The politicization of…everything

I love American politics and I generally think people who talk about consensus and bipartisanship are missing the boat.  The job of politicians is to give voters clear choices.

If those choices are more and more ideologically distinct — as they certainly are — then at least people going to the polls have a sharp sense for the thinking and policies they’ll be getting when they mark their ballots.

But one area where the polarization of our society troubles me is the increasingly partisan tone of organizations that used to provide an equally important sense of community.

Groups like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Roman Catholic Church, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Episcopal church, and the Girl Scouts have all waded deep into the waters of our culture war.

It’s hard to recall those days, not so long ago, when the NRA was a mainstream sportsman’s group, advocating a common sense gun rights agenda — not defined by Ted Nugent’s “cut their heads off” brand of paranoia.

Meanwhile, a lot of rank-and-file Episcopalians are weary of their church’s new role as a pioneer for LGBT rights, a move that has created a deep schism in the pews.

Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of all this is the increasing polarization of the US Supreme Court, ostensibly a place where the rule of law and precedent serve as a backstop against rampant partisanship.

These days, however, the justices are increasingly outspoken, and politically active, with ideological and financial ties to the very activist groups and institutions that drive a lot of the nation’s debates.

More and more, the Supreme Court appears to serve as a sort of mini-Congress, where Democrats and Republicans vote against one another reflexively and the big decisions are often settled on a 5-to-4 split that reflects rather than moderates our culture war.

I recognize, of course, that on one level this is all perfectly proper and healthy.  We want as many groups and factions and organizations as possible to shape the direction of our politics.

I’m not suggesting that anyone be silenced.

But some of these organizations were once places where Americans from across the political spectrum would gather, without having to ponder the red state-blue state divide.

You could have parents in a Girl Scout troop with wildly different political views, sportsmen who were members of the NRA with nuanced opinions about gun rights, or businessmen in the Chamber who had no interest in throttling Obamacare.

I wonder if the loss of that common ground might, in the long run, haunt us more than the polarization of our elected politicians.

So what have you seen?  Have organizations that you belong to become more political, more partisan?  Or less political?  As always, your views welcome.

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123 Responses to “The politicization of…everything”

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  1. Peter Hahn says:

    JDM – socialism may be a failed experiment (but the Chinese are doing pretty well with it). But Obamacare is not socialism.

    Kathy – definitions are important. Socialism is government run industries. No one currently believes that governments run businesses well. (Thus the failed experiment). Capitalism or the free market does better with most industries. What we disagree on is government regulations. Liberals want more and conservatives want less.

    I think you have hit the nail though on the helping the poor. “There is a need for caring for the poor but it is not at the expense of those who have worked and gained wealth.” Liberals think that those who have done well should indeed support efforts to help the poor via taxes. Conservatives think what ? Laws should be there to insure equal opportunity? Conservatives aren’t all that hot on anti-discrimination laws. Im not sure what you can do for the poor that doesn’t cost money. Where else does it come from other than from people who have a lot of it? Encourage private philanthropy? Maybe through religious institutions?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  2. Kathy says:

    One of the, I think, the tragedies of the Civil Rights movement was because the Civil Rights movement became so court-focused, uh, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.

    -Barack Obama; 2001 Chicago Public Radio interview

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  3. Kathy says:

    I am trying to establish President Obama’s world view. Just as Rick Santorum, et al, was examined for his religious views and how it would play in his role as president, how do we reconcile Obama’s connection with former pastor Jeremiah Wright?

    There are extremes in both camps. I’m willing to admit it. Are you?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  4. Kathy says:

    Peter, regarding the poor, I think the first action is reforming the welfare system. Yes, there are good people who are struggling and need it. But there are also free loaders.

    But you know what? No one.. no one wants to give anything up. Let someone else do it. This may seem crazy, but I would love to see our President lead by example – to give up a week’s salary or ? and apply it to something. All talk and no action. We are pitiful!

    Secondly, our society has evolved into an entitlement mentality. All of us. We have this idea that we deserve this or that. When I compare today with even 50 years ago, we have all overspent ourselves into debt. We’re spoiled.

