earnestly explaining the right

I heard Ken Stern on Morning Joe this morning, discussing his new book, Republican Like MeThis is not a carefully thought out response, but a quick thought and a question:

First, the title, which is an obvious paean to Griffin’s classic Black Like Me, serves at once to show the author’s earnestness and to imply that Republican-ness is like Black-ness: assumed to be unchanging, inborn, and genuine.

Second, the question. This is but the latest in probably at least a half-dozen books seeking earnestly to explain (often in crudely anthropological terms) the virtues of the right to liberals. Stern, in particular, references social division and “bubbles” as problems the book is intended to ameliorate. Are there any examples of the converse genre (books earnestly explaining the virtues of the left to conservatives)? If not, why not? And if not, doesn’t the apparent demand for this genre actually imply that the social division is uneven, with one side more interested in transcending the division than the other is?

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

5 thoughts on “earnestly explaining the right”

  1. When I travel back to the San Francisco Bay area, where I grew up and where I still have many family and friends, I find no interest or felt need among them to explain the self evident truths of the blue bubble to the outside world.

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  2. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one (but there are a handful of editorials with a similar “I converted” story). OTOH, I don’t think these books are about transcending the division so much as ending it by conversion (this book is basically a conversion success story). Maybe “left like me” wouldn’t sell very many copies.

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  3. I’ve been reading a few of these types of narratives for a project and I was definitely struck by the very point you’re making. We’re placing the entire burden for cross-cultural or cross-political understanding on the left. On one level, this makes sense: the left is currently out of power, and so needs to build coalitions and make inroads with non-left voters in order to return to power. The right has no such need currently.

    On another level, though, it’s indicative of the fact that one side of the spectrum is at least ostensibly interested in making connections and accepting all types of people and beliefs (though of course it often fails to live up to its own lofty ideals), and the other side simply isn’t. This sort of cosmopolitanism just isn’t valued in the worldview of people on the right, for better or for worse. So there’s a structural disadvantage – the left will always have to reach out to the right both for political gains as well as to satisfy their own sense of the correct thing to do, but the right never will. And I don’t say that as judgment necessarily – it just seems to be a structural factor of American political life that is under-commented on.

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  4. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that such books actually are intended to bridge the divide. Like most religious apologetics, they’re actually addressed to fellow believers, to keep them in the fold. To the extent that they carry the form of addressing a non-believer, it is more their religion’s imputed view of such a person.

    Though I haven’t read Ken Stern’s book, so am only extrapolating.

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