong. The Congressional House is working fine as an institution, but the Senate is a God awful mess. I’d prefer that every single Senator retire, the filibuster removed and we start completely over on the Senate. What a terrible terrible sad institution it has become! I am proud to demean today’s Senate. It is by far the worst institution in America.

  21. I need to add that anyone who said “This guy is destructive to this nation and its founding principles” in elders quorum, or elsewhere in church, ought to be slapped with a wet flounder. Church should be a safe space for people who don’t hold the majority view. I would be just as annoyed hearing something like this in our church as I would be hearing some left-wing moonbattery over at St. Marx (the leftier of the two Presbyterian churches in my hometown).

  22. Here’s a good perspective to highlight just how much the right has shifted to insanity:

    It was the middle of a tough primary contest, and Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) had convened a small meeting with donors who had contributed thousands of dollars to his previous campaigns. But this year, as Inglis faced a challenge from tea party-backed Republican candidates claiming Inglis wasn’t sufficiently conservative, these donors hadn’t ponied up. Inglis’ task: Get them back on the team. “They were upset with me,” Inglis recalls. “They are all Glenn Beck watchers.” About 90 minutes into the meeting, as he remembers it, “They say, ‘Bob, what don’t you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.'” Inglis didn’t know how to respond.

    I’ll just say this clearly. Anyone who believes this is an extremist loony. Anyone who believes this is stupid. And I say this as a moderate.

  23. Thomas,

    The first one ““certain parties’ platforms have drifted so far away from what is right that they are completely contrary to the Gospel”” claims a moral superiority. History is rife with people doing bad things being morally right.

    The second, ““the most radical administration this nation has ever seen. This guy is destructive to this nation and its founding principles” is overblown with superlative adjectives and foreboding of utter destruction to our civilization.

    So, yes, I could see someone building a bomb and doing something stupid with these two sayings as his battle cry.

    I don’t excuse everything said or done when Bush was president. When people start foaming at the mouth, rational discussion and viable change gets thrown out the window.

    Back in the Day 1891, when the Church literally voted as a block in the People’s Party, Wilford Woodruff told the people “to divide evenly between the two parties [republican and democrat]; leaving an uncertain element to be converted to either side [for] the best results.”

    …wise words

  24. Dan,

    You forgot to mention I’m a wife beater; and, that my cousin Cooter and I started the organization the Third Reich Fraternal Brotherhood to Restore the Constitution. Although we may put too much emphasis on the second amendment; I don’t consider our ways to be ‘extremist’. It is just the way momma Smart raised us. I say momma as daddy, Lazy, just watches TV all day. Like me, Jack, my unwed sisters Big and Wide are extremely conservative. On the other hand, my sister Dumb goes to an Ivy League School and is a big supporter of Obama.

    Sincerely,
    The Ass Family
    Lazy, Smart, Jack, Dumb, Big and Wide

    It’s interesting what generalizations will do and oh, the hypocrisy. You chastise us for the labels we put on our elected leaders, by labeling us as extremist. The question is whether we should attach labels; rather, the question is does the shoe fit. Maybe I do have extreme views on this subject. Maybe referring to our president as corrupt is inappropriate. Maybe it is accurate. Maybe I have 14 trillion reasons to refer to our elected leaders as corrupt. And, maybe, just maybe we the people have 14 trillion reasons to throw them out of office.

    Thomas,

    Is that making the most of it? Back to building the bomb.

    Jack A

  25. Fast moving conversation–I’m trying to play catch up. Thomas, I think you asked some interesting questions in #1.

    “Know that men of both major political parties who guide the nation’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are men of unquestioned loyalty and we should stand by and support them, and this refers not only to one party but to all.”

    1. Does this apply to the United States only, or universally?

    Well, how about a combination? Brown was specifically referring to the United States, but I think it could probably apply to many countries, but I’d stop short of universal. I don’t know if you caught my post on the Rwandan Genocide, but those leaders of the Hutus were not men of integrity at all. There are dictatorial regimes that aren’t men of integrity either, but on the whole, I’d say that most democratic nations are probably led by men of integrity.

    2. Have there ever been instances of elections (in any country) where a party turned out not to be loyal to the country’s worthier traditions and institutions?

    Well, in the fledgling democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan, I think there are problems. Iran, Egypt aren’t true democracies either. I’ll take Obama’s so-called move toward socialism over any of these governments. There does seem to be considerable corruption in Greece and Italy.

    3. Is a person’s duty to moderate political divisiveness satisfied by a resolution to remain on the sunny side of the precedent set by the other side during the last swing of the political pendulum?

    Sorry, can you restate the question? I’m not following you here.

  26. Sigh.

    I’m a political conservative. I had Obama’s big spending, his intrusiveness (cap n’ trade, auto company takeover, etc.) and his horridly weak foreign policy. I’m excited for November because I believe the Democrats will be smashed.

    Yet, I find myself being compelled to post when my fellow conservatives go simply too far.

    Socialism — I think it is unproductive, even harmful to a nation. But, evil?? We need to remember that many leading LDS officials were pretty liberal. Hugh B. Brown for one. N. Eldon Tanner was in the Canadian parliament and was part of socialist-leaning party. James E. Faust was a pretty liberal democrat in the Utah legislature.

    Sure, there were others who hated socialism — President McKay, Ezra T. Benson in the 1960s come to mind. But, it is clear that there has been a diversity of opinion over time.

    Disagree with the left. Blast their ideas. But, don’t demean the other side by name calling or claim that they engaged in some stupid conspiracy.

    Some above claim that the Left’s attacks on President Bush were accurate (inaccurate intelligence does not an attack on the Constitution make). I think that shows the same kind of blindness.

  27. well me, I’ve always been moderate. Everything just shifted left so now it’s just me this moderate guy and then all these extreme left wingers. No like extreme right wingers or anything just me this moderate dude and then the extreme left. I’m thinking about starting a blog i’m going to call it “the good moderate”

  28. Sam in #6, I think there were many policies that could be considered “anti-family” of the 1960s. While gay marriage is the issue du jour, the anti-family issues then included abortion and women’s rights (which the church considered anti-family, and why the LDS leaders came out against ERA). Many thought the Civil Rights legislation that Lyndon Johnson signed into law was anti-family too. De-Segregation would allow blacks to contaminate whites–oh what was the country going to do if we couldn’t properly insulate ourselves from the evils of black America? How much more anti-family can you get that to support Civil Rights?

    I think we often minimize the fights of previous generations that were just as divisive as today. Our current issues with gay marriage will probably seem quaint 40 years from now, as the current issues fade from memory.

    Dan, everyone considers themselves a moderate, while we view others as extremes. I’m not a fan of either MoveOn.org or the Tea Party, yet I have friends who see nothing wrong with either movement. I have often stated that I vote Democratic as often as I vote Republican. I vote for people, not parties, and if I don’t like either candidate, I will vote 3rd party. For me, that seems to fit the definition of a moderate better than believing in a particular idealogy. I am not an idealogue, and I like to see politicians that work with the other party to get things done. I guess my problem with both MoveOn and Tea Party is the fact that they hate bipartisanship and try to defeat candidates that aren’t liberal or conservative enough.

  29. A tape of this talk was floating around among the missionaries when I was on my mission. While I appreciated the acknowledgment that good members of the church can be involved in either major party, this quote has always bothered me: “Beware of those who are so lacking in humility, that they cannot come within the framework of one of our two great parties.”

    It seems like Elder Brown is trying to be inclusive of Democrats while simultaneously condemning supporters of third parties. That’s not exactly politically neutral; it’s merely more politically broad-minded than some of the church membership. (I would be curious as to what percentage of the U.S. membership supports third parties. I’m not a member of any political party, but I lean strongly libertarian.)

  30. Keri, interesting comment. George Wallace was the 3rd party candidate in the election. He ran for U.S. president four times, running officially as a Democrat three times and in 1968 was part of the American Independent Party. He was against desegragation and the Civil Rights Movement. I think Elder Brown was concerned about Wallace’s campaign turning against the Civil Rights Movement (which Brown was a proponent of.) So Brown’s comments against 3rd parties should be viewed in that light. I don’t think Brown necessarily was against 3rd parties, but I believe he was against Wallace’s American Independent Party.

  31. I would submit that both Bush and Obama are basically men of integrity. I happen to disagree vehemently with both of them on different issues, but I believe they’re basically trying to do what’s right

    Having met Bush when he was governor, I would tend to agree. However, it is important to realize that just trying to do what is right is often not enough.

    On the other hand, emotional rejection and attacks keep people from thinking, analyzing and finding what is right.

    It amazes me how under Clinton we began to close on a balanced budget. Between Bush and Obama we are close to a tipping point on debt.

    Comparing MoveOn to the Tea Party? When will people finally stop this false equivalency as the Tea Party is pretty harmless, MoveOn is amazingly vindictive. MoveOn has harsher language than any Tea Party. Which Tea Party group hosted a legal conference on how to impose the death penalty on George Bush? The MoveOn supported one was amazing in the intensity of feeling and motivation. If anyone in the Tea Party was advocating killing the current president with the same vigor I suspect you would see them suppressed vigorously by others in the Tea Party, not cheered on.

    I’d agree that Bush’s ideology of spending like there was no tomorrow and foreign adventurism into wars was a disaster. He led the way to major health care spending increases (unfunded drug benefits anyone?). He and Obama are much alike in that both approach things in the hope of making broad changes, both have been willing to embrace huge deficits.

    It is fun to watch Judges Alito and Roberts and Thomas when their principals take them a different direction from their inclinations, and just how different the three of them often are in jurisprudence. Those who demean them generally display an ignorance of the law that either comes from excessive bias or from not understanding the law.

    Ah well, I think we hit a high point under Bill Clinton that few recognized, I have serious worries now about where we are headed, though I can see resolution paths, most of them have ugly side effects.

  32. MH/Species,

    Let me get this straight. Sam, Thomas and I point out legitimate concerns about our current administration and immediately the name calling starts. Not from us, but directed at us. It is totally hypocritical and typical of how these conversations go with the left – it’s ok to label us as extremist, but not try and discuss legitimate concerns. It happens every time without fail. This is chiefly due to the fact left’s arguments can’t stand on their own, so they resort to name calling. As Thomas indicated, you’re going to get labeled as an extremist, so why not make the best of it. I take this one step further and in a self depreciating way, get the entire name calling out of the way so all that is left is the issues. I will discuss the issues with anyone, anytime and anywhere. As the host, control the dialog. Call those that that resort to these tactics and let’s stick with the issues.

    MH,

    You are the one missed the mark – the pornographer, the drug dealer, the casino owner. You understood this would lead to uncivil dialogue, backbiting and name calling. As a matter of pride, you also knew it would get a lot of comments and accolades. You lit the match. You are the one that started the dialogue now accept responsibility.

  33. st1305,

    My virtual friend, please notice that I did not criticize your points. In fact, I think I called for balance from both sides.

    However, I do criticize your choice of adjectives and literary style. I think the tone of your writing is not conducive to a thoughtful and rational political discussion.

    How ironic that the very point of the OP was about avoiding extremism on both sides and civil discourse.

  34. MH,

    #37,

    I guess my problem with both MoveOn and Tea Party is the fact that they hate bipartisanship and try to defeat candidates that aren’t liberal or conservative enough.

