In Domestic Politics on May 27, 2010 at 9:40 am
Do you remember that line of Rahm Emanuel’s that those among us who are Republicans love to repeat: you never want a serious crisis to go to waste? It is a great line because it reflects a hard-bitten political instinct that is really quite savvy, although it may not have been politic to say it in public. Opponents of the President have been quite wrong in attributing this machine politics sensibility of his Chief of Staff to him, for in Obama’s radical moderation he is going to let two serious crises pass him by in the same season. The trick in making sense of these crises is that each points in a different direction.
Just Tuesday, we learned that Obama is going to move to secure the border with 1200 troops, a decision he seems to have reached after meeting with Republican Senate leaders. One might imagine that he is speaking about the border with North Korea, but no, this is our ally Mexico. In a move that apparently splits the middle of concerns on this issue, he balances the fear driven concerns of those who live in Western States with the fear driven concerns of Latinos and civil rights groups who see the Arizona law as a way to introduce a kind of ethnic Apartheid. Obama here is probably making a mistake by avoiding the chance to signal to all Latinos everywhere that the Democratic Party is their natural home as the Civil Rights act did for African Americans.
This week as the BP disaster has washed thick oil into the marshes of Louisiana, the public furor about the lack of safety precautions taken by the company is only now washing ashore here on the banks of the Potomac. We have Read the rest of this entry »
In Culture, Domestic Politics, Media and Politics on April 28, 2010 at 10:52 pm
I had a fascinating experience tonight in which I did a radio show that was based on a paper I had written two years ago about professors and politics. The title of the paper was “Ascriptive Justice: The Prevalence, Distribution, and Consequences of Political Correctness in the Academy” and despite the seemingly reactionary title, this is probably my favorite piece among those I have written. The argument is ironic and the methods are complicated, but I put a lot into the article that still sits well with me.
The story behind the article is fairly complicated and I will not rehearse it here, but the gist is that I wrote this in anticipation of a volume that was to come out of the American Enterprise Institute called Reforming the Politically Correct University, based on a conference that was held there.
After having attended the conference (well perhaps really long before), I became suspicious about the use of this concept, Political Correctness. It seemed that panelists were using it willy-nilly to suit whatever attack on academic liberals they pleased. What appeared to unite the critics was a sense that a politics of difference or multiculturalism was driving university worldviews and corrupting scholarship, and this left them cold. Their arguments would blend appeals to the first amendment in which a scholar or activist might condemn university speech codes or discriminatory practices with the core theme of contempt for identity politics. In response, I decided to use data from a survey I had produced on faculty attitudes and was able to show that PC was basically what I had surmised from my position in the audience and that its effects seemed much less pernicious than pessimistic views would attest.
In some way that I did not explore, a radio station in Minnesota became familiar with my paper and wanted to have me on to discuss political correctness in America more generally. The host was a very nice and competent woman Read the rest of this entry »