Bridging a Great Divergence

Alana Semuels at The Atlantic posted a somewhat gloomy assessment of American life, entitled “America’s Great Divergence.” America is separating into different spheres denominated not by race or ethnicity, but by education, and so implicitly, by rural v. urban. In one sense it’s the old problem of how do you keep the kids on the farm?

Jason Ellis wonders if this only one more skewing to the four-year college.

The problem with these statistics is that “college degree” includes Physicians and Nuclear Engineers just as much as the 24 year old with $70,000 in debt and a degree in Literature from a private college who is working at Starbucks. In other words, it’s skewed and a 4 year degree isn’t for everyone regardless what the Higher Ed lobby wants you to think.

That skew is the problem. Post secondary education, whether as a two-year associates or in its variety of certifications is an option that is underplayed (and under-funded).  What Semuels misses  is that the nature of start-up culture is actually distributed, an archipelago of tech, not unlike the way industrialization was spread throughout the midwest. James Fallows at The American Futures project has a lot to say on this.

Technical education, iow, is the key for a longer term  development.
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Room for Politics?

Jason Ellis brings up an interesting article from Michael Horton and asks

I’d appreciate any critiques of Horton’s line of thought from those who support having an OSJ. IMO: the OSJ is a distraction from the mission of the Church as Christ instituted it as understood by Augustine, Luther and Calvin as cited by Horton, especially in a tradition that emphasizes a distinction between saving and common grace, but I’m trying to be open minded:)

I see the strong two-kingdom style of Horton, but it does seem at odds with the other conservative True Reformed types. Horton’s view appears to leave politics to being politics, that there is nothing a Christian can do for or against the actions of the culture. Not quite a separationist, but certainly in line with the pietistic branch of the CRC. In that light the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) is probably best understood as an extension of Kuyperian thinking, where the Gospel life permeates our cultural living. While there may not be a single way to help the poor, there is a biblical obligation to help the poor. The manner of obedience may vary by culture and setting, but the duty of obedience remains.

For Horton, the Church stands apart from culture, and fulfills its own mandate. Here’s how he puts it:

Through its administration of Gospel preaching, baptism, the Supper, prayer, and discipline, the church is God’s new society inserted into the heart of the secular city as a witness to Christ and the age to come when He will be all in all.

As I tend toward the neo-Anabaptist side of things, with its skepticism about social  construction of Christian engagement (aka Constantinianism), and so prefer seeing issues in terms of principalities and powers, I have a mixed reaction. On one hand, I do applaud his distancing from the conventional Christian Right politics, nonetheless, I would ask Horton whether Horton has effectively abandonned having any word for the culture. How can we engage in a critique from his viewpoint? As a practical matter, I think Horton’s view ends up with a very moralistic reading of society, so that we get programs slapped with Bible verses.

Ecclesiastical entities such as  OSJ arise basically a result of the church’s presence in society. It is especially a result (ironically, from Horton’s side) of the Augustinian emphasis on fall. The heritage of Augustine in the West is that atonement and salvation are seen juridicially, as a matter of justice. If the core issue is that of reconciliation, then the political becomes almost inescapable.

In short, there’s more that God’s people can say to this world.

Three Objections to Voter ID

Over at Voices we have had an intense discussion on the Voter ID laws. Are they as objectionable as I would assert? Or is this a case of “no harm, no foul?”  Perhaps voting should be understood best like buying a case of beer.

My friend, Jason Ellis suggests a scenario:

So Bill, I should be able to walk into your precinct, say “I’m Bill
Harris”, sign an affidavit, then vote a straight Republican ticket? Now
of course there are then 2 Bill Harris votes, they can even check
signatures and prove that you were the real Bill Harris, but there would
be absolutely no way to track me down, nor would there be any way to
figure out how I voted or how to correct the count, the damage is done.

I don’t think as a society taking our election laws as seriously as we
do beer laws is a bad thing.

Of course, much of the question turns on whether the behavior Jason describes actually occurs. Are there documented cases of this sort of behavior? And if so, are of such number that they merit legislation? (That is, is the existing law insufficient to prevent or punish this behavior?) And besides, if one were to commit fraud of this sort, wouldn’t you just use that fake ID that got you into bars at 19? A more important question is the impact of even innocuous measures on actual residents. Jonathan Alter at The Washington Monthly provides plenty of details of the impact in Pennsylvania.

In the run-up to passage of the bill, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele promoted a study estimating that 99 percent of the state’s registered voters already have valid photo ID from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that would allow them to vote. In other words, the whole thing was no big deal.
It turned out that 9.2 percent of the state’s 8.2 million registered voters — 758,000 people — did not have ID from PennDOT.

If then the amount of reported electoral fraud is minimal, that naturally raises another question, why the push for the law? For the moment, let’s throw out the crassly partisan one, that it’s actually a sneaky way to stop Democrats from voting (albeit contrary to statements in the Alter article above), what then might be the other objections to be raised. Three suggest themselves: A Statist perspective, Voting as a property right, and the long shadow of history.

The first two objectives are anchored in conservative political thinking, though as we will see, they are also in some tension with one another. Continue reading “Three Objections to Voter ID”

Base Appeal

Jason Ellis writes:

Ostensibly about Santorum, but a lot of good stuff, data etc. about the white working class voters…
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/290450/two-decades-too-late-henry-olsen?pg=1

Despite partisan stances  — I think differently than Olsen on some of the specifics —  Jason is right, this is a very good article. The element not really dealt with in the article is the generational difference between older and younger working class.  Recent studies suggest that the church is losing its connection especially with this latter group.

This looking back to the Reagan Democrat (three, not two decades away) also lies at the heart of the now notorious Hoekstra senate ad and its asian-bashing.

On the Murray book, David Frum (these days a moderate conservative) gives a very sharp review at Daily Beast.