    But partisanship is not extremism. Indeed the folks at MoveOn are partisan, quite highly, and their desire is to see Republicans lose elections. But aside from their “Betray-Us” ad (which was denounced by left and right), has there been anything from MoveOn that has even come close to comparison to the daily barrage of trash from the folks at Tea Party? I honestly would not mind conservatives rebranding themselves from the failed Republican brand. Please. Change. But doubling down on the stupid? The Tea Party is the ultimate definition of political extremism. There’s nothing wrong with being partisan. I’m a partisan, though I do not agree with those further on the left, and I will consider Republicans (I thought John McCain had a better campaign in 2000, and probably would have voted for him if he had beaten Bush). Partisanship has been around right from the beginning of our democracy. The Founding Fathers were at each others’ throats all the time with some pretty vile language too. Frankly, I don’t get those who say, “let’s just all join hands and sing kumbayas.” There’s never been such a time in our country, and I doubt there ever will be. We can try and moderate our language, but right now the ball is in the conserv… I mean Tea Party movement’s hands to moderate their language. They are the ones outside the lines of reason and rational debate. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for them to moderate their language. So, as a good partisan that I am, I will call them stupid, dumb and outside rational thought.

  35. Species

    You, davidh, mike s and dan immediately started playing the extremist card. You didn’t respond to what we said, or attempt to explain or defend your position; rather, you played the extremist card. And yes, it is ironic this is a discussion on civil dialogue. That was the whole point of my antics. Again, without fail it goes this way. Based on previous posts, including the post on mh’s website, it was clear he/she knew it was going to go this way. So if he/she knew it was going to be uncivil, then isn’t he/she responsible for the uncivil dialogue. This is precociously what the brethren were alluding to in thief pleas.

  36. st1305,

    #41,

    Let me get this straight. Sam, Thomas and I point out legitimate concerns about our current administration and immediately the name calling starts.

    What legitimate concerns? That Obama was a socialist? That’s a legitimate concern? Sorry dude, but you’re views are extremist.

    This is chiefly due to the fact left’s arguments can’t stand on their own, so they resort to name calling.

    As opposed to calling Obama a socialist?

    It happens every time without fail

    I could not have said it better myself.

    I will discuss the issues with anyone, anytime and anywhere.

    Like whether Obama is a socialist or a communist?

  37. st1305,

    I’m stating fact, dude. You’re the one stating fiction by calling Obama a socialist. I’m calling you a dumb extremist because you have shown yourself to be one by calling Obama a socialist. Sorry that you are offended by the truth.

  38. I’ve read both documents and sadly, you’re still 100% in the wrong. I’m not going to say anymore on this matter. You’re an extremist. Stop pretending not to be one.

  39. Dan,

    I don’t believe you. Please be honest. Read them, then answer the question truthfully. I will give you the readers digest of the communist manifesto, written my Marx.

    1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

    5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

    6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.

    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

    8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

    Be honest, do not most or these describe Obama

  40. nope they do not. You’re position is unbelievably dumb st1305.

    1. Obama has not abolished any property
    2. Obama has not pushed for a heavy progressive tax
    3. Obama has not abolished any rights of inheritance
    4. Obama has not confiscated property of emigrants and rebels
    5. Obama has not centralized credit in banks of the state
    6. Obama has not centralized the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the state
    7. Obama has not extended factories and production in the hands of the state, etc
    8. Obama has not pushed for equal obligation of all to work or established industrial armies, especially for agriculture
    9. Obama has not combined agriculture with manufacturing industries, or gradually abolished the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the population over the country
    10. and this is the actual one that has relevance today, Obama has not pushed for free education for all children in public schools. Obama has actually pushed for a greater increase in charter schools, to the dismay of those who prefer public schools.

    Do you realize yet how dumb your position is, st1305?

  41. Post
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    the point of the post asked the basic question, ‘can we have civil dialogue when discussing politics?’ dan and st1305 have demonstrated that the answer is no.

    st1305, you tried to trun my non-political alice cooper post into a political post. I asked you to stop, and I am grateful you complied. it is evident that you wanted to discuss politics, so I modified my schedule and gave you your fix. now you want to blame me for your bad behavior? sorry dude, take responsibility for your own words.

  42. Dan,

    Exactly the response I expected. On the whole, I would agree. Again, I did not say Obama was a Marxist, I said he leans more towards Marx than the founding fathers. You made the claim that was an extreme view. Without saying which side is wrong or right, let’s explore this claim. Now that the ball is on the tee, let’s look at what the right wing religious nuts with guns had to say. Chiefly, the claims they made in the federalist papers. Here are the thoughts of these former slave owners:

    1) The role of federal government should be extremely limited. They envisioned protection of our borders and fostering intra and interstate commerce. During the past few years the role of the federal government has increased dramatically.

    2) State rights. Closely tied to the first, the founding fathers envisioned more local control with the states making such decisions. With the recent lawsuit by the Federal Government in Arizona, this is in direct violation of this claim.

    3)Issues of voting. They held that those that have a vested interest in the economy should be the only ones with the right to vote. They wanted to accomplish this by tying voting rights to land ownership. This is in direct contrast to the push one person, one vote by the left.

    4)Constitutional Rights. Thomas and Obama, both discussed this — “negative rights” instead of “positive rights”

    5) Education. They did not envision the federal government involved in free education.

    This coupled your incorrect analysis of some of the 10 point analysis of the Communist Manifesto as it relates to Obama. Obama and progressives (thus the term progressive) in general have pushed for progressive taxes, free education and a one-payer health care system. It is hard to push any harder on taxes as the rates are already so progressive. Along these lines, he will let the Bush tax cuts expire.

    With both sides defined, I would again ask the question. Are Obama’s ideology and policies closer to Marx, or the founding fathers? It is a fair question. I don’t think it is an extreme question, or position. Please answer truthfully.

    MH,

    You missed the whole point of the brethren, current and forty years ago. They were effectively saying, if you engage in a political discussions they will turn civil. They are right on this issue. With this mind, if you don’t want to engage in uncivil dialogue then don’t engage in politics. It’s like the military. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things. If you want to kill people or break things, then don’t join.

  43. MH,
    Correction

    MH,

    You missed the whole point of the brethren, current and forty years ago. They were effectively saying, if you engage in political discussions they will not be civil. They are right on this issue. With this mind, if you don’t want to engage in uncivil dialogue then don’t engage in politics. It’s like the military. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things. If don’t want to kill people or break things, then don’t join.

  44. Post
    Author

    st1305, please reread the links from the lds newsroom that I and others have provided. these press releases don’t advocate that uncivil dialogue is acceptable, despite yopur assertions the the contrary. please cite a recent press release saying uncivil dialogue is acceptable.

    on the contrary, brown and gardner complained about antagonisms becoming intense, and limitless virtue own our own ideals while having grave doubts on the integrity (or intelligence as dan seems to insult) of others. brown further stated that we should exercise maturity to allow for variation in political belief. I see none of this maturity brown speaks of in either dan or st1305’s comments.

  45. st1305,

    if I were to comment on your points, that would give your position that Obama is a socialist some credibility, as if the center is somewhere between Obama is a socialist or Obama is not a socialist. The true center is Obama is NOT a socialist, thus even responding to your points would move us away from actual reality. It’s just the same as if I were to say, Bush is a fascist, and make you show how he is not. It gives credibility to the argument that Bush may have had some fascistic points, even though in actual reality, he didn’t.

    The conservative position vis a vis the “founding fathers” is simplistic and ahistorical. In other words, their position lacks the context and paints the “founding fathers” in a very simplistic light, as if conservatives somehow speak for all the founding fathers. Conservatives, of course, tend to not give weight to the fact that the Founding Fathers disagreed on almost every single point brought up and that it is truly a miracle that they even all agreed to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, much less the actual Constitution itself, a document riddled with ridiculous compromises just to get the Southern vote on board. The founding fathers were not a monolithic beast one could conjure up at will in a logical fallacy of appealing to authority as if that conjuring somehow ends the debate on an issue. The irony is that the Founding Fathers created a living document MEANT to be altered when better people could finally come to some better senses on things (like the 3/5ths value of the life of a slave). I could quite easily point out examples of the Founding Fathers creating central banks, or appealing to the virtues of public education, or, in the case of Thomas Paine, show what a true socialist he was even before Marx was born!.

    I desperately wish for smart conservatives. But they’ve lost their way these past thirty years. They’re a hollow shell of even the extreme conservatives of the 1950s.

  46. Unlike issues of good and bad, which are values — whether we tag them “concescated” or “communist” — that only God may be able to sort out, political scientists have developed techniques over several decades to give operational, less judgmental definitions to “extremism”.

    “Extremism” simply means “far from the positions of the mean/median voter in the electorate of interest”. Political scientists have used these same techniques to understand strategies and election results for years, and they are fundamental to much progress in political science.

    The most recent use of these techniques was a recent survey by Pew. The link is:

    http://people-press.org/report/636/

    The survey used a standard methodology to have respondents self-identify themselves along a very-conservative to very-liberal spectrum. They also responded where they thought the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Tea Party Movement placed on the same spectrum, although only about half of voters had an opinion about the Tea Party Movement.

    The mean voter self-identified as center-right, which wasn’t surprising given similar surveys for a number of years. What was surprising is that the mean voter placed the Tea Party NO FARTHER TO THE RIGHT OF THEIR OWN POSITION THAN THEY PLACED THE MAINSTREAM DEMOCRATIC PARTY TO THEIR LEFT. They placed the Republican Party only half as far away.

    So operationally speaking, the Tea Party cannot be defined as any more extremist than the main Democrats. And if someone’s positions are significantly to the left of the Democratic establishment, you should be willing to wear the extremist label proudly: only 6% of the population would self-identify as “very liberal”.

    Pew supports other poll results that a majority of Americans describe Obama as socialist and they aren’t calling him socialist as a compliment. No political scientist, using the operational definition of extremist above, could call a near-majority opinion extreme.

    People who self identify as very liberal and think that Obama has not gone nearly as far to the left as he should might be correct in their policies, but they are certainly being unrealistic about who’s being an extremist.

  47. Firetag,

    That couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that every single day on Fox News Obama is called a socialist? You don’t think that has any kind of influence in how uninformed people eventually view the president? If you were to poll America, do you think they’d even know what socialism means? After seventy or so years of constant pummeling and labeling, do you really think Americans even know what socialism means?

    So operationally speaking, the Tea Party cannot be defined as any more extremist than the main Democrats.

    Sure it can. If half the country is influenced by the likes of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, do you think they view themselves as extremist? Or do you think they will view the targets of the attacks from Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin as extreme? Note from the link you provide:

    These average ratings reflect sharp differences between how Republican voters view the Democratic Party and how Democrats view the GOP. More than eight-in-ten Republican voters (83%) say the Democratic Party is liberal (34%) or very liberal (49%). By contrast, a smaller majority (61%) of Democratic voters view the GOP as conservative (33%) or very conservative (29%).

    The views of Republican voters of their Democratic counterparts is that they are not real Americans. Republican voters do not see liberalism as an American ideal. It should not surprise anyone that Republicans would view or perceive Democrats and liberals as more extreme than the extremists on the Republican side.

  48. My favorite line is “Please answer truthfully.” Which, of course is code for agree with me of you’re a socialist pig.

  49. Post
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    dan, your constant belittling of ‘smart’ conservatives plays right into firetag’s post on sunday. somehow you are smarter than all other conservatives, so your political opinion must be better. this is not civil dialogue. I think firetag addressed the fallacies of intellectual elitism that you seem to fall prey to.

