Since when do stem cells top the agenda?


So Obama’s hitting the ground running — jawboning Bush about Detroit, and so on — and that’s a good thing. Actually, he’s running BEFORE he hits the ground, which doesn’t happen until Jan. 20, but that’s good too. The nation needs leadership in a time of economic trouble, and it hasn’t had any lately.

Team Obama is also turning to some other priorities, such as shutting down Guantanamo (which, if and when it happens, will likely be cheered by John McCain as well — even if he may quibble over what happens with regard to trying the prisoners), and signaling that it is NOT going to dismantle our intelligence apparatus (much to the consternation of Obama’s base). All to the good, and all appropriate.

But one thing that the new team is signaling as a priority puzzles me. I first ran across it in the WSJ‘s weekend interview piece with Rahm Emanuel. Headlined with the quote, "Do What You Got Elected to Do," it looked at first as though it would make eminent good sense, invoking such themes as,  "Barack Obama’s message of change and Bush and the Republicans’ record of incompetence." Fine. But then I got to this:

Asked what Barack Obama was elected to do, and what legislation he’s
likely to find on his Oval Office desk soonest, Mr. Emanuel didn’t
hesitate. "Bucket one would have children’s health care, Schip," he
said. "It has bipartisan agreement in the House and Senate. It’s
something President-elect Obama expects to see. Second would be [ending
current restrictions on federally funded] stem-cell research. And third
would be an economic recovery package focused on the two principles of
job creation and tax relief for middle-class families."

At this point, I got whiplash. Say what? Hey, I’m all for Schip and all that — for starters (it doesn’t get us to a National Health Plan, but it’s something). But I don’t recall it being, specifically, a main topic in the election. But let it pass; it fits under the umbrella of a topic Obama DID talk a lot about.

But stem-cell research? You’re kidding me, right? An issue from the very heart of the Culture Wars, the second priority of the new president? In what universe, other than that occupied by the NARALs on one side and the Right to Life lobby on the other?

Why would this supposedly pragmatic, triangulating new chief of staff choose such a pointlessly divisive cultural issue as Priority Two for a president who so famously wants to end divisiveness in the country? Does he want to make the biggest mistake since Bill Clinton, after winning as a Third Way Democrat, both lifted regulatory restrictions on abortion and tried to eliminate the barrier to gays in the military in his first days in office?

Obama making stem cells a top priority would be like … I don’t know… like a Republican getting elected and announcing that one of the first things he’ll do is intervene in something like the Terri Schiavo case. One can quibble all day about the efficacy of different approaches to research in this field — but lifting the very narrow restriction that exists on federal funding of this activity (not on whether the research will take place, but on whether we the taxpayers will pay for it) is all about bragging rights in the Culture War. It’s a big deal to the left to lift the restrictions and a big deal to the right to keep them in place, but it doesn’t bear much on the price of fish for the rest of us. In fact, the technology may be on the way to making the political argument moot.

At first I attributed this to some sort of misunderstanding. After all, this interview was conducted on the fly, in an airport, before Mr. Emanuel had even been officially offered the post of chief of staff. And it WAS couched in terms of what Obama’s "likely to find on his … desk soonest" from Congress, which is different from what his own priorities might be.

But then I started seeing other references to this Kulturkampf issue, references that indicated this would be a priority for the new administration. And I had to wonder why. Is this a sop Obama would throw to his base so they get off his back on intelligence matters? Maybe. And maybe it’s just some partisans on his transition team getting carried away with themselves.

But it gave me pause.


46 thoughts on “Since when do stem cells top the agenda?

  1. Phillip

    It’s not that stem-cell research “tops the agenda,” it’s just that there are a whole host of items that Obama could tackle via executive order, and that happens to be one of them.
    The way Emanuel phrased it, it sounded like it would be part of legislative initiatives, but that was misleading or inaccurate. Obama can simply reverse Bush’s executive order on stem-cell research. It will probably be one of the very first things he does, not because it’s the most pressing priority, but simply because he believes in that position and he can easily issue the reversal of the order.
    There seem to be a lot of mixed signals about this. Podesta talked about these executive orders, but yesterday another spokeswoman insisted that “before he makes any decisions on potential executive or legislative actions, he will be conferring with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, as well as interested groups.”

