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Alabama Pulls Back the Curtain

Last night, as I opened Twitter to briefly check my messages, the penny finally dropped.

As I’m sure everyone here knows by now, yesterday judge Roy Moore won the Republican primary runoff election for the Alabama Senate seat made available by Jeff Sessions’ departure to become Attorney General. If you are to believe all of the most common theories about why Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Moore’s election should come as something of a shock.

In theory, Moore’s opponent Luther Strange should have have won. He was already the incumbent, having been appointed by Governor Robert Bentley to replace Sessions. On paper he is a Conservative’s Conservative, standing for law and order and against liberal progressions such as environmental protections and same-sex marriage. He had the support of not only the establishment Republicans (with the war-chest advantage associated with that support), but also the support of President Trump. And no small measure of support at that: just last week, Trump gave one of his famous pack-‘em-in rallies to communicate to his base just how deep to the bone a Trump-man Strange was.

It shouldn’t have been close — and in fact it wasn’t. Moore cruised to an easy and decisive 55-45% knock out. All of which raises the question, why did Moore win? How did a race between two candidates, both conservative Christians who were close if not identical when it came to policy and litmus tests, go to the man without the money or backing? What exactly did Roy Moore have going for him that Luther Strange did not?

As it turns out, Moore has left some clues to help sort out this mystery.

For starters, though it is true that both Strange and Moore opposed SSM, Moore opposed homosexuality itself. In his last run for Senate, Moore stated that “homosexual conduct” should be treated (and punished) as a crime. He has never rescinded, amended, or softened this position. You may remember that Moore was suspended from Alabama’s Supreme Court two years ago for refusing to adhere to a US Supreme Court ruling on SSM. When responding to concerns about going rogue, he noted that in his view there was little moral difference between a gay person and a man having sex with a cow. Finding homosexuality to be a crime was “a moral precept upon which this country was founded,” he insisted. “Homosexual behavior is crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous,” he wrote in a Supreme Court opinion earlier, “that it defies one’s ability to describe it.”

In addition to homosexuality, Moore and Strange differed on their views on Muslims. When the people of Minnesota elected Keith Ellison, a Muslim-American, to the US House of Representatives, Moore called for him to be disqualified from office on the basis of his religion, stating that Ellison’s faith was “directly contrary to the principles of the Constitution.” And if you find that reading of the Constitution to be odd, worry not, you’re not alone. As I noted three years ago, Moore believes that US courts, the legislature, and the Constitution itself should be superseded when they run afoul of his reading of scripture.

There’s a ton more that can be found with any google search, including Moore’s belief that 9/11 was God’s punishment for “legalizing sodomy,” that the first amendment should apply primarily to Christians, and casual ethnic slurs on the campaign trail.

The primary difference between Moore and Strange, in other words, is that one of the two was comfortable engaging in repeated public displays of bigotry.

For years now, I have been making the argument on these very pages that bigotry is universal, and that the GOP and conservatism were not inherently bigoted domains. Shortly after the 2012 election, after witnessing an spectacularly racist sour-grapes commentary on Fox News, I wrote this:

I maintain that both racism and sexism exist on all sides of the aisle(s).  But at the moment, the GOP has a huge PR and electability issue that is theirs alone.  Because even if Republicans are correct in their constant claims that their team has far fewer bigots than their counterparts (a big “if”), they’re still the party that seems to take frat-boy glee in flaunting their own side’s transgressions.  It’s as if the desire to be seen as non-PC trumps everything else, including both losing non-white male votes and – in some cases – defending actual racism and sexism out of spite.  They would rather offend  60% of female voters or 90% of black voters than tell some asshat with an (R) in front of their name that he’s being offensive.

To be clear, I still believe part of this. Racism and sexism exists in all political quadrants. Worse, the true wretchedness of the GOP combined with the current fashion of BSDI-dismissal has given white liberal/leftist groups permission from themselves to excuse or ignore all kinds of reprehensible behavior from their own. 1  But every excuse I imagined where I allowed the Right their own measure of goodness on this front, I now see, was foolishness on my part.

One of the great sports of punditry over the past two years has been grappling with the witnessing of Donald Trump and wondering, how?

How does he commit the sins of calling Mexicans rapists, of claiming that natural born citizens of Mexican descent aren’t real Americans, and still not lose the GOP? How does he publicly denigrate women, or get caught copping to sexually assaulting them, and skate away scot-free? How is he able to explicitly state there should be a ban on Muslims, or denigrate a Muslim family whose sole crime was supporting their son who died in battle defending the United States, and go unscathed? How is he able to award known anti-Semites 2  to key White House positions and not pay a price from his party? How is he able to refer to a crowd of white supremacists who chanted “JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US!” as “very nice people” while demonizing black athletes for the supposed crime of peacefully protesting violence against them, and still have the full backing and support of his base and his party?

For the longest time, the supposed answer has been some amalgam of his Star Power, his Charisma, and his Media Savvy. “He’s Mr. TV,” we’ve all said to one another, “and he just knows how to work the press in spite of themselves.” We have repeated this over and over, this myth that Donald Trump could sell steaks and airlines and universities and wine and every other product made overseas and stamped with the Trump name and a Made In America label to everyone anywhere despite a lifetime of evidence to the contrary because Trump was that guy, that miracle guy, and because the only other alternative was too horrible to face.

Now, however, in Alabama, the Party of Trump has spoken, and they have spoken loudly and clearly. And what they have spoken, what they have shouted to the mountain tops in their primal-scream chorus, is this:

They were never excusing the racism and sexism because it was Trump. They were always excusing Trump because of the racism and sexism. Or, maybe, something even worse: people who so wanted to stick it to liberals that they were willing to bathe in racism, sexism and anti-semitism even though they knew it was wrong, because twisting the knife into Pajama Boy or some 19 year-old Berkley coed majoring in women’s studies on Twitter just felt so good.

If it really was Trump and not the bigotry, the party faithful would have fallen in line, trusted his choice, and given the over-the-top bigot the boot. But they didn’t. Given the choice between a bad DNC cartoon version of a right-wing bigot and their supposed savior and Daddy figure, they didn’t blink.

If you’re a conservative, lifelong Republican who is also a Never-Trumper? We good. I have no bone to pick, and none of what I say here is directed at you.

Otherwise, though, I’m officially done with you. Tell me all you want about your love of the Constitution or the Party of Lincoln or the Thanks Obama or the Lamestream Media or whatever else allows you to forgive yourself for championing a man like Roy Moore over a seemingly decent Christian conservative who lacks Moore’s, I believe you like to say, “lack of political correctness.” Say it over and over, and howl it to the moon if you wish.

But I see you now.

 

 Notes:

  1. I am a big believer in those parts of King’s letters from Montgomery that wonder about the damage done by ‘moderate’ whites compared to that of their openly racist opponents. []
  2. Oh sorry, I meant thrice-parenthesized “anti-globalists.” []

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Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular contributor for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter. ...more →

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279 thoughts on “Alabama Pulls Back the Curtain

  1. I agree that there are probably plenty of people in the Democratic Party who hold bigoted attitudes against one group or another. At the very least, there are still plenty of Democratic Politicians or behind the scenes types who are too cautious to take a really bold stance against police brutality and/or against voter suppression tactics.

    But as you pointed out, the GOP has gone really off the deep end. Alabama is deeper red than most but I think you will easily see this being more of a death-knell for so called “moderate Republicans” who would rather talk tax cuts and business deregulation than culture war issues. TNR labeled it as Trumpism gone out of control and that was before Moore’s easy victory.

    Corker is announced his retirement in TN. This is marginally good news for the Democrats in that it is easier to win a seat when not held by an incumbent but TN is also now deeply red. Corker was deeply right-wing but able to work with opponents from time to time. His replacement is likely to be worse.

    At what point does Richard Spencer become an elected politician?

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  2. I suspect my feed will be interesting this morning, see which of the staunch constitutional conservatives I know are happy Moore won. And how they square that circle.

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    • We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and make Liberals really, really Pissed Off, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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  3. “Racism and sexism exists in all political quadrants.”

    Yep, see it all the time in my middle/upper middle class mid atlantic far left/liberal bubble world I navigate. I stopped being appalled and now just laugh when I hear the racist/classist/sexist tropes directed at “fly over land” and lower class folk. None of those morons talking could survive a week without electricity or cell phone coverage.