  50. I think extremism is not defined purely in terms of how many people believe something. I think Stalinism and Nazism were extremist opinions even though they were supported by substantial portions of the relevant populations, perhaps even a majority.

    The Pew poll does not mention whether Obama is perceived as a socialist; I assume Firetag is referring to some other poll.

    I assume there are also polls showing that a significant portion of Americans, and even higher proportion of GOP and Tea Party members believe that Obama is Muslim or that he was born in Kenya (and therefore not constitutionally qualified to be President). So someone who claims Obama is Muslim and that his election is invaled is not an extremist if one believes that “extremism” is defined purely by polls.

    And while we are considering polls, if a substantial portion of the public believes that Mormons are not Christians, or that Mormons practice polygamy, or that Mormons have horns, that means that claim is not an extremist one.

  51. MH,

    I don’t consider my political opinion better than anyone else’s. But I definitely consider it smarter than your modern Tea Partier.

    Let’s take my opposition to the war in Iraq of 2003 and the position of st1305 of Obama now. I’m sorry that I don’t have any written record of my thoughts in 2003 as I didn’t have a blog back then. But my position was simply this: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, a verifiable position. Our real enemy was in Afghanistan, a verifiable position. Attacking Iraq would play into Al-Qaeda’s hands, a verifiable position. We were going in with too few troops, a verifiable position. Iraq was not a threat worthy of invasion, a verifiable position. My position was not based on something similar to st1305’s position. I didn’t say things like “Bush is destroying America by attacking Iraq.

    Now compare with st1305 in comment #2:

    With this said, I would say we have never, maybe with the exception of Wilson, had a President that has so many ties to extreme, radical groups and people as does Obama — Wright, Alinsky, Pfleger and the like. This would include the most radical administration this nation has ever seen. This guy is destructive to this nation and its founding principles. I have no issues calling him corrupt.

    Radical, corrupt, extreme, destructive. There’s nothing there but smoke and mirrors.

  52. guys like st1305 would have me believe that this

    is representative of mainstream/centrism or at the very least, not extreme views. something is very fundamentally wrong with that notion.

  53. Post
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    dan, it should come as no surprise that I have points of agreement with both you and st1305, and I have points of disagreement with you and st1305. I am not sure that st1305 believes his opinions are centrist, because he earlier stated that he wanted to go ‘patrick henry’ on us.

    while I think it is fine to debate the merits of different political opinions, I think we should be able to do so without the innuendo that obama is a marxist, and without calling conservatives dumb. it is just not helpful to the conversation when we resort to these uncivil tactics. both conservatives and liberals are guilty of these tactics, but are seemingly blind to them.

  54. Interesting conversation. I think it best to bear in mind that political ideologies are never static points on a line, but rather relative orientations on multidimensional continuums (issue to issue, frankly). I think Thomas nailed a point which distinguishes corporatism from socialism, though he dismisses them as ultimately being one in the same. In absolute terms he would be right, if the government were to completely regulate private enterprise, to the point where every action of business – including entering and exiting of markets – was proscribed, than the effect would be much the same as socialism. Yet, if we look at it on a continuum, the question then becomes “how much regulation yields the socialist effect”, and furthermore, do government policies which seek to regulate business activities bespeak an overall tendency towards central planning in the likes of communism. For me, I think it wise to maintain a broad perspective on government activities, while at the same time not taking isolated regulations in response to economic turmoil as sign that “socialism is nigh”. That is sort of a borrowed perspective from Elder Maxwell, though he applied it to the parable of the fig tree regarding the Second Coming.

    Civil discourse, is of course not about the positions, extreme or otherwise. I am the wrong person to say this by way of example in the past, but nevertheless – it comes from simple rules of etiquette accepted in rhetorical arguing. If st1305 wants to assert that Obama is “destructive” or “socialist”, he can just say it plainly with the lablels which smack of ad hominem, or he can make a logical case for it. Rather than challenging which books his opponents have read, he could enlighten us with the wisdom he has gleaned from those same books by making a case for his allegations. He hasn’t done this. The defining line behind what makes the claim that “Obama’s ideology and policies are closer to Marx than the founding fathers” uncivil vs civil, is the ability to defend the thesis with rational argument and not labels only. Calling it like you see it is fine, but when all you have to “call” is politically charged labels, it leads others to believe that you don’t see very much – and so you shoot from the gut hoping to manipulate others by an appeal to emotion rather logic and reason.

  55. Post
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  56. I don’t understand why our country has become so partisan, and why we don’t try to work together more. People are gravitating to the extremes… Brown saw a similar time of rancorous partisanship in the 60′s…

    I’m sadly not surprised that people envision a romantic golden age of political civility located sometime in the past. Equally sadly, it never was, is not now, nor likely ever will be until Judgment Day.

    All it takes to disabuse one’s self of the notion that we have “become…partisan” is to read political commentary and electioneering literature of the past (in the US or from any country with a democratic process and at any time in it’s history). Rancorous partisanship has been with us for as long as there have been political processes or struggles. When there are monarchs, the rancor comes from within lines of succession. When there are autocrats and dictators, the rancor comes from the next usurper. In democracies of all stripes, the rancor exists between groups of freely associating, like minded people.

    Just as the poor will always be with us, struggle and strife over political ends and means will continue partly because it has always been there. (war in heaven, anyone?)

    Politics can always bring out a lot of rants, and often both sides will have “grave doubts concerning the moral integrity of all others.” I’m sure all of you have your pet political issues. Can we avoid these antagonisms as we discuss the state of our country?

    The easiest way to mitigate the damage of political strife is to not equate “(moral) wrongness” with “(mistaken) wrongness.” I have opinions on the use, methods, and ends of governance and political power, but I try (oh so hard sometimes) to remember that the people who disagree with my premises, conclusions, and reasoning on those political opinions are definitely not “evil,” probably well intentioned, and as likely as I am to be mistaken.

    There are a large majority of Mormons (especially here in Utah) that think the Church is wedded to the Republican Party.

    I am (never anymore?) amazed at what lengths Utah Mormons go to to equate Utah-Mormon society and culture with Church doctrine, practice, and organization. The world (and Church) will be a much better place when the saints in the current “center place” are unmistakably outnumbered by those of us who do not share their society and they are forced to recognize the very real difference between “Utah” and “the Church.”

  57. #26: So there, I guess.

    Unless extreme measures are truly appropriate (as with the Church’s rebellion against the government in 1857), then people should steer clear of extremism. But as Dan illustrates, the temptation to use the charge of “extremism” as a club to avoid engaging your opponents (as in, you state how your opponent’s argument loses touch with the facts) is too strong for it to be useful for any of us to set himself up in judgment over whether the other guy is “extreme.”

    Flinging around charges of “Extremist!” or “Racist!” is no less an extreme political tactic (especially when it’s done as cynically as the Left does it, particularly with respect to the latter) than calling somebody a “socialist.” In both cases, what’s being followed is Lenin’s prescription that it’s much easier to denounce someone as an Enemy of the People (whose arguments can be ignored because he’s in a category of people whose opinions are just too far afield to be worthy of engaging) than engage with the arguments themselves.

    Rather than call President Obama a socialist, I will say that his thinking has been shaped by an American social-sciences academy that has become remarkably insular, and shot through with folk-Marxian (not consciously Marxist) ideas whose original provenance their present holders are not even aware of. Obama’s comment about rural Pennsylvanians bitterly clinging to God and guns is straight out of the neo-Marxian notion of “false consciousness,” in which the oppressed classes foolishly adopt the cultural superstructures that serve their oppressors. The point is that neither Barack Obama nor Thomas Frank (whose What’s the Matter with Kansas was another perfect example of this thinking) has any real familiarity with Adorno, Gramsci, or Feuerbach, from whose thinking this left-liberal cultural conceit flows; it’s just that they’ve absorbed some critical assumptions and worldviews with their academic mother’s milk, just as Mormons tend to absorb certain assumptions without understanding their provenance.

    It is absolutely the case that the Progressive tradition, in which Barack Obama and his supporters expressly locate themselves, was from the beginning influenced far more strongly by nineteenth-century German philosophy than by the classical Enlightenment philosophy in which the American founding was located, and which the Germans expressly set out to replace. Again, since hardly anybody, right or left, pays much attention to philosophy or history anymore (see the President’s gaffe about American soldiers liberating Auschwitz, or the VP’s comment about FDR going on TV after the stock market crash — a splendid twofer of ignorance! — feel free to point out similar chokes from conservative politicians), the point is not that Obama is consciously setting out to follow Antonio Gramsci’s program, any more than neoconservatives were consciously following a twelve-step program set down by Leo Strauss (an obscure philosopher who liberal critics of neoconservatism were so obsessed by during the aughts). The point is rather that the President simply sees the same facts through different-colored glasses than those worn by people whose touchstone is Locke rather than Hegel. He is going to have fundamentally different convictions about the proper role of the individual, of the State, of constitutional limitations on government, on culture, and on economics, and his individual policy decisions — no matter what their individual merits — ought to be scrutinized very carefully for whether they serve to advance the overall, comprehensive Progressive agenda.

    Liberals often have a conceit that they are simply issue-by-issue pragmatists, whereas their opponents are all ideologues. But of course when liberal “pragmatic” solutions to various problems all seem to have the common thread of increased scope and decreased accountability for government, it’s reasonable to question whether there aren’t some unacknowledged, underlying predispositions behind them.

  58. #77 Cowboy — I really appreciate your insight on labeling in rhetoric. Do you think that our form of conversation and teaching in the Church raises us to gravitate to a labeling style of argument and rhetoric? Talks, lessons, and hymns seem to rely heavily on shortcut labeling and putting people and ideas in boxes — righteous vs. wicked, faithful vs. unfaithful, Zion vs. Babylon, spiritual vs. worldly, true vs. false, revelation vs. apostasy . . . the list could go on forever. Lessons about Saul concentrate solely on what an eff-up he was, and ones about Elijah solely on how amazing he was, even though both were an inspiring mix of virtues and flaws in their own way. One of our favorite hymns has this dynamic boiled down to a thick, gooey concentrate:

    “Thus onto eternal perfection
    The honest and faithful will go
    While they who reject this glad message
    Shall never such happiness know.”

    We proudly sing the words “The wicked who fight against Zion shall surely be smitten at last”, probably not realizing that our brains start to try and fit ordinary people and human interactions into the boxes of “wicked”, “fight”, “Zion”, and “smitten”. Presidents are not just presidents anymore, they are either for Zion or against it.

  59. Thomas,

    It is absolutely the case that the Progressive tradition, in which Barack Obama and his supporters expressly locate themselves, was from the beginning influenced far more strongly by nineteenth-century German philosophy than by the classical Enlightenment philosophy in which the American founding was located,

    You mean, like Thomas Paine? This is Thomas Paine:

    It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

    [C]reate a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.

    That darn tootin’ socialist!

    The point is rather that the President simply sees the same facts through different-colored glasses than those worn by people whose touchstone is Locke rather than Hegel. He is going to have fundamentally different convictions about the proper role of the individual, of the State, of constitutional limitations on government, on culture, and on economics, and his individual policy decisions — no matter what their individual merits — ought to be scrutinized very carefully for whether they serve to advance the overall, comprehensive Progressive agenda.

