Rebecca Solnit is one of the lefty intelligentsia, if such a thing still exists these days. She has all the right credentials:
She skipped high school altogether, enrolling in an alternative junior high in the public school system that took her through tenth grade, when she passed the GED exam. Thereafter she enrolled in junior college. When she was 17 she went to study in Paris. She ultimately returned to California and finished her college education at San Francisco State University when she was 20. She then received a Masters in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984 and has been an independent writer since 1988.  She credits her education in journalism and art criticism with strengthening her critical thinking skills and training her to quickly develop expertise in the great variety of subjects her books have covered.
I’m sure that Ms. Solnit is a very nice person and supports all the right causes, but I’m gonna save you the trouble of reading her latest opus. It’s very similar to a number of other articles and blog posts we’ve been seeing lately. Remember the “conversion diaries” of 2007-2008, where virtually every day someone would post a long-winded essay on how they were a dedicated progressive and had recently come to the realization that Hillary Clinton was a bitch and Barack Obama was The One?
I call these the “Obama sucks but we have to vote for him anyway” diaries. They all have different writers and different words, but the same message. They start off bemoaning Obama’s failure and inadequacies. Then they point out that the Republicans are really bad people. Then they conclude that we must hold our noses and vote for Obama in spite of everything.
I do want to bring attention to this passage because it encapsulates so much of what is wrong with modern progressive thought:
We are facing a radical right that has abandoned all interest in truth and fact. We face not only their specific policies, but a kind of cultural decay that comes from not valuing truth, not trying to understand the complexities and nuances of our situation, and not making empathy a force with which to act. To oppose them requires us to be different from them, and that begins with both empathy and intelligence, which are not as separate as we have often been told.
Ask a progressive what they believe in and they’ll probably rattle off some high-minded ideals like “truth” and “justice”. But if you get them talking about what “progressive” means and it won’t belong before they start telling you what it is not. In other words, they define themselves in opposition to conservatism, or, more accurately, in opposition to what they think conservatism is. They also use “conservative” interchangeably with “Republican.”
Interestingly, defining yourself in opposition to other groups is one of the things authoritarians do.
But the real problem is that their definition of conservatism is wrong. In this case both sides are guilty of stereotyping the other. The left is not a bunch of America-hating socialists, and the right is not a bunch of greedy, racist Luddites. But you can find people who match those stereotypes – they really do exist.
Compared to many other countries our radical fringes are very small. Despite all the drama and histrionics, about 95% of the people in this country are within a few points of the political median. For political posturing purposes, both sides like to depict the tiny radical fringe of the other side as their mainstream. Conversely, the radical fringes tend to overestimate their numbers and influence.
We like to talk about the country in terms of “blue” states and “red” states, with blue representing the left/Democrats and red representing the right/Republicans. But the truth is the whole country is just various shades of purple. There is a little red and a little blue everywhere, and we mostly get along just fine, at least offline.
They play baseball, football and basketball in every area of the country. We watch the same movies and television shows. Everybody has eaten hamburgers, tacos, spaghetti and chow mein. They listen to Country music in the cities and Rap in the sticks. We all love our children and want the best for them.
The real difference between the two sides isn’t the destination, it’s the route. Both sides want better schools, the disagreements are over how to achieve that goal and how (and how much) to pay for it. But neither side is evil.
There are bad people, however. It seems like the worst ones end up in politics or prison – sometimes both. Neither side has a monopoly on morality or corruption. We’re all just people. We’re all Americans.
Barack Obama has failed miserably by every objective measure. Even his supporters admit it. He ain’t gonna get no better, neither. As Clint Eastwood said, “When somebody doesn’t do the job, we gotta let him go.”
If the new guy doesn’t work out, we’ll fire his ass four years from now.
Filed under: Barack Obama, Politics | Tagged: Politics | 49 Comments »