    “has given white liberal/leftist groups permission from themselves to excuse or ignore all kinds of reprehensible behavior from their own.” This isn’t new Tod. Not at all.

    What I find interesting is Moore run as the “not with Trump” candidate and, apparently, the Trump supporters were voting for him en mass. What’s up with that?

    Time to realize Tod, that neither party has “the constitution” in mind, nor fairness, nor equality. It’s always been about power, it’s use, and accrual of more power.

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    • If one party elects an unrepentant bigot and more than 50% of the words in your comment on a post about it are either excoriating white liberals or saying that both sides do it, you have a serious mote-and-beam problem. This is true even if it’s also true that neither side is completely clean.

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      • Yep, that’s the typical response I’d expect. “I’m blind to what my side is like but that other side is all full of devils”.

        Open your eyes. Both sides are exactly the same in this regard-because people are people. Every since characteristic you despise in Trump can be seen in those on the opposite side of the political coin. He’s just less careful about putting up a facade. You don’t think liberals don’t refer to black people with the “n” word? You don’t think they talk down about “white trash”? Don’t think they talk about how all the “gun nuts need to be taken out and shot”? Heard it all and worse.

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        • Is your take here basically that all politicians are like Roy Moore and that Moore is just more open about it? Essentially, the politicians a party elects aren’t really a reflection of the preferences of the voters because they’re all just people and therefore equally awful?

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        • Yep, that’s the typical response I’d expect. “I’m blind to what my side is like but that other side is all full of devils”.

          Open your eyes. Both sides are exactly the same in this regard-because people are people. Every since characteristic you despise in Trump can be seen in those on the opposite side of the political coin.

          “A man with an impure heart who lets his neighbor starve and a man with an impure heart who feeds his neighbor are only the same to those with fat, full bellies.”

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        • Your projecting a lot in this statement. There might be some liberals who use the N-word but I haven’t encountered any of them in public or seen it in private. Not everybody perceives civilization as a cruel joke. Some of us take it seriously.

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          • I’m not “projecting”.

            I’m taking my observations and extrapolating to the wider world. How else do you explain mankind’s entire history of butchery, oppression, intolerance, and cruelty? A history that is still going on.

            I’m not taking anything away from the achievements of humanity either, just that the human animal has it’s good side and it’s bad side.

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            • There is an alternative history that you are not telling. Yes, human history has a lot of atrocity in it but it also has individuals and groups that envisioned a different way, a humanity that can exist together peacefully, and worked towards it. They have not been entirely successful but they haven’t been unsuccessful either. If you were right than their would be no progress and humans would still live as animals.

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              • First you told Damon he was projecting racism. I work in the same sort of environment he does and I’m confident that he’s telling the truth about what he observes there.

                Then you responded to a comment where he said humanity has a good side and a bad side by telling him he’s ignoring the good side.

                I don’t agree with his argument either, but you need to show him more respect in your comments. I’m saying that as the moderator. If someone talks about racism in their office environment, “You’re projecting” is an attack. Don’t.

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                • That was totally not okay. If you make jokes (or “but seriously” jokes which indicate they aren’t really jokes) about the non-existence of any oppressed group again, I’m suspending you for a month or banning you altogether.

                  I”d do it right now but I’m giving you a chance to learn. Take it.

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                  • Maribou,
                    I’m sorry to have offended you by discussing planned human breeding that was designed to “civilize” humanity.

                    I am in no way shape or form advocating eugenics.

                    I am also in no way shape or form advocating the removal of significant portions of the genetic diversity of the human race.
                    (Yes, I suppose this does mean I have to take the pigfuckers along with the homosexuals. Sorry.)

                    If you would like to read some documentation on the incidence of homosexuality in past and present populations, as demarcated by ruling regimes, I’m certain you’d find it fascinating. Look at the size of social structures as you move from the stone age forward.

                    The “but seriously” was really only intended to say that breeding doesn’t actually cause mutations.

                    (and yes, this is what happens when I get so used to making points that they look really different to people who haven’t been in on the months long conversation).

                    I will also avoid making jokes about pigfuckers, as one can certainly argue that they are an oppressed group. (as opposed to goatfuckers… and I’m not going to explain that one, you’ll thank me later).

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                    • Kim –
                      I appreciate the clarification but you aren’t making a lot more sense with this comment than the last one. And you are making it hard to not see you expressing all kinds of things we don’t discuss here.

                      Like, *rein it in*.

                      It’s not that I’m a delicate flower who is easily offended, or that I haven’t met the internet before, it’s that you’re not staying on the field. And if you persist in posting from out of bounds, you’re going to get a yellow card, maybe a red one.

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        • Every since characteristic you despise in Trump can be seen in those on the opposite side of the political coin. He’s just less careful about putting up a facade. You don’t think liberals don’t refer to black people with the “n” word? You don’t think they talk down about “white trash”? Don’t think they talk about how all the “gun nuts need to be taken out and shot”? Heard it all and worse.

          I’ve heard some of this from liberals in unguarded moments. I’ve heard more of it from conservatives.

          That’s despite the fact that I know a lot more liberals than conservatives.

          I’m not saying that my experiences are particularly generalizable, of course. But I don’t particularly believe yours are either. I don’t think there’s any particular virtue or vice that’s unique to one side of the political spectrum, but nor do I believe that they’re necessarily uniformly distributed despite politics.

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          • “I don’t think there’s any particular virtue or vice that’s unique to one side of the political spectrum, but nor do I believe that they’re necessarily uniformly distributed despite politics.”

            I cannot agree more with you on this. My comment was not to say that everyone is equally racist/homophobic/whatever. It was to say that all of that exists, to one degree or another, in all people, just like their political beliefs.

            I may have a skewed view, but that’s because I live as an outsider in my area. I live in a liberal to very liberal region. It’s “just assumed” you believe certain things. So, I kinda “pass”. I keep my mouth shut about certain topics and listen. People will reveal things if they think you’re on the same team.

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            • , that’s my experience as well, but in reverse. I’m a middle-aged white guy, veteran, working in a field dominated by conservatives, and living in a red part of a red state. I have protective coloration. So unless I make a point of making my liberal opinions known I’m assumed to be “one of them” and I get the raw feed, unfiltered.

              It’s not pretty.

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          • This. I’ve heard fellow liberals say some pretty classless things – usually about class – when they thought the lodge was tyled. Not common, and even then usually there’s someone on the crowd with a “what were you thinking, dude” look.

            Conservatives will far more often on a per capita basis launch into a “Not to sound racist, but…” tirade without even checking twice who’s around.

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    • So we can look forward to Trump, McConnell, et al. endorsing Moore’s opponent in the general election?

      Major GOP donors will withhold money from Moore’s campaign?

      If the national GOP is worried about being tarred as the Party of Roy Moore, they have some straightforward yet highly effective means to signal otherwise.

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    • Unless the GOP pulls their support for Moore…

      Honestly, I’m at a loss as to how Moore was able to get a ride on the GOP ticket. You’d think getting booted off the Supreme Court bench twice for failure to obey the law would make him toxic to the party, enough so they’d force him to run as an independent.

      But no, it’s all about party power (coupled with some vain hope they can control Moore should he win the general election) and sticking it to the Democrats.

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      • Honestly, I’m at a loss as to how Moore was able to get a ride on the GOP ticket.

        Because he’s a perfect representation of the type of voter the GOP has cultivated for decades while thinking they could keep it under control. He’s not an anomaly. He’s their *ideal candidate* based on the image GOP politicians have tried to project for years. The problem is that they’re been dabbling in right-wing rebel cosplay and cultivating an audience that eats it up and now the real deal has showed up and captured their audience.

        Whenever I see this stuff, I keep imagining mainstream Republicans as phony gangster rap stars waving guns and gang colors around and looking tough for their adoring audiences until an actual hardcore gangster chases them off the stage and walks off with their crowd. My bet is there’s going to be more easy prey before this trend exhausts itself.

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    • Well, we certainly have (yet another) opportunity to test out the merits of my complaint.

      If you’re right, – and for the record I very much hope that you are – then the coming months will be filled with the GOP/conservative political and media apparatus marginalizing Moore, and speaking out against him.

      If I’m right, we’ll see him staunchly defended on a national level. Perhaps even finding himself a Fox and Facebook darling for the non-NeverTrump set.

      I know which of those two possible realities I’d bet on right now.

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    • Our Tod may be guilty of hyperbole here. The point may be softened (a bit, though not much) to: a critical mass of the GOP has given in to these dark impulses.