  2. Randy E

    Brad, unlike McCain who needs to set aside one priority (his campaign) to address another (the financial crisis) it’s possible that Obama can multi-task. As Phillip explained, stem cells is one of a collection of executive order issues.
    I am once again suprised at your simplistic categorization of those favoring stem-cell research as NARAL types (darn that NARAL loving Nancy Reagan).
    Yea Mike, thank God there are no gay people in the military (and there are none in Iran either according to Ahmadinejad).

  3. Lee Muller

    It is symbolic, like most of Obama’s campaign, meant to feed red meat to the hard-core Democrats who whipped this non-issue into another “outrage”, and excuse to vilify President Bush.
    It panders to the abortion crowd, the junk science crowd, the government research money feeders, costs nothing, accomplishes nothing, and causes no real harm.
    And it is a thumb in the eye of abortion opponents, and a signal to the pro-abortion crowd. It may be all they get, but it will innoculate Obama from criticism for not delivering for quite a while.

  4. Ozzie

    Looks like Bobby Jindal of Lousiana may come out as a front-runner on the Republican side next time. This article suggests he might be a good choice, especially a pro-lifer for universal health care. Much more qualified than Sarah Palin.

  5. bud

    Brad, I partially agree, the stem cell issue is fairly minor. But a large majority of voters probably favor lifting the ban. This isn’t going to be nearly so divisive and you suggest. But it probably could have been lifted without so much fanfare.
    As for me, I’m disappointed he hasn’t mentioned anything about Iraq yet. Surely that will come up soon. That’s a major issue that he actually ran on.

  6. Brad Warthen

    Well, bud… actually, he just ran for the NOMINATION on that. In the early stages. But thanks to the success of the surge he opposed, he was able to run his general election campaign on the economy, which is probably the single largest reason he won the election.
    And so it was perfectly appropriate for him to make his first press conference after the election about that issue — which should please you, since you like talking about the economy more than I do.
    What’s going to happen on Iraq? The same thing that would have happened if McCain had become president, although it will be presented differently: As the Iraqis stand up (which they’ve been doing, increasingly), we’ll stand down — and the troops and other resources will go to Afghanistan. Or to some other trouble spot we don’t even know about yet.

  7. Rich

    Let’s recall who won the election: the Democrats, decisively and all the way around. That means they get to implement their program, with or without the Republicans who can protest all they like.
    The Republicans had no problem in 2001 implementing their program over Democratic and secular objections. I fully expect the Democrats to protect a woman’s right to choose; promote stem-cell research; vigorougly support the teaching of real science (i.e., evolution) in the public schools; end faith-based, government-financed initiatives, and eventually end the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy concerning gays in the military and fully support their open inclusion in the U.S. armed forces and in all aspects of American life.
    Let’s face it: objections to abortion, gayness, stem-cell research, evolution, birth-control–you name it!–virtually all stem from religious considerations. When those concerns lack a purely secular purpose then they have no place in our law.
    As I said, the Republicans lost the election–and decisively. This means that we Democrats get to enjoy the spectacle of their being outvoted and dis-established as a major influence in American life for some time to come.
    The Republicans need to become the party of Lincoln again and recover their roots as fiscal conservatives who not only oppose excessive taxation but also oppose excessive spending, particularly on the military to prop up our empire in American blood and treasure.
    To quote the French president not too long in dealing with his opposition at home: il est temps que les Republicains se taisent–i.e., it’s time for the Republicans to shut up and acknowledge their defeat and all it truly means!
    In addition, I would support constitutional reform of the Senate to reflect the population of the states in order to end the excessive influence of small states like South Carolina and South Dakota on national politics.

