Patterico's Pontifications

10/24/2007

“Communitarianism” — Is It Just Me, Or Did Hillary’s Handlers Choke On Their Danish When She Said This

Filed under: 2008 Election,Politics,Public Policy — WLS @ 6:11 pm



Jake Tapper has a piece up on a speech given by Hillary in Iowa that included this little nugget:  

“I think Iowa poses a special burden, or a special obstacle to me because when you look at the numbers, how can Iowa be ranked with Mississippi? That’s not what I see. That’s not the quality. That’s not the communitarianism, that’s not the openness I see in Iowa.”

Tapper and others have put a spotlight on this statement as a slam on Mississippi, which it is. 

But I was struck by the fact that she would mix in a word like “communitarianism.”

I must admit that when I read it my first thought was “That sounds a lot like “strategery” to me, I think I better look it up to make sure she’s not making up her own language.”  It was fairly obvious what it meant though, whether it was a word or not.

But, it also just strikes me as NOT the kind of word she wants to be employing on the campaign trail — way too wonkish, and frankly reminds one too much of Central Planning and the Politburo.

So, what is “communitarianism”?  Well, George Washington University has an “Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies”, and its website defines it as follows:

“Communitarianism springs from the recognition that the human being is by nature a social animal as well as an individual with a desire for autonomy. Communitarians recognize that a healthy society must have a correct balance between individual autonomy and social cohesion. Much recent thinking has focused on an assumed conflict between the rights of the individual and the responsibilities of the government. When you put “community” back into the equation, you find that the apparent conflict between the individual and the government can be resolved by public policies that are consistent with core American values and work to the benefit of all members of our society.”

I think Trotsky explained it much the same way.

  

34 Responses to ““Communitarianism” — Is It Just Me, Or Did Hillary’s Handlers Choke On Their Danish When She Said This”

  1. I hope she wasn’t planning on needing MS’s electoral votes come ’08…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  2. That’s kind of a cheap shot. Calling someone a Trotskyite is a real insult to a Stalinist.

    Glen Wishard (b1987d)

  3. It will be interesting to see her debate in the general election runup.

    voiceofreason (0706b5)

  4. Calling someone a Trotskyite is a real insult to a Stalinist.

    It might get you exiled and killed.

    Paul (146bba)

  5. It is interesting how “individual autonomy” and “social cohesion” are presented by those who favor Marx as being antithetical to each other. I’ll admit I never understood the logic behind the idea that to increase “social cohesion” you must decrease “individual autonomy.” At least, that’s the conclusion one has to draw from the statement “…balance between individual autonomy and social cohesion.” Who knew that to increase one you had to decrease the other?

    Seems to me that the most powerful, successful, socially cohesive societies in human history have been based on the ideals of “individual autonomy” being given greater weight than those of “social cohesion.”

    chaos (9c54c6)

  6. If people from Iowa are communitarians, what does she think people from Mississippi are? I’m not being facetious here. It sounds like she might think Mississippians are more individualistic and that that’s a bad thing.

    I agree with you, WLS. This is fascinating and, frankly, it’s also Freudian.

    DRJ (970b3a)

  7. Well, you realize that communitarianism actually has an historical meaning, and one rather particular to Iowans:

    4. Communitarian groups that settled in Iowa developed their own particular cultural norms and lifestyles that remind us that people of many different points of view have helped to shape Iowa’s unique cultural heritage.

    1 The Icarians, a communitarian group, existed in Iowa from 1855 to 1895.
    2 The Society of True Inspiration settled in Iowa in 1855. The Inspirationists maintained their simple communal lifestyle until 1930 when they reorganized to form the Amana Society.
    3 The Old Order Amish settled in Iowa in the 1840s. Although a number of Amish groups have appeared over the years, many living in essentially the same manner as most Iowa farmers did in 1900.

    Iowa History Online

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  8. That “4” was supposed to be a “d.” Under “8. Settlers from Many Lands.”

    Dunno what happened.

