Saturday, May 11, 2013

"We Are Not Radicals"

 .  . . writes proud, defiant member of the Group of 88.

In his co-authored op-ed, and after implying that his conduct might somehow be comparable to the brave civil rights activists who participated in the Greensboro sit-ins, Group leader William Chafe runs through a litany of policies that prompted him to violate the law. A couple of the issues that Chafe raises--dealing with efforts of the North Carolina state legislature to restrict the right of predominantly Democratic constituencies (students, minorities) to vote--might rise to the level of potential subjects for civil disobedience, dealing as they do with fundamental rights.

But Chafe comes across as the work of a figure more interested in play-acting as a 1960s radical than in actually influencing policy. He suggests that he was protesting not merely these voting rights issues, but North Carolina's political leadership's decision to reduce taxes on the wealthy. He also decided to break the law because North Carolina leaders made a policy choice that Associate Justice Elena Kagan deemed constitutional and declining federal funds to expand Medicaid. And he believed that he could place himself above the law because he knows better than North Carolina's elected government on whether to make a policy choice that former associate justice David Souter deemed constitutional and imposing some restrictions on abortion. A . . . distinguished . . . professor deems these policy choices to be grounds for civil disobedience?

The Chafe argument, summarized: unless a government elected by a majority of the voters enacts the policy agenda of the minority party (with which he happens to agree), he will engage in civil disobedience.

We live in a representative democracy. The state's Republican governor and GOP-led legislature ran on a platform of lowering taxes on the wealthy. If Chafe considers this policy so unappealing, perhaps he should devote himself to using his way with words to persuade a majority of his state's fellow citizens, rather than resort to breaking the law.

And imagine how Prof. Chafe would have reacted if Tea Party types had engaged in civil disobedience to demand higher taxes on the poor, or had screamed at women trying to access an abortion clinic. Somehow I doubt that he would have compared the Tea Partiers to a modern-day version of the Greensboro Four.

An aside: in what way does Chafe's past status as a president of the Organization of American Historians argue against deeming him a "radical"?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is horrifying news.

Anonymous said...

Is Chafe a communist?

Beau Dure said...

The GOP in North Carolina has gone totally bonkers. I'd be careful, KC -- under their agenda, I think liberal arts professors are to be rounded up and hunted for sport.

KC Johnson said...

To the 11.01:

I should note that with the possible exception of the abortion law (Chafe, naturally, doesn't say exactly what he's protesting--why diminish the romanticism of the protest!), I agree with Chafe's positions; I strongly agree with his apparent positions on voter and student ID.

But in a representative democracy, breaking the law is not a rational response to routine political disputes, such as a disagreement over taxation policy. And whatever Pat McCrory is, he isn't "bonkers." He's a mainstream, business-oriented Republican. He's almost certainly the most moderate governor in the South.

That Chafe seems to believe that civil disobedience is an appropriate response to a debate over taxation policy(!) trivializes the instances--such as Greensboro--in which civil disobedience was a necessary response to immoral acts.

skwilli said...

If only the Minority could appoint a Dictator, what a wonderful world we would have. Oh, wait....

Anonymous said...

I think the thing that gets me most about Duke today is that they build and perpetuate this them against us, or us against them (usually), attitude and way of thinking and behaving - which usually invariably ends up with more getting harmed throughout history - and ages - and time ... yet all the while they push us, us, us ... go duke ... (and every one else is wondering where they are headed ... ??? and not many want to follow any more as the error of their path becomes more and more apparent since it is so obvious to all but them).

... universal health care ... and vaccines, etc. ... yet they provide the least charity care and make the most profit of any other hospital system in the state and dominate the poorer counties they primarily operate in (so far) - and such.

It is how they seriously harm others in order to have this facade and irrationally self-glorifying grand 'us' that is criminal and violates others' civil rights that is the problem - not the normal reaction by many of not wanting to be a part of it.

How evil for them to spread that into the rest of the world's populace as well since many of them are less educated targets and poorer still.

go duke ...

NorthQueensland said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Halkides said...

KC, I respectfully disagree about Governor McCrory. He may not be bonkers, but his vision on education is limited: “So I’m going to adjust my education curriculum to what business and commerce needs to get our kids jobs as opposed to moving back in with their parents after they graduate with debt," McCrory said, adding, "What are we teaching these courses for if they're not going to help get a job?"

Mike Lee said...

Meanwhile, the Duke lacrosse team defeated the defending National Champion Loyola Greyhounds in a double overtime thriller yesterday.

Duke will now play Notre Dame on Sunday with a chance to go to the Final Four on the line.

Former Coach Mike Pressler's Bryant Bulldogs also played very well (getting off to a 4-0 lead against highly favored Syracuse) but ultimately losing to the Orange.

I would submit that Professor Chafe and his ilk could learn a lot from both the current and former Duke lacrosse coaches. If I'm interested in finding role models for my son (and I am!!!) I would much prefer he follow the example of Pressler and Danowski (and great assistant coaches like Ron Caputo and Matt Danowski) than Chafe.

KC Johnson said...

To Chris:

I agree completely with your take on McCrory. He certainly has a limited view of public education--which puts him pretty much in line with the mainstream of today's Republican Party. (He's clearly more moderate on education than the governor here in Maine, Paul LePage, whose long-term vision appears to be privatizing the state's education system.)

The point is that in a representative democracy, civil disobedience must be an option of last resort--otherwise the system simply breaks down. I oppose LePage's educational policies (and virtually all other of his policies). If I were a NC resident, I suspect I'd oppose McCrory's educational policies. But I'd also submit that breaking the law to show my opposition on what is, in the end, a routine policy dispute would be highly inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

KC, right! Yelling Wolf over disagreements that are better voiced, debated, and resolved elsewhere than in the street....makes no sense. I am so weary of seeing the generic protestor crowd on TV, getting arrested yet again..... They may be right, they MAY be. But, since when is breaking the law preferred tactic for every dispute?

Jim In San Diego said...

KC

There is an anonymous poster here who continues to post gibberish.

On some threads, his/her posts occupy more column-inches than all other posts combined.

This poster is lowering the quality of the blog. Reading his/her posts are a huge waste of time, and are a disincentive to read the blog attentively.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

'Hey, I'm no radical, I'm no MLA past president; I did not do it, you didn't see me do it, you can't prove a thing."
Chafe

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Prof. Chafe thinks of this development from the Obama administration. Maybe he helped them write it. The Group of 88 may end up looking ahead of its time if this keeps up. And perhaps Chafe is not protesting about a policy dispute in Raleigh, or even for the romance of protest, he could be protesting for exactly this sort of policy for everyone.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323582904578485041304763554.html?mod=WSJ_article_comments#articleTabs%3Darticle

Mike Lee said...

I read the WSJ piece today by Greg Lukianoff and I immediately came to DIW to see what KC had to say about the DOE & DOJ letter to the University of Montana.

KC- I hope there is a forthcoming post with your thoughts. I have really enjoyed reading your work, thanks.

Best-

Mike

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, Cosmo.

Stuart McGeady said...

Congratulations to the Duke Blue Devil lacrosse team on its 2013 NCAA Championship victory! Since having its 2006 season cancelled by a disloyal university administration in the wake of false allegations against players, the team coached by John Danowski has attained its 7th consecutive Final Four, and its 2nd title in 4 years.

Anonymous said...

A bit but late to this post, have to mention your gratuitous backhanded swipe at "Tea Party Types," who in my experience are for lower taxes for everyone, along with lower government spending.

Can't you buff up your liberal bona fides without sniping at folks who have nothing to do with the topic at hand?