I’ve got a new “Think Again” column entitled “Economist, Heal Thyself,” here.
And I did a Daily Beast column over the weekend called “No Bounce for Obama,” here.
And the responses to “Kabuki Democracy” continue to come at a pretty fast and furious pace, alas the vast majority of them focus on the very first sentence of the piece and ignore the other 16,990 words in it.
I’ll save any additional responses for the book version. Meanwhile…
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg is among the best known and, for better or worse, most respected journalists who is wasting his time with the purposely deceptive and dishonestly edited purloined transcripts of old “Journolist” discussions being dribbled out daily on The Daily Caller. (For some background, see my column here.) On one of them, I am quoted, on the day of Obama’s election, saying that among the people we were not going to have to listen to anymore were “fucking Nascar retards.” I’ve been getting a steady stream of hate email since the quote was published, and one genuinely hurt note from a friendly reader with a retarded child. I offer that reader my sincere apologies for my poor choice of words in the excitement of the moment. HOWEVER….
The problem with ripping things out of context for pundits is that context matters. I don’t have anything at all against people who like Nascar, (though even the concept of how such a thing could be enjoyable, admittedly, continues to elude me). People can like whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. To the degree that I do have an objection to Nascar, it is ecological.
What I objected to, and what I’ve written about frequently—and would have been understood, I imagine, by most of the people in that private, off-the-record conversation—was the putatively liberal mainstream media treating the folks who like Nascar as “real Americans” and the rest of us who like jazz, foreign films, and prefer pinot noir to Budweiser as un-American commies who should have no say in our country’s future. This is why I am always defending New York, academics, the Upper West Side, even Zabar’s which always appear to be fair game with the So-called Liberal Media. With the election of a law professor, ex-Harvard Law Review editor from Hyde Park who made no apologies for his brilliant writing talents and middle-to-high-brow tastes in literature , I thought we would finally stop hearing from pundits like John Podhoretz, Ann Coulter, David Brooks, Michael Ledeen and Laura Ingraham telling us that real Americans are white, Christian, live in the middle of the country and hate people like myself and my friends.
(And Mr. Goldberg, I’d appreciate a link.)
Here’s the argument I made at some length in Why We’re Liberals:
First, note that conservatives deem only certain American groups and institutions to be legitimately “patriotic.” That list would include the military, conservative Christian churches, NASCAR, the Grand Ol’ Opry, and holiday parades (both patriotic and Christian), but would exclude unions, jazz festivals, mainstream Christian churches and non-Christian houses of worship, pickup basketball games, nearly all moviemaking, and protest marches. Red states are considered to be by mere definition more patriotic than blue states. Recall that following 9/11, Andrew Sullivan, the (then) conservative blogger, warned Americans —à la Joe McCarthy—tobe alert about traitors in their midst, whom he helpfully identified not as among people living in “the middle part of the country—the great red zone that voted for Bush” but as among Gore voters—the majority, by the way, and particularly in the city where the Twin Towers attack had taken place. Nevertheless, Sullivan professed to spy a “decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts [that] is not dead—and may well mount a fifth column. Let’s stipulate that the above description of patriotism is the product of both ideological manipulation and McCarthyite insinuation, and can be rejected out of hand. (It’s hard to square, anyway, with the fact that both Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin, Texas, the twin homes of country music, went Democratic by significant margins in 2004.)
Later on in the book, I wrote:
In observing the members of the conservative elite denouncing “elitists,” it can be diffi cult to tell your players without the proverbial scorecard. For instance, the radio talk-show host and former conservative cable host Laura Ingraham has written an entire book about the dangers posed by liberal elites, entitled Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, lawyer, and graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Virginia Law School, who now lives in an expensive home in Washington, D.C., distinguishes between liberal elitists and those whom she terms “true Americans.” She begins her treatise by explaining who these “elite Americans” are and what they think: “They think we’re stupid. They think our patriotism is stupid. They think our churchgoing is stupid. They think having more than two children is stupid. They think where we live—anywhere but near or in a few major cities—is stupid. They think our SUVs are stupid. They think owning a gun is stupid. They think our abiding belief in the goodness of America and its founding principles is stupid.” In Ingraham’s case, as in many others, one detects a strain of anti- Semitism in her insistent elite-bashing. During the flap over Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ—more about which below—Ingraham announced, “I want to see any movie that drives the anti-Christian entertainment elite crazy.” Presumably Ingraham did not mean to imply that this “anti-Christian entertainment elite” was mostly made up of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, or Scientologists.
