Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Ties That Divide

Will Wilkinson provides a quotation of the day,
The energetic ideological base of the Republican Party is a nationalist, identity-politics movement for relatively well-to-do older white Americans known as the "tea party". The tea party is interested in bald eagles, American flags, the founding fathers, Jesus Christ, fighter jets, empty libertarian rhetoric, and other markers of "authentic" American identity and supremacy.
A similar list could be made for the Democrats' ideological base. Off the the top of my head, there's a list of "D" words that interest Democrats: discourse, diversity, the downtrodden.

Of course, there are two important caveats. First, Democrats are also interested in the founding fathers and Jesus, and Republicans are interested in the downtrodden. More importantly, these interests aren't really about the diversity or fighter jets; they're about the respective base's ideas about what each of these things are and what each represents.

That latter caveat helps explain the country's political stalemates and cultural divides. Empty libertarian rhetoric combined with discourse about discourse produces nothing but empty discourse. It's difficult to use religion to find agreement on basic principles when one side sees Jesus as a moral philosopher who loved the poor while the other sees Jesus as a Rambo who destroys sinners. The founders are equally malleable figures.

It's worrisome that these divides will continue to perpetuate current stalemates. It's nearly impossible to work on immigration, taxes, health care, education, or, more importantly, be an "indivisible" nation, if no one can agrees on the basics.

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