Wednesday, November 29, 2006

American Civil War: A New One--Updated

Is a new American Civil War possible? I've mused on this notion, mostly dismissing it because it's so uncomfortable to contemplate and then Glenn Reynolds writes about it today in his TCS Column:

One question is "who's 'we' here?" I don't see much of a sign that the American public -- which, after all, overwhelmingly favored centrists in this month's elections -- is as divided as Card suggests. But -- as Card also notes -- the elites are much more divided, and the media tend to play up those divisions, because division and conflict are good story-drivers. ("We live in a time when moderates are treated worse than extremists, being punished as if they were more fanatical than the actual fanatics.") To the "activist" crowd on the left and right, people who don't share their views 100% are evil, and on the other side. This tends to backfire politically, which I think is why the elections favored centrists this time, but that doesn't stop the polarization. In a way, it tends to make it worse.
He brings up an interesting point here about the moderates in the middle. He talks about them being treated worse than the extremists. Hmmm.... I have found myself riled up by "moderates"--not because they are so philosophically far away from my views but because they seem so ignorant of their own views. Some don't know what they believe or why. This leads to places where voting comes down to "feelings" and the big picture is ignored in deference to the immediate and expedient.

What do I mean? Well, in the recent election a slew of centrists were elected, but they were Democrat. They said the right things to get elected, but the sum total of their election will mean a complete course change (leaving it behind) on fighting the War on Terror. Why? Because the newly-elected centrists will have zip to say about policy. The old extreme leftist guard will be putting forth legislation. The newbies will tow the line--or else.

I can understand the dilemmas posed by two parties so corrupt and smug and self-satisfied and utterly unconcerned about the voter's views. I can understand wanting to smack them all down. The moderates, those least likely to have a philosophy beyond "everyone should be nicer", sent a message: be nice!

But what does "be nice" mean? Does it mean be nicer to fetuses? Does it mean be nicer to terrorists? Does it mean be nicer to gay people? Does it mean be nicer to white and oriental people? (Affirmative action was smacked down in Michigan.)

I think this is what the moderates want:
  • Abortion: Make it hard to get and fewer in number, but keep it legal. It's probably a wrong, but a necessary evil. Besides, almost all my girlfriends have had one, I have too. Does that make me bad?
  • Gay marriage: Gay people are nice. They are our friends. We just feel like marriage is a word that means between man and woman and should stay that way.
  • War on Terror: We know there are bad guys out there, but do we need to have so many of our guys blown up? The notion of a long, protracted, messy war makes me queasy in the stomach. I don't know the solution, but I don't like what's happening. Can we just come home and regroup? They all hate us anyway.
  • Social Security: The trouble is fifteen years away, do we really need to think about it?
  • Affirmative Action: Racism is a rarity and wrong. It is wrong to have institutional racism, too. It's unfair to treat people differently. Racial preferences do that.
  • Taxes: Life has been good the last couple years but I'm still living beyond my means trying to keep up with the Jones. I've got lots of credit card debt. This makes me nervous. And then Social Security might not be secure. I don't want taxes to go up on me, but I think it would be okay for taxes to go up on anyone who makes more money than me.
  • Oil dependence: We know that using oil makes us dependent on other countries, but we just don't like the idea of digging holes in our tundra or ocean. That just seems bad. Let's keep things the same. I'll drive a hybrid and recycle to make myself feel better.
  • Immigration: We need a border fence for security. I really like my lawn guy and housekeeper. They are guilty pleasures, really. I wish they spoke better English, though. And I don't like subsidizing their health care costs, nevermind the bilingual program at school.
  • Media: They mostly tell the truth. I don't read the new media much. They're all so opinionated. It makes me uncomfortable.
Mostly, I see a trend of denial and ignorance. Those on the far Left and far Right have "solutions" based on philosophy driven by core beliefs. The moderates find a strongly held opinion very uncomfortable. They find finding solutions uncomfortable. They find the current political climate uncomfortable. They find the world situation uncomfortable.

We currently have a Congress who will probably come up with legislation that angers everyone--if they're capable of coming up with any at all. Negotiating compromise in this Congress will be like walking through chest-high glue. I don't expect much progress.

Maybe that's good for the country. Don't expect the philosophically motivated to see it that way, though. That's why Civil War isn't out of the question.

UPDATE: But what is happening at the edges of society?

Well, in Academia mob rule and eliminating dialogue is the order of the day. Will we come to a place where people choose their higher learning institution based on philosophy? Doesn't that work against the very notion of a liberal arts education?

The Anchoress has two very significant posts on the Media and War on Terror. How can you have moderate views on this issue? And here is a look at the enemy via Betsy. Again, I ask: how can you have moderate views on this issue?

