The opening of the American mind

Anyone paying attention to conservative media in these post-election days has heard this refrain: America has changed, the country’s ideals have been subverted, and something has gone terribly wrong. Of course, it’s possible to write this off as one more set of conservative delusions––one more Romney alternate reality. But this incredulous response runs deeper than that, since it signals a rejection of the very basis of democracy itself and the founding principles so many Republicans claimed to hold dear

These issues are explored in a thoughtful essay by Dinesh Sharma appearing in today’s online edition of Asia Times, entitled “Transformation of the American Mind.”  Sharma writes that “with President Barack Obama’s reelection it is increasingly clear, as I have argued in my book Barack Obama in Hawaii and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President, that the American mind is in the midst of a transformation, driven by several long-term demographic and cultural shifts. In many ways, Obama’s successful marketing of his biracial and multicultural biography mirrors the social and demographic change already underway in this country.

“The Obama win may not have been possible without the ethnic voting blocks that he gathered in large numbers from the African American, Hispanic and Asian voters (Todd, 2009). Does the Obama election represent the full-fledges triumph of multiculturalism over and above the “culture wars” of the 1990s? I believe this is one of the clear outcomes of the historic 2008 and 2012 election.

“The results from the 2012 re-election have only confirmed this trend. The American electorate is changing its colors and hues, remaking the American dream, and will fundamentally change the world. As the president said, “I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

“There will be a push back, however, from the other side. ‘The dark side’ has not been defeated yet, as Jedi master Yoda would say; they are simply regrouping.

American multiculturalism redux

“Samuel Huntington predicted this correctly (2005). He identified several important micro-trends that are reshaping the fabric of American society. Loss of the Soviet empire as a traditional adversary led to allegiances to sub-cultural or sub-national interest groups based on ethnicity and language. Liberal calls for a great multicultural revolution as the third revolution that would follow the American Revolution and the Civil Rights Revolution hit new heights. The new immigration laws of the 1960s allowed for the first time individuals from Latin America and Asia to come to this country in any numbers. All of these trends have led to a major demographic change in the US.

“He also believed that American identity will swing back and forth in the coming decades between various positions:

1. A multicultural position with an ideological allegiance to a creed in the founding documents and principles;

2. An exclusionist stance with the white majority backlash;

3. A bifurcated alignment along Anglo and Hispanic lines; and

4. A nativist or cultural move with a return to Protestant values, culture and ethics.

“With the Obama election, we have already seen several of these positions playing out in the American electorate. Anyone who noted the backdrop of the two candidates during their speeches witnessed the two Americas, one diverse and the other homogenous.

For the complete story, see Dinesh Sharma,  “Transformation of the American Mind.”

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