Answering the Alt-Right; National Affairs

The greatness of the American experiment lies in its bold proposition that people can transcend their impulse toward instinctive tribalism, and be joined together in civic brotherhood by a mutual commitment to a noble and inclusive ideal.  — Ramon Lopez

We often hear our liberal religious friends say how much they’d like to understand political conservatives better. But when we suggest that we ought to be more welcoming to conservatives and Republicans in our pews, as Rev. Kate Braestrup did recently, we see responses like this one:

I find it hard to believe that anyone that considers themselves UU can support a political system that is a complete 180 turn away from everything they support as a UU. — Facebook User

So I challenge my liberal friends to read this (admittedly lengthy) article from the right-leaning National Affairs about how mainstream conservatives need to better understand, and respond to, the alt-right. It’s a good history, philosophy and politics lesson for liberals, too. Should we bar its author, Ramon Lopez, from our churches? — MHP

You’ll find the article here: Answering the Alt-Right

8 comments

  1. I thought this article was worth reading, yes, but it was (as you said) kinda lengthy. I’d be interested in a nuanced and educational discussion of it, for example, maybe some more background on the Lincoln/Douglas debates. I had forgotten entirely who Stephen Douglas even was, until reading this article. (I am an admittedly poor student of history–I was a Biology major in college, I got my PhD in developmental neuroscience, and even now my interests tend much more towards science and literature.) This blog has so much potential for that kind of discussion, that educates readers about forgotten aspects of our American history!

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    1. As a boy who grew up in Illinois, it’s hard for me to believe that a person might not have heard of “the little giant”, Stephan Douglas. He and Lincoln contended mightily for the Senate seat in 1858. Douglas was a defender of slavery. Lincoln was either a member of the newly created Republican Party or about ready to create that party. Douglas won the election. Fortunately for the Union, Lincoln lost, because he was then prepared to run for the Presidency. There were 5-6 locations in the State of Illinois where the “Lincoln-Douglas Debates” took place, and each is marked with a plaque. The debates were of the more classic form, where each man spoke for 45 minutes, followed by a rebuttal period – as both were lawyers, they had no difficulty speaking for this length of time, doubtless without notes. I do not know if their remarks were prepared and saved. If you are interested in the history of Lincoln, a visit to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL (State capital) is a good stop. There is little else of interest in Springfield, save that museum, and the tomb of Lincoln.

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      1. p.s. Thank you for the information! I was reminded to look back at the plot summary for the 2012 movie, Lincoln, which is my most recent encounter with that period of history and Lincoln. (That movie was critically acclaimed and it was assigned in both my kids’ US History classes. I think I’ve seen it at least twice because of that.) Anyway, the film focuses on a period when Lincoln was already President, and on the passage of the 13th amendment. Douglas doesn’t appear in the movie at all (which makes sense since he died in 1861 of typhus–thanks wikipedia!) Wikipedia also informed me that Lincoln defeated Douglas in the 1860 Presidential election. So being elected to the Senate didn’t stop Douglas from running for President; would it have stopped Lincoln either?

        Now I’m wondering how history would have been different if there had been a better treatment/cure for typhus in 1861!

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  2. Maybe you would attract more readers and commentators if you frame it differently. What do you think readers might, or should, get out of this article? Does this author have any practical suggestions for transcending tribalism, for example? Are there any scientific or sociological arguments against the alt-right idea that tribalism is a stronger social glue than American ideals? What are some unifying ideals that we all, regardless of ethnicity or gender or social class, might be able to agree on as uniquely American? Is there any overlap of those ideals with UU principles? That’s what I’d be interested in hearing from you, in conjunction with this article.

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