Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
How Do Democrats Differ From Republicans?
I came across this report from Politico a few weeks ago, and it seemed to sum things up well.Â The House Agriculture Committee was debating the farm bill, and particularly Republicans’ efforts to decimate the Food Stamp program.Â Rep. Joe Baca (D-California) protested:
As a young father, Rep. Joe Baca had himself relied on food stamps, and during the House Agriculture Committee debate, the California Democrat emotionally invoked the Gospel of Jesus feeding hundreds from a few fish and loaves of bread. Rather than sympathy, this brought a sharp rebuke from Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.). â€œNowhere in Scripture did God give instruction to government over us as the individual,â€ said the Christian conservative. â€œRead it, sir. He was speaking to individuals not governments.â€
I really think that in an important way this sums things up.Â Baca says that we have to feed the poor; Southerland attacks him, saying that this has nothing to do with what Jesus said, because Food Stamps are the government, not us.
For Democrats, government is the way that we as a people get together and figure out what “our ” priorities are.Â For Republicans, government isn’t an us: it is an it.Â It is some sort of amorphous, alien blob, out there.Â It has nothing to do with us: it simply controls us.Â We might make fun of Republicans saying that “the government should keep its hands off of my Medicare,” but it reflects something important about perceptions.Â If it is something we experience, then it isn’t the government, because the government is “out there.”
And as the Medicare example reveals, this is very much a sort of fundamental paradigm: inconvenient facts can be dismissed as outliers, or untrue, or even just ignored.Â ThisÂ will take a lot of very patient, frustrating work to cure: after all, people believed in the Ptolemaic universe for centuries.Â And I’m notÂ even sure that it is “curable” because it reflects a moral view, not a scientific one.
Author: Jonathan Zasloff
Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees.
Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses.
Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.
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