“What do you call an Italian hooker? A pastatute!”
Adam Weinstein (It figures!), at Gawker, tries to console Obama-voting-bedwetters for the holiday prospect of encountering unassimilated-American, politically-incorrect relatives. He suggests that dining with his racist, sexist uncle will make the pillow-biting liberal stronger, if it does not destroy him.
We are nervous about our racist, sexist old uncles.
“America needs Obamacare like Nancy Pelosi needs a Halloween mask!”
We wish they’d go away, letting us enjoy the undercooked poultry and over-sugared ambrosia in some semblance of utopian progressive peace.
But let me tell you why that’s a terrible idea, America. Why you need your racist, sexist old uncle.
First, your racist sexist old uncle focuses your anger on the right things. Let’s face it: As socially liberal as you are, you will always find some reason to freak the fuck out on your family at the holidays. Holidays are stressful. They cost a lot. The weather sucks. The travel is hard. And at the end of it, there is your mother, offering unconditional love and advice on how to care for her beloved grandchild, your obvious neglect of whom has caused the flu in her, and that’s okay, because Nanna has drawn an ice bath with mustard seeds, because that’s how the Amish did it, and it was good enough for them, and of course you couldn’t know that. ...
If you had no racist, sexist uncle, these perils would be more immediate. The holiday conversation might border on the minutiae of domesticity — your baby is so big! The yams are so big! Would you like to see Dad’s photos of our big Cozumel cruise? This ancient pyramid with these trinket-hawking natives is so big!
All the time, there would be no acknowledgement whatsoever of the fateful role in our lives played by Obamacare, Benghazi, Trayvon Martin, FEMA camps, the Fed, and those sorority girls with their silly accusations. You might be forced to acknowledge the gaping canyon of nothingness that stands between you and the alien zephyr of life that animates these blood relations, these strange meat sticks whom society holds up as the biological and ethical raison d’être of your person-ness.
Fuck that. Your racist, sexist uncle is throwing you a lifesaver. Don’t let yourself drown in a turbid sea of Updikean suburban malaise. Seek refuge in your racist, sexist uncle’s miasma of burped-up Jameson and slutty Italian jokes, the only thing that broke his six-month catatonia after Wife No. 3 went down the shore to Brigantine and never came back.
He is a sacrificial anode, your racist sexist old uncle is. Absent his intervention, we would be pitted and wasted away by the smaller destructive forces of the holiday season.
But beyond the blessed distraction that he provides you in his grace, your racist, sexist uncle makes you a better person, engaging you in an elaborate staged mimesis of the Hegelian master-slave dialectic. For if there is no racist, sexist uncle, then there is no comparative challenge, no middling standard of ugliness, against which to prove your culturally enlightened nature. Without the counterpoint of his rusted-out V8 Firebird with the “NO FAT CHICKS” bumper sticker, your low-emissions Subaru with the “YES WE CAN” magnet is just another car in the jammed-up driveway.
“What do you call two blacks on one bike? ORGANIZED CRIME.”
Your racist, sexist uncle is the oval track, and you are the sprinter. Your racist, sexist uncle is the bench-press bar, and you are the lifter. He is the open journal, and you are the pen. You are a master of your fate, of the dictates of racial and gender politeness, only because your other family members can see the reductio ad absurdum of their bigotry in your combed-over foil across the table, sitting there stuffed in a disintegrating Bill Blass dress shirt that Wife No. 2 bought him in the now-defunct Wanamaker’s for $8.95.
You sit, a paragon of yoga-loving, organic-banana-mashing-for-the-baby virtue, proving once and for all that, no, Obama is NOT a FUCKING Kenyan, all because he allows you to profess it as he strokes his mustache, the one he calls his “pussy tickler.”
Dan Greenfield deconstructs Barack Obama’s apology to Americans who will lose their health insurance.
Obama’s non-apology apology “I’m sorry that you’re unhappy” is typical of the passive aggressive apology of the twenty-first [century]. What was once character has become branding. What was once manners has become damage control. ...
Obama, Hillary and Sebelius all recite formulaic admissions of responsibility without actually taking any. Hillary was happy to take responsibility for Benghazi, as a verbal statement, without actually accepting political or practical responsibility for any of it. Likewise Sebelius and Obama took responsibility for the ObamaCare website without actually accepting it.
