The Phenonmenology of Political Correctness

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20 Responses

  1. Interesting post. I wish you were a little more concrete about how you are “silenced” by your colleagues — that is, whether you think they are doing something improper to silence you, and if so, what. You report how you feel (guilty, like a Republican in a Democratic world, like you can’t say what you think), but you don’t tell us what impermissible things (besides glaring at you?) your colleagues are doing to make you feel this way.

    It could be the case that it just isn’t fun to have others disagree with you, especially if you’re used to having those same people agree with you. If that’s all that’s going on, that doesn’t seem to me like a failure of deliberative democracy.

  2. Calvin TerBeek says:

    Nice post. I find myself fighting back against that same reaction in myself (i.e., starting to truly *dislike* Clinton (the candidate) because she is standing in Obama’s way and having disdain for her supporters). Less viscerally, I do think part of it is that Hilary can’t beat John McCain (the presumptive GOP nominee, right?). And while McCain is more palatable than Romney, Huckabee, etc., if the Democratic party cannot get it right in these favorable conditions one wonders when, if ever, it could.

  3. genesgalore says:

    i’m not the smartest guy in the world. and i do look to others to guide me. if rfk jr thinks that hillary is the cat’s meow, then i’m impressed. i really do love that white man in mocha clothing though.

  4. Your post finishes with a truly nice sentiment, and your conclusion is commendable. But you should consider just how much diversity is lacking in your environment when you can feel “silenced” because you like one candidate over another, despite the fact that the two candidates in question are almost ideologically identical.

    Incidentally, how do you feel about NOW going after Ted Kennedy for endorsing Obama? I guess Teddy is probably feeling a little silenced too.

  5. Michael O'Neill says:

    As Hillary’s actual positions on issues and her true voting history emerges in the campaign, perhaps people are sensing the degree of complicity that exists between the Bushes and the Clintons. Few who ponder it long would deny that one of Hillary’s first actions as President would be to repeat Bill’s actions of immediately issuing blanket amnesty to the Bush who preceded her.

    I wonder if it might be useful for the writer to move beyond the personal realm and consider the impact of Hillary’s association with the well-deserved disgust and visceral repugnance triggered by the Current Occupant, as Mr Keillor would call him.

    There’s a growing but as yet unarticulated feeling that Hillary is Bush in disguise. What then do we do with Hillary supporters?

  6. Michael O'Neill says:

    As Hillary’s actual positions on issues and her true voting history emerges in the campaign, perhaps people are sensing the degree of complicity that exists between the Bushes and the Clintons. Few who ponder it long would deny that one of Hillary’s first actions as President would be to repeat Bill’s actions of immediately issuing blanket amnesty to the Bush who preceded her.

    I wonder if it might be useful for the writer to move beyond the personal realm and consider the impact of Hillary’s association with the well-deserved disgust and visceral repugnance triggered by the Current Occupant, as Mr Keillor would call him.

    There’s a growing but as yet unarticulated feeling that Hillary is Bush in disguise. What then do we do with Hillary supporters?

  7. 2005 says:

    Something strange comes over people when it comes to politics. Maybe it’s just emotions running high.

    Many Democrats have 8 years of pent-up anger and frustration fueled by (1) Bush v. Gore, (2)their utter failure to put forward a candidate who had charisma, principles, or who stood for anything other than the lesser of two evils., and (3) 8 years of the GWBush administration.

    Now, perhaps, Obama’s supporters finally see a reason to be hopeful and actually proud of their candidate for (in some people’s view) the first time in 30 years. They think they’re on the cusp of a big important historical moment…

    …and someone from their own party has decided that it’s her turn. And not only that, but she’s acting like a politician and playing to win instead of just debating policy and slowly fading into the background. How dare she.

    Some people are very emotionally invested in politics, and Obama’s supporters seem to become more emotionally invested in him as time passes and his campaign gains credibility. To those people, regardless of Hillary Clinton’s similar political instincts, policy positions, background, education and accomplishments, it’s easier to think of her in more simple terms as a scheming opportunist, and how dare she stand in the way.

