June 22, 2012

Libby, Libby, Libby Is Using Labels, Labels, Labels

Patrick Laverty

I tried this earlier over Twitter but the 140 character limit doesn't really lend itself to good debate. Mr. Plain over at RIFuture tweeted about Libby Kimzey's article on the need for more diversity at the State House. Ms. Kimzey has announced that she is running for a seat in the General Assembly this year.

First, the part I agree with. We do need diversity, but we need more diversity of opinions. We need diversity with regard to following the more powerful members of the Assembly. We need people who will say no to the horse-swapping and arm-twisting that goes on. We need diversity among people to stand up for what's the right thing to do, even if some high-powered lobbyist tells them otherwise. I'm not advocating for more people in the Assembly to be conservative, though that would be nice, I'm just looking for more divergent thinkers and more people who aren't there just go along and get along.

So here's where that article falls apart.

You can’t fix problems you don’t see, and so I want my General Assembly to have eyes in as many places as possible, and I do believe that requires diversity in all factors, from gender, race and age, to class, employment history, and experiences with poverty.
No, no, no. I agree that you can't fix problems you're unaware of, but I disagree that it means we necessarily need more people of different gender, race or age. Intelligent people can see problems that don't affect them and can see arguments from all angles. I don't care if we elected 100% 95 year old green women, if they were all smart and wanted to do what's best for Rhode Island. Just because someone is of a certain gender or race or age doesn't necessarily make them better suited for the Assembly. That sounds a lot like profiling, and I thought people who come from the progressive camp, like Ms. Kimzey, are against profiling, no? So why is it ok to profile people when it suits the argument?

Then there's this:

So, if you’re a cashier, or a waitress or a salesperson, it’s time you gave some thought to running for office. Your community needs you. The stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines.
What? Why? Is that all we care about? Cashiers and waitresses? How about smart people, Libby? Yes, cashiers and waitstaffers can be smart, but that's not a quality you wrote that you're looking for.

Again, I'm glad any time anyone is willing to give up their own time and energy to make a run for public office. However, I think when asking people to run, we should seek out those most qualified and those who would do the best job in the office, and not just those who we can use to check off some boxes.

I'd say good luck to Ms. Kimzey in her run for office but if this is the type of logic and reasoning she'd use in the State House, I think i'll pass.

PS. In case you're too young to get the reference in the title: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fivBoHfgEs

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Identity politics. The idea is that your immutable characteristics define you as a person and are themselves qualifications or disqualifications for certain opportunities. Progressives are unabashedly in favor of race- and gender-based disrimination in situations where they perceive power differentials between certain groups, even if the individuals don't self-identify as members of the groups. It's an entirely outcome-driven approach, which is consistent with the philosophical foundation of progressivism that the ends justify the means and minor injustices perpetrated at the expense of individuals are justified as long as a "socially just" outcome is achieved according to centrally-laid plans. So in this case, "We feel there are too many men in the General Assembly, the solution to which is electing more women." It doesn't *matter* to them that this is unfair to individual men, who can't control their gender, because they will have the facially-correct outcome they desire, as determined by their own socially just expertise. Make no mistake - progressives have no problem discriminating against you by sex or race if they feel a greater good is being served by doing so. The parallels to now-disfavored social and political movements throughout history should be rather obvious to any objective observer, though I don't personally claim to be objective.

I don't think age, race, or gender count for or against this particular candidate, but her backwards statements on these subjects rightfully should.

Posted by: Dan at June 22, 2012 2:57 PM

You really want this out there on the internet with your name on it?

This is the most provincial, backwards sounding, insular, closed-minded thing I've ever read on this blog -- and that's saying something.

Patrick -- consider a white male who is an "intelligent person" (yourself perhaps?). This person would never be able to fully "see problems that don't affect them." Not a a million years would they know what it's like to be black in America, or a single mother without a college degree, or a latino child of undocumented parents, or a young girl considering an abortion, or a woman in a corporate workplace. I doubt you'd even be able to fully conceive of what it's like to come back from war, and live as a veteran in the United States -- though that option is at least not genetically foreclosed to you. You may THINK that your superior mental machinations can help you visualize these things, but your approximations would never be informed by real experience, would never be informed by the full richness of a life-lived under those conditions, and would therefore be the wrong ideas on which to base policy decisions. Not

This post is so ridiculous, I'm shocked you can't see it for yourself.

Posted by: Steve at June 22, 2012 3:22 PM

Talk about cherry picking from an article, you had a decent article going here until you picked that line. She is complaining about the over abundance of lawyers in the GA when she calls on others with less collegiate educations to run for office to present their views. Can't argue with her call for less lawyers, as they put us in this mess.

