June 4, 2011 - May 28, 2011
. Yesterday, the New York
Times published an editorial
about Samuel Alito. It said, in part:
This depressing presentation of left-wing political persectives
as if they were obvious mainstream positions immediately reminded me of
a recent Hugh Hewitt column
in the Weekly Standard. Mr.
Hewitt had occasion to spend some quality time with current students at
the Columbia School of Journalism, where a new dean is reportedly
trying to repair the crumbling credibility and competency of
professional journalists. One professor even permitted Hewitt to poll
members of a core class in the curriculum. Here's what he learned about
the current student body of the most prestigious school of journalism
in the land:
Between these two quotes, we have a quick and dirty snapshot of
America's Fourth Estate, an institution so traditionally powerful that
it has become very nearly another branch of government. It may be the
case, in fact, that a lot of people believe the first three estates are
the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the American
republic. But historically, the definitions are French: The First
Estate is the nobility; the Second Estate is the clergy; and the Third
Estate is the peasantry.
This societal model has nothing to do with contemporary American political culture. Or does it? The more I think about the arrogance, intransigence, and blindness to its own self-contradictions of the American left, the more it seems that any illuminating explanation cannot be fundamentally political, but must be almost purely social.
Try this hypothesis: The political leadership of the Democrat Party constitutes the nobility (1st Estate). The academic institutions, including colleges, universities, foundations, and think tanks are the new clergy of the post-Christian Age of Secularism (2nd Estate). And the rest of America, including the despised Republicans and red-staters, as well as the much-needed servant corps of minorities, union members, and other dependent recipients of government largesse, are the peasantry (3rd Estate). The mainstream media, of course, remain the Fourth Estate in this construct.
To see why this might matter in practical terms, it's important to understand that the historical difference between nobility and peasantry was absolute. A peasant could not become a noble by acquiring money or position. Nor could a noble become a peasant by losing his land and fortune. A noble is from birth to death simply better than a peasant, regardless of other circumstance. In Dumas's Three Musketeers, for example, the noble hero d'Artagnan begins his career impoverished, uncouth, and uneducated in all disciplines. He cannot afford to pay his first servant, and they both eat scraps and sleep on straw, but D'Artagnan still has the automatic right to order his servant about and beat him without rebuke. The difference between them is in the blood.
Now consider the history of American liberalism, whose founder and inveterate icon was Franklin D. Roosevelt, an unabashed aristocrat. FDR led his New Deal revolution with a cigarette holder clamped between his teeth and a frosted martini glass in his hand. He was a graduate of Groton and Harvard, a member of Harvard's Fly Club, which is located less than two blocks from Teddy's notorious Owl Club and was -- and is -- rather more exclusive. Roosevelt was also related by birth to two of the most powerful players in the World War II campaign, Winston Churchill and Douglas MacArthur. Churchill was of distinctly noble blood and had to resign his title in order to run for office in the House of Commons. In doing so, he was part of a long tradition of aristocrats managing the democratic affairs of the peasantry for them, a tradition to which Roosevelt also obviously belongs. The father of America's New Deal for the common man was by any definition a blueblood, a native of the same part of the country Hewitt designates as the Boston-Washington "corridor," where an enormous percentage of the country's institutional credentialing power continues to reside.
It's a curious but demonstrable fact that ever since the New Deal, Democrats have consistently retained mass popular support without abandoning their upper-crust credentials. Most loved after FDR was JFK, graduate of Choate and Harvard, and the son of one of FDR's ambassadors to the Court of St. James. Al Gore, androgynous senator's son and Harvard graduate, won the popular vote in 2000, as the Democrats will NEVER forget. It was this same vein of aristocratic populism John Kerry attempted to tap into in his own political career; the congressional hearings in which he testified as a young man are as cringe-inducing for his faux Kennedy accent as they are shameful for his dissembling. He is an archetype of the "transnational" identity that has always characterized European nobility, owing in his particular case to his childhood in France, Germany, and Switzerland and his centuries-old family roots in New England, whose influence on him was analyzed in depth in a piece called John Kerry's America during the 2004 election campaign:
John Kerry's failure is due less to his aristocratic bearing than to
his lack of a common touch; you've got to smile winningly at the
peasant beggars from time to time. Yale and a half-billion dollar
fortune are perfect credentials for a Democrat populist. Where he
failed, many others have succeeded, and it's important to point out
that his senate seat is still as safe as Teddy's.
