WifiScreen FREE Windows Application to allow using iPad/Tablet as the second monitor.
New York Times / Life - Entertain

Opinion | Liberals Need to Take Their Fingers Out of Their Ears

Many Democrats continue to have little understanding of their own role in creating the conditions that make conservatives willing to support Trump.
ADS

Trump supporters on a bridge near the Mar-a-Lago Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., last month. Al Drago for The New York Times

Given the triumph of contemporary conservatism, it may be time for liberals to take a look at the vulnerabilities of their own orthodoxies.

Democrats who yearn for President Trump to be taken down should examine this list of Republican strengths: victories in all three contested special elections for the House of Representatives this year; Trump’s 82 percent approval rating among Republican voters; his success with the current tax bill; his swift evisceration of key regulatory policies; the Gorsuch appointment to the Supreme Court; economic growth of over 3 percent in the last two quarters; the Dow Jones topping 24,000; and the unemployment rate dropping to 4.1 percent.

For the moment, the left is both stunned and infuriated by the vehement animosity it faces from red America, which is made up of counties that are 84 percent less dense than blue America, 37 percent less racially and ethnically diverse, and 34 percent more white.

Voters in red America are 44 percent less likely to be college graduates and 22 percent more likely to have served in the armed forces. Geographically speaking, red counties are virtually nonexistent on the West Coast and on the East Coast north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Many Democrats continue to have little understanding of their own role — often inadvertent, an unintended consequence of well-meaning behavior — in creating the conditions that make conservatives willing to support Trump and the party he is leading.

I asked Karen Stenner, the author of “The Authoritarian Dynamic” and no fan of the president, for her explanation of the political dynamic in the current struggle between left and right. She emailed back:

Consider some of the core features of our ideal liberal democracy: absolutely unfettered freedom and diversity; acceptance and promotion of multiculturalism; allowing retention of separate identities; maintenance of separate communities, lifestyles and values; permitting open criticism of leaders, authorities and institutions; unrestrained free expression (of what many will consider offensive/outrageous/unacceptable ideas); strict prohibitions on government intervention in ‘private’ moral choices.

In fact, Stenner argues, these values are the subject of intense debate. They lie at the core of what divides America:

These reflect some of the fundamental fault lines of human conflict and are unlikely ever to be resolved or settled because we can’t just be socialized or educated out of our stances on these issues, as they are the product of deep-seated, largely heritable predispositions that cause us to vary in our preference for and in our ability to cope with freedom and diversity, novelty and complexity, vs oneness and sameness.

Not only are the values that the left takes for granted heatedly disputed in many sections of the country, the way many Democratic partisans assert that their values supplant or transcend traditional beliefs serves to mobilize the right.

Stenner makes the point that

liberal democracy’s allowance of these things inevitably creates conditions of “normative threat,” arousing the classic authoritarian fears about threats to oneness and sameness, which activate those predispositions — about a third of most western populations lean toward authoritarianism — and cause the increased manifestation of racial, moral and political intolerance.

I am quoting Stenner — and later in this column, the public policy analyst Eric Schnurer — at length because they both make arguments about complex ideas with precision and care.

“Libertarians and/non-authoritarians,” Stenner writes,

are likewise aroused and activated under these conditions, and move toward positions of greater racial, moral and political tolerance as a result. Which increases political polarization of the two camps, which further increases normative threat, and so it goes on. This is what I mean by the core elements of liberal democracy creating conditions that inevitably undermine it.

How does the undermining process work?

A system like our ideal liberal democracy, which does not place any constraints on critiques of leaders, authorities and institutions; and does not allow any suppression of ideas no matter how dangerous to the system or objectionable to its citizens; and does not permit itself to select who can come in, or stay, based on their acceptance/rejection of fundamental liberal democratic values, has both:

(1) guaranteed perpetual generation of conditions of normative threat, and all the activation, polarization, and conflict that that produces, and

(2) disallowed all means for protecting itself against that “authoritarian dynamic,” which otherwise might have included allowing: some selectivity in regard to the fundamental values of those who are allowed to come, and to stay; constraints on certain kinds of critiques of leaders, authorities and institutions; constraints on free speech that exclude racist or intolerant speech; some ability to write moral strictures into public policy to reflect traditional beliefs where the majority “draws the line.”

If a liberal democracy were to allow those things, it would no longer be a liberal democracy. But if it does not allow those things, it is extremely difficult to protect itself from fundamental threats to its continued existence.

Stenner’s analysis poses a strategic dilemma for liberalism and the Democratic Party. Insofar as Democrats seek to stem the conservative tide, a crucial factor will be their ability to increase their understanding of their own role in the process that has culminated in conservative dominance.

Eric Schnurer, a writer and public sector management consultant who has worked for many Democratic politicians and presidential candidates, addresses what he sees as the lack of recognition on the part of liberals of what motivates conservative voters.