  8. Brad Warthen

    “Rich?” Is that you, Frank? Sorry; couldn’t resist.
    Seems like I’ve heard that same argument before — from George W. Bush. Which is why we endorsed Obama and McCain for their respective parties, because both of them offered the promise of getting beyond all that “We won the election, so we’re going to do what we damn’ well please, no matter what the other 40-some-odd percent of the country wants” garbage.
    And I fail to see why you fail to see that the main obstacle to governing in a way that can gain and keep the support of a consensus of the country is concentrating on PERIPHERAL issues such as federal funding of stem cell research.
    Lead on the economy. Lead on America’s place in the world. Lead on the things that matter. Leave the pointless culture wars for the interest groups to fight each other over. No one who would govern the whole country should waste his time and energy on that stuff.
    You can’t avoid nominating justices for the Supreme Court when vacancies occur. And thanks to the madness fostered by Roe, you can’t avoid there being a full-tilt cultural battle over that when the time comes. But for the country’s sake, don’t go provoking any of that nonsense when you don’t have to.

  9. jfx

    Ah, you’re not thinking big, Brad.
    Stem cell research….just like space exploration…SHOULD be federally funded, and it should receive intensive active government support up and down the line.
    This is important, for obvious reasons, as we approach something more akin to a “universal” (some would say “ethical”) healthcare system.
    But have you considered national security?
    A chemical or biological holocaust is, at present, far more likely, and far less preventable, than a nuclear holocaust.
    Think about the ramifications. Think about what stem cells are, and the potential for what they can do. Think about the sorts of catastrophes further understanding might prevent, or even reverse.
    The stem-cell thing is only a “Culture Wars” issue to people who make the choice to see it through that filter alone. But the world is moving too fast for America to get hung up on this sort of reactionary navel-gazing. Just as we had an obligation to beat the Nazis to a superweapon, and an obligation to hold our own in the Space Race, we also have an obligation to compete in the biological frontier. It’s not too extreme to think that if our government doesn’t take up that obligation, we could be mortally screwed.

  10. Lee Muller

    So what if “a majority of voters favor lifting the ban” on federal funding of stem cell research using aborted babies (all other stem cell research is funded)?
    a. Most voters don’t know what a stem cell is, much less understand the medical ethics and other issues. That includes the Obama voters posting here.
    b. Morals are not declared valid by majority will, much less by a tiny minority declaring that it is the will of the majority. You can legalize murder, but it is still murder. Oooops. Washington state just did that in this election, with “assisted suicide”.

  11. jfx

    So, Lee, you’re not in favor of majority-rule democracy when it conflicts with your personal worldview or ideology? Gee. Fair-weather patriot?
    FYI, nobody here is an arbiter or authority on morals. Nope, not you either.
    Have you considered that most of the voters in favor of lifting the federal ban might actually understand the positive implications of all manner of stem cell research enough that they think it warrants aggressive federal support?
    Or do you think all of us evil Obama posters just want to kill more babies?

  12. Camelot

    Lee Muller, and sometimes, Brad Warthen, are the only sensible, reasoned and factually supported commentators on this blog, whatever the political social historical topic.
    The ponderous others are clonoids of MTV sophist postmodern propagandized “college grads” PC educated beyond their intelligence. Sound and fury signifying nothing.

