Thursday, January 25, 2007

a reply to a post

The reason the rest of the world doesn't like us is because of the foreign policy of the bush administration. we had the world loving us on September 11, 2001...and then bush started drifting away from the war in Afghanistan (a war which I support and has since been forgotten like the War of 1812 and it's not looking as good as we were told...yeah we're fighting two wars). He created a new high school history term "the Axis of Evil" in the 2002 State of the Union...war with Iraq was on the way. The love from 9/11...gone. The war of choice has ruined us in the world militarily, diplomatically, and politically. We're still the world's strongest super power...but remember we invaded a sovereign nation for false reasons. Why create a whole new war, when we were still in Afghanistan. Concentration on terrorism should be a priority, not a country on the other side of the planet. Those two big oceans still protect us from countries like North Korea and Iraq. I'm not blaming America...I love this country and I want it to be the greatest nation and one that would make the Founding Fathers proud. We have from time to time acknowledged, some time too late, that we've done something wrong and we need to fix the problem. This administration has yet to take responsibility for this war...the White House likes to point out that the Congress shares blame, had Iraq been a success Bush would receive full credit.

Once the problem in Iraq is figured out and our troops are safely out of harms way, the United States should find a new energy source...cut all ties from the Middle East once on the new energy source. They're not ready for globalization and maybe neither are we. I'm for isolation, one that helps us better ourselves. We're not number one in every thing yet we go around claiming to be the best. Hurricane Katrina showed a lot and this country hasn't shown much back to that region, Katrina wasn't mentioned in the 2007 State of the Union address.

We have a lot to work on here at democracy, as the recent elections have shown both in campaign finances and voting rights. What's wrong with that, when we're good and ready we can reenter the world as a leader again, but without the whole Pax Americana thing. We can remain number one militarily without spending so much. We once did good in the world...with the Berlin airlifts, the Truman Doctrine, and the Marshall Plan. Very interventionist polices, far from the wishes of the founders. But at some point things went's as if the dark side took over. The CIA in Iran, the Korean War and Vietnam might be some of our turning points. And when we let a congress let a president get away with the creation of chaos, somethings wrong about that. It's okay to punish a president for lying about a sexual matter, but not lying about a war of choice...a bad choice.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Descent of the Republican Majority and the Emergence of a New Democratic Majority

Realignments have occurred throughout United States history guiding and shaping events. These realignments in the politics of our country occur when the people respond to social, political, and economic events. “Political scientist Walter Dean Burnham called realignments America’s ‘surrogate for revolution’” (Judis and Teixeira 2002, 12). This quote explains realignment nicely. Realignments have occurred because events like the economic depression in 1932 and the desire for social reform in 1980. Power has shifted from one party to another. After a period of dominance, the 1930s to the 1960s, by the Democrats and their liberal agenda, the Republicans began to gain a power base to propel them into power. Their conservative ideology is now on the way out as a new Democratic majority emerges.

The 1964 and 1968 elections saw the beginning of the transition from liberal dominance to a conservative ideology which took over after the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The elections of the 1990s were the transitions from the conservative movement to a new Democratic majority. The transition was interrupted by the September 11th terrorist attacks. The interlude of the terrorist attacks interrupted the transition, but the election of 2006 returns to the transition as trends show.

It is interesting to note how our nation arrived at this new transition to another realignment period by looking at the previous realignments throughout our history. Looking back on history we are able to see similarities, and differences, to help us better understand our present situation and look forward to the future.

George Washington was unanimously elected by electors to the presidency in 1789. He was once again unanimously reelected in 1792. In a time when men elected men to govern each other was not common place, Washington on his own chose not to run for a third term in 1796. He created a presidential tradition that lasted until 1940, when Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a third term. The Republicans in power then made the tradition a Constitutional Amendment with the 22nd Amendment. Washington giving up his power was a big thing in the late 18th Century. In his Farewell Address to the nation, President Washington warned against the formation of political parties. Political alliances still occurred no matter the warning. The election and removal of these political parties in power would contribute to the different realignments to come.

The nation saw its first partisan election in 1796. Vice President John Adams, who had views aligned with the Federalists, ran against the anti-Federalist, former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The vice president won the election, and Jefferson finished second, becoming vice president. Four years later, for the first and only time, the sitting vice president, Jefferson ran and won against incumbent President Adams. The election of 1800 was the first realignment in government from one political party to another, the Federalists to Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans.

This dominance of the government by the Democratic-Republicans would last until the election of 1824. The Federalists were non-existent after the War of 1812, with the exception of Chief Justice John Marshall appointed by President Adams. The War of 1812, our second battle for Independence, ended with no clear victor until two weeks after the treaty was signed with General Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans. The Federalists opposed the war, but in the end the Democratic-Republicans would exist alone in an “era of good feelings.” President James Monroe ran unopposed in his reelection in 1820. An elector cast one vote for Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, keeping the honor and tradition given to our nation’s founding father, George Washington of having been the only president unanimously elected to the office.

The election of 1824 contained four candidates for president as members of the same political party. Naturally since there was no opposition by another political party, a party with so many members was sure enough to have factions within itself. The four candidates were: then heir to the throne office of secretary of state and presidential son, John Quincy Adams; Tennessean General Andrew Jackson; Speaker of the House of Representatives Henry Clay; and William Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury. This was the first election where the popular vote would be counted, however not all states counted their popular votes in this election. The results of the election of 1824 would have Jackson, the Tennessean, in first; Adams, the son of a president, in second; Crawford in third and Clay in last. That is how the candidates placed in the recorded popular votes and the electoral votes they won.

