January 19, 2006

The Twain Shall Meet: Economics, Values and Culture in Today’s American Political Landscape

Posted in Politics at 11:07 am by antonello

In American Prospect, Garance Franke-Ruta talks about how traditional progressive tropes are not increasingly incompatible with many people, who are putting more emphasis on values and less on economics. Read it.

Citing a work by Michael Adams, founder of American Environics, Franke-Rura writes:

“While American politics becomes increasingly committed to a brand of conservatism that favors traditionalism, religiosity, and authority,? Adams writes, “the culture at large [is] becoming ever more attached to hedonism, thrill-seeking, and a ruthless, Darwinist understanding of human competition.? This behavior is particularly prevalent among the vast segment of American society that is not politically or civically engaged, and which usually fails to even vote.

The tension between the political culture and the popular culture currently is palpable. It is refreshing when ideas are crystallized as well Franke-Ruta does in this article.

The discussion of culture and political involvement reminds me of Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. The book is a proto-blog of sorts, a collection of articles Thompson wrote on covering 1972 Democratic presidential race for Rolling Stone. Thompson describes a similar disjuncture between the cultural change of the time, symbolized by the Baby Boom generation coming of age. Thompson constantly remarks on how the youth could be such a powerful force of change, if they would actually express themselves at the polls or beyond. He contrasts this with some some kids he runs into, who are clearly not interested in expressing themselves or changing anything much at all.

What I am mulling over is how Franke-Ruta’s suggestion could play out practically.  Certainly outdated traditional Democratic motifs that plaun aren’t working should be jettisoned. The Tim Kaine example at the end of the article is the most instructive.  Demonstrate that policies are derved commonalities in cultural values.  Are Hillary Clinton’s recent attempts to defang the virtual corridors of San Andreas fall into this?  But how do you convert resentment “toward those who do have outside aid, whether from government or from unions, and an escalating ethos of every man for himself” into support for a more equitable scheme for health care?

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