Obama took responsibility and then explained that he doesn’t really know anything about programming so he isn’t responsible. ...
This is the innocence of incompetence. Obama isn’t a programmer; he can’t be held responsible for Healthcare.gov. Hillary Clinton isn’t a soldier or even a real diplomat. She can’t be held responsible for Benghazi. Sebelius is a political appointee whose job is to look into the camera with the baffled incomprehension of the professional civil servant. “I don’t know anything. I just work here.”
Obama had boasted that he was a better speechwriter than his speechwriters and a better political director than his political directors. But apparently he’s not a better programmer than his programmers.
Programming is hard work compared to finding ways to arrange new promises and lies around “Let me be clear” which is the twenty-first century version of “Read my lips”. It requires knowing how to do something more than blame the previous programmer or the programming language.
The ideologues are always innocent because it’s always the implementation that fails; not their ideas. It’s why Communism isn’t responsible for the USSR or North Korea going down the tubes. The ideas were solid, but the programmers did a bad job of coding their brilliant economic theories into a working website.
And so we are told once again that Obama is smart. Really, really smart. Despite this fearsome intelligence, there isn’t one thing they can point to abroad or at home that he did well on his own. And that very uselessness shows how smart he is. Any idiot can fix a car, build a website or make a foreign policy work. It takes a real genius to come up with the ideas and sigh in disappointment as everyone else screws them up.
Liberal columnists ponder whether Obama is too smart to be president. By that they mean that he’s much too elevated a being to sit around trying to make things work. His proper role would be theorizing how things should work and then putting those theories in book form.
That is something the left is undeniably good at. It’s like an entire movement of flying car inventors who spend so much time describing why flying cars are the answer that they never bother with the question of whether anyone needs flying cars or how to keep flying cars from crashing into things all the time.
Jeffrey Lord describes how control of Academia, elite media, the entertainment industry, the foundations, and the mainstream Protestant denominations allows liberals to define the reality around them (most of the time) and to frame every debate in their own terms.
He uses as a metonymy the very apt comparison of the Downfall of Rush Limbaugh, perennially predicted by the liberals, with the recent sale of the (liberal) Washington Post. Rush continues to flourish, while pillars of the establishment MSM are failing everywhere, but none of this matters, because the MSM is able to define reality, at least within its own establishment bubble.
Let’s define… Liberal Privilege.
In four words?
“We make the rules.”
Is Rush Limbaugh in trouble?
Is the Tea Party extremist?
Was Ronald Reagan dumb, the Soviet Union eternal, did Bush lie, are conservatives racists? Is Sarah Palin stupid, Hillary Clinton brilliant, global warming a scientific fact, and abortion overwhelmingly popular?
The answers? Yes, yes, yes, yes, of course, it’s obvious, absolutely, and everybody knows it without question.
Why? Because liberals say so, that’s why.
This is the Doctrine of Liberal Privilege that finally forced the Graham family to sell the Washington Post.
Using Liberal Privilege liberals make the rules, establish the common assumptions, send them forth into American society through the liberal media, liberal academia, liberal Hollywood, liberal religion, and other liberal venues.
So let’s define the Doctrine of Liberal Privilege more specifically, academic-style (and note, sources will be provided at the end of this article):
• “Liberal Privilege defines the societal norm, often benefiting those in the privileged group. Second, privileged group members can rely on their privilege and avoid objecting to oppression. The result of this societal norm is that everyone is required to live by the attributes held by the privileged. In society liberals define and determine the terms of success and failure; they are the norm. Thus, achievements by members of the liberal privileged group are viewed as meritorious and the result of individual effort, rather than as privileged.”
• “Liberal Privilege is a form of racism that both underlies and is distinct from institutional and overt racism. It underlies them in that both are predicated on preserving the privileges of liberals (regardless of whether agents recognize this or not). But it is also distinct in terms of intentionality. It refers to the hegemonic structures, practices, and ideologies that reproduce liberals’ privileged status. In this scenario, liberals do not necessarily intend to hurt people of conservative or non-liberal belief, but because they are unaware of their liberal privilege, and because they accrue social and economic benefits by maintaining the liberal status quo, they inevitably do.”
