Old Site Menu

Missive #64

Floor planning is a form of retailer financing for large ticket items displayed on showroom floors or lots. Specialty lenders, traditional banks, and finance arms of manufacturers provide the short-term loans to retailers to purchase items and they are then repaid as the items are sold. Automobile dealerships utilize floor plan financing to run their new and used car businesses. Floor planning is a type of inventory financing.

The banks are starting to cut back, or completely shut down, such financing which is going to put a serious crimp in auto sales. I expect the same thing to happen with RV dealerships and large appliance retailers. There will be a serious economic impact during this coming year; maybe some great ‘sales’ as well as those retailers try to unload their inventory.

The Tree Has a Fork in It, or
Whither the Democrats? Part II
By John Ross

Copyright 2004 by John Ross. Electronic reproduction of this article freely permitted provided it is reproduced in its entirety with attribution given.

My November 5 column has already elicited quite a bit of mail.  One reader, Mark Cassill, wrote in and said that he had recently written a piece for the Frontier Sixshooter discussion board [a board I am not familiar with] to attempt to explain the issue brought up in my column:  Why are so many Democrats so passionately against guns when it is costing them election after election? He emailed this piece to me, with the disclaimer:  “I say ‘attempt’ [to explain] because I’m not sure I’m up to explaining behavior that isn’t completely rational.”  His piece started by getting right to the point:

The Dems have recognized for at least a decade that gun control is a loser issue for them. Most people with an understanding of practical politics would expect them to look at the studies demonstrating how ineffective gun control laws are, and conclude that the issue isn’t worth the elections it is costing them. Political parties are about winning, after all. Yet the Dems have not yet done so, and show no signs of doing so. Certainly they have gone to some lengths to camouflage their gun-hating positions, but have not changed the positions themselves.

        I thought this was a concise, accurate assessment, so I kept reading to see what Mr. Cassill had to say.

I think to understand this, one needs to look deeper into the psyche of the liberals at the core of the modern Democrat party. These liberals are, at their core, urban elitists, who believe that any problem can be solved if the right people (themselves) are allowed to come up with solutions to it.  This assumption is at the heart of “Public Policy” degrees being bestowed by many universities now. They believe that objections from the “little people” out in flyover country are to be disregarded, for those people couldn’t possibly be as educated or informed as they, the urban elites, are. Many of you have read the Jane Smiley article in Slate that I posted a link to a few days ago.  That article is a must-read, not because it is an exercise in sore-loserdom (although it certainly IS that), but because it is one of those rare unguarded moments when an urban elitist tells us what she REALLY thinks of all us rubes in middle America. If you haven’t read it, be sure you’ve taken your blood pressure meds; you’ll need them. http://slate.msn.com/id/2109218/

        So I immediately clicked on the link above, to read this Slate article that Jane had written that was predicted to raise my blood pressure.  Before you read any further in this column, I think you should read her article, too.  It has caused quite a stir on the Internet, in many discussion groups.

        The intro, written by the Slate editors, explained

The day after the election, Slate‘s political writers tackled the question of why the Democratic Party—which has now lost five of the past seven presidential elections and solidified its minority status in Congress—keeps losing elections. Chris Suellentrop says that John Kerry was too nuanced and technocratic, while George W. Bush offered a vision of expanding freedom around the world. William Saletan argues that Democratic candidates won’t win until they again cast their policies the way Bill Clinton did, in terms of values and moral responsibility. Timothy Noah contends that none of the familiar advice to the party—move right, move left, or sit tight—seems likely to help. Slate asked a number of wise liberals to take up the question of why Americans won’t vote for the Democrats.  [There was then a link to other articles in the “wise liberal” series Slate had solicited–JR.] 

        I know, I know, you’re going to tell me that phrase is an oxymoron.  And you’re probably cleaning the coffee off your monitor at the notion that Bill Clinton cast his policies in terms of “values and moral responsibility.”  Don’t bother emailing me about that.  I was intrigued that Jane Smiley was one of Slate’s top picks for the title of “Wise Liberal,” and I was eager to read on.

