October 05, 2007
A Gift From the Republicans? No Way!

The current primary season stars the Republican party as the gift that keeps on giving. Center stage right now, of course, is Larry Craig announcing that, yes, he promised to resign, but hey, he lied. He had to, to preserve his honor and fight the scurrilous charges leveled at him, if I might so put it.

I particularly enjoyed this bit from Paul Kane’s Washington Post article:

“The defendant chose to not appear [in court] and to enter his plea by mail just so he could avoid any such [publicity], of record, inquiry into his conduct,” Porter wrote, underlining the last portion of his sentence for emphasis. “He kept many of the facts out of the record in so doing. He cannot now complain that he should not have been allowed to take advantage of an approved method to enter a misdemeanor plea.”

Is the judge implying that the many facts kept out of the record would be embarrassing to the Senator, that he’s doing Craig a favor by not letting him re-open the case? Most likely it’s simply the obvious legal argument that you can’t turn down an option on purpose to keep facts out of the record, then complain later that you didn’t get the option.

In a lot of ways you have to feel sorry for Larry Craig. He’s obviously repressed parts so deeply he can’t even admit to himself that they’re there. He prefers to prolong the public humiliation rather than look inside himself.

If you’ve been reading John Dean’s articles about the sociological studies of authoritarian personalities, you might recall that the main studier is Bob Altemeyer. Turns out he and a recently deceased friend did a study of atheists, apparently the first of its kind, and produced a book called, appropriately, Atheists. I’ve got it out of the library and will probably be blogging about it more soon. There’s a lot of interesting material, and the writing is lively and fun.

You know how when you’re reading a book about how people think or act, you notice certain behaviors that normally fade into the background? What I’m learning from this book, and from the background he’s giving about his work with right-wing authoritarian personalities, is like that. These folks have developed survey methods to measure attitudes: dogmatism, religious ethnocentrism, zealotry, and so on, and compared their samples along many different axes. They have data on whether subjects were raised in a religion, at what age atheists began to question their faith if they grew up in one, and so on.

The reason I bring this up now is that Larry Craig has several attitudes and contradictions that remind me of the people who scored high on the fundamentalism scale. They tend to have more inner doubts about their beliefs. If you offer them a chance to learn something disturbing about themselves, they often run. (Atheists tend to respond with something like, “Show me the evidence.”) They tend to believe in majority rights when they find themselves in the majority, and they’re all about protecting minority rights when they’re in that group. They favor education about Christianity in public schools; but if they were in an Islamic country they would object to Islam being taught in the schools. It’s not really inconsistent if you start from the premise of knowing the ultimate truth.

So Senator Craig will continue to work both sides of the law, remaining in the Senate because the Republicans have no legal way to get rid of him other than the ethics investigation, and the Democrats are overjoyed each time they see him in the chamber.

The White House loves it because it gets the SCHIP debacle off the front page, which itself was preferable to the Iraq debacle.

Clinton loves it because it gives her a chance to pretend she’s a liberal. Obama’s in his element, declaiming in his beautiful voice and offering the bold idea of tolerance. Which has worked great so far. As far as I can tell, Edwards hasn’t been forced to take any sort of stance, wide or narrow, with respect to the Craig phenomenon.

Unfortunately the main benefactors of the Republican sit-com are the spineless, calculating Democrats, who can’t pick up a chance to demonstrate true patriotism when it’s dropped in front of them. They seem to think that the do-nothing strategy of 2006 will stand them in good stead in 2008. (Maybe we need a progressive version of the threat by the evangelicals to vote third-party if the Republicans nominate Giuliani.)

All this self-regard and self-promotion, this focus on profit and efficiency as values rather than tools, cannot but lead where it has led in the past, to decline and fall.

Meanwhile, the Republicans continue to entertain. Ron Paul raised nearly as much John McCain, which indicates that some Republicans, or at least some people with access to the net, are not Bob Altemeyer’s authoritarian personalities. Democrats continue to rank Clinton as the most liberal of the big three and Edwards as the most conservative, in other words to have it exactly backwards. Some people think Clinton benefits most from this, others believe it’s Edwards. Romney doesn’t care that Giuliani raised $11 million to his $10 million; he just lobs $8 million of his own into the pot.

What a group!


Posted by Chuck Dupree at October 05, 2007 03:49 AM
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As much as I like John Dean getting the word out about authoritarianism, Mrs. Batard tells me this field of study isn't new at all. And sure enough, I looked it up and it isn't. But as I got into Altemeyer's book, I developed a quick dose of skepticism because my experience told me that Authoritarians weren't always from the right side of the political spectrum. But at any rate, I do respect some of what's going on, it's fighting back at what the right wing has built up over the years. An example would be the web site and foundation called the Rock Ridge Institute Website and particularly the blog, which itself is an interesting study. Seems to be a rather friendly place, although I don't think dissent is encouraged there. The "everybody's friendly to everybody" experience on that blog is similar to what you first encounter when you walk into a fundamentalist church. Altemeyer has developed his own group of critics from his field of study who think he's injecting politics into the field of study. And maybe they're right. It's not my field of study though and I'll leave it up to them to fight it out.

A minor quibble - I always thought that when the Czar was overthrown in 1917, the Communists were authoritarian about their atheism. The Chinese acted in a somewhat similar vein when they destroyed all those Tibetan houses of worship all those years ago. But maybe that's just me.

I'm also one of those people who thinks that Larry Craig might have gotten a raw deal. Seems to me the cops have got better things to do than worry about people making obscure signals at each other in bathrooms, a situation in which really innocent behavior could be misinterpreted by an overzealous cop.

But yeah, back to your main point - what a group. I'm about ready to become a full blown Stoic, not that I haven't leaned heavily in that direction for a number of years.

Posted by: Buck on October 5, 2007 6:43 AM

Re "(Maybe we need a progressive version of the threat by the evangelicals to vote third-party if the Republicans nominate Giuliani.)"

Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, that's been tried before. If it hadn't been, you'd have solar panels on your roof and bike lanes everywhere.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on October 5, 2007 8:23 AM

They favor education about Christianity in public schools; but if they were in an Islamic country they would object to Islam being taught in the schools.

I disagree, if they were raised in an Islamic country they would be Islamists.

Another point is that atheists usually don't want to look at the evidence in my experience, but I'll encourage you to take some cannabis and tell me what you see.

Posted by: whig on October 5, 2007 1:37 PM
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