How can you be moderate about press abuses unless you're uniformed or just plain cynical? Gateway Pundit has more about the AP bogus story.

And then, all one has to do is look around the world to see America's future should we give up the fight against Islamic terrorism. And there are some Americans who believe Sharia is a good idea in a multicultural world. How do you have a moderate opinion about this?

The problem as I see it, is that there are too many issues that require too much opinion. Moderation is likely to get one killed. So are the majority of Americans really moderate about the War on Terror?


Antoinette said...

Bravo Dr. M. you so neatly and succintly summed up the mind boggling hypocrisy of the "moderate." And remember that Glen Reynolds is in favor of gay marriage, abortion on demand and legalizing drugs, that doesn't sound very moderate to me.

As for the civil war we are currently in, and yes we are, let me give you a sample. My son was talking to his grandmother, my husbands step-mother. I had explained to him, in terms I thought a 7 year old could understand, the sometimes soldiers had to go and fight countries that had attacked the US or were going to attack the US. He told his grandmother that countries that attacked the US were bad, children are naturally judgemental you know. His grandmother got on her high horse and said that it was not neccassarily bad for a country to attack the United States. This was where non-judgmentalism gets you, advocating treason without even being aware that is what you are doing. This is the "moderate" that Reynolds so cherishes, so completely incapable of making a judgment they have actually become suicidal and while they are being blown to bits by terrorists they will remind themselves that just because someone is attacking our country doesn't mean they are bad.

We are having a civil war of our own in my family. I think we can see this on a grander scale all around us in the country.

Antoinette said...

Oh I left out the part where my son was up all night crying. He thought he had done something wrong to tell his grandma that countries that attacked us were bad. How did things get this screwed up?

Gina Cobb said...

Fascinating post.

By the way, it's nice to have you back! I hope you're fully recovered or on your way to full recovery from your illness of the last few days.

Dr. Melissa said...


I feel like raw hamburger. Hopefully, things will improve. Thanks for your concern.


Glenn is a staunch WOT supporter. He is very socially liberal. He simply does not see the link between certain societal ills and what I see as the root causes--a fundamental disrespect for life, lack of commitment in marriage, and a general lack of, well, God-fearingness (another new word).

Actually, I worry less about Glenn than I do others. At least Glenn knows what and why he believes what he believes. He doesn't like government interference (although he doesn't view stem-cell research funding with my money as interference) and that drives his philosophy.

For every one Glenn Reynolds, though, there are 100 who hold milque-toast views because it just seems nicer. The bland indifference becomes dangerous. Kinda like driving the getaway car and pretending a crime wasn't committed.

David said...

Moderation can be used as an excuse for messing around with things at a superficial level, rather than dealing with the core problem. One thing I really respect about GWB is that he has tried to deal with the essence of tough problems, rather than just kicking the can down the road and letting someone else deal with it later. Three examples: terrorism, K-12 education, and social security.

David said...

At the same time, people are always going to disagree, and compromise and negotiation *are* important. And it's also important to realize that ideas, no matter how persuasive, may not work out in pracice the way they do in someone's head, and a certain humility/moderation are therefore a good idea.

I think one thing getting in the way of negotiation & compromise is that political ideas have increasingly become a badge of social status and even of professional affiliation. No matter how persuasive your arguments on Iraq (or whatever), they're probably not going to persuade the humanities professor whose friendships and career would be jeopardized by changing his opinions. (I'm picking on the professor because he's the most obvious example, but the same is true in many other circles)

Dr. Melissa said...


The question is can you disagree without being disagreeable? Yes, some people can do this. It's a hallmark of Democracy in fact.

How do you have discussions with people who don't know the issues and don't want to know them? And, what of the fear that prevents people from publicly saying their beliefs for fear of marginalization?

And here's another thing: what is viewed as "moderate" these days is really traditional Leftist thought. Our society has made consistent leftward moves. Can you imagine taking Great Grandma on a tour of the most visited web-sites?

Antoinette said...

Well you hit the nail on the head there, what exactly is "moderate." One person's moderation is to me hedonistic excess. 160 years ago moderation meant agreeing to allow certain human beings to own other certain human beings. It was only those awful extremists, those religous zealots who wanted to end slavery. But the good people, the moderate people were trying to figure out a way to compromise with the slave owners. Abolotionists are looked on very kindly today, but in their time they were seen as extremists trying to force their consciences (that's what they called values in those days) on the rest of the nation. History was not kind on those moderates, I don't think history will be any kinder on today's moderates.

And I am sorry I am filling your blog with all my rancor when I should be saying "oh you poor thing, I hope you feel better." I went on the Disney Cruise once and hated it for many reasons, but mind didn't sound as bad as yours.