Thursday, November 04, 2004

Starting to Think Through Strategies
(Please click Permalink/Full Post to read the whole thing.)

Might as well harness all this nervous energy, right? Matthew Yglesias has some bullet points, and I think his list is a good starting point. Summarizing and combining somewhat, my take on his list:

1,2&3. Yes! Let's become aggressive on these culture wars and build a broad, persuasive, cultural case for an open and compassionate society now. Instead of just being reactionaries to a self-righteousl paradigm framed by the right, let's be champions of our own, positively defined moral paradigm. Part of this will be bridging the culture gap on common ground--see JesusPolitics, Amy Sullivan, or the Bull Moose. Part of this will be reclaiming language and being sweetly insistent on the moral rightness of a world where the public sphere is run without the need to invoke God or sect. My sister Ruchira has blogged about the work of George Lakoff in this regard. Part of our effort will be creating more viable and cohesive social structures that can help secular and non-Christian, non-Jewish liberals more efficiently pool together their social capital. But this is a long term struggle which has to extend into traditionally apolitical parts of our lives, and for which we really have to extend ourselves.

4. Yes, yes, yes. Please, please, please--no arguments about the reason Kerry won or Bush lost, especially not on the microscopic level of a "when he said this" or "when that news story broke out." As a society, at every level, we really need to learn how to deal with multicausal phenomena. If I ever become dictator, for which there will hopefully be no need, I'd make every college student take math up through multivariable calculus.

5&6. Yes, we have absolutely got to keep on top of this war. Those are our troops, and they're fighting in our name, and we need to take care of them and minimize as much of the horror of their mission as possible. I think this means being diligent banshees about demanding competent strategizing, logistics, and contracting. It means screaming bloody hell every time you hear about an army reserve unit being deployed unprepared, or a soldier being stuck with the bill for his or her lost limb. It means reminding people that Abu Ghraib and killing children are moral issues. It means really supporting the troops. The site to watch on this front is definitely Intel-Dump.

7. "Liberals need to learn to talk the talk and walk the walk of nationalism better." Hell yes. I am not moving anywhere. You want patriotism? I'll give you patriotism. Pick your flavor--whether it's protecting this beautiful land, or our beautiful Bill of rights, or the unique diversity of our cultures and peoples, or the notion of a transparent and accountable Republic.

I don't really have anything to say about 8&9 yet, nor about Yglesias's phantom #4 on Harry Reid. I plan on reeducating myself about American demographics and voting statistics over the next few weeks--please suggest resources. I am looking for good but cheap mapping software. Let's also try and support our sociologist friends. As Eszter Haggitai declared (admittedly with some self-interest) on Crooked Timber: On a final note, one frustration as a social scientist interested in questions of culture and religion, is that there is very little funding available for research in these areas. Given the kind of importance cultural values and religious beliefs seem to play in people’s everyday lives, I find it quite disappointing and disturbing. As a journalist with a physicist's penchant for statistically robust numerical data, I am also disturbed. We need this information to figure out what's going on and what to do.

I am going to make a reading list for the holidays, and a to-do list for the new year: clubs to join, places to visit, and concrete questions to investigate. Suggestions are most welcome.