• “Liberal Privilege is an invisible package of unearned assets which liberals can count on cashing in each day, but about which they are ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. Liberal Privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.”
When understood in this fashion, understanding the “invisible weightless knapsack” concept, the essence of everything from the liberal media to academia, mainline Protestant churches, the bureaucracies of Washington, DC, the NAACP, La Raza, the AFL-CIO, and so much more comes into 20/20 focus. Everyone involved, social, cultural, and political liberals one and all, has the requisite “maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks” of Liberal Privilege.
Timothy Birdnow argues that the left’s recent efforts “to make football safer” are really expressions of their reflexive determination to eliminate competition and aggression and to emasculate America.
The liberal sports media has jumped on board. ...), and, ironically, they may well kill the very sport that puts food on their tables. They can’t help it; a scorpion stings because it is a scorpion.
It is in this current climate of pacifism (and that is the purpose of the campaign: to turn football into a more pacific game, thus removing another layer of America’s masculinity) that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed a law mandating insurance for student-athletes.
The law says that a school’s minimum policy will cover $3 million in aggregate benefits or five years of coverage – whatever comes first – for injuries that total medical expenses over $50,000. The law includes public and private schools and state officials estimate that the cost of the coverage will be no more than $5 a student. Currently, some schools carry insurance for athletes, but it hasn’t been mandatory. The Illinois High School Association provides students with this catastrophic insurance for state tournaments.
First, one must ask why this is needed, since it will soon be the law of the land that everyone be covered by health insurance. I was under the impression that ObamaCare was designed specifically to fix this sort of problem. Why are schools in Illinois being made to pay for catastrophic health insurance when Mr. Obama, the product of that state’s political genius, has already addressed the issue? ...
This will kill many sports programs in poor school districts and likely in the lion’s share of private or parochial schools. Would a struggling Catholic school spend money needed for actually educating students on sports insurance? It will become a choice between teaching and athletics for many schools.
Of course, such would suit the educational commissars just fine. There has been an increasing effort by the Progressives to straitjacket young children. Sports are one outlet they have targeted, with an increasingly regimented and organized approach to what were once thought of as children’s games. Michelle Obama may say “Let’s Move!,” but she wants all movement under her watchful eye. Gone are the days of sandlot football, of a bunch of kids getting together for a stickball game or a spontaneous game of field hockey. Children now devote much of their time to thumb exercises as computers replace the athletic field. When children are allowed to play, they are wrapped up like mummies lest they get a bruise.
All this teaches a lesson to the children: private, individual action is dangerous and should be avoided. Life must be lived within the guardrails, carefully planned and safeguarded by society.
Even more distressing to the left is that sports started as a means of training for soldiers. That is why football is so appealing to America; it is a he-man sport, a vestige of the old America, where an association of free men stand together in battle. Yes, team effort is required, but there is also plenty of room for heroics, and the individual may make a huge difference.
But at football’s core is a physicality bordering on violence, and to the left, that is anathema—an atavistic impulse that must be squeezed out of our children.
So instead of a healthy game of tackle football at recess, liberals substitute Ritalin and maybe a good heated game of tag.
Consider the war against dodgeball. Progressives fret that it is traumatizing children and have been systematically banning the game. Why? Nobody ever gets hurt from dodgeball, but Progressive educators still want it gone. That is because of the actual acts performed in the game: one physically tries to hit another. The goal of the left has been to make physical aggression taboo; thus, dodgeball, which teaches children to be physically aggressive, must go.
James Delingpole contends that hostile exchanges on issues in today’s news between left and right on Twitter and on other Internet venues of expression of opinion are really minor skirmishes in the ongoing battle for civilization.
What all these disparate issues are really about is the things they’re always really about: the bitter, ongoing struggle between those on the one hand who cleave ardently to the statist religion of equality, diversity and sustainability in which society’s “best interests” are decided by an “enlightened” elite of bureaucrats, technocrats, petty officials, social workers, Local Agenda 21 groupuscules, administrators, UN and EU apparatchiks, Guardian editorial-writers, grandstanding politicians and members of the BBC Trust. And on the other, those of us who have sufficient faith in human nature to take the view that – barring the odd safety net here and the occasional piece of protective legislation there – the best route to creating a more fruitful, enjoyable, richer and, yes, fairer world is for us all, pretty much, to be left to live our lives the way we want to live them, unencumbered by confiscatory taxes, Nannyish government edicts and pettifogging regulation which seeks to micromanage every last detail of our daily existence from how many different coloured bags we put our rubbish in to the degree to which we’re permitted to be rude towards our enemies on Twitter.
