If poetry, as Wordsworth wrote, “takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility,” political thought should take its origin from contention and anger similarly recollected. I suspect that tranquility is in short supply among our writers, but still, we try in this issue to figure out what happened last November and how liberals and leftists should respond-and we try to do this calmly, quietly, thoughtfully. The questions are urgent, of course, and we are hardly finished with contention and anger. But we do need to step back a bit and think hard. The recent discussions around the “death” of environmentalism provide a useful model: arguments that don’t stop at posture and presentation but raise difficult questions about intellectual substance and political strategy.
Also necessary is a debate, just beginning in the wake of Tom Frank’s Kansas book, about the old idea of “false consciousness”-why does it happen so often that leftists claim to know more and to know better than the people they hope to represent? Sometimes, maybe, the claim is true, but it’s probably never politically smart. And there are reasons to worry, too, about the morality of representing men and women whose consciousness is so different from ours. We have to argue about ways of reconnecting with those people: how to do it? (rather than, what ought to be done?) is probably the central question in this issue.
It is also the central ...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $35 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.