Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Culture & Politics

Andrew Sullivan linked to an interesting follow-up by Julian Sanchez on the politics of resentment. Sanchez is making the point that the resentment isn't a psychological diagnosis, and isn't necessarily a code for something else, that the internet has allowed previously marginalized groups to suddenly find each other and organize in a way they couldn't before. But I think the bit Sullivan excerpts isn't the most relevant point in the article; it's this one:

People have read racial undertones into the rallying cry “I want my country back!” and its cognates—probably because this is a strange way to present opposition to a policy agenda, however misguided you might find it. The instinct is right, but I think the conclusion is wrong: Race—and communism, as Tim Curry would remind us—is another red herring. What we’re seeing is the natural sentiment of people who think of themselves as quintessentially American looking at an American popular and public culture that presents them as marginal.

Yes. That's the biggest reason why so much of the politics of the right currently involves resentment of so-called elites, exclusion by "the mainstream media" (um, hello, FOX gets higher ratings than CNN or MSNBC), and an insistence that "real Americans" agree with them--and by implication, anyone who doesn't, therefore isn't a real American.

I don't see things improving for at least another full election cycle. The GOP right is currently where the Democratic left was after Reagan shellacked them--dazed, confused, out of ideas, and not quite believing that the old truths aren't holding anymore. The craziness has to burn itself out, and the remainder has to grow up.

And the sooner, the better. Yes, I'm an unabashed lefty partisan, but a healthy democracy needs a healthy opposition party, and today's GOP isn't it. They've adopted the tactics of the old left--identity politics, a political catechism that must be accepted without question, a total unwillingness to consider any other view as being anything other than hopelessly corrupt--and charged it up on tribal identification, with a good healthy dose of religious fervor and nativism. And, like the old left, have become more concerned with all of the above than the realities of governing or of addressing the problems in front of us today, rather than the problems of 30 years ago. (1980's Democrats couldn't quite grasp the idea that the heyday of the civil rights movement and the Great Society were over; today's GOP wants to apply Regan's platform from 30 years ago to today's problems.)

But the GOP seems short of grown-ups at the moment; it's all tribal politics and red meat for the base. If it's got to burn out before it starts to change, then run, Sarah, run!

Edit/addendum: incredibly minor nit-pick. Tim Curry would remind us that it's socialism that's the red herring.


jsanchez said...

KCProgramr said...

I stand corrected. Early on he said his friends were socialists, and I was conflating the lines.

Ah, the joys of the internets. And the perils of shooting off one's mouth without fact-checking...