I know which side I’m on. This columnist here seems to be equally sure which side she’s on. You can all decide for yourselves where you belong on this ideological battleground. But don’t kid yourself that this is a war where you can just sit on the sidelines or where there’s a “reasonable middle ground”. Ultimately, it’s about liberty v tyranny; about freedom of speech v creeping state control; free market capitalism v anti-growth collectivism; personal responsibility v suckling on the teat of the state; optimism v pessimism.
Drew in Wisconsin, at Ricochet, has a go at inferring the correct hierarchy of interest groups.
Recent events help illuminate a few things on the left.
The Keystone XL pipeline demonstrates that environmentalists slot in above unions
The Trayvon Martin case shows that it’s blacks over Hispanics.
Reaction to North Carolina’s gay marriage vote last year suggests that Democrats favor gays over blacks.
Women over men is too well-established to even be questioned.
Any examples where gays come in conflict with unions or environmentalists? That would help us figure out who really takes the #1 slot.
I think some of the left’s constituencies just naturally lack opportunities for conflict, but it should be obvious that left’s status hierarchy is founded upon specifically upon ressentiment, the inversion of values by which the loudest whiner and the leper with the most sores gets the top place.
If gays were more reflective, they might start thinking about exactly what their current very high position in the left’s roll call of constituencies says about what lefties really think of them.
London mayor and notorious bad boy Boris Johnson retorts to all the nasty little leftist toads who made a point of rejoicing publicly over the passing of Margaret Thatcher.
Ding dong, the Soviet Union is dead! Ding dong, communism is dead! And so is the British disease. They are all dead as doornails – the myth of this country’s inevitable decline, the habit of capitulating to the unions, the belief in state control of everything from motor manufacturers to removals firms, taxation rates at 98 per cent: all the Lefty nostrums of the post-war epoch.
Ding dong! Old Labour’s dead! The Labour Party has given up its ridiculous belief in the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange – the slogan that used to be printed on the back of every party membership card. Ding dong, Clause Four is dead as a dodo.
But I tell you what, my little Left-wing friends, and all you who think it amusing to break out the champagne at the death of an 87-year-old woman. There is one thing that is alive and well – and that is Thatcherism. Thatcherism lives; and will live as long as there are people in this country, and on this planet, who see how economic freedom can be the servant not just of the rich, but of our whole society.
In the 1940s, coal miners on their day off in my hometown used to dress better than Tech company executives do today.
In another, characteristically brilliant essay, Dan Greenfield discusses the Left’s reliance on the Idea of Progress as goal and justification.
The left tends to view the past negatively and future shock positively. It wants change to disrupt the old order of things in order to make way for a new order. It hews to a progressive understanding of history in which we have been getting better with the advance of time, the march of progress mimics evolution as a means of lifting humanity out of the muck and raising it up on ivory towers of reason through a ceaseless process of change.
The right often views the past positively, it sees change as a destroyer that undermines civilization’s accomplishments and threatens to usher in anarchy. It fights to conserve that which is threatened by the entropic winds of change. The conservative worldview is progressive in its own way, but it is the progress of the established order. It sees progress emerging from the accretion of civilization, rather than from the disruption of revolution.
Where the left tends to be unrealistically optimistic about the future, acting like a child running to the edge and jumping off, without remembering all the bumps and bruises before, the right tends to be pessimistic about the future. It tends to be wary of change because it is all too aware of how dangerous change can be.
Youth who do not understand the value of what is around them rush to the left. As they achieve a sense of worth, of the world around them and of their labors, they drift slowly to the right. Age also brings with it a sense of vulnerability. Knowing how you can be hurt, how fragile the thin skin of the body, the fleshy connections and organs dangling within, brings with it a different view of the world. Once you understand that you can lose and that you will lose, then you also understand how important it is to defend what you have left.
