Thursday, July 01, 2004

I spent a few minutes today browsing Michael Berube's site (Berube is an English professor at the Penn State who writes primarily about politics). A few comments:

1. Berube, in a remarkably humourless way, mocks this New York Times article (free copy) about the growing convergence of American public opinion.

The article presented empirical evidence demonstrating that Americans have reached a consensus on most political issues of the day (abortion, gun control, death penalty, affirmative action, etc.) ; this consensus puts them firmly between the positions of the two major parties. It goes on to speculate about the causes and effects of this.

Back in the primary days, I've observed Deaniacs tended to have problems with statements like this because in their anti-Republican zeal they tended to assume all America was ultra-liberal at heart, just like they were. They tended to dismiss articles about the nonpartisan center in American politics, believing instead the center rests with Dean and his supporters. I don't know whether Berube supported Dean, but, true to form, he ignores all the supporting evidence in the article, cites the speculations, and ridicules them rather childishly. The real polarizing figures on the American landscape are Tom Delay and Bush, he intimates.

That may very well be so. But the thrust of the article -- the central point the author has unsuccesfully tried to communicate to Prof. Berube -- is not that both parties are made up of demagogues, but rather that opinion polls show a considerable disconnect between the opinions of the average Republican/Democrat and the opinions of the average American. This is a point Berube did not seem to get -- perhaps reading comprehension is not his strong suit?

2. Berube links to this piece about modern liberals and Iran. Conservative commentators have long criticized the lopsided view many liberals seem to take towards human rights abuses -- listening to most liberal commentators, one comes away with the impression that 90% of the human rights abuses in the world are committed by the US & Israel.

The piece, by Danny Postel, ruminates for quite a while about why this is so. It spends quite a bit of time vividly contrasting the current I-don't-care attitude towards Iran with the excitement, fund-raising, and commitment given to Latin American solidarity movements a decade earlier -- "...American leftists went to Guatemala to support the student radicals, wrote about them, made films about them, raised money for them, brought them on speaking tours of the U.S. to spread the word about their struggle, no such luck for their counterparts in Iran." The conclusion?

...U.S. imperialism is simply not the issue for [Iranian students] -- and this, I think, is a stumbling block for many american leftists because it is the central issue for us. We're better at making sense of situations in which the U.S. Empire is the foe and building our solidarity with other people around that. That was the case in Guatamala...

So its not that leftists are hypocritical; they are just obsessive and stupid.


At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my, sasha... you really have it in for the hippies today!

first of all, berube is canadian. you know how we are.

secondly, empirical evidence needs to be taken with a grain of salt if its something like a poll. i dont find anything particularly remarkable about a survey that concludes americans arent total hippies or total hicks.

the iran thing is tard city, though. us imperialism is totally the issue.

maybe he was stoned?


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