clap clap blog: we have moved

Monday, July 21, 2003
Hey, I'm kind of Gitlin-y, aren't I?

- "But it's a huge failure of imagination if someone can't imagine why someone would support Bush. Since roughly half the population did...everybody on the left should go listen to Republicans and try to figure out what makes them tick. This is across-the-board advice. I would tell people, "Good God, most people are not like you!"...Parochialism is never a platform for understanding, and this is another kind of parochialism. One can understand and not understand.

"This also requires understanding people who don't make sense: to understand, for example, how 50 percent of the population could be convinced that there was Iraqi involvement in 9/11. That's rationalist heresy. "

- "ANSWER is a cult. It's a tightly organized sect that operates in the shadows and tries to bull its way into power."

- "It's obviously a lot harder now to make the case that there's no difference between the parties. I think it was a foolish case in the first place, but today all you have to do is say the words "John Ashcroft," "war in Iraq," to make it very, very difficult to make the claim that this is exactly what Al Gore would have done or even close to it. But there is a phenomenon in politics -- and the left isn't any more exempt from it than the right -- of cognitive dissonance, in which you bend the world, you hypnotize yourself into seeing the world in such a way as to make it unnecessary for you to rethink your first premises.

"So just as George Bush may well think that he found weapons of mass destruction, and most Americans think that there were Iraqis involved in 9/11, you'll find Greens who desperately cling to a falsehood about political reality which makes it unnecessary to rethink their premises."

- "If you shudder at the thought of power, you don't belong in politics. You can't emote your way to power, you can't moralize your way, you have to strategize your way to power."

- "The left is always ready for carnivorous action against one of its leaders. They're always ready to shred a standard-bearer if he or she fails to deliver the maximum. They're very quick to send somebody out the safe house of sainthood, because they've let them down."

One particular thing I'd like to take off on, though, is this:

The post-Nader left needs to be a patriotic left, and should be indignant at the thought that the corporate rich who are lining their pockets and keeping their kids out of the armed service are the real patriots and we're the outsiders. I think they're the outsiders, and we're the patriots, and we should be proud of it.

Walking around DC in November of 2001, when people went a little flag-crazy, I kept seeing American flags that had fallen off a truck or a pole, and I would pick them up and put them in my pocket and take them home and put them up somewhere, because that's what you're supposed to do with a flag--you're not supposed to let them touch the ground. And my companions thought this was deeply weird and not a little creepy; after all, it's the flag, and we leftists get a little uncomfortable around the flag (and prayer, but that's a different matter). Which is unfortunate. Gitlin's right: we do need to reclaim the idea that we're patriots just as much, if not more, than the right is, because it gives us the confidence in our actions and the acceptability of our ideas that the left so desperately needs. And that particular ickiness about the flag--which afflicts even practical leftists who have no qualms about power or working within the system--is a big part of what's holding us back from that goal.

The process we've engaged in over the last 40 years or so of reexamining our history and kind of collectively confirming in the intellectual community that said history is kinda fucked up has been a good thing, but it's unfortunate that it's led to such widespread anti-Americanism on the left. It seems like one of those "failures of imagination" that Gitlin talks about--a failure to separate a justifiable distrust of American nationalism and the authoritarians that exploit it from a justifiable love of the Republic and the American experiment. The hallmarks of the left--anti-authoritarianism, prioritizing civil liberties, localism, an intellectual approach to politics--are far more deeply rooted in American thought and government than in the Europeans who have made highbrow anti-Americanism so fashionable. We need to remember that: to remember that, despite the way the right twists American thought into American nationalism, and despite the horrible things that American nationalism has done throughout the history of the nation, expressing a leftist point of view is to express the point of view of not only a great number of living Americans, but a great number of our best and brightest. We must have confidence, and we must learn to love the things we know we love without guilt or distrust, and we must use that to kick those nationalist fuckers out of the seat of power of this great government of ours.

(n.b. I have written about Gitlin before)