I'm sure there will be people quick to object that these are extraordinary exceptions and hardly indicative of anything other than the fact that money and politics have always been inseparable. Look at the Bushes: it's the same thing. Except that it isn't. A family like the Bushes on the Republican side of the aisle is, indeed, such an outstanding anomaly that it accounts for much of the blazing hatred the left spews toward them -- to the puzzlement of many in the peasant hinterlands.
How might one prove that the First Estate label is far more appropriate for Democrats than Republicans? A good place to look for evidence is the U.S. Senate. Most senators are rich or at least well off. But there are some definite differences in the demographics of senate membership in the two parties. For example:
- Name the party whose senate membership includes a Hall of Fame baseball player, two medical doctors, two veterinarians, a Cuban refugee, the daughter of Greek immigrants, the spouse of a former Miss Oklahoma, a member of the AFL-CIO, and 30 graduates of state universities located in their home states (54 percent).
- Name the party whose senate membership includes a Rockefeller heir, a Rockefeller spouse, a former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, two Rhodes scholars, two senator's sons, the spouse of a senator's widow, the brother of a President, the wife of a President, and just 17 graduates of state universities located in their home states (38 percent).
And, yes, the lists above are not entirely fair. The Republicans have a senator's son (Lincoln Chafee) and a Rhodes Scholar of their own (Richard Lugar), while the Democrats have a miner's son as Minority Leader, but isn't it the Republicans who are supposed to suffer from a lack of diversity and a lack of understanding and compassion for the average folk back home? So where is it that the Senate Democrats acquired all that understanding and compassion for ordinary Americans?
The answer is clear in their biographies. They acquired them at a handful of the most elite colleges and universities in the world: Oxford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, M.I.T., University of Chicago, West Point, Annapolis, U. Michigan (Law), Wellesley, Swarthmore, University of Virginia, Georgetown, Duke, and Washington & Lee. Fully 58 percent of the Democrats in the Senate went to one or more of these schools, and to top it off, 65 percent of them have law degrees.
Republicans? About 30 percent have degrees from these elite institutions, with 54 percent possessing a law degree.
These statistics become even more discrepant when the female membership of the Senate is analyzed. The Democrats boast of having nine women senators against the Republicans' five. But it's the Old Boy's Club of Democrats who apparently scorn the level playing field. Only one of their nine female senators has a law degree (Hillary), and the only other two who have advanced degrees of any kind have a Masters in Social Work. Only three of the male Democrat senators do not have an advanced degree of some kind: John D. Rockefeller IV, Mark Dayton (heir to the Dayton-Hudson department store fortune), and Frank Lautenberg; six of the women do not: Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, Dianne Feinstein, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and Patty Murray.
On the Republican side, the women have the same order of credentials as the men. Removing them does not change the percentage who have elite degrees or law degrees: 30 percent and 54 percent, respectively. And 20 percent of Republican senators do not have advanced degrees, including two Vietnam veterans (McCain and Hagel), two marines (Roberts and Burns), a man nicknamed "Perfect Game" (Bunning), a professional horse shoer (Chafee), and a member of Phi Beta Kappa (Collins).
The uniformity of the men in the Democratic senate is remarkable if their credentials are examined in isolation. 67 percent of them (i.e., 36 senators) have degrees from just 13 elite universities, and 80 percent have law degrees (which doesn't leave a lot of room for doctors and vets and MBAs, let alone self-made men, farmers, athletes, actors, and horse shoers).
Think back to the Democrat men of the Judiciary Committee upbraiding Alito for having attended a snob school like Princeton, while two-thirds of their old boy colleagues possess similar credentials. What is really being scorned here? The elitism of Princeton? Or the presumption of a peasant who matriculated out of his class? (Maybe we should ask Princeton graduate and Rhodes Scholar Paul Sarbanes (D) of Maryland what he thinks.)
An important note. In harping on the distinction between elite universities and state universities, I am not implying that there is any absolute difference in quality of education. The membership of the senate exhibits the same kind of two-hump curve found in the corporate world, where the most successful executives tend either to have elite degrees or state school degrees, without very much in between. The meaning of this should be obvious. The population excels in intelligence and accomplishment across the board. In youth, though, some could afford the prohibitive costs of the elite schools, and some could not. The cream still rises to the top. What does make for an interesting discussion, though, is the likelihood of a distinctly different social experience between the elites and the more affordable state schools.
