Thursday, November 04, 2004

'The Day the Enlightenment Went Out'

Here's another take, but I think it is incomplete.

Religious belief is not incompatible with enlightenment.

And religious belief is not what carried Bush to victory, although his identification with extremist faiths did serve as a marker of his political identity. As I see it, it is the construction of 'liberal' and 'conservative" that voters connect with, and the GOP has been skillful in crafting 'conservative' as 'religious' and 'liberal' as 'atheist.'

So it is not religion per se, but the successful (from the GOP perspective) coupling of religion to constructed political identities that have given the GOP an advantage. Folks didn't care about Darwin when they voted for FDR. The fact that they do when the vote for W is not a natural outgrowth of holding a religious faith, as Garry Wills would have it, it was engineered by years of work villifying 'liberalism' and extolling 'conservatism' as the ideology of 'ordinary religious folks.'

But then it is so much easier to just throw up your hands and say "who can reason with zealots?" Well, that's called politics, but you can't wait until six months before an election to start attempting to address people's political identities. Facts alone won't do it either. You must present a compelling counter-narrative that explains the world convincingly -- a task that no campaign no matter how large can accomplish given the fleeting nature of campaigns. That is why the Dems need an intellectual infrastructure that mirrors the GOP.

But again, who can afford to 'staff it' if it doesn't allow you to pay rent or eat? That is part of the rationale behind the GOP war on education (although the myth of the liberal universities is just that, a myth... ever speak to an economist, business school prof, or political scientist?) I myself would be glad to be a member of the counter-establishment, but volunteer work doesn't pay off my student loans, my medical bills or my rent. It's time for the Dems to put their money into some long-term investments...

"This election confirms the brilliance of Karl Rove as a political strategist. He calculated that the religious conservatives, if they could be turned out, would be the deciding factor. The success of the plan was registered not only in the presidential results but also in all 11 of the state votes to ban same-sex marriage. Mr. Rove understands what surveys have shown, that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution...."