      I read his point that a lifelong conservative Republican who was #NeverTrump and ought to still be is within the bounds of moral acceptability through that lens. It’s a nod of assent within the OP aimed towards #NotAllRepublicans.

      So too with the acknowledgement of racism, sexism, and other bigotry on the left. #NotAllDemocrats in practice resist and abstain from such behavior and attitudes.

      But.

      The difference here is one of degree, one of extent. Strange lost this election not because he wasn’t anti-gay, but rather because he wasn’t anti-gay enough. Which isn’t the whole picture, to be sure, but it is a well representative example of it.

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  4. Regarding this weekend, our Dave pulled this Justice Jackson quote and posted it on the ol’ FB:

    “The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own. Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order…”

    Justice Robert Jackson – West Virginia Board of Ed v Barnette (1943)

    Most people here agree. Maybe most Americans agree but many, many Americans seemingly do not. Trump doesn’t. Moore almost certainly doesn’t. And they have tens of millions of supporters. A lot of people do seem to want things to be compulsory routines regarding the Flag and displays of patriotism as they sit. And that is how Moore wins and Trump wins over saying they will battle nuance and complication and difficulty and gray.

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  5. Welcome to the party Tod. While you’re conclusion was arrived at a bit in the late side, I’m always happy to welcome another person to the will-no-longer-deny-obvious-truths team.

    As TNC might say, everyone who voted for Moore in this election was either a bigot or someone who prefers to vote for bigots. I can’t wait to see the hot takes about why that’s liberals’ fault, but I suspect they’ll start trickling out today.

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    • I can’t wait to see the hot takes about why that’s liberals’ fault, but I suspect they’ll start trickling out today.

      Those hottakes are coming, no doubt, but they won’t be the result of good analysis. The radicalization of the GOP first manifests as a rejection of establishment Republican candidates and the party as a whole at the *primary* level. When combined with conservative-wide hatred of all things Dem, the radicals win. The GOP – and Fox and Rush, etc – have made this bed. Now they have to sleep in it.

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  6. “Last night, as I opened Twitter”
    Sheesh, glad I never took to that. The most twit stuff I see is on the margins of OT.

    Where to start, what priors to review? What does this anti-liberal backlash mean? Where does it come from?

    I often think it comes from the modern liberal tendency to think they are the true warriors of social objectivity, and think it is good exercise to build social constructs that inflict change without consent.

    The modern liberals think that the civil rights movement is their baby. It is not, the left, the center, and the authoritarian right hold little motivation or the root of change. If people don’t change their individual constructs about race, then it doesn’t matter. Weaponizing social constructs and running over individual constructs is an ideal environment to create power politics. The kind of power politics that takes the worst of inclinations up to level 11.

    I have heard from several sources recently that put power politics front and center. This is BSDI or even ‘all sides do it’. To say one side is responsible for power politics is naive to the greatest extent. You build the social construct, you are creating the power, there will be war, this is what it looks like.

    It is not beyond the pale, it is the pale, enjoy the dark shadow of the leviathan.

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    • To translate (because I think I got this one):

      When it comes to social policy, forcing social change through law is putting the cart before the horse in the hopes that the horse will notice it is behind the cart and move up to take it’s proper position in front of the cart. The problem is, the horse wasn’t terribly interested in pulling the cart to begin with, and the carrots offered and sticks inflicted aren’t having the desired influence.

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      • That might be true in some geograpgic locations but it doesn’t change the need for using law to make social change happen.

        I agree with conservatives that law is about morality. I just have a different definition of morality.

        The problem with Joe’s argument is that there are always slow pokes who say “I am not opposed to rights for minority group X but they are going to fast.” These people never say when change is acceptable. It is just a delaying tactic.

        Bigots will always be with us. So will slow pokes. They don’t have a right to avoid discomfort.

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        • I hold no position that shields slow pokes, and I don’t know how you read that of me. I have always held the position that if you are being aggressed upon on an individual to individual basis that delay of action is not necessary.

          On the other tangent, I don’t do the Marxist shuffle and start all my priors with class/minority group warfare.

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        • And what happens when the sprinters under-estimate the population and over-estimate the preferred speed of the ‘slow-pokes’?

          It’s like a shipping convoy. Yes, the destroyers and frigates can move 3 times as fast as the merchants, but if you want to keep the convoy together, you move as slow as your slowest ship. Sure, if the cargo on those slow ships isn’t important, or there aren’t too many of them, you can leave them behind, but it’s important to remember that the enemy isn’t interested in sinking your ships, they want to co-opt them, so every ship you leave behind is one the other side can potentially pick-up for itself.

          So, how confident are you that you can afford to leave those slow-pokes behind? If you can’t afford to leave them behind, then you either need to slow down, or figure out a way to help them get faster. And attitudes like “They don’t have a right to avoid discomfort” is not going to get you far in convincing them to go faster.

          (All this from a person who is largely in agreement with your social goals)

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          • In 1996, the GOP was able to get Clinton to sign DOMA despite him really not wanting to probably. In 2004, the Republicans were able to use SSM as enough of a wedge issue. By 2011-2012, the issue largely collapsed as a winning argument for the GOP in all but the reddest states and counties.

            So law can be good. I don’t think you would find many minorities who argue that the Civil Rights court decisions and legislative changes were a mistake because they moved to fast.

            There is still plenty of reaction against them but no one has managed to overturn the Civil Rights Act or the 13th-15th Amendments yet. Now they can destroy the Voting Rights Act though.

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            • That is not much of a counter to my position. Saying it works sometimes just means that the timing was sufficient that the parts of the convoy left behind weren’t terribly significant.

              Of course, for any single issue, this is true, but the march of progress has been pretty quick in many areas, as of late, which means lots of folks left behind for each particular issue. The effect is cumulative.

              A backlash was inevitable, the opposition is flush with slow-pokes. The question now is, do you slow down and let those folks calm down (or die off naturally), or do you start a shooting war? Both are valid options, one requires serious confidence in your ability to win, the other merely requires patience.

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              • How much damage should the slow-pokes be allowed to inflict before we start dealing with them? There were slow-pokes during the Civil Rights era that that were still in the lynching mood of the 1890s and 1900s. Anti-LGBT slow pokes want to go back to the time where LGBT had to basically pretend to be cis-gendered or heterosexual all their lives and killed if found out. The less you do to force things forward than the more of the most reactionary slow-pokes remain.

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                • How do you plan to “deal with them”?

                  Make them feel bad for their Neolithic attitudes?

                  Yell at them about how mean they are?

                  Fine them into poverty because of bad think?

                  Take away their voting rights because of bad think?

                  Haul them out back and shoot them?

                  I’m curious, please tell me the most effective way to “deal with them”.

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                  • You try to neutralize them politically and socially. Make it unacceptable to say things in polite society so that it can only be spoken in private if at all. Show them that they are impotent. That no matter how much they act up, society will not bend for them. Treat them as irrelevant to anything.

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                    • That works great, right up until election day, when they can quietly vote for all their bigotry and prejudice, and liberals will bemoan the sudden appearance of all these bigoted voters.

                      That’s not “dealing with them”, it’s just telling them to shut up so you can pretend they don’t exist or have political power.

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                  • I know this is rhetorical, but you play a long game designed to undercut them subtly and to leverage the counter-majoritarian veto points against them whenever they win a majority.

                    The Left really should be carefully studying the playbook of the Right from about 1980 or so. Hell, we don’t even have an Antifederalist Society we can use to stuff the courts with ideologically correct left-of-center nominees.

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                  • I think that depends on how the slow-pokes react.

                    Simple social pressure/education would be my preference, but laws so that they can’t actively drag the convoy backward (which, let’s be honest, leaves other ships behind or sinks them) are another means.

                    In worse cases – people who physically threaten others or subject them to harassment campaigns – prison or lawsuits seem like reasonable responses.

                    In the very worst cases – people actively targeting others with violence – I’m not opposed to shooting back. (The KKK/Nazi who decides to pose an active threat to my family will learn that, yes, I know how to use a gun. I don’t think I’m being horribly intolerant in taking that position).

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                    • Another fine answer!

                      You “deal” with the ones that can’t be civil. The rest, you mitigate potential damage from the ones who just plain refuse to budge, and the rest you slowly work over to your side of the question.

                      Personally, I think corporations pulling business from a polity that refuses to budge on certain social issues is more effective than any threat of government. Nothing works faster to sway the uncommitted than some non-judicial economic pain.

