From Tea to Shining Tea: An Interview with Stephen Gordon

From Tea to Shining Tea: An Interview with Stephen Gordon

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It is impossible to understand politics in the United States over the last 12 months without some in-depth discussion of the impact of the Tea Party movement.  Over the course of the last several days, I had the good fortune to engage in a dialogue with Stephen Gordon about a wide range of Tea Party-related topics, including what the Tea Party movements are about, where they’re going, what their influence has been and will be, and whether there is the possibility of a right-left alliance under the Tea Party umbrella.  There are, frankly, few people as qualified as Gordon to discuss these topics, as he’s been partying with tea since long before it was cool, having helped organize a successful state-level Tea Party in Alabama as early as 2003.  Gordon has also been heavily involved in libertarian politics for a number of years, including acting as Communications Director for Michael Badnarik’s 2004 campaign, and e-Campaign manager for Bob Barr’s 2008 campaign.  Recently, he’s appeared several times on the Rachel Maddow Show, and contributes to several well-regarded blogs, including the Liberty Papers, the Next Right, and Examiner.com.  He is now the Director of Media Relations for the political consulting firm Forward Focus Media.

MT: It’s quite clear that the Tea Party movement is primarily a grassroots-based movement without any clear leaders.  Moreover, although the Tea Party movement seems to be primarily focused on government spending, there have been numerous documented Tea Party-affiliated protests focusing on anything from the Democratic health care reform bills to illegal immigration.  Is there any kind of coordination of message that takes place within the movement, and if not, what would you say is the common theme that runs through all of the Tea Party organizations?

SG: This is a point I tried to make the other night on Rachel Maddow’s show.  If there had been enough time to elaborate, I would have stated because these are grassroots operations led in many places by people with no political experience, they are ripe for takeovers by established political organizations.  Obviously, organizations taking over elements of the movement have their own agendas. What I see most often is an attempt to guide the Tea Party movement to do what they initially opposed: re-electing politics-as-normal big-government Republicans.

 To me, healthcare is a very relevant topic for Tea Parties.  Immigration, abortion, foreign policy or even reform of marijuana laws, not so much.  I’ve been vocal about this in the past.  

Because of the nature of the movement, top-down coordination of the message can’t be planned by Karl Rove.  This also means that each Tea Party event or organization will have a slightly different flavor.  If I was in charge of the movement, my message would be one of fiscal responsibility. This encompasses deficit spending, corporate bailouts, stimulus packages, the current health care legislation, etc.  To a great degree, this is also the message of my Tea Party groups I’ve encountered. This, in my opinion, is a good thing.

MT: How do the Tea Parties overcome this problem of co-option, which seems to infect grassroots movements of all political stripes?  Is some sort of organized – and independent – top-down leadership eventually going to be necessary, or can the Tea Parties maintain their momentum without maintaining a narrow focus on fiscal issues?

SG: I’d offer any Tea Party organization the same general advice. First of all, stick to a single or narrow range of issues.  Every time a new, and especially an unrelated, issue is introduced the movement will lose supporters. Second, develop organic lists. Make sure you obtain e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc. at every event and from as many website visits as possible. Third, don’t let them take you over but make them come to you. Alabama Tea Party activists just held a gubernatorial debate and straw poll and their favorite candidate was made apparent. Had that particular movement been co-opted, I’m sure the result would have been different. 

While the laws  vary by location, if any local movement becomes large or influential enough, state and federal laws are eventually going to force some legal organizational entity to be formed. This will require a bit more top-down approach in some regard, but hopefully the Tea Party groups will be very mindful of the grassroots activists who made their organizations possible in the first place.

MT:Changing gears slightly, many commentators certainly have questioned where the Tea Partiers’ anger was during the Bush Administration’s spending orgies, not to mention the bank bailouts.  This isn’t to say that all of the Tea Partiers can be accused of suddenly discovering their passions when the Democrats took over in Washington – obviously, libertarians like you and your old boss Bob Barr, not to mention Ron Paul’s legions, have been banging this drum for a long while.  But why has the rise of the Tea Parties seemingly coincided with the Democrats – and President Obama – obtaining overwhelming power in Washington?

SG: As you’ve stated, most libertarians and some fiscal conservatives have questioned the lack of conservative anger during the Bush years.  I’ve pondered the same question and asked it  on blogs, Twitter and in person.  Tea Partiers generally respond that they were mad, but there was no clear outlet for them to vent their frustration or become involved.  I believe one factor is major conservative talk radio programs.  When the Republicans were in power, people like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh would gripe momentarily about some Republican spending issue and then quickly shift to foreign or social policy.  Now that the Democrats are in control, they spend most of their air time bashing Democrats about fiscal policy.  A related issue is the general public perception about third parties.  People who don’t believe in the viability of third parties who were upset with what Republicans in power were actually doing had nowhere to turn until the Tea Party movement began. People who do turn to third parties are often the ones shying away from Tea Parties because of astroturfing and “lack of purity” complaints.

