Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Joseph Duemer has led me to the blog of one Timothy Burke, who has some very smart things (warning: it's a PDF) to say about the election—his suggestion that Republican elites are taking a dangerous ride on the untamed horse of class resentment is very powerful. He's definitely spotted the flaw in Thomas Frank's otherwise brilliant analysis (I'm pleased to say that this book is currently #8 on Amazon's sales list). The concept of a "moral economy" that supersedes or at any rate mitigates the perceived self-interest of red state folks (yes, I am succumbing to the stereotype for convenience's sake; I realize that most red states gave at least 40% of their vote to Kerry) makes a lot of sense to me. It's kind of the dark side of the pastoral economy I'm always going on about—though I think it might be more accurate to say that these people are suspicious not of "wealth achieved through individually differentiated effort" but of the consumption patterns that blue-staters model for them and force on their children through the media. The "latte libel" used in that infamous anti-Howard Dean ad actually has some teeth to it, if not much truth. I'm a little slower than Burke to reject the notion of some kind of full-employment program for the economically hurting red states: it seems clear to me that extremes of religiosity are inverse proportional to economic prosperity. This is an argument accepted by no less an authority than the Wall Street Journal, which had a story today on how Pakistan's improving economy might diminish the effects of Islamic militancy there. Burke is probably rightly suspicious of conceiving of the problem as economic security, to be solved with a massive jobs program; after all, the red states are already taking in more federal money than they put into the system (who's subsidizing them? The blue states!). But there's also reason to be suspicious of conceiving the goal as economic prosperity, which has to be created through investment and other capitalist tools that I have to admit I have a poor understanding of.

We have to address the economic needs of people in the South and West; we also have to find a way into their abyss of irrationality. One way to start might be exploring our own abyss—that's humility. Even I, a Jewish atheist (a-deist is probably more acurate) recognize my own participation in something larger than myself, a something most people choose to call God. At the same time, there can be no compromise on the basic human rights that the fanatical Christian right wants to see drastically curtailed. Homophobia is real, white supremacy is real, the patriarchy is real. We can appeal to fairness. But I feel more than a little helpless to address these forms of ignorance and evil. Those progressives who speak the language of Christian salvation had better start speaking up now. We need another Martin Luther King to speak up for human equality in the name of Jesus. Another Malcom X wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

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