Friday, September 24, 2004

What are Republicans thinking?

The Republican National Committee sent out mailings in two states suggesting that liberals want to ban the Bible. This is despicable, and so are Republicans who try to “defend” the tactic by pointing to liberal efforts to legalize same-sex marriage or remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Senator Edwards has called for President Bush to “condemn the practice immediately and tell everyone associated with the campaign to never use tactics like this again.”

He is exactly right, and Bush should not have to be prompted to do so.
[via Andrew Sullivan]

Update: Professor Volokh examines this issue on his blog. He has no comment section, so I wrote him an e-mail:

I have some disagreements with your take on the "Bible banning" mailers. Let me begin by saying, with tongue only slightly in cheek, you are thinking much too much like a lawyer. The issue is not strictly dishonesty, but also fair play--whether a false impression is being deliberately advanced in order to rally support. It seems clear to me that the image of a Bible with the word "banned" stamped across is exactly such a "dirty trick.”

You used an analogy of a Democratic mailer accusing conservatives of wanting to destroy a woman’s right to choose. The difference is that a “woman’s right to choose” has a very narrow meaning in our political culture. It is a clear reference to abortion, a practice that conservatives do indeed wish to end. One may support or oppose the policy, but the statement is an honest one and can’t rightly be seen as a “dirty trick.”

You argue that because the book-banning image sends an ambiguous message, we can’t condemn the mailer as dishonest until we open it up and examine the contents. I question whether the message is truly ambiguous. My sense is that when most people hear of a book being banned, they take this somewhat literally. They assume that the book itself is being prohibited in some context, rather than concluding only that selected ideas in the book are under assault. That aside, there is a more compelling aspect to this. Like the phrase “a woman’s right to choose,” the image of book banning carries a connotation--a powerfully negative one. Whether or not the book-banning image is ambiguous in its intellectual message, I submit that it is decidedly unambiguous in its emotional message. This is an image that rings of oppression and persecution, more so because of the religious facet of it. Its very use ascribes evil to the opposition. For these reasons, I consider the use of this image both dishonest and contemptible.

Update: More from Captain Ed, who says the Dems have a few things to apologize for as well.

No comments: