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Feb 19, 2020

“145 CEOs Call On Senate To Pass 'Common-sense, Bipartisan' Gun Laws,” NPR states. “Local Democrat pushes back on NY bail reform law: It's about 'common sense,' not politics,” a Fox News headline reads. “The Only Thing More Dangerous Than Trump’s Appeal to Common Sense Is His Dismissal of It,” The Nation warns. Everywhere we turn we are told by pundits and politicians that "common sense" demands we support their preferred policy prescription.
It's a common appeal: a political issue—whether health-insurance, immigration, foreign policy, or gun violence—reaches a real or perceived extreme, and, in reaction, media pundits and political figures claim the most appropriate response must be ostensibly neutral, reasonable "common sense" reforms.
But these claims are insidious. While "common sense" may appear to be a constructive guiding principle, there is no meaningful definition of the concept and when it is evoked, it's almost always an appeal to status quo ideology. What’s sensible to a member of the Tea Party isn’t the same as what’s sensible to an activist seeking to end police violence. So, whose “common sense” is really being promoted when we hear these calls to action?
On this week's episode, we explore how appeals to “common sense” present politics as a matter of rationality rather than of morality; how these demands reinforce centrist and right-wing ideologies and how the Left can work to build an alternative common sense.
We are joined by cultural anthropologist Dr. Kate Crehan, Professor Emerita at College of Staten Island and the CUNY Graduate Center.