    Now that is a much better statement.

    Liberals often have a conceit that they are simply issue-by-issue pragmatists, whereas their opponents are all ideologues. But of course when liberal “pragmatic” solutions to various problems all seem to have the common thread of increased scope and decreased accountability for government, it’s reasonable to question whether there aren’t some unacknowledged, underlying predispositions behind them.

    I don’t think liberals think this way, Thomas. I know, frequenting Daily Kos, that many progressives would prefer the very things y’all would call socialist here, and are simply content with getting as much as they can under the circumstances. It’s no big secret that liberals would prefer to use the tool of government to solve various injustices in this world, because that’s what the government tool is for, at least in the eyes of liberals. Trying to link it somehow somewhere deep in the recesses of the mind, or even subconsciously as a plot for utter communist domination puts you right back at the same position as that of st1305, who simply avoids all the flowery talk to say what he really means. In his eyes, liberals are dormant communists. This is the position of most hardcore conservative Americans and their talking head leaders. This was the position of people like Ezra Taft Benson and Cleon Skousen, who has a new acolyte, Glenn Beck, to continue parading this silly conspiracy theory into another generation. Do you really think, in their heart of hearts, Thomas, that liberals want to do away with the democratic process, the rights of private property, and eventually the Constitution of this country? Do you really believe that?

  60. Dan/Jeff/Etal:

    I have never referred to him as a socialist; those were your terms. All I said is that Obama aligns himself more with Marx than the founding fathers. Thomas puts it another way and says exactly the same thing:

    “It is absolutely the case that the Progressive tradition, in which Barack Obama and his supporters expressly locate themselves, was from the beginning influenced far more strongly by nineteenth-century German philosophy than by the classical Enlightenment philosophy in which the American founding was located, and which the Germans expressly set out to replace”
    Perfect.

    Cowboy,

    I am a little disappointed as you typically don’t make bluders of this sort. You say “Rather than challenging which books his opponents have read, he could enlighten us with the wisdom he has gleaned from those same books by making a case for his allegations. He hasn’t done this”
    That is simply not true. You need to read all the comments before making this claim. I have outlined what both sets of books claim and then asked asimple question. Which one does Obama more closely align himself with?

  61. st1305,

    Which one does Obama more closely align himself with?

    You ask this question and yet are disappointed that the answer is not in line with your preconceived notions.

  62. #33, re: the third question in my response #1: What I mean is, when the pendulum of incivility seems to be swinging farther with each oscillation, I have two choices: I can continue to amplify “the cycle of violence” (I hate that phrase, but bear with me), surpassing the precedent my opponents set the last time around (which in turn surpassed my side’s previous precedent), or I can try to damp the oscillation, and calm things down.

    The dilemma is that — since aggressive rhetoric seems to confer an advantage — if I dial back my rhetoric, and the other guy doesn’t, then he wins, and reaps the fruit of his aggression during the last contest. So I can’t really go straight from Godwin’s Law violations galore, to a completely placid, deliberative policy discussion. I’ll get my clock cleaned, and the Left will just laugh at me all the way to the capital.

    On the other hand, “faction” was one of the poisons the Founders identified, with convincing arguments, as having been toxic to previous attempts at democracy. And so if I love my country, I do need to do what I can to mitigate the harm from faction.

    The compromise, I believe, is not to unilaterally and completely disarm, but to take just one step back. Dan’s idea that “[i]f someone on the left compared Bush to Hitler, they were shouted down not only by those on the right, but also those on the left” is, to understate the matter, not supported by my experience. Something like a third of Democrats were polled to be Truthers, believing that George W. Bush either personally pushed the dynamite plunger on the World Trade Center, or otherwise connived to permit the attacks as a “Reichstag fire” pretext for war to enrich Halliburton or whoever. I’ll take my wingnut Birthers over your moonbat Truthers any day; there are marginally fewer of them, and their slander isn’t remotely as vicious. (And they’re not appointed to high office, like the “unfairly witch-hunted” Van Jones.)

    Dan’s whitewash of the Left’s conduct over the past decade — which was fairly effective — is part and parcel of the current tactic of bemoaning the “extremism” of the Tea Parties (which the Left hurries to define wholesale by the conduct of its most marginal adherents, of which every movement, including the Church, has its share). The whole point is to tag a whole narrative — the notion that Obama’s self-declared project of fundamentally remaking the United States of America is (as should seem to be obvious) something radical — as out of bounds. In the end, it’s simply “Shut up, he explained.”

    So here’s the deal. I won’t compare President Obama to Hitler or Stalin. (At the absolute worst, he’s Henry Wallace.) I won’t make jokes about assassinating him. I won’t insist for eight years that his elevation to the Presidency was illegitimate. (Thanks, Al.) I won’t even impute to him corrupt motives (like enriching his “Texas oil buddies”) — I think he is absolutely sincere, but sincere — like a Creationist evangelical — in a false faith. In fact, I won’t stoop to his level of repeatedly impugning the motives of opponents (as in his recent comment that people who oppose the current program of intentionally not enforcing immigration laws are just “out to make a name for themselves.”) In short, I’ll play by Marquess of Queensbury rules — but keep in mind the Marquis was, after all, setting out rules for boxing, not tiddlywinks. I won’t punch below the belt, but there is absolutely going to be some hard punching.

  63. Dan,

    Then man up and let’s go through what the founding fathers outlined as presented in my earlier comment and see how well Obama stacks up. I will take out my commentary and you respond:

    1) The role of federal government should be extremely limited. They envisioned protection of our borders and fostering intra and interstate commerce.

    2) State rights. Closely tied to the first, the founding fathers envisioned more local control with the states making such decisions.

    3) Issues of voting. They held that those that have a vested interest in the economy should be the only ones with the right to vote. They wanted to accomplish this by tying voting rights to land ownership.

    4) Constitutional Rights — “negative rights” instead of “positive rights”

    5) Education. They did not envision the federal government involved in free education.

  64. Thomas,

    #83,

    On the other hand, “faction” was one of the poisons the Founders identified, with convincing arguments, as having been toxic to previous attempts at democracy. And so if I love my country, I do need to do what I can to mitigate the harm from faction.

    once again, which founding fathers? Are you telling me they were not members of various factions?

  65. st1305:

    I have read all of your comments, and you have not articulated a defense of your argument that Obama is a “near” socialist, or destructive, etc. My argument was simply an invitation for you to make your case in support of your allegation – can you do this?

  66. Dan,

    Nice diversion. Man up and respond to the line items. Again, you are deflecting the issue by resorting to name calling and innuendos. By the way, I am Jack; Dumb, Smart, Lazy, Big & Wide are relatives.

  67. st1305,

    I want to know which founding fathers you think believe the five points you outline. I want sources. I want to see their original words. I want authorship. Show me the money.

  68. Cowboy,

    You then missed key portions of my comments. I have provided my commentary on where I think Obama Stands, please correct me if I am wrong. He (the entire progressive movement) is trying to undermine what the founding fathers established. I have left them blank in # 84, please offer your objection.

  69. So now James Madison thought the role of government should be limited, but Alexander Hamilton didn’t. Hamilton liked the idea that the general welfare clause in the Constitution could lead to governmental programs. in fact, if we are to trust wikipedia Hamilton’s view ended up winning out in the debate over time. So it looks like today’s political leaders who push for governmental programs are indeed following the Founding Fathers. Just not the one you like, st1305.

    On state rights, really? The founding fathers envisioned more power to the states which is why they only added one amendment to the Constitution on the issue, and which amendment is really a throwaway to the miscellaneous pile? “uh, folks, anything we missed, let the states decide”. Once again, some founding fathers liked a stronger central state and others did not. Thus, today’s politicians who push for more federalism are in line with the Founding Fathers. Just not the one you like, st1305.

    On voting. Really? You want to go back to how the founding fathers thought on voting? So women don’t get to vote anymore? And blacks are only valued at 3/5ths of whites? Dude…

    Constitutional rights? Which ones?

  70. Alright, Dan (AKA Mr. Good Democrat), how many times are you going to replay the same old tired argument? Haven’t I beat you up enough on this issue and on the Iraq War?

  71. st1305:

    Those are way too vague, how has Obama directly impacted any one of those? This is the case you need to make.

    1) The expanding role of the federal government can in no way be attributed to Obama, unless you are referring to the temporary employment of census workers? Government has been growing ever since it stepped into education and banking, all of which pre-date Obama by over 100 years. You would have an argument that perhaps America has strayed from this value, but not that it was all, mostly, or largely Obama’s doing. Also, the notion of “limited” government is quite relative. Limited as compared to what? Population size? GPP? Other nations?

    2) Another issue hardly credible to Obama. States rights have been eroding for years – and while I don’t necessarilly desire to see them go, I’m not sure how States maintain a lot of autonomy in what is becoming a global marketplace – politically and economically? What State rights are we concerned about, marriage, healthcare, education?

    3) Obama had nothing to do with that, and it was a stupid law in the first place. A perfect example of why the constitution should be living document. Seeing this mentioned here is a bit ironic I think. We claim the Church was founded by God who operates according to Eternal principle, yet he can change Church policy drastically under the context of “modern revelation”, but a man-made construct such as the Constitution (among other founding documents) are thought to be immutable. I would think a principle condition behind “all men are created equal” rhetoric, would be a national recognition of equal voting rights, irrespective of social-political standing.

    4) This has a little bit of education for me, I was not aware of Obama’s position here. I gather however this nothing more than an academic disagreement with content – not saying that isn’t irrelevant, the man is the President, what he thinks matters – but I’m not aware of any attempt at trying to revise the constitution.

    5) Over 100 years before Obama’s time. As for higher education, I’m not sure how I feel. Of all the things we could invest in, ie, welfare programs vs education, education seems more of an investment with potential ROI. Even so, I question what that might ultimately do to the quality of higher education, but institutionally and socially. Certainly not, in and of itself, a clear sign of an attempt to control the means of production.

  72. #80 — If the concept of a basic income can be supported by the likes of Friedrich Hayek and Milton by-gum Friedman, “socialism” is probably not the right word for it.

    BTW, Payne proposed that the basic income granted to each citizen be funded by a 10% inheritance tax. The rate that will return next year is 55%. Modern American “non-socialists” are more confiscatory than many of the original large-S Socialists were.

    “Do you really think, in their heart of hearts, Thomas, that liberals want to do away with the democratic process, the rights of private property, and eventually the Constitution of this country? Do you really believe that?”

    No. I think they are clueless about the fact that various of their proposals will tend, as they accumulate, to have that effect.

    I believe that the democratic process, and the principle of government by consent, is absolutely being attenuated by the liberal expansion of the administrative state (in which layers and layers of bureaucracy are interposed between accountable politicians, and the administrators whose decisions actually affect the electorate, such that it becomes extremely difficult for a voter in a class singled out for administrative impositions to do anything about it); the advocacy of a Constitutional jurisprudence unmoored from the objective meaning of the democratically-determined Constitutional text, the expansion of the Commerce Clause into a virtually unlimited Federal police power via a doctrine, nicely enunciated by Pete Stark the other day, that the Commerce Clause allows the federal government to do pretty much anything; the liberal hostility to unfavorable political speech (see your comment re: Citizens United; the proliferation of regulatory felonies without a mens rea requirement, and the consequent expansion of prosecutorial discretionary power; the centralization of power away from localities in favor of Washington; and a general disparagement of the Founders’ political theory, elaborated in the Federalist, as obsolete and ideological, and inferior to the “pragmatic” problem-solving of their technocratic elite. Yes, I absolutely do believe that left-liberals are insufficiently concerned with the basic principle of government by democratic consent, and the practical consequence to a society where people no longer adhere to the useful fiction of its existence. (Because then people only obey the law insofar as they can be coerced to do so, and no government ever has the resources to compel everyone, without a general sense of ownership of the law and voluntary obedience.)

