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November 05, 2004

Hateful haters

Stereotyping has eclipsed rational argument in the blogosphere. I'm tired of all the meditations on the characters of red staters vs blue staters, who hates whom, and who holds whom in greater contempt.

A case in point is this post by Kevin Drum:

RED STATE RESENTMENT....Tom Wolfe is one of the sharpest observers of American culture we have. Here's what he told the Guardian a few days ago about the Democrats' much discussed problems connecting with red state voters:

I think support for Bush is about not wanting to be led by East-coast pretensions. It is about not wanting to be led by people who are forever trying to force their twisted sense of morality onto us, which is a non-morality. That is constantly done, and there is real resentment. Support for Bush is about resentment in the so-called 'red states' — a confusing term to Guardian readers, I agree — which here means, literally, middle America.

I think there's an awful lot to be said for this. Hell, I'm a coastal blue-state liberal, and even I occasionally get tired of liberal hectoring. I half suspect that my entire Northern California readership would disown me if I ever fessed up publicly to the brand of car I drive. Who needs that kind of grief?

These commentators are passing off cultural stereotypes about human foibles as substantive political discourse. Yes, some people are condescending, some people are irrational, some people love their lawns and/or snakes too much. The fact is, we shouldn't be griping about people, we should be debating ideas.

We just fought a tough campaign. We're all tired and grouchy. Guess what? A lot of Americans are sniping at each other. After every salvo, the opposite throws it right back yelling "Fuckin' hateful haters! See how much they hate us?"

The invective conceals substantive issues. The values of the religious right are incompatible with those of secular democracy. We disagree on profound questions including the very structure of public justification. It's time for us to lay off the David Brooks snake oil.


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I'm totally with you on that, and I think that the left is about to turn in on itself in response to not the defeat so much as the "Fuckin' hateful haters! See how much they hate us?". Very glad to see someone's resisting hard.

The trope of hate on the left had started a while ago, this from the people who embraced the phrase "feminazi" over a decade ago.

In all of the Drum/Wilkinson arguments, has anybody cited even a single example of anyone in the KErry campaign doing the things they're accused of? A single time?

It must have been the windsurfing.

This country was founded by religous christians who I believe would take issue with the assertion that the values of the religious right are incompatable with democracy.
Many, including the founding fathers would argue that the moral foundations provided by religion are essential the health of a self governing society.
I for one am going to begin healing the red/blue divide by calling my most liberal friend and I promise not to gloat. Not once.
And tonight, I'll make dinner for my liberal girlfriend. Perhaps a grilled cheese sandwich and a cucumber salad would be nice.
Tomorrow, I think I'll go for a motorcycle ride with a Kerry voter and when she tells me how bummed out she is over the election, I'll just give her a big hug. No gloating. I promise.

I'm getting a little tired of the groundlessness of discussion myself. Thing is, we've done ideas and substance. We have excellent thinktanks (Brookings, CBPP, et al) that have laid out forceful critiques of administration policy, all of which go unanswered. Our blogs carry on an impressive level of discourse and while certainly partisan try to weigh the ins and outs of policy. Our media outlets remain more or less judicious while theirs pass through the looking glass. But it wasn't enough. And given that political strategy didn't show obvious failure, that leaves something in-between, the sociology of the electorate. We wanted it to be about ideas, but I have the sneaking suspicion that a huge chunk of voters discount the message because of the messenger. Maybe David Brooks is on to something, even if he expresses it hyperbolically and anecdotally (and isn't a sharp policy thinker).

If resistance to Democrats is sociological (i.e. class-based) in basis, it doesn't really matter if Kerry expressed any explicit manifestation of elitism, he still was guilty by association and by a generalized sense that he was the Other.

Wilkinson's central point, as I understand it, isn't really about who hates who, it's that substantive policy issues don't decide elections. I certainly share the feeling that we really should be debating issues, but I also think it's pretty clear that modern election campaigns are basically all about marketing, and that's why all these cultural stereotypes and so on are relevant. Marketing isn't about substantive issues, it's about perceptions.

We might feel like we're pandering or demeaning ourselves if we think about elections in that way, but I also think there's nothing wrong with a little propaganda if the product you're selling is a good one.

Another Steve has a point. I am quite partisan, and I know several people who think that Kerry's problem was that he ran a bad campaign. Not that his ideas were bad, not that they thought he was incompetent, no, just that he ran a poor campaign. I wonder if they want Roy Scheider in All That Jazz: couple of pills, short snort, "It's Showtime!"

Steve said: "This country was founded by religous christians who I believe would take issue with the assertion that the values of the religious right are incompatable with democracy. Many, including the founding fathers would argue that the moral foundations provided by religion are essential the health of a self governing society."

It all depends on whether the religious right wants to insert christianity into our government. I believe they do. I further believe that they are wrong to argue that chrsitianity is the foundation of American government.

Thomas Jefferson says:
"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

He also says,
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802

Then, of course, there's the treaty of Tripoli (1797),
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

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