'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.