The sobering conclusion is that liberals who think they can safely abandon humanist culture for the high ground of citizen politics will be overrun by the left’s identitarians and their intersectional allies. Politics will not save us from identity politics because politics can never save us, however inescapable and indispensable it may be. To pursue a truly shared vision of justice, humans require a deeper common ground.
Source: James Poulos, America’s Liberal Logjam | Foreign Affairs
The problem with practicing identity politics at the sub-political level is that it becomes just another form of individualism, replicating in a “less sentimental and more sanctimonious” idiom the anti-political outlook that came to power in the United States with Ronald Reagan. Whereas Reagan described a country of atomized individuals liberated from government (including from calls for public sacrifice of any kind), Democrats came to define politics as a form of self-exploration. Look into yourself, explore your background, situate yourself in relation to the various identity categories to which you belong, fasten on to the injustices these groups have suffered at the hands of powerful Others, and then demand recompense. This way of conceiving of politics has rendered incomprehensible JFK’s ringing call to civic service (What can I do for my country?) and replaced it with a “deeply personal one: What does my country owe me by virtue of my identity?”
Source: Damon Linker, Life after identity politics
Every advance of liberal identity consciousness has marked a retreat of liberal political consciousness. There can be no liberal politics without a sense of We—of what we are as citizens and what we owe each other. If liberals hope ever to recapture America’s imagination and become a dominant force across the country, it will not be enough to beat the Republicans at flattering the vanity of the mythical Joe Sixpack. They must offer a vision of our common destiny based on one thing that all Americans, of every background, share.
And that is citizenship. We must relearn how to speak to citizens as citizens and to frame our appeals for solidarity—including ones to benefit particular groups—in terms of principles that everyone can affirm.
Source: Mark Lilla, The Liberal Crackup – WSJ
Our form of government and political culture demand that individuals tolerate disagreements about the highest good, that the state treats all people equally under the law, that citizens resist the temptation to settle political disputes through violence, and that members of the political community forge a common heritage through a process of unending civil discussion, argument, and debate that’s undertaken in a spirit of mutual respect.
All of this is extremely difficult to achieve and maintain, even in the best of times. But in periods of social, cultural, and economic stress, citizens will be especially prone to give in to illiberal temptations.
Today, the United States is passing through a particularly illiberal phase.
Source: America’s bipartisan illiberalism
In Lasch’s view, the mainstream progressive Left lost its way as soon as it set itself the task of saving capitalism from its excesses rather than proposing a more radical critique of the social, moral, and economic damage it does to settled ways of life. Instead of championing the well-being of average Americans, the Left came to valorize ideals of consumption and meritocratic striving. Along the way, it also fetishized efficiency and productivity as measures of the good life, and bought into the notion that the nation should strive for constantly expanding economic growth, with individuals chasing endlessly after a standard of abundance that’s always just out of reach.
The result is widespread spiritual misery and accompanying social pathologies, including violence, drug addiction, and depression, as Americans spend their lives in grinding pursuit of a fulfillment in luxury, novelty, and excitement that can never be achieved.
via What liberals can learn from the author of The Culture of Narcissism – The Week.
Anthony Quinton once called conservatism the “politics of imperfection.” I believe Obama to be, at his core, a fusion of that great conservative insight into human affairs with that great liberal passion for a better future for more and more human beings: something perfectible, but never perfect.
Over the years, I’ve never let go of that understanding of conservatism’s core truth – that all politics ends in some version of failure, that we cannot change and should not want to change the whole world over night, that constant failure is integral to human life and action – and the key spur to fleeting success. But I’ve also come to accept and more firmly believe that the flip-side to that must never be cynicism or retreat or nihilism. It must be to play our part where we can to fight injustice, knowing that our achievement will be partial, knowing that as soon as we have solved problems, new ones will replace them, and knowing that the process never ends. In fact, the true hero is the one who acts even in the knowledge of inevitable failure, who puts the realizable good before the unrealizable perfect. Yes, over the last six years, Obama has helped me understand his method of community organization, of leading from behind. And it is as conservative in its understanding of how society really changes from below as it is liberal in its refusal to relent against injustice.
via Andrew Sullivan, Live-Blogging The Second Inauguration Of Barack Obama – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.