MT: You mention public pessimism about third parties – what does that pessimism mean for the sustainability of the movement’s momentum?  Put another way – how will the movement best be able to achieve its goals in the long run if organizing a viable third party is likely off the table?

SG: We are all aware of recent polling showing the popularity of the Tea party movement. Currently, a Tea Party party polls better than the GOP .  However, Tea Party folks weren’t quite organized enough to pull of a victory in NY-23.  This said, they are already a significant factor in the Crist-Rubio battle down in Florida. Jon Henke added some critical insight when he wrote: “‘Be principled’ is not a strategy.”

It’s unlikely that all of the movement’s goals will be met in the immediate future.  However, the Tea Party voice is clearly being heard across America. While most of us are aware of how the topic hits the national media and the Internets, there is an impact which receives little media coverage and is harder to measure — but equally important: Tea Party folks now have a place at a growing number of political tables.  

For example, I’ve been treated as persona non grata by Republicans for the last eight years at the national level because of my criticism of Bush and his big-spending Congress and at the state level because of my efforts to kill a Republican-proposed billion dollar tax increase.  Today, not only am I invited to the table, but I’m writing policy pieces, campaign statements and press releases for viable Republican candidates and my finger prints are on quite a few pieces of legislation.  This plays out in a different way, too. I’ve got Tea Party personalities asking the campaigns my consulting firm represents for specific policy proposals which concern them. Previously, such requests might well have been ignored by major campaigns. Today, they are taken quite seriously.

 Henke is right.  The Tea Party movement would be more effective if some sort of coherent strategy is adopted.  However, dismissing gains made already by the movement would be political folly.

MT: You understandably emphasize the way in which the Tea Party movement has influenced the GOP, and seems set to continue to do so.  Does the movement hold out much hope for influencing the Democrats as well?  What, if any, influence could the recent expressions of, in effect, solidarity with some of the Tea Party themes emanating from the likes of Jane Hamsher have on the movement?

SG: While I often disagree with Hamsher’s ideology and sometimes with her tactics, I respect anyone who acts in consistent manner in the political arena.  She’s not afraid to take on the Democratic establishment. She’s even teamed up with Grover Norquist and Phyllis Schlafly before.  While I doubt most of the left will ever get behind most of the agenda of the Tea Party crowd, many will be sympathetic regarding corporatism and even an audit of  the Federal Reserve.  Additionally, I’ve not been at any major Tea Party event where I didn’t speak with Democrats in attendance. Likewise, some of my friends and candidates (i.e. Dave Weigel, Ron Paul, Bob Barr) and I spend time on Rachel Maddow’s show.  Obviously, we disagree with Maddow regarding a host of issues. The common thread between both sides seems to be a very healthy dose of mutual respect.  We’ve all spent significant time fighting the establishment in both major parties. 

Barr wrote a piece at the AJC  which I saw on Drudge, Politico, MSNBC and other locations.  In it, he accused establishment Republicans of “irresponsible behavior” and he’s taking a lot of partisan criticism in the comments section for it. Weigel went through the same when he covered racism within the Ron Paul ranks.  There are some people, on the left and the right, who consistently do what they perceive as being the principled thing to do – no matter the immediate political consequences.

 Aside from the couple of aforementioned issues, I don’t see any serious solidarity potential between populists on the left and right now.  For such a relationship to occur, the principled players on both sides of the aisle will have to work together to build the bridge necessary for both sides to connect.

MT: One final question, along those same lines.  Both the Tea Partiers and principled liberals seem to share a similar sense of alienation from Washington. To what extent is ultimately necessary for the causes of that alienation to be at least partially overcome before either group can meaningfully begin to achieve their ideological goals?

SG: It’s my belief that, to some degree, Tea Partiers are beginning to achieve some ideological goals.  Some elected officials in Washington embrace them while others at least pay lip service to them. They are a significant enough force to determine the outcome in many elections.  I don’t see this happening as much for the principled liberals right now, though.  Obama’s actions with regard to issues ranging from gay rights to foreign policy to detaining terrorists has a lot of them upset at the moment.  Shortly, we’ll know how much impact the progressives will have on health care legislation. It seems clear at this moment that they won’t be getting single payer.  

It’s not that I find establishment Republicans more ideological than their Democratic counterparts; they are simply the party-not-in-power at the moment.  The only way real change will ever occur is for principled activists of all political flavors to knock the old-school politicians out of power.

