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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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Monday, June 19, 2006

 

The idea of community

posted by russell at Monday, June 19, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
Other than comments, this is my first post here. Many thanks to Aziz for his very kind invitation to participate here on Nation-Building.

A word of introduction. I live in a blue state, and I have blue state values. I'm sympathetic to the purple agenda expressed here, but I am, regrettably, skeptical that compromise, much less agreement, with American conservatives is possible right now. I'd be pleased to find otherwise.

I've only recently begun participating in political activity beyond voting. The impetus for me was the USA Patriot Act. I sponsored a resolution in my town opposing the Act, and suprisingly, in my fairly conservative, highly patriotic, and very traditional town, it passed. My participation in that effort led me to online discussion of issues surrounding USAPA, which in turn led me to RedState, where I am known as "amos". While at RedState I had the pleasure of meeting Aziz, and through his invitation I'm here now.

I've spent a lot of time over the last couple of years trying to understand the divide between red and blue. What I would like to discuss in this post is what I see as a, perhaps the, core issue, the central point of divergence. The heart of the matter, if you will. My thoughts are not based on a profound understanding of political theory, American history, Enlightment thought, or US Constitutional law, because I possess none of those things. I am, politically, a newbie.

My thoughts are based on my direct experience of engaging thoughtful American conservatives in a reasonably good faith dialog on matters of public interest, an on my observation of what, over and over again, proves to be the stumbling block in trying to find a common point of view.

Read on...  

The essential and irreducible core blue state value is the idea of community. People who participate in a common political entity -- town, city, county, state, nation -- constitute a community. By virtue of their participation in that community, they have obligations toward each other. They have a claim on each other.

Among those claims: they are obliged to not steal or abuse each other's property. They are obliged to be honest and straightforward with each other in their business dealings. They are obliged to participate, directly or otherwise, in the common defense. These things may be enforced by law, but they exist prior to any legal encoding. The law simply derives from, and enforces, the pre-existing obligation that exists by virtue of participation in the community.

Blue staters will extend this to say we are obliged to lend a hand to help others in our community when they are in need. I am absolutely not talking about charity -- aid and assistance given out of personal generosity. I am talking about a positive obligation between fellow citizens of a common political entity.

Blue staters will also extend this to say that the community does well when it acts to provide things that are, simply, useful and beneficial to the population at large.

Finally, blue staters will be completely comfortable with the idea that government is a good and useful agency for achieving all of these ends. Not necessarily the only one, perhaps not one at all, but certainly one of the possible ones, and more often than not a very good one.

What I am talking about here is a commonwealth, where "wealth" does not mean money, but has its original meaning of well being. I am talking about a state governed for, and dedicated to, the common good.

More to the point, I am talking about a world where the state can, and should, *act*, and act deliberately, to insure and secure that common good.

As I make it out, current day American conservatives *do not* share this understanding of government. Their ideal, if I may speak for them, seems closer to a world where the state exists primarily, perhaps exclusively, to provide for common defense, to prevent and punish criminal behavior, and to enforce contracts. Essentially, the ideal conservative state seems to be simply a referee providing a context for the free interaction of autonomous private individuals and interests.

I may be mischaracterizing the conservative position here, but if so I don't think I'm off by much.

I understand why the conservative position looks like freedom to lots of folks, but I think the world it actually creates on the ground is not really so free as they might imagine. At least, not for everyone, or not in a way conducive to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is more than long enough, so I'll close for now. I look forward to your thoughts.


Discussion

Would you support idea of secession? Say, what if a people, a state, took up arms and wanted to secede? Would you support such an idea of "community", or would this constitute "terrorism"(disregarding any impractical or self-defeating ramificationsof such a secession, of course)

 

Conflagrasian -

Thanks for your post.

You ask a pretty abstract question.

Do I think secession per se is ever justifiable? Yes. In fact it's not really that uncommon, and can be achieved without recourse to arms.

If folks did resort to arms to achieve secession, I guess the question of whether it was "terrorism" or not would really depend on what their actual actions were.

It's hard to say more than that outside of the context of a specific case.

It's a little unclear to me how your question touches on the issues raised in my post. Can you elaborate?

Thanks -

 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 

Russell,

I agree with what you say in your post.
In a democracy you'd need civil involvement and politically active citizenry for the health of the state. Individualism is compatible with a healthy community; it is not anarchy and citizens still know what their duties are. There's no argument there. I touched on something a little different in the first post, which is why it was unclear as to how to relates to issue at hand.

regards,

 

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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.