    That said, we have also not “loved our neighbor as ourselves”. Many of us do not give as we should. But that is part of what I am trying to establish on this thread – where we are headed as a society. We can make decisions that seem good but unless they are based on tried and true methods, we are apt to repeat what does not work and jeopardize society down the road.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  5. Peter Hahn says:

    Kathy – there will always be freeloaders and parasites, just as there will always be crime. Don’t forget the Bernie Madoffs. We try to reduce this stuff as much as possible but just because there is crime in the free market system doesn’t mean we throw it out either.

    The president has given a huge amount of his earnings over the past few years to charity. Arguably that is self-serving but he did it.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  6. JDM says:

    Peter Hahn: “JDM – socialism may be a failed experiment (but the Chinese are doing pretty well with it).”

    China: no child labor laws, sweatshops, forced abortions, other unknown human rights atrocities……..

    Socialism, the Chinese are doing well???? with it.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  7. PNElba says:

    I am trying to establish President Obama’s world view.

    Obama has been President now for almost 4 years. Hopefully his worldview is now apparent. What exactly has Obama done in the last 3.5 years that was influenced by Wright? What is the specific complaint?

    We know how Obama will govern because we’ve seen him in action. We don’t know how Santorum or Romney would govern because they have not yet served as president.

    BTW, we have not all spent ourselves into debt and we do not all have the idea that we deserve “this or that”. Many of us are willing to have our taxes increased because we see its necessary for the good of our country.

    Kathy, you paint with a very broad brush.

    Popular. Like/Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  8. Peter Hahn says:

    doing well in the sense that their economy is growing rapidly.

    Popular. Like/Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. JDM says:

    Peter Hahn: “doing well in the sense that their economy is growing rapidly.”

    So we go back to sweatshops and child exploitation as long as the economy improves?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  10. PNElba says:

    So we go back to sweatshops and child exploitation as long as the economy improves?

    Exactly. That is what conservatives in the USA have implied they want.

    “It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid,…..” . Newt Gingrich

    “If I Wanted America to Fail, I’d Ban Kids From Farm Work.” Sarah Palin

    Seems like conservatives want us to be just like China.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  11. JDM says:

    PNElba: “Exactly. That is what conservatives in the USA have implied they want.”

    Slow down there. It appears Peter Hahn found that the Socialist system in China does these things and that is well.

    Your comment plus Peters, put together an odd conglomeration of conservatives and the Socialist Chinese. One of which Peter claims to be doing “well”

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  12. JDM says:

    This presents two possibilities.

    One would be that Socialism isn’t well after all.

    One would be that conservatives want the US to be like China.

    We need to resolve this, I guess.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  13. Peter Hahn says:

    JDM you are grossly misinterpreting what I said. I said that as an economic system – in terms of generating wealth – the Chinese socialist system seems to be performing well. (Compare it to India, for example) That isn’t to say that there is anything good about it other than many peoples standards of living are better than they were.

    As PNElba points out the parts that you don’t like are actually the parts that conservatives are pushing for here – lack of worker protection rules regulations and minimal social safety nets.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  14. Peter Hahn says:

    (not the forced abortions or the human rights violations)

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  15. Walker says:

    Uh, Kathy, what you’ve got there is a Straw Man. Socialism is everything that is the opposite of what made this country great. Fine. And the handwriting is on the wall that we are heading in the direction of socialism, whatever that means. Nothing anyone could say could convince you otherwise.

    Well, let’s try anyway. You write “Socialism is collectivism … would end capitalism” Simply and utterly wrong. Capitalism is alive and well in all those socialist European countries, even though they’ve had single payer health care for decades. Capitalism is even flourishing in Communist China.

    When you’re prepared to really look at what socialism is, and for that matter, what Obama has actually done in his presidency, let me know, we’ll talk. Otherwise, forget it.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  16. oa says:

    “Socialism is everything that is the opposite of what made this country great.”
    Exactly. So is Obama. Those two prongs are, in a nutshell, one party’s entire political platform.
    And it may win in November.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  17. Walker says:

    oa, that’s just great– a fine, logical contribution to a well-reasoned discussion. Thanks!