There was no majority in the Electoral College, so the top three vote winners went to the House of Representatives, with each state having only one vote. John Calhoun was the vice presidential candidate on both the tickets of Adams and Jackson giving him enough electoral votes to be elected vice president, no need for the Senate to elect him. Crawford suffered a stroke just after the election and Clay placed fourth, so they were out. The election came down to the Tennessean with more popular votes (and electoral votes) versus the son of a president in second place and the election being decided by a branch of government and not the people’s choice becoming president. An election like this would not be seen again until November 2000. The Speaker of the House would make a deal with Adams, the stepping stone office of secretary of state for enough votes to make Adams president. Jackson and his supporters would call this a “corrupt bargain.” This would cause Jackson and his supporters to run a four year long campaign against the Adams administration.

The election of 1824 established a new realignment in government, the single-party, the Democratic-Republicans were divided. There were Jackson supporters and anti-Jacksonians, who in the next presidential election would label themselves the National Republicans. The Jacksonian Era would officially begin with Jackson’s election in 1828. The Whig Party would rise up after that election as an opposition to Jackson’s Democratic Party, elected in 1828. The Jacksonian Era would last until the Civil War, as the transition would occur the decade prior to the war.

The Civil War would occur because Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. The Whig Party was no more, so they joined with some Democrats to form the Republican Party, the party that opposed the extension of slavery. This new dominance in government by Lincoln Republicans would last until 1896. The Radical Republicans of the Reconstruction period would move from social reform to economics making a transition to the realignment coming in 1896.

Coming out of a depression in the early 1870s and the end of Reconstruction in 1877, the Gilded Age began a time of disproportioned wealth and economic power, and containing events like the rise of the industrial nation, the Populist movement, establishment of unions, increase in population numbers, strikes, decline in presidential power and an economic depression in the early 1890s. “The McKinley Republicans put the United States squarely on the side of its industrial future” (Judis and Teixeira 2002, 13). This quote is a good example of the realignment between social reforms of Lincoln Republicans to more conservative McKinley Republicans, with an eye toward business.

The next realignment would not occur until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Woodrow Wilson was a brief pause in the McKinley Republican’s dominance, just as Grover Cleveland twice gave pause to the dominance of both Lincoln Republicanism and do-nothing presidents of the late 19th Century. FDR and the New Deal Democrats would take over the government from the McKinley Republicans in 1933. “And that majority [McKinley Republicans] held until 1932, when anger over the Great Depression drove a number of groups – industrial workers, small farmers, blacks, Catholics, and Jews – back into the Democratic Party” (Judis and Teixeria 2002, 14). This shows the dramatic realignment. Blacks loyal to the party that freed their ancestors voted the opposition party.

The New Deal Democrats would dominate the government until liberalism ended with the Reagan Revolution of 1980. Democrats would govern with a liberal ideology from 1933-1969. Democrats would be elected in this period; FDR, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson. Dwight Eisenhower was elected twice between Truman and Kennedy. Eisenhower had not belonged to a political party prior to the election of 1952. Eisenhower ran as a Republican, so an isolationist Republican could not. This meant both candidates, Democratic and Republican, would continue to support the foreign policy of the Truman administration, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.

In the 1964 presidential election, the Republicans nominated Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Goldwater was a conservative. Goldwater conservatives believed in “downsizing the federal government, reducing income tax rates, and allowing citizens more choice in decision making, while portraying Democratic politicians as fundamentally opposed to these objectives” (Black and Black 2002, 225). This way of thinking appealed to the Southern Whites who began abandoning the Democratic Party, just as they had rejected the Republicans after Reconstruction.

Since the election of Lincoln in 1860, white Southerners felt Lincoln was out to destroy their way of life by ending their “peculiar institution.” They also felt that the federal troops stationed in the South during Reconstruction were an occupation force in place because of Republican led policy. Southern Whites vowed never to vote for the party of Lincoln for generations after Reconstruction.

The Solid South would vote Democratic until 1964. Eisenhower’s 1952 and 1956 elections had not “transformed southern partisanship” (Black and Black 2002, 24). The transformation would begin in the 1964 election. The “last straw” for the Solid South was Johnson and the Democrats support of civil rights legislation.

Once again it was a racist mentality which affected partisan politics among Southern Whites. Southern Whites vowed against voting Republican because that party ended their way of life, freed the black man, and occupied their homeland. Democrats in 1964 were making sure the black man’s vote was counted with civil rights legislation. “When the Republicans turned against the newly emerging black electorate, they anchored their future success to winning levels of white support that were frequently unrealistic” (Black and Black 2002, 25). Southern Whites were now voting Republican after the party abandoned the black vote when the Democrats took up their cause.

Goldwater won a good part of the former Solid South in 1964. Goldwater won electoral votes from his home state and five former Confederate States. This was not enough to win presidents for the conservative movement. The Southern Whites found an ally in the Religious Right. The Religious Right voted Democratic the last time with Jimmy Carter in 1976 with much irony since Carter was and is a very pious man, private and public. Reverend Jerry Falwell spoke for the angered Christians. “Angered by the Carter administration’s refusal to grant tax-exempt status to segregated Christian academies and by Democratic support for abortion rights, they turned to the Republicans, who, for their part, began to court them actively” (Judis and Teixeria 2002, 24). The Religious Right found a new home in the Republican Party.

The Republican Party took on the social causes of the Religious Right. This shows the beginning of a social cause movement taking over the fiscal economic ideology of the Republican Party. The Religious Right believed Ronald Reagan was their president they elected to office and he was one of them. George W. Bush most certainly believes God had something to do with him being president.

“Reagan’s appeal to the religious right political movement mobilized many conservatives Christians in evangelical and fundamentalist churches, but in the cities and suburbs the religious right has largely supplemented income-based Republicanism. In the metropolitan South secular conservatives made up 39 percent of core Republicans, moderates and liberals constituted another 35 percent, and religious right conservatives were only 25 percent. Successful Republican candidates in metropolitan areas have to balance an ideologically diverse party and generally must heed the concerns and issues of large numbers of secular conservatives and moderates” (Black and Black 2002, 266).