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                      • I honestly don’t know but I don’t think we should be held by reactionaries either. It is too the credit of the NFL that they are standing with their players but I also think a lot of the soft-liberalism that corporations are standing for now is both a product of social progress and a cause of the current backlash.

                        I would rather live in a world with the CRA than without and I say this as Jewish person and a liberal. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t always enforced as much as I like but I think it does good. And I do think that there are reasonable limits on freedom of association when it comes to running a business.

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                          • Exactly right. Everything that Trump touches dies, and the NFL is doing its best to survive being used by Trump as cynically self-serving political tool. Ownership and the league are caught between trying to defend two types of patriotism, now fighting a deathmatch, one which thinks the flag represents the sacrifice of military members who died for our freedom, and another which thinks it represents the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution, including free expression. Ownership is desperately trying to weasel their way thru the battle while minimizing damage to their bottom line.

                            Thanks Trump!

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                          • Though I think the calculation also involves not completely alienating the African American members of management (i.e. coaches) and in the broadcast booths. (E.g. Mike Tirico, Tony Dungy)

                            Mike Tomlin essentially said that he’d rather not deal with this BS at all, (which I’d bet was the predominate opinion of his peers, both black and white), but with Trump upping the ante the way Trump did, even he (Tomlin) had to do something.

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                          • Where is the convoy going, anyway? I’d like to know that before I risk my ship.

                            Does the convoy analogy reflect the revolutionary socialist worldview that society has a destination, one that is hard to reach and will involve many struggles? That there’s a path to follow and points where progress can be measured? Or do we just have an ocean with ships sailing on it, each following its own course for its own ends?

                            This becomes important if you’re sailing your convoy from the LGBT friendly waters of the Pacific into the Persian Gulf.

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                        • The thing is, it’s not about whether or not you would prefer to live with X law, it’s whether or not you have gathered enough of the voting public to your way of thinking to support and sustain X.

                          I think in the long run, the progress we’ve made to date will largely remain intact, but Trump, et. al. is a backlash, and it’s a backlash that, IMHO was enabled by PC enforcement.

                          I think is right in that there are a lot of bigots in the country, and I think the emphasis on PC has allowed them to fester out of sight. Telling a person they can’t say bigoted things doesn’t change their attitudes about their bigotry, it just tells them to keep it to themselves and be careful who they talk to about it. It’s like spraying cologne on a person with gangrene They still have gangrene, you haven’t taken care of the problem, you just made it less offensive to yourself.

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                          • I agree with Morat too but I think PC is a dodge here because I don’t agree with how the right-wing uses the term. When right-wingers say they are anti-PC, I often here it as a complaint against having to treat people with dignity and respect.

                            And I actually agree that there are a lot of performative aspects with the left that can go overboard at times but most anti-PC complaints ring hollow to me.

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                            • When right-wingers say they are anti-PC, I often here it as a complaint against having to treat people with dignity and respect.

                              But it is neither dignified nor respectful if the person saying it is biting their tongue while doing it.

                              Or to put it another way, I’d rather know a person is a sonuvabitch because they opened their mouth and made it clear, rather than find out later through their actions.

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                              • I’m reminded of j r’s take on this sorta thing, basically: “Speech can’t hurt you.” Yet the emphasis has always been on speech. I think the most significant effect of PCism is that it drove non-PC approved views underground without changing the underlying beliefs those folks held. All it did is breed resentment.

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                                • I think that probably means most of us have been doing PCism wrong then.

                                  I tend to think of PCism as, “Don’t be a jerk,” with an emphasis on thinking a bit before speaking or acting, specifically about how someone coming from a different perspective from one’s own might feel differently about what is said or done.

                                  In that vein, it is a call to shift mindsets and approaches to being, not just what is said outloud.

                                  However, more often than not it seems to manifest in, “YOU JUST CAN’T SAY/DO THAT IN PUBLIC!”

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                                • I would say that depends. I do employment law. This year I was listening to a CLE seminar on employment law. It was run by defense counsel who were not really friendly with the plaintiff side.

                                  One of the defense lawyers happened to be a Jewish guy. He recalled a story where he was defending a company that with one black employee. The company did also sorts of things that include putting up nooses, having every employee wear a Klan hood. The defense lawyer recalled how the defendants would insist they weren’t prejudice but also call the lawyer their “Jew lawyer.”

                                  So what speech harms and what doesn’t? Does it depend on the context, place, and time.

                                  I am not fond of microaggresions as a concept because I can just be spacey sometimes and it isn’t intentional. But I don’t think a bunch of largely white guys (j r being an exception) pontificating on “speech doesn’t harm” cuts it either.

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                                  • Is that an example of PCism tho? Seems to me that in one sense it is: if the white employees adopted PC norms they wouldn’t have hung a noose over the black guy’s desk.

                                    Is there another way to describe the situation without going that route, tho? Did their behavior rise to the level of being legally threatening or menacing? If so, then the problem isn’t that those white guys speech wasn’t PC, but that it violated norms codified into law.

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                                    • Well in that case the employer was also a participant with the other white employees but let’s look at Silicon Valley which is having some issues and is overwhelmingly blue and the rest probably would say they are libertarian or anrcho-capitalist before they would say they are Republicans.

                                      Here there are still lots of complaints about sexist attitudes and possibly racist attitudes despite being progressive organizations supposedly. But crackdowns have occurred and people rush to the difference of Darmore at Google.

                                      And Goldman feels sheppish when they have corporate off-sites at strip clubs and get called out for it.

                                      I do think there is a contingent of people who blame this all on “PC” culture and want to go back to the supposed benefits of the Man Men era.

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                                • Pro free speech types to often have a blind spot about the actual power of speech. Speech is so powerful it can bring down tyranny and is vital to human flourishing but somehow it also can’t be chilling and detrimental to some. Free speechers need to recognize the power speech has in all its possibilities and not just the good stuff. I’m all for free speech but that always bugged me about fellow FS’s.

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                          • ” you just made it less offensive to yourself.” Sometimes that has a lot of value though?

                            I largely agree with your comment / line of reasoning here – so largely that I hesitate to even comment – but:

                            I also think I have a right to tell people to take their damn bigotry out of my face and space (and that such a reaction can have – sometimes- a shockworthy effect that makes them re-examine what they’re doing).

                            Regardless of *their* reaction, I don’t need to hear, for example, their rant on how bisexuals are all sluts who spread sexual diseases rampantly and threaten the very underpinnings of civilisation. And listening to it civilly and attempting to counter it does, actually, screw up my life, because I was raised by a scary violent person who berated me constantly so being patient with people who are cruel about me pushes ever so many buttons. Plus on a broader level, it contributes to the sense of stigma that leads bisexual people to be at more risk of suicide than any other sexual orientation.

                            So they are doing real harm to me and mine when they go off like that, and while in larger society I agree with the solutions posited by you and others, in my social circles / day-to-day life I should have the right to *choose*. Choose whether to try to help them, or shun them and tell them to get out of my face as loud and as long as I need to. Because agency is literally one of the most important bulwarks against despair.
                            And marginalized people should not be held accountable for the needs of their marginalizers.

                            That’s just an example, I’m pretty well off in the large scheme of things (partly because I don’t seek permission anymore about using my agency). But I think we need to be careful to walk the line between “what is necessary and important on the grand scale of society?” and heaping all the responsibility for fixing things on people who are already bearing an extra social burden. Not saying you are doing that, just saying it bears emphasis that we can’t and shouldn’t. If they (we) want to lead those fights, more power to them (us) – but it isn’t in some sense their (our) *job*, either.

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                            • I’m not implying that dealing with bigotry is somehow easy or pleasant. I used the analogy of gangrene for a reason, because it is a rot. And I get your point, you can’t help a person with gangrene if the smell is making you gag or puke.

                              But, as I said, you also can’t just make it go away, or hit it with some Lysol. And to echo & , that is largely how PC is used out in the world.

                              At the risk of sounding downright sappy… If you want to beat bigotry, you have to heal hearts. You might shock someone by yelling “Racist!” or “Homophobe!” at a person, but if you aren’t following that up with a real effort to help them reach understanding, you are just yelling at a person. Which has probably had a greater effect upon gay rights, angry accusations, or people becoming acquainted with a LGBTQ person and finding actual empathy for them?

