Saturday, July 08, 2006

Howard Dean: Wanting the 60s Back

Via the Belmont Club: a story about how Howard Dean addressed a conference of the leftist, supposedly evangelical group Sojourners in Washington, D.C. and tried to predict the future of American politics.
( - America is about to revisit one of the most turbulent decades in its history, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told a religious conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “We’re about to enter the ‘60s again,” Dean said, but he was not referring to the Vietnam War or racial tensions.

Dean said he is looking for “the age of enlightenment led by religious figures who want to greet Americans with a moral, uplifting vision.”

“The problem is when we hit that ‘60s spot again, which I am optimistic we’re about to hit, we have to make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes,” Dean added.

Later in his speech Tuesday, Dean appeared to backtrack. “I’m not asking to go back to the ‘60s; we made some mistakes in the ‘60s,” he said. “If you look at how we did public housing, we essentially created ghettoes for poor people” instead of using today’s method of mixed-income housing.

Another mistake Democrats made in the ‘60s, Dean acknowledged, was that “we did give things away for free, and that’s a huge mistake because that does create a culture of dependence, and that’s not good for anybody, either,” he noted, a reference to the Great Society welfare programs created by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1960s.
My, my. This is Dean sounding absolutely sensible.

Indeed he is adopting the conservative critique of the Great Society.

But Dean can never be sensible for long.
“I’m talking about moral principles like making sure everybody in America has health insurance just like 36 other countries in the world,” he added. “This is a moral nation, and we want it to be a moral nation again.”
But of course, poor people who can’t afford to buy their own insurance are covered under Medicaid. Many don’t bother to sign up, however, and many people who can afford their own insurance simply don’t choose to buy it — often because they are between jobs and expect to get a new job with coverage in a few weeks or months.
As one method of accomplishing that goal, the DNC chairman called on Congress “to raise the minimum wage until we have a living wage in this country.” He dismissed criticism of a minimum wage hike as “economists’ mumbo-jumbo.”

“We’re simply asking to give the people who are working for minimum wage the same raise that Congress has had every year for the last 20 years,” he said.
Labeling as “mumbo-jumbo” the virtually unanimous view of economists that increases in the minimum wage will increase unemployment isn’t either intellectually or morally serious.

It’s an example of putting ones own desires ahead of the way the world actually works.
“If you work hard, you ought to be able to support your family,” the DNC chairman noted, and “in America, you need the opportunity to work hard, and that means some level of support from government — no handouts, but some level of support so that you really do have a genuine opportunity to contribute to the country.”
Dean appears not to have noticed that current policy does exactly this. People taking low-wage jobs get the Earned Income Tax Credit, Food Stamps, Medicaid (or at a slightly higher level of income in Wisconsin, Badger Care), and often child-care and housing subsidies.
The DNC chairman pointed to President Bush’s tax cuts as a major obstacle to what he called “tax fairness.”
If a leopard can’t change his spots, Howard Dean can’t quite being a typical liberal.

Republicans, not surprisingly, were not impressed:
“It’s nice to see that Howard Dean’s hostility to the religious community ends when people of faith vote Democrat,” Republican National Committee spokesman Josh Holmes told Cybercast News Service.

Holmes added he was not surprised that “Howard Dean’s political perspective is derived from a 1960s counterculture view of the world. What is surprising — and disturbing — is that he can urge a massive expansion of government and denounce the Democrat mistake of creating a ‘culture of dependence’ in the same speech.”

“He may want to revisit that mistake to update his talking points and the Democrat policy manual,” Holmes said.
Dean, one will remember, said in 2004 that Job was his favorite New Testimony book, and left the Episcopal Church in a dispute over a bike path.

The group before which he spoke is hardly representative of evangelical Christians, as an article in the McClatchy Newspapers makes clear.
[Rev. Jim Wallis, leader of the Sojourners] was adamant that his anti-poverty movement is nonpartisan.

“God is not a Republican or a Democrat,” he said. “I want Republicans to talk about more than gay marriage and abortion. I want Democrats to talk about abortion and poverty in moral terms.”

“Religion should not be captive to any political party,” said the Rev. Jessica Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life, which organizes liberal religious groups.

Wallis is harsh on conservatives who have recently been the face of religious politics.

“Thirty thousand children died today. If I was an unborn child and I wanted the attention of the far right, I would’ve stayed unborn,” he said. He charges abortion opponents with not supporting programs to reduce childhood mortality.

The Rev. Tim Ahrens shared Wallis’ dismay: “The faith of Jesus Christ has become such a violent and violating faith in the religious right,” he contended. Ahrens is the founder of We Believe Ohio, a group of 300 clergy members dedicated to promoting social justice.

Some of his followers now are increasingly proud to talk about their religious beliefs in public, Ahrens said.

“It was embarrassing to say that before, because it meant ‘I’m reactionary, and I’m right-wing and I’m mean,’” he said.

Many Sojourner supporters didn’t hesitate to call right-wingers “Bible thumpers” and “fanatics,” and they criticized the Bush administration for not helping the poor.

They gave Obama thunderous applause when he proclaimed his support for separation of church and state and giving teenagers access to contraception.
Interesting how these liberals first claim that “God is not a Republican or a Democrat” and then proceed to make it clear that God, if He exists, is a Democrat.

No matter how much Democrats talk about “reaching out to people of faith,” and no matter how often the appear before conferences that represent the declining liberal wing of American Protestantism, they can’t really get past one fact. They are secular liberals.


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