This is a good passage that showed the Religious Right was a group that Reagan tolerated to maintain and keep their support. The passage also shows that the ideology of the Republican Party in Reagan’s time was diverse compared to the party’s ideology by the time of George W. Bush’s reign and Reagan was not just dealing with Christians Conservatives, but a variety of conservatives and moderates.

The realignment from liberalism to conservatism would begin with the election of 1964. In that election Lyndon Johnson was elected by a landslide to his own term as president. The voters overwhelmingly voted for Johnson, voting for a liberal agenda. This was the beginning of the end of liberal dominance in government. The Reagan Revolution in 1980 was the beginning of the era of conservative dominance. The Southerners that voted Republican in 1964, began the rise of the Republicans in the South. The religious vote became associated with the Republicans after the 1976 election. These two groups became a powerful electoral force for the Republicans. As time approached the Reagan Revolution in the transition period, Congressional representation in the South by conservative Democrats were being exchanged for conservative Republicans.

The Republican Party had the base they needed, Southern White Christians, to elect someone that would fix what was wrong with the country in their eyes. The country had grown tired of the social agenda of the Democratic Party, from the New Deal of the 1930s to the Great Society programs of the 1960s. “Public support for Great Society-style social engineering had disappeared” (Judis and Teixeria 2002, 121). In this quote, the authors are referring to Edward Kennedy’s desire to run in 1980 with a social programs agenda similar to Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society. The American people had had it with the social programs and Reagan offered an end to liberalism.

The revolution that began in 1980 with Reagan’s election was confirmed in 1984 with Reagan’s reelection. In 1984, voters overwhelmingly reelected Reagan and affirmed the conservative ideology as the nation’s dominant ideology. Vice President George Bush ran for president in 1988 and won. “This coalition [conservative Republicans] was strong – strong enough, in fact, to carry a much weaker candidate, George Bush, to victory in 1988” (Judis and Teixeria 2002, 26). Bush, a more moderate Republican than Reagan or his son, was able to maintain the support of Southern White Christians. The Republican hold on the presidency would come to an end when Bush sought a second term.

Popular after a successful war in the Persian Gulf, this would not last long enough to give Bush a second term. It would be an economic recession and a third party candidate, Ross Perot, which would contribute to Bush’s removal from office at the end of his first term. A centrist Democrat, Bill Clinton would be elected with a plurality of the popular vote. Clinton and the Democrats would for the first time since before 1968, win the state of California, establishing California as a Democratic state and show a trend that continues to this day of the West changing from Republican to Democratic. The election of Clinton in 1992 was the beginning of the transition from conservatism as the nation’s dominant ideology to a new Democratic majority. The Democratic victory in November 1992 would be short lived when the Republicans win the Congress for the first time in forty years in 1994. This win could be contributed to the forty year dominance of Democratic rule and the abuse of power that came after such a long time in power.

Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” was a conservative platform the Republicans ran on in 1994. Gingrich, the Speaker of the House from 1995-1998, thought he would continue the Reagan Revolution as leader of the lower chamber of Congress. The Republicans in Congress soon realized they needed the help of President Clinton to accomplish anything. The 1990s would see the rise of Southern Republicans in control of the Congress. By 1997, Southerners would be running the government. The Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, was from Georgia. The Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott, was from Mississippi. The Majority Leader and Majority Whip in the House were both from Texas. The Majority Whip in the Senate was Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The Minority Leader of the House was Democrat Richard Gephardt of Missouri. The Democrats also had two Southerners in the highest offices in the land, the only two elected by the entire nation, President Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee.

Clinton’s immoral extramarital affair would be a rallying cry for the conservatives to elect someone who could return moral integrity to the White House. Gore chose to run apart from Clinton because of the affair, as opposed to running on the prosperity and peace the Clinton administration gave the nation in the 1990s. However just as California went from Republican to Democratic in the 1992 election, it was a trend that proved that a transition was occurring from conservatism to a new Democratic majority. Clinton won reelection in 1996, still with a plurality and not a majority. The Democratic candidate in 2000, Vice President Gore, would receive more popular votes than his compassionate conservative opponent, Governor George W. Bush of Texas. One could argue that with the true results of the Ohio election in 2004, the Democratic candidate in 2004 continued what had begun with Clinton’s elections in the 1990s and Gore’s popular vote win in 2000, an increase in votes for the Democratic candidate. A trend was taking place showing a realignment, from the Reagan Revolution to Clinton’s election in 1992.

George W. Bush became president in January 2001, after winning the Electoral College, but losing the popular vote. With Gore winning by 500,000 votes, it was not a majority, but it was a true indicator of what the people wanted and did not get. The thought of Gore returning in four years and winning, as all the previous winners of the popular vote but losers of the presidency have done before (except Samuel Tilden), looked promising as Bush governed with mediocrity. Then September 11th occurred.

After the terrorist attacks on the United States, the realignment was interrupted. “The November 2002 elections represented the temporary revival of the older conservative realignment of the 1980s” (Judis and Teixeria 2002, 179). The Republicans capitalized on the fear of another terrorist attack and took hold of security as their issue. Security had been a Republican issue since the 1980s, as Reagan took down the Soviet Union. Bush used the goodwill he and the nation received after the terrorist attacks to pursue those that attacked the United States. He successfully, or was thought of as successful at the time, accomplished this with the War in Afghanistan. Bush would ruin this goodwill by invading Iraq, a country with no connection to the terrorist attacks on the United States.