                              But, you know, yelling at someone and walking away all self satisfied that you struck a blow for righteousness, a lot more appealing. I mean, if I want to BSDI this, Evangelicals screaming at me that I am going to Hell, or will suffer God’s Wrath(TM) because of X is about as effective (Westboro, the shallow SJW/C of the right – WooHoo!).

                              So yeah, we are very much doing PC wrong. And that is coming home to roost right now.

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                              • Dude, if I didn’t agree with you I wouldn’t have agreed to be the comment police for this here website.

                                I would *much rather* that random heterosexual person X did the hard work of talking person Y out of their homophobia than yelling homophobe at them. And for that matter I’ve had the sort of hard conversations about this stuff myself that you’re advocating, probably at least 20 or 30 times (the ones that take months). And I’m out in quite a few spaces primarily because it puts me in that ambassadorial see we’re not so bad position… you don’t have to sell me on the general argument.

                                I’m just saying, it’s not always my job to do that, or to put up with random person Y encroaching on my life. (I mean, do you spend a lot of time in dialogue with Westboro? More power to you if you do…) In the zeal to scold the “PC” (a zeal I sometimes share), people who are just trying to get the space to live as themselves without someone being all -ist at them, or to make room for their loved ones to do the same, also get scolded. (For example, my students saying they don’t want racist slurs painted by vandals in their dorm hallways, and that those vandals should be held accountable by the college whose conduct code *they agreed to*, is sometimes treated like they’re trying to squash speech.)

                                And I don’t think that’s right or fair.

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                                • I’m just saying, it’s not always my job to do that

                                  Not trying to say it is. However, we don’t exactly have a large dedicated group of people with the knowledge and disposition to have that be their job. What we have instead is a bunch of folks (if I may keep going with my analogy) who are, at best, running around spraying Lysol (and that crap burns when it gets in your eyes or lungs); and at worst, are attempting to do a field amputation with a lighter and rusty hacksaw because they watched a video on YouTube, or attended a seminar off campus – and as often as not, they get the wrong limb.

                                  I mean, I’m no saint, I’m not out there engaging the Westboro’s of the world, because most times I lack the time or patience. That said, when I do encounter such bigotry, if I don’t have the time, or if I am pretty sure this person is beyond my ability to engage with in a meaningful way, I don’t say anything, and I just walk away, because a shallow, negative engagement will just allow the rot to spread deeper in (human nature).

                                  sometimes treated like they’re trying to squash speech

                                  The only way that argument flies is if the school lets other kids paint messages on the walls. Otherwise, it’s just vandalism. Free speech snowflakes annoy me to no end.

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                                  • I guess, if I embrace your analogy, my problem is that I feel like I’m at work in a field hospital all day every day, and so are the people of color and other LGBTQ people I know. And Lysol (I’d say chlorhexidine would be a better choice, but you use what you have) is actually pretty important to disinfecting the area we’re trying to work in, because good hygiene makes good doctoring. And so when I hear people being like “But as long as there are all these people running around spraying Lysol everywhere and doing rogue field amputations, we’ll never fix the gangrene! Lysol is a major problem!”…

                                    what I want to say is “stop complaining about the sprayers and get enough nursing training to help us out, here, and pitch in. Not just with the gangrene, but with all the other stuff that needs doctoring. Or at the very *least*, stop complaining about Lysol. We need Lysol to keep our work spaces functioning and stay well enough to keep doing the work. Yes, sprayers are a problem. Fine. We’ll deal with that once we’re not quite so busy doctoring. In the meantime, quit trying to ban Lysol.”

                                    Like, there’s a perspective problem in there somewhere. it very well could be my own perspective that’s at fault, but it sure as heck doesn’t feel that way.

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                                    • There’s two problems, really. One is that we’ve probably stretched that analogy so far that it’s screaming.

                                      Two is that we have competing goals. On the one hand, you have marginalized groups that just want to be allowed to exist and thrive, and you have a second group that needs to be convinced that the first should be allowed to exist and thrive*.

                                      There is no easy way to bring these two goals together. If I had to identify a problem, it’s that we (as a society) lack any kind of clear leadership on this. There is no one voice, or small group of voices, that commands enough respect from both sides to get people to talk to each other, rather than past each other, or at each other.

                                      Honestly, this is one area where a religious leader(s) could make some serious headway, but they seem thin on the ground right now.

                                      *This really shouldn’t be a tough thing, but people gotta be people, I guess…

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                                      • Honestly, this is one area where a religious leader(s) could make some serious headway, but they seem thin on the ground right now.
                                        It seems to me that when religious leaders try it, the bigots double down by rejecting said religious leaders.

                                        There are more Catholics that don’t believe the Pope is Catholic these days than I ever could have imagined 30 years ago…

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                                              • OK, if you’d told me I’d be saying this 10 years ago I would’ve laughed you out of Dodge… and in a week I might wonder if I was delirious tonight (it’s possible, I’m definitely sick…) –

                                                but I wonder if it won’t be someone less like a religious leader and more like Simon Cowell (assuming he fixes his ratings)?

                                                I KNOW. Madness. But look at these X-Factor 2017 clips – I picked out 4 but I could’ve easily found a dozen. (The point is the narrative, not the singing, although they’re all excellent singers.)

                                                You have a lesbian, someone from a Caribbean colony of Britain, someone with a tragic early childhood and amazing adoptive parents of two different races, all kinds of (lower) class markers, different racial mixes…. the panel is diverse as well. And yet none of it is talked about in those terms. It’s all just treated as hero stories, worked in naturally, etc.

                                                People watching these clips on the internet- who come from all over the world – are being pushed to empathize with these folks. The judges are warm, kind, and respectful. I know it’s a nutty idea, but honestly the video that shows the young woman with the two very loving adoptive parents was the most heartwarming thing I’ve seen all week… and even though it was cheesy and produced and controlled as hell, the love between these three people (and the other people on the show) was still more bolstering than a thousand angry speeches (no matter how satisfying I might find them).

                                                As “look how harmless we are, look how much just like you we are,” goes, it’s pretty masterful. Not sure if Cowell’s been drifting toward kindness for years, or if he just saw a market niche and is attempting to exploit it, or if he’s seriously trying to do some good now that the world is on fire, but damn. Not the X-Factor I remember.

                                                I don’t mean Cowell *himself*, obviously he’s not going to play in Alabama – but it might be someone *like* that? I don’t know.

                                                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egvURGkcwok
                                                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL25uyC8IJU
                                                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Dc71QIa33Y

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                                                • Yeah, I get your meaning. It could work, but the first step would be finding a knock out punch for the whole “I’m not bigoted because I have an X friend” – the whole prejudiced in general, but not the specific. Bigots love to duck behind that one.

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                                                  • I tend to hear that phrase, frustrating it is, as “I am more open to learning to shift my worldview than I am presently willing to admit.”

                                                    Like, it’s a necessary step, perhaps, between bigotry and letting go of bigotry. The part of me that wants people to tell the truth *hates* it, but the part of me that wants people to get on the damn bus sees it as progress.

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                          • The thing of it is the non-bigots outnumber the bigots.

                            The problem is we live in a minority rule country where the bigots votes count more than the non-bigots.

                            1) eliminate the electoral college
                            2) end gerrymandering
                            3) end voter suppression
                            4) make Puerto Rico & DC states.
                            5) pack the courts to eliminate the bigots judicial power due to past things like Trump.

                            Then we can resume normal politics where we debate things other than basic rights.

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                              • Some of it is not the fault of the GOP. I don’t like the electoral college but it existed long before the GOP and the Constitution makes it very hard to scrape. Gerrymandering is another issue that might be easier to end but is still Herculean.

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                                  • The only things computers do better than models is stupid models, predicated on stupid input.

                                    I often see people post “computer generated” maps (like the ones that split up a state into districts based on something like “least lines required to get the correct populations” or other such very simple criteria) and talk about how unbiased it is.

                                    They can’t seem to grasp how stupid it is either, because the people advocating it don’t understand why we have districts in the first place. It’s not there so politicians can represent a random collection of acres.

                                    I mean it’s absolutely true you generated a non-partisan map based on objective math, but you also split random parts of towns and rural areas across 200 miles into one “district” that can’t be represented (all we have in common is “being in your non-partisan district”) effectively or faithfully.

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                                    • What you could do is insist that districts be largely convex, and concave segments beyond a certain quality metric have to be justified through a manner that is non-partisan (the district lines follows a geographic or political boundary (city or county line) or something similar. And suspect lines that closely follow historical voting patterns are extra suspect.

