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Conservative leaders and thinkers are strenously trying to sell the idea that Democrats hate America, hate religion, and are fascists who would like to exterminate disabled people. What is going on out there?

It's a tactic that we've seen before but it's time to name the game from here on. I suggest we call it demonism. I define demonism as the rhetorical ploy of implying or directly stating that your opponent is demonic rather than arguing the underlying points with facts and analysis. The idea is that we know whatever Satan says is wrong. Here is an example.

Democrat: "I'm concerned about the poor."

Republican: "You remind me of Adolf Hitler."

Yes, demonism usually calls for a complete non sequitur. For a recent example, look no further than the contraception issue.

I’ve been talking lately with conservatives (oh, the horror, the horror) about the contraception clash. Many maintain that the flap is not about contraception. No, they insist, it’s about government intrusion on an issue of moral conscience. Rather than debate the underlying health care policy, they want to characterize the situation as a religious war with Obama cast as the demon.

The post below is about two things.

1. Demonstrating that this controversy is about contraception and not about government intrusion on conscience. This is the style of argument that Democrats adopt in the face of demonism. The argument employs common sense and points out that there is generally no basis in reality for accusing anyone other than Hitler of being Hitler. Here's an excellent demonstration from Jon Stewart.

2. Complaining more broadly about the general Republican tactic of demonism: suggesting that if you disagree with them on policy issues then you are evil.

First, some clear thinking to dispel forever the idea that the contraception controversy is about public intrusion on matters of conscience.

1.  Religious organizations and their affiliates have been explicitly exempted from this law. Note, even the original rule exempted houses of worship. If one was actually trying to attack religion, why would he leave out religion?

2. If using contraception is against one’s conscience, the law does not compel it. A public mandate merely to make something available does not compel its use by any particular person.

3. Surveys show that the vast majority of women use some form of contraception, even Catholic woman who are sexually active. Many Christian leaders and theologians believe that contraception is not sinful within marriage. So the idea that merely making contraception available necessarily condones inherently immoral behavior is preposterous.

4. The federal government has the power to tax and the power to regulate interstate commerce. The feds can constitutionally use these tools to influence behavior.  Influencing behavior is not the same as legislating belief. In compelling insurance coverage for contraception, the federal government is not establishing any religion nor interfering with any religious exercise involving religious beliefs. This presents no constitutional issue.

The government has the power to regulate conduct. The federal government regulates many industries to protect consumers. The ADA, for example, requires businesses to make expenditures in order to make their premises accessible to people with disabilities. This law would be valid even if a religion was concocted that held beliefs against serving the disabled. The Securities Laws require expenditures for information disclosures. The federal government has the power to order activity that involves expenditures in the public interest. This is no different in kind.

This is a regulation of conduct, not belief. If anyone imagines that the federal government cannot intrude on individual liberty where moral conscience is involved, think about war as an analogy. The federal government has the constitutional power to conscript citizens into war and compel them to assist in killing, even though killing may be contrary to their moral and religious beliefs. The feds have the power to take your money and use it to make bombs that kill innocent people, even if you think blowing innocent people up is morally questionable. As long as the government doesn’t legislate or interfere with religious beliefs, it has the power to regulate conduct and limit freedom. This law has nothing to do with religious beliefs. A law cannot be defeated by having some religious organization claim moral objection to the law’s consequences.

So this only about one thing: contraception. The conscience part remains firmly in the grasp of individuals.

Now, on to point two: Republicans should stop resorting to ad hominem attacks to win policy arguments. In this case, instead of arguing their reasons for excluding contraception from coverage (i.e., religious objections to contraception itself), Republicans have accused the President of conducting a war against religion. This is completely ridiculous for all the reasons outlined above, but especially because most people do not believe that contraception is immoral or violates religious doctrines.

When Republicans disagree with someone about a policy matter, instead of debating the underlying issue, they attack the person who holds the different opinion and start calling them names: unchristian, communist, fascist, traitor and so on. Sometimes this is veiled and sometimes it is direct. Demonism. Santorum, as a specific example, has argued against covering prenatal testing on the fantastical grounds that Obama wants to use it to weed disabled people out of society. Whatever the manifestation, it’s wearing thin. People see through it. They are not so stupid as to be taken in by such obvious and baseless rhetorical ploys (we hope) as calling people bad names and hoping they will stick. In a diverse society, people may disagree about policy issues. That doesn’t mean that anyone is an evil enemy of the people who hates America. Give us a break. Please, let’s talk about the underlying issues. Below I illustrate Republicans arguing with Democrats.