The build up to the Iraq War began the end of the goodwill the president and the country received from the rest of the world. Beginning with the State of the Union address in 2002, Bush created the Axis of Evil, which consisted of the rogue nations of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. He of course chose the one country that posed no threat to us from the Axis of Evil. “By the late summer of 2002, as popular concern with terrorism began to abate, the Democratic advantages that had been growing in the 1990s began to reappear” (Judis and Teixeria 2002, 181). It is as if the September 11th terrorist attacks were a brief interruption in the realignment of the American political landscape. The failure of this president with the Iraq War has contributed to the shift which had begun in the 1990s.

The continuation of the “stay the course” policy in the Iraq War probably brought the realignment back on course to a new Democratic majority. The mid-term elections in 2006 showed the American disapproval of the Republicans who have controlled the government for twelve years, the last six years all three branches were dominated by conservative ideology. In the short period the Republicans have dominated the government, compared to the length of time the Democrats dominated the government the American people have dealt with; corruption and ethics violations, misappropriation of funds, no oversight, mishandling of Reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, and mishandling of the Iraq War. Mid-West states that had been a given for Republicans in presidential elections since 1968, have a majority of governors that are Democratic after the 2006 election. The conservative movement that came into dominance with the Reagan Revolution began its end with the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004.

The trends of the 1990s have resumed after the brief interlude with security dominating the Republicans agenda. If the House of Representatives is a representation of the people it shows a Democratic majority. The Senate however is almost evenly split, almost as divided as the last two presidential elections showed the country to be. If the true results from Ohio 2004 were used giving more votes to the Democratic candidate, then since 1992 more Americans have cast their vote for Chief Executive who is a Democrat. The scare tactics used in the 2002 and 2004 elections served their purpose and maintained the conservative movement that was on its way out in the 1990s. However, the trends have returned to their prior positions giving the Democrats a chance to emerge as the new majority, with lessons learned hopefully from the liberalism of the 1960s and the conservatism of the 1980s.


Black, Earl, and Merle Black. 2002. The Rise of Southern Republicans. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Judis, John B., and Ruy Teixeira. 2002. The Emerging Democratic Majority. New York: Scribner.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Texas Conservatism - How is the presidency of George W. Bush a reflection of American cultural politics?

The Reagan Revolution in 1980 ushered in conservatism as the nation’s dominant ideology. In 1964, Barry Goldwater, U.S. Senator from Arizona, lost in a landslide as a conservative Republican against a liberal Democrat. That election was the beginning of the end of liberalism as the United States’ dominant ideology. The 1964 election was a prelude to the Reagan Revolution of 1980. Goldwater won his home state and five Southern States, former members of the Confederacy. Conservatives would need more than the old Confederacy to win a presidential election. They would need a strong leader, a father figure. A large untapped minority, White Christians, needed a voice in politics as social issues were being controlled by the liberals in power. Reagan would be the answer for conservatism to become the nation’s dominant ideology. American cultural politics up to 1980 were defined by the liberals that had dominated the government since the 1960s. The American culture would shift dramatically to the right with the Reagan Revolution of 1980. The shift would be seen in the approach to governing and the shift would be given by voters in need of a voice, the Religious Right. Reagan’s success as a president with a Western conservative ideology would be emulated unsuccessfully and displaced with the presidency of George W. Bush’s Texas conservatism, as Christian Conservatism became the dominant and divisive ideology of the nation.

Reagan’s election in 1980 began a shift in the nation’s ideology. Liberalism was on its way out, and conservatism was on its way in. The two major party candidates for president in 1980 represented the differences in their use of presidential power. Outgoing president, Jimmy Carter, took on a more motherly approach to governing, whether in response to the Soviet Union or the dealing with the Iran hostage situation in 1979. Unlike Carter, Reagan took a father figure approach to governing, a strict father. Reagan would stand up to the Soviets and dismantle the Great Society, things conservatives would expect from their strict father.

Reagan’s strict father figure approach to governing is known as the “Strict Father Model” according to George Lakoff. Lakoff says that “life is difficult and that the world is fundamentally dangerous” (2002, 65). This quote defined the conservative approach to the world and the outlook that leaders like Reagan and Barry Goldwater took in governing under the model of a strict father. Lakoff used the idea or model of a household ran by a strict father and applied that to the political parties, namely the Republican Party, and their style of governing.

The strict father figure was what conservatives were looking for. Southern White Christians favored this style of governing over a more Nurturant approach, as shown by President Carter. The approval of the strict father model was reaffirmed in Reagan’s landslide reelection in 1984. American cultural politics were now on a conservative path and this path would need to be maintained by successors to the Reagan Revolution.

The strict father figure model would be what Christian Conservatives looked for in their leader. George H. W. Bush was more of a moderate Republican than both his son and President Reagan. Bush served for eight years as vice president under Reagan. His election to a term as president is often called by some as Reagan’s third term. Bush was his own man and was not Reagan in numerous ways; in ideology or his communicative abilities. This is not to say that Bush was a Nurturant politician like Carter. Bush, the 41st, led a coalition of thirty nations during the Gulf War in 1991 and achieved heights not seen in presidential polling after a quick win in the Persian Gulf. The popularity shown in the polls would not last, for it would be the economic recession of the early 1990s and the popularity of third party candidate, Ross Perot, which contributed to Bush’s removal from office by the voters in 1992. Conservatives were without a voice, if only for a brief moment.

With the election of a Democrat in 1992, it did not signal the end of conservatism as the dominant ideology. Centrist Bill Clinton had to contend with a Republican led Congress two years into his first term. The “Contract with America” offered a conservative agenda as an alternative to the Clintons. Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, saw it his duty, as leader of the people’s house, to offer an agenda, a conservative agenda. This can be seen as an interlude in the Reagan Revolution, as the legislative branch was the only power of conservatives for the remainder of the 20th Century before George W. Bush.