The vital mantra of the left is do something for the sake of doing something. Change for the sake of novelty. Action for the sake of action. This carnival drumbeat loses its appeal when you come to understand how dangerous change can be. Personal history becomes national history becomes personal history again as you live through it. Seeing what a mistake change can be as you watch politicians disgraced, causes revealed as fool’s errands and crusades fall apart, is a great teacher of the folly of change for the sake of change.
Reagan’s question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is the fundamental challenge of the conservative that asks whether the change was really worth it. It is the question at the heart of the struggle between the right and the left.
Are you better off than you were twenty years ago or forty years ago? It’s an uncomfortable question because it has no simple answer. In some ways we are better off and in some ways we are worse off.
Jennifer Rubin marks Margaret Thatcher’s passing by identifying the characteristic liberal ways of dealing with the passing of conservative giants.
At the passing of each conservative legend we are reminded that liberals stick to some basic rules when commenting on these passings. These rules of the road (of the funeral procession, if you will) are thoroughly predictable and the subject of much guffawing by conservatives, while liberals remain clueless that their act has gotten old:
1. The only good conservative is a dead one. ...
10. Allow no self-reflection on why no liberal icon in the past 50-plus years is regarded with such affection and esteem.
Nicholas Poussin, The Victory of Joshua Over the Amalekites, 1624-1625, Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Eratosthenes notices that the culture wars are being waged relentlessly and with unlimited persistence, by one side which is absolutely and unequivocally determined to win everything it wants every time and which, whenever it wins, will then proceed to move the goal posts even further.
Somehow, somewhere, it has been decided that this one culture should reign supreme. It must ALWAYS win; there can be no exceptions. What do we call this culture, now. We should try to define it, if it always has to win! That’s a lot of influence. We know it by the offenses it takes. Bullying, homophobic remarks, guns. It isn’t “politically correct,” for the politically-correct culture, while also defined according to the offenses it takes, is confined to offenses taken against verbal or written statements. Guns aren’t statements. Ass-kickings are not statements either, although I suppose that may be debatable. But this is not political-correctness, and it isn’t “women over men” since it takes just as vicious umbrage against a woman brandishing a firearm in self-defense, as against any man doing likewise.
It isn’t modern liberalism, either. It doesn’t have an opinion about labor-versus-management, or minimum wage, or affirmative action, or school vouchers. It holds a lot of appeal for people who do not self-identify as liberals. And its field of interest is very narrow. I can summarize it with a phrasing almost bumper-sticker-sized:
“When we make everything safe enough, nothing bad will happen, to anyone, ever again.”
Just outside a school on a 55 mph county highway, it isn’t good enough to take the limit down to 25. My recent experiences here in upstate New York show it has to be 15. I guess twenty-five wouldn’t show how much we care. This culture cares about children arriving at adulthood with all their limbs and with their hearts still beating, but with not too much else.
Can we call it “the nanny state” and be done with it? There is certainly some overlap. The Mayor of New York City trying to ban soda sales fits into the object of my inspection here, and it is certainly part of the nanny state. Pondering it some more, though, I find this doesn’t quite work. There are differences, and the differences matter. The nanny state is an organization, and it is a sale. It is narcissists in office who have power, trying to accumulate some more. ...
This culture — which always must win — is endangering our very society… As the nanny-state seeks to everlastingly grow by way of creating more and more rules, this culture seeks to everlastingly grow by altering the definition of “bad things happening.” It has progressed so far now, without anyone consciously noticing it evidently, that bad-feeling evidently qualifies. If nothing bad really happens, but someone feels slighted, then action is required. This, of course, has to be a selective thing. It’s okay to make a guy “feel bad” when he approaches the State Fair with a Leatherman on his belt, by commanding him to walk a mile and a half back to his car, and back again, to stow the threatening-looking device. And a twelve-year-old girl who wins a pistol shooting contest might feel good with a little bit of extra applause, but this feel-good-all-the-time culture will refrain from that, and command everyone else to refrain as well.
The Leatherman is not dangerous and the pistol is not dangerous. In some situations, they both have the potential to make someone safe.
So this culture is not concerned with safety or danger. It has definite ideas about individuals and what, or how, the individuals should be.
He’s perfectly right. It goes way beyond politics. It is a religious crusade and “the side which must always win” is determined to forcibly convert everyone else to its own entire worldview, values, and perspective.