Democrat: “I think health insurers should be required to cover contraception.”

Republican: “You want to destroy capitalism and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Democrat: “I think insurance companies should cover prenatal testing.”

Republican: “You want to murder all disabled people.”

Democrat: “I don’t think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were/are good for America.”

Republican: “You are ashamed of America; you are a terrorist and you want to establish Sharia Law throughout the United States.”

Democrat: “I think that the wealthiest people in the nation should pay the same tax rate as they used to a few years back.”

Republican: “You want to eliminate the concept of private property.”

Democrat: “I think we need to invest in creating jobs.”

Republican: “You want to put everyone in the nation on welfare and destroy the United States economy.”

Get the idea? The fact that we might disagree about an item of policy does not mean that one of us is trying to create hell on earth.

The possibility for dialogue will remain remote until we exorcise demonism from our political discourse.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And never forget, many times their attempts (7+ / 0-)

    to demonize are what they want.

    Sharia law? Umm, they want to impose their Christian law (whatever that is, but you can probably use The Handmaiden's Tale as a guesstimate)

    Murdering disabled people? They'll make sure they have to services or help after they're born, so killing after the fact is their goal. Love the fetus, hate the person is their motto.

    Put everyone on welfare and destroy the economy? How about their plan to create a new feudal system with endentured servants if not outright slavery (but, heh, at least this time it won't be based on skin color)

    And on, and on, and on. It's called projection and they do it constantly. When they think of what they want to do they can't imagine the other side (that would be us) wouldn't want to do the same thing.

    "What profit a man, if he gain the world, but has to pay taxes on it?" Paul 8:36

    From the Gospel of St. Ron Paul in the Teachings and Misunderstandings of the Words of Adam Smith

    by ontheleftcoast on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:09:10 AM PST

  •  Uh, isn't the word "demonization"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ontheleftcoast
    •  I think (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Remembering Jello, Timaeus

      demonism would be the ongoing practice of demonization as a rhetorical strategy.  Demonism is a belief in the existence and power of demons.

    •  Demonism is the belief in demons (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Remembering Jello

      To demonize is to label something as demonic. The nominative form is demonization. So they're all related.

      "What profit a man, if he gain the world, but has to pay taxes on it?" Paul 8:36

      From the Gospel of St. Ron Paul in the Teachings and Misunderstandings of the Words of Adam Smith

      by ontheleftcoast on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:22:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Demonism (0+ / 0-)

        I do like demonism because the belief in demons animates this whole process. It's the idea that there are actual demons in the world. This is part of the whole world view exhibit by people like Santorum. Then he puts his opponents in the club with Satan and the other demons. It's very Salem Witch Trials. I'd like to believe it's just rhetoric but he seems to actually believe this stuff.

        •  I grew up in a church like that (0+ / 0-)

          They actively saw the Devil in everything. An entire congregation of Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" but without the laughs.

          "What profit a man, if he gain the world, but has to pay taxes on it?" Paul 8:36

          From the Gospel of St. Ron Paul in the Teachings and Misunderstandings of the Words of Adam Smith

          by ontheleftcoast on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:31:22 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I honestly believe (0+ / 0-)

            that there are conservatives who spend the whole day looking to generate these narratives in which Satan is behind everything on the left. Then their job is to unmask Satan. Left alone, this narrative starts to stick. Democrats are forced to spend time explaining that their positions are not evil. The contraception thing only the latest example

        •  Prayer to Saint Michaethe Archangel (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DavidMCastro, cassandracarolina
          Saint Michael the Archangel,
          defend us in battle.
          Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
          May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
          and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
          by the Divine Power of God -
          cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
          who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

          Amen.

          Prayer to Saint Michaethe Archangel

          During the Cold War, this prayer used to be said at the end of a Roman Catholic Mass for the conversion of Russia.

          Now, it's making a comeback.

          January 24, 2012

          My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

          In this history of the United States, Friday, January 20, 2012 will certainly stand out as a moment of enormous peril for religious liberty. On that day, the Obama administration announced regulations that would require Catholic institutions to offer insurance programs providing abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptive services. If these regulations are put into effect, the could close down every Catholic school, hospital, and the other public ministries of our Church, which is perhaps their underlying intention. What is perfectly clear is that this is a bigoted and blatant attack on the First Amendment rights of every Catholic believer. Under no circumstances, however, will our Church ever abandon our unshakable commitment to the Gospel of Life.