Ingraham is joined in her crusade by another ex-MSNBC pundette, the second-generation Connecticut lawyer and Cornell University alumna Ann Coulter, who rhapsodizes about red-state denizens, as Nunberg notes, “with the effusiveness of a fifth-grader reporting on a zoo visit.” “I loved Kansas City! It’s my favorite place in the world. . . . It’s the opposite of this town. They’re Americans, they’re so great, they’re rooting for America!” “I love Texas Republicans! . . . Americans are so cool!” “Queens, baseball games—those are my people. American people.” Like Ingraham, Coulter distinguishes between “us” and “them” on the basis of attitude, rather than income, though the multimillionaire does allow that “the whole point of being a liberal is to feel superior to people with less money.” She continues:
"They promote immoral destructive behavior because they are snobs, they embrace criminals because they are snobs, they oppose tax cuts because they are snobs. Every pernicious idea to come down the pike is instantly embraced by liberals to show how powerful they are. Liberals hate society and want to bring it down to reinforce their sense of invincibility. Secure in the knowledge that their beachfront haciendas will still be standing when the smoke clears, they giddily fiddle with the little people’s morals."
John Podhoretz, the son of neoconservatism’s second couple, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who attended elite private schools and the University of Chicago before his father’s political connections helped him secure jobs in the media empires of Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch, also professes to see America through rose-hued glasses. “Bush Red is a simpler place,” he explains, on the basis of a visit to Las Vegas. It’s a land “where people mourn the death of NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, root lustily for their teams, go to church, and find comfort in old-fashioned verities.” His comrade-in-antiintellectual- arms, former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg, who has spent a career working within what conservatives would call the “liberal media elite” and who wrote a book comparing his former friend Dan Rather to a “prison bitch,” has sworn off all association with liberals even when he agrees with them, he says, “because of their elitism. They look down their snobby noses at ordinary Americans who eat at Red Lobster or because they like to bowl or they go to church on a regular basis or because they fly the flag on the Fourth of July."
Michael Ledeen, Washington-based National Review contributor and neoconservative think-tank denizen, offered up a classic of the genre in September 2007, when he bragged of a road trip he took with his wife “to Indianapolis for a Toby Keith concert, where [they] partied with something like 25,000 happy rednecks.” Ledeen paid tribute to Keith as a “a wonderful performer,” not least because of his deeply moving patriotic songs like “American Soldier,” “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” “The Taliban,” and so on, but he could not help adding how “great” it was to be among “rednecks, a.k.a. real Americans,” and “to see Toby say ‘don’t ever apologize for your patriotism,’ and then lift the middle finger of his right hand to the skies and say, ‘F*** ’Em!’ ” This profanity-laced salutation proved a particularly welcome antidote in the Ledeen household to what he diagnosed as the “disgusting anti- Americanism in Washington,” and so he recommended to his conservative readers, “You ought to try it. Does wonders for the spirit.” Alas, what nobody told the American Enterprise Institute resident scholar was the fact that “happy redneck” Toby Keith was actually a proud, cardcarrying Democrat and a committed opponent of the wars championed by Ledeen and company in the AEI’s decidedly inner-Beltway offices. In red-state America, explains the slumming blue stater David Brooks, “the self is small”; whereas in blue-state America, “the self is uncommonly large.”
Unlike the citizens of the states that voted for Al Gore, according to Andrew Sullivan, they can even be trusted not to betray their country on behalf of Islamic terrorists. While unelite America is wonderful in every way, it’s just not a place where a Laura Ingraham or Rush Limbaugh or Bernard Goldberg or Ann Coulter or John Podhoretz or Newt Gingrich or Peggy Noonan or Andrew Sullivan or Michael Ledeen or David Brooks would ever choose to live.
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