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'Latte Liberal', 'Champagne Socialist', 'Liberal Elites'--how often have many of us here been categorized as such?  In the so-called 'Culture Wars' that rage across the political spectrum such terms are easily flung from the right--just as easily as we progressives and liberals have our own pejoratives for our opponents.

A couple of recent diaries got me thinking however (never a safe thing to do) about how often those who could be considered 'minority constituencies' on the left put many of the rest of us in the above categories.

Cross posted to The Next Agenda

Any who have ready my diaries before will already know this disclaimer:  I am Canadian, and I am from Prince Edward Island.  For those unaware of Canadian Geopolitics, the Maritime region where I grew up is one of the poorest areas of Canada.  More often than not the demographics of Maritime communities are white, Christian and working-class poor with varying amounts of primary and secondary education--but rarely post secondary.

My family was educated, middle-class professionals, and colored--at least we kids were.  My mother is an immigrant from Sri Lanka, while my father was a Islander of Scots descent.  Both my parents were educated members of the architecture field--although my mother gave up her profession to stay home and raise a family.

I mention all of this to give context to my positions on race and class--in many ways I was a minority in my community, even if I could be considered a member of a majority within my country.  Growing up in this manner, and learning to deal with the differences I had socially and politically with my peers has shaped my understanding of the perception of the left.

Ironically, while often considered 'uneducated' Maritimers are very savvy politically--and many would easily fall into a common definition of liberal progressives.  Rarely do large majorities of Maritimers vote against their economic best interest on social issues--and on the occasion that we vote against said best interests it is to punish perceived arrogance in the incumbent.

Yet few in the Maritimes would consider themselves small-l liberals, or progressive.  The perception is that a 'liberal' is someone from Toronto or Ottawa who has good theories on social justice and talks about them a lot at their fancy school--but has no sense of the realities on the ground.  Michael Ignatieff is one example--although I would be loath to consider him liberal or progressive myself.

It is this sense that progressives and their causes are unrealistic and harebrained that has kept the political climate in the Maritimes center-right.  Like the Alberta-led resistance to Kyoto, Maritime fishermen and the politicians they support have long been against conservation--even if that resistance led to the depletion of the very resource they rely upon.  Human's are nothing if not short-sighted.

In speaking with friends from high school and the Army who still reside in the Maritimes, I often get labeled as a 'Latte Liberal' for my views on social justice issues--even by people who share my political bent.  I'm dismissed because I am educated and well-off; considered to be too distant from the economic and social realities of the Maritimes to have a valid point of view.  Climate change affects everyone, yet often the response I get from fellow lefties out east is 'When Alberta signs aboard Kyoto then we'll talk--until then, we need to make a living however we can'.  Needless to say, the recent development of Natural Gas reserved in the Maritimes is worrying because of the perceived need to make what money you can when you can.

Part of the issue is that the left--netroots or no--has never been, nor never will be as lock-step as the right.  We value personal freedom and growth too much to demand ideological conformity.  For this reason we do tend to fracture into 'minority constituencies' along both racial and economic lines.

There needs to be recognition from within all these constituencies that our perception of the 'other' may be faulty--while the 'white netroots' may not understand the place the church holds in black communities, that doesn't mean that what they see as key considerations constitute a 'white-man's burden'.  Yes, people are often indelicate when frustrated, and yes, we who are educated and plugged-in can sometimes be arrogant because of the information available to us that is unavailable to others, but that doesn't mean we're afraid to get dirt under our nails.  Many in the blogoshpere are activists and campaigners.  Despite what my friends back home may think, it's a hell of a lot harder getting a Liberal or NDP politician elected in Alberta than in PEI.  I've worked hard to do my part--even if we've yet to see the success I ultimately hope for.

In the end, each constituency on the left needs to be willing to reach out and understand the needs and desires of the others--to change their perceptions of the others.  White netroots to black churches, poor fishermen to middle-class professionals, Atheist to Jew, Buddhist or Christian.

