Posts Tagged ‘Your Republican Uncle’

More On Your Republican Uncle

December 4, 2015

Something occurred to me while I was thinking about that silly website put out by the Democratic National Committee. They give out handy scripts for various Republican presidential candidates and five issues that someone might argue about with their Republican uncle. These issues are the ACA (Obamacare), climate, economy, immigrants and refugees, and equality. This last one dealing with voter ID and gay marriage. I didn’t think about it at first, but notice anything missing from this short list of subjects? There is nothing said about defense or foreign policy.

There is not much good that can be said for the President’s foreign policy, but his actions in fighting our enemies can perhaps be defended, maybe with an imaginary conversation like this.

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That Barack Obama is a weakling. He doesn’t know how to keep us safe from the terrorists.

 

smilies-03Actually, Barack Obama has launched more attacks with drones than Bush. He has been systematically killing leaders of terrorist organizations including Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for 9/11.

This is actually true and Obama’s drone war is probably the only thing he is doing that I thoroughly approved of. Of course killing terrorists with drones is not enough by itself. It is like trying to kill the hydra one head at a time.  It would be better if it were followed up by actual smart diplomacy and resolute leadership, two qualities Obama completely lacks, but I’ll give him credit where it is warranted.

So why wasn’t there a section like this? It may be that when the website was first put together foreign policy and defense did not seem to be important issues, but in the wake of the Paris attacks and other events, surely something could be added. Why isn’t more said about Obama’s war efforts in the media? They go out of their way to praise him and cover for his mistakes on every other issue. Not much ever seems to be said about his drone war, even when conservatives condemn Obama for not fighting terrorism. I wouldn’t expect to see the president of a civilized nation gloat about how many people have been killed during his watch, but surely there is something they could say. And, have the Democratic candidates, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, said anything about continuing or extending Obama’s anti-terrorist policies.

Part of this reticence might be because of the need for secrecy in matters of national security. It wouldn’t be a good idea to let the targets of these drone attacks to know too much about the drone’s capabilities and weaknesses. It may be useful for there to be some uncertainty whether a given target had been killed or is in hiding.

I think, though, that if the purpose of Your Republican Uncle is not really to teach the reader to win arguments with any Republican relatives but to help mobilize and energize the base for upcoming elections, than the topics selected must be those which the Democratic base, particularly the young, educated progressive must care the most about. This base may not be very concerned about the War on Terror and on foreign policy generally. At best, such concerns are a distraction from the more important project of fundamentally transforming this racist, intolerant, and just plain mean country into something better. At worst, they may believe that a oppressive, flawed country like the United States has no business leading the world in any sort of fight against terrorism, since we ourselves have bloody hands and are responsible for much of the evil in the world, including Islamic terrorism, which is, after all, only a response to US aggression in the Middle East and our support for the apartheid state Israel. They perhaps are not very concerned with protecting America and the West because the West is not worth fighting for. Our values are not superior to the terrorists and are likely even worse.

The problem with President Obama is not that he doesn’t particularly like the country he rules. The problem is that there are millions of voters willing to elect a man who shows a disdain for his country twice because they agree with him. If Obama has not been entirely successful in changing America, than America doesn’t deserve a man like Obama. How long can a nation survive if a large number of its population do not think it is worth preserving? What proportion of a nation’s population can be apathetic or even hostile to its ideals before the nation loses the will to live? Perhaps we are going to find out.

 

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A Venerable Holiday Tradition

November 30, 2015

The Holiday Season is here and coming with this joyous season are the various traditions we keep. Among the more venerable of these annual traditions are the handy lists of talking points provided by the Democratic National Convention and assorted left wing groups for the aid of young progressives who might want to ruin a holiday gathering with friends and family by starting arguments over politics.

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The holiday season is filled with food, traveling, and lively discussions with Republican relatives about politics sometimes laced with statements that are just not true. Here are the most common myths spouted by your family members who spend too much time listening to Rush Limbaugh and the perfect response to each of them.

These talking points are arranged by subject in the form of simple scripts to use in response to statements by a Republican uncle. These subjects include Obamacare, climate change, immigration, “equality”. and various presidential candidates. Thus if the Republican uncle says something like:

We should repeal Obamacare.

They provide a handy response.

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans who were uninsured a few years ago have coverage today — that’s more than 17 million people. If the ACA were repealed, millions of Americans would lose access to quality, affordable healthcare. And none of the Republican candidates for president have a plan to solve that problem.

There are smiley faces and frowny faces to ensure that the young progressive doesn’t become confused over which line to use.

I don’t know what someone is supposed to do if the Republican uncle departs from the script by using different arguments or answering the responses with facts of his own. For instance, the Republican uncle might note that if Obamacare has provided coverage for 1 in 3 uninsured Americans, this means that 2 in 3, a majority for the progressives who might not understand math, are still not covered, hardly a rousing success, not to mention that Obamacare co-ops in Oregon and Colorado have collapsed putting the future of the whole program in jeopardy. For climate change we have:

Climate change is just a liberal scare tactic.

And the response:

Why are conservatives more likely to believe that climate change is a conspiracy than to acknowledge what 97% of climate scientists-and the majority of Americans-believe? Climate change is real, and it’s man made. The Republican presidential field is living in denial.

He might point out that citing polls of climate scientists or the the general population is worthless unless you know how the poll was conducted, what were the precise questions were, how large was the sample size, etc. He might also point out that the same sort of dodgy statistical methods were used to generate the 97 % consensus as Michael Mann’s infamous hockey stick, and given their past history of scientific malpractice and outright deception, there is no reason to believe anything that the proponents of climate hysteria have to say.

I don’t think that the people who have written these scripts have had very much real contact with their Republican uncles. They mostly seem to be set up to deal with strawmen or a liberal’s caricature of what a conservative might say. They have a section on  Jeb Bush. I have never heard any conservative who supports Jeb Bush’s candidacy. I am not really sure who wants him for president, except for a group of big donors who are RINOs.

I have to wonder what the actual point of all of this is. Surely they don’t really believe that someone’s Republican uncle is going to experience some sort of epiphany and conversion after hearing their Democratic nephew spout off a memorized script? Do they really imagine a life long conservative smacking his forehead and saying something like, “By God you’re right! I have been misled my whole life by Rush Limbaugh and Faux News but now thanks to you I see the light!”. Somehow I doubt it.

I suppose the real purpose this exercise is to build loyalty and conviction in the people who are already Democrats, by giving them a feeling that they are part of the team fighting for the right. The Democratic nephew can read through and recite these talking points that he already agrees with and feel that he is part of the struggle to bring social justice to America, even if he doesn’t manage to convince his Republican uncle. All sorts of organizations from cults to corporations like to use this sort of technique and I see it in fundraising e-mails from both parties; send money to us and be part of the fight.

I have a suggestion for any young progressive who might want to have a political discussion with his Republican uncle. Instead of reciting bite-sized talking points intended for idiots incapable of thinking for themselves, why not try listening to your Republican uncle. He might have good reasons for believing the things he does. If he is older, he might have life experiences more valuable and relevant than what you might read on the internet. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says, you might still learn something and might be able to better understand why you believe the things you do. Try thinking for yourself for a change. Maybe you might both learn something.


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