Posted by: Mark L at June 22, 2012 3:37 PM

Steve - One doesn't have to share the same experiences as another in order to politically or legally represent them. By your logic, white attorneys aren't qualified to try racial discrimination claims filed by African Americans simply due to their being white. Your "progressive" view is the backwards one here - it doesn't allow for individuals to break free of the limitations that others set on them based on factors beyond their control, and it conflates experience with insight.

Mark L - Why do you think it is inappropriate to have 1/4 of a law-making body coming from a legal background? Do you think it's inappropriate that most of the people in the National Fire Protection Association, on which many fire codes are based, come from a fire science background? There is no monolithic "lawyer" experience or mindset - a J.D. just means you have been trained in law and government. This is a bad thing why? Tell you what - I'll stipulate that there should be fewer lawyers in state and local government as long as it's a progressive lawyer being replaced. No shortage from which to choose, and some of them could really use replacement.

Posted by: Dan at June 22, 2012 4:10 PM

White attorneys know the law, so they should practice law. White doctors know medicine, so they should practice medicine. Those things are specialties.

But to suggest that we don't need various world views in the governmental body that makes laws for EVERYONE is short sighted, paternalistic, and straight up bad democracy!

Posted by: Steve at June 22, 2012 4:17 PM

Dan, let me put it to you this way: how would you feel about the GA being composed entirely of Saudi Arabian ex-pats, who now lived and worked in Rhode Island, and were educated in the United States. They grey up in Saudia Arabia, are Muslim, etc etc, but were educated in the states (for the sake of argument, let's say they went to Providence College), and now live in RI.

How would you feel about that?

Posted by: Steve at June 22, 2012 4:26 PM

Dan - The current state of the state answers your question why less lawyers might be worth a try. They had their go and failed.

Posted by: Marl L at June 22, 2012 4:39 PM

Steve - Lawyers practice law on behalf of all people. Doctors practice medicine on behalf of all people. I'm not really following you. And I still don't see how having a certain set of immutable characteristics necessarily leads to holding certain viewpoints or having additional insight. Why are there pro-choice women and pro-life women by your logic? Shoudn't they have all arrived at the same "answer" based on their shared experience? To answer your hypothetical, I do not judge people based on their national origin or ethnicity. If they were doing a good job, that would be enough for me.

Mark L - Your logic is so faulty it is a nearly effortless matter to counter it. Far more of the General Assembly are union members or union leadership than they are lawyers. Start there if you want to start blaming all of Rhode Island's problems on a special interest sharing the same backgrounds and incentives.

Are you guys paid or just campaign volunteers? I do admire your enthusiasm.

Posted by: Dan at June 22, 2012 5:01 PM

I've never met this girl in my life, nor do I live in the state anymore.

By the way, you're not so opaque as to think this is solely about immutable characteristics, are you? This isn't about the fact that certain people have immutable characteristics, it's about the fact that those immutable characteristics give them distinct and unique worldviews that a bunch of homogeneous white guys could never have.

Can you tell me, honestly, that you think you know enough about what it's like to be a woman to be able to legislate women's issues? Seriously?

And you didn't answer my hypo about a Saudi Arabian GA.

Posted by: Steve at June 22, 2012 5:09 PM

Dan - When all else fails blame a union - any union, civil, workers, student. Take your head out of your you know what. You would not know how to cut spending if you were the only person in the GA.

Posted by: Mark L at June 22, 2012 5:23 PM

Steve - You call me "opaque" for suggesting that the argument is "about" immutable characteristics, and then in the next sentence you suggest that immutable characteristics are a legitimate basis upon which to select individuals for office because of the impact they supposedly have. So by your own statement, yes, I think this issue is "about" immutable characteristics and the conclusions that we should (not) be drawing about the individuals based on them. I did answer your hypothetical - I don't judge people based on ethnicity or national origin - I judge them based on merit and performance. Saudi Arabian heritage would not be relevant to me. Doubt all you want, but it's true. I don't care about "what" people are. I care about "who" they choose to be.

Mark L - Insult all you like. You blamed the problems of the state on "the lawyers" in the GA because roughly a quarter of the representatives are lawyers. Far more representatives are directly tied to the union world (certainly more than a quarter), and yet you see no basis in that for blaming the problems of the state on unions. I am not personally blaming the unions for the sake of this argument; I am simply pointing out the discrepancy in your argument based on atrocious logic.

Posted by: Dan at June 22, 2012 7:23 PM

Patrick,if I ran for office would you consider voting for me?

It seems I could fulfill both your criteria of having a divergent viewpoint and Ms.Kimzey's ideal of blue
collar workers who are perhaps female,older,have experience with poverty and a very low wage work history.

She apparently doesn't count in Constitution study or anything like that,but I do have a bit of it so that would be a bonus,do you agree?

Yes,I think I would be an almost perfect candidate.

Posted by: helen at June 23, 2012 2:18 AM

Senator Kettle was a dishwasher before he was elected to the senate at age 20. Difference though is he knows the issues and what is wrong up there

Posted by: Rueben at June 23, 2012 10:51 AM

Kimzey's first failure is suggesting that reflection is more important than representation. In the GA you have a woman senator introducing pre-abortion ultrasounds, a gay representative killing a gay marriage bill, a black Democrat senator introducing voter ID,and almost the entire Democrat delegation from Woonsocket sending their OWN city into bankruptcy which will likely reduce union benefits. How's that working out.

Calling out white male lawyers isn't have as bad as her lame justification of it.

Posted by: Max D at June 23, 2012 12:48 PM

Steve-your Saudi Arabian hypo is kinda silly.They would have to get elected-I just think that it's as likely as winning Powerball 2 weeks running.
FWIW my State Rep is a Black man who is a middle class servant and represents a very diverse district extremely well.He is a Democrat,but not one of those "progressive"types.His interests and mine are very similar.I am a middle class White retired civil servant(Federal)and my family is multiraci also. I think identity politics SUCKS!!

Posted by: joe bernstein at June 23, 2012 1:09 PM

TYPO ALERT:I obviously meant to say my rep is a CIVIL SERVANT.

Posted by: joe bernstein at June 23, 2012 1:10 PM

Oh my gosh,Steve's post just registered in my brain.

Steve,Ms.Kimzey is probably not a girl,but a full grown woman. Crass to demean her if you don't agree with her by calling her a girl.

What "immutable" characteristics are you talking about? Your arguement is that "certain" people,all have "immutable" characteristics and by extension are all basically the same in thought and beliefs? Please share with us who these "certain"people are. Oh,I see,it's blue collar woman who have experienced economic hardship.

Yeah,we are all alike,all think alike and all should vote alike,right? lol

Next the racist remarks about white men. You are saying that white men have homogenous beliefs. You are again mistaken and at the same time expressing a racist stereotype.

By the way,for your information and education,I am fully qualified to speak as a woman.

Further,since you no longer live in this state,it's none of your business.

Posted by: helen at June 25, 2012 3:36 AM

Patrick,wish I could have gotten your support as a voter. You would be hard pressed to ever find one more dedicated to securing your rights than me. Oh well.

Posted by: helen at June 25, 2012 3:40 AM

Please specifically define, Patrick, what you mean by "those most qualified for office" and "those who would do the best job in office" if you would be so kind as to take the trouble to respond to this inquiry.

Posted by: helen at June 25, 2012 3:48 AM

"Patrick,if I ran for office would you consider voting for me?"

Of course. I'd consider voting for anyone who wants to run for office.

"Patrick,wish I could have gotten your support as a voter."

Maybe you would have. When did you run for an office?

"Patrick, what you mean by "those most qualified for office" and "those who would do the best job in office"

When I wrote that line, I was referring to when candidates are recruited. The political parties recruit candidates all the time. If it were up to me, I would not seek out candidates merely based upon color of skin, a certain age or gender. I would want people who I believe would do a good job as a representative, regardless of how their physical characteristics match certain categories. That's why I also wrote that I don't care if the candidate is a 95 year old green woman, if she's going to make a great legislator, I'd vote for her.

Some have suggested that I don't value personal history or background at all. That's not true. I think if someone is going to be a smart, conscientious and hard-working legislator AND has experience in a certain area, that's great. That's a bonus. But I believe we're looking to elect "representatives." People who are capable of representing us. Someone who can understand what kind of representation their constituents need and reflect that at the State House. Taken to an absurd extreme, every single one of us is different so if it requires having a matching background, then the whole idea of a representative government is impossible. It's ludicrous to believe that just because someone doesn't have three arms that they can't understand the needs of their three-armed constituents and represent their interests. I'm guessing someone who believes that doesn't have experience with good representation, and maybe that is their own fault.

Posted by: Patrick at June 25, 2012 6:26 AM

Patrick,I really like your answer because I have felt so much through my life that I have not had true representation.

What I would add to your description is that I want my representatives to secure my rights and uphold the State and Federal Constitutions to the best of their ability.

In our state,that is probably a hard task,yet little by little our representives could create conditions that would respect the Constitutions and
at the same time create conditions most amenable to freedom and prosperity.

Posted by: helen at June 27, 2012 12:52 AM
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