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Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality 2019-10-13 14:05:55

Summary:
In addition to today's American conservatives regarding politics not as the enactment of policies but rather the identification of enemies, there is also this strange current which seems aimed at convincing people that high ideals are only for fools. Once again, our politics does not know how to deal with this. One again, our role is to play our position. But that does not make this less disturbing: Jacob Levy: The Weight of the Words: "The power of elite speech in a democracy is only partly that of giving partisan cues to one’s supporters. It’s also the power to channel and direct the dangerous but real desire for collective national direction and aspiration. Humans are tribal animals, and our tribal psychology is a political resource.... Whether... presidents are named 'Reagan and

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In addition to today's American conservatives regarding politics not as the enactment of policies but rather the identification of enemies, there is also this strange current which seems aimed at convincing people that high ideals are only for fools. Once again, our politics does not know how to deal with this. One again, our role is to play our position. But that does not make this less disturbing:

Jacob Levy: The Weight of the Words: "The power of elite speech in a democracy is only partly that of giving partisan cues to one’s supporters. It’s also the power to channel and direct the dangerous but real desire for collective national direction and aspiration. Humans are tribal animals, and our tribal psychology is a political resource.... Whether... presidents are named 'Reagan and George W. Bush' or 'JFK and Barack Obama'... all... put forward a public rhetorical face that was better than their worst acts.... They kept the public aspirations of American political culture pointed toward Reagan’s 'shining city on a hill'... a free and fair liberal democratic order, the protection of civil liberties, openness toward the world, rejection of racism at home, and defiance against tyranny abroad. And their words were part of the process of persuading each generation of Americans that those were constitutively American ideals. Trump’s apologists are now reduced to saying that his speech has been worse than his actions so far, the reverse of this usual pattern. The effect is the reverse, too.... The norm against publicly legitimizing Klan-type explicit racism was built up over a long time, calling on white Americans to be better than they were, partly by convincing them that they were better. The norm is still strong enough that Trump grudgingly kind of walked back his comments after the Charlottesville protests last year. But a norm that was built up through speech, persuasion, and belief can be undermined the same way. Trump’s own racism, his embrace of white nationalist discourse, and his encouragement of the alt-right over the past two years have, through words, made a start on that transformation...

Bradford DeLong
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

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