  13. Rich

    Consensus means that we all more or less agree on something. I don’t believe for a minute that we should arrive at consensus with the Republicans. They lost the election and it is they who spent the last eight years trying to impose their divisive religious values on everyone else.
    It may be shocking in South Carolina to say that our government should not be organized around supposed “Biblical” principles, but when you fight against a woman’s right to choose, a gay person’s right to full equality, stem-cell research, evolution, and equal opportunity for minorities after STEALING THE ELECTION in 2000, how can I be considered the culture warrior?
    You know, I lived in California and Massachusetts for years. And while I would never leave S.C. ever again except for a vacation, the mindset of the white people of this red state is OUT OF STEP with the rest of the Union. S.C. and the other red states that voted for McCain are not the intellectual and spiritual leaders of this country. The Republicans gained power for a time largely through the dirty tricks of yahoos like Lee Atwater, who gladly played to the baser instincts of the Republican Party.
    It seems to me that you’re saying, hey, wait a minute, there are certain subjects that are taboo because they are divisive. If you want our support to create a government of national unity, then you must accommodate the party THAT LOST.
    Wrong. What I voted for was a decisive shift to a European-style left in American politics. I want us to be international, urbane, sophisticated, nuanced, intelligent, educated, skeptical, and RESPECTED once again by people with brains outside this country.
    This means that I DON’T CARE if you can hunt or fish; I don’t care to have a government staffed with people who can shoot pool, fight, or drink me under the table (all of which would require some doing). I want my government to be BETTER than I am. I want my president to represent this country abroad with pride. I want to hear people worldwide oohing and aahing about how wonderful he is and how he represents the better angels of our nature.
    I am not in the least bit interested in bowling with him (yup, I can do that better) or having a beer with him. If I ever met him and sat down with him for a few minutes, I would want to have tea and pick his brain about foreign policy. We elected a president–a leader, someone who can do what we cannot do, someone whose actions will fill us with national pride and deep, deep satisfaction.
    That’s not going to happen if we accept the Republican attitude that, yes, the conservatives lost the election decisively, but the winners dare not bring our country into the modern world.
    Religious fundamentalism, yahoo conservatism, intolerance, and anti-intellectualism have been the hallmarks of a discredited, regional, dessicated, hypocritical Republican party that deserves absolutely no place in the halls of power for the next four years. And if they obstruct, then their obstruction must be made manifest for all to see.
    No, it is time for the Democracy to lead, and for the GOP to follow.
    Indeed, it is time for the GOP to recapture its legacy as the party of Lincoln and fiscal restraint while decisively jettisoning the RELIGIOUS RIGHT which has done so much damage over the last generation to America and to the world in the false hope that their mythical god will ever return.
    It ain’t happenin’. Sorry.

  14. Guero

    Rich, you’re missing the big picture here.
    Mr. Warthen IS a Republican Ayatollah, whether he’s a card-carryin’ knuckledragger or not is irrelevant. His style is not the Know-Nothing internet crank Lee Muller model but the ultimate vote from him is the same as Lee’s.
    His brand of cafeteria-style Roman Catholicism is the foundation of his political life. His version of religion/government is closer to the Islamic model than our seperation of church and state.
    Abortion drives Mr. Warthen. He has some self-awareness in that he understands how radical his real philosophy is. He hides his opposition to birth control pills and his desire for the government to outlaw the same as he knows how strange and repugnant that assault on individual privacy would appear to the great majority of American society. He hides his abortion fanaticism by couching it in simplistic constitutional law terminology. The words “right to privacy” don’t appear in the Constitution so it doesn’t exist to Mr. Warthen. Ask him where the right to a fair trial is in the Constitution or the right to vote and he becomes mute.
    Mr. Warthen’s compartmentalization of his faith is further shown by his fervent support of capital punishment and his refusal to recognize his church’s opposition to the other pillar of his being, the Neo-Con War in Iraq.
    So, Rich, when you write of the Republicans and their attempts to force their religion down our throats; unfortunately, Mr. Warthen is one of the pitchfork people, albeit one with guile.
    You must realize there is no value in exchanging views with Mr. Warthen; he is the epitome of religious ferver. He is right and refuses to consider any other opinion as his version of religion tells him he is right. He’s happy to be civil as long as you don’t object to his imposing his religious views on the rest of us.

  15. faust

    Geez Geuro! What a pontificating, self righteous boor you are. I admit I have done my share of sermonizing in the past, but when I look at your voluminous screeds I have to take my hat off to a master bullsh*tter.
    In any case, as usual we can leave it to liberals to reduce an issue with towering moral implications to the lowest common denominator and liken stem cell research to winning the space race, as jfx has done.
    Way to go jfx, you have raised missing the big pic to an art form.

  16. bud

    Brad, you miss the point with stem cell research. It was Bush who changed it. Obama is merely restoring the situation to what it was before. Why is that devisive? I would suggest that 80% of all Americans favor stem cell research. You’re nitpicking here. The Democrats won the election and they will push their agenda on the cultural issues.
    As for Iraq, Brad, as usual, is completely wrong. Obama campaigned on getting out of Iraq and will do so. McCain campaigned on a 100 year occupation. That’s a pretty big difference to me. I hope he gets on with it.

