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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Three cheers for the child blogger!

posted by Razib Khan at Tuesday, October 18, 2005 permalink View blog reactions
Steve points me to this response by Matthew Yglesias to those who would question his semi-defense (or non-attack) in regards Bill Bennett's recent statements. This is the important part (for me):

Recent years have seen a frightening rise in right-wing political correctness. If you criticize Israeli policy or the U.S.–Israel relationship, or even use the word "neocon," you're an anti-Semite. If you're against Al Gonzalez you hate Hispanics. If you're against Janice Rogers Brown you hate black people. If you're generally against the social-conservative judicial agenda you hate Christians. If you're against the Iraq War you hate the troops. Most generally, liberalism itself is defined as an anti-American creed, some kind of slur against the Heartland and its delicate sensitivities.

That's all crap, of course, but a defense of rational debate requires some effort at consistency of purpose. The rule that the criterion of acceptibility is not accuracy, but sensitivity merely leads at the end of the day to the hegemony of majority sensibilities, to the most dangerous identity politics of all, those of America's white Christian majority. [italicized bold, my emphasis, -R]

Yglesias is pointing to the big picture here. Garance Franke-Ruta's opinion that Democratic leaning bloggers should get as much mileage out of the Bennett flap as possible, Latin be damned, certainly makes sense in the short term. And in general I don't mind that much when people at Daily Kos admit that they are going to back the Miers nomination on instrumental grounds, Supreme Court nominations are, in this day and age, pure politics. On the other hand, as Brad DeLong's original defense of Bennett implies there are intellectual grounds to not attack him. Granted, for the Left that means ceding some short-term political points. The fact is that the broad majority of Americans probably found Bennett's offhand association somewhat offensive (signalled by the statements put out by the Bush admininstration), and some criticism on those grounds is probably warranted.1 But some of the hyperboles that Bennett was condoning the genocide of black Americans goes too far, in particular light of the fact that 1 out of 4 detected pregnancies ends in an abortion in the United States in any case, a disproportionate number of them black (it shouldn't surprise us that some black pro-lifers accuse abortion rights folk of aiming for the genocide of their race, something Maggie Sanger would probably not have been totally averse to via negative eugenics).

For a small minority of Americans facts and intellectual consistency matters. The vast majority of Americans are either too stupid or ideologically blinkered to really care, but in a nation that is sliced down the middle, this small minority, often biased toward classical liberalism, might matter a great deal in the overall war.

Addendum: People have different ends for the ideal political order. Myself, an open intellectually vibrant culture is a necessacity for my utopia, so it follows that an instrumentally guided policy with subborns that culture is by definition something I will look askance at, because to uphold the ends of A by the means of !A causes logical difficulties.

1 - I myself don't find it that offensive, the fact is that black Americans and crime have a strong association no matter what people say in public. That being said, even John McWhorter, who isn't know for being particularly sensitive, had a hard time defending Bennett's off the cuff statement. The reductio ad absurdum explanation offered by DeLong, which I think is the most likely primary component (though the association of black people with crime is surely a background assumption), is too complicated and subtle for most Americans to understand. So if you say something that requires several nested layers of concepts, and what you are saying is easily misconstrued by compressing said concepts into one unsubtle layer, don't say it, because the general audience isn't going to be able to decompose the sound bite and place it back in its context.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.