    It’s not right, and it’s not in keeping with academic traditions of respectful disagreement, but it’s what politics bring out in people.

    Or maybe I’m way off. Just my speculation.

  8. 2005 says:

    Something strange comes over people when it comes to politics. Maybe it’s just emotions running high.

    Many Democrats have 8 years of pent-up anger and frustration fueled by (1) Bush v. Gore, (2)their utter failure to put forward a candidate who had charisma, principles, or who stood for anything other than the lesser of two evils., and (3) 8 years of the GWBush administration.

    Now, perhaps, Obama’s supporters finally see a reason to be hopeful and actually proud of their candidate for (in some people’s view) the first time in 30 years. They think they’re on the cusp of a big important historical moment…

    …and someone from their own party has decided that it’s her turn. And not only that, but she’s acting like a politician and playing to win instead of just debating policy and slowly fading into the background. How dare she.

    Some people are very emotionally invested in politics, and Obama’s supporters seem to become more emotionally invested in him as time passes and his campaign gains credibility. To those people, regardless of Hillary Clinton’s similar political instincts, policy positions, background, education and accomplishments, it’s easier to think of her in more simple terms as a scheming opportunist, and how dare she stand in the way.

    It’s not right, and it’s not in keeping with academic traditions of respectful disagreement, but it’s what politics bring out in people.

    Or maybe I’m way off. Just my speculation.

  9. Dgupta says:

    “They both have represented some unsavory clients (Wal-Mart and slumlords)….”

    Not so. Hillary didn’t merely represent Wal-Mart; she was a member of the Board of Directors of Wal-Mart for several years. Moreover, she chose to spent her legal career as a corporate lawyer at the Rose Law Firm, representing Arkansas’ largest corporations–often in disputes against workers and consumers. That’s not to say that this makes her a bad person, but it’s a fact that should be taken into account, particularly because she could have decided to spend her legal career working for social justice in any number of ways. There was no shortage of opportunities for lawyers of her generation, and with her intellect and qualifications, to do serious public-interest legal work during the relevant time period in Arkansas. Especially in Arkansas, given its poverty, racial and economic disparities, and lack of widespread access to justice.

    Obama, on the other, never represented “slumlords.” Although he was President of the Harvard Law Review, and therefore could have had his pick of high-paying legal jobs, he chose to be a community organizer and then engage in civil rights (mostly voting rights and employment) and community development work at a small plaintiffs’ law firm in Chicago. The wildly inaccurate reference to representation of slumlords comes from the Clinton campaign’s swipe during the New Hampshire debate; it turns out that Obama did about 5 hours of transactional work for non-profit development foundations in which Rezmar (the so-called “slumlord”) had some interest:

    http://archpundit.com/blog/2008/01/23/rezko-primer-iii-legal-work-on-projects-rezko-was-involved/

    In any event, the larger point is that these two candidates both had similar elite legal training, but decided to use their law degrees in very different ways. That’s something that may be relevant to voters–and lawyers and law professors in particular. Do a Westlaw search for AT(“OBAMA”) and AT(“HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON”). The results are very revealing.

  10. anonprof says:

    Interesting post–but may I suggest it’s also a little overboard? Please imagine how your colleagues would react (and treat you in the future) if you sincerely explained how you were supporting Mike Huckabee; that would put your sense of being “silenced” and marginalized some perspective.

  11. Chris Bell says:

    It goes both ways, at the NY Chapter of NOW nicely demonstrated upon Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama:

    “And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton. . . . This latest move by Kennedy is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority . . . .”

    This sort of stuff happens, and I’m sure there are people who think a vote against Obama is a vote against Black people, but I was shocked to see that this came from NY-NOW.

