Wednesday, January 26

Re-Voxing Rauch: the whole kit and caboodle

Jonathan Rauch has responded to the "blog storm" of essays engendered by Mr Hewitt's project that he has provided the whole text of his essay, available on Mr Hewitt's blog, for review. He feels that when we read the paragraph excerpted for our scrutiny, we will relent in our criticism. His broad thesis in the article is that the divide our country faces is not as extreme as painted by the political landscape. He feels that there might exist Gay NASCAR-loving atheists who voted for Bush and homophobic evangelicals who voted for Kerry. So count 'em. But as Mr Rauch says, "kidding aside" his point is that the political rhetoric emphasizes the differences and that we as Americans are not as divided as we might think.

There is some truth that claim, but Mr Rauch in order to make his point stretches it a little. I am not a political operative, but have been examining the Left/Right divide on this blog for some time. The left/right divide is real. Even the word "insurgency" which he used in the conclusion quoted by Mr Hewitt shows the divide. Mr Rauch thought nothing of that term, for on the left "insurgents" are the good guys. But, on the other side of the fence, the last "good" insurgents that come to mind, were our founding fathers 200+ years ago, and not the goofy flower children of the 70's. Today that term bears little good odor. And it is in our different use of language that is taking us further and further apart. For another example, the word "patriarch" means a far different thing to me, than to Ms Sanders of Left2Right.

Mr Rauch misuses polls somewhat. He quotes:
Asked if they would be "open to marrying someone who held significantly different political views" from their own, 57 percent of singles said yes.
But if asked whether they would marry someone whose worldview was significantly different, I think the answer would have been quite different. I think an different understanding of "political views" frames the response to that question. Right and Left differ somewhat these days in their worldview, which in previous essays I've tried to abstract as story, symbol, praxis and question. Praxis (everyday unconscious expression of the symbols in our life) for right and left are quite similar. Our stories on the other hand are quite different, and that will, more and more, I fear sway symbol and praxis with it.

Amusingly Mr Rauch's a little blind ideologically. He says:
The top leaders on Capitol Hill are the bluest of blues and the reddest of reds left and right not just of the country but even of their own parties. (This is especially true on the Republican side.)
He "pretends" that this is not true of Ms Boxer, Ms Pelosi, and Mr Kennedy, I guess. Mr Rauch must be far enough left that he can't see the extremists on the left for what they are. However, again this begs his point, those politicians aren't more extreme than the extremists prophesying out in the blogosphere.

One last point about the misleading nature of the study results. There is a joke, that an 90% of the Irish when asked if they are religious say no and 90% of Spaniards say yes, but 90% of the Irish go to church weekly but only 10% of the Spanish. When a study looks into those holding different worlview, questions mean very different things to different people.