 

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47 thoughts on “From Tea to Shining Tea: An Interview with Stephen Gordon

  1. SG: “If I was in charge of the movement, my message would be one of fiscal responsibility. This encompasses deficit spending, corporate bailouts, stimulus packages, the current health care legislation, etc.”

    “SG: I’d offer any Tea Party organization the same general advice. First of all, stick to a single or narrow range of issues. Every time a new, and especially an unrelated, issue is introduced the movement will lose supporters.”

    It will be interesting to see if this advice is followed. Can, and do the tea people want to remain silent on the social issues? My guess, they will have plenty to say.

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    • I think the point is that if the Tea Parties as a movement start to focus on things other than fiscal policy, then the movement will falter and break apart. Fiscal policy is what unites all of the Tea Partiers; social issues may unite many, even most, of the Tea Partiers, but not even remotely all.

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    • “It will be interesting to see if this advice is followed. Can, and do the tea people want to remain silent on the social issues? My guess, they will have plenty to say.”

      My guess is that many of them will eventually wither away. While the Second Amendment seems pretty safe non-fiscal turf for the movement, social and foreign policy will be divisive.

      Let’s say 10% of your crowd are Ron Paul supporters. Introducing foreign policy into the issues alienates them. Then let’s say another 10% are the younger, more progressive “Wholefoods Republican” type. Introduce gay marriage and alienate some of them. Then say 5% are Libertarian Party types. Some speaker railing in favor of the drug war could eliminate half of them while another speaker promoting corporatism would eliminate the other half. Praise the Pledge of Allegiance or go after illegal immigration and lose a few anarchists. Add some local issue (i.e. gambling in my state) where there is a Republican split on the issue and eliminate even more of them. If movement leaders favor a candidate that others in the movement won’t support, there will be even more splitting.

      While each of these individual groups isn’t all that large, alienating a few at a time over a period of time and there won’t be nearly as much energy as exists today.

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  2. I believe one factor is major conservative talk radio programs. When the Republicans were in power, people like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh would gripe momentarily about some Republican spending issue and then quickly shift to foreign or social policy. Now that the Democrats are in control, they spend most of their air time bashing Democrats about fiscal policy.

    So the conservative media failed to hold conservatives responsible for their political choices. One of those choices was to engage on social wedge issues — gay rights, reproductive rights — instead of fiscal issues.

    A related issue is the general public perception about third parties. People who don’t believe in the viability of third parties who were upset with what Republicans in power were actually doing had nowhere to turn until the Tea Party movement began. People who do turn to third parties are often the ones shying away from Tea Parties because of astroturfing and “lack of purity” complaints.

    I’m sure Al Gore would have much to offer on this topic. And I’d love nothing more than to see strong candidates from the Green and Libetarian parties. Remember, too, it’s likely that Ross Perot’s run gave Clinton the White House.

    But I see no evidence that the tea parties have any overarching philosophy that’s not defined by the politics of Sarah Palin. And here’s one atheist who’ll go so far as to beg, “God forbid.”

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    • “But I see no evidence that the tea parties have any overarching philosophy that’s not defined by the politics of Sarah Palin. And here’s one atheist who’ll go so far as to beg, ‘God forbid.'”

      Exactly.

      I really don’t see the libertarian being interviewed as being representative of the movement.

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      • As always, the libertarians are looking for a broader coalition, so they can, as Gordon says, get a seat at the political table. With that in mind, they tend to see common cause with all manner of folks even when it’s not there. That’s what you do when the natural constituency of your ideology is so small.

        Alas, sooner or later, the Tea Partiers and the libertarians will discover they don’t mean the same things when they speak of limited government (I don’t think a significant reduction in the military/national security structure is on the table for the TP, for example.)

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        • “I really don’t see the libertarian being interviewed as being representative of the movement.”

          “As always, the libertarians are looking for a broader coalition, so they can, as Gordon says, get a seat at the political table.”

          Because it’s a coalition, it’s naturally difficult to define the movement with any broad brush. I’m clearly a member of the movement, but certainly not a typical one. As one example, I’m one of the few suit and tie folks one sees at events. I’ve never tried to describe the stereotypical movement person as being like me, though.

          I’m not a typical libertarian, either. Most libertarians I run across either disdain politics, disdain organized politics, or disdain organizations, in general. :)

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  3. The Tea Party has not yet existed through even half of one full Congressional election cycle. It’s impossible at this point to say whether it is possible to understand U.S. politics without reference to them, unless by that you simply mean that it would be false to deny their existence. We don’t yet know their electoral significance. It’s really too early to say what their overall impact is before we see at least one election cycle go by.