  17. p.m.

    “Let’s face it: objections to abortion, gayness, stem-cell research, evolution, birth-control–you name it!–virtually all stem from religious considerations.” – Rich
    No, Rich, the objections to those things have more to do with right and wrong, common sense and instinct than religion.
    Worshiping at the altar of Bill Maher won’t get you to sociopolitical heaven, I promise.

  18. Birchibald T. Barlow

    p.m. — If religion is not the objection to the issues of homosexuality, stem cell research, birth control, and evolution, then I would love to hear the specifics as to why each of these things should be rejected.

  19. bud

    Here’s an issue that will rise rapidly to the top, energy. Mexico is poised to become a net oil importer in as little as 2 years. If that happens the U.S. will have to make up 11% of it’s oil imports from somewhere.
    Ex-official says Mexico may have to halt oil exports
    By JENALIA MORENO and DAVID IVANOVICH Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
    Nov. 11, 2008, 11:32PMShare
    U.S. could soon find itself scrambling to make up 11 percent in lost oil imports.
    Mexico, the third-largest foreign supplier of U.S. oil, faces the real possibility of having to halt oil exports in four years, a former top Mexican energy official was reported as saying Tuesday in Mexico’s El Universal newspaper.
    Rogelio Gasca Neri, the former head of Mexico’s federal electricity commission, blamed the inability of the nation’s oil industry to produce enough oil to meet rising demand.

  20. faust

    I have no morall problem with stem cell research as long as we do not destroy human embryos to do it and as long as government (more specifically, the american taxpayer) doesn’t subsidize it.
    Beyond that, have at it.

  21. Brad Warthen

    On stem cell research, Birchibald, you’re missing the point, succinctly stated by Faust.
    It’s not about the moral objections. It’s about whether WE should be FORCED to pay for it with our taxes. The burden is on those who WANT federal funds to go for it, not on those who don’t.
    Or are you maintaining that this is a world in which everything that’s not forbidden should be mandatory?

  22. Birchibald T. Barlow

    Brad — Your point is well made on stem-cell research. I should have left that off the list of issues on that comment. We shouldn’t be FORCED to pay for stem cell research with our tax dollars the same way we shouldn’t be FORCED to pay for health care with our tax dollars the same way we shouldn’t be FORCED to pay for retirement benefits with our tax dollars.

  23. Rich

    We most certainly should be forced to pay for what we don’t like–especially when we LOSE ELECTIONS!
    The Bill of Rights makes no provision for exempting from taxation those who object to the purpose of the levy.
    For that matter, I’d start taxing church property.

  24. Brad Warthen

    Well, gee, if you put it that way, it sounds a whole lot better…
    My point is that if there is something controversial of debatable benefit (and I mean reasonably debatable; it’s POSSIBLE to debate anything), general tax revenues shouldn’t be spent on it — ESPECIALLY when it expresses the very essence of cultural divides in our society.
    Obviously, we need to pay taxes that are demonstrably for the general good — such as Social Security taxes. But such money should not be spent on matters that are the most divisive we have, such as to pay for abortions or support increasingly irrelevant kinds of stem cell research.
    But my ultimate point isn’t about the spending itself. It’s about priorities. If you want to unify the country and get it moving in a positive direction, you don’t waste precious political capital making gestures toward one side or the other in pointless, endless culture wars.
    We’ve had enough of this… the Democrats win an election, and immediately flip the switch one way, infuriating the Republicans. Then the Republicans win an election, and immediately flip the switch the other way, infuriating the Democrats. Then the Democrats get back into power, and THE FIRST THING they can think of to do is whatever will infuriate the Republicans the most…
    It’s stupid, it’s childish and it’s destructive, doing far more harm than it’s worth. Obama has the intelligence, and I believe the motivation, to break that cycle. And what I’m saying is that putting stem cell research in the first rank of the things you want to do is NOT the way to move forward. Which is why I hope Emanuel’s statement on the subject does not reflect Obama’s priorities.

