How to "Get" Tom DeLay

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Return to Reason Needed

Yesterday's TIA Daily pointed its readers to an article that demonstrates the "malevolently anti-intellectual contempt for persuasion and public discussion by a political movement that no longer has anything to say." The article discusses the throwing of objects at conservative speakers by leftist thugs across college campuses. Our liberal press dismisses such stunts, almost with a wink, as "pranks."

This bodes ill for the left and for American politics in general. How can we expect savages like this to assume the mantle of an intellectually viable opposition to the religious right? Obviously, we can't, and this should put anyone who cares about his freedom on notice that the time to start fighting the religionists is now. Of course, part of that battle -- ultimately, the most important part -- is finding those who take ideas seriously and wish to oppose this grave threat to our freedom. But then, most of us see that our pie-tossing young Democrats are worse than useless. What are the adult Democrats doing? Do they offer at least the hope of temporary allies?

Where Militant Skepticism Leads

I have often complained of the left today that it is largely a nihilistic movement. Rather than standing up for intellectual freedom (the real, positive reason for opposing the religious right), they merely oppose the religionists for positing dogmas they don't like. An excellent example of this is the intellectual "debate" about the teaching of evolution as opposed to creationism as science. Awhile back, I quoted Joe Kaplinsky on this matter:

Liberals have often been at the forefront of questioning the authority of science. It is liberals who have argued that science education should respect cultural differences [emphasis mine] and that the curriculum should be immediately relevant to everyday life of students. Creationists have leapt at the opportunity presented by educational theories to put the knowledge of pupils on the same level as that as scientists, by putting forward the demand to 'teach the controversy'.
So while the liberals claim they oppose the teaching of creationism, their basic premise -- that there is no such thing as objective knowledge -- makes their opposition unserious and ineffective. Why? To the liberal steeped in subjectivism, to claim anything as knowledge is as good as thumping a Bible because there is no concept of objectivity as such. To the typical liberal, the theory of evolution is just one of the trappings of the scientific culture, as is creationism of the religious mindset. So we must teach both as if they are equally valid, because they are regarded as equally invalid.

In this view, there can be no certainty (scientific or otherwise) because our senses have to process information from the outside world. So the information has been "filtered" and is thus nonobjective -- and no different than religious faith. As Ayn Rand once summarized Immanuel Kant's position on the validity of sensory data in For the New Intellectual:
[Kant's] argument amounted to a negation, not only of man's consciousness, but of any consciousness, of consciousness as such. His argument, in essence, ran as follows: man is limited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others, therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind, because he has eyes -- deaf, because he has ears -- deluded, because he has a mind -- and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them. (p. 30)
When this is one's basic position in epistemology, there is nothing left but to indulge in emotionalistic I sez-you sez debates like the ones about teaching evolution vs. creationism. So what does this have to do with Tom DeLay?

Lacking: A Principled Case against Tom DeLay

Well, the pie-throwing college students I mentioned above are the logical end of the idea that there is no objective knowledge: They have abandoned reason altogether. Their generational predecessors, the Democrats currently in power, aren't much better. They're trying to bring down Tom DeLay, not on the basis of his reprehensible machinations during the Terri Sciavo debacle or his disgraceful threats since, but for "ethics violations," some of them years old and some not even unethical by any rational standard -- like allowing family members to (gasp!) get paid for performing actual work!

Rich Lowry gives an example of what the Democrats are trying to trip DeLay up with since they haven't the intellectual confidence to wage a war of ideas against him because of his policies and actions.
This story might have been news if it hadn't been known for years and been the subject of a detailed report in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call on May 5, 2003 — meaning the Times did a follow-up 702 days later. And this story might have been scandalous if it weren't for the fact that having family members on the pay-roll is a common, bipartisan practice, accepted as legitimate so long as they actually do work (DeLay's daughter runs his congressional campaigns). This story can only be explained if some editor at the Times is not barking at reporters, "Get news on Tom DeLay!" but instead simply, "Get Tom DeLay!"
And I love the way he puts this, because it is so apropos to the epistemolgical crisis of the left.
What is happening to DeLay is a ritual with all the carefully scripted but irrational rules of an Aztec sacrifice ceremony. First, the target is deemed "dogged by ethics questions." Then, every scrap of negative information is splashed on the front pages, until out of exhaustion the target's supporters abandon him. Finally, six months after the target's demise, everyone scratches their head and wonders, "What was that all about?"
Yeah. I guess when any claim to certainty is dismissed as invalid, you'll end up basically grabbing for a rabbit's foot rather than, say, making a rational argument for DeLay's ouster on the grounds that he's threatening to end the independence of the judiciary. (After all, that's just some silly social construct of a bunch of dead white men.) Once again, we see the left's epistemological rot paving the way for the religionists. Furthermore, it manifests itself by behavior that is eerily reminiscent of religion in this case!

Call for Republican Help an Admission of Intellectual Bankruptcy

Things have gotten so bad, in fact, that Robert Novak reports that The New York Times, that reliable press organ of the Democratic Party, has been trying to get a Republican to help out by turning on DeLay!
On March 24, former Congressman Bob Livingston was sent an e-mail by a New York Times editorial page staffer suggesting he write an op-ed essay. Would Livingston, who in 1998 gave up certain elevation to be House speaker because of a sexual affair, write about how Majority Leader Tom DeLay should now act under fire? In a subsequent conversation, it was made clear the Times wanted the prominent Republican to say DeLay should step aside for the good of the party.

