Harry Stein on race relations and the religion of liberalism

The title says it all, really. Part two of an interview with the scholar and journalist.

FLORIDA, July 9, 2012 — Now that we have learned a bit about his past, Harry Stein is ready to talk about the meat-and-potatoes of American politics.

Over the last several years, descriptors such as “conservative”, “liberal”, “libertarian”, and “progressive” have become so overused that, essentially, they each have lost their objective meaning. What does he think about the rise of labelism?

After Stein began to adopt and discuss right-leaning viewpoints, many of his center-left peers became quite displeased. Why does he suppose that this was? Returning to the present, in New York society, does he face animosity as a result of his political beliefs?

The subject of American race relations is contentious, needless to say. In socioeconomically depressed minority communities, many claim that bigotry prevents young individuals from achieving their full potential. Stein begs to differ. How come?

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Joseph F. Cotto: Over the last several years, labels such as “conservative”, “liberal”, “libertarian”, and “progressive” have become so overused that, essentially, they each lost their objective meaning. What do you think about the rise of labelism in politics?   

Harry Stein: Doesn’t bother me a bit. I think in many cases it makes for a useful shorthand. (I do, however, object to the term ‘progressive,’ which is a weasel word adopted by liberals to pretend they’re something other, and better, than they are).

Cotto: After you began to adopt and discuss right-leaning viewpoints, many of your center-left peers became quite displeased. Why do you suppose that this was?  

Stein: See above. Contemporary liberalism is a religion, and a fundamentalist one at that – you either subscribe to its tenets or you’re defined as morally flawed. It may be a cliché to observe that liberals regard those of us on the other side as not simply wrong but evil, but there’s a lot of truth to it.

Cotto: In contemporary New York society, do you face animosity as a result of your political beliefs? If so, how is this typically displayed?

Stein:  Again, I wrote a book on this very subject – this one’s called ‘I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican.’ The title is what someone actually said to me at a dinner party, early on during Obama’s run for the presidency, when I very mildly raised the question of his inexperience. Of course there’s animosity – very deep animosity – and it’s displayed openly and without embarrassment. 

Cotto: The subject of American race relations is contentious, to put it mildly. In socioeconomically depressed minority communities, many claim that bigotry prevents young individuals from achieving their full potential.

You beg to differ. How come?   

Stein: Because I have eyes and ears, and recognize there’s so much more to it than that. While racism certainly still exists in contemporary America, is by no means the fundamental impediment to black achievement; indeed, it has become the all-purpose excuse for failure – as well as the excuse for not facing up to the real reasons why so many blacks continue to lag behind economically and socially. Yet so profound is the fear of being stigmatized as racist, that almost no one, on the left or the right, is willing to have the honest conversation about race we so desperately need to have. For, inevitably, that conversation must focus on culture. Of curse, all this is what my latest book is about.

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Why does Stein believe that many on the left support excess public spending in impoverished communities, even though this rarely results in long term progress of any kind?

What, in his opinion, can be done to seriously improve the conditions of depressed minority neighborhoods? If throwing money at the key problems will not solve them, then what does he suppose will?

Finally, as our discussion nears its end, Stein will elaborate on exactly how it was that he came to be such an outspoken voice in political commentary. Look forward to hearing about his life and career, as well as those other pressing subjects, in part three.


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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