Thursday, June 09, 2005

Victims, schmictims

Apropos of Howard Dean’s big mouth, an interesting conversation sprang up on the TPM Café site regarding the religious right’s victimization complex – the periodic protests that conservative Christians are being discriminated against by condescending secular liberals – basically, by Howard Dean.

This has several sources. Marshall Wittman points out that many condescending secular liberals do think of the Christian right as a bunch of yahoos. This is the cultural divide at the center of our politics. Nobody (except Bill Clinton) knows how to speak to both sides. Ed Kilgore says that the Christian right’s entire raison d’etre as a flickering beacon of light beseiged by the Godless forces of secularism depends on cultivating a sense of continual grievance and persecution – even when the political reality is quite the opposite.

I would add one more thing: The Christian right’s howling about discrimination (if not the cultural forces it springs from) owes a lot to the political left. Remember that as identity politics came to dominate on the left, a culture of grievance emerged and universities, corporations and government agencies tried micromanaging people’s language and behavior in often ridiculous attempts to stamp out any form of (legally actionable) offense from routine daily encounters. The right condemned it, correctly, at its height. But that was before George Bush’s nanny state arrived, creating opportunities for a whole new class of aggrieved parties.