  12. A.J. Sutter says:

    For what it’s worth:

    (i) I live in Japan, and my video perception of the candidates is filtered through CNN, BBC and local news coverage (which shows the same clips as the Westerners). CNN talking heads usually spin pro-Obama and downplay Hillary, but the clips they show cut against that: in most clips Obama looks kind of angry or at least annoyed, while Hillary looks cheerful in her controlled way. I confess that I haven’t seen or heard anything that makes Obama look inspirational, and a lot to make me think he loses his temper rather easily. Hillary seems much tougher and, yes, experienced. I’d trust her more against Putin any day.

    (ii) Looking back on the JFK presidency, his *image* did inspire many people, but the actuality, we have since learned, was not so attractive. Could those annoyed-Obama images be veracious after all?

    (iii) I am old enough to remember, almost, Adlai Stevenson, another darling of the intelligentsia, and Obama seems like a bit of a rerun in this regard. Stevenson, for those who don’t know, was inspirational enough to get nominated twice, but not quite inspirational enough to win either time. (Apparently he too, like JFK, was less attractive once one got close to him, according to a late partner at my first firm, who worked in his 1956 campaign after she graduated from law school.)

    (iv) As for the “being right on Day 1″ stuff, Obama had much less at stake than Hillary did at the time of the first Iraq vote; it was politically inexpensive for him to take the position he did when he did. BTW, I too have been consistently and continuously against the war, but I don’t see Hillary’s votes as disqualifying of my support.

    If Obama is nominated, I’d certainly expect to vote for him, at least as the lesser evil. But I’m reminded of an Oliver Sacks article many years ago in NYRB about a vist to Gallaudet University (which specializes in programs for the deaf): he came upon some students watching a captioned or signed speech by Reagan, without benefit of hearing his voice. They were laughing uproariously. Sacks asked why, and they replied, “Just look at his face, it’s obvious he’s lying!” Not that I suspect Obama is lying, just that maybe a bit of distance (including distance from Obama-enthusiast colleagues) creates a very different perception.

  13. jjv says:

    I thing there are three things going on here. First, some on the Left (especially women and those from a feminist perspective) seem to think that being out numbered and criticized is being silenced. It isn’t. As we say on this side of the aisle, man up.

    Second, the complete dominance of the Left on law school faculties, including my beloved GULC, makes for the possibility of Alcove 1 and 2 at City College in the 30′s. Stalinists and Troskites rarerly grant or receive, quarter.

    Finally, people like Professor Edelman (who let us not forget, resigned when the most succesful government reform in 30 years was enacted) and others feel betrayed by the Clintons on policy. When they reached office it was to be the Dawning of the Age of Aqaurious. Instead, Bill Clinton’s great legacies (besides Monica and letting Osama live) are Welfare Reform,DOMA,Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, GATT, NAFTA and a balanced budget. I chortle merely reciting it but the typical professor at Georgetown must look at it with considerably less mirth.

    One other factor I will concede. Obama seems like a decent man. One would not mind having him and his family in your living room for 8 years. Not so with the Clintons, no matter how Left you are.

  14. Ben Skott says:

    Sounds like a lot of whining, to me. Maybe after this you will reexamine how you yourself have treated people that disagree with you. I’m willing to bet you haven’t always been polite to professors that are conservative. Oh wait, you work at a place that probably wouldn’t allow real diversity of opinion, thus I doubt you come into contact with conservatives much. Well at least you can reexamine the actions of your peers, and maybe realize that you work in a group-think establishment that does not allow real dissent or difference of opinion, something that academia SHOULD embrace.

  15. DB says:

    Just out of curiosity, what could professors of law at G’town possibly be doing to help Obama in S. Carolina or Maryland that would be a good use of their time? Raising money, I can see. Knocking on doors, not so much.

  16. Dennis says:

    I know it’s not the subject of your post, but I don’t read liberal blogs much, and the words “the issues we likely feel mostly the same –end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home” just jumped out at me. Words just thrown out there as if every thinking person agrees with it, said in a way that will “silence” opposition. But I refuse to be silent.

    Wars aren’t just “ended”. It’s not possible to just “bring the troops home” without consequence. Somebody *always* wins, and somebody *always* loses. Like a SuperBowl game, if you start it, someone will win and someone will lose, even if overtime is required.

