Thursday, November 04, 2004

Wills Weighs In

Here's Gary Wills describing the election in much the same terms I used yesterday:


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.


And later:


America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed “a candid world,” as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters believe Iraq either worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.


Exactly right.

5 Comments:

At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting coming from Wills.

Turns out that the October suprise was right under everyone's nose, but we were all too busy espying dirty tricks and bin Ladenisms -- to catch on.

 
At 7:40 PM, Blogger Salvador T. Cordova said...

Greetings Dr. Rosenhouse,

Even though we disagree on many issues, my respect for your insights grows each day. I liked the article by Wills even though I disagreed on some points.

The title of Wills aricle "The Day the Enlightenment Went" gives a hint of why conservatives are making surprise advances. The stereotype of "ignorant fundamentalists" has been so perpetuated that the Democratic leadership seems quite convinced of it. The Democrats therefore seriously underestimate the scholarship and resourcesfulness and intelligence of their opponents. If Democrats in their hearts believe conservatives are backed by ignorant fundies, the Democrats will continue to struggle in their campaigns because they underestimate the capabilities of their opponents (who actually might be potential friends).

There was some justification for this "ignorant fundie" stereo type back in the days of the Scopes trial. However, as with the case of the new neo-creationists, the capability and intelligence of these re-packaged political forces is being seriously underestimated and dismissed because the "inherit the wind" stereotype.

As with the case of the academically credentialled IDists supplanting the Dr. Dino's of the world, the old style hell-fire fundies are being replaced by scholarly, amiable evangelicals. To publicly lump this new generation of evangelicals with the Osama Bin Ladin's is a political mistake. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has a better handle on the situation than Wills:

"The Republicans did not have an election about jobs, health care, education, environment, national security. They had an election about wedge issues in our country, and you know what they are," she said. "They exploited the loveliness of the American people, the devoutness of people of faith for a political end."

Pelosi rightly recognizes that the many of new evangelicals embody the loveliness of the American people. As you discovered at the Intelligent Design conference, the rank and file are more generous and amiable than perhaps their leaders. Not only are such people generous, the young evangelicals among them are quietly making inroads to the finest educational institutions.

Until the Democratic party recognizes that a similar situation is in play in the broader political arena, labels such as those promoted by Wills will only build more barriers rather than garnering votes.

Sweet loving evangelical American mothers will not take kindly to hearing someone like Wills refer to them as intolerant fundamentalists who reject the modern world. For example, Dr. Rebecca Keller, PhD in chemistry, homeschools her kids. The mother of the IDEA president at George Mason University was a nurse and electrical engineer before becoming a full-time mother. The specialized attention of home schooling made her daughter a prodigy.

This is representative of the kind of people that Wills is un-intentionally offending, and this is bad move at a time when Democrats sorely need to offend as few as they can. The children of such evangelical mothers will not quickly forget the words of Wills.

I know an evangelical 23 year old who voted for Gore the last election. She had no problem voting for Bush this time around. She was a wholesome homecoming princess of her college, a prodigy on her way to Princeton for grad school, an all around lovely person in the way Nancy Pelosi described. When a young lady like that sees someone like Wills even so much as hint that she appears like a Jihadist, that will only drive her and those like her to join the Republican party where she will be esteemed and cherished rather than publicly denigrated.

Capable, moderate, and even liberal leaning Democrats, can garner evangelical votes (or at least not get them so energized in opposition), but they must first show greater appreciation and respect for this sizable voting block rather than continuing to project the "ignorant fundie" stereotype on them.


Salvador

 
At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(too lazy to set up an account)
There was some justification for this "ignorant fundie" stereo type back in the days of the Scopes trial. However, as with the case of the new neo-creationists, the capability and intelligence of these re-packaged political forces is being seriously underestimated and dismissed because the "inherit the wind" stereotype.
Likewise, anti-Western Islamists have previously been seriously underestimated and dismissed. The "ignorant Muslim extremist" stereotype flies in the face of the reality of the 9/11 attacks and of the Muslim world at large. Many of the 9/11 hijackers (and their sponsors) were/are highly intelligent and well-educated. Muhammed Atta was well-educated, and received training as an architect. Other 9/11 hijackers had received extensive education in the West, and were by no means "primitive fundamentalists".

Ayman al-Zawahiri, who with Usama bin Laden founded al-Qaeda, is an MD. And bin Laden himself is a formidable intellectual force.

There are many disturbing parallels between the extremist Christian leadership here in the US and the extremist Islamist leadership in the Middle East and Asia. Education and intelligence are not necessarily effective innoculations against delusion.

The fact that today's creationist leaders are erudite, well-credentialed and articulate makes them all the more dangerous. If all creationists were ignorant backwards hicks and all Islamists were simple camel-riding tribesmen, we'd have no trouble with creationism *or* terrorism.

 
At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(too lazy to set up an account)
There was some justification for this "ignorant fundie" stereo type back in the days of the Scopes trial. However, as with the case of the new neo-creationists, the capability and intelligence of these re-packaged political forces is being seriously underestimated and dismissed because the "inherit the wind" stereotype.
Likewise, anti-Western Islamists have previously been seriously underestimated and dismissed. The "ignorant Muslim extremist" stereotype flies in the face of the reality of the 9/11 attacks and of the Muslim world at large. Many of the 9/11 hijackers (and their sponsors) were/are highly intelligent and well-educated. Muhammed Atta was well-educated, and received training as an architect. Other 9/11 hijackers had received extensive education in the West, and were by no means "primitive fundamentalists".

Ayman al-Zawahiri, who with Usama bin Laden founded al-Qaeda, is an MD. And bin Laden himself is a formidable intellectual force.

There are many disturbing parallels between the extremist Christian leadership here in the US and the extremist Islamist leadership in the Middle East and Asia. For fundamentalist Muslims and Christians alike, education and intelligence often fail to provide an effective innoculation against delusion.

The fact that today's creationist leaders are erudite, well-credentialed and articulate makes them all the more dangerous. If all creationists were ignorant backwards hicks and all Islamists were simple camel-riding tribesmen, we'd have no trouble with creationism *or* terrorism.

 
At 5:37 PM, Blogger Salvador T. Cordova said...

I found this article by Nicholas Kristoff last year:

http://4religious-right.info/Evangelicals_Kristof_NYTimes_mar3.html

"I care about this issue partly because I grew up near Yamhill, Ore., which has 790 people and five churches. My science teacher at Yamhill Grade School taught that evolution was false, and a high school girlfriend attended a church where people spoke in tongues ( contrary to stereotypes, she was an ace student, smarter than many people fluent in more conventional tongues, like French and Spanish). In the evangelical tinge to its faith, Yamhill is emblematic of a huge chunk of Middle America that we in the Northeast are out of tune with. "

 

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