Book Reviews, Distinction, New Yorker, New Yorker, Sam Tanenhaus, Sarah Palin, The Elect, The Intelligentsia, The Left
Sarah Palin: crazed hick or naughty child in New Yorker’s caricature?
Back in September, Sam Tanenhaus published a slender book titled, in a note of hopeful optimism, The Death of Conservatism.
Alas! Barack Obama is sinking in the polls, populist critics like Glenn Beck have had a field day exposing the controversial aspects of his appointees, the progressive impetus is faltering in the halls of Congress, and prospects for the kinds of champions of “the civic sector” that Tanenhaus admires are looking dim in upcoming elections.
What Tanenhaus really delivers is an in-print liberal temper tantrum, trashing Palin up, down, and sideways, sinking frequently to the level of the high school “in crowd” savaging the non-cool kid from the not-rich family who got above herself. Carried away by his indignation at the nerd Palin, from the wrong side of the nation’s geography and class structure, daring to sit down at the lunch table reserved for the cultural equivalent of cheer leaders and football players, Tanenhaus openly reveals what liberals really think (in their most secret little hearts): Sarah Palin represents the erasure of any distinction between the governing and the governed.
Unlike our liberal friends, we conservatives think the American Revolution erased that distinction. In today’s America, the successors to Jefferson and Madison and Jackson, the people who really believe in the equality of the individual before the law, the people who believe that people from outside the ranks of the national Establishment may be worthy and capable of holding high office, are Republicans.
Today’s liberals are a strange combination of the Secret Six, the Narodnaya Volya, and every high school’s ruling clique. Like the 19th century radical Abolitionists with whom they explicitly identify, Liberals believe they are morally and intellectually more enlightened than Americans generally, and perceive grave and fundamental sins (retrospectively, Slavery and segregation and other forms of inequality; contemporaneously, the absence of National Health Care and the profanation of the Natural World) blemishing America, which they feel entitled to correct regardless of what any or all of the rest of us happen to think about it. Like the 19th century underground radical conspirators, and despite the Fall of the Soviet Union, they still consider themselves a Vanguard of the Left, empowered by History to bring society as it currently exists forcibly into a Utopian future, characterized by an enormously expanded Statism benificently presided over by an elite intelligentsia (i.e. themselves).
On a more mundane level, like any high school clique, they feel entitled to rule, and they demand deference, on the basis of status. Tanenhaus refers to “distinction,” which he summarizes as consisting of skill, experience, intellect but, as we saw in the 2008 campaign, in which the record of the most popular and successful governor in the nation was compared disfavorably by every liberal evaluator of “distinction” to a candidate whose only meaningful accomplishments were a (possibly ghost-written) post-Law School memoir and the campaign then still underway, that skill, experience, and intellect tend to be qualities varying greatly in the eye of the beholder. A captious critic could easily observe that the election of Barack Obama proves just how easily the top lunch-table clique can be seduced by such superficialities as glibness and a good announcer’s voice.