    Al Qaeda (you know, the same folks who did the WTC) will still be there if we just quit Iraq. Politically they will have every right to declare victory over the greatest superpower the world has ever seen. They will have every advantage of victory. More prestige within the uma, donations from Saudi, more weapons from everywhere, and new volunteers for suicide. As in the 90′s, after we’ve ignored them for a sufficient period of time that they believe we’ve forgotten the “fact” that their culture is superior to ours, they will find a way to remind us again. And again.

    I know I’m wasting my keystrokes here. My post will be as if I’m presenting the massive evidence of evolution to a creationist, and expect that he would open his eyes to see the obvious. It just won’t happen. It’s amazing how humans, even smart ones, have the ability to blind themselves to obvious truth. Perhaps smart humans have even more ability to hide from the truth?

    At least with the creationist, it doesn’t really matter whether he accepts the truth or not. But in the political issue of Iraq, it will cost lives, because the holy war against the West will never end until one culture or the other is dead.

    Surrender in Iraq puts off any possible conclusion in Western Civilization’s favor, and makes it more likely that a barbarian culture will eventually prevail.

    Perhaps we should stock the hajab in the Walmart now, and teach safe genital mutilation in schools and just get it over with. At this rate, my grandchildren will have to endure it anyway.

  17. colagirl says:

    I agree with anonprof and Bandwagon Smasher. If you feel “silenced” simply because you support Hillary over Obama when the two candidates are both Democrats with very similar positions, then perhaps you need to sit down and think about what it would be like if you were a McCain supporter or a Romney supporter in that environment. The fact that you can say with such confidence that you and your colleages feel “mostly the same” about the various issues you mentioned should clue you in that perhaps your department is not as open and welcoming to diverse opinions as it might be. Suppose you were to come out and say you supported the Iraq war. What do you think the reaction would be?

    Academics like to pride themselves on being openminded and tolerant. Based on my experience, both as the child of a professor and a grad student who is currently in ABD status, I feel comfortable in stating that they are, all too often, neither.

  18. AYY says:

    Dennis and Colagirl said it well. Not sure Colagirl is completely right, because it seems you have implicitly indicated that you thought about what it might have been like if you were a McCain or Romney supporter in that environment. (I suppose though that no one with that inclination would ever have been hired in the first place, of if he were, would have been shown the door as soon as his views became known, and told not to let the door hit him on the way out.)

    But what I’ve noticed here and on your other post is that when you write about the Dem candidates you vastly oversimplify the issues, as though you are content to rely on cliches. For example, “stubborn problems of poverty, inequality and inequities [aren't we spending billions on these problems?]; restore some sense of a positive reputation for our nation in its internal and external affairs [but we have a postive reputation--maybe not with the Russians, but the western and eastern European countries like us] provide health care for all [like England?] and restore faith in our beliefs in inclusion, justice, and social equity and opportunity” [before we can restore faith in them, we have to know what they mean]).

    What you suggest is that your vote is purely a function of the demographic you occupy. But are you bothered at all by the views of those who have prominent positions in Obama’s campaign? Are you bothered at all by the corruption and politics of personal destruction that is tied so closely with the Clintons? Have you considered the downside of what the Dems offer — a top-down government that domestically is far more totalitarian and inefficient than what we have now, and that is far weaker in its ability to influence other nations.

  19. Chester White says:

    Well, now you have a particle of understanding of how conservatives feel EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of EVERY SINGLE DAY on EVERY COLLEGE CAMPUS in the country.

    Some system of diversity you university clowns operate.

    Welcome to the party, pal!

  20. Jeremiah says:

    As a member of one of the most “liberal” law schools in the country, I have been quite surprised to learn how “silenced” I feel by my many colleagues who are enthusiastically supporting Obama.

    The author’s surprise suggests that she implicitly assumes that Republican faculty tend to “silence” their liberal colleagues. Any evidence for that?

    Speaking from personal experience, it’s difficult enough to be a moderate-to-conservative student, let alone a faculty member.