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  18. Peter Hahn says:

    oa – I have no idea what you are saying.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  19. Pete Klein says:

    I look at what is going on as a war between government and large corporations. Some might say it is a war between the rich and the poor but that would a simplification to obscure the facts.
    This is not a new war. It is an old war that began long ago, first between Kingdoms and the Church. When good old Henry told the Church where to go, it migrated to a war between the government and big business.
    This war is going on even within former and current communist countries. The average citizen just gets caught in the crossfire.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  20. JDM says:

    Peter Hahn: “I said that as an economic system [socialism] – in terms of generating wealth”

    Then, to be fair, capitalism, generates wealth. Why are we discussing the evils of capitalism if we can’t discuss the evils of socialism?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  21. Peter Hahn says:

    JDM – we aren’t discussing the evils of capitalism.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  22. Peter Hahn says:

    We are discussing the definition of socialism.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  23. Walker says:

    Pete says “I look at what is going on as a war between government and large corporations.”

    Gee, I wish it were. The fact is, the government is pretty much the handmaiden of big business these days– the best government money can buy. How many of the banksters who trashed the world economy have been tried for their crimes?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  24. Kathy says:

    I have never been so careful in weighing my words as in this forum but I can see it’s a losing battle.

    I thought I had brought up some good points worth discussing to meet you half way (as conservatives are so often labeled as unwilling to do) but time and again I find that you search diligently for that one word that you can pounce on while avoiding questions or other points.

    Walker, I am fully prepared to talk about what socialism is. I asked the question to the Liberals on this thread, only to have the ball hit back to me. Furthermore, I realize that most nations are a mixture. Yet, all countries have a primary influence driving their economies. China has a communist government based on ideas of socialism. The U.S., Canada – have economies driven by principles of capitalism.

    PNElba, so now we’re going to change the rules regarding a man’s religious background influencing his world view and ability to govern. How convenient.

    So now that I have courageously stepped into the arena and took the hits, when are one of you going to outline why you do not think the U.S. is heading toward socialism?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  25. PNElba says:

    PNElba, so now we’re going to change the rules regarding a man’s religious background influencing his world view and ability to govern. How convenient.

    Kathy – where were you during the last election? Was Rev. Wright and Obama’s association with him never mentioned? How convenient you’ve forgotten that. So this year it was poor Santorum’s turn. Cry me a river.

    As for socialism? All you’ve got is Obamacare – the biggest gift to insurance companies ever. If that’s socialism, then I guess we are heading towards socialism. Why do I think the US isn’t heading toward socialism? Because I can’t think of a single example showing that it is.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  26. Walker says:

    Asked and answered, Kathy: You wrote “Socialism … would end capitalism.” That’s wrong. Capitalism is alive and well in all those socialist European countries, even though they’ve had single payer health care for decades. Capitalism is even flourishing in Communist China.

    You wrote “…our society has evolved into an entitlement mentality.” While there are many in our society who feel entitled, it is my experience that they exist at all income levels. There are poor people who refuse to take badly needed assistance, and there are rich people who work every loophole and buy congressmen and senators to have more loopholes inserted and to have absurd subsidies written into law to support industries that are doing just fine without them.

    You appear to be all about killing supports for the poor, but “conservatives” these days don’t seem concerned about ending subsidies for the rich, which, arguably, contribute much more to the national debt.

    So to me, this isn’t about Socialism v. Capitalism at all. I’m all for a well-regulated capitalism, and I don’t believe the Obama administration has moved the U.S. one iota closer to socialism.

    And Kathy, here’s meeting you half way: I would be fine with taking steps to end fraud and abuse in the welfare system. In general, I’m pretty sure efforts to do so have ended up costing more money than they saved, but that’s no reason not to try again. What I do not support are methods to end fraud and abuse that rub the recipient’s nose in their poverty. But there are bound to be methods that might work.

    I would be even more interested in ending fraud and abuse in business– are you with me?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  27. hermit thrush says:

    not to pile on, but kathy, you give away the game in your own comment with this:

    The U.S., Canada – have economies driven by principles of capitalism.

    of course that’s correct, but the kinds of changes that have been happening in the u.s. leave us well to the right of canada.

    in other words, we’re not moving towards socialism at all.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  28. mervel says:

    For me I have more of a worry about what is commonly referred to as crony capitalism. We see this in Russia today and actually in many middle eastern economies. Which is why as far as health care goes I would rather have it totally private with full competition between states, with lower barrier’s to entry for the suppliers of medical care (med school’s restrict the supply of doctors in the US for example) OR I would rather have it be provided by the government than what we see with this mix. In this case the winners who are the drug companies and the insurance companies will really screw up this plan, there is NO cost control it is a big giveaway to these two industries.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  29. Walker says:

    Kathy, going back to your original post on this thread, you wrote: “[Socialism] is in direct opposition to what has caused our nation and its people to prosper. Setting Obamacare aside, there is a push for ending capitalism. It is viewed solely as the big bad wolf. The baby is being thrown out with the bath water – attacking the big players but affecting the small players.”

    Would you please tell me where the Obama administration has exhibited a “push for ending capitalism”? Is it your belief that any and all regulation of financial markets constitute a move to end capitalism?

    You feel that you are meeting the left half way, but you consider “socialism” to be utterly wrong, while virtually everyone on this blog agrees that capitalism is fine, so long as it is regulated– we’re really mostly disagreeing about the degree of regulation needed.

    That and welfare, of course. Look, going back to the nation’s beginnings is fine, but things have changed since then. Welfare was in the hands of the church, and it worked out fairly well because virtually everyone went to church and those who could afford it gave 10% of their income to the church. I know you’d like to return to those days, but unless you’re prepared to write laws requiring church attendance and tithing, it ain’t gonna happen. So someone has to help the poor, and the government is the only entity that seems likely to do it reliably.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  30. mervel says:

    For me the only rally socialistic thing Obama has done was the auto industry takeover, the ownership of our largest car manufacturer by the US government. I still don’t like that plan and I know it has worked out so far, but just on principle I don’t like it, its a horrible precedent. Companies fail all of the time, would we bail out micro-soft, how do we decide who should be owned by the government?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  31. Kathy says:

    Walker, I am not understanding how socialism and capitalism can successfully co-exist. Feel free to educate me if you wish. Otherwise, I will research it myself.

    Secondly, I agree – the entitlement mentality exists on all income levels.

    Additionally, I am not all about killing supports for the poor.

    Lastly, yes. I am with you 100% in ending fraud and abuse in business. I hate it.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I think Kathy needs an ally and JDM isn’t pulling his fair share.

    I think there are plenty of examples of the dreaded Socialism in this country. I can give a couple of local examples, ORDA and HRBRRD (Hudson River Black River Regulating District – only some kind of commie could come up with a name like that).

    Seriously, which of our Founding Fathers would have thought it was in the governments best interest to run a ski jump, toboggan hill, and a skating rink? And why should government regulate the flow of water downhill?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  33. Kathy says:

    Mervel, I was about to note the same thing re: the auto bail-outs and am interested in opinions.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  34. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Kathy: “Otherwise, I will research it myself.”

    I’m trying to help you out here but I’m not sure I trust your research. Don’t dig me in too deep.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  35. JDM says:

    khl:

    Kathy is doing fine. I think the technical definition of socialism is out, and it is being replaced with government over-regulation.

    It’s a fine line between government over-regulation and government ownership.

    That’s where I think the conservatives see us heading. hermit thrush says we’re right-of-Canada, which I think is true. If anything, Canada was way left and heading right, and we’re right-of-Canada heading left.

    Who knows where the midpoint is, but I think we will pass it without knowing it unless we turn hard right.

    Romney may or may be the one to make such an abrupt turn.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  36. Kathy says:

    This statement is on President Obama’s website:

    President Obama believes that America is strongest when everybody has a seat at the table. He’s expanded opportunity for every American by taking steps to level the playing field so everybody plays by the same rules.

    This says it all in my opposition to him and what I perceive to be a wrong direction for our country.

    The statement looks innocent enough. It is certainly is honorable. But second glance tells me there is more to it.

    And this is the crux of my argument: we can’t make it fair for everyone. And socialism tries to make it fair.

