Monday, October 2, 2006

The Cats Shredded My Homework; Speechless; and Political Divorce

A couple of blog-projects working, but I'm not done with the homework. Okay, Okay, I confess: real life is occasionally more interesting than doing the homework. Besides, I was probably reading Esquire for the articles this weekend. Anyway, in the meantime. . .
George Will has an interesting column over at MSNBC (via Real Clear Politics) ("Speechless in Seattle") on the subject of the Left's crusade to squelch talk radio in the name of "fairness" and "reform."
Michael Barone in "The Disappearing 'Us'" talks about the disappearance of bipartisanship towards the military and America's wars. The money quote:
Nor is the struggle in Iraq "ours" for many Democrats. It's "their" war, the Bush administration's war. And they seek not the road to victory, but the acknowledgement of failure.
Their pit bull attacks on Bush, their constant references to the Abu Ghraib abuses as if they were typical, their opposition to letting the NSA listen to coversations from al-Qaida suspects to persons in the United States. . .these amount to a strategy of rule or ruin. You must let us rule this country, or we won't regard it as "our" country anymore.
Mr. Barone is speaking of course, of leftie Democrats, but one day the Democrats will return to power, and I very much think that rivers of contempt and hatred will then flow right back the other way, with interest.
The Red and Blue halves of this country don't appear to me to have much to say to one another anymore. There is plenty of good research out there showing that the Red and Blue States, in real economic and political terms, have more in common with each other than not, but such studies discount the importance of emotion, and the importance, however it's dressed up, of tribal identification.
The writings of Michael Lind, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation (and one of the brightest Lefties out there), are a good place to go for an introduction to these issues, in particular, his 1999 article "Civil War by Other Means." Another article, written in the wake of the 2004 presidential election: "Red State Sneer" -- is as good a dissection of the Red/Blue split as you are likely to find anyplace.
Mr. Lind's writings argue persuasively that the cleavage denoted today by the "Red and Blue State" shorthand is not new, and, as he states in his January 2001 article America's Tribes, even predates the English settlement of this continent. As a people, we have usually managed in the past to avoid bringing our regional differences to a boil (the War Between the States being the great exception) , but now I wonder if it is not going to bubble-over again ? Possibly instant communication and the ease of travel allows all of us to know each other a good deal better than we would like; and impels us to seek comfort in the company of people who dislike the same people whom we do.
In any case, despite all the talk of the "vital center" and the alleged hunger for uniting and not dividing, I suspect the Red/Blue split is going to stay with us because the politically active portion of the population likes it. Bipartisanship is boring.
The scary part of the equation is that all of this is going on in relatively prosperous times. What happens if we have an economic or geopolitical hiccup of some kind ? Do we become Spain in 1936 ?


Andrewdb said...

That Lind peice is right up there with Fisher's Albion's Seed., I read it at the time it came out and it still explains SO much.

El Jefe Maximo said...

I very much agree with you on Fisher. Lind also seems to agree that our regional differences here can be explained by where (and from what cultural background), the colonists came from in Britain. Garreau's "Nine Nations of North America" makes a similar case.

I completely buy the argument, at least historically, but I wonder to what degree this all still holds, or whether something different is going on ? Modern culture, as carried in music, by television and on the Internet, seems, at first blush, to be so terribly corrosive to national ties, historical ties, religion, and all of what is traditionally held to bind us. Then again, so much of the Red/Blue dichotomy follows historical patterns. Are the old cleavages continuing to be asserted, as Lind appears to argue? Or is this some new flowering of tribalism, as we all search for philosophical and political moorings to replace what modernity has taken away from us in terms of diminishing family, religion and nationalism ?

Along these lines, the relationship of conservatism and neo-conservatism with the so-called “religious right” has been remarked on extensively. Similarly, much of modern Leftism smacks of ersatz-religion to me, in the same sense that Marxism purported to be a complete belief system providing answers intended to guide all aspects of life.