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  9. Itsme,

    I don’t understand how these communal groups have had a profound impact on Iowa – at least not like Mormons, for instance, have impacted Utah. For instance, there are Quakers in Pennsylvania and Amish in Ohio but I don’t view those groups as materially affecting long-term gender attitudes of an average person from Penn. or Ohio. This seems like an attempt by Hillary to emphasize the communal (e.g., socialist) leanings of groups from Iowa history at the expense of Southerners.

    DRJ (970b3a)

  10. I don’t know, DRJ. I know she was speaking in the context of states that have not historically encouraged women officeholders. I don’t see where she equates communitarian ism with socialism, but with openness to new ideas.

    “I was shocked when I learned Iowa and Mississippi have never elected a woman governor, senator or member of Congress. There has got to be something at work here,” she said, theorizing it may be the risk-averse nature of a state built around agriculture.

    “I think not only do I have to bring people to me, I have to maybe reassure people here maybe more than I do in New Hampshire, which has had a woman governor,” she said.

    “I think Iowa poses a special burden, or a special obstacle to me because when you look at the numbers, how can Iowa be ranked with Mississippi? That’s not what I see. That’s not the quality. That’s not the communitarianism, that’s not the openness I see in Iowa.”

    “As well as I do, I still have to go over a much higher hurdle in Iowa than anybody else,” Clinton said.

    Des Moines Register

    The other thing I notice is that she’s having a pretty long conversation with a reporter in a one on one interview, not giving a stump speech. Sure she’s not giving a very digestible sound bite, but still, it’s a coherent thought.

    In my opinion, anyway.

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  11. It is quite alright to make fun of Mississippi, as they possess 2 traits which all Dems despise – 1) a Republican governor, and 2) they are in the South. Making fun of Southerners, particularly white male Southerners, is about the only acceptable PC joke remaining.

    JD (e88f7b)

  12. PS to DRJ –

    I should have noted that you addressed the idea of gender issues, sorry for not getting that. Still, I think her overall purpose was to describe a sense of idealism and openness to new ideas that she saw in Iowa…kissing up to be sure, but not so improbable.

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  13. Communitarianism is a post-Marxist philosophy as advocated by philosopher Alistair McIntyre in, for example, “After Virtue”. I doubt that’s what she was referring to though.

    gavagai (27f927)

  14. It is quite alright to make fun of Mississippi, as they possess 2 traits which all Dems despise – 1) a Republican governor, and 2) they are in the South. Making fun of Southerners, particularly white male Southerners, is about the only acceptable PC joke remaining.

    It’s kind of funny how those positions used to be polar opposites. Sort of makes one wonder if there was ever an equilibrium point between the two.

    Taltos (c99804)

  15. Making fun of Southerners, particularly white male Southerners, is about the only acceptable PC joke remaining.

    I think dumb blonde jokes are still allowed. Maybe.

    DRJ (970b3a)

  16. How is this different in material effect from social conservative notions of who can marry, what substances they can take, or what appropriate garb is acceptable on the street?

    Granted, foci are different. Social conservatives are just as authoritarian; they simply have different priorities.

    fishbane (1f2790)

  17. Added: I don’t like Clinton. In fact, I don’t like any of the Demcratic potentials. But as a New Yorker, I have to say Rudi is a frightening prospect, and the rest of them are either hopeless or hopeless panderers. And the Republicans deserve some time in the woodshed. It would be hard to screw up more than Bush for the next 4.

    fishbane (1f2790)

  18. Fishbane,

    To me, the reference to commutarianism was most interesting here. The word choice is both strange and revealing. It’s one thing to say “Boy, you Iowa people have never had a female Governor and that really surprises me because you’re such free-thinkers.” It’s quite another to associate Iowans’ gender choices in leaders with commutarianism. Maybe it makes perfect sense to you but it sounds like a Wellesley essay to me – and not a very good one at that.

    DRJ (970b3a)

  19. DRJ #18:

    It’s one thing to say “Boy, you Iowa people have never had a female Governor and that really surprises me because you’re such free-thinkers.” It’s quite another to associate Iowans’ gender choices in leaders with commutarianism.

