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Monday
Aug212017

Culture Wars vs Political Wars

By Casey Dorman

One of the things I find odd is that on Democratic or Progressive websites, most of the posts these days are about opposing White Supremacy or neo-Nazis or racists. Why odd? Because everyone should be opposed to White Supremacy, neo-Naziism and racism, not just Democrats and Progressives (and polls suggest they are). Similarly, LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, are now part of our culture and are affirmed by a majority of Americans, as are equal rights for women. So why do websites that are politically oriented identify these cultural issues as centrally important to their message?

One of the main reasons is that President Trump’s reluctance to denounce White Supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis, and his ongoing claim that “both sides” in clashes between such groups and those protesting against them are to blame, not to mention his assertion that both sides include “fine people,” has made a cultural question a political one. When members of his own party are unwilling to denounce the president’s message, this makes their party vulnerable to a racist characterization. In this sense, Democratic affirmation of equality and inclusion can distinguish the two political parties. This is surely the fault of the Republicans, as failing to embrace decent human values is both a political and moral error.

But claiming a moral high ground, particularly in self-righteous tones, is not a political platform. The party that simply flaunts its moral credentials and offers no programs, risks losing the support of voters who are looking for concrete policies to meet their needs.

The two major political parties have longstanding differences related to the degree to which the federal government should actively try to affect local government and the private sector with regard to the environment, education, health care, public safety, public health, income disparities, unequal treatment by the educational system, the criminal justice system, the health care system or in hiring practices. Democrats and progressives favor more federal government involvement and Republicans and conservatives less. Debate about these issues and the underlying philosophies related to them can be lively and useful. It should be the goal of both parties to fix these problems. How to do that can distinguish the parties’ platforms.

American society contains genuinely malignant individuals and groups who espouse racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, gay-bashing, and female disparagement. These people march, make speeches, recruit members and often engage in violence. They are to be identified and ostracized by all of us, regardless of our political affiliation. Sometimes such malignant people are involved in politics, but most politicians do not espouse these views, regardless of the party to which they belong (President Trump has added to this problem by not distancing himself from such views or the people who hold them, and this has further confused the political and cultural arenas). It is a self–defeating endeavor to spend the majority of our political agenda trying to “out” those in the opposite party who disagree with us by accusing them of having disgraceful and immoral attitudes or self-righteously proclaim our own aversion to such attitudes. It turns our political activities into a series of cultural affirmations or bashings, which fail to become an agenda that can actually fix real problems.

If we are going to make political progress as a society, then it is the responsibility of all of us to deal with our political differences in a way that will gain a result, not just vent our self-righteousness. We should feel free to condemn and oppose malignant ideas, behaviors and groups, regardless of our political affiliation, but we also need to actually propose and debate different political approaches to policy. As laudable as calling for removal of Confederate statues and calling the president a racist may be from a cultural point of view, it is not a political program, despite the applause it garners from Democrats and Progressives. There are large segments of the voting population who will stop listening to us if we concentrate all our effort on talking to each other.

Casey Dorman is the author of the new political novel, "2020" available here.

Reader Comments (1)

I'm not sure what you heard, but all President Trump did regarding Charlottesville was tell some hard truths. This is basically what he was trying to say: People were voicing their opinions. Some people were physically attacked. That was wrong. Period. There IS a moral equivalency when it comes to physical violence. It's always wrong. It doesn't matter in the eyes of the law if you kill a vicious person or a virtuous person. You're still a murderer. There is no moral high ground when committing crimes, no matter how justified one might feel in doing so.

Also, it is more than reasonably possible that a few decent people who wanted to protest removing historical statues got caught up in something they didn't anticipate. I don't equate every liberal protester with having an Antifa agenda, so why must it be so when looking at the right? I think a very broad brush is being used to paint people who have widely varying viewpoints and intentions as hateful bigots so as to garner a sense of moral superiority and political advantage.

The main reason so may politicians are willing to denounce President Trump is because it's politically expedient simply to condemn an entire group as opposed to parsing through the reality that some people may simply have been overwhelmed by being in the right place with the wrong people. What this type of gross evaluation does is to allow anyone who supports President Trump to be labeled as a racist or white nationalist or some other equally vile term. It allows someone to conclude that "This is surely the fault of the Republicans, as failing to embrace decent human values is both a political and moral error." My goodness, it's not a moral failing to protest the removal of statues or to say that any physical violence is wrong no matter what the source.

As for those who were there with hate and maliciousness as their agenda, they are condemnable to any decent, thinking person. I applaud their stupidity in exercising their first amendment right to espouse hate-mongering rhetoric so as to let the full judgement of the masses be leveled upon them.

August 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

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