Friday, July 09, 2004

Goldberg talks of the harmonizing of Ideology

Jonah Goldberg's G-File, up today, illustrates the downside, but more prominently the upside, of ideological segregation. Taking a cue from a new book, On Paradise Drive by David Brook's, Jonah embarks on a journey down the ideological interstate.
Political-science majors are more likely to spew all that stuff about the enlightenment and independent thinking that comes with education. Anyway, whoever says that stuff is wrong, the fact is that the more educated you are, the more partisan and ideological you are likely to be. High-school graduates are more likely to vote across party lines than college grads. And education does not track only with becoming more liberal. If you're a conservative with a college education you become more conservative. If you're a liberal, ditto. Indeed, college-educated liberals tend to become 'professionals' while college-educated conservatives become 'managers.'
This last makes sense, no? There are probably more liberal lawyers, doctors, and professors than there are middle-managers, franchise owners and CEO's, at least that seems like it should be true, given my experience. Given this, since people of similar professions tend to circulate in the same social circles, one can see how a sort of ideological purity would occur. Hence, we are all, generally speaking, preaching to the choir and are dumbfounded when somethin outside of our ideological norm seems to be taking hold with "the masses." (Such as, say, Bill Clinton getting RE-elected, or the fascination with Fahrenheit 911).

Jonah also writes of the good things.
There's also a very good side to all of this polarization. Critics of identity politics — and I am most certainly one of them — tend to focus almost exclusively on the separations, divides, clashes and chasms such politics create between groups. Blacks vs. whites, rich vs. poor, South vs. North, Springfieldians vs. Shelbyvillians, and so on. What they rarely look at is the unity such "identitarian" movements create. This was, after all, one of the central dynamics of fascism — it was a cross-class movement of national unity. Rich and poor alike joined hands in their unity under the swastika. And Communism, no less a reactionary force than fascism (and often more of one), caused ethnic Ukrainians, Tartars, Uzbeks, Russians et al. to lay down their ethnic differences in their common struggle against the ruling classes.

America is hardly immune to these laws of social attraction and repulsion. Take McCarthyism. Liberals love to point out the Manichean worldview behind McCarthyism. How it created enemies within. How Tail-gunner Joe's followers went after anybody — Jews, blacks, whites, Catholics, Protestants, Republicans, Democrats — anybody who he believed to be a Commie or ComSymp. Without getting into that whole argument again, let's just say fair enough. But, one thing left out of this analysis is how the McCarthyites didn't go after Jews, blacks, whites, Catholics, etc., who agreed with McCarthy about the Red menace. This may be an obvious fact of logic but it's actually much more revealing than it seems.
And there are more examples.
Liberals still talk about the 1960s as if all real Americans were sitting around, holding hands, and singing "Kumbaya".... How many misty-eyed stories have we heard about how blacks and whites, Jews and Christians, all marched together for peace and love and whatnot? What they always leave out is that there were often whites, blacks, Christians, and Jews on the other side of the pickets who disagreed with them. In others words, ideological causes breed unity and disunity at the same time.
If not vocal protestors, I know many of this generation who were part of the "silent majority" who didn't approve of the Peace-Love-Happiness (Mooch off Mom-n-Dad-Sex without Repercussions-Drugs) crowd. Finally, I'll let Jonah conclude.
we have something new in American history: Ideological movements used to reinforce racial, ethnic, or class bigotries. For the last 50 years they've increasingly transcended them. This is an upside of living in an ideological age — or a downside, depending on how you see things. And those who bemoan the current polarization need to ask themselves whether polarization isn't the natural order of things. And, if it is — and I think it is — isn't this sort of polarization preferable to most of the other options?

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