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    • Whether the Tea Parties will have a lasting impact is, indeed, to be determined. However, if you were to simply look at US politics in the year 2009, the Tea Party movement, which unquestionably mobilized a significant segment of the population, would have to be a required part of the discussion. One could not, indeed, appropriately discuss the health care debate or the bailout debate or even the stimulus debate without at least some reference to the Tea Party movement. This is true, I think, regardless of whether you think the movement’s role has been for better or for worse.

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      • That’s true. The debates of the last year were no doubt very much influenced. When I hear ‘politics’ I hear, ‘the prevailing balance of power,’ but in just in terms of affecting the debate, the Tea Parties have obviously been very influential in the last year.

        In terms of politics going forward, it seems to me the big question for the Tea Parties is where they will seek to apply their influence most — on Republican primaries (ie Scozzafava), or as a swing in general elections. Either way, unless these folks decide to re-merge with the part of the Republican Party they have left, the effect to the extent it is influential will actually be a boon to Democrats.

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  4. There seem to be three key questions:

    1) Are the teabaggers bringing in new voters, or are they just hollowing out a chunk of the GOP base?

    My bet would be for the latter, based on everything I’ve seen from them.

    2) Can the teabaggers maintain their energy and organization when there are no big issues to yell about in the short-term. Once Coakley wins and healthcare passes, what will the teabaggers do then?

    Judging by the failure of the teabaggers to come and protest in Michigan today about the bailouts, I’d say they flop.

    3) How many teabaggers are there anyway?

    My guess is that they aren’t that numerous in terms of the national stage, but that they have the numbers in some key areas to push the GOP to the right. Sarah Palin Inc will happily rip off a speaking fee or two, but such obvious manipulation will probably drive away the “true believers”.

    Overall, I think the teabaggers will be a bust as a movement before the midterms roll around, and most of them will quietly line up with their old friends in the GOP. You’ll see some midterms where the teabaggers can force a more extreme GOP candidate. These will almost all not work out well, and might well end the teabagging experiment.

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    • I’m going to disagree with your answer to question two. (BTW, excellent questions.)

      I fear that continued economic bad news, employment, foreclosures, coupled with wing nut radio and Fox News, will keep the tea people energized.

      Their impact? Certainly substantial on the Republican nomination process. Their impact on the November elections, I don’t know, but I’m concerned.

      Republicans and the tea folk will have plenty to keep them energized, Democrats will have plenty to continue to be disappointed with President Obama.

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      • Jaybird, on that one, I shall have to politely 7396027422. They were quite happy to call themselves teabaggers to start with, and if one lives by the teabag, one should be willing to die by the teabag.

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            • Presby, I think you ought to call them “tea partiers” not for their sake but for your own. It’s not because I think that they have an intrinsic dignity that needs to be protected but because you strike me as a fairly intelligent guy and seeing you call those folks “teabaggers” jerks me out of the moment and I find myself thinking “he must have no idea how that must make him look”.

              If you, knowing how it makes you look, still continue to use it…

              Well, I guess you’re categorizing yourself deliberately.

              I have no desire to get in your way of doing such, my man. Teabag away.

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              • That’s alright, Jaybird. We all tend to get a bit focused on the labels people choose to affix to themselves, at the expense of really thinking through the issues. I don’t mind you getting a little politically correct on me, but I am going to have to maintain my freedom of speech on these issues and call the teabaggers.. teabaggers. Sorry if that upsets your delicate sensibilities. Personally, I find ignorance and racism more troubling, and the teabaggers have those qualities in, dare I say it, spades. Or perhaps you would prefer shovels?

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                • I absolutely did not question your freedom of speech, my man.

                  I merely asked if you recognized what such a comment reflected. I see that you do. Teabag away. I’ve no doubt that you will gather snickers whenever you use it from people inclined to agree with you.

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              • Incidentally, Jaybird, I don’t mean to be unkind, but your spectacularly non-standard defense is actually incoherent at its root. You assume that maximizing moral agency is good, but fail to account for the fact that what others consider moral may vary wildly, and that if they do not subscribe to your definition, you are left with indignation at the unkind world and not much else. What you have built, with ingenuity and much labor, is pretty bog-standard relativism, coupled with an ultimately ungrounded belief in “moral agency” winning out. An obvious counter-argument would go: I consider maximizing my own agency by winning and asserting power over others to be the supreme act of virtue. Therefore, I agree that we should maximize moral agency, but only on the understanding that it will conduce to the “good” people dominating and ruling others. In many ways, you’ve created a re-run of the Gorgias, but without trying to respond to Kallikles as Plato (arguably unsuccessfully) does.

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                • “You assume that maximizing moral agency is good, but fail to account for the fact that what others consider moral may vary wildly, and that if they do not subscribe to your definition, you are left with indignation at the unkind world and not much else.”

