How Much Should Politics Occupy Our Minds?

Well hello there, internet. It’s been some time since I posted to Reason and Politics. My time was not wasted, however. Summer was wonderful this year in Colorado and I spent quite a bit of time in the mountains. I went to Sonoma, twice, and signed up with several fabulous small wineries for automatic shipments (ask me for recommendations). I recently spent two weeks in Europe, travelling from London to Madrid with quite a few stops in between.

As far as my return to writing goes, its fairly simple. My favorite American columnist, David Brooks, also took a break from writing (albeit much shorter than mine). His return to The New York Times has inspired me to dip my toe back into the blog-o-sphere.

Now then, since Brook’s column has served as my writing smelling salts, lets begin there. In his column, he addresses the issue of how much mental space ought to be devoted to political issues:

…there are those who form their identity around politics and look to it to complete their natures. These overpoliticized people come in two forms: the aspirational and the tribal. The aspirational hope that politics can transform society and provide meaning. They were inspired by the lofty rhetoric of John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address. The possibilities, he argued, were limitless: “Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty.”

Then there are those who look to politics for identity. They treat their partisan affiliation as a form of ethnicity. These people drive a lot of talk radio and television. Not long ago, most intelligent television talk was not about politics. Shows would put interesting people together, like Woody Allen with Billy Graham (check it out on YouTube), and they’d discuss anything under the sun.

Now most TV and radio talk is minute political analysis, while talk of culture has shriveled. This change is driven by people who, absent other attachments, have fallen upon partisanship to give them a sense of righteousness and belonging.

This emotional addiction can lead to auto-hysteria.

I think Brooks correctly identifies the problem of over-dwelling on politics: tribalism. America is strangely becoming segregated in terms of political persuasion.

So how can one find the balance in life? As a blogger and political junkie, I’m particularly interested in this question. Brooks has some advice:

I figure that unless you are in the business of politics, covering it or columnizing about it, politics should take up maybe a tenth corner of a good citizen’s mind. The rest should be philosophy, friendship, romance, family, culture and fun. I wish our talk-show culture reflected that balance, and that the emotional register around politics were more in keeping with its low but steady nature.

That sounds about right to me. In my experience, when politics come up I run into two kinds of people, the kooks who believe ever Fox News or Ed Schultz conspiracy theory they hear, and people who could not care less about politics. My motivation for this site was to write for those people who like to intelligently and politely discuss and debate the issues. I know you are still out there, so lets get to work.

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Glenn Beck: Bachmann Ethics Probe A Muslim Plot

Oh, this it too good. In case you missed it, Michelle Bachmann is currently facing an ethics probe for possibly violating campaign finance laws. To rational minded people, the reasons for this probe can range from legitimate to purely politically motivated. In reality it’s surely both.

In Glenn Beck’s mind, the most probable conclusion is that this investigation is an elaborate Muslim Brotherhood plot to smear Bachmann. Apparently Muslim Brotherhood spies have infiltrated the US government and are now targeting Bachmann for her opposition to radical Islam in Minnesota. Oh, and George W. Bush is also a stooge for the Muslim Brotherhood. Or something like that.

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Why Opponents Of Same-Sex Marriage Are Wrong

Forbes

Forbes

In case you missed it, today the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage. Based on today’s hearing, the Court could decide that same-sex marriage is a constitutionally protected right.

No matter what the court decides (it will be several months before we hear their decision) same-sex marriage is going to happen. One by one, states will eventually decide to make it legal. The tide of public opinion cannot be turned back at this point. Millions of Americans have changed their mind on same-sex marriage, and millions more will in the months and years to come.

I thought I’d share David Frum’s op-ed in which he explains why he changed his mind on marriage equality.

I was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Fourteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I forcefully debated the issue at length online (at a time when online debate was a brand new thing).

Yet I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state’s vote to authorize same-sex marriage — a vote that probably signals that most of “blue” states will follow within the next 10 years.

I don’t think I’m alone in my reaction either. Most conservatives have reacted with calm — if not outright approval — to New York’s dramatic decision.

Why?

The short answer is that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test…

…I remain as worried as ever about the decline in family stability among poorer Americans. But as for same-sex marriage, my attitude follows the trajectory described nearly 150 years ago by the English writer Anthony Trollope in his novel “Phineas Finn.”