        The title of her article is Why Americans Hate Democrats—A Dialogue, with the subtitle The unteachable ignorance of the red states.  Her first paragraph began:

I say forget introspection. It’s time to be honest about our antagonists. My predecessors in this conversation are thoughtful men, and I honor their ideas, but let’s try something else. I grew up in Missouri and most of my family voted for Bush, so I am going to be the one to say it: The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. (Well, almost 58 million—my relatives are not ignorant, they are just greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.)

        By now, you may have surmised that something is up with this column.  In print, I don’t ever refer to other writers by just their first names, even if they are close personal friends.  I haven’t seen Jane Smiley for a number of years, but I’m glad to see Jane doesn’t think I’m ignorant.  Greedy?  Well, a good friend once told me I didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘moderation.’  As to my being full of “classic Republican feelings of superiority,” I can’t very well argue with that, can I? 

        Jane Smiley, you see, is my cousin.

        More precisely, she is my second cousin–my mother and her mother are first cousins.  Jane and I went to the same high school here in St. Louis, though not at the same time.  She is a few years older than I am–eight, I think.  When I was in grade school, and Jane in high school, I’d look at her at family Christmas gatherings and think she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  Whoever coined the word willowy must’ve been thinking of Jane Smiley. Tall, slender, graceful, and with a thousand-watt smile, she made my other female relatives look drab by comparison.  Seeing Jane at those family gatherings, I started looking forward to growing up. 

        As I recall, Jane got engaged around 1969, while she was still in college and I was in junior high school.  She and her fiancé came down to my parents’ place in the country to swim and have dinner with us.  The guy was named John, and even though she was in heels, Jane had to look up a little when she faced him.  He was 6’7″ or 6’8″, as I recall, too tall for the military to accept him.

        I pretty much lost what little contact I had with Jane after that.  The marriage to the tall guy ended, without kids, after about five years.  Her first book, Barn Blind, was published in 1980, a year after I got out of college.  Shortly thereafter, Jane got a job teaching at the University of Iowa, where she became head of the Creative Writing department.  She continued writing, producing a string of well-received books over the ensuing years that won a number of awards.  Her success at writing eventually allowed her to quit teaching and focus more time on her other passion, horses.

        If it sounds like I’m avoiding voicing any personal opinions of the books my cousin has written, you’re right.  I suspect that most of Jane’s readers are women, just as I suspect most of Elmore Leonard’s readers are men.  Through her characters, Jane often makes me laugh with a witty observation or comment, as does Elmore Leonard.  Jane’s ear for dialogue, and her understanding of the dynamics of women’s interactions with each other is spot-on, just like Leonard’s is with men.  But too often, I want to bitch-slap Jane’s characters to get them to do something.  Anything.  Conversely, I’ve had more than one woman tell me she couldn’t finish an Elmore Leonard story because it upset her too much, and that Jane Smiley was her favorite novelist.  Different strokes and all that. 

        So what about this Slate column? 

        Jane, if you’re reading this, I know it’s been a very long time since we’ve seen each other, but I hear about you periodically from our cousin Andrew.  Andrew and I see each other several times a week, and I know you’ve kept in contact with him over the years.  Andrew’s a good one to engage in political discussion, as I’m sure you know.  If he ever gets caught in a lapse in logic, he recants his position immediately and totally. (Incidentally, Andrew also happily accepts your characterization of him as being not ignorant, but just “greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.”)

