Monday, January 18, 2010
Social Capital and the Imbalance of Power.
To put it another way, agree or disagree with her, the Village sees Jane Hamsher coming and they crap their pants. Can you imagine what they'd do with 300 million of her?
It's no accident that the netroots—based in the internet, one of the biggest generators of social capital in recent memory—has been disproportionately effective. We can connect citizens to one another, help them to understand how their fate is intertwined with those of others, and set them on the course to create something together. That's power. No wonder it worries some people who make their living off convincing ordinary people they can't do it for themselves.
I'm not trying to indulge in blog triumphalism here. Plenty of other social frameworks can do the same thing. Remember, I'm reading Block's book for clues about how the church can create social capital.
Rather, like Hayes, I am hopeful about the long-term prospects for our democracy. Or at least I'm not ready to count us out just yet. There are things that can be done to affect the balance of power, as Hayes suggests: public financing, nuking the filibuster, passing the EFCA. But there are other measures than can be taken to bind us to one another and make sure the power stays spread around. They're not sexy, and they're not easy. They're the grunt work of civic engagement: getting to know your neighbors' names, volunteering at the school or the senior citizens' home, going to church or the theater, signing petitions, attending neighborhood meetings, getting to know people across all sorts of social lines.
I realize that some people will think this approach is terribly soft-headed. What we need is power, and lots of it, they will say. That's short-sighted to the point of not being able to see past your nose. Like Hayes says, Obama unleashed the social yearnings of voters in 2008. Along with some favorable conditions, the social strategy made him win in a walk. Why his administration would turn their backs on the very thing that brought them to office, I do not know, but I suspect they will come to regret the insider strategy they have adopted in the past year.
Getting the Emergency Contraception Conversation Right.
In a hospital emergency room, whose religious freedom matters trumps someone else's beliefs?
In the final ugly hours before the critical vote for the late health reform champion Ted Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, accusations are flying. One of the newest comes from a conservative Catholic group that wants to see a Republican take the slot and, not coincidently, knock out the Democrats' filibuster-proof advantageÂ in the Senate.
CatholicVoteAction is circulating a quote from Democratic candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. She was asked by radio host Ken Pittman about the religious liberty rights of Catholic hospital workers who would refuse to administer contraception or abortion-inducing drugs. Her reply:
You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn't work in the emergency room.
To which CatholicVoteAction's president Brian Burch, tagging on a fund-raising appeal, says,
Emergency rooms are NO place for religious discrimination.
Who would disagree with that?
Well, it depends on whether you view discrimination against some patients -- you know, the folks who are having the medical emergency -- is worth consideration. These may include rape victims seeking emergency contraception, or women with life-threatening pregnancy complications, gay couples and single women whose life choices don't match these conservative Catholics' views.
Many may not be Catholic at all and may have very different beliefs about their rights to make faith-based decisions -- or decisions based on whatever is their guiding philosophy. (Saturday was Religious Freedom Day and President Obama, in his proclamation, included people of all faiths and none as celebrants of this constitutional right.)
Mass. State Sen. Scott Brown, Coakley's GOP opponent, backs proposals to allow "medical people with religious principles to find another emergency room care provider to administer a pill or service..." according to Pittman.
Do you think, in a genuine emergency, patients are in a position -- if they are even conscious -- to sit up and tell the ambulance driver or triage nurse to take them to a place or hand them off to someone where they'll get the care they seek? Can ER employees be required to violate their conscience or can must patients play roulette with their health or pass someone else's religious test?