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                                      • Except county lines don’t actually mean anything either. They’re generally incidental to how people set themselves up.

                                        You can design bad algorithms that work (as in they produce districts with the right number of people) all day long. You can produce highly gerrymandered districts with them too, because you’re maximizing (say) as many R districts as you can as long as they’re at least R+5….

                                        But un-gerrymandered districts? What defines that? Is it 50/50 districts? Compactness? Community boundaries?

                                        What’s a “good district” anyways? How much emphasis to place on local boundaries, on race, on anything else?

                                        A computer just does what you tell it to. The hard part here is…what do you tell it?

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                                        • Except county lines don’t actually mean anything either. They’re generally incidental to how people set themselves up.

                                          But those are good things. Speaking without any actual mathematical foundation, in a situation where the number of districts is much smaller than the number of counties, a small set of rules based on aggregating counties — contiguous, compact, within population limits, with an escalating penalty function for county divisions — should yield reasonable districts. The most egregious gerrymanders all seem to slice counties up like crazy.

                                          Granted, I’m probably over-simplifying because I think in terms of states west of the Mississippi, where counties are largely either just a rectangular grid, or have boundaries that should have political consequences.

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                                                • Competitiveness is almost exactly the opposite of what we want to be aiming for.

                                                  Not only does that not make much sense in theory (So a group that is exactly equally composed of Democrats and Republicans should be represented by just one of them?), but it makes almost no sense in practice, because in practice the amount of undecided people is like 5%, which in a small district with low turnout, can literally be a dozen of people.

                                                  So you’re basically deciding things by coin flips.

                                                  The major problem here is that we’ve decided to do nothing officially by political party, despite the fact that political parties are part of everything.

                                                  In other countries, they have proportional representation, where people, in addition to voting for a local rep, also vote for a party, and whatever percentage that party wins, they get to put representatives in.

                                                  I would suggest not only doing that, but getting rid of the idea of a local rep. If the area is so large that some locality is needed, we can have giant districts, where we just merge together five or so districts, and do the proportional thing inside that.

                                                  But here in the US, we freak the hell out when even anyone suggests that maybe the exact location of your residence is not the most important thing about your political identity, or suggests ‘maybe we should vote for the party and let them pick some people’.

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                                                  • So you’re basically deciding things by coin flips.

                                                    You’re also sharply limiting the power of the loony left and the loony right. The nominated Democrat faces an election where the Republican and Independent voters will have a say. If he unduly threatens them and their interests, then they’ll turn out in droves and shut him out.

                                                    So presumably we don’t have politicians compete with each other on how anti-X they can be if “X” is reasonably popular with the other side. The successful politicians will be ones that can reach out to the other sides voters rather than just demonize them.

                                                    IMHO this will be a good thing and increase stability, not decrease stability.

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                                              • At absolute minimum, districts should also respect the boundaries of cities, counties, neighborhoods and communities of Interest, and minimize their division, to the extent possible.

                                                I personally also like factoring competitiveness into the equation, but that’s controversial. Simply trying to draw compact districts is going to lead to absurd results where a district has no coherent goals because its a random cross-section of the state.

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                                                • …communities of Interest…

                                                  Always a challenge to define these. Last redistricting, one of the proposals — from the Republicans in the legislature, I believe — would have put rural SE Colorado in a district along with Colorado Springs. Both are solidly conservative, safely Republican. What happened, I assume as much to the surprise of the Republican legislators as anyone, was a huge outcry from the rural counties: “Don’t put us in a district with those bastards from the Springs! All they want is to steal our water for themselves and our land for the Army*. We need to be in a district with a Representative that’s not beholden to them.”

                                                  * The US Army has long wanted to use eminent domain to take an area roughly the size of Massachusetts to use for an expansion of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (a playground for tank battalions, including live fire areas). While the Army has backed off, no one in the area believes that they’ve really given up.

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                                                  • FWIW, as a Colorado Springs resident with a rural background, this surprised me not at all. It’s also worth noting that while Congressionally we’re solidly Republican, otherwise we show (to dedicated Republicans at least) very disturbing signs of wobbliness. Viz Michael Bennett, Viz some city councilors being practically socialists (*gasp*). That could turn into a successful Congressional run, especially given Springsians’ propensity to move across town whenever we feel like it. So I can see why the party would be trying to consolidate us with some other Republicans a bit, all the while paying zero attention to the idea that stuff like Piñon Canyon doesn’t actually split along Democrat/Republican lines once you get outside the suburbs.

                                                    Um, tl;dr great example. :D

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                                                • Not counties. County lines are pretty arbitrary. I’d put geographic lines (like rivers) above that.

                                                  Cities, neighborhoods, towns, communities of interest yes. Heck, I’d even look into trying for similar population density across a district — the interests of rural voters and urban voters are pretty different, after all.

                                                  One thing is — you want a district that can be represented. If you build a bunch of 50/50 districts, you’ve got politicians getting tossed every election based on random electorate movement, and where every decision he or she makes will likely tick off half the district — and he can’t even say “I want to represent my district” because it’s evenly divided.

                                                  Compact districts CAN be represented. The folks in my city and the neighboring two or three have an awful lot in common. But my district is a tiny chunk of my town, then 100 miles of rural emptiness straight to the border. 80% of my district is rural, whose interests…aren’t the same as a mid-sized town.

                                                  (And yes, it was drawn that way to dilute a Democratic votes.)

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                                                  • And here’s the problem. You can make an argument for population clusters, municipal regions, and commonalities, and that means there’s more than one reasonable standard. You can’t program multiple reasonable standards. Someone has to decide between them.

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                                                    • Exactly this.

                                                      We can have these arguments (around me, counties sure seem like reasonable landmarks (but then, they often track geographic features)) but we need to pick something more complex than “compactness” and you can’t just average everything out. Which is why this stuff is hard, and a programmer with a hobby isn’t going to “solve” it.

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                                                      • I’m gonna go ahead and agree 100% with here. The bottom line, this is a political question. Period. And all the thought on algorithms, programs and models can not get past that simple problem. Where is the actual boundary of a city? How far out does a minority community extend? Those are just two of the myriad questions that will be raised. And the answer to those questions will differ solely by who you ask.

                                                        This is why we have politics, as ugly, messy, unfair, ruthless and foreseen as they may be.

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                                                    • Yep, knotty problem and not really solvable by computer algorithm.

                                                      One reason I’m pretty fond of the efficiency gap test (one of the ones used in the Wisconsin redistricting case) is that it sidesteps all of that — it doesn’t ask about individual district shapes. It merely sums over the whole state and asks “Is this map basically representative”?

                                                      All things considered, in a two party system — most people feel a given scheme is “fair” if a party gets 55% of the votes and gets roughly 55% of the seats. If you get 40% of the votes but pull 65% of the seats, clearly there’s a problem. (State wide. It should roughly average).

                                                      Now it doesn’t tell you how to make a map “fair” — it’s just a good test (assuming you decide what the error bars are — I think the Wisconsin case argues about 7 points ) for seeing if things are really off the rails.

                                                      In the end, I don’t think the question about what makes a good district, or a fair district is all that solvable– but I’m pretty happy that there might be a way to say “This overall result is bad”.

                                                      Of course, this all assumes you think partisan gerrymandering is an unwanted thing. Which some people argue. (I think, more than anything, that partisan gerrymandering screws the country. It results in less representative districts, less representative government, more polarization, and less compromise.

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                                        • You misunderstand.

                                          The computer doesn’t draw up the districts, we leave that to the political process as before. What we do is decide on some geometric quality metrics and allow a computer to score the districts shape. If the shape scores low because the shape is like this, then it has to be justified for non-partisan reasons.

                                          Then give the public 30 days to review the new lines and rationales, and if someone has an objection to the stated rationales (the lines are magically following voting patterns, etc.), they can argue it in front of a judge. After 30 days, the lines are set.

                                          It won’t stop gerrymandering, because people are really clever, but it could serve to make it not so egregious. Maybe that R+7 gets knocked down to an R+3, that kind of thing.

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                                          • It won’t stop gerrymandering, because people are really clever, but it could serve to make it not so egregious. Maybe that R+7 gets knocked down to an R+3, that kind of thing.

                                            Let me play devil’s advocate for a second, because I have a rather weird opinion about this, in that I don’t object to deliberately making districts represent certain groups of like-minded people, to some extent.

