Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:



Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.


The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.


The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.


Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income



Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market



Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.



Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.


Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.



Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.



Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.


Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President



Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Election Vindication?

After the last midterm election the newly ascendant Democrats announced that the election vindicated their call for "a new direction" in Iraq [Nancy Pelosi celebrates].

Even the Republican President George Bush conceded during a press conference that the election had been "a thumping" and that the Democrats had enjoyed "a good night".

But was this a sweeping victory? In each of the Senate races the Republicans were only defeated by the tiniest of margins, often just one or two percentage points.

Still the Democrats were only able to make it 49-49. The Democrats still needed two Independants to side with them to give them control.

In the House races there were 435 seats up for grabs... the Democrats managed to pick up a couple of dozen to make it 233 to 202 in their favor - still fairly close.

Meanwhile, the war in Iraq appeared to figure in none of the Democrats' Senate victories and was probably equally missing from the House races.

In Missouri Senator Jim Talent (R) was brought down by his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Montana's Conrad Burns (R) was burnt by the same scandal. Even so, each race was a squeaker and undecided until long after election night.

(The Abramoff Scandal: in which members of Congress from both parties were caught doing what we all imagine everyone in Congress to do everyday - accepting golf trips and other perks in return for political access).

In Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (R) lost in a "swing state" only after his Democratic opponent took his side on a host of issues from gun control to abortion.

In Ohio Senator Mike Dewine (R) was considered a moderate who often voted with the Democrats, but he was caught up in his state's Governor's fundraising scandal.

In Virginia Senator George Allen (R) was leading the polls until the press spun his campaign chatter with a cameraman working for his opponent into a supposed racial slur. He still nearly won.

(Allen got the man's name wrong, calling him Mr. Macacca... which is a racial slur in South Africa and Allen had a grandmother from North Africa... so, obviously... well, not obviously, but what matter to the press? [YouTube footage]).

In Rode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee (R) was also a moderate who voted with the Democrats and said that he did not vote for Bush in 2004... his challenger shared his well-healed roots, a Yale pedigree, and moderate stances on all issues. Chafee lost in a close race, most say, simply because he was a Republican [senate election breakdown].

Again, was the turn against Republicans related to the war in Iraq? Maybe, somewhat. However, it might simply reflect Americans' "throw the bums out" mentality that works against entrenched political power.

It has been noted by some that since WWII the party in control of the White House has lost around 30 House seats and six Senate seats in the midterm election of the president's second term [historic trends against incumbents].

Exit polls showed that three out of four voters were responding to corruption (or simply the implication of such). Eight in ten said the economy was most important. Only six in ten mentioned the war in Iraq, barely more than half [exit polls].

In fact, incumbent Democrats almost lost in New Jersey, Minnesota, and Maryland on the same anti-incumbent and anti-corruption movement. And pro-war Democrat Joe Lieberman won Vermont despite losing his own party's support [Democrats at risk].

It is now quite obvious that the Democrats do not have a new direction on Iraq. They can only suggest a retreat. This comes at a time when the new head of US forces in the area, Lt. Gen. David Patraeus, a man that all the democrats celebrated as a patriot, a hero, and a scholar, warned them of the perils of defeat in Iraq [Patreaus Hearing].

Meanwhile, the efforts in Iraq are only one part of a much larger problem involving rogue regimes with nuclear weapons and state-less terrorists groups with an agenda that varies from cleansing Jews from the Middle East, slaughtering Christians in Africa, and overthrowing both monarchies and democracies in SE Asia.

Democrats have long been seen by the voters as "soft on foreign policy". John Kerry could not escape from the mental ghost of Vietnam long enough to take our current situation seriously. And even a mental midget such as Bush was able to defeat him on this issue.

But Democrats still have the pulse of minorities and the working class. They still have the high ground on Global Warming and the environment. Socially polarizing issues such as gay marriage and abortion may be more touchy, but elections and polls have shown clear liberalizing trends on these issues.

In the 2008 election I would like to see the Democrats take a new direction in politics. They should focus on the domestic issues that are most important to voters... corruption and the economy, then immigration and the environment.

They could also take a new direction on Iraq and get serious about religious terrorists, nuclear non-proliferation, civil rights and genocide in Africa, and upsetting un-democratic status quos instead of bemoaning their demise.

Sean: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere