Saturday, January 09, 2010

Truths We Can't Admit
Inspired by Glenn Greenwald’s latest remaking of an obvious but largely taboo point—that American actions in the world bear some causal responsibility for anti-American sentiment, which is occasionally expressed in attempted acts of terrorism—I’m thinking about other logical conclusions we don’t allow to be expressed in our politics. Here are three to start:

  • Commitment to economic deregulation and “innovation” is in fundamental tension with commitment to a stable society. This is the underlying premise of the Jim Manzi essay I recently discussed: the faster the rate of economic change, the more intense the resultant dislocation and the more severe the punishment on those who lose out by these changes. It’s the fault line that lies beneath the Republican political coalition, one that some smart and financially independent pol eventually will exploit whenever other scapegoats for why “real Americans” are having so much trouble fall beneath a certain threshold of plausibility.

  • On the other side of the political spectrum, the center-left coalition fails to accept that neither “leveling the economic playing field” through actions such as strengthening organized labor or imposing living wage laws, nor “investing in education” through the aspiration of college for all will alone suffice to ensure broad prosperity. You need both—a truth that neither side seems willing to acknowledge, as seen in this recent back-and-forth between liberal advocates Michael Lind and Will Marshall. As is true on the right, this disagreement stands in for a larger cultural disconnect between the two core Democratic constituencies, which we can describe in shorthand as low-income communities and “knowledge workers,” that usually plays out in the party's presidential nomination contest. (In 2008, the twist was that Obama was African-American. Were he another white guy, based on the substance of the campaign he ran, he would have followed the well trod path of beautiful losers like Gene McCarthy, Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean. That said, the fact that he's turned out to be such a centrist in policy, if not style, offers a hint that the "beer track/wine track" divide is more style than substance, if not straight up pig crap.)

  • There was no Golden Age, ever. To take the most glaring example, I find it darkly hilarious that the “Tea Party” crowd hearkens back with such feeling and strong identification to the founding of the American Republic: the guys that created the country were elitists and snobs far beyond the measure of the modern liberals so deeply loathed by the average Fox viewer. Were today’s angry righties around in the 1780s, they probably would have been shoveling crap on the estates of the Founders, or else swelling the ranks of Shays’ Rebellion or other abortive resistance movements. Probably the smartest of them would have been anti-Federalists.

I might come back to this, as I'm pretty sure it's an almost infinite subject.

No comments: