Friday, December 3, 2010

Consent Of The Governed Under Review

William A. Galston and former Bush speechwriter David Frum, writing about (as MK suggests) the latest iteration of Richard Nixon's silent majority:
On Dec. 13, more than 1,000 citizens from the 50 states will convene in New York to change the odds. They are founding a movement - No Labels. Among them will be Democrats, Republicans and independents who are proud of their political affiliations and have no intention of abandoning them. A single concern brings them together: the hyper-polarization of our politics that thwarts an adult conversation about our common future. A single goal unites them: to expand the space within which citizens and elected officials can conduct that conversation without fear of social or political retribution.
I wish I could go. Instead, I "liked" No Labels on Facebook (and had already asked for an "Of no party or clique" t-shirt for Christmas).

Hat tip to Maarja Krusten

1 comment:

MK said...

The part I like the best is this: "A single goal unites them: to expand the space within which citizens and elected officials can conduct that conversation without fear of social or political retribution." Boy, do we need that!

The threat of retribution and a sense of intimidation hangs over too much of the public sphere these days. Fear of retribution simply for expressing my thoughts and spelling out the facts as I saw them sadly was a reason for my eventually deciding to avoid the Nixon foundation’s blog after you had left it. The way the foundation has handled the Watergate exhibit issue confirms for me that I was wise to back away from the blog. The writers there just don’t seem very confident, by my standards.

More generally, it seems to me that the loudest voices in the political arena seem committed to litmus tests and conformity, as if driven by a strange offshoot of the self-esteem movement. When I hear those who most yell at their fellow Americans, I always think the metamessage is "OMG, you disagree with me, I am so needy, I MUST have my views validated and my side praised or my sense of self just will shatter!" Less needy, less status oriented, more confident people exude instead a sense of “dude, whatever, you go your way, I’ll go mine, so we disagree, cool.”

When I read the phrase about retribution in the Galston-Frum piece, I thought again of how liberals laugh at how the slightest, weakest push back against Limbaugh's approach to "persuasion" and advocacy by some within his party often results in backing off and an apology to Rush in "three, two, one. . . ." So the guy has a big microphone. Who cares. Let him call others chickified, as he has Scarborough. Limbaugh only diminishes himself when he does that.

The left seems less timid and needy to me on that score, although one does pick up on an egotistical sense of "we are the ones with the correct values" on sites such as Daily Kos. You really see it when the writers write about fiscally conservative Democrats (Blue Dogs). I sense more neediness and yearning for validation on the right (“I can’t feel like somebody unless my views are validated”) and more ego (“we are the ones who know how to do things”) on the left. What’s needed are more self actualized, less puffed up or needy people who can say, “let’s talk, it won’t hurt me or make me feel like a lesser person to consider your ideas, what is important is that we find solutions.”

I'm convinced that the most important divide in the U.S. isn’t between parties, it's between those who see themselves as a part of a diverse and pluralistic nation whose citizens contribute in different ways and who can disagree and those who need to see themselves as special and dominant.