                                            If there’s a distinctly conservative area, and a distinctly liberal area, I think we’re probably better off if they each have their own representative, instead of having two districts each composed of parts of both.

                                            Weirdly, I like this because it helps the poor, in that if you have, for example, four districts that are half-wealthy and half-poor, then all the politicians are going to be paying attention to the part of their district where the money is. But have two wealthy and two poor districts, and suddenly the wealthy and poor, in theory, have equal say.

                                            So the problem is gerrymandering is not, in my mind, that districts can sometimes be weird shapes, or not even that districts might be drawn to keep some sort of (Utterly arbitrary) group of like-minded people together. I am fine with that.

                                            Basically, I am in favor of ‘politically neutral gerrymandering’. If we end up with a map of somewhere where there are both Republican districts and Democratic districts, and they all average about 70%/30% because the groupings are ‘communities’ that have different values and populations, and the total representation basically works out to what you’d expect the place to be, whatever. (Although note I come from an open primary state, which probably influences my thinking there.)

                                            The problem, in my mind, is mostly when districts are made up to deliberately reduce the representation of like-minded groups of people where they get even less representatives than they would have had otherwise. Either by putting most of them in a single district, or spreading them out in districts where they are 40% of the voters, or both.

                                            This is even worse than just creating the districts randomly. And in the real world, I don’t know how to end up with what I want without getting what is currently going on, and I’d rather have random chance than what we have now, so I’m all in favor of forcing mathematical rules, but we should be aware that dividing voters basically randomly is not ideal either.

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                                            • I know it’s a big reach, but I like the German approach of having half (IIRC) the seats go by district and then having the other half of the seats determined proportionally. It eliminates a lot of the percentage in gerrymandering, but retains the benefit of people having representation that not only follows their partisan preferences, but also has an understanding of, and connection to, their local concerns.

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                                              • Heh, I just said that in different reply to you.

                                                And then I suggested, instead of having any of the seats determined as we do now, we just sorta have larger districts [edit: With proportional representation, I mean.], so large that gerrymandering doesn’t make a lot of sense, but people in them are still local-ish.

                                                This might also involve putting more representatives in whatever we are talking about, though.

                                                Actually, if we could just take each existing district and then make it contain five representatives, allocated proportionally, suddenly gerrymandering makes a hell of a lot less sense.

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                                                • Right. One thing I noticed (along with their clever hybrid voting system) is that Germany has more than 600 people in its lower house of parliament, despite having a population about a quarter the size of the US’s.

                                                  I’m pretty sure we could have both more Representatives and multi-member districts without Constitutional changes.

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                                                  • I keep being surprised every time I realize that if US House districts had the kind of populations used for British Parliamentary constituencies, the House would have about 3,000 members. I’m always tempted to believe that the US has simply outgrown its system of representative government.

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                                                        • I think part of the problem would lie in convincing voters who at least theoretically believe in smaller government (R) or more money for the people, less for the 1 percent (D) that the way to unbreak the government would be to pay a lot more people congressional salaries.

                                                          Unless, of course, one made it less profitable to be a congressperson. But we all know how those kinds of Congressional votes go.

                                                          And I note the above as someone who has been saying the US is just too big for the government that it has since about six months after I got here. I like the idea of 3000 Reps, I just have no idea how to get there from here.

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                                                          • Following up on that, Maribou, seems to me that if *better* representation is the problem we’re trying to fix, small gummint conservatives have the right answer: give more power back to the states where those needs can presumably be better met. Seems to me that more representatives in the House will absolutely *not* lead to finer grained legislation. If anything it will lead to even more cynicism within and about the legislative process.

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                                                            • I don’t know for sure, but I’m somewhat inclined to agree with you. I mean, for all everyone thinks of Canada as this universally socialist lump, I actually grew up under a system (which is still the system) where the provinces have a lot more power than states do here. So most decisions were a lot more… accessible… even leaving the order-of-magnitude population differences aside.

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                                                              • That is kinda the problem. Everybody is way too concerned with how the other states are doing government, so everyone tries to force the issue through at the federal level.

                                                                I can appreciate that you care about how Mississippi is doing government, but you do get that they might not actually want you to?

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                                                                • May be my (mis)perception, but… My morning news read is Denver Post (for local coverage), then LA Times (for regional coverage*), then Washington Post (for the national stuff). The two western papers worry about the feds some, but not other states. After reading the Washington Post these days, I’ve been feeling like the non-West is busy fighting Reconstruction all over again, with somewhat different boundaries.

                                                                  * My experience is that the LA Times will pick up any major regional stories as far east as the Mountain West states. YMMV.

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                                                                  • I’ve always felt that the NE & the SE are always yelling at each for doing state government wrong across various fronts, and out west, CA (and WA & OR) are telling the rest of the mountain states that they are doing government wrong.

                                                                    Seriously, though, if whatever it is isn’t clearly flowing over state lines as a 1st order issue, let it go.

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                                                                    • I side with my friend the anthropologist who looks at the American West professionally. The West’s culture is set by its (relatively dense) suburbs; individual state suburbs are influenced but certainly not dominated by their particular urban core; and all of the western suburbs are more like each other than they are like anything east of the Great Plains (he agrees with me that the vast empty of the Great Plains is the dividing line between East and West).

                                                                      I claim that the “pulse” of the West is not determined by looking at its legislatures, but by the trends in ballot initiatives. Currently: relaxed attitudes towards marijuana; higher minimum wages; independent redistricting; vote by mail. There has been a sharp change compared to the initiatives that were running 20-25 years ago.

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                                                                  • less federal involvement doesn’t mean *no* federal involvement. human rights stuff (protecting minorities in many different senses of the word) is the #1 responsibility of the canadian gov’t, #2 being economic redistribution (aka helping provinces meet their commitments to each other).
                                                                    I mean, I’m not saying the US would turn out like that, but letting go of the federal reins in general wouldn’t necessarily mean letting go of everything…

                                                                    I mean, whilst we are discussing scenarios we have no idea how to make happen and all :).

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                                                                    • Well.. with the federal reins where they are now, we have states where legal abortions are unavailable, where disenfranchisement is rampant, etc. So it’s hard to see why loosening the reins would cause states to back off of those practices.

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                                                                    • The Constitution binds state governments to respect the political and civil rights of minorities, and prohibits both the state and federal governments from doing a goddamn thing about my immortal soul.

                                                                      The worst enemies federalism in the United States are the people who’ve spent two centuries using it as an excuse to violate the principles our nation is supposed to be founded on.

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                                                                          • But those are things actually in the constitution (through the amendments), granting the federal government the power to protect the rights and ensure the liberty of all citizens. Therefore, those aren’t issues where one state is pushing a law at the federal level that impacts how another state is governed.

                                                                            Federal policy on health or education are two topics that come to mind where states (BSDI) spend way too much energy trying to influence how other states do things.

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                                                                            • OK, yes, I agree with all that.

                                                                              I think federalism is a double-edged sword at best, but that’s more about creating good policy, not political legitimacy. It’s even possible that (gross historical associations aside) it makes for more political legitimacy at the expense of crummier policy.

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                                                                            • But health insurance benefits from scale, for example, and many states have proven utterly unwilling to even attempt appropriate individualized solutions.

                                                                              As for education, guess who loses when Oklahoma cuts taxes so low they can’t provide five days of public school a week. It isn’t the rich white kids in private school.

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                                                                              • Such justifications enable all manner of interference. Right up there with ‘for the children’ and saving just one life. Didn’t take much of that to get the war on drugs rolling, and those very same justifications stymie the efforts of Western States to try rolling that back.

                                                                                So sorry, unless it’s something pretty fundamental, federal interference like that is the lazy way for the people of wealthy states to force their preferences on the poorer states.

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                                                                    • Different “they”s. I completely get why people resent being told by the other party how to live their lives. I feel that way about DC now. It doesn’t mean I don’t care how minorities, poor people, and pregnant women/etc are treated in red states. And I don’t see why the fact they are majority-red voting states means that I shouldn’t care (especially since it certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t want my tax dollars)

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                                                        • Just speculating, I can think of a number of reasons why current House members might resist a significant increase in size:

                                                          1) Loss of prestige. The pond got bigger but the number of committees and subcommittees is likely to remain unchanged. It’s a lot harder to reach the level where you’re more than a back-bencher.