The latest wave of laws on abortion and gay marriage are meant to make it impossible to hold beliefs, religious or otherwise, in contradiction to those of the state. That’s a somewhat new phenomenon in the United States, but a familiar one in Europe. And the consequence of these Orwellian measures is the stratification of these societies into three categories.
The Party – This is the group whose dogma is legislated into law in a thousand formal and informal ways. Its members may belong to the government or non-profits that act as a collective political movement pushing to enact and implement even the most radical elements of that dogma. Or they may still work actual jobs. But it doesn’t really make much of a difference.
Members of the Party are a minority, but they are the vanguard, the ideologically committed core that acts as the ruling class and the force for political conformity. Party Members report thought-crimes to the government, swarm as morality mobs to shame and denounce dissenters and campaign and vote for tighter restrictions and harsher penalties.
The Party is inflexibly liberal. It hasn’t formed into a single group yet, but in its scattered pieces, it is the nexus of the American version of the Bolsheviks. In some European countries it already is a party with its own attached youth movements.
And one of the benefits of Party membership is virtual immunity from its own laws. Being a Party member allows you to have the racial sensitivity of Harry Reid, the sexual harassment cred of Bill Clinton and the environmental correctness of Al Gore’s mansion, jets and Al Jazeera sale.
The law is enforced by Party members on the People. It is infrequently enforced by Party members against fellow Party members.
Daniel Greenfield, in another brilliant piece, explains that Diversity is not just a moral preference for the left.
The left’s utopias are not only economically unsustainable (what else is new) but also politically and demographically unsustainable. The economics can’t be fixed, but the politics and demographics can. As with all of the left’s solutions, they involve finding ways of making things much, much worse. And their answer to the demographic and political problem is immigration. Bring in young people from elsewhere who will have lots of kids and vote the straight slanted ticket. Preferably the kind who won’t get along with the locals and will be taught to constantly complain about racism, even though back where they’re from, racism was as accepted as daylight drug deals and beheadings.
Bring them in, run their kids through the same system, add a few holidays to the calendar, enjoy the new ethnic foods and hopefully teach their kids to stop having so many kids if they want to retire at 55 and fill their house with knickknacks from their vacations in Greece and Brazil. And then fill the new gap with more immigrants. It’s a plan that makes as much economic sense as the European Union and is twice as sustainable. After all lots of people in the world want free health care and a passport from a country that won’t collapse into a murderous civil war when the price of bread goes through the minaret.
And if the assimilation program doesn’t work, well then you only have to bring in half as many immigrants next time around, because all those countries you brought those immigrants from are now in your own country. Saves on jet fuel and coast guards. Not to mention language lessons, though it usually turns out that you need them anyway because your excellent schools no longer seem to be doing such a good job of teaching your own language and what used to be your language is now an argot composed of the languages of your immigrants and bits of your own language processed into the fake street slang of rap stars. And before you know it, you’re using it too.
It’s a dead end. It’s Rome with the barbarians sorting through the loot. It’s China when the wall fell. It’s Byzantium when the Bedouin raiders poured through and began the centuries long process of tearing apart Middle Eastern Christianity, that Islam wrapped up. It’s the long fall of civilization into night with a bloody pension and a hell of a retirement plan lost somewhere in the middle of a pile of broken marble columns.
But it keeps the left alive. Without diversity, the left is a bunch of corpulent unions protecting their pensions while the young people look at brochures of London and Los Angeles and finish their fourth degree. Without it, the left eventually dries up, blows away in the wind and dies after running a few protests against austerity and then has to implement it anyway.
Diversity isn’t a moral principle. It’s oxygen for a dead movement. It’s the only way that the left can stay alive long enough to fulfill the accidental mission of every parasite by killing its host. It’s the numbers game and as long as the left can cobble together these coalitions built on the backs of immigrants and tied together with community associations and piles of free stuff, then it can go on squatting on a society, dipping its proboscis in the sweet nectar of wealth and power, and then when the nectar runs out, switching to sipping its blood.
Manhattan Upper West Side brownstones
William Deresiewicz has an uncharacteristically self-critical commentary on the aesthetic sensibilty of the urban-based community of fashion elite.
