New Hampshire–Moving To The Left, or Rejecting GOP Extremism?

One reason that Republicans have lost their control of the federal government, and are gradually turning into a regional party with support limited to the south, is that they have both moved to the far right and fail to understand how their views have become unacceptable to majority of the country. The latest example of this is seen in an analysis by David Scribman at Real Clear Politics of the perceived move of New Hampshire to the left.

Examples of moves to the left provided by Scribman are not so much leftist policies but a rejection of Republican extremism. Civil unions is simply an idea whose time has come, and represents a rather moderate alternative to legalization of same-sex marriage supported by most liberals. He sticks to the usual GOP talking points in calling taxes the “first love of liberals and Democrats.” While nobody likes higher taxes, the policies of the Bush administration were so extreme as to be rejected by moderates as well as liberals. Everyone hates to pay taxes, but ultimately most adults will recognize that there are essential government functions which must be paid for, and running up deficits is a poor solution. Grover Norquist’s pledges against any increase in taxes represents an extremist ideology, not traditional conservativism.

Scribman fears that New Hampshire residents are not the indepenent minded individuals they have been in the past. I have no first hand knowledge of New Hamphire and therefore could be wrong, but I have seen a similar rejection of the GOP among other former supporters and suspect similar forces are at work there. While Scribner considers Hillary Clinton to be far left, in reality we have a far right Republican Party which is countered by a mildly left of center Democratic Party, which might actually be right of center in most of the world. Only far right extremists would consider the policies of the Democratic Party to be far left.

My bet is that New Hampshire hasn’t moved to the left as much as the independent minded people of New Hampshire have rejected Repubican extremism. Non-extremists will reject a foreign policy which strengthens al Qaeda and Iran while getting the United States involved in a quagmire. Only extremists will support a political party which goes to war based upon lies, and rejects modern science. The economic policies of the GOP no longer benefit the small businessmen on Main Street as they use government to transfer wealth  to the ultra-wealthy. Using government to promote the agenda of the religious right will be opposed by the independent-minded, whether or not they are religious.

In a two party system, a centrist party is going to beat an extremist party in New Hampsire and in most of the country. Democrats may be winning in New Hampshire simply because the Republicans do not offer an alternative worthy of consideration.

Consequences of Religious Extremism

There have been many posts here on the dangers of the religious right’s influence on public policy. Two news items today demonstrate the consequences when religious freedom and separation of church and state is not respected.

In Malaysia, a marriage of 21 years was broken up under religious law:

A Muslim woman forcibly separated from her Hindu husband by Malaysia’s Islamic authorities after 21 years of happy marriage wept inconsolably yesterday after a judge endorsed her decision to hand custody of six of her seven children to her former spouse.

In an unprecedented move for Malaysia – where Islamic religious laws are strictly enforced – the children, aged four to 14, will be raised as Hindus despite being born to a Muslim mother. Last month Selangor state’s Islamic authorities took Raimah Bibi Noordin, 39, and her children away for “rehabilitation” and religious counselling after belatedly declaring that her marriage was illegal.

The second story is especially sad as this violence in Iraq is related to the actions of the United States in destabilizing the country. A 17 year old girl was killed in an “honor killing” while government security forces allowed it to occur:

A 17-year-old girl has been stoned to death in Iraq because she loved a teenage boy of the wrong religion.

As a horrifying video of the stoning went out on the Internet, the British arm of Amnesty International condemned the death of Du’a Khalil Aswad as “an abhorrent murder” and demanded that her killers be brought to justice.

Reports from Iraq said a local security force witnessed the incident, but did nothing to try to stop it. Now her boyfriend is in hiding in fear for his life.

Miss Aswad, a member of a minority Kurdish religious group called Yezidi, was condemned to death as an “honour killing” by other men in her family and hardline religious leaders because of her relationship with the Sunni Muslim boy.

They said she had shamed herself and her family when she failed to return home one night. Some reports suggested she had converted to Islam to be closer to her boyfriend.

To Republicans, Reality Is A Matter Open To Debate

In the short run, including the 2006 elections, views on national security and Iraq best defined the differences between liberals and conservatives. Long term the differences will be seen in broader terms, such as an acceptance of reality versus adherence to a flat-earth philosophy. Placing ideology over reality has gotten us into the quagmire in Iraq, seriously impairing our national security, and is also seen in the Repubilcan debate over evolution.

The mere fact that this is being debated by conservatives shows how their world view is divorced from reality. Science is the means by which we search for objective evidence to describe the universe independent of ideology. To conservatives, ideology and religion come first, and fundamental principles of science such as evolution are subject to debate.

Mike Huckabee probably thought he was safe in raising his hand when asked who doesn’t believe in evolution considering the support for teaching creationism among other candidates. Typically conservative thought leaders dance around the issue rather than giving a firm answer. John McCain has even spoken at the Discovery Institute. Huckabee tried to back step, but did himself more harm than good:

Huckabee said if given a chance to elaborate on the question from MSNBC moderator Chris Matthews, he would have responded: “If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, I’ll accept that….I believe there was a creative process.”

Huckabee hardly helps himself when he shows he is ignorant of evolution in repeating a common myth about evolution, that man evolved from apes, as opposed to both men and apes having a common ancestor. Huckabee failed to see the importance of this as he said, “I’m not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States.” It is important that a President in the 21st century have understanding of the basic principles of science, as this has impact on many issues considered by government. It is also important to have a President who respects the findings of science as opposed to making decisions based upon religious dogma.

It is also important that we deal not just the word “evolution” but increase understanding of evolutionary biology in the general population. On the one hand we have people like Huckabee who speak on the subject without understanding what it means. Pharyngula warns about another trend among some conservatives to take the word “evolution” but to redefine it to mean something entirely different, allowing them to circumvent state laws mandating the teaching of evolution.