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Politics The Opinionsphere

Ressentiment Redux

Julian Sanchez:

But national-level political communities really are communities now, in a fairly robust sense. Between dedicated cable and radio channels and the Internet, you really can live in them in a pretty literal and immersive way… What’s really pernicious about a politics of ressentiment is that it cuts that tether—it enables a political identity that’s generated and defined by political conflict itself…

Part of the problem is that politics is no longer seen as a narrow tool for addressing some well-defined set of problems, but a kind of all-purpose machine for the satisfaction of human desires…

We don’t need to do some kind of probing psychoanalysis, because this stuff isn’t subtext; it’s text.  Remember Palin’s infamous “death panels” post? It wasn’t just a claim that the government would deny care; the fear was that this was Obama’s “death panels” getting to decide how worthy you are. Liberals treated it as a generic argument about “rationing,” but by its own terms it was an argument about being judged. Conservatives’ favorite photo of Obama has him with his nose in the air looking down on the hoi polloi, testifying to his purported arrogance. Then the outrage over a strained reading of an Obama remark about “putting lipstick on a pig”: He’s calling Sarah (and therefore you!) a pig! The message is pretty insistent: They think they’re better than you. It’s not, again, that I’m asking why people hold certain policy views and concluding that it’s really about this kind of cultural resentment. I’m asking why the political coalition organized around this set of views is putting so much emphasis on this frame, and whether it isn’t ultimately a bad idea to.

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