In Light of Election, Commentary on Tolerance and Pluralism

November 17, 2004

Source: The Boston Globe

On November 17, 2004 The Boston Globe reported, "back in the 1950s, political scientists celebrated America for its 'pluralism.' That meant people had multiple, cross-cutting identities. Maybe you were a Catholic and also a trade unionist, a sport fisherman, a member of a veterans group, and an engaged PTA parent in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. No single identity absolutely defined you. Why was this special? Because it created multiple, overlapping communities and prevented the cultural or political absolutism that plagued most societies. It wove tolerance and political suppleness into the fabric of American democracy. People with multiple affiliations could vote for Roosevelt one year and Eisenhower another and not hate neighbors for their party identities... The problem is not that America has hardened into red states and blue ones. That vocabulary should be expunged from media shorthand, because it makes a distressing trend seem far more rigid than it is. In fact, there are rational secular liberals in Texas and religious fundamentalists in Boston. More important, most people who worship God are not yet intolerant of people who worship in different ways or not at all. The problem, rather, is first, that religious fundamentalists have lately become more absolutist and more insistent."