                                                          2) Space. Adding ~100 more people to the chamber for joint sessions leaves the place looking completely jammed. The seating layout would probably have to be changed to something more like the British Commons arrangement. Being a back-bencher takes on additional meaning. Ditto for offices used by members and their staff.

                                                          3) Loss of control. One answer to (2) is for the House to meet somewhere else. Assuming the Senate prefers to stay in the Capital, the House would need to get the Senate’s permission to convene at that somewhere else (Article 1, Section 5).

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                                                • Multi-member districts are a risk, though, because combined with clever line-drawing they allow for even worse minority disenfranchisement (though, concededly, that outcome is easiest to pull off with a winner-take-all multi-member district).

                                                  The Jim Crow era implementation was to take a southern city, figure out how many members it should have, and select them by city-wide winner-take-all election. So you got your 60% white population (say) picking 100% of the representatives. You probably never get to get a clean sweep that way under a proportional multi-member district, but you can likely shoot well above your expected outcome pretty easily.

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                                            • I don’t object to population representation either, I’m just not a fan of crafting tortured district shapes in order to maintain an incumbent advantage, not only because It’s political cherry picking, but because tortured shapes confuse the voting population as to what district they are in.

                                              The districts should not have strange lobes or extremely concave shapes, it’s confusing to people.

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                                            • This is basically my take: random is better than the status quo and I don’t know how to be non-random without an eventual return to the status quo.

                                              There is an online simulation where you have to draw lines based on increasingly specific and complicaed criteria and you quickly realize how hard it is to do this while trying to serve human preferences.

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                                    • “They can’t seem to grasp how stupid it is either, because the people advocating it don’t understand why we have districts in the first place. It’s not there so politicians can represent a random collection of acres.”

                                      What’s worse: What we have now -OR- somewhat randomized districts in which a guy in the local downtown area is represented by the same person as the guy 10 miles away on a farm?

                                      The goal should not be homogenous districts of any kind.

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              • Shelby County took away important parts of the VRA which have not been restored. Federal oversight of some states was removed which has led to findings by judges that those states, Texas off the top of my head and one other, have been intentionally discriminating.

                So not really.

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                • I do not understand why, if both sides supposedly like the VRA, they don’t just extend all of Section 4(b) to everyone. There doesn’t even seem to be a move towards that.

                  As for the SC saying you can’t use someone’s grandparents to decide who is a racist, that seems reasonable.

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                  • Yeah that is reasonable, but not what Shelby County did. That would also be a better argument if states haven’t been gonged since Shelby for discriminating. In fact it makes that argument downright terrible.

                    Well the D’s kept saying lets fully renew the VRA. I’m sure all the D’s would vote for it now. It must have been one of the opposition parties.

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                    • That would also be a better argument if states haven’t been gonged since Shelby for discriminating. In fact it makes that argument downright terrible.

                      I know a number of people who are better than their parents, even if that wouldn’t have been the way to bet when they’re born.

                      And if memory serves, not all the states covered have been gonged, and there’s a strong argument that other places which aren’t covered should be now.

                      the D’s kept saying lets fully renew the VRA.

                      What does that mean in practice? Update the data? Cover everyone?

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    • I often think it comes from the modern liberal tendency to think they are the true warriors of social objectivity,

      At the risk of kicking off a lengthy tangent about an aside, I think this is an ongoing tendency [1], and has as much to do with conservatives having little interest in social objectivity [2] as it does liberals aggressively staking it out as their ground. This was famously mocked by one Karl Rove not so long ago, with his “reality-based community”, but that’s not the beginning or the end of it.

      Liberals have a tendency towards consequentialist ethics [3], and if you’re a consequentialist, well, finding an objective picture of what is happening now is pretty important, so you can evaluate your future course of action. Conservatives tend to be very skeptical of consequentialism, so they have less reason to pursue objectivity or value it. When they do, it’s usually more of a defensive gambit, and often a half-hearted one. Carefully collecting data about the world is of limited value if your focus is on embodying the virtues revered by your forefathers, after all.

      There are folks on the right who are much more concerned about gathering data about society and using it to guide policy, but they tend to be libertarian sorts, and this is part of the heritage they share with modern American left-liberals.

      [1] And one that’s only a little more modern than the very idea of liberalism.

      [2] Providing I’m interpreting you correctly.

      [3] OK, I’m going to be generalizing wildly here. What else is the Internet for?

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      • That’s a really good response.

        There is some problems in the term conservative.
        The social norms are what anchor conservatives pretty well centered right. When there is conflict or authoritarian escalation there is a tendency to move up the y-axis. When there is no conflict they tend decentralize and de-escalate to closer to the lower right center near libertarians. So to say the conservative faction is in constant drift and not well defined, I think, is true.

        Power politics is a problem, in that, to create a large social faction tends to pull people to collectivist factions, so what we see is a drift into statism and national socialism.

        I think you have touched on something that needs to be unpacked a little more. There is little interest, or buy-in to social objectivity on the right. Social objectivity is something that is of major importance to the left, but less so to the right. For the left to reach for policy or ‘ethics’ they must come up with a fairly uniform social objectivity, or any collective they build will soon splinter.

        This is not a operational parameter that has to exist on the right. The right typically is interested in individual parameters. They don’t require or need the social structuring outside whatever norms they have adopted.

        I ask to pause and think about that a minute. The only kind of quasi social glue holding the right together is some soft agreed to norms. What happens when another faction goes in and starts wrenching those norms without consent? I’m not proposing this as an afront to consequetialism, but just think of the consequence of pushing around a highly fluid faction that can drift in ways unknown and has no buy-in to social objectivity (is probably not the best tact).

        If you want to appeal to the right, you have to appeal to individual constructs, or else the two sides aren’t going to mesh. (this of course doesn’t account for social norms that have distorted the rights concept of individualism)

        Libertarians are a mixed bunch also, and I can’t account for why some on the right would be data gathering except to bend policy a little more in favor of individual sovereignty.

        That’s kind of my two cents on it.

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        • There’s a lot here, and I won’t try to address all of it.

          What happens when another faction goes in and starts wrenching those norms without consent? I’m not proposing this as an afront to consequetialism, but just think of the consequence of pushing around a highly fluid faction that can drift in ways unknown and has no buy-in to social objectivity (is probably not the best tact).

          It’s very hard to say, and of course being a consequentialist is, alas, no guarantee that one will do a good job assessing the consequences of one’s actions.[1] I do think I’ve observed an interesting tendency on the right, however, to magnify the scope of any possible push until it’s an existential threat, both for commercial reasons (to draw clicks, ad dollars, et c.) and political ones (people in leadership positions often want more power).

          As for libertarians, some get where they are reasoning from some sort of first principles about natural rights or the like, but quite a few come to it from basically utilitarian impulses, being (understandably) impressed by the results of laissez faire capitalism to create huge piles of utils.

          Utilitarianism was a byproduct of classical liberalism after all, and many libertarians view themselves as the true inheritors of that tradition, while thinking us left-liberals to be a bunch of pretenders.[2] For them individual sovereignty is more the solution to another problem than the ultimate goal in and of itself.

          Of course, utilitarianism can be tough to square with heavily individualistic approaches to governance. Once you start trying to optimize outcomes for the population as a whole, things can get very tricky.

          [1] I think the Enlightenment was, on balance, a very good thing, but calling it “the Enlightenment” was a bad move. There’s nothing worse for your intellectual immune system than constantly telling yourself how clever you are. C.f. the contemporary “Rationalist” clique online, or your 17 least favorite articles on Vox.

          [2] Being a left-liberal myself, I obviously don’t think I’m a pretender, but I don’t think those sorts of libertarians are pretender either.

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  7. “Homosexual behavior is crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous,” he wrote in a Supreme Court opinion earlier, “that it defies one’s ability to describe it.”

    In addition to the obvious surface issues, what should also get noted is the rank hypocricy of certain conservatives that don’t care about the overt judcial activism of what Moore did here.

    From what I can tell reading this, it was a child (teenagers) custody case where the issues before the Alabama Supreme Court were standards of evidence at the trial court level and how much authority the intermediate appeals court had or did not have when overturning parts of the trial court ruling.

    Moore took it upon himself to write a concurrent opinion that delved in the legal status of homosexuality in the state of Alabama (at that time) and its relationship with ‘natural law’. When it was never an issue at the trial court level. (or rather, the trial court said something like ‘for the purposes of this ruling the fact that the mom is a drunk lesbian and the dad beats the kids doesn’t really matter, even though, for the record, we don’t like either thing’).

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