Why Polarized Politics is Good

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jeffrey Bell, former policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and author of, The Case for Polarized Politics: Why America Needs Social Conservatism, discusses why polarized politics and social conservatism are good for democracy in America.


Jeffrey Bell

Comments [48]

Brian, why oh WHY, did you not ask him how social liberals are imposing their beiefs and trying to break down conservative institutions? Because we know and you enumerated how the opposite is true. You let him off the hook by saying we won't resolve it. At least ask the question.

Mar. 15 2012 06:50 PM
Bridget from Rockland County

Whenever Obama's health care law comes into a discussion, it is usually called "Obama care". The actual name of the law is "the affordable health care act". I suggest that you refer to it by its proper name because that name states clearly why the law was passed - to make health care affordable to more people. The term "Obama Care" is divisive and conveys very negative feelings to some people who find anything Obama does unacceptable. In your discussion this morning with Jeffry Bell I did not hear the term "the affordable health care act" used even once. I hope that in the future you will use that term more often.

Mar. 15 2012 04:25 PM
Janet Blaustein

Mr. Bell, as do other conservative republicans, always use the talking point that the people make their own best decisions. Please, would someone supply a list of all those things that "the people" have done so well....and compare it to an equally unfiltered list of things folks have not been able to do vert well for themselves! I wish Mr. Lehrer had asked for just 3 things that are so well done by the people!

Mar. 15 2012 02:49 PM
Henry from Manhattan

Jeffery Bell tells us the government health care is bad because it is a top down approach.

Here’s the thing. I don’t care. I don’t base my politics on whether things violate my presumed assumptions of how things ought to be so long people are better off than they were.

All I see, is that our current system leaves a lot of people unprotected which is embarrassing for the type of rich industrialized country we are, and I see models of “top down” health care that work just fine in other countries. With that said, we’re not going to have government health care with people like Bell around outright opposing it on principal, so I’m fine with some sort of compromise so long as we give it a fair try to see if it improves things. The Affordable Care Act was such a plan, but all we hear from conservatives is SOCIALISM! REPEAL! REPEAL! REPEAL! With little input on how to improve health care or any indication that the faults in the system need to be addressed.

I care about results, not ideologies. If it takes some laissez-faire capitalism here and some socialism there, I don’t really care so long as we use the best tool for the job, if we can’t have the best tool, let’s at least try to make it incrementally better with the tools we have.

It’s social and economic conservatives who have a vision in their mind of how things should be, but don’t ever yield to facts or realities, the far left does this too, but as there is no major far left political party, it’s irrelevant, but Bell’s insistence on going back to a gold standard is one of many examples wishing the world to conform to a past ideal that wasn’t all that ideal in the first place, (and quite frankly is nigh impossible to implement.)

Mar. 15 2012 12:28 PM
Irene Diaz-Reyes from New York, NY

I realize why it is important to have guys like this Jeffrey Bell on your program. It is good to know what your antagonist is thinking. Like the old saw, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," Bell shows how conservatives, over and over, want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. The sad state of the country can be attributed to people like Bell who tell the poor, blue-collar worker that they--the extreme right wing--represent the best interests of working people because, like working-class people, we go to church. Give me a break! This buy is a total jerk. Sure, some of your listeners will question why he is even on your show. I disagree, it's good to know what we liberals are up against. Total reactionary lunacy.

Mar. 15 2012 11:48 AM
Henry from Katonah

Oh, Mr Bell must be one of Ronald Reagan's sucessors who is responsible for the current state of the GOP. And he thinks it should go more in current direction.
The Dems should be benefiting by these attitudes with the GOP - - it is not happening fast enough.

Mar. 15 2012 11:44 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

I am curious why it is that in this moment in time that social conservatives aren't satisfied with trying to outlaw and cut funding for abortion, that now they are attempting to take things a step further backwards by questioning and trying to allow companies to opt out of contraception funding?