[N]ow I wonder if there’s also something new. Not middlebrow, not highbrow (we still don’t have an avant-garde to speak of), but halfway in between. Call it upper middle brow. The new form is infinitely subtler than Midcult. It is post- rather than pre-ironic, its sentimentality hidden by a veil of cool. It is edgy, clever, knowing, stylish, and formally inventive. It is Jonathan Lethem, Wes Anderson, Lost in Translation, Girls, Stewart/Colbert, The New Yorker, This American Life and the whole empire of quirk, and the films that should have won the Oscars (the films you’re not sure whether to call films or movies).
The upper middle brow possesses excellence, intelligence, and integrity. It is genuinely good work (as well as being most of what I read or look at myself). The problem is it always lets us off the hook. Like Midcult, it is ultimately designed to flatter its audience, approving our feelings and reinforcing our prejudices. It stays within the bounds of what we already believe, affirms the enlightened opinions we absorb every day in the quality media, the educated bromides we trade on Facebook. It doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, doesn’t seek to disturb—the definition of a true avant-garde—our fundamental view of ourselves, or society, or the world. (Think, by contrast, of some truly disruptive works: The Wire, Blood Meridian, almost anything by J. M. Coetzee.)
There is a sociology to all of this. As Clement Greenberg pointed out in “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” (1939), the predecessor to Macdonald’s essay, high culture flourished under the aristocracy. Mass culture came in with mass literacy, while Midcult is a product of the postwar college boom, a way of catering to the cultural aspirations of the exploding middle class. Now, since the ’70s, we’ve gone a step further, into an era of mass elite and postgraduate education. This is the root of the so-called creative class, the Bobos, the liberal elite as it exists today. The upper middle brow is the cultural expression of this demographic. Its purpose is to make consciousness safe for the upper middle class. The salient characteristic of that class, as a moral entity, is a kind of Victorian engorgement with its own virtue. Its need is for an art that will disturb its self-delight.
Dan Greenfield delivers the home truth about exactly why they won and we lost.
Romney outlasted the primaries because he was the most electable. Two blue state politicians, as bland and inoffensive as possible, ran on the economy, not on war or social issues, and managed to convince many Democrats that they could fix the economy. He got a white turnout to match that of Ronald Reagan and crowded rallies. And none of it was enough.
Romney had an excellent machine. But Obama had the bigger machine that was more than a collection of SuperPACs. It was the urban political machine, with its suburban tentacles, fed by taxpayer money and integrated into every budget. The time when it could be beaten the old way may be passing.
The people who came out to worship Obama stayed home. Romney’s rallies drew big crowds. But when all was said and done, the lines of people who feed off the political machine were there, and the handlers of the machine cast their multiple votes and carried off their manifold frauds because their own private economy depended on it.
Every time people ask me why the left has such a grip on this country, my answer is because they worked for it. It’s the answer that most people don’t want to hear, but it’s true. The left has been planning this for a while. They have been playing the long game, building the infrastructure and indoctrinating generations. And to beat them, we will have to do the same thing.
The right is 40 years behind the left and it remains a disorganized collection of potentials seeking a compass point. The “right” that got behind Mitt Romney consists of millionaires who want fewer regulations and easier imports from China, of social conservatives who are mainly ignored, except when voter turnout becomes an issue, libertarians who want more freedoms, and the non-ideological small business middle class and the struggling working class sensing their country and way of life slipping away from them. ...
The Republican establishment had its shot, twice. It put up moderate non-objectionable candidates. And it lost. It has no policies, beyond keeping the system going, and it has no ideas and no agenda, besides winning. It is a decadent political class fused with an even more decadent pundit class that views elections like these as a game, not as a life-and-death matter. It makes up lies and tells them to its base and hopes that the base will then forgive and forget being lied to and used one more time.
It’s not done, by any stretch of the imagination. Right now, Christie is patting himself on the back and drawing up a list of advisers for a 2016 run. And a dozen equally loathsome personalities are doing the same thing. And they may even get their way. But that doesn’t really matter. This is a long game and to win it, we have to think long term.
Moderation does not win elections. If you think it does, go look at the smirking face of Barack Obama. And then imagine him running for office back when Bill Ayers was building bombs. America’s new rulers were once considered far more extreme and unpopular than the Tea Party. Embracing radical and unpopular ideas is not a losing strategy. It is a short term losing strategy and a long term winning strategy so long as your ideas can be used to build a movement capable of turning those ideas into an organizing force.