Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fear (II*)

[Regarding] the mosque near Ground Zero[--]the intelligentsia is near unanimous that the only possible grounds for opposition is bigotry toward Muslims. . . It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms). [emphasis added]

--Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, 8.27.10

The British philosopher Roger Scruton has coined . . . oikophobia. Xenophobia is fear of the alien; oikophobia is fear of the familiar: "the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours.' " What a perfect description of the pro-mosque left.

[Of course oikophobists'] vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . ." This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are . . . intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. [Such thought] is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.

--James Taranto, Wall Street Journal, 8.27.10

Can we not call the current administration an American experiment with socialism? Socialism emerged as a respectable alternative to capitalism in the 19th century, and most of Europe has social democratic parties that have held or are holding power, often by defeating parties associated with business (bourgeoisie v. proletarians). In America, Gallup found that 53% of Democrats view socialism favorably.

The problem is that 58% of Americans have a negative view of socialism. That explains liberal desire to avoid the term, even as Democrats consistently portray themselves as the party of the proletariat (union workers), and Republicans as capitalists. And even as Democrats push tax increases aimed at the wealthy, partly to raise the class consciousness of the unwealthy.

Socialism’s biggest problem is that it’s foreign, as Taranto suggests. America is the land of the self-evident truth that we are created equal. We don’t like any kind of permanent class structure. When Lenin, faced with the disorganization of socialism at the turn of the 20th century, wrote What is to be Done?, he realized communism needed disciplined intellectuals working against the capitalist system, educating the public in communist theory, and organizing a workers’ revolution. He needed a “vanguard of the proletariat” party made up of intellectuals.

Roosevelt in the New Deal worked with an intellectual vanguard party to reshape capitalism and its relationship to the masses, all within a democratic framework, all while avoiding talk of socialism. Obama’s election offered America’s elite, its intellectual class, the opportunity to finish the work begun by Roosevelt. Their top objective—move America toward European-style national health insurance. What worked for Western European democracies, Canada, and Japan—democratic socialism—should work in the U.S. as well.

It’s all gone wrong, according to Taranto, because Americans don’t like a social structure in which intellectuals rule over the rest of us. American intellectuals believe in democracy, but democracy where the masses accept rule by their betters—the very situation Obama’s election seemed to have brought about. Roosevelt accomplished much because Roosevelt enjoyed popular support. Obama’s election offered the same promise, but now the people have seemingly turned on him.

It’s led to a collapse of elite confidence, in Krauthammer's words. The elite’s effort to blame bigots for what’s gone wrong is a sign of weakness. We all know America’s a democracy, where the people rule. For the elite, if they cannot win an election through the media, money, and interest group politics, and if the people don’t like their ideas, their very class standing is under threat. Desperate times elicit desperate responses.

Dark before the dawn.


* = We first discussed liberal fear in May.

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