UnCommon Ground – Searching For The Soul Of Populism
In recent weeks, I have schlepped across the aisle to Redstate.com in order to converse with our conservative counterparts. It has been an enlightening experience.
Specifically, I have joined conversations about repealing “Obamacare” and the “folly” of climate change theory. In many ways, the conversation has been predictable. I was immediately reviled and ridiculed for being a liberal. In fact, within a few minutes, I was identified as a progressive blogger, told to “go back to FDL,” and warned that I was already on a “watch list.”
Undaunted, I soldiered on despite the danger and made my progressive arguments as calmly and as patiently as I could. I was encouraged to discover that by hanging in there and being a respectful dissenter who was willing to take some abuse, I could actually have a decent conversation. I suspect that my experience was similar to what a conservative would face here in these pages.
But I was most surprised not by the grudging civility, but by an unexpected piece of common ground. Over the past couple of months, I have been writing a series called “UnCommon Ground.” It seeks to find points of intersection between progressives and certain traditional, small town conservatives – but not the hard-core neocons and Tea Party types that are typically found on conservative blogs.
In short, I went to Redstate looking to battle the typical right-wing rhetoric, and I did that. But in the process, I found a few comments that revealed something deeper, something that connects progressives to even the most rabid of our conservative antagonists. For example, in the conversation on repealing “Obamacare,” this thought emerged:
I would say that it is in the American peoples’ best interest to stand up for their rights to self-governance. Not a ruling class of Lefty elites. Ever since Nov. 08, I believe that there is a significant number of Americans who regret falling for this extraordinary packaging and marketing of a U.S. president. I believe that the confidence of this nation was shook to the core. My hope is that this nation will be able to heave a sigh of relief in 2012, when the worst of the Leftist socialists are ousted from power, including that this president should serve only one term. It is also my fervent prayer that there are enough traditional, independent minded Americans to defeat your vision and transformation of this nation.
Like many of the folks I encountered on Redstate (and to be fair, that are on FDL, too) this blogger has fully bought into the false dichotomy of liberal vs. conservative and has equated it with Democrat vs. Republican. Since I didn’t agree with his opinion on health care, he assumed that I am an Obama-loving supporter of everything Democratic – and he spewed at me all of those pejorative labels such as “leftist” and “socialist.
But if we take out those misleading words from the comment, we find something that could have easily been said by one of the FDL faithful. There is something here that we share in common, something that is emerging from the soul of the American masses – but we have been too conditioned to fight one another to see it. To further understand this common bond, consider these comments from the conversation on global warming:
Believing guys with PhD’s behind their name is a real good way of being taken advantage of. Every seven to eight years, like clockwork, there is a new scare hoax. Scares make people money selling books, and getting lucrative funding from stupid politicians. And politicians love the scares, because they get more tax money and control over the populace.
I can’t find the part in the Constitution where we’re supposed to be ruled by philosopher-kings. Is yours different from mine?
When those experts want to intrude in my home, raising my utility rates with their useless regulations, it can no longer be left to them. Perhaps we’ve found the part of the progressive/liberal theology that has drawn you. You seem to want to be ruled by an aristocracy, some expert scientist, some well bred politician. Sorry, I, among others, disagree. ‘…the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.
I would say that it is in the American peoples’ best interest to stand up for their rights to self-governance. Not a ruling class of Lefty elites… The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
Of course, there is much in those comments that is debatable or flat-out wrong. But I encourage all of the FDL readers to refrain from the instinctual urge to rip their arguments to shreds. Instead, just as an intellectual exercise, I challenge to you remove the rhetoric, the pejorative language, and the immediate political agenda from these comments – to strip them down to their core concerns, emotions, and aspirations – and to look for any type of common bond you can find between what they are expressing and the progressive views that are expressed on this blog.
In the next installment of “UnCommon Ground,” I will elaborate on the commonalities that I have found. But first, I would like to hear your observations. What common ground, if any, do you see?