Thursday, March 10, 2016

March 10, 2016--Dangerous Election

The most recent issue of The New York Review of Books includes a cautionary article by Michael Tomasky about the presidential election, "The Dangerous Election."

He attempts to ferret out and explicate the concerns of voters from both parties.

Here is the heart of what he has to say--
The developments within both parties reflect the long-standing anxieties that liberals and conservatives feel about the country, anxieties that have only grown sharper as time has passed. For liberals, the chief concern for thirty-five years now has been about the unfairness of the economy—virtual wage stagnation for most workers, huge gains for the top 1 percent, and the lax regulatory and enforcement regimes that have permitted those outcomes, along with slow recovery from the most recent recession. 
For conservatives, for about the same period of time, the main worry has been what is broadly called “culture,” by which we really mean the anger and resentment felt by older white Americans about the fact that the country is no longer “theirs” and that their former status and authority no longer seem what they once were. This rubric takes in a number of issues—immigration, especially illegal immigration; same-sex marriage; a black president in the White House; all the things that conservatives bundle under the reviled label “political correctness.” In their minds it is some sort of taint that has infected every institution in this once-great nation and is destroying it daily before their eyes.
What's wrong with this is that it is full of stereotypical thinking. 

As common on the left as the right.

According to Tomasky, liberals are interested in economic issues while conservatives are concerned primarily with those that are cultural.

This is so oversimplified as to make his analysis useless. Actually, harmful.

Conservatives are as interested in economic issues as Democrats. Manay may have a different perspective--less focused on inequality and more on tax policy and deregulation--but since by no means are all conservatives affluent, those in the middle class have also experienced wage stagnation since the 1970s. And are as frustrated about this and feeling as betrayed as those on the left.

And to imply that liberals do not have passionate cultural concerns suggests one has been oblivious to the powerful agenda pursued by Democrats to assure equal rights to women--the right to choose is as cultural an issue as the fight to overturn it. Further, the ongoing campaign to expand and protect the rights of various minorities from people of color to those from the LGBT community are also cultural  Affirmative action and the right to marry who one loves for many progressives trumps economic concerns.

It is important not to mischaracterize those with whom we have differences. If we want to heal the social divide and find ways to work with those with whom we disagree, we need to avoid such superficial thinking. 

If we feel that there are social maladies that require addressing, that this, in Tomasky's words is "a dangerous election," it is essential to begin with a carful diagnosis. Promoting stereotypes is the opposite of being helpful.

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