Politics: December 2007 Archives

I was looking at the delegate selection process for the Democratic National Convention. One interesting thing about the Democratic delegate selection process that isn't true of the GOP process is that they have an affirmative action program to increase the number of minority and women delegates. I was curious how that process worked, but apparently it's different in each state, so I wasn't able to find any details. I did, however, notice that they make the following two statements, both on the same page:
This goal shall not be accomplished either directly or indirectly by the Party’s imposition of mandatory quotas at any level of the delegate selection process or in any other Party affairs.

State Delegate Selection Plans shall, as far as mathematically practicable, also provide for equal division between district-level delegate men and delegate women and district-level alternate men and alternate women.
As these terms are ordinarily used, how is the second quote not imposing a mandatory quota? Doesn't telling them that they have to seek to have equal numbers of women and men among the delegates count as imposing a mandatory quota?

What Could This Mean?

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Consider the following words from Rudy Giuliani (hat tip: DaveG):
Giuliani, who appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said in response to a question that he did not believe homosexuality was aberrant.

“The way somebody leads their life isn’t sinful. It’s the acts,” said Giuliani, who supports gay rights and lived with an openly gay couple after separating from his second wife while mayor. “It’s the various acts that people perform that are sinful, not the orientation that they have.”

What could that possibly mean? Here are the three main views on this issue:

View A: There's nothing wrong remotely in the area of homosexuality.
View B: Homosexuality (as a sexual orientation) is involuntary (or largely involuntary), but homosexual acts are immoral.
View C: It's morally wrong to be gay, even if you're celibate.

Now I think Giuliani has ruled out all three views. There are acts that he thinks are wrong that are remotely related to homosexuality. So it's not A. It's clearly not C, since he says a homosexual orientation isn't a sin. B might seem the most plausible, and it does seem to follow from his denial of the other two, but he does say that "the way somebody leads their life isn't sinful". Unless he means that in a way that isn't its most natural meaning, I think he's just contradicted his statement that various acts are wrong.

I have two overly charitable interpretations that might make sense of this.

1. View B is his view, and when he refers to the way somebody leads their life he's not talking about acts but orientation. In favor of this is the parallel between his contrast between how you lead your life and your acts and his second contrast between orientation and your acts. But it's extremely strange to talk about orientation as equivalent with how you lead your life. How you lead your life seems more akin to acts than it does to orientation.

2. DaveG's interpretation is correct, and View A is what Giuliani meant to say, which means the acts he refers to have nothing to do with homosexuality. He's making a general claim that sins are acts, and homosexuality isn't an act, so it can't be a sin. The problem with this is that there are acts associated with homosexuality, and his point doesn't say anything against View B, which is an extremely common view. Also, his contrast between acts and orientation does seem to be parallel to the contrast between the way you lead your life and your acts, which would suggest some connection between the acts and the orientation.

I also have a somewhat uncharitable interpretation that might make some sense of it:

3. View A is his view, and the acts he has in mind are ones that don't actually have to do with homosexuality but are commonly associated with it anyway, e.g. male-male incest, paedophilia/pederasty, male-male rape, etc. Homosexuality entails none of those, but they are male-male, and thus they are technically homosexual. What's somewhat uncharitable about interpreting him this way is that it makes him out to connect homosexuality with such acts even when he's trying to defend it. It wouldn't be my first choice to attribute such a view to someone just to try to make sense of what seems to be a contradiction. But I'm not happy with any of the above options, either.

Jim Geraghty points out that Alan Keyes was invited to the last Republican debate but was ill-treated, while similar-polling candidates on the Democratic side (e.g. Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel) were not invited to the Democratic debate. He doesn't mention that Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo were also invited despite not performing well in polls, but that further confirms his point.

His explanation is that they wanted to make Republicans look bad by including the more radical elements but without doing so with the Democrats. While I'm certainly open to such an interpretation (bad motives abound in this world), I'm curious if there are more charitable explanations of why they would have treated the two parties differently on this issue. I can't think of any, but I'm curious to hear any plausible suggestions, because I do think it's a bit strange.

I've been in news isolation for the last week or so due to a huge stack of grading that's still almost half as big as it was a week ago. But apparently there's been a furor over a remark by Mike Huckabee that his recent upturn in the polls is (among other explanations) a result of divine providence. I haven't been able to find exact quotes, but from this post it seems as if Huckabee said two things.

1. He has offered several reasons for his rise in the polls, and one of them is divine providence. That means that he isn't ruling out perfectly natural explanations, but he has a strong enough view of divine providence that he's willing to say that his rise in the polls is in  God's ultimate plan (whether that means God's plan includes him becoming president is another matter that he doesn't seem to have commented on at all).

2. He's surprised enough that he's willing to speak of his rise in the polls in miraculous terms. The reason this can't be taken too far is that he has provided other explanations besides providence. So he must simply be expressing the unlikeliness of this in attributing it to divine providence in this sense, even if there are perfectly natural descriptions of the means God has used to bring this about.

Now I'm trying to think of what's remotely objectionable about any of this. I've turned up nothing. With any robust view of divine sovereignty, anything that happens is at least foreknown and allowed by God, and this doesn't happen unless God has specific reasons for allowing it or causing it. That doesn't mean the reasons are the ones we expect, but Huckabee seems careful as far as I can tell not to say that God has caused this surge in order to win him the nomination, never mind any claims about God wanting him to be president. All he's said is that God is behind the surge in the polls, which any Christian with a robust view of divine sovereignty should say, even if the person saying it is one of the other candidates or someone who very much doesn't want Huckabee to be president. If it happens, then it's in God's will in at least some sense, and that's what it means for something to happen by providence.

I see nothing in Huckabee's comments at this point that mean any more than what most Christians throughout history have believed about every event that ever occurs. That makes me think those making a fuss about this must be taking him to say something very different from what he's actually said. Either that or they think our political discourse (or, more precisely, our meta-political discourse) should include debates about the traditional Christian picture of divine sovereignty. I'm a bit skeptical that that's the place to debate theology.

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