  25. Phillip

    “My point is that if there is something controversial of debatable benefit (and I mean reasonably debatable; it’s POSSIBLE to debate anything), general tax revenues shouldn’t be spent on it…”
    Brad, I can’t resist…”something controversial of debatable benefit”?
    Like the Iraq War?

  26. Birchibald T. Barlow

    Well, the election of the President is a winner take all race. If Obama has stem cell research in his platform and then he wins, I think his supporters expect him to implement that particular policy.
    For me, public funding of stem cell research is trivial anyway (compared with Iraq, the economy, the national debt, etc) and not much more than an academic debate which, if nothing else, is at least entertaining.
    I realize we fundamentally disagree (which is ok) on the role and scope of our government. But, I will say that I fail to understand the benefits of a retirement program that calls for us to pay into it, absorb its HUGE administration burden and then recieve a benefit when we retire. I can’t figure out how this helps the common good when everyone could invest privately at a considerably lower cost.

  27. Rich

    I did not vote for Democrats because I wanted to accommodate Republican sensibilities about the culture war.
    It is ridiculous for the Republicans to expect any role other than that of a loyal opposition.

  28. faust

    Brad, I think you give Obama too much credit. With powerful majorities in both House and Senate and a convincing win in the presidential race -(whether it’s a mandate is argueable, but it was certainly convincing) – I think Obama will move on every front he possibly can, and to heck with republican/conservative sensibilities.
    Just my gut what I’ve observed about the hubris and delusions of grandeur manifested by Obama.
    Nevertheless, he IS the man. Election results have consequences.

  29. Brad Warthen

    And if he emphasizes stem cells and abortion over improving the economy or the conduct of foreign policy, the pendulum’s going to swing right back the other way, and the nasty craziness continues.
    I really think Obama wants to break the cycle, and I’m cheering for him to do so, and NOT get sidetracked with this culture war stuff.
    And Phillip, I’d be surprised if you didn’t say that about the war. Of course, I argue that the same logic doesn’t apply. Stem cell research — the kind that is controversial — can be funded or not funded without catastrophic results. Neither Obama nor Rahm Emanuel nor anyone other than the most vehement (and least practical) anti-war folks wants to pull troops out of Iraq precipitously. Responsible opinion on the subject might have a wide range of views of what “responsible” means, but most want to draw down the troop levels in Iraq — and increase them in Afghanistan — in a responsible manner. There’s a way forward in Iraq that we can form a consensus around in this country. You can’t say that about stem cell research funding — unless we say, of course, that we’re only going to fund the kind that isn’t controversial. Which, I believe (and correct me if I’m wrong) is sort of where we’ve been the last few years…

  30. jfx

    If you can’t see why keeping up with up strategic rivals like Russia and China with respect to stem cell research is critical, there’s nothing I can say to persuade you. To me it’s pretty obvious. It could be likened to the Manhattan Project, or the Space Race. An innerspace race.
    I understand the difficult moral dimensions of stem cell research. Believe me, I do. History has proven that sometimes we have to make difficult moral choices here at home, even with our tax dollars, because of what’s happening, or what might happen, OUT THERE in other countries.
    What would have happened if FDR had ignored that letter from Einstein?

  31. Randy E

    Rahm has spoken of many different issues. Brad picked out the stem cell comment and has blown it into a Clintonesque Don’t Ask Don’t Tell episode.
    There are three major points regarding this. Obama clearly does not want yes people as advisors so we’ll hear lots of strong opinions from his peeps. When we hear Obama say it, then you can analyze his position.
    Also, Obama is capable of addressing multiple issues at once. He can clean up the elephant dung while addressing the economic crisis.
    Finally, this issue is a wedge issue for a minority – conservatives. Only 38% oppose federal funding for such research. Brad suggests Obama should shy away from an issue because it would upset a little more than a third of the electorate.
    If these embryos already exist and will be destroyed, what’s the difference between using cadavers for research and using these embryos?