Eventually the overreaching Republicans in the House realized they needed President Clinton’s help if they were to accomplish anything. Divided government, between a conservative dominated legislative branch and a centrist Democrat in the White House, would prove to be successful. For conservatives however, Gingrich was not working and Senator Bob Dole of Kansas was no match for the popular president in the election of 1996. However, conservative dominance over the branches of government was approaching.

Christian Conservatives needed another voice to lead their conservative agenda. They needed another strict father which they did not have in George H. W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, or Bob Dole. George W. Bush modeled himself after Ronald Reagan. Bush was no Reagan as much as he tried to portray himself that way.

Bush wanted it to be “morning in America” during his presidency. Bush emulated Reagan in numerous ways. Reagan faced the threat of the Cold War. By the time of Reagan’s Administration, the Cold War had been going on for thirty-five years. Reagan dubbed the Soviet Union; the Evil Empire. Bush came into office during a time of peace and prosperity. The terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania altered our time of peace and into a time of terror, according to the Bush Administration. After a successful war in Afghanistan, thought to be victorious at the time, a follow-up to the September 11th attacks, Bush created the Axis of Evil in his 2002 State of the Union Address. In the address he labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as members of an Axis of Evil; a term sounding as if it was plucked from a high school term-list for World War II. Now he, just like Reagan, had an evil opposition that the good United States would face.

Lakoff’s model of a strict father also used the approach of labeling things good vs. evil. This came from the idea of the strict father having “moral strength.” According to Lakoff, “Moral Strength is what the strict father must have if he is to support, protect, and guide his family” (2002, 74). Just as a father needs moral strength to guide his family, a president needs it to guide his country as well. The Religious Right certainly saw things in the light of good vs. evil. They expected their leader, George W. Bush, to explain things in this manner to them. They expected him to have Moral Strength. He never once wavered from the perception of having Moral Strength.

Bush faced the new War on Terrorism, much like Reagan faced the end of the Cold War. Good and evil labels were handed out establishing the United States as good and all opposition as evil. Lakoff explains the Moral Strength metaphor’s use of good and evil:

“The metaphor of Moral Strength sees the world in terms of a war of good against the forces of evil, which must be fought ruthlessly. Ruthless behavior in the name of the good fight is thus seen as justified. Moreover, the metaphor entails that one cannot respect the views of one’s adversary: evil does not deserve respect, it deserves to be attacked!”

Bush followed the Moral Strength metaphor. An example of his use of it occurred recently when the President of Iran wanted to debate President Bush, the Administration did not feel that the evil Iran deserved the respect of a response to such a call.

As mentioned above, the Religious Right saw the world in terms of good vs. evil. The Religious Right was the other element to the success of the conservative movement which came from the Reagan Revolution. With the help of the Religious Right, the politics of American culture were being defined. A strict father with moral strength would set the country back on the right path after its deviation down the path of liberalism. The Religious Right and Southern White Conservatives would merge and become Southern White Christians.

The Southern Whites and Religious Right united in force in 1980 to help create the Reagan Revolution. The revolution was their voice being heard and liberalism of the past was to end. The two groups would form a powerful electorate that would shape the politics of culture for the next three decades.

Southern Whites were constituents of the region of the United States known as the South. The South is the former Confederate States of America, the states that rebelled from the Union in the 1860s. The Confederates fought and lost the Civil War, from 1861-1865.

After the Civil War, the Southern Whites never voted Republican, the party of Abraham Lincoln. This pledge to not vote Republican would last almost one hundred years. Lincoln put an end to slavery, a way of life in the South, creating the staunch opposition to the Republican Party by Southern Whites. It would be the Democratic Party’s embracement of the Civil Rights movement which would end the relationship between Southern Whites and the Democratic Party.

The party name had changed, but the Southern White ideology of conservatism remained. In 1964, five of the former Confederate States voted with Arizona to give Republican Barry Goldwater his only electoral votes in the landslide election.

In American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips talked about the importance of the Civil War to Southern culture. He cited the editor of The Encyclopedia of Religion in the South, where Samuel Hill explained the South’s response to their “polarized sectional memories” of antebellum, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Hill said that the South’s response “is singular in American history, religious and otherwise, and is seen quite clearly in its religious life. A region became a culture, constructively and defensively, and creatively and reactively” (Phillips 2006, 138). This culture of the South fell into Lakoff’s strict father model. They want a leader that follows the strict father model.

Reagan governed the country exuding a strict father presence, but with superb communication skills, especially through humor, which could deflate the notion that a conservative was too radical to lead the country. George W. Bush would take the strict father approach to governing just as Reagan had. Once again though, there is a difference between Reagan and Bush in their use of the strict father approach. Reagan had the threat of the Soviet Union and showed the United States stood up to evil in the world. Bush did not stop at standing up to the evil that faced the United States, he would unilaterally invade a country he thought posed a threat. The Southern Whites could not elect either Bush or Reagan without help from others in the electorate.

The help would come from the Religious Right. The Religious Right was made up of evangelicals. One of the evangelic leaders, Jerry Falwell, felt that the country was on a “downward spiral” (Micklethwait and Wooldridge 2004, 84). This downward spiral was coming from the liberalism that had dominated the country prior to 1980. The evangelicals had voted for their last Democrat in 1976. That Democrat, Jimmy Carter, was a true Christian without any followers.

Reagan would become the voice that Christians sought in politics. “For the Right, the Reagan era was the first time that one of their own was in the White House, a sensation that they did not have again until George W. Bush’s administration” (Micklethwait and Wooldridge 2004, 92). Reagan’s strict father approach to governing to turning back the liberalism of the 1960s was approved of by the Religious Right. The difference between Reagan and Bush, in regards to the Religious Right, was that Reagan tolerated the Religious Right where as Bush embraced them.