    DRJ, what makes you so sure she’s saying the latter and not the former?

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  20. Because she’s the one who brought up commutarianism, not me.

    DRJ (970b3a)

  21. I don’t like the communatarianism language, either. It is of a piece with the takes-a-village schtick. But honestly, I thought at least some of that would engage conservatives – the notion of rehabilitating people through community support, rather than government.

    Me, I don’t care so much about gender (or race, or where they grew up). I want someone who cares about domestic policy, for a change, and someone who can unwind the two (maybe three, by the time we get to around to electing someone) wars, which very might be too much to ask.

    In general, even though I don’t like Clinton, I’m not going to attack her for this sort of thing. Especially after the cod-piece mission accomplished. Politics is theater, even if some of us would wish it differently.

    fishbane (1f2790)

  22. DRJ –

    Let me rephrase my question. Why do you think she was associating Iowans’ gender choices in leaders with communitarianism rather than saying,”that really surprises me because you’re such free-thinkers”?

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  23. Fishbane, I think you make some good points.

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  24. Hillary Clinton preferring local private initiatives rather than big government programs to increase “social cohesion.”

    fishbane, that’s hilarious.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  25. But honestly, I thought at least some of that would engage conservatives – the notion of rehabilitating people through community support, rather than government.

    It would, if we thought there was a gram of sincerity in it. Coming from someone with a known Marxist background, though, it’s just another code word for authoritarianism or totalitarianism.

    And it’s been the Democrats who have been breaking down the informal social controls (“If it feels good, do it”), leaving only the heavy hand of the law.

    … and someone who can unwind the two (maybe three, by the time we get to around to electing someone) wars, which very might be too much to ask.

    The Islamic Radicals have been very clear about the choices they offer; submit or die. If you don’t want us to fight, those are your choices, which do you pick?

    LarryD (feb78b)

  26. “It would, if we thought there was a gram of sincerity in it. Coming from someone with a known Marxist background…”

    and a stint on the board of Walmart.

    blah (74fc41)

  27. Itsme,

    I based my conclusion on what Hillary actually said relating to Iowa’s election decisions – she’s the one who brought up commutarianism. I didn’t base it on what she could have said.

    It’s not like I took vague statements Hillary made, noted Iowa’s history of commutarianism, and related her statements to that philosophy. Hillary brought up the topic and it’s logical to assume she did so for a reason.

    DRJ (970b3a)

  28. Itsme – Hillary is very capable of saying exactly what she thinks. If she had wanted to say that it surprised her that Iowa had not yet elected a female Governor because they are such free thinkers, she would have said that. There are any number of ways to easily address the question asked, and she chose this way. Was commutarianism an accident? It does not seem so.

    JD (e88f7b)

  29. Stalin appreciated what communitarianism did in Russia, it made his job so much easier. As, I am sure many of the other countries leaders did, Kim Jong Il, Pol Pot, Hitler, Chavez, Castro et.al.

    Sue (c28ac2)

  30. Hillary has apologized to Mississippi.

    DRJ (970b3a)

  31. I am in favor of only 2 types of apologies –

    1) Short and sweet. “I am sorry. I was wrong, and will try not to do that again.”

    2) Non-apologies. “I am sorry you were too dumb to understand what I was trying to say”.

    Anything else is just gibberish. And, the apologies should be made by the person, not some campaign spokesman.

    JD (e88f7b)

  32. Nobody’s better at controlling the message than Hillary. Communitarianism is coded Communism. Hillary was sending a message to the nutroots that although she may have started talking the centrist talk she’ll still walk the leftist walk.

    nk (da3e6b)

  33. DRJ #27:

    I agree she said it for a reason, DRJ, and that her words had a context.

    She used the word “communitarianism” literally in the same breath as the “openness” she saw in Iowa.

    Itsme (aba8f1)

  34. I wonder if she apologized to Lott in that fake Southern accent of hers.

    daleyrocks (906622)


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