                  I have no doubt that people will disagree. I don’t mind at all. I prefer, if they disagree, to say why they disagree and explain the moral fabric of the universe as they see it. The wacky thing about them doing that is that, according to my worldview, even if they are mistaken when they explain how Zoroaster or whomever judges the number of kumquats we’ve eaten or whatever it is, the fact that they’ve sat down and CHOSEN to explore their worldview has resulted in them being better. With luck, their Zoroastrianism will be better for their exploration of it. They’ll move further down the vector (and maybe even help other Zoroastrians along the way!).

                  “An obvious counter-argument would go: I consider maximizing my own agency by winning and asserting power over others to be the supreme act of virtue.”

                  I’d ask “how so?” and “what makes it a virtue?”
                  If this question can’t be answered without resorting to “shut up”, I’d be interested in seeing it.

                  “Therefore, I agree that we should maximize moral agency, but only on the understanding that it will conduce to the “good” people dominating and ruling others.”

                  Seems that there is an awful lot of begging the question in here.

                  “In many ways, you’ve created a re-run of the Gorgias, but without trying to respond to Kallikles as Plato (arguably unsuccessfully) does.”

                  I’m a fan of the classics.

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                  • Jaybird, I hate to point this out, but we are debating your supposedly new system of morality. I have pointed out some pretty obvious flaws in it, and, according to the general understanding of how debate works, it is your turn to defend your system, not demand that I create an alternative. If you want to concede that your proposed system doesn’t work, that’s fine, but you can’t simply try and duck the questions about it by demanding that I create a whole new system for you to disagree with. What you have done is to rediscover relativism, and then try and escape from it, as everyone does, by fabricating an “exception” to relativism, in order to ground the new order you propose. In your case, this is achieved by making the maximization of moral agency into the lynch-pin of your new system. Unfortunately, in so doing, you leave yourself as wide open to the relativist argument as ever, in that you don’t define or defend “moral agency” adequately, but just assume that it will do the job in your argument. As I pointed out, once that term is relativized, or (re)defined by an opponent, you end up back in the relativist prison. If you have a defense to offer, I’d be interested in hearing it. I am not, however, in the business of creating new philosophies for attack by those who do not care to defend their own proposals when challenged. Since you are a fan of the Classics, you might want to re-read Republic I. If you want to go further afield, try Laozi and Zhuangzi. They might suggest some challenging ways of understanding “moral agency”.

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                    • Au contraire!

                      The first problem you pointed out (your first two sentences) with my moral system is that others might not share it. Now, I don’t see this particular criticism of any particular moral system as particularly devastating… but it’s also beside the point as my moral system focuses on movement towards something most moral systems see as incidental (the choosing this over that) rather than on following a particular rule (doing this, nothing more than this, only this). In moving from “doing this” to “choosing to do this”, my moral system, I propose, is being followed at the same time that Ahura Mazda is affirmed.

                      Your next sentence is a fairly uncharitable interpretation of my essay, if I do say so myself. (“Moral agency” doesn’t “win out”. It’s the premise upon which the conclusions are built.)

                      Your next two sentences say that an obvious counter-argument would be to propose another, different, moral system. My response to that is to say “please, do go on!!! Explain every nook and cranny of this proposed moral system! Why this? Why that? You seem to be begging the question here! Please explain!”

                      I am not “demanding” that you present an alternative. You presented one! I am asking you to explain why this alternative is not only inconsistent with mine but why it’s better! If you want to say that I have to defend the “pretty obvious flaws” in my argument from your attacks, I am going to have to explore your attack to see whether or not it actually proves the point the essay I wrote set out to prove in the first place. Indeed, to do otherwise would allow you to hold up a black box and say that “this black box destroys your argument!” and, when I ask what’s in the box, you say “quit attacking the attacker, defend your argument!”

                      I don’t know what’s in the black box! From here, it certainly doesn’t seem to be a devastating attack.

                      And your last sentence is, indeed, high praise. I thank you for it.

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                    • Jaybird, I think you need to consider the difference between presenting a critique of a system, and presenting an alternative system. They are not the same thing. I gave one example, as part of a critique, of why your fetishization of moral agency isn’t a winning move in the game you want to play. Your response was to double down on your idealization. The problem with your rather nice vision of moral agency is precisely that you can’t actually defend the term coherently, without immediately seeing it undermined by the relativist critique. Equally, you ignore the problem of “exclusive” moralities and those who are compelled by them to attack and remove other moralities and practices. Really, the key point is simple: you want to escape from the coils of relativism. Well and good, but the problem you set yourself is then how you construct a system that escapes the relativist critique. Your solution is, as you lay it out, to give priority to moral agency and its maximization. The question then becomes, can you defend moral agency and its maximization from the relativist? So far, you haven’t actually produced an argument against the relativist. It really isn’t a counter to retreat to an idealization of this hypothetical process of “moving along the vector”, when your whole system is open to use and abuse by those who will impose their own definitions on it, using the empty signifier of “moral agency”. If you want to construct a valid counter, then you need to take these issues more seriously, and produce arguments, not denials. I also have to say that you give yourself far too much credit for making choice a key element. Choice theory lies at the heart of a good number of moral systems, and is hardly incidental to them.

