Thomas Frank

There’s this sort of weird prairie populist sector of liberal intelligentsia that likes to get meta on liberals and wag fingers at them for culturally condescending on flyover and promising that if liberals would just get behind a kind of Henry Wallace like rural socialism the Democrats and the country would be saved.

This rings true on the surface. It’s not nice to be tribal against the flyovers. And certainly they are equally dignified in their rights as anyone else and a vote is a vote. But this all relies on a sort of “good old days” theology of the New Deal era.

It’s quite possible that there is such a deep racism embedded in these folks that they will never assent to a unity of purpose with poor minorities, but I kind of doubt that.

There are poor rural conservative folk in much of the world. Making their material situation improve may make some of them happy, but it’s unlikely that it will separate them from their traditions and morals.

And refraining from condescending towards these people makes it sound like liberals are superhumans just as much as the condescension does as if we are immune to misunderstandings of other cultures or a sense of security in our own choices and beliefs.

You can take away my liberal card, but I, for one, would gladly call a truce in the culture wars freezing the status quo if it meant that we could really finally get real wages up and do other economic equalization. But that’s not happening.

Look, I do wonder with Frank’s fellow traveller—the dude who wrote “The Smug Style”—why it is that people can get socially blackballed for asking questions about a transgendered person but businesses that pay shitty wages suffer no such consequences. Unmentioned in that article is the worrying tide of anti-science in the left as well. But this really amounts an intramural argument about priorities.

Social Justice requires suasion which makes it political, but it also makes it confrontational. It forces change and often the change side is seen as unquestioningly correct. Everything is the 60s; everything is the next civil rights movement—except it’s not: America had one original sin, slavery, and remedying its effects are unique in all American history. It is just assumed that the change side represents the right side of history. But new isn’t always better. And the self-righteous on both sides are blind to their own hypocrisies. How many liberals do you know who eat plenty of meat but not just wouldn’t attend a bullfight but think it should be banned? or who wouldn’t see how demanding radical animal rights legislation while wanting abortion to be legal doesn’t rub some people the wrong way? (For what it’s worth it was the sheer lack of hypocrisy about marriage equality that made it winning: we want everyone to have stable family units because families are good, not that we want to do as the right says and use slut pills, abortions, and debauchery to destroy the family!) My opinion on these matters is irrelevant; it’s the difficulty of the contradictions for others that requires some of this to be delivered at the point of a federal law. So, I get why maybe there’s an argument we should give each other a break here. But I don’t think that will result in the lack of need of suasion either positive or negative to bring about the kind of cultural changes suggested even if we are making real wages skyrocket.

What Frank and others are really suggesting is trying to foment some kind of realignment of the political alliances of the two parties, putting the liberal sub/urban professional classes back into the Republican party in exchange for the peasants joining up with the other underclasses. All well and good, but to what end?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You can lead flyover to economic assistance but you can’t make them like it. We should implement the social safety net anyway. Once it’s strong enough we won’t have to worry about tribal friction between coastals and flyovers.