Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Republican Party is a Cultural Party, not a Political Party

I have long-stated that the Republican Party has become a cultural party rather than a political party. The current focus and function of the Republican Party is to fight a rearguard action for the American monoculture defending it from the inevitable rise of multi-culturalism.

While there can be no doubt that the United States is a multi-cultural society, there is an American culture which exists as a separate identity. We are all familiar with it and carry it as part of ourselves, most of us knowing it as one of the multiple cultures in our multi-cultural makeup. We know the narratives. It is most commonly found unalloyed in the small towns and rural communities that Sarah Palin called "the Real America". It is not, as some have suggested, preserved in a time warp stuck on the 1950's. It is current, but, for those of us who live outside of it, it seems a throwback to the time when it was dominant over the bulk of the country.

Think of a small town in which everyone, or nearly everyone, in town shares the same heritage, language, faith, cuisine, arts, fashion, and set of social norms. These are the elements of a culture, and it is a monoculture because there are few if any other cultures represented.  The people in this monoculture look around and everyone (or nearly everyone) they see does things the same way they do, talks like them, prays like them, dresses like them, eats the foods they eat, listens to the same music as them, watches the same movies as them, and shares their priorities and their sense of right and wrong. They all do things about the same way and have been doing them that way for a long time. They don't see anything wrong with it - no one they know has a problem with it - and they don't understand why anyone would object to their continuing their practices of: prayers before school and civic events, dressing as stereotypes of other cultures as Halloween costumes, tolerating a certain amount of domestic violence, exercising a little bit of overt racism and sexism, tolerating a certain amount of drunkenness, indulging sports heroes in school or the law, and a healthy dose of nepotism.

People living in a monoculture don't question anything about that culture. This is true for all monocultures. They see their culture as a sort of normal or default state and everything else as a variation or deviation from that null state. This is how Italian, Chinese, or Mexican restaurants are perceived as serving "ethnic food" while the foods that Americans prepare and eat at home are not recognized as ethnic food, even though they are also the cuisine of a single culture. These variations are rarely regarded as an improvement except in the least authentic or substantial ways - pizza, sweet and sour chicken, and chimichangas. None of these foods, as eaten in America, resemble anything eaten in their supposed country of origin.

When members of a mono-culture are presented with something from another culture they can regard it as exotic or else it is just "weird". They generally don't like it and will often mock it. They have not, generally, developed the habit of accepting, let alone accommodating, other cultures. That's no wonder. It is not an instinctive habit. The instinctive habit is tribalism. We have within us a strong drive to distinguish between "us" and "them". The usual human response to the "other" is fear and loathing. After all, the way we do it is the right way. That's why we do it that way.

The United States has always had cosmopolitan cities filled with immigrants from around the world, enriching those cities with their heritage and teaching the people of the cities the value of multi-culturalism. It is, in fact, thanks to multi-culturalism that US cities have the strength to drive the most powerful economic engine in the world. It is exactly this multi-culturalism and active immigration that makes America (and perhaps Canada) exceptional.

Until recently the small towns and rural communities did not feel that their way of life was threatened by the multi-culturalism in the cities. They had very little contact with it and they were permitted to continue to go about their business without any interference from the urban centers. The majority of the US population lived in rural areas, not cities. But then things changed.

The balance of the population tipped, and now the majority of Americans live in cities, not rural areas. In addition, the media changed. First it was cable TV, but then the internet blew everything wide open. There are no more local media markets. I ask you: How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they have seen Gagnam Style?

In the 21st century the people living in the small towns and rural communities of the United States started to see cracks in the universality of their culture. Their way of doing things was not always perceived, as it had been, as the best way or the one right way.

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