The Early Days of a Better Nation

Sunday, March 23, 2003

America: a country where ridiculous proportions of the population believe they were created by god, abducted by aliens, and attacked by Iraq. Also where some people believe that someone who burns a paper drawing of a US flag is as good as asking to be crushed under a bulldozer. It's not just the Right. Every political persuasion in the US contains many more stupid people than it or its equivalent does in Europe. On the Left Bank of the Seine you see poststructuralists smoking, flirting, and eating veal. Poststructuralism in America gave us La-La Land liberal toytown totalitarianism. French Maoism gave us Sartre and Althusser. American Maoism gave us Klonsky and Avakian. (I could go on.)

I know, like, and respect lots of Americans. Most of the weblogs I follow are written by Americans. Many of the books I read are written by Americans. But this particular distribution curve has a long tail at the low end. Why? The answer I've come up with, after some agonising over that question, is this:

Not because Americans are more stupid than anyone else, but because there is no American party of the Left. There is no labour (labor) party. There is no liberal party. (On any scale that registers, I mean. There are Liberal and Labor parties here and there.) The Democratic Party isn't a liberal party. It has liberals within it, which is a different thing. Nor is it a labour party, though it gets support from organised labour.

This means that the American Right can indulge in lying and character assassination with almost as much impunity as if it dominated a one-party state. And it means that the American Left either buries itself in the Democratic Party, where it's treated as an embarrassment, or spins its wheels with a complete lack of social traction (in academia or in tiny irrelevant sects) and embarrasses itself.


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