Resentment vs. Condescension Pt 1: Redeeming Conservative Populism?

Resentment vs. Condescension: does this summarize the Culture Wars?  Dr. Pat notices that although economic events may have pushed Palin-mania off the lead:

Sarah’s brief spot in the bright white glare and the bump in the polls that she induced did show that the path to Republican victory largely remains where it has been since the days of Nixon (read Pearlstein’s Nixonland for some insight here): stoking resentments of lower- and middle-class white voters in the heartland against the eggheads in the big cities. Frankly, the eggheads walked clumsily and willingly right into the trap that McCain had set for them by naming Palin, showing that the strategy had legs. Deriding small town losers who believe in God and shoot guns is not the best strategy when you’re trying to win a few counties in western Pennsylvania and southern Ohio. However, it’s clear that other than stoking resentment, the Republican well is empty and the Democratic well is at least half full…

Pat Deneen continues:

A question remains: can either party move beyond either its Politics of Resentment or its Politics of Condescension? One of “my students,” Matthew Sitman, has written a very fine essay on the need for conservatives to move beyond the narrow and caustic prejudices that often motivate the Politics of Resentment. The Left needs its own Sitman to encourage its better angels to move beyond the Politics of Condescension (a new Christopher Lasch, frankly). I predict that whichever party is able to do this in a genuine way will put together a winning coalition that will have legs for a good while.

That essays observes:

Populisms of the Right, at least in the United States, always walk near the edge of an abyss. Concerns over community and the reliable stability of particular ways of life can morph easily into racial, ethnic, or religious chauvinism. But, often, these same concerns really are indicative of the fate of ordinary working men and women — their anxieties about earning a decent living, engaging in meaningful self-government, and keeping families and communities together in an increasingly fragmented world.

Cultural politics, then, is neither mere symbolism nor base demagoguery, but the expression of worries that are connected to, but far exceed, simple economics. Responsible conservatives should translate the concerns that give rise to a populist politics into the most inclusive idiom possible

Over at No Left Turns, Peter Lawler’s references to these pieces have brought comments from a few self-described “paleo-cons” who aren’t willing to give up the White Pride of conservative populism.  Lawler condemned the anti-Semitism, racism and anti-immigrant sentiments and was promply asked, “how long have you been a P.C. enforcer?”  Good luck with the non-racist populism, guys.  For the left’s anti-condescension campaign, I nominate Joe Bageant.  It’s a much bigger project, surely, and condescension is so “fun.” Just ask Bill Maher and his new documentary on religion.


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