Monday, May 10, 2010

Conservatives will automatically oppose any Obama nominee or legislative initiative. Plan on it.

The cultural clash between American liberals, mostly represented by Democrats these days, and American Conservatives grows clearer every day as the conservatives complain about whatever the Obama administration does. Case in point from Ed Whelan of the NRO (National Review Online.) Ed objects that the current candidate nominated this morning by President Obama for the Supreme Court seat John Paul Steven's retirement will leave is Elena Kagan. The complaint is not that she is not a competent lawyer, a claim that would be laughable in the face of her credentials. Ed complains that since she grew up in New York City, she did not learn to drive until she was into her twenties.

So what's wrong with that? The job is to be Justice of the Supreme Court, not NASCAR driver. Here's Ed's complaint:
3. There is a striking mismatch between the White House’s populist rhetoric about seeking a justice with a “keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people” and the reality of the Kagan pick.
This supports my position that the core of the so-called liberal-conservative political split in America today is really a culture clash between America's rural culture and the newer urban culture of the big cities. The farm boys really don't like the more sophisticate city types, and they hate losing power to them. Growing up on a farm on in a small town, the car is a necessary tool to get around. In the city there is almost aways public transportation that makes driving a car a lot less necessary. so Ed's complaint is that Elena Kagan is "out of touch with average Americans" because she has not grown up dependent on the automobile from an early age. For her the driver's license at age 16 was not a rite of passage to life as an adult.

Matt Gertz at Media Matters points out
Kagan grew up in New York City, which is one of the most walkable cities in the country and has one of the best public transportation systems nationwide. You don't need a license if you live in NYC, and in fact a large percentage of New Yorkers don't have one: New York City has 5.6 million residents over age 25, but only 3.3 million residents have drivers' licenses.
Somehow to Ed Whelan this means that Elena Kagan cannot understand the "average American."

What Ed is really saying, though, is that he is a rural hick who fears anyone who is somehow different from him. People living in urban areas who have adapted to the urban culture have to be much more tolerant of diverse cultures and behavior than people from smaller towns who simply don't meet and interact with as great a variety in a week or more as someone who lives in a large, walkable city will. The Conservative/Liberal dichotomy really means a rural/urban culture clash.

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