Evangelical leaders formed the Moral Majority. The Moral Majority became the political arm for Christians. “The Moral Majority rapidly emerged as a hard-line Christian voice on domestic issues like abortion, school prayer, women’s rights and gay rights” (Micklethwait and Wooldridge 2004, 85). Their issues would become those of the Southern Whites. The Religious Right and Southern Whites would combine electoral forces to become the Southern White Christians. The Christian conservative ideology would remain the nation’s dominant ideology over the next three decades.

The dominance would begin with the Reagan Revolution. “Christian nationalism, like most militant ideologies, can exist only in opposition to something” (Goldberg 2006, 69). This Christian nationalism, the ideology of the country, was an opposition of the liberal programs like the New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960s.

Bush’s “mandate” came from the political capital in the form of votes from the Southern White Christians. Bush emulated his conservative mentor, but took things too far. Bush’s embrace of the Southern White Christians and taking the strict father approach almost literally has contributed to the cultural divide of the nation. Phillips quotes political commentator Bill Schneider “the great civil rights war of the 1960s, a cultural civil war” (Phillips 2006, 140). The cultural civil war is played out in elections. The Reagan Revolution was the first and big blow to liberalism from the Southern White Christians. The compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush would continue Reagan’s strict father approach as well as defend traditional values cherished by Southern White Christians. However the dominance of conservatism as the nation’s ideology would continue to divide the nation.

The Texas conservatism brought to Washington by Bush would not help a nation divided on cultural values. Bush’s Texan conservatism would combine the elements of Reagan’s Western conservatism like the strict father approach, but would contain a strong Southern White Christian base with an agenda to return traditional values to American life. The neo-conservatives would be another aspect of the Texas conservatism brought to Washington in 2001 by Bush. Another aspect of the Bush Administration’s Texas conservatism would be the “go-it-alone” mentality when it came to war, like the invasion of another country.

The “go-it-alone” mentality went along with Lakoff’s notion of Moral Strength which is part of the strict father model. The Moral Strength and strict father model are examples of conservative thought, which goes with the Southern White Christian ideology.

The ideology that came in with the Reagan Revolution to turn back liberalism could be in its last throes beginning with the reelection of Bush in 2004. Bush hoped to emulate his conservative predecessor, he was however futile in his attempt. Bush was not Reagan. Reagan was supported by the Christian Conservatives. Reagan tolerated the Religious Right. Bush embraced the Religious Right. Reagan stood up to the Soviet Unions and prevented the remaining years of the Cold War from turning into a Hot War. Bush invaded a country with support from Great Britain, Spain, and Poland; the Coalition of the Willing. Bush was not a Western conservative. He was a Texan with a “go-it-alone” mentality of the Lone Star State and coupled with the Southern White Christians whose ideology was dominant in American culture, he sought to make the country right with his form of conservatism. His embrace of the Southern White Christian created the image of god anointed politician which contributed to the division of culture in the country. The 2004 election could be seen as the beginning of the epilogue in the Reagan Revolution, the story of conservatism as the nation’s dominant ideology.

Goldberg, Michelle. 2006. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. W.W. Norton & Company: New York.

Lakoff, George. 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

Micklethwait, John, and Adrian Wooldridge. 2004. The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America. The Penguin Press: New York.

Phillips, Kevin. 2006. American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed money in the 21st Century. Viking.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

the measure of a man

The 2008 presidential election will give for the first time since 1952 no incumbent president or vice president running for the high office. The Republican side looks to be the same as it's been since their first ticket in 1856, two white males. The Democratic Party shows a possibility of breaking their 24 years of two white males on the ticket. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois are these two examples that show a strong possibility of being somewhere on the ticket in 2008. This isn't to bash white males at all, because nowhere is anyone questioning these two senators for being a woman and an African-American. We have learned to look beyond such things, in some areas we have a ways to go. It is the experience of these senators that will come into question in this campaign.

Before looking at experience, it is interesting to note that these two candidates are not the first woman and African-American to seek the nomination. Elizabeth Dole ran for the 2000 Republican nomination, losing to Governor George W. Bush of Texas. Carol Moseley Braun ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004 and lost to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Hillary Clinton shows a better resume than these two woman combined and then some. In both 1984 and 1988, Reverend Jesse Jackson attempted to get the nomination, as did Reverend Al Sharpton in 2004 and possibly again in 2008. Barack Obama, shows a better resume however small it is than his predecessors in this race for the nomination.

By 2008, Barack Obama will have experience in the Illinois State Legislator and four years in the U.S. Senate. People say he's not ready to lead the country. He meets the qualifications specified in the Constitution; U.S. citizen (no matter what his full name is), over 35 years of age, and 14 years residence in the U.S. His age shouldn't be a concern.

Theodore Roosevelt was elected vice president in 1900. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Governor of New York before being put on the vacant vice president spot on the ticket. He was put there to get him out of New York politics which was corrupt and Roosevelt was cleaning up shop. The vice presidency would put an end to his crusade. McKinley's campaign manager, his Karl Rove, Senator Mark Hanna didn't like the idea. What if something happened to McKinley?

McKinley was shot September 6, 1901 and died on the 14th. Roosevelt was sworn in as the youngest president at 42. He is younger than Obama. Yes, Roosevelt lived one hundred years ago and in a time of peace and prosperity. Roosevelt more than anything wanted to be president during a time of war, he unlike some of his successors had self control. This is the man that helped make peace between the Russians and the Japanese. This is also the man who three years before being the Commander-in-Chief, as a colonel charged up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. Compare that to the current Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush, who did not see combat in his generation's war and his view on peace is different than the rest of the world. Maybe Roosevelt isn't such a good comparison to Obama.