“Both sides of this increasingly polarized divide see the other as trying to extirpate their way of life — and not inaccurately,” Schnurer wrote in “War on the Blue States” in U.S. News and World Report earlier this month:

Blue America spent the last eight years dictating both economic and cultural changes invalidating virtually every aspect of Red America. Liberals see all that as both righteous and benevolent — we’re both promoting better values and willing to help train them to be more like us.

Schnurer elaborated on this line of thought in an email:

The prototypical Trump voter sees a changing America leaving him behind; part of this is economic, part of it demographic, part cultural. I think liberals tend to see this as a thin cover for racism, a reflection of troglodyte viewpoints, and in any event unwarranted as the world these folks are resisting would be better even for them if only they’d let it, by giving up their benighted religious views, accepting job training in the new technologies, and preferably moving to one or the other coasts or at least the closest major city.

Red and blue America often draw diametrically opposed conclusions from the same experiences and developments, Schnurer contends:

I don’t think there’s much argument that the modern economy is killing off small towns, US-based manufacturing, the interior of the US generally, etc. There is, or could be, an argument as to whether that’s just the necessary functioning of larger economic forces, or whether there are political choices that have produced, or at least aided and abetted, those outcomes. In any event, while most of us in Blue World see these changes as beneficent, they have had devastating effects on the economies of “red” communities.

Schnurer observes that

This is a classic political problem of general benefit at the cost of specific individual harm. At a minimum, “we” — as a country but also as a self-styled progressive subset of that country — have given inadequate thought to those harms and how to ameliorate them; but I think you can also make the argument that we have exacerbated them.

Long-term trends may be working in favor of the left, as the recent governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey suggest, but liberals, Schnurer argues, are using policy to accelerate the process without determining the costs:

For example, we could adopt protectionist policies, which of course we haven’t because both mainstream Democrats and Republicans see them as counterproductive in the long term; but we have also attempted more actively to steer the economy more quickly to the likely, proper, outcome by shifting national tax and spending priorities toward new energy technologies, and away from fossil fuels.

Schnurer notes that

You don’t have to buy the right’s “war on coal” rhetoric to accept that, even if that’s the direction the world is headed, anyway, hastening coal’s demise and shifting federal subsidy policy away from it and into alternative energy sources will have a negative economic effect on certain communities.

In addition to the economic setbacks experienced in heavily Republican regions of the country, Schnurer, himself a liberal, argues that blue America has over the last decade declared war on the “red way of life.”

He makes a case very similar to Stenner’s:

The political, economic, and cultural triumph nationwide of a set of principles and realities essentially alien to large numbers of Americans is viewed as (a) being imposed upon them, and (b) overturning much of what they take for granted in their lives — and I don’t think they’re wrong about that. I think they’ve risen in angry revolt, and now intend to give back to the “elite” in the same terms that they’ve been given to. I don’t think this is good — in fact, I think it’s a very dangerous situation — but I think we need to understand it in order to responsibly address it.

Do liberals in fact need to understand — or empathize with — their many antagonists, the men and women who are sharply critical of the liberal project?

Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, observes that “believers in liberal democracy have unilaterally disarmed in the defense of the institution” by agreeing in many cases with the premise of the Trump campaign: “that the country is a hopeless swamp.” This left Democrats “defenseless when he proposed to drain it.”

Where, Pinker asks,

are the liberals who are willing to say that liberal democracy has worked? That environmental regulations have slashed air pollutants while allowing Americans to drive more miles and burn more fuel? That social transfers have reduced poverty rates fivefold? That globalization has allowed Americans to afford more food, clothing, TVs, cars, and air-conditioners? That international organizations have prevented nuclear war, and reduced the rate of death in warfare by 90 percent? That environmental treaties are healing the hole in the ozone layer?

Pinker remains confident:

Progress always must fight headwinds. Human nature doesn’t change, and the appeal of regressive impulses is perennial. The forces of liberalism, modernity, cosmopolitanism, the open society, and Enlightenment values always have to push against our innate tribalism, authoritarianism, and thirst for vengeance. We can even recognize these instincts in ourselves, even in Trump’s cavalier remarks about the rule of law.

Pinker continues:

Over the longer run, I think the forces of modernity prevail — affluence, education, mobility, communication, and generational replacement. Trumpism, like Brexit and European populism, are old men’s movements: support drops off sharply with age.

Pinker is optimistic about the future. I hope he is right.

The problem is that even if Pinker is right, his analysis does not preclude a sustained period in which the anti-democratic right dominates American politics. There is no telling how long it will be before the movement Trump has mobilized will have run its course. Nor can we anticipate — if and when Trumpism does implode — how extensive the damage will be that Pinker’s “forces of modernity” will have to repair.

Original Source

ADS

LATER

Life - Entertain

Marks & Spencer launches stoneless avocados

Marks & Spencer is launching the British high street’s first stoneless avocado. Known as cocktail avocados due to their small size, the launch follows the success of the mini and giant avocados last year.  The cocktail avocados are small elongated fruits, measuring around five to eight centimetres in length. 

Read More