    Ditto private property and the Constitution. You can make enough exceptions to and place enough restrictions on the general rule of private property, that it ceases to be a rule; likewise, you can interpret the Constitution flexibly enough that it ceases to be any real restrictive framework.

    What I’m saying is that you don’t have to be a real-deal Manchurian Candidate demon figure to wreck good government, and to the extent Tea Partiers go around demonizing their opponents as such, they’re being counterproductive as well as uncivil. Likewise, pace the left-liberal myth, the present financial crisis was not brought about by a bunch of greedy capitalist bloodsuckers intentionally wrecking the economy — it was a stampede of people who didn’t give enough thought to the downside risk. That’s what small-d democrats need to worry about here — that we go slouching on “pragmatically” from one problem-of-the-day to another, without any thought as to the collective burden our ad hoc solutions are placing on democracy and constitutional government as a whole.

  73. Dan,

    Now that I know it’s you, let’s not rehash something we have hashed over and over. Put it this way. The progressive movement has put our nation so far in debt that we will never be able to pay off. If we had stuck to the original concept of limited government we would not be drowning in debt.

    Also, now that I know it is you I apologize for saying you had not read these documents, I know you are well versed — wrong, but well versed.

  74. Thomas,

    What I’m saying is that you don’t have to be a real-deal Manchurian Candidate demon figure to wreck good government

    You’re still going at it from a framework that liberals have some intent, whether hidden or not, whether they know it or not, of “wrecking good government.” This is just not evidenced by history. And furthermore, it seems from history that more problems seem to arise when conservatives are in charge. I mean, what do you make of Nixon and his power grabs? What do you make of the massive expansion of government under both Reagan and Bush Jr.? Contrast that with actual budget reductions under Clinton! I posit that the position of the conservative movement (of which the Tea Party is merely a rebranding of the failed ideology) has been to cut taxes in order to “starve the beast” as if that would somehow magically on its own actually starve the beast! Yet the biggest contributors to the failing government have been exactly those who espouse the conservative position: Ronald Reagan and George W Bush. Between the two of them, government’s size massively increased, and because of their tax cuts, deficits exploded. At least with liberal leaders, taxes would be raised to compensate for increased spending.

    I would prefer to see today’s conservatives go back to their days pre-Reagan. They were a more responsible group then (and that is saying much, as Nixon is a representative of that group; however, Nixon was a good governor of our country, his power grabs aside).

  75. Thomas,

    I’ve read the Federalist Papers. Amazingly I’m still a moderate leaning liberal. It’s a shocker. I’m telling you dude, I would be more sympathetic to the conservative position if you guys stop letting idiots like Glenn Beck speak for you.

  76. Dan, Glenn Beck doesn’t speak for me — any more than George Will does, although he comes closer to it — and in any event he can speak whether I “let” him or not. I think he spills some sunlight on some leftist skeletons the “moderate-leaning liberals” would rather not be rattled, and I don’t think he’s an idiot (the left’s instant name for most people who disagree with it). A bit loopy on some issues, I’ll grant, but miles above Olbermann or that gawdawful ignoramus Bill Maher, or the Juicebox Mafia.

  77. DavidH; #71

    The national poll referencing the “Obama socialist” question was conducted by PPP on July 9-12. PPP primarily works for democratic party clients. (I had discussed it earlier in MH’s thread on his own blog, and didn’t bother to repeat the whole discussion here.) Would it really make it any better if people opposed him with a less-loaded emotional term like “arugula-loving”?

    This is why I try to make the distinction between “extreme” and “wrong” in support of what others have said earlier in the thread. Mormonism is an extreme position within Christianity; the Community of Christ is an extreme position within Mormonism; I’m personally an extremist in multiple ways, both to the left and to the right, within the CofChrist. But KNOW when you’re being an extremist, and do not become SELF-RIGHTEOUS about it.

    I’ve said this somewhere before, but nobody knows or cares which faction of the Jaredites was originally in the right; their infighting destroyed both sides.

  78. Glenn Beck and idiot – Yes

    Glenn Beck Miles above Olberman and Bill Maher – No, but that’s not saying much. Rather, I would place them all in the same class, just on different teams.

  79. I mean, what do you make of Nixon and his power grabs?

    Deeply dishonorable, although in many respects simply a refinement on Kennedy’s, Johnson’s, and FDR’s techniques. Also the least conservative American president between Truman and Obama. Got no problem selling Mr. Wage/Price Controls right down the river.

    What do you make of the massive expansion of government under both Reagan and Bush Jr.?

    It tells me that government has itself become a permanent self-aggrandizing interest, and that even the best of the limited-government guys — Reagan — could do little more than briefly interrupt the upward trend in government growth (especially when facing a Democratic Congress). Bush Jr.? Sure wish he’d paid more attention to limited government. Of course, being mildly dismayed by Bush’s deficits in the few-hundred-billion range doesn’t mean I can’t be appalled by Obama deficits in the range of one and a half trillion.

    I would prefer to see today’s conservatives go back to their days pre-Reagan.

    Well, yeah. Back when they weren’t an effective opposition, and the general assumption of statism was never challenged.

    Between the two of them, government’s size massively increased, and because of their tax cuts, deficits exploded.

    Absolutely, verifiably false. Taking the current deficit as an example (where the figures are easiest to find), a whopping 15% of the swing from surplus to deficit is the result of tax cuts. The rest is (a) new spending, including the Bush/Obama bailout/”stimulus” hootenanny, and (b) economic growth being less than the late-Clinton CBO estimates (which pretty much assumed the dot-com boom would go on forever, and we’d never have another significant recession…oops.) You will not find any analysis anywhere that attributes a majority of a deficit increase to tax reduction.

    Contrast that with actual budget reductions under Clinton!

    What budget reductions?
    http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy10/pdf/hist.pdf

    What gets you in trouble isn’t what you don’t know; it’s what you know that isn’t so.

  80. Dan: Re #68

    You are making a circular argument. Fox News can only be effective as a “rightist” propaganda organ in influencing a majority of the American people if a majority of the American people actually choose to turn their dials to Fox News. How did THAT happen? Additionally, if a majority of American people are really as stupid as you seem to argue, why would they be turning to ANY news station in the first place?

  81. Cowboy, Olbermann just calls you the Worst Person in the World. Beck walks you through a long chain of maybe-relevant, maybe-not history, and then calls you the worst person in the world. Gotta call Beck the winner on points for “effort shown.”

    FireTag: “I’ve said this somewhere before, but nobody knows or cares which faction of the Jaredites was originally in the right; their infighting destroyed both sides.”

    Notwithstanding their superhero ability to do headless push-ups. Let that be a lesson to us!

  82. Thomas: #97

    Well said. Arguments that things aren’t dangerous if they’re only incremental are disingenuous. The plaque was building up for many years in my arteries before I had my heart attack. And worrying about whether I should go with Burger King or MacDonalds didn’t really address the fundamental threat.

  83. Post
    Author

    firetag, I loved the jaredite reference. that is exactly the problem when partisanship becomes extremism. everyone ends up dead.

    thomas, thanks for the clarification. I see this as an arms race just like the cold war or the jaredites. the us and ussr decided that ‘mutual assured destruction’ was what each side needed to protect itself, so the arms race ran its course until the soviet union couldn’t sustain itself any longer.

    as I apply this to your point about whether or not to engage in civil dialogue is this. you are correct that as each side demonizes the other, one side has a difficult time with a unilateral cease fire. it becomes incumbent on the moderates to try to reign in both sides. I have tried to do that, and I hope you see evidence that I have been as hard on liberals and conservatives here so we can stop the uncivil dialogue ‘arms race.’ hopefully this will make it easier for others to declare a cease fire. of course, I cannot do this alone, and hope to gain some converts to moderation in political discourse.

  84. #09 — Thank you so much for ruining my buzz re: where to take a late lunch. In-n-Out suddenly seems unappetizing. Think I’ll go munch some celery in a field somewhere.

  85. Thomas:

    I wouldn’t say that Glenn Beck doesn’t try. But placing great effort in unrealistic constructs, pathways, and conclusions that often are just plain laughably absurd, doesn’t even score the old “E – for effort” in my book. Particularly not at his salary. I might forgive a struggling college student trying to find an identity here, but not someone who managed to become somehow associated with a major media outlet that sometimes fancies its syndicates as “news”. As for the comparison with Olberman, I don’t want to be misunderstood, I think his programm is also a farce attempting to pass as “news”, and not a good farce. At the same time, given a binary choice of having to shape my worldview from Beck or Olberman, I’d take Olberman. That’s not much of a choice however.

  86. “…a major media outlet that sometimes fancies its syndicates as “news”…”

    A UCLA study indicated that Fox’s news coverage (as opposed to its commentary shows) was no more biased to the right than CNN’s was to the left. Granted, Fox is heavy in the “commentary” department, but nobody expects those shows to be “objective” any more than they expect Olbermann or the New York Times editorial page to be objective.

    Practicing in a profession where the search for truth relies on an adversarial process, has left me with a great respect for the usefulness of having each partisan side has the opportunity to make its case and point out the flaws in the other guy’s case. The factfinder may well choke and make the wrong decision, but at least it’s on a record where relevant facts have been withheld, or spun without refutation, by a nominally “objective” fact-gatherer.

  87. Thomas,

    #106,

    Of course, being mildly dismayed by Bush’s deficits in the few-hundred-billion range doesn’t mean I can’t be appalled by Obama deficits in the range of one and a half trillion

    Just clearing one thing up. The budget for FY2009 where the deficit was $1.4 trillion was Bush’s budget, not Obama’s. FY2010 is Obama’s first fiscal year. The deficit’s biggest drive of course is a drop in revenue due to the downturn of the economy and a rise in the use of automatic government programs designed to assist those who lost jobs (unemployment benefits, COBRA). The next biggest cause is, of course, Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Obama’s spending doesn’t come anywhere close to adding to this deficit brought on by the economic downturn and Bush’s tax cuts. His health care bill, by the way, is actually designed to not only pay for itself but cut wasteful spending. Surely a fiscally responsible person would be pleased about that.

  88. Cowboy,

    Keep in mind the question, is Obama closer philosophically to Marx or the Founding Fathers? I did not use the term socialist, so again please read the comments before making your claims. Also, if 50 million people believe in a dumb idea, it’s still a dumb idea. I don’t care if others have done it; it’s still gravitation away from the founding principles and destructive to our nation.

    Are you seriously asking if Obama is growing the size of Government? Obama will spend a whopping 7.9 trillion in his first two years in office with a proposed deficit of just over 3 trillion. He will spend more in his first two years in office than ALL the presidents from Washington to Carter combined. He will spend more in his first two years than Reagan did in all 8 years. What’s more troubling, he had a larger deficit in ONE year than Bush Jr. did in 8.

