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Beyond Red and Blue

Beyond Red and Blue: How Twelve Political Philosophies Shape American Debates

Peter S. Wenz
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Red and Blue
    Book Description:

    On any given night cable TV news will tell us how polarized American politics is: Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Canada. But in fact, writes Peter Wenz in Beyond Red and Blue, Americans do not divide neatly into two ideological camps of red/blue, Republican/Democrat, right/left. In real life, as Wenz shows, different ideologies can converge on certain issues; people from the right and left can support the same policy for different reasons. Thus, for example, libertarian-leaning Republicans can oppose the Patriot Act's encroachment on personal freedom and social conservatives can support gay marriage on the grounds that it strengthens the institution of marriage. Wenz maps out twelve political philosophies--ranging from theocracy and free-market conservatism to feminism and cosmopolitanism--on which Americans draw when taking political positions. He then turns his focus to some of America's most controversial issues and shows how ideologically diverse coalitions can emerge on such hot-button topics as extending life by artificial means, the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, affirmative action, abortion, same-sex marriage, health care, immigration, and globalization. Awareness of these twelve political philosophies, Wenz argues, can help activists enlist allies, citizens better understand politics and elections, and all of us define our own political identities.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-25495-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Political conflicts exist when people disagree about what the state should do or permit. This book is about those conflicts and the twelve, not merely two, political orientations that guide our deliberations on such matters as these:

    Darlene Miller was making decent money dancing in pasties and a G-string at the Kitty Kat Lounge in South Bend, Indiana, but she thought she could do better. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, not a known patron, explained: “Dancers are not paid an hourly wage, but work on commission. They receive a 100 percent commission on the first $60 in drink sales during their...

  5. 1 No Strange Bedfellows
    (pp. 13-32)

    What would you think and how would you feel if people told you that they were buying your house, even though you had no intention of selling? Suppose their justification was that their economic use of the property would be better than yours? This is the situation faced by Susette Kelo and her neighbors in New London, Connecticut, leading to a conflict that illustrates the complexity of American political thought. No division between right and left or red and blue, can explain the coalitions that formed around the issue of land condemnation for economic development. It was not that politics...

  6. 2 Pulling the Plug: Theocrats and Libertarians
    (pp. 33-54)

    I had been visiting my parents’ Florida home more frequently because of their increasing disabilities, but this visit was special—they would meet Grace. Grace and I, both divorced after our children were grown, had been dating for several months, and my mother was certain before meeting her that she was perfect. “We love you,” Mother told me on the phone before our visit, “and we’re looking forward to loving Grace.” Mother wanted to die and hoped Grace would see me through the loss.

    My parents lived on the Atlantic coast of Florida, only a quarter mile from the ocean....

  7. 3 Physician-Assisted Suicide: Libertarians and Communitarians
    (pp. 55-74)

    My father didn’t seem any more lost than usual when he announced on the Sunday before Memorial Day that my mother was dead. As he sat in the kitchen drinking coffee and orange juice and eating his usual bananas and sour cream, Grace starting sorting out the pills to figure out which were his, which my mother’s, and whether any were lethal. Our first instinct was to obstruct any attempt Dad might make to kill himself.

    Dad suffered from heart failure and colon cancer as well as dementia. Still, he had his normal routine. He couldn’t do the checkbook or...

  8. 4 The War on Drugs: Utilitarianism and Social Conservatism
    (pp. 75-94)

    Matthew Yeater’s life has been devastated by his use of drugs. Matthew’s parents divorced when he was a baby and his mother was an alcoholic. He was in foster care at age fourteen when he first tested positive for marijuana. He told Dave Bakke, reporter for theState Journal-Register, “I was drinking and drugging. I was 16 and caught 96 counts of burglary, theft and [possession of drug] paraphernalia.”¹ Matthew received his GED at a Department of Corrections juvenile center—no prom. Shortly after release, he went to Arkansas with an older woman, where he began using meth. Holly Eitenmiller...

  9. 5 The War on Terrorism: Utilitarianism, Contractarianism, and Cosmopolitanism
    (pp. 95-116)

    On September 11, 2001, at 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC). According to the “Emergency Preparedness and Response Statement Number 13” submitted to the 9/11 Commission:

    The plane cut through floors 93/94 to 98/99 of the building. All three of the building’s stairwells became impassable from the 92nd floor up. Hundreds of civilians were killed instantly by the impact. Hundreds more remained alive but trapped.

    A jet fuel fireball erupted upon impact, and shot down at least one bank of elevators. The fireball exploded onto numerous lower floors, including...

  10. 6 Affirmative Action: Libertarianism, Utilitarianism, and Social Conservatism
    (pp. 117-138)

    Jennifer Gratz had her heart set on attending the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the flagship university in her state, beginning in the fall of 1995. Coming from a working-class neighborhood in a Detroit suburb—her father was a police sergeant and her mother a hospital lab technician—she would be the first member of her family to complete college. She knew admission standards were high, but she had reason to expect success. She had a 3.8 grade point average, was in the top 5 percent of her class, and had a score of 25 on her ACT (which...

  11. 7 Pornography, Child Pornography, and the Internet: Feminism, Social Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Utilitarianism
    (pp. 139-160)

    Pornography is a hot-button issue for many people, so I wanted to discuss it. But I didn’t have examples of “it” to discuss. I was too embarrassed to linger near the “men’s interest” magazine rack at the book store, much less buy anything, so I Googled “pornographic literature” for recommendations. Among them wasCrash, a novel by J. G. Ballard published in 1973, which was in stock at my local Barnes and Noble.