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  5. “But I see no evidence that the tea parties have any overarching philosophy that’s not defined by the politics of Sarah Palin.”

    Of the Tea Party groups I’ve been around, Palin is clearly a favorite. However, I know plenty of Tea Party people who don’t like her so much. Plenty of Huckabee, Romney, Paul supporters, too.

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    • Stephen, it’s a nice retort, but do you see any difference between the tea-baggers and Palin on substantive issues? Also, do you consider yourself typical of them? This latter point isn’t clear in the interview, and it would be good to clarify it.

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      • Romney and Huckabee do, on the whole, seem cut from the same cloth as Palin in my liberal view — much to willing to let their religious beliefs dictate their political actions.

        I remember Romney’s announcement to run for president; the most genuine and revealing moment was when he described the racks of “life” he’d seen in a Cambridge lab. I felt he’d place right-to-life issues above all others with the one hand, while banging the drums of war to end life with the other.

        Huckabee’s reveal came when I happened on his show one day, and he was expressing the notion that without belief in God, one couldn’t have a strong moral compass. That’s a significant moral weakness, in my book.

        So this progressive — a progressive of conscience — finds them all lacking in one way or another. They either want to impose their religious views on our political system or they want to limit our civil liberties (while calling it freedom). And they wasted eight years haggling over my right to control my uterus and my brother’s right to marry his partner and my children’s right to learn about their own reproductive organs while ignoring fiscal responsibility and waging war without appropriate questioning.

        I’m more sympathetic to Paul; he appeals to my libertarian instincts when it comes to civil and social liberties. He still seems politically naive; with his saving grace being the ability to separate church and state, a stance the other tea-bag heroes lack.

        Palin, Huckabee, and Romney are all over-steeped flavors of God, Paul’s flavor is of a musty old tea that wasn’t cured properly before steeping.

        I prefer coffee.

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  6. 1) Are the teabaggers bringing in new voters, or are they just hollowing out a chunk of the GOP base?

    Not enough data to draw a Venn diagram yet, but there is a reasonable amount of overlap and plenty of separation.

    2) Can the teabaggers maintain their energy and organization when there are no big issues to yell about in the short-term. Once Coakley wins and healthcare passes, what will the teabaggers do then?

    I think there will be plenty of issues for time to come. If health care passes, they’ll still be protesting it in hopes of turning it around.

    3) How many teabaggers are there anyway?

    More Tea Party sympathizers than Republicans, according to Rasmussen.

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  7. Even before the American Third Position was officially launched, the Southern California branch was christening its new outreach-booth along the heavily-trafficked coastline at Huntington Beach. And, not knowing what to expect from their beleaguered countrymen, the young activists were proud to report that their message was incredibly well-received.

    “We delivered several hundred of our ‘American Jobs for American Workers’ flier, a few scores of our more detailed anti-immigration brochure, and we even gave out a few dozen stickers to people who decided to come back to our booth after having read our materials”, reported Sean Vax, who organized the event.

    “I thought the stickers might be somewhat controversial, as they bore the caption, ‘for race & nation’, but people really seemed to enjoy them, and quite a few came up to us just to grab a few. People seemed to be emboldened by our presence.”

    The young activists were proud to report that they also received offers by no less than three passersby to come out and help at the booth the very following weekend. They were even more excited to hear that one of the people they spoke with had registered on the website and had asked to become a party member.

    The Southern California branch plans to conduct outreach efforts on a weekly basis, and the group promises to soon begin a door-to-door registration effort, which will help to satisfy the state’s requirements for ballot

    William D. Johnson, J.D., is an international corporate lawyer practicing in Los Angeles, Ca. He holds both an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University, where he majored in Japanese, and a law degree from Columbia University. He has been married for 27 years and has five children.

    As Chairman of the American Third Position, he serves the purpose of speaking on behalf of the party, championing its sensible and just policies before the American people. He is also, more than any other, responsible for safeguarding the course, values, and program of the party.

    Kevin B. MacDonald, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach. MacDonald is the author of seven books on evolutionary psychology and child development and is the author or editor of over thirty academic articles. He received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1966, and he received a M.S. in biology from the University of Connecticut in 1976. He earned a Ph.D. in 1981 (Biobehavioral Sciences) from the University of Connecticut.

    As a Director of the American Third Position, he influences the course of the party and provides guidance to both the Chairman and President.

    http://www.kevinmacdonald.net/Reviews.htm

    http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2010/01/05/dropping-academic-veneer-prof-starts-his-own-hate-group/

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  8. recent Haaretz article on the state of the Jewish world contained the following:

    In general today, one of the long-term challenges for the American Jewish community is evident in demographic forecasts that predict that in two or three decades, certain minority groups are expected to become a majority in the United States. A recent ADL poll showed that 12 percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic views — but among African-Americans, the figure is 28 percent, and among foreign-born Hispanics it is 35 percent.

    “If 20 years from now the largest caucus in Congress is Hispanic, they will have a great deal to say about where foreign aid goes,” says [ADL head Abraham] Foxman. “On church-state issues and all kinds of social issues — some of which impact directly on the Jewish community and some indirectly — they will have a great influence. We are working on it now, so as they become the majority force, there is a sensitivity, a relationship. It’s a major challenge.”

    Jews tend to have a very large blind spot when it comes to immigration. Norman Podhoretz recently published a book titled Why are Jews Liberals? The basic pitch is that American Jews should support the Republican Party because it’s better for Israel. Podhoretz never proposes that Jews should actually become conservative — just support Republicans because they’re better for Israel. It never occurs to Podhoretz to oppose immigration for the same reasons alluded to by Foxman, his fellow Jewish activist and unregistered agent for a foreign government — to wit, that a future America with a non-White majority may well have much higher levels of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment than an America with a White majority.

    Podhoretz claims that American Jews have a religious devotion to liberalism — religious in the sense that it is wonderfully impervious to empirical reality or even a reasonable view of Jewish interests. But Podhoretz’s pro-immigration brand of “conservatism” is open to the same charge — that it’s not in the interests of Jews.

    Is Jewish support for immigration really irrational? Stephen Steinlight certainly thinks it is, stating, for example,

    “Privately [American Jewish leaders] express grave concern that unregulated immigration will prove ruinous to American Jewry, as it has for French Jewry, and will for Jews throughout Western Europe. There’s particular fear about the impact on Jewish security, as well as American support for Israel, of the rapid growth of the Muslim population. At the conclusion of meetings with national leaders, several told me, ‘You’re 1000 percent right, but I can’t go out and say it yet.’”

    In fact, Steinlight even argues that massive immigration in general is bad for Jews: “Massive immigration will obliterate Jewish power by shrinking our percentage of the population — to a fraction of 1% in 20 years.” And he points out that there is also a problem with Latinos because they are

    steeped in a culture of theological anti-Semitism that’s defied the post-Vatican II enlightenment of European and North American Catholicism. Nor have they a mitigating history of familiarity with Jews, little knowledge and no direct or familial experience of the Holocaust, and regard Jews simply as among the most privileged of white Americans. An ADL study found 47 percent of Latinos hold strongly anti-Semitic attitudes.

    The idea that Jewish support for immigration is irrational fits well with the hostility that even Jews like Steinlight have toward the traditional people and culture of America. Steinlight’s hostility toward the restrictionism of 1924–1965 is palpable. This “pause” in immigration is perceived as a moral catastrophe. He describes it as “evil, xenophobic, anti-Semitic,” “vilely discriminatory,” a “vast moral failure,” a “monstrous policy.” Jewish interests are his only consideration, while the vast majority of pre-1965 Americans are described as a “thoughtless mob” because they advocate a complete moratorium on immigration. (See here.)

    Such hostility is likely to be blind to rational calculations of self-interest — at least for most Jews. Just as the vast majority of Jews can’t bring themselves to vote Republican because of fear and loathing of all those conservative Christians — a major theme of Podhoretz’s book, Jews can’t bring themselves to oppose immigration because of fear and loathing of Europeans and their culture.

    Nevertheless, the fact that Jews are doomed to follow their gut hostility about Europeans and their culture doesn’t mean that they aren’t making rational calculations about the future. Foxman’s comments indicate what is doubtless the mainstream Jewish attitude about a non-White future: It presents problems, but the problems are manageable if the organized Jewish community makes alliances with the looming non-White majority.

    http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/articles/MacDonald-ADL.html

    These guys are going places if you ask me.

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    • I-Pod beats J-Pod any day of the week. After all, no I-pod has spend the last two decades banging the drum for every pointless, failed war the US could possibly launch. No I-pod has promoted a spendthrift party dependent on bigotry and resentment. No I-pod has systematically evaded or disguised the fact that Israel is no sort of ally worth having for the US. Let’s be blunt – the US and Israel currently occupy the position of Germany and Austria-Hungary before WWI. Does anyone not remember what the blank check cost Germany?