    We are already created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Obama doesn’t have to give us something we already have as U.S. citizens. He is taking it a step further by creating an atmosphere that is socialistic in nature – expanding the opportunity … by taking steps … level the playing field …

    America is the land of opportunity and no other nation has provided individuals with an environment to make a life for themselves. We will all have different levels of success. If someone is more successful in terms of money and/or possessions, it’s wrong to think there should be a redistribution of that wealth in order to “level the playing field”.

    From where I sit, this is very wrong thinking.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  37. Walker says:

    khl, I don’t think Obama had anything to do with ORDA or the HRBRRD.

    And it was President Bush who approved the auto industry bailout (On December 19, 2008, President Bush used his executive authority to declare that TARP funds may be spent on any program he personally deems necessary to avert the financial crisis”).

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  38. Walker says:

    Kathy says: “He is taking it a step further by creating an atmosphere that is socialistic in nature – expanding the opportunity … by taking steps … level the playing field …”

    Kathy, that’s your interpretation of what he meant by that statement. What, exactly, has Obama done that you see as being socialist.

    And, in passing, hasn’t America always prided itself on being the land of opportunity? Now you think that’s a bad thing?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  39. Kathy says:

    Would you please tell me where the Obama administration has exhibited a “push for ending capitalism”?

    Taking control of the majority of the nation’s economy by nationalizing industries such as auto, insurance, banks and health care and attacks free enterprise.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  40. Peter Hahn says:

    Kathy – I too have thought that the “level the playing field so everybody plays by the same rules” was a bad choice of words, although I assume they have field tested everything with the demographics they are aiming for etc. It sounds a little like income redistribution where everybody gets the same amount of money. I dont think that is at all what he means. All he is saying is he wants a country where everyone who works hard has an equal shot at making a good life.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  41. Walker says:

    Kathy, it’s hard to talk to someone who doesn’t read what you have said: it was George Bush who bailed out the auto industry.

    And he has absolutely not taken control of the nation’s “insurance, banks and health care”. After all, the nation’s health insurance industry signed off on the Obamacare bill– doesn’t that tell you that it isn’t a takeover?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  42. Walker says:

    And what, precisely, has the Obama administration done that constitutes “attacks [on] free enterprise.” Sounds like you’re parroting talking points.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  43. Kathy says:

    Walker, of course that’s my interpretation of what Obama means. What is yours?

    What has he done? Give him another 4 years. Meanwhile, see above.

    Where in the world do you get that I said being the land of opportunity is a bad thing? The fact that it is the land of opportunity does not warrant Obama to “level the playing field so everybody plays by the same rules”.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  44. Kathy says:

    Peter Hahn, I don’t assume anything.

    In a world where every word and voice inflection is examined and re-examined, the choice of words on his website better be chosen very carefully.

    I see red flags. I concerns me. If I err, I would rather be alert.

    And in time, we shall see.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  45. Walker says:

    Kathy, please answer the question: what has Obama done that constitutes an “attack [on] free enterprise.”?

    And you said “He is taking it a step further by creating an atmosphere that is socialistic in nature – expanding the opportunity … by taking steps … level the playing field …”

    So expanding opportunity is a good thing unless Obama does it– is that about it?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  46. Kathy says:

    And what, precisely, has the Obama administration done that constitutes “attacks [on] free enterprise.

    The government bailouts, leveling the playing field, and everybody playing by the same rules.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  47. Walker says:

    “I see red flags. I concerns me. If I err, I would rather be alert.”

    So it’s not that Obama has actually done anything yet… you’re against what you imagine he might do?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  48. Walker says:

    Kathy, one more time, it was Bush who instituted the auto bailout. Bush. Not Obama.

    And you don’t think everyone should play by the same rules?! Really?!! That’s as in “welfare fraud and abuse must be stopped, but corporate fraud and abuse is OK”?

    What kind of world is that?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  49. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Dang you Walker! It is hard enough arguing this side without all the libs on this site who know how to insert smart links to pertinent information. Who started this World Wide Web anyway, Al Gore? It used to be we had opinions without benefit of fact and now we can just go and look up facts willy-nilly.

    Must find Kryptonite facts to counter you. But where? Help me Rupert Murdoch!
    You are my only hope.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  50. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Kathy, you’re killing me here. Since when is everyone playing by the same rules Socilaism?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1