John F. Kennedy was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946 as a Democrat from Massachusetts and served six years. In 1952, he was elected to the Senate and stayed there four eight years. In 1956, he made an unsuccessful attempt for the second spot on the ticket. He became the youngest elected president at 43 years old. There was a big difference between the young Kennedy and the old Eisenhower at the inaugural in 1961. Kennedy served at the height of the Cold War and at one of the most serious moments in human history, the Cuban Missile Crisis. He seemed to do fine for his age.

If it's experience you're questioning, Obama will have two more years on Abraham Lincoln in regards to holding a federal representative office prior to being on a national ticket. Lincoln served in the House of Representatives from Obama's home state of Illinois for one term from 1847-1849. He was elected as a Whig and was against President Polk and the Mexican-US war. The war was very popular in Lincoln's district and his views certainly did not match the constituents. Today's Democrats can learn from the Whig Party of the past, that opposed the Mexican-War, on how to be a true opposition party to a war time administration.

Lincoln won the Republican nomination in 1860 from a list of well experienced men. Those men were then put into his Cabinet, very different than Bush. Could you imagine Bush, putting John McCain, Elizabeth Dole, Steve Forbes, and whoever else ran for the Republican nomination in 2000, in the most import positions in the Cabinet? Big difference in the Lincoln and Bush, as well as the Republicans of the 1860s and of the 2000s. That's for another time.

Yes, Lincoln lived in another, but of all the presidents he has faced the biggest crisis, the Civil War between the States. With only two years as a Representative of the House, he successfully led the country through one of it's darkest moment.

George W. Bush's experience pales in comparison to these predecessors mentioned. He served six years as governor of Texas. Prior to the election, he clearly showed to have no foreign policy experience beyond Mexico. Bush has had to deal with foreign affairs for the majority of his presidency, and his inexperience has taken the United States to one of it's lowest points militarily, economically, and diplomatically.

Other presidents have had plenty of experience prior to being president and still had a horrible presidency; John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Buchanan, and Herbert Hoover come to mind.

Experience isn't everything as history has shown. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 altered the presidency of George W. Bush, foreign policy would come to dominate. Would he really be elected if we knew we would have to deal so much in foreign affairs?

Experience is in Senator Clinton's favor. Clinton served as First Lady of the United States for eight years before successfully winning two elections to the US Senate representing her adopted state of New York. It is her lack of charisma unlike her husband and Senator Obama who have it.

Experience or charisma, among other things, will be what voters, first Democratic voters in the primary, will look at rather than the ability of a woman or an African-American to be president.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

the I Word - impeachment

I sometimes wonder if the Constitution is really followed or is it cherry-picked like intelligence for a war? Democrats before the election of 2006 wanted the voters to know they were not going to be impeaching the Bush Administration. This is not a pro-impeachment or anti-Bush rant. This is a question historians will ponder in the future when the topic of presidential impeachments is discussed.

If someone is today is teaching a government or civics class and the topic of impeachment comes up the teacher would explain what impeachment is. The House of Representatives is the chamber of Congress that can write Articles of Impeachment indicted the president of "a high crime or misdemeanor." The Senate then sits as the jury in the trial to impeach the president, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding as judge. Members of the House Judiciary Committee prosecute the president's defense counsel. The Senate votes to either convict to remove the president from office or acquit him of the crime.

The teacher then explains that only two presidents have been impeached, Andrew Johnson and William Jefferson Clinton. A teacher would just give the general facts and skip any of the historical context and analysis. Neither were convicted, but both were targets of the political opposition.

Johnson survived impeachment by one vote. The Radical Republicans running the Congress wanted to take over the Reconstruction of the South from Johnson, who tried his best to live up to President Lincoln's goal in the South's Reconstruction. The Radical Republicans created a situation threating executive power. Johnson had violated the Tenure of Office Act which said that the president could not fire anyone who was confirmed by the Senate without the consent of the Senate. President Johnson rightfully saw this as wrong and fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and replaced him. The House of Representatives found their excuse to impeach him.
Eleven Articles of Impeachment threatened Andrew Johnson's presidency. When three of the Articles of Impeachment could not reach a vote of conviction the remaining eight were tabled and never voted on. The Radical Republicans were able to make a blow at the executive branch and controlled a mismanaged Reconstruction of the South.

Clinton had been investigated by both the Republican led Congress and Kenneth Starr, the Independent Counsel investigating possible wrong doing by the Clintons. In the end, all the money spent investigating the Clintons proved them innocent. President Clinton did however lie under oath about an affair with an intern. Clinton was impeached by the Republican House for perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton was not in as bad a situation as President Johnson was in 1868. Clinton survived the trial in the Senate and finished his remaining 2 years in office as popular as ever.

Teachers need to let their students know that President Richard Nixon was not impeached. The Judiciary committee headed by the majority party, the Democrats, began voting on Articles of Impeachment which included obstruction of justice and illegal wire tapping. President Nixon resigned before the full House of Representatives could vote on any of Articles of Impeachment.

Historians and those explaining impeachment will wonder why George W. Bush was not impeached since he too has done far worse than Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Evidence such as the Downing Street Memo or the White House Memo have shown the president and his administration misleading us into a war of choice for false reasons. If the new Democratic controlled Congress begins investigating the president and finds wrong doing comparable to Nixon, is it okay to impeach?

The politicians say they don't want to take the nation down the road of impeachment. It is the duty of the Congress, the legislative branch, to oversee the executive which had been lacking for the past six years. The Republican Party had a duty to their country first, before party when leading the Congress' support for the president and his war. They did not take that approach accepting, not questioning, the reasons the administration laid out for war in Iraq.

The idea of censure by Senator Feingold is not acceptable. Censuring Clinton seems more appropriate than impeachment when you compare Clinton versus Bush. People in power are more concerned with their next election and fear of backlash from impeachment like what happened to Republicans in 1998 is feared by those in power now. The Democrats need to put the interest of the nation ahead of electoral politics. By investigating the president and the reasons we went to war in Iraq will help history and explain to the families why their sons and daughters fought in this war of choice.