I am just plain stumped as to how people can rewind back in time and think this is by any means a step in the right direction. Anyone who isn't an ultra social conservative should really voice outrage at this attempt to bring religion and skewed morality into our laws and politics.

Mar. 15 2012 11:37 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Hooray, the left won with the sexual revolution!

Thank goodness we finally got around to extending the premise of equality our country was founded on to everyone; though of course there is still plenty of work to do because people like Jeffery Bell will always be around to oppose positive change.

What progress has social conservatism given us? Oh right, by definition, social conservatism isn’t about progress or attempting to make the world a better place.

Because we all know that way things used to be was utopia, and any notion that we can make things better are suspect and ultimately the Devils work, since social conservatism is inseparable from Christian religiosity, as Jeffrey Bell was honest enough to tell us.

Mar. 15 2012 11:36 AM
stuart from nyc

interesting that the host mentioned reform judaism as a religion.

i don't think i've ever met an adherent of reform judaism that considers him or herself 'religious.'

in fact, reform actively counters the most basic beliefs of judaism itself.

i guess it's like the old saying - "a liberal is someone who won't take his own side in an argument"


Mar. 15 2012 11:35 AM

What horse-puckey! Allowing a religious institution to define what methods of treatment will or will not be covered is precisely a case of them sticking their nose in where it doesn't belong. A devout or believing woman should not choose an option that is outside the tenets of her religion but if she does it should be no one's business but her and her doctor. And, yes, her employer should pay. They have plenty of non-believers on the payroll.

Mar. 15 2012 11:35 AM

Here, here for the last caller who called it like it is "oppressive". I am tired of extremists trying to tell women what to do. And your speaker clearly shows how little he understands of how oppressive women find his views.

Mar. 15 2012 11:33 AM

Coercion from the left on social issues? What about banning abortion? Banning same-sex marriage? Past laws banning "sodomy" and "contraception", and conservative opposition to striking them down? Mr. Bell is really just not being honest.

Mar. 15 2012 11:32 AM
moo from manhattan

no, he's got it wrong. nobody is making conservatives get next day abortions. what they do themselves is still up to them. it's when their beliefs affect other people that there is a problem.

Mar. 15 2012 11:32 AM

John A.~

W.F. is rolling in his grave.

I rarely agreed but definitely had some respect for Mr. Buckley.

Mar. 15 2012 11:32 AM
Rosemarie from Manhattan

What about the Right's claim to being for personal freedom and then turning around and wanting to control a woman's right to decide what is good for her and her life. There is no "freedom" if one has to keep a job just for the health insurance.

Mar. 15 2012 11:32 AM
Smokey from LES

Please give me Freedom FROM Religion! Keep it to yourself!

Mar. 15 2012 11:32 AM
John A.

Gosh am I screwed up. I didn't realize its 01-Apr-2012 already.

Mar. 15 2012 11:31 AM
Eric from LIC

How can health care be a top-down imposition at the same time that wealth is defended for the sake of job creation?

Mar. 15 2012 11:28 AM
Tim Sheehan from Cranbury, NJ

Elites versus populist. Oh, boy. Conservatives have been great at working this angle. They, who represent primarily the monied interests in this country who want little government regulation getting in their way of making even more money, pose themselves as populists by demonizing the liberals. It is only a name game-- if you call someone a duck long enough people will start expecting them to quack. The Republicans have excelled at this dishonest tactic, and it has worked for them very well for years.

Aren't most of the Conservatives elites as well? Of course. If you are trying to pose yourself as a leader and you have the resume and money to back up that pose you are by definition an elite!!

Mar. 15 2012 11:28 AM
moo from manhattan

oh please. guess when the government is liberal, despite an inherent ideology that leans toward protecting working people from the interests of profit and corporate interest, it becomes "populist" to be against those things just because they are against the liberal government?

some elites have completely different interests than other elites. the difference between them does make an actual difference.

at some point, expertise becomes elite. exptertise becomes important at some point, and is not necessarily a bad thing.

