Last nights House GOP FAIL got me thinking about something I once wrote:
Wading into this whole debate about Kos’ American Taliban, I think we’ll see that the difference between "difference in degree" and "difference in kind" dissolves when you realize that the whole question centers around values, which is what puts the lie to both Kos and his (in this particular case) conservative doppleganger Jonah Goldberg. Kos wants to make the argument that in, say, hatred of women’s sexuality, American Christian conservatives and the Taliban are different only in the ways they express that hatred – ie, the values are the same but they’re just enacted more moderately here. And these kinds of situations often leave people fumbling around finding differences of differences of differences. But really the answer is: how you decide to enact your value is in-and-of-itself a value. All of us, all the time, carry around all kinds of values and beliefs and urges about all kinds of things that clash, compete, and in the end mitigate each other. The reason Christian conservatives in America are not regularly stoning or disfiguring women is because they think its wrong, and their value of "don’t physically harm other people" outweighs their value of "women who have violated traditional sexual norms deserve to be punished." The value of "respecting the democratic process" is important enough in the United States that it outweighs the desire of both sides to see their side in power, and it is in fact exactly this that we are trying to instill in the Taliban! We want opposing factions and radicals and extremists and violent types everywhere to sublimate those beliefs to a shared belief in values like "thou shalt not kill" and "let’s make rules and follow them." This is why conservatives aren’t the Taliban, Hillary Clinton isn’t Mussolini and everybody needs to seriously chill out.
I think it’s clarifying and very important to understand that differences of degree – ie, "I don’t like you but I’m not going to kill you" v. "I don’t like you and therefore I’m going to try to kill you right now" – as differences of kind. The difference between the former and the latter is not "how much they don’t like you" but whether or not they think violence is an acceptable repsonse to loathing, which is itself a very important value system.
So, what does that have to do with the House GOP’s inability to pull together for a simple CR? Well it’s become my opinion that the new Tea Party rump of the GOP is different not in degree from their predecessors but in their values, which also explains things like the debt ceiling. The old GOP thought that taxes were bad, but that destroying the American economy or the American government’s ability to function were also bad. The new Tea Party types seem to think the latter concerns are much less of a problem, and therefore is an acceptable risk in pursuit of destroying taxation. The Tea Party is defined not by an extreme hatred of taxes; that’s always been the GOP. The Tea Party is defined by considering everything else so far behind that particular evil that they are willing to roll the dice on economic devestation and meltdowns of governance in order to get their way.