    Our hero James killed a man in a car crash and developed a sexual relationship with the man’s widow Helen, who was also injured in the crash....

  12. 8 Abortion: Libertarianism, Feminism, Communitarianism, Theocracy, and Social Conservatism
    (pp. 161-182)

    It was February 1936 when they got the news. Married only five months, she was pregnant. They wanted children eventually, but it was the middle of the Great Depression, and they couldn’t afford a place of their own. They stayed some months with his parents and some with her mother, recently widowed. Trained as a commercial artist, Alberta painted ties; trained as an engineer, Irv worked for his older brother selling auto parts. Each earned $15 to $25 per week.

    Lucky for them, Alberta had an aunt whose third husband was a doctor practicing in Toronto. Alberta took the train...

  13. 9 Homosexuality, Same-Sex Marriage, and Polygamy: Social Conservatism, Theocracy, Natural Law, Libertarianism, Contractarianism, and Multiculturalism
    (pp. 183-204)

    TheNew York Timesincluded this special wedding announcement in 2004:

    Hillary Smith Goodridge and Julie Wendrich Goodridge, the lead plaintiffs in the case that led the Massachusetts Supreme Court to extend marital rights to same-sex couples in the state, were themselves married on Monday [May 17] in Boston. The Rev. William G. Sinkford, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, officiated.¹

    Hillary Goodridge (formerly Hillary Ann Smith) met Julie (formerly Julie Nell Wendrich) in 1985 at a seminar at Harvard on disinvestment from South Africa. Both in their late twenties, the issue drew them together, owing to their interest...

  14. 10 Genetic Engineering and Designer Children: Libertarianism, Utilitarianism, Contractarianism, Environmentalism, Natural Law, and Social Conservatism
    (pp. 205-226)

    Genetic engineering includes all procedures aimed at health or improvement using knowledge of how specific genes can affect certain traits. Here we consider applications to human beings, as in thisNewsweekaccount: “The patient is in the bloom of her early 30s, blessed by good health and cursed by a bleak future. Thanks to a rare genetic mutation—a single misplaced nucleotide among the billions that constitute a chromosome—she is almost sure to develop Alzheimer’s disease by 40.”¹

    Alzheimer’s disease produces dementia. According theAmerican Medical Association Family Medical Guide:

    Most characteristic of dementia at the onset is the...

  15. 11 Wages and Taxes: Libertarianism, Free-Market Conservatism, and Contractarianism
    (pp. 227-248)

    The gap between rich and poor has been growing since the 1970s in the United States. Here’s an example reported in theNew York Timesin 2006:

    In 1977, James P. Smith, a shaggy-haired 21-year-old known as Skinny, took a job as a meat grinder at what is now a ConAgra Foods pepperoni plant. At $6.40 an hour, it was among the best-paying jobs in town for a high school graduate.

    Nearly three decades later, Mr. Smith still arrives at the same factory, shortly before his 3:30 a.m. shift. His hair has thinned; he has put on weight. Today, his...

  16. 12 Health Care in America: Free-Market Conservatism, Contractarianism, and Communitarianism
    (pp. 249-270)

    Between forty-five and fifty million Americans lack health insurance. Here’s an example, given by philosopher Robert Munson, of the human reality behind that statistic:

    Robert Ingram (as I’ll call him) was fifty-two years old and very worried about himself, a result of two months of having episodes of sharp, stabbing pains on the left side of his chest. When the pains came, he felt cold and sweaty, and although he tried to ignore them, he found he had to stop what he was doing and wait until they passed….

    He operated Bob’s Express, which picked up car and truck parts...

  17. 13 Immigration: Cosmopolitanism, Communitarianism, Multiculturalism, Free-Market Conservatism, Contractarianism, and Environmentalism
    (pp. 271-292)

    She was standing on deck as they approached New York Harbor on a balmy day. It was mostly sunny, with beautiful cumulus clouds. Esther and Abram had left Poland together and settled in London for a time, but Abram wanted the better life he was sure was available in America. Esther waited more than two years in London before she had enough money to join her husband in New Jersey. Now their reunion was at hand. Standing with her three young children as the ship approached the Statue of Liberty, Esther heard another couple talking in Yiddish.

    The woman said:...

  18. 14 Globalization: Libertarianism, Free-Market Conservatism, Cosmopolitanism, Contractarianism, Social Conservatism, and Environmentalism
    (pp. 293-314)

    New York Timespolitical columnist Thomas Friedman, who doubles as globalization’s cheerleader-in-chief, writes enthusiastically inThe World Is Flatabout developments in India. He visited the secluded campus of Infosys Technologies Limited, a world leader in information technology, about forty miles from downtown Bangalore.

    The Infosys campus is reached by a pockmarked road, with sacred cows, horse-drawn carts, and motorized rickshaws all jostling alongside our vans. Once you enter the gates of Infosys, though, you are in a different world. A massive resort-size swimming pool nestles amid boulders and manicured lawns, adjacent to a huge putting green … and a...

  19. Afterword
    (pp. 315-320)

    We have essentially a two-party political system, so it’s difficult to capture from election results the influence on the candidates or the voters of the twelve political philosophies discussed in this book. If, as I’ve argued, most of us, including the candidates, have sympathy with at least half a dozen of these political philosophies, each candidate probably appeals to at least this number of philosophies when all of his or her positions are considered. So, too, any given voter may vote for a candidate with whom she disagrees on several issues, because she likes the candidate’s positions on other issues...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 321-352)
  21. Index
    (pp. 353-376)