Mar. 15 2012 11:28 AM

Sure folks can be trusted to make their own decisions regarding health "insurance"...

47 million AmeriKans™ have decided that they CAN NOT afford basic health care.

BO's plan STINKS and is nearly as bad as any GOP position of absolute denial of the problem and support of the status quo!


Eliminate the corrupt middle man!!

Mar. 15 2012 11:28 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

Thomas Jefferson said in a letter to Baptists in Danbury in 1802:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach *actions* only, and not *opinions*

That is - the role of government is to regulate our ACTIONS - such as whether or not we include contraception in our health care plans. The church is free to ADVOCATE for anything it wants but to be a member of civil society it has to ACT according to the laws that are derived through our democratic process.

Mar. 15 2012 11:28 AM
John A.

I would welcome an "elite" republican thinker, to the tune of WFBuckley but unfortunately the party is so Mad Men Marketed up its own wazoo to allow any such important thinkers out of the bin.

Mar. 15 2012 11:25 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Take the government OUT of marriage! Governments shouldn't be "marrying" people. Civil unions, okay, but "marriage" is a religious vow.

Mar. 15 2012 11:25 AM

There have been plenty of polls asking whether or not voters believe that employers should be compelled to provide health insurance coverage for items that violate their conscience. I'd like to know, has there been a single poll asking whether or not voters believe that WORKERS should be able to get coverage for certain health items whether or not their employers approve? The point being, what effect does whether the right in question is of the employer or of the worker have how voters resolve the issue?

Mar. 15 2012 11:25 AM
Julia from NYC

If religion can be a basis for what an employer offers for health insurance, what then if the employer is a Scientologist? Wouldn't the employer have the argument that he ought not need to offer any health insurance of any kind ?

Mar. 15 2012 11:25 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Jeffrey Bell seems to think that President Obama is some sort of leftist, which he’s not, so that doesn’t do much for Bell’s bias credibility. Also, all of his comments relating Christian religiosity with who make up social conservatives and who consistently vote Republican affirm my reasons for rejecting it.

Since the United States’ political parties already lean center right compared to political parties in Europe, I’m curious why anyone would write a book advocating why social conservatism is necessary here. Compared to other countries, our two party political spectrum is actually fairly narrow..

While I disagree with social conservatism on principal, I’m not opposed to a tentative approach to social changes or a healthy skepticism of progress, what I assume reasoned social conservatism should be.

But that’s not the sort of social conservatism that is in our politics. It’s irrationality and Christian religiosity, and very little reasoned discourse. See the recent GOP presidential candidates that believe we should b a Christian theocracy. American social conservatism relies on myth, not reasoned method.

Mar. 15 2012 11:24 AM
michael from brooklyn

ugghhh so tired of hearing this junk. take your god out of my government.

Mar. 15 2012 11:22 AM


These guys are PSYCHOTIC!!!

Mar. 15 2012 11:21 AM

Let people make their own decisions but let religious institutions decide what the options are.

Thanks makes sense.

Mar. 15 2012 11:21 AM
andy from manhattan

wow. the gold standard is his principal goal- that speaks volumes to where this man lives, not to mention his philosophical inconsistencies.

while brian is not allowing his points to go unchallenged, i have trouble understanding why this man is being featured here.

Mar. 15 2012 11:20 AM

Mr. Brown's paraphrase is a mis-statement of Warren's actual position. No one will be REQUIRED to use contraceptives against their will. All that has been proven is that telling the right lie can make the Republican win. Guess what we're going to see plenty of in the upcoming Presidential race?

Mar. 15 2012 11:19 AM

This guest is completely wrong on the merits. It's a culture war *among the elites*, but on the whole, wealth does indeed predict Republican votes. This is well laid out in the political science research by e.g. Andrew Gelman and Larry Bartels. I love this show, but don't see the point of having someone pontificate on political theory in the absence of any data or expertise.

Mar. 15 2012 11:19 AM
john from office

As if we should go back to the Sea Shell standard, please.

