The Third Estate
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Well I'll Be Damned.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004
This just goes to show that anything can happen. And usually will. Particularly this year. If the Boston Red Sox can come back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees on the road, and then go on to sweep the World Series and end the curse, then I can believe anything.

My posting has been a bit erratic the last few days. I am in the process of moving (great timing, I know). Oddly enough for such an intense race, there really hasn't been much specific to comment on. The outlines of the contest are basically set. All that is left is the GOTV. If there is going to be an October Surprise, then the hour grow late.

There is one article I think people should read. Paul Waldman has been writing some interesting stuff over at the Gadflyer about the nature of American identity. There is this belief out there that the only "real" america is that of the South and Midwest. This is the latest manifestion of the old Jeffersonian anti-urbanism. I've spoken before about what usually defines the heartland- the area that is the center of economic, cultural, and political power. In the U.S., that is the greater New York metro area. For some reason, we have decided that the hinterland is the location of the real America. Like many Jeffersonian ideals, the principle is far removed from the reality, and is in some sense counterproductive.

I would like to tie Waldman's conversation about the real America with my earlier posts about the South. For most of American history, the South was "other." Somehow in the last generation it has become mainstreamed. The role of the old midwest (rural AND industrial) as the psychological home of the nation has been replaced by the most abberant region in the country. I'm not entirely sure how this transformation took place.

But we as liberals must begin a real effort to re-define what it is to be American. A large portion of politics is a question of definitions, and unfortunately that usually means defining yourself against some other group: whether it be Communists, Britain, Liberals, Cities, Slaveholders, Blacks, whatever. For Democrats, the OTHER is generally corporations. For Republicans, it is Liberals. What is lacking for us is a systematic attack on our other, and a coherent, positive statement of who we are.

One of the oldest questions in U.S. history is who "we" are. At first that included only Protestant men of English descent. Over time our notion of American cultural identity has steadily expanded to include many different religions and ethnic groups. Only African-Americans and Native-Americans have been consistently marginalized for their own special reasons (and even in the former I think there has been significant process in the last generation). Now since the old right-wing trick of elites is to play the proles off against eachother, the right has had to find some new groups to demonize. Immigrant-bashing is a loser politically because of the growing hispanic vote. Oppressing Muslim-Americans hasn't exactly helped them either. So they have decided to quit the pretenses and just come after us.

So we are left with the obligation to respond in kind. They are the ones who are representing values that most Americans reject. They are the ones who are outside of the mainstream. Our notion of "we" are the people at the bottom eighty percent. The people who worry about their futures and that of their children. The people who know what it is to suffer. We are the REAL America. And we should never let them forget it.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:03 PM
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