          I therefore call upon all the faithful of the Diocese to vigorously oppose this unprecedented governmental assault upon the moral convictions of our Faith. Under the Constitution, no president has the authority to require our cooperation with what we consider to be intrinsic evil and mortal sin. We must therefore oppose by every means at our disposal this gross infringement on the rights of Catholic citizens to freely practice our religion. This country once fought a revolution to guarantee freedom, but the time has clearly arrived to strongly reassert our fundamental human rights. I am honestly horrified that the nation I have always loved has come to this hateful and radical step in religious intolerance. I hope and pray that all people of good will would support the faith based resistance of us their Catholic neighbors.

          While it is primarily the laity who should take the leading role in political and legal action, as your Bishop, it is my clear responsibility to summon our local church into spiritual and temporal combat in defense of Catholic Christianity. Have faith! Have courage! Fight boldly for what you believe! I strongly urge you not to be intimidated by extremist politicians or the malice of the cultural secularists arrayed against us. Always remember that the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (I John 4:4).

          Until these grave issues are favorably resolved, I ask that every parish, school, hospital, Newman Center, and religious house in this Diocese insert the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel into the Sunday General Intercessions just before their concluding prayer. It is God’s invincible Archangel who commands the heavenly hosts, and it is the enemies of god who will ultimately be defeated. This prayer should be announced as: A Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America.

          May God guide and protect his Holy Church.

          Sincerely yours in Christ,

          Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, CSC Bishop of Peoria

          Link

          Link

  •  We argue facts, they (4+ / 0-)

    argue emotion.

    The idea that one should 'argue the underlying points with facts and analysis' is a liberal bias. If everyone agreed on that, we'd all be liberal.

    But they don't. They are making emotional statement, and we are replying with completely irrelevant (to them) factual rebuttals.

    Democrat says: “I don’t think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were/are good for America.”

    Republican hears: "You should feel bad for supporting the invasion of of Iraq. You are a bad person, responsible for doing bad things to America."

    Republican answers: “You are the bad person! You are ashamed of America and a terrorist, because you're denying my feelings of patriotism. All I wanted was to keep my children safe, and you're saying I'm wrong to feel protective, you must be a Sharia-loving satanist.”

    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:17:13 AM PST

    •  Reptilian brain responses (4+ / 0-)

      They are driven by the basest instincts, the fight or flight response, to pretty much every situation. Something I don't understand? OMG! OMG! OMG! It's trying to kill me! Better kill it first or run away!

      "What profit a man, if he gain the world, but has to pay taxes on it?" Paul 8:36

      From the Gospel of St. Ron Paul in the Teachings and Misunderstandings of the Words of Adam Smith

      by ontheleftcoast on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:28:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry, but having failed in any appeal to logic, (5+ / 0-)

    I have more recently resorted to jumping in immediately with, "Why do you hate America?" Apparently, this is taken as a signal that I, too, know how to "debate" on their level, therefore they can't win. No, it doesn't convince them of anything else I might say, but it does get them to STFU, which has become, sadly, good enough for me.

    The important thing, IMO, is to get out the vote. If you have friends, neighbors, or relatives who might not have a chance to vote AND are Democrats, do all you can to help them. Start now to find out the rules in your state for absentee voting and voting by mail if it's available. I'm thinking not only about seniors, but also of young working mothers who wouldn't have child care while going to the polls. Also, I'm thinking of people who aren't disabled but might be just a little too old to stand in line for an hour or so. Helping people get absentee or mail ballots is even better than offering to drive them to vote, as you can help a lot more people over a period of weeks than you can drive in one day.

    Let's just get these Republican whacks out of our hair.

    Eliminate tax breaks that stimulate the offshoring of jobs.

    by RJDixon74135 on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:39:38 AM PST

    •  Totally agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rashaverak, RJDixon74135

      I am worried about independents who are swayed by this kind of thing.  I actually know some moderate conservatives who voted for Obama and other democrats but can be swept up in this. One person I know who voted for Obama describe the contraception thing as fascist. I'm like "What?!!" I think that the independents may stay in the fold if progressives fight back against these cheap shots, pointing out the unfairness of the tactic. Unfortunately if you stand by while people call you names some of the names end up sticking... Ugh

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