Mar. 15 2012 11:19 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ Gerald Fnord - You're right that the U.S. was born out of Enlightenment thinking, but those very understandings and principles are questioned and even under attack by current ideologies, particularly by the right wing.

Mar. 15 2012 11:19 AM

I agree - get him off! I am so sick and tired of straight white males deciding on women's reproductive rights and messing up the electoral process (discussion of real issues needing to be worked out) by using timing to challenge civil rights wherever they can find a pot to stir.

This guy is so full of cr*p!!!

Mar. 15 2012 11:18 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

They should be called socieoeconomic issues, since the the state of the family unit is as germane to our economic health, as the state of the atom is to the stability of a nuclear reactor. The family is the socieoconomic atomic unit of society. As it disintegrates, society disintegrates.

Mar. 15 2012 11:18 AM
Emma from Brooklyn

This guy completely evaded Brian's excellent question on defining "populism."

Mar. 15 2012 11:18 AM
John A.

The republicans seem to love to lock us on one topic, usually one not properly even as the job of the president, to make us chose them. This is the failure of modern Republicanism. It may win them votes, but its cheap votes for sure.

Mar. 15 2012 11:16 AM
jacob from Brooklyn

As someone on the left, I agree with the guest that "polarized politics" in opposition to this guy's ideology are good for democracy. The right has the amazing ability to "invent reality" and move the discourse further and further to the right.

Mar. 15 2012 11:16 AM
Jeff from UWS

It is disingenuous to say the timing of the birth control mandate was Obama's move. The mandate was always part of health care legislation, and it was the churches that brought up the political issue now that the economy is doing better.

Mar. 15 2012 11:15 AM
Lloyd from Manhattan

Bell drove New Jersey's revered Senator Clifford P. Case out of the Republican Party. The decline of the GOP commenced then, with the replacement of thoughtful moderates like Case and Javits with what was called then the lunatic fringe. Look at the state of the GOP now. What a tragedy.

Mar. 15 2012 11:14 AM
sp from nyc

Please ask your guest if Christian Science institutions should be able to offer prayer only health insurance.

Mar. 15 2012 11:14 AM
John A.

Hello. Terry Schiavo.

Mar. 15 2012 11:12 AM

The Gold Standard?? Gimme a break...Mr. Bell sounds like a fantasist. Social conservatism is just a way to inject wedge issues into if we could legislate morality or that we could turn every election into a referendum on the most recent social concern. Pure BS.

Mar. 15 2012 11:12 AM
John from office

The gold standard??, This was over in the 1800's. Paper money is as good a vehicle for value as gold, which is just a metal. The value comes from what people will give for it. Money is a concept, that carries its value with it, not because it is backed by something.

This guy should not be on this show, he is a clown.

Mar. 15 2012 11:11 AM
Ron Sanecki from keyport nj

Polarization is a convenient simplification. It is fine for simple situations. The real world is rarely simple. Shades of grey, and the choice to have them, is real democracy.

Mar. 15 2012 11:10 AM
Gerald Fnord from Palose Verdes, Ca.

The problem with contentious issues is that they excite the gut and reptile brains rather than the neo-cortex. A nation founded on the Enlightenment should absolutely privilege reason in its public discourse over passion, since reason alone cares most for what is in the actual world, as opposed to what is in our heads.

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens seem to think that a loud voice is a good argument, and that repetition constitutes proof. The Left certainly has been guilty of this in the past (good luck having a measured debate on Vietnam in 1969), but these days it is the Right that seem to have fallen in love with the idea---the many town-hall meetings at which representatives were shouted-down before they could even begin speaking were not democratic, but rather the sort of megaphonic exercise that gave 'democracy' a bad name among our Founders.

On the other hand, don't trust what _I_ say is 'good for democracy'---it's probably strongly influenced by what I think will be good for me, for people I like, and the people I consider 'worthy' for some reason or another, particularly and even peculiarly. Little done in public is good for everyone.

Mar. 15 2012 11:10 AM

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