More than likely George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney will end their term at noon on January 20, 2009. An impeachment will not take place and they will go un-investigated. When is it ok to impeach the president? Comparing the wrong doings of Clinton versus Bush must make explaining impeachment very difficult. The Constitution should be upheld and since the executive hasn't been doing its part these past six years, it's time the legislative branch stepped up.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Future America

Times change and with that change comes a new way of life. Our foreign affairs have dominated our nation's affairs since the end of World War II, sixty-two years of being a super power both in positive and negative aspects. It is time to take the policy of nation building and throw it in the trash bin of history along side colonialism. If we learned anything from Hurricane Katrina it was that things were not so great in the United States. The time has come for the United States to take a break from the rest of the world and help the citizens of the United States and the United States alone. The United States needs a period of isolation from the world.

Isolation may seem like a difficult concept to follow in a world so integrated as the early 21st Century is. It is just difficult, not impossible. We as a country would have to adapt. At the beginning of our existence the large bodies of water protected and separated us from the Old World and the troubles that came with the Old World. Isolation lasted until our national security became threated as it did in 1917 by the Germans in the First World War.

Once peace was made in 1919, the United States returned to a period of isolation which lasted until December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor would rid the ideology from United States. Instead of returning to an isolation at the end of the Second World War, the United States did the honorable thing and allow democracies to blossom in the nations destroyed by war. The United States did not come in as the conquerors but as the liberators and we continued to defend those nations threated by the oppression of Communism. Vietnam was the turning point in the good we were doing throughout the world. After the Pentagon Papers revealed the deception of the government in their explanation of the war to its citizens, the government still wanted a form of victory for our country. Even though our country isn't a human being, we are. We make mistakes and should admit them.

The Cold War that President Reagan help bring to an end was accomplished without firing a shot. The standing army remained after the Cold War, as it remained since the end of World War II.

Desert Storm was our redemption for the Vietnam War. President George H. W. Bush successfully led a coalition of nations in defeating Iraq and their invasion of Kuwait. However it was this act that al qaeda leader Osama bin Laden sites as one of the reasons for attacking us on September 11, 2001.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 scared us into thinking that we could be attacked from a foreign enemy on our land protected by two large bodies of water which have kept us safe since 1814 when the British invaded cities in the War of 1812, including Washington D.C. The scare tactics of the Bush Administration in the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003 played on our fears of another attack. The war of choice has ruined our reputation around the world.

This writing is not about hating America or "blame America first." In fact it is the exact opposite. This needs to be said if we are to live up to what our Founding Fathers wanted. The Founding Fathers and the other big nations of the late 18th Century knew of the great power the United States would achieve in later years. However, I'm sure the Founding Fathers did not want to be a super power along the lines of the one they rebelled against.

The United States needs to admit to itself that it has a problem and needs to fix those problems, foreign and domestic. The foreign problem is over our involvement in the world with the military stationed throughout the world. We currently are fighting two wars in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq. The Afghanistan War is the forgotten war like that of the War of 1812. This was the right action following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and President Bush finally had a united country. However, when it looked as though everything was smooth sailing and attention was diverted to a false threat, Afghanistan was an afterthought to the American people.

Instead of having our troops finish the job in Afghanistan our president sent US sons and daughters into another war. The war of choice would take our attention away from Afghanistan and the war on terrorism. September 11th is also an afterthought as Iraq turns into chaos and the reasons why we're there no longer are important because that would mean placing blame on someone. Sons and daughters of this nation should not be fighting in a foreign country where we are not wanted and all for false reasons that get portrayed as justified.

We need to find or create a new energy source and cut all dependence of the Middle East. The people of the Middle East have a lot to work out and until they ask for our help we should leave. We need to leave other parts of the world too. This is the 21st century, so isolation would be a little different than before. The country can go back to a way of life similar to the time before both world wars and experience the peace and prosperity we achieved in the 1990s all at the same time.

The period of isolation will give us a chance to make our country number one in every aspect studied by social scientists, whether that be in education, lowering or exterminating poverty, health care for all. This does not and should not be done with big government or enormous spending. The money for the military can be reduced to a level that can maintain our defense against any possible threat or national disaster and spread to where it can help make this a more perfect Union. We cannot go abroad spreading democracy and policing the world when we need to put ourselves first for once.

The government can be a friend to big business by asking them to help bring jobs back to America. The period of isolation can be a time to rebuild the American economy and make it like it was before the two world wars when one income was enough to live off of. Immigration of course would be a big part of the reform needed in the United States.

Immigration should be put on hold until we can properly regulate and secure who is coming in and out. Immigration to the United States would resume as soon as it is fixed.

The length of isolation from the world can be from ten to fifty years. Japan has gone longer, but that was in a different time. We can fix ourselves, help ourselves for the first time in a long time without being distracted by the problems of others. The period of isolation would end when we as a country are ready to enter the world as the leader it once was but without the touch of the Roman Empire. Let the leading nations of the Old World deal with the problems of that hemisphere. If a Hitler rises and we are called on by the world for assistance, we'll aide in the defiance of an oppressive regime but only if the situation is truly a dire call for aide.

Isolation in the minds of politicians today is probably not happening. Our nation has had a foreign policy of intervention and nation building for over sixty years and a new course is needed to heal our nation and return it to the glory it once had both in the hearts of its citizens and the rest of the world. Just as the Middle East isn't ready to enter the world community, neither are we. If we reverse global warming and barring any asteroid impacts, we have a long time on this planet together. Globalization or a united Earth can happen some time in the future, and the United States can lead the planet to that point after it helps itself for once.

We can end our isolation ready to be the super power more aligned with the vision of our Founding Fathers.