Livingston in effect declined by responding that if he wrote anything for the Times, it would be pro-DeLay. But this remarkable case of that august newspaper fishing for an op-ed piece makes it appear part of a calculated campaign to bring down the single most powerful Republican in Congress. The Democratic establishment and left-wing activists have targeted DeLay as the way to end a decade of Republican control of the House.
One might dismiss my complaints about how the Democrats and their allied media are trying to "get DeLay"on the grounds this is politics, and politics is played by politicians who betray their principles all the time. But what of the fact that there actually is some trace of substantive debate going on among the Republicans? While there is ample room for fearing that the Republicans might do irreparable harm to the judiciary, this is not certain to occur, and none other than Dick Cheney distanced himself from DeLay's reckless post-Schiavo remarks. Certainly, the statement from Cheney I quoted in the previous link is far from ideal, but it is miles ahead of what the Democratic politicians are saying.

So even some (Republican) politicans oppose DeLay's attacks on the judiciary. What about grassroots Democrats? Well, via Matt Drudge, I learned of some brilliant tee shirts that are being sold to those interested in opposing DeLay. With such slogans as, "DeLay is a Robot," "Dear Tom DeLay, Please commit suicide. Sincerely, Everyone," and "Tom DeLay: Evil GOP Bastard," I'm sure they'll convince busloads of people that Tom DeLay is dangerous and convey exactly why that is. (I'm sure it's only a matter of time before something similar to this comes out, too.)

So the Democrats are intellectually bankrupt. They're clutching their rabbit's foot and hoping to oust (or defeat) DeLay over some silly "ethics" infraction (rather than going for his jugular for his traitorous behavior), and begging for Republican help. Only this last stands a prayer of immediate success, but they're asking for the wrong kind of help.

What the Dems Really Need: Principles

The Democrats do not need a turncoat Republican. They do not even need to nail DeLay for "ethics violations." What they need is intellectual ammunition. I'd like them to forget about all their silly reasons for getting rid of Tom DeLay and concentrate on the one good one, the one that will actually help our country. Tom DeLay is attacking the system of checks and balances wisely instituted by our Founding Fathers. He is doing so by threatening the independence of our judiciary.

This is reason enough to oust him from his leadership position in Congress and, for that matter, could be the basis for a successful campaign to unseat him by a Democrat (or even a Republican primary challenger) since he's vulnerable. The way to get rid of DeLay is to make a rational argument for his ouster that will appeal to Republicans who genuinely care about their country. Make it clear what DeLay is doing and they'll want him gone, too.

For a start, they might look at the following cartoon by John Cox and Allen Forkum.

Image Hosted by

Pretty good, eh? Beats those crappy tee shirts hands down. Here's what I'd do if I were running against Tom DeLay. Around election time next year, I'd ask Cox and Forkum very nicely (read: by offering a handsome sum) whether they'd agree to let me use this cartoon in my campaign against Tom DeLay. This cartoon would be all over television. It would adorn tee shirts. It would appear on billboards. It would be in newspaper ads. I would make this the central issue in my campaign. This would be pretty easy to do. There are plenty of court decisions that conservative voters are thankful for -- the one that ended the 2000 election for example. I'd make it clear that any or all of these could have been rendered moot had someone like Tom DeLay been able to influence the judiciary the way he wants to. Many Americans, unlike Tom DeLay, still respect the founding fathers. I'd bring them up and their rationale for separation of powers every chance I got. I would raise such a fuss about how important it is to keep any one branch of the government from having too much power that the voters who didn't understand me would probably cast their votes for me just to get me to shut up.

But then, it's probably asking way too much of America's 21st-century reactionaries, the Democrats, to make a stand for something, to care about America, or to give her citizenry any credit whatsoever for having the brainpower to weigh issues of any importance. No. It's far better to hypocritically pick on the "evil GOP bastard" for his "ethics violations" than to make an uncompromising stand for separation of powers. It's much more important to incite hatred and violence than to respect the fact that the man holds a high office and to make the case that his policies are bad for the Republic. Oh, and far better to play Lakoffian association games than to offer a party that is a serious alternative to the Republicans. Or to credit the electorate with the ability to rationally weigh options now and again, if only offered real options. The Democrats as they are today amount to an army of Lilliputians attempting, just for the hell of it, to take down Tom DeLay with weapons of needle and thread when one good punch to the jaw from a real man is all it would take to deliver the knockout blow. (And the Democrats look like they are much more likely to do this literally than figuratively!)

Well, we can always hope for a strong primary challenger from the Republicans....

-- CAV


4-13-05: Corrected typo, courtesy of reader Adrian Hester.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Yo, Gus. I wonder a bit about DeLay. Does he seriously believe everything he says, or is he grasping at straws and flailing around in the hope of finding an issue to ride to revictory? Either one's pretty icky, but I suspect the former--if he had any sense, he'd have done a week-long decline in the rhetoric and then kept shut on the issue untul election time. I hope he gets fried hard in the election, and given the Democratic intellectual silence on the whole foofaraw, I hope there's a Republican in his district ready to nail him to the wall hard when the campaign comes around.