    Cowboy, you’re a smart guy, but do you realize how much money we are talking about. 8,000,000,000,000, or 8E +12, or 40 million homes at $200,000 a piece. And with the debt he piled up in two years you could buy 15 million homes at $200,000 apiece. Call me extremist, but that is destructive. That is radical. That does long term damage to our country. The rest of the issues and even the issue of whom he is more closely aligned with, I could go into them, but what do they really matter if you are bankrupt.

  89. Thomas,

    A UCLA study indicated that Fox’s news coverage (as opposed to its commentary shows) was no more biased to the right than CNN’s was to the left. Granted, Fox is heavy in the “commentary” department, but nobody expects those shows to be “objective” any more than they expect Olbermann or the New York Times editorial page to be objective.

    Can you show me that study please.

  90. Dan,

    The first idiot (RINO) proposed it, with the idiots in congress approval (democrat majority), but it still happened under the current idiot.

  91. st1305:

    Big spending, no question about it. Don’t forget that the precedent was started before Obama took office. If you want to argue it, that is fine, by lay the burden soley on his shoulders. Massive spending however, does not equal massive government expansion.

    Secondly, are suggesting that Obama is more closely aligned with Marx than the founding fathers, yet you don’t see that as socialist? Perhaps you did not use the term, but that is the implication, is it not? Debate the stimulus, I too have some reservations with the amount being spent, particularly without restraint. To be honest though, I don’t know what the solution is, and I really don’t know how much of a banana peal we are on anymore, but I don’t think this makes him a socialist or a near Marxist. It should also be noted that Obama is far from being the sole engineer of this stimulus program. In fact, to me it doesn’t seem like he really is much more than following precedent, keep throwing money at the problem. Even so, none of this really supports your thesis that Obama is single handedly circumventing the constitution.

  92. Cowboy:

    “Massive spending however, does not equal massive government expansion.”

    Many of my contacts in the bureaucracy and the “beltway bandit” community (a term we openly acknowledge, by the way) would be surprised to hear that, 😀

    (Is “beltway bandit” a civil term?)

  93. Dan,

    Previous Idiot = Bush
    Current Idiot = Obama
    Idiots (democrat majority) = Congress
    Deficit 2000-2008 = 1.769 trillion (Bush)
    Deficit 2009 = 1.841 trillion (Obama)
    Deficit 2010 = Unknown, but at least this high.

    The previous idiot (RINO) proposed it, with the idiots in congress approval (democrat majority), but it still happened under the current idiot.

  94. #14: “The budget for FY2009 where the deficit was $1.4 trillion was Bush’s budget, not Obama’s.”

    Bush’s budget proposal for FY2009 was $3.1 trillion. The budget that the Dems passed (and Obama signed 12 of the 15 separate appropriations bills, in February 2009, after Bush had threatened to veto all but 3 of them) was $3.9 trillion. The Bush budget deficit would have been bad enough, but still under a trillion.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/05/washington/05cong.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=senate+approves+framework&st=nyt&oref=slogin

    Nice quote, halfway down: “The budget was written almost exclusively by Democrats.”

    But yeah, it’s All Bush’s Fault (TM).

    In any event, what’s the point of any of this? The argument seems to be “Republicans aren’t any better at controlling spending than Democrats, so everybody should just shut up about controlling spending.” But of course if everybody did that, and there were no voices whatsoever arguing for fiscal restraint, spending would surely be even higher.

  95. “His health care bill, by the way, is actually designed to not only pay for itself but cut wasteful spending. Surely a fiscally responsible person would be pleased about that.”

    So the models were jiggered to sell the bill, but now HHS says the reform package will *increase* overall spending:

    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/health/oactmemo1.pdf

    Added to that, $575 billion of the savings comes from an assumed reduction in Medicare expenditures — by allowing the expiration scheduled reduction in spending go into effect without passing a “doc fix”, which no Congress has done in the history of Medicare — which almost certainly will not actually take place. The cynicism of this is remarkable even by Washington standards.

  96. st1305 — Even if you tag Obama with most of the responsibility for the 2009 deficits (as you should, since he signed 12 out of 15 of the appropriations bills and his Democratic allies wrote the budget), the fact remains that Bush’s budget request for 2009 would have resulted — even if not larded up by Democrats — in a $500 billion+ deficit. Added to the couple hundred billion here, couple hundred billion there deficits from the rest of the term, and you end up unable to say that eight years of Bush involved less deficit spending than one year of Obama.

    Two years of Obama deficits, on the other hand, will get you past the finish line. So 2 Obama years = 8 Bush years. Still enough to make one yearn for the bad old days of the aughts, with deficits “only” in the few-hundred-billions range.

    In any event, this will be made academic in a few years when the bond markets do for us what we’re evidently incapable of doing for ourselves.

  97. Thomas,

    I suppose I was harsh on Bush, but he gave in to easily. What I did not account for was the constant pressure by the democratically controlled congress (who has the power of the purse) to spend, spend, spend.

    Along these lines, and as it relates to Obama, he is the President. It is your job to stand up and say no. I wouldn’t care if the previous administration had approved a budget, if I felt it was out of line I would have taken by plea to the American people regardless of what the law says. But as you pointed out the appropriations added to the upside down budget.

  98. st1305,

    #122,

    Deficit 2009 = 1.841 trillion (Obama)

    Actually no, that would be Deficit 2009 = 1.841 trillion (Bush) as the FY2009 starts in October 2008 and ends in September 2009. The budget is organized by George W Bush’s administration. That’s why I called BS. Bush’s policies pushed us into this deep depression. Face it dude, it’s the fault of the conservative movement. 😉

  99. Face it Thomas and st1305, conservatives suck at governing, because it’s actually in their principles to lessen governing. Thus when they get to having to deal with major crises, they have no clue what to do because they don’t believe in doing anything. Put simply, y’all should never be allowed to govern because y’all suck at it.

  100. Dan @128, please refer to the OP:

    “Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: An excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all. . . . “

  101. right, Thomas. I cannot lower my standards to equal those of conservatives with their terrible labeling. I’ve clearly tired of this debate, so I’m out. enjoy the madness.

  102. “Face it Thomas and st1305, conservatives suck at governing, because it’s actually in their principles to lessen governing.”

    Now that’s beautiful logic: Because we want to govern less, therefore we must not want to govern at all..

    Following your logic, then, Jefferson had it backwards. He should have said “That government is best which governs most. And it follows further that the best government would be a totalitarian one.

    To secure natural rights, governments are instituted among men. Because government is a human institution, it needs restraints, just as you’d surely argue a business needs restraints, so it will avoid pursuing its self-interest to the damage of others. There are some aspects of society where government is necessary. In those spheres, government should be superbly competent. You will not find a conservative anywhere who would dispute this.

    Your argument is that by restricting government to those discrete, defined tasks where it can secure natural rights better than leaving people to govern themselves, government becomes less competent at even those tasks. I find the reverse to be true: The more peripheral tasks government undertakes, the less competent it becomes across the board (as the peripheral matters draw attention and resources away from the core functions). This is generally true in the business world, where the best-run companies tend to be focused on core competencies; why should it be different in government institutions?

  103. Dan,

    Good strategy, quit while your behind. How many times do I have to beat you down before you finally say uncle.

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    st1305, your ‘idoit’ comments about bush, obama, and congress are a bit o name calling (just like dan). at least dan recognizes when we have beat an issue to death. you think you’ve won the debate when all you have continued to do is ‘demean government’, just as elder hugh brown asked you to stop. I wouldn’t call you the victor when you still fail to understand and APPLY the point of the post.

  105. “All I said is that Obama aligns himself more with Marx than the founding fathers”

    What a ridiculous statement. There is not one shred of truth to this statement at all. Which one of Marx’s ideology has Obama specifically expressed his allegiances to? Please be truthful…..

  106. Thomas,

    Your opinion of me may not be a respectable opinion, but it’s by-george one-hundred-percent no-holds-barred true. And in more ways than one. Suffice it to say Jack A fits.

    Jeff,

    Hey, I know that trick, your trying to pick a fight. I do it all the time. I can’t control myself in these blogs, it’s time to pack it in for good. Can we have a collective sigh of relief.

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    Author
  108. Well all I have to say is the Thomas did some serious schooling on this thread using nothing but absolutely civil language.

    Well done, sir!

  109. Two thoughts. First. The Christian Science Monitor recently ran an essay on the damage political links have caused to the evangelical churches (http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2009/0310/p09s01-coop.html). There might be some lessons we can learn from watching others.

    Second. There is a school of thought that one reason the church will relocate in the later days is the Utah culture will become a distraction to those following the gospel. By moving it’s center the church can concentrate on larger issues.

  110. It is amazing that the American right starts talking about socialism with reguard to healthcare when the government requires everyone to have health insurance, and infers that it will cause terrible problems, and undermine the American way of life. Your Gov is not taking over either the health care or insurance system.

    Is it terrible that the Gov owns most of the schools? Are education and healthcare both public services that every citizen should have a right to in a first world society.

    I live in a country where the government owns most of the hospitals, and the sky has not fallen. In fact I think if you were to experience the peace of mind in having universal health care provided by the Gov. you would want it for your citizens.

    It is particularly American that issues such as universal health care can be seen as an attack on the family and therefore the Gospel. Anywhere else it is a question of whether you support a party for business first and people second or the other way round, or some other party characterization.

    If you lived with universal health care you might, like me, feel that it is anti family to not provide it to your citizens. You might feel the same way about same sex marriage and the availability of abortion, birth control and sex education to all who require these services. They are available for those who want them but are not forced on those who don’t, agency.

    There are so many things that are obviously anti family you could work on if that were your concern, such as 4 to 6 weeks annual leave, and shorter working week, living wage, widows and deserted wife pensions etc. From the outside it looks like you allow the Republican Party to decide for you what “Family Values” entail.

    I was pleased to read how reasonable Pres Brown was but he was a Canadian wasn’t he? How relavent to present Church culture is his advice. Some of you obviously thing not at all.

  111. “Hey, I know that trick, your trying to pick a fight. I do it all the time. I can’t control myself in these blogs, it’s time to pack it in for good. Can we have a collective sigh of relief”

    I didn’t need to pick a fight. The full blown riot was already in progress. I was just interested in hearing one statement that Obama made that demonstrated his greater allegiance to Marx than to the Founding Fathers.

    Socialism, per se, while promoted as a dirty word and evil form of government, is a legitimate form of government and is in place and successful in many countries around the world. It is not the primary form of our government, but some aspects of socialism are also part of our governmental process.

    Radical conservatives have equated socialism with communism and that is an unfair and ridiculous comparison and appeals to a sense of fear among some people harking back to the 40s,50s and 60’s.

    Marxism is not socialism anymore than George W. Bush was dictatorship.

  112. Jeff/MM Community,

    Seriously, this is not for me. I commit to carry on a civil conversation and then get in the heat of the battle and start saying things I wouldn’t say in public. Nobody knows my identity and I can’t see the hurt or damage I am causing so it is easy to resume. I have valid points, but they are lost my the inappropite and damaging things that I say. I just push buttons and pick fights. It is a clear case of mind to finger disease.

    In my personal prayers a few weeks ago the Lord told me to stay out of these blogs as it brings the worst out in me. I didn’t listen and thought I could still be civil. Well, it is clear that I can’t. With that said, I offer a sincere apology to anyone I have offended and enter my final post.

