You know, I’m as big a fan of blog triumphalism as anyone, and as much a believer as the next guy that blogging has unleashed this vast array of heretofore unknown talent which will save the world or something like it.
And then I read something like this analysis (here’s a Word download, for you non-Atlantic subscribers – and you ought to subscribe, you know!) of the current state of the Democratic Party by Marc Cooper in the Atlantic and realize there’s a reason why he writes about politics as his day job and I do it as a hobby.
America, now more than ever, needs a vibrant, viable, progressive alternative. The challenge to liberals, then, isn’t to reify their differences with a mythical red America and its strict daddies but, rather, to find common ground. Perhaps they ought to start by taking their own sermons about diversity a good deal more seriously. Diversity should be much, much more than a code word for racial affirmative action. It also entails, as Potter and Heath argue, “[making] peace with mass society” and learning to live with what the philosopher John Rawls called “the fact of pluralism.” Modern America is large and, yes, diverse enough that it’s absolute folly to think some sort of progressive or nurturant world view can—or should—become majoritarian. Who would want that sort of conformity in any case? “We need to learn to live with disagreement—not just superficial disagreement, but deep disagreement, about the things that matter most to us,” Heath and Potter conclude.
The trick of effective politics—as opposed to thinly disguised self-affirming psychotherapy and aesthetically gratifying rebel poses—is precisely to unite people with different views, values, and families around programs, candidates, and campaigns on which they can reach some consensus, however minimal. Before liberals and progressives dash out with their new vocabulary to try to convince others of the righteousness of their values, they might consider spending some time listening to others instead.
I’d started a review of Lakoff’s thin little self-affirmation, and put it aside as the only responses I could muster were so negative that they were embarrassing.
Cooper has thicker skin:
Much more than an offering of serious political strategy, Don’t Think of an Elephant! is a feel-good self-help book for a stratum of despairing liberals who just can’t believe how their commonsense message has been misunderstood by the eternally deceived masses. Liberal values are American values, they say, but somehow Americans just keep getting tricked—by Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, AM talk radio, conservative think tanks—into thinking and voting against their own interests.
Go read the whole thing.