Two of his characters are discussing a proposed reform that has just been defeated in Parliament. The author of the reform is understandably dejected. His friend consoles him by pointing to the future:

“Many who before regarded legislation on the subject as chimerical, will now fancy that it is only dangerous, or perhaps not more than difficult. And so in time it will come to be looked on as among the things possible, then among the things probable; — and so at last it will be ranged in the list of those few measures which the country requires as being absolutely needed. That is the way in which public opinion is made.”

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Mind Blowing Video Of Exploding Glass Filmed With A High Speed Camera

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The Story Of Our Planet In Two Minutes

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Tea Party Boycotts Fox News For Being Too Liberal

2ai1r3pNow this is a bizarre development: Tea Party members have decided to boycott Fox News because they feel the network has shifted too far to the left. From The Daily Beast:

“Particularly after the election, Fox keeps turning to the left,” said Stan Hjerlied, 75, of Fort Collins, Colo., and a participant in the boycott. He pointed to an interview Fox News CEO Roger Ailes gave after the election in which he said that the Republican Party and Fox News need to modernize, especially around immigration. “So we are really losing our only conservative network.”

The three-day boycott lasted Thursday morning through Sunday morning, and is the second time this group of activists have gone Fox-free in an effort to steer the coverage…

…A leader of the boycott, Kathy Amidon, of Nashville, declined an interview, instead directing The Daily Beast to a website, Benghazi-Truth. The website, a single-page, 23,000-word manifesto complete with multicolored fonts, supposedly incriminating videos of Fox News’s complicity in a coverup, and communist propaganda photographs, is kept by someone who identifies himself online as “Proe Graphique,” and who other members of boycott described as someone who works “in New York media.”

By way of explanation, the website reports: “People ask why not all mainstream media? Why just Boycott FOX? The answer, again, is that FOX needs the Tea Party/conservatives more than the conservatives need FOX after FOX turned left, basically selling out the people who made FOX successful in an attempt to earn an extra buck. FOX is extremely vulnerable to these boycotts while the rest of the MSM doesn’t need us at all, to speak of.”

Who can seriously believe that Fox News is a leftist propaganda outlet? These Tea Party members have mistaken ideology with theology at this point. Instead of taking two seconds for some much needed self reflection after their losses in the 2012 elections, (remember that the GOP lost even the popular vote for the House of Representatives; only gerrymandered districts allowed them to stay in the majority) they have doubled down on their irresponsible beliefs and attacked the most right wing news outlet on TV.

Fox News is also partly to blame for this predicament. They helped create the Tea Party monster. Instead of appealing to mainstream news consumers, they have positioned themselves to the fringe conspiracy crowd. Fox is partially responsible for creating this Frankenstein monster of right wing nuts, so they deserve this.

Even if they were to try changing their image, at this point I do not see Fox News ever making the shift where it can viewed as a ‘normal’ news network. It will always be viewed as, if not a pure propaganda outlet, then at least a right wing marketing/smear machine.

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Colorado Passes Same Sex Union Bill

Credit: Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post

Credit: Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post

Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill legalizing civil unions for gay Coloradans. From The New York Times:

The law makes Colorado the 18th state to allow gay marriage or some form of same-sex union, and its signing comes days before the Supreme Court hears two major cases on marriage equality.

For many gay Coloradans, it was a jubilant — if almost unreal — moment.

“When we started fighting for it, this was a foregone conclusion that it wasn’t going to happen,” said Jerry Cunningham, the publisher of the magazine Out Front Colorado. “It’s kind of amazing. It’s creating an awareness that we can have relationships. It validates it and legitimizes it, and says it’s O.K.”

I’m quite proud of my state right now. In addition to this, some pretty tough gun control legislation was signed into law earlier in the week. While Washington keeps showing us they are completely incapable of getting anything done, state governments are solving problems.

At any rate, the change in social attitudes towards gay rights surpasses anything I’ve seen before. Even prominent Republicans like Jon Huntsman and Rob Portman have announced their support for gay marriage.

I like to think that if I were alive in the 1960’s, I would have supported the Civil Rights Movement. Those who opposed it look like terrible bigots when we read their arguments now. I am happy to be on the right side of history on this issue.

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