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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Maybe The Conservatives Are Right -- Intolerance Is Good

Whenever I start my little naval-gazing trips, I usually start with "Why is this country so messed up, and headed in the exact wrong direction?" The answer to that is easy, the conservative Republicans are in charge of the entire Federal Government (well, except for the executive branch, which is controlled by neo-cons). Conservatives are deeply beholden to the "religious right" because it was the fundamentalist Christians who swept them into office and have kept them there since. For the record, that is how Democracy works, the vote-getters are rewarded with public office, so I cannot complain about that -- this is the voter's fault. Given this, what can be done to fix things? That is where my gazing has taken me.

One obvious fact is that Democrats have been hugely unsuccessful at winning elections. This is nearly unimaginable given that the majority of Americans support the goals and policies of Democrats, yet they still vote in Republicans. In a nutshell, the difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Rs support complete deregulation of business, and uber-regulation of the personal lives of Americans, and Ds support more regulation of business and deregulation of personal lives of Americans. As are pro-civil rights for all Americans, Rs want to force all Americans into living under strict Christian law (an American Taliban, if you will.) America was based on a live-and-let-live credo, and it still permeates American thought today. The fundamental Christians want to remove that, and make anything they don't agree with, illegal. Sex before marriage? Gone. Unregulated sex within marriage? Gone. Abortion, homosexuality, birth control, marriage rights for all, equality for women, minorities, religion? All gone. Children being raised by the religious choices of their parents and not that of the state? Gone with a capital G! Science? Gone, we can learn all we need to know about the universe from the Bible.

With that background of policy on the personal forefront, Rs should, in theory, be run out of government on a rail, long before enough time has passed to tar and feather them. But this has not happened. America is still voting for the same people who want to take away the very rights Americans cherish most. Again, Why is that?

I think the answer is simple. Intolerance.

Conservatives have locked on to that concept and will not let go for anything. The beauty of intolerance is that it plays directly into the fears of people. Once you have scared the public into fearing the unknown (or possible), getting them to vote your way is easy.

Democrats, on the other hand preach tolerance to a fault, unless it suits them to be intolerant. It is this dichotomy that turns off voters. Consider this screed by "liberal" Melinda Barton in Raw Story. There she embraces some of the old-fashioned, down-home intolerance made famous by conservatives everywhere. She demonizes atheists, and in the process, shoots another nail into the coffin of Democrat progressivity. PZ Myers intelligently dismantles her argument here. But the story does not end there. He also wrote a guest column for Raw Story that presents an alternative view.

We have clearly come up against the same wall we always hit. How to define tolerance, and get the message out. PZ does a good job, but still does not make the clear distinction for what it means to be tolerant/intolerant. Intolerance of bad policy bad advice is not only acceptable, it is mandatory. Intolerance of viewpoints or opinions that differ from yours is bad, in an Eeeeviilllee sort of way. Intolerance of differing lifestyles, religions, gender, race, is outright illegal.

Tolerance, on the other hand, is not so easy. Thus, the probable reason why so many Democrats trip all over it. Tolerance of the KKK, for example, is a non-starter. But how do you go about explaining that one cannot be tolerant of the KKK, yet be very tolerant of that upcoming (in the generic sense) gay pride parade? That is not easy to explain. It comes down to defining harm of the society. The KKK preaching hate towards minorities leads to unrest and violence. Gay Pride marches (desire to) lead to equality and acceptance. Drawing that line, is difficult. It cannot be done in a soundbyte.

That is where conservatives have the advantage. Their preaching of straight up intolerance is easy. "Hate Gays, or they will turn your children gay!" "A woman's place is in the home. If they get equality, then there will be no one left to raise the kids; and drugs, pregnancy, gang violence will result!" Of course, there is the whole barrel of Christian fear-mongering along the line of this being a "Christian Nation" and simply allowing people to choose other religious doctrines will lead to the destruction of our civilization.

That said, the answer is clear. Democrats need to switch from a message of tolerance, to one of intolerance. Hammer away using a simple, easy to understand message combining intolerance with fear:

The Democrat party will not now, nor will it ever stand for intolerance. The Conservative Republicans want to take away your happiness, your freedom, your liberty, and replace it with their brand of dictatorship. If you want the right to raise your children how you see fit, go to the church of your choice, choose your own lifestyle, then vote for the true party of intolerance, the Deomcrats. Democrats will fight the control over you and your loved ones pushed by the Republicans.


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