Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Democrat's Cassandra

I suspect Camille Paglia, a teacher of classics at U Penn, is not long for the Democratic party, at least if it continues down its road to Stalinism. She said she proudly voted for Obama and is a proud Democrat; the only alternative is unpalatable because she probably cannot imagine getting on board with Chamber of Commerce types or fundamentalist Christians (she is a notorious pagan atheist) . She is however one of the few intellectually honest people on the left, so her reflections on her own party ought to be taken by them as a distant early warning. Actually, its pretty late, but this is still pretty cutting.

Why did it take so long for Democrats to realize that this year's tea party and town hall uprisings were a genuine barometer of widespread public discontent and not simply a staged scenario by kooks and conspirators? First of all, too many political analysts still think that network and cable TV chat shows are the central forums of national debate. But the truly transformative political energy is coming from talk radio and the Web -- both of which Democrat-sponsored proposals have threatened to stifle, in defiance of freedom of speech guarantees in the Bill of Rights. I rarely watch TV anymore except for cooking shows, history and science documentaries, old movies and football. Hence I was blissfully free from the retching overkill that followed the deaths of Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy -- I never saw a single minute of any of it. It was on talk radio, which I have resumed monitoring around the clock because of the healthcare fiasco, that I heard the passionate voices of callers coming directly from the town hall meetings. Hence I was alerted to the depth and intensity of national sentiment long before others who were simply watching staged, manipulated TV shows

Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism.

How has "liberty" become the inspirational code word of conservatives rather than liberals? (A prominent example is radio host Mark Levin's book "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto," which was No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly three months without receiving major reviews, including in the Times.) I always thought that the Democratic Party is the freedom party -- but I must be living in the nostalgic past. Remember Bob Dylan's 1964 song "Chimes of Freedom," made famous by the Byrds? And here's Richie Havens electrifying the audience at Woodstock with "Freedom! Freedom!" Even Linda Ronstadt, in the 1967 song "A Different Drum," with the Stone Ponys, provided a soaring motto for that decade: "All I'm saying is I'm not ready/ For any person, place or thing/ To try and pull the reins in on me."

But affluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. Why? Is it because the new professional class is a glossy product of generically institutionalized learning? Independent thought and logical analysis of argument are no longer taught. Elite education in the U.S. has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it's invisible. The top schools, from the Ivy League on down, promote "critical thinking," which sounds good but is in fact just a style of rote regurgitation of hackneyed approved terms ("racism, sexism, homophobia") when confronted with any social issue. The Democratic brain has been marinating so long in those clich├ęs that it's positively pickled.

2 comments:

Nolanimrod said...

Harold! You can't be a pagan atheist! Pagans worship god(s).

Harold Kildow said...

Perhaps I should have included the modifier "neo" to pagan--she herself claims to be both a pagan and an atheist. I think 'atheist" means non belief in the Judeo Christian God, not the sprites and fairies in the woods. Paglia, despite her razor sharp thinking, still operates under the central tenet of the current cultural milieu--you can make up your own metaphysics.