        Me, I’ve become something of a minor celebrity in certain circles because of a novel I wrote in 1996 that dealt with the struggle between the culture of freedom and the culture of state control.  It hasn’t sold in the numbers that your books have, but 60,000 copies (so far) of an 850-page hardcover from an unagented author, published by a tiny Midwestern press with no advertising, is nothing to spit at.  A lot of reviewers have called it this generation’s Atlas Shrugged, which made me feel a little foolish given that I had never read that book until everyone started comparing me to Ayn Rand(!)  You probably haven’t read Unintended Consequences, but neither have most of the people in my family, including my mother, sisters, and Caroline, my wife until 2001.  On the other hand, Andrew loved it, and our other cousin Frank, the professor at Urbana, said he couldn’t put it down.  If you’ll email me with a mailing address, I’ll send you a copy.  If nothing else, you can lend it out.

        As to this column you’ve written that’s got so many people’s knickers in a twist, I must say I’m a little baffled.  At first I thought it might be a piece of satire.  But it’s not really over-the-top enough, the way good satire usually is.  I have to assume you really mean the things you say in this piece, Jane, and I couldn’t help feeling as if I were reading a paper written by a French aristocrat in 1789 who had narrowly escaped to England just before the blade of the guillotine had fallen on her neck.  Or something penned by one of the higher-up Communists in 1989, right after the Soviet Union collapsed.

        Jane, a lot of people are personally insulted by this recent article.  One reader on Amazon who had always liked your writing pointed out that

“Jane Smiley has made a living, won a Pulitzer prize, and gained fame from writing touching descriptions about the kindness, realness and intelligence of the people who live in red states.  And now she says ‘it’s time to be honest about our antagonists…ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially among the red states…red state types love to cheat and intimidate…they are borne of hubris and hatred.’  She also says ‘[t]he blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind.’  Just who is it that has slugged who from behind?”

        Most of the printed outrage to Why Americans Hate Democrats is to your characterization of much of America as ignorant, unteachable rubes.  However, I suspect the part of your article that offends many people the most is your apparent ridicule of those with religious beliefs.  Perhaps I am the perfect person to talk to you about that.  Like you, I don’t believe in following the literal word of the Bible, because there is some pretty intolerant stuff in there.

        I don’t go to church, Jane, but the amazing thing is, I know lots of people who go every week, and they like me anyway.  They like me, they’ve never told me I’m going to burn in hell, and they’ve never tried to get me to convert to their religion.  They even ask me my opinions on ethical matters and put stock in what I say!  I do this Internet column, Ross in Range, where I give my views on things that interest me.  Many columns discuss social and political issues, and I take strong positions that are almost always in direct opposition to what the stereotypical red state Bible-banger in your column would believe.  I get lots of emails from regular churchgoers.  Most of them take the tone of “I didn’t think I would ever agree with your main point, but after reading your piece I’ve had to rethink my own position.  Thank you for making my brain work a little harder.”  From my experience, most religious people are pretty smart, and open to logical reasoning.  They go to church not because they’re ignorant, but because it’s something that makes them happier and more fulfilled.  Two of the wisest men I know are ordained ministers.  From what I have seen, their sermons aren’t full of what you describe: Believe the literal word of the Bible or you’ll burn in hell.  Instead, these ministers inspire people to do good things, help those who need it, and make people’s lives better.  What kind of good things?  Oh, I don’t know, maybe writing books full of touching descriptions about the kindness, realness and intelligence of the people who live in red states.  Something like that.  And neither of these men has ever tried to get me to attend church.  Maybe it’s just because I’m bigger than they are…

        Jane, you didn’t put anything about the specific planks of the Democratic platform in Why Americans Hate Democrats, but it had to be there under the surface. 

        Let’s take the abortion issue.  I ran for U.S. Congress and got the nomination in 1998.  (I ran as a pre-Roosevelt Democrat, believing that I could do the most good by helping reshape the Democratic Party, but that’s a topic for another column.)  The startling thing I discovered about the abortion issue is that when you get right down and actually talk to both sides about it instead of just reading their bumper stickers, the so-called Religious Right is a hell of a lot more reasonable than are the NARAL folks and their ilk.  See the two columns I wrote about this, first Abortion, Mole Removal, Helmet Laws, and Waiting Periods and then Marilyn Monroe: Tragic, Misunderstood Star, or Serial Killer?  