  113. Fun stuff.
    The OP was about political extremism. Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Quinn) has a wonderful chapter discussing the back and forth between Pres. Benson and Pres. Brown. What Pres. Brown did not comprehend is that we must NEVER sacrifice principle for moderation, so here is my offering in support of ST1305 and to educate “Dan” that principles sometimes must be taken to the extreme as Pres. Benson taught us. http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/a-modest-proposal-to-end-socialism/

  114. I also agree with Hugh B. Brown on this. However, I do think it is important to note that this has historically not been the case with the church. In 1863, John Talyor (JOD, vol.10, p.258) said,
    “How different it is among the nations; look at the position of Poland and Russia, and then notice the critical state of the political affairs of other nations—France, England, Austria, Prussia, to say nothing of the smaller European nations, of Japan and China, or of the United States, of Mexico and of the various powers of North and South America. The whole world seems to be in throes, and either actually at war or involved in complicated difficulties that threaten their disruption or overthrow. What is the matter? Politicians, rulers and statesmen, are afraid that some calamity is going to overspread their respective nations; and kings and emperors do not know how soon their thrones will be toppled over, how soon their kingdoms will be shaken to their very foundations, they do not know how soon they will be denationalized—how soon universal terror, war, bloodshed and devastation will spread their appalling consequences among them. *The light of the Spirit of God is withdrawn from them and they cannot see their way.* They are tremulous because of the present political complications; they know not God, but “their hearts fear because of those things that are coming on the earth.” Without revelation they can only look upon things upon natural principles and dread the result. We know what will be the final ultimatum of the work in which we are engaged, and also what will be the fate of those who make war against it, and of the nations who reject the Gospel when it is sent to them.”

    In other words, I’m not sure how useful it is to quote one GA at one time and think this is the proper stance for all in the church. The church has been at fundamental odds on many political questions (polygamy especially) in the U.S. Is the appropriate way to deal with “unconstitutional” issues to engage in civil disobedience (this, I would argue, is extreme and not in line with either mainstream party) or is it to do what our conscience dictates? Yes, we should be respectful of others, but we may be critical of them as well.

  115. Post
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    Geoff in A. I agree with you. As an American, I still don’t understand why Americans think socialism is such a dirty word. But it has to do with this (completely unfounded) idea that socialism will lead to Soviet style Communism. On my blog, someone there tried to make that claim, and I asked her to name 1 country that converted from socialism to Communism. She couldn’t do it, but said it takes about 70 years. So, I asked when the clock started ticking on Canada or Australia or Norway or France, but she didn’t know. I find the whole slippery slope argument bogus and complete fear-mongering, and not based in any sort of reality.

    That’s not to say I like socialism per se, but it doesn’t need to be a dirty word. I am concerned about what will happen if the government gets too big and can’t sustain itself. I’d like universal health care, but not at the expense of a Great Depression, which I fear is where we are headed. I don’t want unsustainable government spending, but if we can have sustainable government spending and get universal health care at the same time, that would be the best of all worlds. The devil is in the details.

    Australia has a much smaller population than the US, so I think it may be easier for universal coverage there. They also don’t participate in expensive research that the US does, so I think there are some confounding issues in the US not found in other countries.

    I don’t think people view health care at “anti-family”; rather, most people’s issue with health care is that it may bankrupt us. The “anti-family” issues are more related to Prop 8, abortion, and things like that.

  116. Geoff:

    Dare we say it? On a world stage, Americans are EXTREME in our veneration of individuality, right down to customized ring tones on our cell phones.

    There are no signs that the public is becoming more enchanted with the idea of national health care. This week, Missouri voted by 71-29 per cent to pass a state law that will allow Missouri to opt out of the mandate in Obama care to buy health insurance or be fined. (The practical effect is it allows the Missouri AG to join Virginia in a Federal law suit already proceeding to declare Obamacare unconstitutional because if you regulate “non-action” in the name of the constitution’s clause, the Federal power is effectively limitless.)

    The educational system is also an interesting case. The political class avoids public schools like a plague. However, in Washington DC itself, which is populated overwhelmingly by African-Americans who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, there is strong majority support for voucher programs to allow some students in the poorest schools to escape to private religious and charter schools. The politicians in the Democratic party have successfully fought these voucher programs tooth and nail because what is perceived by their own voters as good for the voters is NOT good for the Teachers Union (the NEA) which is a huge financial supporter of the Democratic Party.

    If the people in Australia still give consent to their government, I envy you. Here, according to polls, the percentage of people who say that the government has their consent was down in the 20’s the last time I checked, and the approval of Congress was similar.

    In Australia, I note that your majority party in parliament just threw out the party leader with approval ratings much higher than that. We can’t do that here in our system.

    MH:

    “…if we can have sustainable government spending and get universal health care at the same time, that would be the best of all worlds. The devil is in the details.”

    I would instead say the devil is in the opportunity costs. Health insurance is NOT equivalent to health care. If you break your leg in this country and don’t have health insurance, we don’t take you out behind the barn, after all, and shoot you like you were a horse.

    People who have been unemployed for 99 weeks or so are in deeper trouble, and concern about spending is impacting far more of them than the fraction missing out on an expanded entitlement.

  117. MH,

    “I am concerned about what will happen if the government gets too big and can’t sustain itself.”

    I am afraid we are a bit late for this. While entitlements and the defense budget make up a vast majority of our Federal budget, the bulk of that money goes to corporations and the return on investment visa vis service rendered is very poor.

    Our biggest problem in my view is not whether we are spending too much on people, but that the influence or corporations and special interest lobbyists have taken the government out of the hands of the people. And that our political process is broken because we the people have been taken over by We the corporations and lobbyists and politician who depend on them for their livelihood will not bite the hands that feeds them.

  118. Rico, interesting point about Civil Disobedience. I’m not clear how the church perceives civil disobedience, because certainly many Mormons were lauded for disobedience for anti-polygamy legislation. But since that era has passed, it seems to me that the church has more fully tried to enforce the article of faith that says “We believe in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” It really is an article of faith now. Were the church to feel it was under seige as it did in the late 1800’s, I don’t think we’d be hearing comments like Elder Brown gave. But since we want to be good citizens, then the article of faith I just mentioned plays a much more prominent role. It does seem to me that the CoC (aka RLDS) have a more open idea to civil disobedience (or at least “conscientious objector” status), and they are more willing to support anti-war stances than the LDS church supports.

    Jeff, I hear you about special interest lobbyists. I think it is a big problem.

  119. #150: “But it has to do with this (completely unfounded) idea that socialism will lead to Soviet style Communism.”

    I’ve written before that one of the secondarily awful things the twentieth-century totalitarians did was (as the Last Great American Liberal, Senator Moynihan, put it) to “define deviancy down.” That is, unless you’re operating a full-scale Gulag or sending millions of people into ovens, you’re just one more variant on legitimate government, and it’s “extreme” to call you a tyrant. And assuming your authoritarianism is left of center, the celebritariat will fawn all over you.

    Look, George III was no Stalin. Jefferson Davis was no Hitler. But their tyranny was substantial enough to justify extreme measures.

    The concerns thoughtful American conservatives have with socialism (“all six of you,” Dan is surely snapping) is the petty tyrannies and motivation-sapping incentives it brings with it. Dan, earlier, mentioned Thomas Paine’s notion of a guaranteed citizen income, from his pamphlet “Agrarian Justice.” I’m not totally opposed to that idea. Certainly I prefer it to the present state of things, where in the name of Helping the Poor we layer administrators upon essentially unaccountable administrators (unless you have a massive litigation budget) — and wind up spending more, and distorting the economy more, than if we’d just given The Poor the bleepin’ money straight up.

    We’ve seen references to other countries — Canada and Australia, for instance — which have “socialist” aspects to them. What most people don’t know, is that the United States spends more public money per capita on social programs than Canada, or most other part-“socialist” countries — but gets a lot less. Why is that? I think it has something to do with American demographics and the way history (and our guilt therefor) has structured them and our thinking about the matter — and something to do with the fact that one of the two major American political parties assumed its present form in the incubator of urban political machines (Tammany in New York, Boston, and Chicago) where government was expressly seen by the bosses as a mechanism for extracting money from producers and using it for patronage, to essentially buy votes.

    Australia and Canada, by the way, were recently ranked as having freer economies, overall, than the United States (which ranked eighth in economic freedom): http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748704541004575011684172064228.html. I’d be happy to implement, say, Switzerland’s very intelligent universal health care system, in exchange for a rationalization of the rest of the regulatory/tort state, which in many ways is more oppressive to people who want to get things done than the system in many “socialist” countries.

    Overall, my main objection to left-socialism is philosophical. The writer Anatole France wrote, acidly, “The law, in its magnificent equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges and begging for bread in the streets.” He had something of a point, but there is a tension between this thinking — especially when taken to extremes — and the principle of Leviticus 19:15, which I believe is sound whether you like scripture or not: “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty.” Leftism is, at its foundation, a rationalization for re-defining justice (typically by appending the qualifying adjective “social” in front of the word; “social justice” must be different from regular justice; otherwise, there’d be no need for the qualifier) as permitting different standards of justice to apply to differently-situated people. The principle of government by consent, is modified to mean that a person who happens to be in a disfavored economic category can be subjected to impositions that, no matter how hard you stretch the fiction of consent being implied by representation, he cannot possibly be said to have consented to. And I notice how, in practice, the policies sold on the back of rhetoric aimed at malefactors of truly great wealth — the proverbial guy in the Monopoly game, with the top hat and mustache — always seem to trickle down and clobber plenty of the rank and file, too.

    It’s appropriate for a person to be taxed to support the legitimate needs of civil society, including making a decent provision for the poor and misfortunate. It’s not appropriate for society to make arbitrary judgments that a person simply has too much money, and should be shaken down to “spread the wealth around.”

    By all means, do what we can to structure society to avoid giving advantage to the concentration of wealth, which I do believe is a moral evil. But as long as we rely on the fiction of government by consent, we simply cannot impose on people things that no person could reasonably consent to.

  120. #115,#118,and #122 (st1305) – “Gawd” help but I should agree virtually in lock step! I’m checking outside my office window for flying pigs.

    Yes, if folks though that “Shrub” (Bush, Jr.) was bad and his successor couldn’t be worse…they are mistaken.

    However, the thread is supposed to be about (don’t be) political extremeist. Yesterday’s (bad) news about Prop 8 being overturned by another RINO judge (Federal District Court, I don’t know which one) brought out the crazies on both sides. The Church’s counsel about “it ain’t over ’till it’s OVER (Yogi Berra) and keeping a civil discourse couldn’t be better. We forget at time that many that oppose LDS views and/or conservatives do have legitimate arguments, at least in their minds, and we can’t lump them with the crazies. We have enuf trouble reining in our own!

  121. #152: Jeff, corporate rent-seeking is indeed a problem, but government itself is also a special interest. The city of Bell, in my neck of the woods, is a classic example of this, with a city manager paying himself something like $800K a year, and the city council pulling down six-figure incomes for a couple of meetings a month. That’s an extreme example, but government absolutely does have incentives to aggrandize itself. Corporate self-aggrandizement is limited by the size of the market for what a company provides. Liberal government has no built-in limiting principle, short of economic collapse (which it’s now getting a taste of). The default setting is always “more.” Ironically, unlike in the business world, where substandard performance typically results in less revenue (or, if the substandard performance consists of taking excess risk, bankruptcy and dissolution), in government, failure to achieve an objective often results in — more money being thrown at the “problem.” (When the “problem” is basically an artifact of human nature, you can throw as much money as you can possibly squeeze out of people at it — and still have the problem…and with it, the justification for the government program that depends on it.