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  9. Down here, why not.

    Jaybird, I think you need to consider the difference between presenting a critique of a system, and presenting an alternative system.

    The problem is that the critique of my system was that alternative systems exist in their own right.

    I do not see the existence of Christianity as an argument against Buddhism. I do not see the existence of Mormonism as an argument against Zoroastrianism. I do not see the existence of one of those wacky click click religions as an argument against Islam.

    The fact that, let me quote you here, “what others consider moral may vary wildly” does not lead to “if they do not subscribe to (my) definition, (I am) left with indignation at the unkind world and not much else”. Not at all. The existence of, for example, Evangelical Christianity is not a refutation in itself of any belief system… let alone the existence of another person who merely disagrees!

    I gave one example, as part of a critique, of why your fetishization of moral agency isn’t a winning move in the game you want to play.

    And I am pointing out that the one example composed most of your critique and, as critiques go, it was analogous to saying that Christianity refutes Buddhism. This is not to say that Buddhism is right, of course (heaven forbid!), just that the existence of Christianity in itself isn’t much of an argument against it.

    Your response was to double down on your idealization.

    I am not doubling down. I’m merely pointing out that the existence of “people who believe X” is not a refutation against “not X”.

    The problem with your rather nice vision of moral agency is precisely that you can’t actually defend the term coherently, without immediately seeing it undermined by the relativist critique.

    My definition of moral agency is the ability to choose between X and Y as opposed to being hard-wired to choose X after a period of being hard-wired to not know that X is what is going to happen. Nothing “relativistic” about it. My definition of “moral agency” is the ability to make a choice. Not choosing “right” vs. “wrong” or “good” vs. “evil”. It’s just the ability to pick between two (or three, or four, or more) options without being hard-wired to pick one.

    Equally, you ignore the problem of “exclusive” moralities and those who are compelled by them to attack and remove other moralities and practices.

    I do not see the existence of Christianity as a problem that I need to address. I do not understand how the existence of people who argue “I’m right and you’re wrong!!!” is a refutation in and of itself against *ANY* theory at all, let alone mine.

    Really, the key point is simple: you want to escape from the coils of relativism. Well and good, but the problem you set yourself is then how you construct a system that escapes the relativist critique. Your solution is, as you lay it out, to give priority to moral agency and its maximization. The question then becomes, can you defend moral agency and its maximization from the relativist?

    Certainly. The relativist has to, I imagine, critique my theory at that point before I can do something about it, though. Pointing out that there are Orthodox Jews in Crown Heights is not a critique.

    So far, you haven’t actually produced an argument against the relativist.

    The argument “well, what if you’re wrong and there isn’t a moral fabric to the universe?” is a devastating critique of any moral code. From Ahl-e Haqq to Zoroastrianism, I don’t know of any moral theory that has an adequate answer to that question. That said, I deeply suspect the existence of, for lack of a better word, evil. On top of that, I suspect the existence of “good”. This leads me to suspect a moral fabric… and, despite my suspicion that I may be wrong and we may, in fact, be floating rudderlessly through the void from nothing to nothing… maybe there is a moral fabric. If there is, it’s important to me that I find out *WHAT* it is. In the absence of an architect, I am trying to piece what that moral code is. Maybe I’m wrong. If the relativists are right, no biggie. If the Buddhists are right, I’ll get another shot to get it right next time. If the Christians are right, lemme tell ya that I did not see that coming.

    It really isn’t a counter to retreat to an idealization of this hypothetical process of “moving along the vector”, when your whole system is open to use and abuse by those who will impose their own definitions on it, using the empty signifier of “moral agency”.

    Let’s assume, just for a second, that Anton LeVey was right and Satanism is accurate. The existence of nice people who will charitably help others without expectation of reward despite Satanism’s correctness does *NOTHING* to refute anything that LeVey has taught us.

    If you want to construct a valid counter, then you need to take these issues more seriously, and produce arguments, not denials. I also have to say that you give yourself far too much credit for making choice a key element. Choice theory lies at the heart of a good number of moral systems, and is hardly incidental to them.

    There are a number of moral systems that argue many things… but the majority of them point out that there is a, oh, right view and a right path and right speech and right action and right this that and the other. Or some are loosey goosey and say “do whatever you want, but don’t kill anybody, or steal stuff, or move property markers, or eat pork or these other six hundred things”. Choice ain’t really the focus. The rules are the focus. Maybe intentions are nice (they make for a decent surface material that will sustain traffic) but the intentions need to follow certain rules as well.

    I’ve not encountered a system where it’s right for Person P to do X but wrong for Person Q to do the exact same thing in similar circumstances. If you’ve got an example of that, I’d love to read up on it.

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