Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What Alterman Said

Jane put me onto this post from Digby, and while I couldn't quite put my finger on why I didn't agree with it (at least, strongly disagree with it), Eric Alterman does it for me.

Not that I want to argue with Digby on this point (though I would argue with some of the comments there, but what's the point?), but Alterman does a wonderful job of turning the conversation in a much more fruitful direction:

...as Christopher Lasch once noted, following the 1960s the left made the politically suicidal choice of cultural radicalism, which succeeded, over political and economic radicalism, which failed. Quoting Peter Steinfels, Dionne noted, "American liberalism has shifted its passion from issues of economic deprivation and concentration of power to issues of gender, sexuality, and personal choice.... Once trade unionism, regulation of the market, and various welfare measures were the litmus tests of secular liberalism. Later, desegregation and racial justice were the litmus tests. Today the litmus test is abortion." Liberals, as Michael Kazin put it, have morphed in the public imagination "from people who looked, dressed and sounded like Woody Guthrie to people who look, dress and sound like Woody Allen."
Just the mention of abortion as the latest "litmus test" put into context for me why I tire so quickly of all the abortion discussion at, say, Eschaton (three today alone; yes, it's Atrios' blog, but the subject is dissected into such minutiae that it disappears beneath the defense of the analysis).

After a better analysis of recent American political and cultural history than I've read in quite a while, Alterman puts the focus precisely where it should be:

And luckily we happen to have Christianity's deity on our side. Dionne offered just a few of the texts that liberal politicians and pundits might wish to commit to memory. There is the Gospel that explains, "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty!" There's the prophet Isaiah, who commands us to "undo the heavy burdens...let the oppressed go free." Martin Luther King Jr. frequently drew on Amos to insist, "We will not be satisfied until 'justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'" Jesus demanded we feed the hungry and clothe the naked and tells us we will be judged by how we treat the "least of these my brethren."

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