Day By Day

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Alienated Candidate

George Will ties Obama to a persistent trend in modern liberalism -- one embraced more than half a century ago by such Democratic luminaries as Adlai Stevenson, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Richard Hofstader. Stevenson, you will remember, famously blamed his successive losses to Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s on the ignorance and stupidity of the American voters.
John Kenneth Galbraith... argued that the power of advertising to manipulate the bovine public is so powerful that the law of supply and demand has been vitiated. Manufacturers can manufacture in the American herd whatever demand the manufacturers want to supply. Because the manipulable masses are easily given a "false consciousness" ([a]... category, like religion as the "opiate" of the suffering masses, that liberalism appropriated from Marxism), four things follow:

First, the consent of the governed, when their behavior is governed by their false consciousnesses, is unimportant. Second, the public requires the supervision of a progressive elite which, somehow emancipated from false consciousness, can engineer true consciousness. Third, because consciousness is a reflection of social conditions, true consciousness is engineered by progressive social reforms. Fourth, because people in the grip of false consciousness cannot be expected to demand or even consent to such reforms, those reforms usually must be imposed, for example, by judicial fiats.

The iconic public intellectual of liberal condescension was Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, who... pioneered the rhetorical tactic that Obama has revived with his diagnosis of working-class Democrats as victims -- the indispensable category in liberal theory. The tactic is to dismiss rather than refute those with whom you disagree.

Read it here.

Thomas Sowell notes:
Like so many others on the left, Obama rejects "stereotypes" when they are stereotypes he doesn't like but blithely throws around his own stereotypes about "a typical white person" or "bitter" gun-toting, religious and racist working class people.
He ties Obama to an older intellectual tradition -- one that begins with Rosseau, continues through Karl Marx, George Bernard Shaw, down to today's Democratic Party leadership --that consists of:
being for the working class in the abstract, or as people potentially useful for the purposes of the left, but having disdain or contempt for them as human beings.
Read it here.

Pat Buchanan has another point of reference [here]. Obama reminds him of John Lindsay, liberal Republican icon of the Nixon era.

The common theme here is clear to see. Republicans are arguing that, other than his skin color, there is nothing new about Obama. He is a garden variety Democratic "progressive" -- a tiresome sort of snob we have all seen before, time and again.

It's a plausible argument. But is there anything really different about Obama? I think there is, and it is not an attractive feature. His associates, Rev. Wright, former Weathermen, his wife, his inspirational idol -- Malcolm X -- all share a deep and abiding resentment of America as it is and has been, and in some of his statements Obama hints that he shares their alienation. This, I would argue, disqualifies him from the office he so ardently seeks. Lileks explains:
I’ve been trying to find the right words for a certain theory, and I can’t quite do it yet. It has to do with how a candidate feels about America – they have to be fundamentally, dispositionally comfortable with it. Not in a way that glosses over or excuses its flaws, but comfortable in the way a long-term married couple is comfortable. That includes not delighting in its flaws, or crowing them at every opportunity as proof of your love. I mean a simple quiet sense of awe and pride, its challenges and flaws and uniqueness and tragedies considered. You don’t win the office by being angry we’re not something else; you win by being enthused we can be something better. You can fake the latter. But people sense the former.
Read it here.

He has a point -- a very, very good one. We do not need an alienated reactionary in the White House.