  32. p.m.

    I think the separation of church and state prevents the taxation of church property, Rich.
    But don’t let a little thing like the U.S. Constitution get in your way, since you apparently think having won the election gives Obama the right to do absolutely anything, constitutional or otherwise.
    And since Obama said he would have a bipartisan cabinet, don’t you think he probably ought to keep his promise?

  33. Rich

    There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution forbidding the taxation of religious institutions. The first amendment states that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of religion; that would NOT include freedom from taxation. I suggest all of you pull out a copy of the Constitution. God is nowhere mentioned and Art. 6, Sec. 3 specifically states that there is to be no religious test for office under these United States. The Founders were way ahead of their time–more so than they themselves fully realized. The Constitution is, fundamentally, a document that is strictly neutral in matters of conscience.
    Brad suggests that Barack should avoid the culture war. This is precisely where Barack needs to engage the American people. No one really knows whether whatever we do to alleviate the economic situation will actually work. As many of you have been sufficiently disconcerted to note, the Republicans appear to be quite ready to jettison principle in order to save the economy. The Democracy (this is the 19th-century name of the Democrats and I think it needs to be resurrected) has always been willing to put people first. The Republicans are sufficiently scared–like everyone else!– to be willing to work with the Democrats to try anything that might work. And I say bravo to both parties for being willing to do whatever it takes to save the situation economically.
    Where the Democracy and their now truncated GOP opposition really disagree is on cultural matters. First and foremost, the GOP is unabashedly white supremacist without actually advocating discrimination. It is a regional party of gun-toting, Bible-thumping, low-information White people who think they have a divine mandate to rule. Many of them, like our current president, actually believe that Bible prophecy is a guide to foreign policy.
    Personally, I prefer Brezinski and Scowcroft (read their new book–or are you even aware that it is out and already highly influential??) as a guide to world affairs. We need to pay attention to people with brains who have doctorates in international relations and history rather than Bible-thumping TV preachers!!
    The Democracy can point the way back to secular government and politics by insisting on secular reasoning for any governmental enactment. Americans need to come to a point where they recognize that their personal faith commitments are NOT incumbent on the rest of the body politic!!
    Keep religion out of politics and respect everyone’s right to be who and what they are. This means respecting a woman’s right to choose, gay rights, stem-cell research, secular public education, evolution in science classes, accepting gays in the military, etc.
    If we had constitutional reform in the Senate, the cultural problem between left and right that we are experiencing would fix itself almost immediately. Culturally backward states like Alaska and our own beloved S.C. would be relegated to the political insignificance they so richly deserve. S.C. Whites need finally to realize that a liberal, secular, democratic national politics ultimately protects their rights to be who they are as much as everyone else’s right to the same treatment.
    No one is asking S.C. Whites to give up their social, religious, and political conservatism FOR THEMSELVES. It’s time to stop imposing it on the rest of us.
    The Democracy can go a long way just by pushing the cultural conflict out in the open and resolving the fundamental question of whether or not ANYONE can use the state to impose his religious and cultural opinions on anyone else.
    And the South does not have much moral leeway here. This is the region that gave us slavery, secession, lynching, the KKK, Jim Crow, and the contract labor system (for African Americans, of course). Southerners have absolutely no basis for claiming the moral high ground.
    This election was a repudiation of southern values, pure and simple. And it’s high time.
    We make better barbecue here than we do political theory.

  34. Guero

    Stem cell research is only controversial to religous zealots like Mr. Warthen. He seems to be already preaching “the controversy” so avoid revealing the strange substance of his views.
    I predict it won’t be long before we see Mr. Warthen’s newest man-crush surfacing. He’s got a fellow zealot in Bobby Jindal, the latest anti-science, Creationist, Exorcist hero of the Repugnant Party.

  35. Lee Muller

    The power to tax is the power to destroy.
    The courts have agreed that taxation of churches and religious activities can impose a dampening effect on freedom of worship, and that high taxes can be used to suppress and destroy the church.
    The courts have accepted the same argument as a reason to restrain taxation of newspapers.
    It does not matter to liberals and socialists that taxation is used to control other personal activities, such as punitive taxes on tobacco products, automobile fuels, firearms and ammunition.

