That EJ Dionne article continues to impress. Let me just excerpt 2 paragraphs that I found gripping:
And I must pause to praise the following sentence: “No one is more temperamentally conservative than a Manhattan leftist living in a rent-controlled apartment and holding tenure at a university; his or her way of life is inevitably bound to breed a sense of complacency that is incompatible with liberalism’s historical commitment to be open to the new.” Since many book reviews are written by Manhattan leftists living in rent-controlled apartments holding tenure at a university, that is indeed a brave thing to write.
Compared with Marxism, romantic forms of conservatism, and assertive varieties of nationalism, liberalism can seem terribly boring. For Wolfe, this is an asset, not a liability. While we all like poetic speeches, Wolfe is right to warn about the dangers of allowing poetry to define politics. “Let the passions reign in the museums and concert halls,” Wolfe writes. “In the halls of government, reason, however cold, is better than emotions, however heartfelt.” Is Wolfe channeling No Drama Obama?
I think the thing about liberalism being boring is spot-on. And Dionne/Wolfe counters this by asserting that the rationality of liberalism is what’s needed in the actual work of politics – the long and slow boring of hard boards.
That’s not really a good response, is it? For by confining liberalisms virtues to the political sphere, Dionne procludes (or conceives the lack of) a cultural liberalism, a lifestyle liberalism, the possibility for a liberal movement in the modern era. Without movement, it’s hard not to stagnate.
That’s why I might identify as a liberal if pressed, but at my core I consider myself a member of the progressive movement – something bigger than myself – and yes, somewhat romantic as well.