        Gay marriage?  The people in the red states don’t want gays to marry.  They think that is a mistake, but most of them won’t be able to give you a reason that you would not dismiss as homophobic.  I can.  I can tell you the underlying reason that gay marriage is a bad idea, because I’m pretty good at articulating the things that most others feel instinctively but cannot explain why.

        First of all, what is the underlying problem?  Is it a need to have your life partner covered under your company’s insurance plan, as a wife would be?  Fine, address that specific issue.   If a civil union will do it, that’s that.  If the legislature has to write a law saying employers must cover one same-sex partner of an employee in the same way as the employer would cover a husband or wife, fine.  Address the specific issue.  

        Marriage is a religious ceremony with long traditions, and the focus of it, arguably the entire reason for its existence, is with succeeding generations in mind.  We have laws to prohibit us from marrying a sibling or other close relative, as children of such a union are far more likely to have birth defects.  No one on either side of the political aisle has a problem with such prohibitions.

        But why can’t post-menopausal women marry their brothers?  Or their sons?  If gay men and women should be able to have same-sex marriages, why shouldn’t two brothers be able to marry each other, or two sisters?  Or more than two? No birth defect issues exist for people who can’t conceive.  NO ONE is championing that these suggested unions be deemed marriages.  Why not?  They are the exact same argument as the one for gay marriage.  Red state voters instinctively know this, even if they don’t articulate it.  It’s not about ignorance and intolerance, Jane.  Red state voters may not want gay marriage, but all the Republicans I know don’t have any particular problem with gays, who are almost all Democrats.  To find real intolerance, you’ll need to look inside your own party.  Most blacks exhibit a true hatred for gay men.  Even my 89-year-old mother has seen this, and she doesn’t get out nearly as much as I do.

        Guns.  This is the biggie.  I’m a one-issue voter, Jane, and so are a lot of other people. The issue is FREEDOM, and guns are the tip of the spear.  That’s why an awful lot of Republican legislators are lukewarm on the gun issue.  Republicans are lukewarm, but most Democrats are ice cold.  Second Amendment battles are largely fought and won by the common man.  People like me.  Go read my piece  The End of a Personal Twelve-Year Odyssey if you want to see what I mean.  George W. Bush is no champion of the Second Amendment, Jane, but John Kerry is an outright enemy.  If you want your party to thrive again and surpass the Republicans, you’re going to have to make some changes.  Gun rights should be the first one.

        Your party is out of touch with most of America, Jane.  Read what Mark Cassill has to say:

Democrats are now engaged in a lot of wishful thinking, telling themselves that “gay marriage” (and that alone, they seem to think) cost them the election. This of course allows them to continue feeling superior to all those “unteachable” bigots out in middle America, but completely misses the point. Their answer to the Republicans offering clear reasons to vote FOR the President and Congressional candidates is a platform and message that alienates many. In a nutshell, they seek to impose their urban elitist values on the rest of the country; gay marriage is only a part of that. The gun issue plays a big part as well. The manner in which they seek to impose their views is itself an issue; judges imposing policies that would never pass a vote in a legislative body is guaranteed to create a backlash. Voters in Middle America see a President clearly comfortable with his faith, as contrasted with Democrats (and their supporters in Hollyweird) who claim faith to be a bad thing in the Oval Office. (Or they did BEFORE the election; they’re singing a different tune now). They see Jerry Springer, the poster boy for much that is wrong with the country, campaigning for Democrat candidates.

        If you want to stop the Patriot Act or whatever other Republican efforts you believe infringe on your freedoms, work to clean up your own party’s anti-freedom policies first.  Your party is reeling right now.  It is as ripe as it’s ever been for being taken over by the Libertarian Party.  If and when that happens, I’ll become a Democrat again.

        Jane, if you have a rebuttal to this column, or any comments you want to make at all, send them to me and I’ll post them unedited.

With love,

Your cousin, John Ross  11/11/04

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *