Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Liberal Decadence

Atrios linked to this post on Open Left:

Erick Erickson, editor of the popular conservative megablog RedState, conceded that progressives currently enjoy an advantage over conservatives online-though he attributed it to an asymmetry in free time, since conservatives "have families because we don't abort our kids, and we have jobs because we believe in capitalism."

It could be a joke, though not a very good one. But it's also a good example of "othering", of stripping the political opposition of any characteristics which might make them look like part of the same human species. If progressives all have an abortion the first thing in the morning, even before brushing their teeth or calling that limousine with the latte service to take them to the unemployment check office, well, then it might be ok to hate on them. They are not real Americans, real patriots. Soon they won't look like real people at all.

"Othering" is a tempting political strategy. I have been guilty of gentle advances in that direction myself, mostly because "counter-othering" sometimes seems to be all that's left after years of reading and hearing me and people like me described as the cancer on the body politic. When I have never even gotten a speeding fine (well, of course the police would have to catch me first for that, but the point remains).

Yes, it's tempting to use "othering" (and what fun would it be to write those stories about the conservatives), but ultimately it is very bad for this country and its politics. I can see the appeal of Obama's calls for unity from that angle. I only wish that Erick Erickson also finds those calls appealing, because if he and others like him do not, "unity" in practice will be just continual "othering" by one side.