OK

I submitted a letter to the editor, which I'd like to share here, in response to a recently published New York Times article titled "In Wyoming, Conservatives Feeling Left Behind."

Our own Laura Clawson summarized the article nicely here, along with the key quotes:

In Wyoming—which is 86 percent white, gets the most federal dollars per capita, and gave Mitt Romney his second-biggest winning margin—Republicans are concerned that the country is being overrun by parasites. No, really, according to one conservative publisher and radio talk show host, "The parasites now outnumber the producers." He's not alone:

    "It's a fundamental shift," said Khale Lenhart, 27, a lawyer here. "It's a mind-set change—that government is here to take care of me." [...]

    "It spooks me," said James Yates, 46, a self-made businessman who owns 15 restaurants and employs about 1,000 people. "The young vote and certainly the minority vote went toward the perspective of 'What can I get?' Where the government runs everything, it's completely not sustainable. They don't see that."

In my letter, I call out the extremeness of the people who express this attitude. I realize I'm also a bit snarky toward them in the title of this post. Nevertheless, it is not a good thing for our country if a significant chunk of the population feels alienated, in particular if that alienation is tinged with racial identity and racial animus. It's easy and satisfying to just condemn them and be done with it.

Now, they do have to change their beliefs.  The question is what can all of us -- not just progressives of course, but our society as a whole -- do to help encourage this change. It's a short letter, but I try to offer a path forward. I hope you find it worthwhile:

The Apocalypse is nigh! America is lost! One Republican county commissioner called for “revolution.” Countless others have signed “secession” petitions. This wildly disproportionate reaction to the reelection of a moderately liberal President suggests that these conservatives aren’t just upset about the role of government. Too many on the right are afraid that the new, more diverse America won’t be like the America they remember (or imagine) from their youth.

Our challenge as a country is to help these alienated, anxious whites realize that the new, inclusive America also includes them. Republican leaders and, yes, media figures have to tone down their rhetoric, focusing on policy disagreements rather than ginning up anxiety about diversity. Democrats have to continue what they’ve been doing, talking about unity and inclusion, just as President Obama did in his Election Night speech. Whatever our differences, we must remain one people.

PS-Please check out my new book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity, published last month by Potomac Books, where I discuss Barack Obama's ideas on racial, ethnic, and national identity in detail, and contrast his inclusive vision to language coming from Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh and (some) others on the right. You can read a review by DailyKos's own Greg Dworkin here.



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