Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Garrison Keillor - "Homegrown Democrat"

While I was on my trip I bought Homegrown Democrat, by Garrison Keillor. He is the rambling personality behind A Prairie Home Companion, a weekly radio variety show detailing the times of the fictional town of Lake Woebegone, along with music, and NPR humor. His writing feels like he dictated the entire book after staying up all night downing capuccinos and arguing over politics. The sentances are long and can be cumbersome, but full of passion.

The wonder of the book, even though it rambles in and out anecdotes about growing up, attending the University of Wisconsin and the death of JFK, is that it mirrors many of the reasons why I also am a Democrat. I am a Mormon from Idaho who works with a popcorn seed company in rural Indiana, which means that my peers at church and work, my family, and most of my friends are dyed in the wool Republicans.

To most of which, my choice to abandon the Republican party is approaching apostacy, because the Democratic party is percieved to consist of socialists, abortionists, supporters of gay marriage, and unreasonable vegetarian environmentalists. The Republicans see themselves as supporters of Christian values of temperance, low taxes, traditional marriage, moral values, the American Dream, and the City on a Hill.

When I look at the Republican party I see whited sepulchres that advertise Christian values, the American Dream, the City on a Hill in bright letters on the outside, but behind the boardroom doors are happy to make deals with tobacco companies, the logging industry, the military industrial complex, the oil industry or who ever else holds the purse strings. I see the war in Iraq. I see Iran-contra. I see Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo bay, illegal detentions and nightime raids on Muslim American homes. I see oil wells in the Alaskan wildlife refuge, the loss of wilderness and public lands, high national debts, tax breaks for the rich, Jack Abramoff, and empty words to pacify the religous conservatists about flag burning, school prayer, and constitutional marriage amendments.

Garrison Keillor argues that the Democratic party, the ideal one he believes in, supports a social contract. This social contract argues that the government exists for our good and should do good. The government should support public works, public transportation, public schools, public welfare, public lands. The constitution and the bill of rights are the framework for this contract. Civil rights spring out of this contract, as well as responsibility to support public schools and services.

Unfortunately, these may not be the pillars of the actual Democratic party, but they should be. That is a moral standard I can grab on to and defend. It expands the morals of the party beyond gay marriage and abortion, as it should because the government does so many things besides marriages and abortions.


d. chedwick bryant said...

hi, this is off topic, but there are not a lot of people who play jazz fiddle. My sister has been playing donegal style fiddle for decades, and a friend of mine plays bluegrass fiddle. I remember people like Stephan Grapelli and a fiddler with an electric fiddle-- (I think the album cover had a blue fiddle on it)

anyway, I'm glad to hear there are jazz fiddlers out there and you have made me wan to research them, and get a CD, because as much as I love Donegal style fiddle (John Doherty Style) there is only so much you can listen to. Jazz i can listen to all day, no problem.

PS Please stop by my blog and leave a comment
im having a little contest, weirest comment gets a prize--I am not one of the judges(a panel of bloggers will judge) but a political post might be interesting. or anything , thanks


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Brian Gardunia said...


I actually voted for Nader this last election. I see many of the same problems as you describe in the democratic party, but in a two show town it is the better of two evils.

I am not sure I would use the term social gospel. I definitely think that it is a civil society more supported by gospel principles than holding moral values hostage with two issues that no politician is honestly going to do anything about.

Anonymous said...


A Naderite in 2004? My goodness. That was rather surprising until I thought back a bit, and remembered hearing you vituperate Rush Limbaugh at the age of fifteen or so.

Around 2001, I became very interested in the mathematics of electoral systems, and studied the geometries of voting methodologies. The best systems--oddly--are in former British colonies, Austrailia, New Zealand, Malta etc. If you run the 2000 U.S. election using any of those systems, you see that, based on polling data, most voters' ballots, had they contained the complete set of each voter's preferences, would have read: 1. Gore 2. Nader 3. Bush or 1. Nader 2. Gore 3. Bush. If you apply Condorcet's Principle to the (hypothesized) complete set of rankings, it is quite easy to show that most voters preferred Gore or Nader, and that structural flaws in the U.S. voting system introduced distortions into the count such that Bush appeared to have much more support than he actually did. (Note: I am aware that Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, but had accurate methods been used to count votes, the election would have been far less close than it was, and hence harder to steal). I sometimes despair, and think that we are all doomed until major structural changes are undertaken. If you have the time or the interest, the fellow to read on this stuff is Donald G. Saari.

I absolutely love your remark about principles being "held hostage" to certain issues. But why does that happen? How is this hostage situation perpetuated, election after election?


Brian Gardunia said...

I think that abortion and gay marriage get more press because they are about sex, babies, and death. The morals about sex, babies, and death are line in the sand issues. You might argue that sexual morals are not life and death, but in evolutionary terms - they are.

Its funny because I consider myself morally and personally very conservative. I was a virgin when I got married. I don't drink, smoke, do drugs, buy lottery tickets, lie or cheat, and I avoid walmart. I feel there is a strong line of what is right and what is wrong, that said, I have done plenty of things that I think are immoral and I regret that. Does that make me a bad person, maybe. Do people who do things I consider to be immoral bad people - hell, no. Just human.

To me the reason that gay marriage and abortion are such red flag issues is we define what is moral and immoral by what is legal and illegal. If gay marriage is illegal, by this argument it is immoral. If gay marriage were to be legal, then it would be moral.

I think that boths sides have to get past this definition. Conservative christians hate the idea of gay marriage because to them the government would be saying homosexual sex was moral. Essentially marriage could be looked at as a way of making sex moral - sex outside of marriage defined as fornication and adultery as immoral. The other side is that the government by not allowing gay marriage is seen by gay groups as declaring homosexuality as immoral.

I think that both sides could come together over rights and benefits and insurance and the other rules if both sides weren't using the law to argue morality. I think that civil marriage has lost its moral meaning to most Americans anyway as more and more people live together before marriage and or get divorced. Maybe it is time to loosen the ties. Let churches define their rules for religious marriages and let the government deal with legal implications of official relationships. If that split between legal/moral were allowed then I think that there would be room for negociation and settlement.

As it is, they are line in the sand issues. Abortion is similar. I think it is generally immoral to have an abortion, but laws require punishments. Who is going to be punished by a law against abortion? Doctors? 14 yr old girls? The guy who donated the sperm and was so immoral that he was unwilling to live up to the consequences? No one wins. The law loses meaning.

That is kinda my opinion.

Brian Gardunia said...

My last comment wasn't quite what I meant to say. The point I was trying to make was that there is a debate about what is moral and immoral that is being argued as what should be legal or illegal.

So attitudes and definitions of when sex is OK and how are changing in the US. Like it or not. This is the larger issue that conservatives are reacting against, for both gay marriage and abortion. For conservatives, how do you stop these changes? It is like Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof. The world is changing, traditions are changing. What ones can you live with?

I think these two issues dominate "moral values" because they are the two that both sides want to enforce with legislation. In my view, the problem with that is that there is no one to morally prosecute. For every law there must be a consequence: a punishment, a reward, for obedience or breaking of the law. If not then the law is meaningless.

I do not know the solution. I worry though that these arguments are being used as a smokescreen.

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