  36. Lee Muller

    Correcting the falsehoods of “guero” and “bud”
    Stem cells research is going full swing. President Bush did not “ban” it, or “refuse to fund” it. Those are simply lies, repeated by ignorant followers who don’t know what stem cells research is.
    The KKK was bigger in Indiana than it was in the South.
    There is still racial segregation in much of the North. Southern cities used to be even more racially integrated than they are today, after “urban renewal” tore down the low-income housing of blacks living in proximity to the upper class neighborhoods where they worked.
    Jim Crow laws existed in the North, too. They got their start in the form of “gun control”, with whites wanting to disarm blacks, and that effort was carried out much more forcefully in the North. Southerners, having more respect for the Second Amendment, did not pass such laws, even on black people.

  37. p.m.

    Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
    Rich, any special tax for a religious institution would violate the language above. Not providing an exemption to a church or mosque on taxes not singular to a religious institution as a class probably wouldn’t violate the constitution.
    Any fool could see that Congress could easily tax a religion off the planet, and that would violate the First Amendment.
    But, apparently, being an anti-religious zealot makes you wear sunglasses at night when there’s no moon:
    “It (the GOP) is a regional party of gun-toting, Bible-thumping, low-information white people who think they have a divine mandate to rule.”
    Who could you expect to take you seriously when you write something that slanted and preposterous?
    And they actually let you teach school when you allow your bias to taint your vision so?

  38. Rich

    P.M., your party lost the election and has been marginalized into a regional party of ultra-conservative True Believers who think nothing of imposing their cultural and religious values on everyone else. The fact is that the Republicans have LOST and will continue to do so, effectively marginalizing the red states as their number continues to diminish.
    It’s time for secular, liberal democratic politics on a national level. If the Republicans continue to drag their knuckles on the floor and put up such obviously incompetent candidates at Sarah Palin for public office, then they will not only continue to lose, they will become an unimportant laughingstock.
    As for teaching, I teach tolerance and mutual respect in the classroom. I never express there the political opinions I express here, even though everyone knows I lean decisively to the left.
    My “it’s all good” approach to the study of religion and the development of mutual respect has a strong, but subtle subtext of relativism. Acceptance of difference is an implicit rejection of the exclusivist claims of any religion, and certainly a rejection of the right to preach it in school.
    I suggest you review Supreme Court cases concerning religion and the schools. As a public servant I neither denigrate nor promote religion in school.
    As a private citizen, I am quite forthright in my strongly agnostic lack of belief in claims for the supernatural. I know that you might disagree with this, but I do not accept any philosophical or religious claims that lack empirical evidence.
    I teach my students that they are under no moral obligation to believe anything without empirical evidence. That does not mean that we cannot take some things on faith. I take the Constitution on faith in the sense that I believe that human beings have the same basic rights and that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people. These are basic tenets of my “civil religion.” Of course, I am under no moral obligation to believe this; but I am obligated to obey positive enactments in the form of human law.
    Why, you might ask, if there is probably no God from whom all blessings allegedly flow? Simple. Our positive rights logically flow from our need for self-preservation on a utilitarian basis and from the fact that no one has the right in nature to do anything, much less oppress one’s fellowman.
    People can and should defend themselves and work for their prosperity and happiness as well as that of the species as a whole. From these principles concerning our nature, everything else flows.

  39. Michelle

    I’ll tell you who stem cell research is a priority to—the millions of people in this country who could benefit from research using stem cells for cures to a variety of diseases and spinal cord injuries, etc. If you’re not in that group, consider yourself lucky but if you are, you know what it’s like to live without hope that new therapies will emerge because of the right-wing take on this important issue.

  40. Lee Muller

    Michelle, there is no shortage of funding for stem cells research, and no shortage of genetic material, without federal funding to supply aborted embryos.
    This issue is not about medical research. It is about removing all restraints on the abortion industry.

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