That, ultimately is what will make our big tent work.  And under that tent, we can all hope for peace, prosperity and equality.

Originally posted to whytwolf on Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 10:13 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Beware the memes (5+ / 0-)

    "limosine liberal" and "latte drinkers" are examples of memes put out by the right wingers, who, in fact, are much more likely to be driving around in limos and drinking high-price beverages than we are.

    If someone is calling you a "latte liberal", I'm willing to bet its because Karl Luntz flushed it through some marketing study and found it stuck.

    But even Luntz doesn't believe his own crap.

  •  Tips for seeking clarity? (14+ / 0-)

    Or am I just muddying the waters?

    Happy Holidays,

    Sean

    "Pardon my humor deficit, but I've had enough of this fetid wankstain." - bumblebums commenting on Joementum

    by whytwolf on Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 10:16:25 PM PST

    •  These issues (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      willy be frantic

      are caught up in a much deeper set of questions, which revolve around the basic motivations that bring people to become involved in politics, and to adopt ideological perspectives, in the first place.  Why indeed should a white, suburban, upper-middle class citizen care about the plight of the poor, the working class, minorities, etc.?  Shouldn't such a person, out of self-interest, be a conservative Republican, oppose taxes and social programs, etc.?  

      For any such people to adopt a progressive worldview requires focusing their concerns mainly on the conditions and needs of people whom they don't really know or associate with, for the most part.  Is it always true compassion and altruism that motivates such choices?  Is there not inherent paternalism and condescension almost always involved?  The question becomes even harder when we look at many of the greatest progressive leaders: the Roosevelts, Kennedy's, etc., not to mention our Founding Fathers, who were wealthy aristocrats, making the great sacrifice to help uplift the unwashed masses.

      It will require extended self-reflection for the progressive movement to determine its true motivations and goals in the 21st century.  These are the types of questions we need to start asking.

      Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set... -- Gandalf

      by dnta on Thu Dec 21, 2006 at 11:40:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The "big tent" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    willy be frantic

    Boy, do I think the country is more than ever ready for that.  That's why Obama--who is perceived as such--is getting so many raves.  (As an aside, I know many people who have identified themselves as Republicans, but are so ready to cast their vote for him--should he run.  They believe the GOP has been hijacked by the religious fanatics, and they are not on board with that agenda).

  •  Perceptions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    missreporter
    Several months ago I had an indepth conversation about race with a self-identified progressive liberal on another blog, and when I said that "millions of blacks are successful" as part of a larger argument about economics, this progressive liberal could not accept that. Her response: "there might be a few successful blacks in this country right now, but not millions as you contend."

    Interesting perception.

    •  depends what successful is (0+ / 0-)

      is it middle-class? is it six figure salaries? is it more wealth versus income? is it owning a home?

      who knows? depends on the person you are talking to.

      Bill Richardson is the most experienced Democrat running (hopefully!) for president and by far has the most foreign policy experience.

      by missreporter on Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 05:36:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Too late to recommend (0+ / 0-)

    but good diary.

    For those who like statistical stuff, I posted a diary with a similar them, but expressed very differently, Rich state, poor state, red state, blue state, based on some brilliant work by Andrew Gelman.

    The central points:
     a) Richers STATES vote more Democratic than poorer states (e.g. CT votes D, MS votes R)
     b) Richer PEOPLE vote more R than D.
    and especially
     c) The effect of income on voting preference varies.  In wealthy states, individual income makes very little difference (e.g. in CT a poor person and a wealthy one are about equally likely to vote D; in MS, a poor person is MUCH more likely than a wealthy one to vote D).
     4) The idea of the 'latte liberal' and 'NASCAR republican' are ridiculous.

    I'll keep that diary on my hotlist, so if anyone sees it and wants to comment, I will reply.

    What are you reading? on Friday mornings
    stats_geeks_of_daily_kos

    by plf515 on Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 04:53:21 AM PST

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