The Radicalization of American Politics

by Dave Schuler on January 14, 2008

Josh Marshall considers the kerfuffles of the last week in the campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and limits the credible explanations to just two:

We seem to be at the point where there are now two credible possibilities. One is that the Clinton campaign is intentionally pursuing a strategy of using surrogates to hit Obama with racially-charged language or with charges that while not directly tied to race nonetheless play to stereotypes about black men. The other possibility is that the Clinton campaign is extraordinarily unlucky and continually finds its surrogates stumbling on to racially-charged or denigrating language when discussing Obama.

Actually, I think there are any number of other credible explanations and I’d like to suggest one. To me the biggest problem in American politics is the radical turn it’s taken over the last 30 years. In the case of the Democrats, Democrats’ consciousnesses have been raised with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. For those of you who’ve read your Saul Alinsky you know that popular education as a means of consciousness raising is a key step in the process of radicalization. The upshot of this is that those whose consciousnesses have been raised see every event or statement through the prism of that raised consciousness. If you’ve been radicalized with respect to sexual orientation even the most innocent comment can be suspicious. Recall Glenn Greenwald’s complaints about the word “poof”? And if you’ve been radicalized with respect to race everything is about race.

What radicals don’t understand is that those whose consciousnesses have not been similarly “raised” don’t see things at all in the same way.

I’m not saying, by the way, that Democrats are the only ones who have been radicalized. That the same is true in the Republican Party is completely evident in religion, what passes for libertarianism these days, and a host of other issues.

No one is so perfect that they will be able to guard their tongues from saying something objectionable to someone whose consciousness has been raised. So expect gender, race, and religion to be a big part of the primary and presidential campaigns. It need not be deliberate. We just can’t escape from it.

From the point of view of somebody like me, a moderate or, more precisely, a liberal conservative, this development is wholly pernicious. As I’ve written before, moderation is the virtue that enables use to agree. Without agreement there can be no compromise, without compromise no liberal democracy.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Weasel Whacked « Bookworm Room
January 31, 2008 at 12:55 pm
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February 7, 2008 at 8:47 pm
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February 10, 2008 at 6:30 pm

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Durry Jones January 14, 2008 at 6:09 pm

I have been reading your blog for sometime now…a couple of years actually…and this is the first time I’ve been moved to comment. This mirrors some posts you’ve had in the past and I couldn’t agree with you more. I in fact like the liberal conservative construct and may adopt that as my own. Thanks for your blog. I’m waiting for your next genealogy post.

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