culture is everything (well, mostly everything)


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Dood, E.D., we’re so on a wavelength this decade. I had a blast writing a disquisition under Mark’s post about why expecting liberals to want to dismantle even the corporate-state-collusion part of the welfare state is really ahistorical and a misplaced expectation of liberals (and by implication a pretty basic challenge to hopes of any truly libertarian-inflected Liberaltarian dreams in the near future…). It’s one of the last comments there, and I think much in sync with your reaction here.Report

  2. Avatar Scott says:

    It would be nice if Jamelle could tell us what he was thinking.Report

  3. Avatar Sam M says:

    Is this really true?

    “I myself am rather a mixed bag and can find common cause with both elements. But most people in these groups are not mixed bags. They’re die-hard partisans.”

    Perhaps it’s a function of the fact that I live in a really “purple” area, but i think most people are mixed bags.

    My current home is rural western PA. It’s a very industrial, blue-collar area. So most of the people I know are hard-core union types who love guns and hate abortion. I am not sure where such people fit on the political spectrum. Very small shifts in culture (the strength of the union in a given plant) or religion (the age of the pastor in the local catholic church) can have a profound influence on the way a community votes.

    In general, these small differences do not make people in these communities hate each other, though. In other words, they all tend to be mixed bags.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Sam – I’m sorry if I was unclear. Most people are indeed mixed bags. But the Tea Parties and the ultra-left wing (the Hamsher progressives) of the Democratic Party are more die-hard partisans, I’d think, than mixed bags. Not always, but much more so than the average American.Report

      • Avatar sidereal says:

        Yes, Hamsher is quite ‘ultra’. Remember when she called for state control of the means of production? Look at my eyes rolling!Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          Okay so maybe ultra is too strong. Would you prefer “far”?Report

          • Avatar sidereal says:

            Not really.

            I think the O’Reillian overuse of degree adverbs along with ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ (and ‘left’, ‘right’, etc) is an unfortunate trend. According to Red State, everything ‘left’ is ‘far left’ , ‘extreme left’, ‘hard left’, etc. According to Kos, everything right is ‘extreme conservative’, etc. It’s a rhetorical effort at marginalization, rather than an effort to communicate honestly. They describe them as ‘hard’, ‘far’, and ‘extreme’ because they want them to be, not because they are.

            Put another way, if Hamsher is ‘far left’, what’s Sam Webb? Far, far? And Bob Avakian? Far, far, far?Report

            • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

              I think distinctions are fine so long as they’re not used for witch hunts.Report

              • Avatar sidereal says:

                Are you calling Hamsher a witch? Sexist!
                No, I’m kidding.
                But partisanship and ideology aren’t always on the same spectrum. There are many people much further left than Hamsher willing to cut deals, and many people perfectly astride the mythical ‘center’ that play hardball. Like that *&#@$ Lieberman. Hamsher is quite partisan. Her liberalness is pretty mainstream.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Actually that’s a very good point. So maybe ultra-partisan would be a better way of framing it, rather than ultra-leftist or what have you. Ultra-partisan mainstream lefty.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              “Pinkos” are people on the left who want to use the government to make me be a better person. “Hippies” are people on the left who want to use moral suasion to make me be a better person.

              I’m trying to come up with terms for the right but I don’t want to overuse references to the first half of the 20th century but I can’t think of anything else.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Is there a difference between distinctions and ad hominem?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Well, bless your heart.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Er, to explain.

                There’s an old joke that involves a couple of Southern Debutantes sitting on a porch fanning themselves and gossiping. The first one says something about X, the second one nods, and the third one says “bless your heart”. The first one says something about Y, the second one nods, and the third one says “bless your heart”. The first one runs off to the back for something or other and the second one asks the third one what’s up. “I went to finishing school. I used to say (crude phrase). Now I say ‘bless your heart’.”

                Is there a difference between distinctions and ad hominem?

                Is there a difference between (crude phrase) and “bless your heart”?Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                I’m not seeing the parallel Jaybird. Or rather, I’m not sure it really is a parallel. But perhaps you’re just being too clever for me.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The more syllables in the degree adverbs/adjectives one puts before “right/left”, the more offensive the ad hominem would have to be to send the same signal.

                “Far left” would be PG. “Extreme Left” would be PG-13. “Radical Left” would get an R. “Ultra Hard Radical Extreme Left” would get an X.

                I find that it’s not this, or that, or this other belief that makes someone left, right, or moderate. It’s that they have this, *AND* that, *AND* this other belief.

                I could find Republicans who agree with me about Social Security reform. I could find Democrats who agree with me about free speech laws pertaining to whistleblowing and obscenity. Immigration, unions, health care reform… I could find people in major parties (respectable people, even!) who agree with me 100% on any one of these issues.

                Just not all of them at once.

                I suspect that the same is true for being on “the right” or “the left”. What makes them rated-PG vs. rated-R is not this or that view, it’s having this *AND* that view.Report

              • Avatar sidereal says:

                “Gun nuts” are the ones who want you to stop existing via firearms. “Brownshirts” are the ones who want you to stop existing via blunt force trauma. “Libertarians” are the ones who want you to stop existing via neglect. Brownshirts is probably too early-20th-century, but I think the other ones are safe.Report

  4. Maybe I’m stating the obvious here – but doesn’t the core of disagreement between liberals and conservative/libertarians on the welfare state mostly revolve not around the existence of said welfare state, but the limits of it? For example, I might say unemployment checks are good but food stamps are bad, one helping someone who did work and the other potentially helping someone who chose not to. So I’m drawing an arbitrary line. I think the debate often gets painted as a struggle between those that say the government shouldn’t provide any help at all and those that say the government should be driving through the ghetto shoveling money out of the back of a truck. It’s much more nuanced than that.Report

    • Avatar Kyle says:

      This reminds me of something Will Wilkinson wrote not too long ago,

      The more ideological you are, the less satisfactory this will seem. The ideologue insists that her intensely favored conception of justice demands or forbids certain policies no matter the complexion of public opinion or democratic procedural ideals. She insists that certain odious preferences and ridiculous beliefs must not to be taken into account at all, or only at a steep discount. Having no sincere interest in the deliberative and balancing aspects of democracy, then, the ideologue tends to confuse democracy with majoritarian head-counting. When you see democracy this way, it looks just hopeless to those with marginal views (like libertarians). But to those with more mainstream views, it looks a like a game their ideological team can win. If a legislative majority that (you think) shares your preferences comes to power, you will tend feel that your team has won, and that winning amounts to a license to make law and otherwise govern in a way that embodies the teams’ preferences. Rules that enable members of the minority team (or half-hearted members of the majority team) to extract concessions will seem to miss the point of democracy: the team that wins gets to govern as it likes.

      As I take it (and see), means that even though what you describe might be more accurate, Mike, for quite a few people limits on the welfare state are for all intents and purposes no different from not having one at all. Naturally, quite a few other people believe the political flip side.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        At what point was the American welfare state ever “unlimited”? Maybe there was in theory no upward bound, but Democrats tried for 60 years to get universal health insurance and still haven’t got it. It seems to me there are limits on welfare in America that are inherent in our political culture.Report

  5. Avatar Ballad of Whatshisname says:

    For me the porblem is rhetoric. When it comes to the welfare state and the actual welfare of the poor conservatives harp on about wlefare queens and libertarains start babbling on about natural rights. The right doesn’t express it’s concern, assuming that all have it, for the poor. If I ever heard a libertarian pundit say “if only we could dismantle welfare then the poor would be better off” then that would go a long way toward creating an alliance.

    Until then it appears as though the other side has radically different priorities.Report