  122. MH:

    The CofChrist has a supportive position toward conscientious objection, but has specifically backed away from endorsing pacifist positions at its recent World Conference.

    Right now, the closest thing to civil disobediance within the church is in regard to priesthood ordination of openly gay individuals and the performance of same sex marriages by CofChrist priesthood where secular authorities permit such marriages. That civil disobedience AGAINST EXISTING CHURCH POLICY has forced the leadership to call a special US national conference for July 2012 to make recommendations to the Presidency and Twelve on these issues.

    Better save the discussion of gay-rights for another thread, or you guys will never get to dinner tonight at Sunstone.

  123. Thomas,

    “It’s not appropriate for society to make arbitrary judgments that a person simply has too much money, and should be shaken down to “spread the wealth around.”

    There are very few who make their fortunes by the sweat of their brow anymore. Most money is made by a manipulation of the financial systems or through things like IPOs and such. And given the fact that you need money to make money, it exacerbates the issue. It appears ok for the distribution of wealth to flow from the poor to the rich for that is called legitimate business or tax breaks to stimulate the economy. But, heaven forbid we might throw a bone to a “down and outer” who can’t make a living for some reason.

    Many of the wealthy in this country are either benefactors of family members or modern day moneychangers, who with their political bedfellows continue to aggrandize themselves. Very few get their money the old fashion way—by earning it.

  124. “But, heaven forbid we might throw a bone to a “down and outer” who can’t make a living for some reason.”

    Heaven forbid indeed, assuming that *we* throw the bone, and don’t simply decide to make the other guy do all the bone-throwing.

    My experience is that whereas way too much money is conjured out of connections and thin air via the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) economy, there really is some genuine productivity going on, too, and not just by plutocrats. Unfortunately, the Ruling Class doesn’t distinguish between honest decent productive entrepreneurs, and financial pirates (and in any event, the line between those tribes isn’t as bright as it’s sometimes drawn).

    Doubtless my impressions are formed by slaving away in a mid-list regional law firm, where most of my clients are family or small or mid-sized businesses, not the titans who marry their sons in million-dollar ceremonies to the children of presidents. (“Party of the little guy,” my fibula!) But I absolutely disagree that “very few get their money the old fashioned way — by earning it.” That broad generalization is so easily used as a rationalization for more confiscation of more money by people who do even less to produce anything worthwhile. I may not find an investment banker who structures the underwriting of an IPO to add anywhere near as much inherent value to the economy as some virtuous steel-miller or railroader out of Atlas Shrugged,, but the ratio between his compensation and his contribution is a hella lot closer to 1 than that of the city manager of Bell.

    I’ve always wondered how people can argue that “tax breaks” result in income “flowing from the poor to the rich.” I mean, tax breaks consist simply of letting people keep *their* money. It’s not taking money earned by the poor and giving to the rich; the poor never had that money in the first place. Tax policy has, in fact, become ever more progressive, with the Bush tax cuts themselves driving the percentage of income tax revenue paid by the highest income earners to its highest proportion ever. Close to half the population pays no or negative income tax (and also negative FICA tax, when you factor in their eventual retirement payouts). That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, by the way, when half the population stops having any personal interest in keeping an eye on government spending.

  125. “I mean, tax breaks consist simply of letting people keep *their* money.”

    That is much harder to define, and I almost agree with you Thomas, except it fails to aptly consider wage inequalities. Many, many, of those who qualify as “poor”, as per the FPL which defines the rights under entitlement programs, are not unemployed. They just aren’t paid very much. In some cases this may legimately be because their production truly isn’t worth more than what they get. Then again, sometimes it is because the market undervalues their “true” output, and employers pay the least amount they can get away with. Wage disparities between executives and the general workforce would tend to lead to this assumption. In which case, I would ask, “whose money is it really?” I have worked with small to medium sized employers for several years, and there still remains a strong notion that employment is not an equitable contract of mutual exchange, but rather a form of top-down indentured servitude. Which is odd because it brushes uncomfortable close to the very systems we generally oppose in government. Needless to say, it is all too simplistic to just say that “the poor do not produce in an economy” or conversley “greedy employers are raping the labor force”. It’s just wise to bear in mind that there is more complexity that simplistic ideology would allow.

  126. I am troubled by the income gap between private sector classes. I am more troubled by the income gap between the governing classes and the poor, because the ability to use force to reduce the first gap carries with it the ability to increase the second gap. Who watches the watchmen?

  127. I have worked with small to medium sized employers for several years, and there still remains a strong notion that employment is not an equitable contract of mutual exchange, but rather a form of top-down indentured servitude.

    I’ve been impressed to watch the covenants not to compete people constantly try to force employees into when all that is really being attempted is to create ownership of the employees.

    You make a good point Cowboy (darn, what is the world coming to. I’m agreeing with Cowboy, I just argued with Ulysses that he was reaching the wrong criticism of me because he did not understand that on what he really meant [vs. what he said] it appears we agree)(hmm, I’ll redeem myself by agreeing with FireTag even if I’m not sure about what she really means).

    Thomas, there are two problems with the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) economy — first, you can’t really do without them. Most people missed something dramatic that happened in Louisiana. A federal judge decided to just rewrite all the insurance policies so that policies that excluded flood insurance (and referred those who bought them to the federal program if they wanted it) had it. All the major insurance companies quietly began to close shop. The impact was dramatic.

    The second problem is that if you are not careful, they have the opportunity to allow those involved to siphon money away from the economy. The old joke about the guy interviewing with a brokerage and being shown all the partner’s yachts and he asks “where are the customer’s yachts?” — the answer, of course, is that there aren’t any.

    Any group that provides social lubrication, that makes transactions more efficient or that makes them possible becomes a sector that has the potential for extracting excesses (“tolls”). Think of the railroads back in the day when shipping charges were calculated from your expected profit, not from what was being carried or how far.

    Kind of like unions or democracies. I’m aware of the problems with both, they are darn imperfect, the only thing worse being a world without them. A real reason communism was not more effective in industrialized countries (vs. agricultural ones) is that its social force was taken by unions.

    Anyway, some really interesting things in these last posts. This thread is redeeming itself.

    Jeff Spector — a real issue for taxation, and one that is generally missed, is that a very large part of potential wealth has to do with the size of the economy, the nation-state, that one operates in. A pop singer in Spain may be five times a better singer or performer than Lady Gaga or Madonna, yet will make far less because the venue and the economy they operate in is much smaller. A country is entitled to tax wealth created by virtue of the size of the country in order to preserve the markets and the institution.

    I would note that it is easy to forget that information is not free, transparent, easily verified or readily obtained — which is why the market system has such problems and why regulation is essential to its health. At its heart, regulation of most of the economy is based on creating, maintaining and sustaining levels of trust and information necessary to make a market possible.

    The entire derivatives fiasco, at its heart, required information that was neither clear nor accurate.

    Anyway, hope the last day of Sunstone went well. I got home Friday night, had a busy day Saturday and a busy one today, and am pleased to see just how intelligent this thread’s discussion has become. I’m glad it was not locked down.

  128. Interesting conversation. I didn’t read every comment but quite a few. I don’t know if I truly agree with Brown’s comments. By all means, the founding fathers’ were extremists and there has always been a extreme views on issues and people have always been divided over the issue. Take a look at the revolution. It’s amazing we even won it. Many people stayed out of it until the British soldiers started raping their women. I sincerely think many people would be Tories today, including right wing tea partiers. Just look at the comments by Thomas Jefferson.

    Having said that I still don’t think you can name call political leaders since we truly don’t know their hearts no matter how much we disagree with them. I just wrote on my blog a few days ago about patriotism and how both Bush and Obama can be considered patriots if they think, in their hearts, they are doing that which is best for our country.

    Having said that, I consider my politics pretty extreme and I don’t agree with Brown’s saying that the two parties are sufficient in light that Obama’s policies make him Bush III. There’s virtually no difference between GW and Obama’s policies, it’s quite fascinating.

    Of course, you probably have guessed the obvious, I’m a libertarian with anarchist leaning tendencies. I just see that we have too many differences and it’s better just to leave each other alone and only use gentle persuasion to fix problems instead of the violence of the state. I’m weary of the killing at home and abroad in the name of the state. I’ve found the difference between a libertarian and democrats/repubs is libertarians sue for peace and the other wish for violence on one another. I given this much thought as I try and figure out where I stand and claim that I may change my thoughts later but I just want a peaceful society, no more killing, please.

  129. As one who is undergoing the process of losing his home (which is so far under water that I’d need a dive suit if I sat on the roof, therefore, it NEEDS to be lost!)….

    Though some “bailout” program that would “save” my home from foreclosure might benefit yours truly in the short run, in the long run doing it as a nationwide policy can’t help but be far worse than letting lenders and borrowers suffer the consequences of making a bad deal (e.g., financing homes at inflated prices and then being stuck with them when the bubbles bursts). In my case, I did get an offer to modify the mortgage (reduce payments), but it still won’t work out. Since the mortgage owed is nearly twice what the home is now worth, and the lender is not reducing principal, it amounts to a “kick the can down the road” approach, not an effective long-term solution. Better to retrench, reduce living expenses, and re-enter the market NLT three years when FHA would be willing to finance after foreclosure (and there may yet be ways to buy sooner, but I’m planning on the worst-case scenario).

    There ain’t no free lunch. The current administration is trying desperately to bail out lenders under the guise of being “compassionate”. Only a misguided fool believes that their schemes have a chance to work or will better the country.

    What is forgotten is that housing, like food, clothing, transportation, and communications, are essentials to Western life, and sellers will find a way to market to buyers. The recent collapse of real estate merely reflects a correction for a situation way “out of whack”. I blame no one but myself for my incredibly bad timing (seemed like a good idea at the time) and am thankful that due to bankruptcy laws and how California treats most mortgages (they’re “no-recourse” for simple purchase or refinance w/o a cashout, meaning that I have no personal liability for any deficiency) that I have the ability to wash my hands of the situation and move on. Unfortunately, the lender will take an enormous hit (about $200K) when it’s all done, and I’m under no illusion that it doesn’t cost us all. Indeed, my 401(k) shares did take an impact in recent years due to bad RE investments, so in some ways, it’s a “rob Peter to pay Paul” situation.

    The good news is that the rental that I’ve gotten for myself, wife, and daughter, is perfect for our needs and far more affordable. We’ve landed on our feet. Compassion should be expended on those not so fortunate.

  130. Post
    Author

    I just found this quote on another website, and it bears repeating.

    LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckely said, “Whiles we cannot agree with others on certain matters, we must never be disagreeable. We must be friendly, soft-spoken, neighborly, and understanding.” (LDS General Conference, 10/2003)

  131. I know this is an old post but I just saw it. Great insights, I love these words from Elder Brown. I think they are just as relevant today as they were then.

  132. Thank you for this! Hugh B. Brown is my religious homeboy as a Mormon Democrat and I keep getting tea party forwards from family members about how Obama is a marxist agent trying to steal away our freedoms with his “African Strongman Routine(their words not mine) and wow, all these quotes are exactly what I’ll be forwarding back to them. I know it’s an old article but had to give you my thanks!

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