This brings us to the Second Estate. The professoriate of our colleges and universities constitutes, in our hypothesis, the clergy of American aristocracy. It doesn't take a cultural anthropologist to detect that the leftward tilt of this professoriate increases as one moves up the scale of prestige to the top universities in the country. Maybe there are those who would undertake to make the argument that the faculty at the University of Oklahoma is just as left-wing as the faculty at Harvard, but I don't envy them the task. The community into which young scholars are invited at the most elite schools is not a physical place, but a conceptual domain of intellectual and cultural superiority. These are the high priests who write the scripture that undergirds the nobility's assumption of divine right to rule.
Now given that the Fourth Estate is populated by courtiers who have been educated by the same clerics and who regard it as their sacred duty to support the nobles of the First Estate, it finally becomes possible to see that politics per se is not the governing factor in the mix. The peasantry matters to the extent that they constitute much of the subject matter in the games and gossip at court. But the peasants will always remain peasants. That's why the political minds of the nobility, the clergy, and the press do not see any philosophical contradiction in the fact that their most earnest efforts to improve the plight of, say, black peasants serve only to keep the black peasants trapped in the same old cultural prison. Of course they're always going to be poor: that's why the nobles need to be able to control more of the national income and redistribute it with the usual self-flattering fanfare. It's why they don't see a contradiction between affirming the right to choose for pregnant women while denying the peasants' right to choose non-government schools, firearms for self-protection, and a consumption tax in place of a Big Brother income espionage/confiscation system. It's why they see no contradiction between their constantly reiterated devotion to freedom of speech and their own (and their clergy's) sewer-mouthed refusal to tolerate it from peasant conservatives.
And because they are nobles -- with all the historical connotations the term implies -- they see no contradiction in the fact that their own deepest loyalties are not to the nation in which they were born, but to the pan-European aristocracy that has been running things for the peasantry in the Old (better) World since one or two kings got carried away in times past.
So now they are engaged in a great war of reaction. Despite the fact that they exercise absolute control of two of the four estates -- clergy and press -- they feel their power slipping away. Too many peasants in the Senate and House. A traitorous bastard malapropist in the White House. They absolutely require an institution above the vulgar House of Commons the U.S. Congress has become. They see the U.S. Supreme Court as their missing House of Lords, endowed ideally with the noble (and lifelong) right to veto peasant legislation or rewrite it from the bench -- and make of the Constitution what royal edicts have always been, a moveable feast that satisfies today's appetite and, with a new stroke of the pen, tomorrow's too, whatever it may be.
It is intolerable to contemplate, even for a moment, that the peasants should be able to dismantle the House of Lords and turn it back into what Chief Justice Roberts called a "referee at a football game." They don't understand how this dire outcome could actually occur, and it's so black and white in their minds that they can't even explain their disgust.
But I think I just have.
Congratulations to Michelle Malkin
for remembering Mozart's 250th birthday. We know she went to Oberlin,
so it's no surprise, just a pleasure. Here is InstaPunk's present: the
most beautiful piece of music ever written (with the possible exception
of the final act of the Marriage of
Figaro, also by Guess Who). It's the Concerto for Clarinet and
Oboe. [Click on the Audio Button above.] The whole thing.
BONUS. We're still right-wingers here. You haven't seen this particular take on the lefties before. Once again, enjoy.
You've got it all. Power, passion, precision, and style. You're sensuous, exotic, and temperamental. Sure, you're expensive and high-maintenance, but you're worth it.
Take the Which
Sports Car Are You? quiz. Seems like a pleasant way to brighten an
otherwise gray day.
? First, a little background:
Here's a description of a typical sufferer penned by Dr. Tourette:
The disease named for Tourette is still with us today, but it has
lately been joined by a peculiar variant in which otherwise reasonably
normal people break off "all of a sudden" from what they were doing or
saying to let fly with some inappropriate left-wing political
utterance. George Clooney's little outburst
about Abramoff at the Golden Globes is a recent instance, but its
incongruity is mild compared to what Tom Shales did today in his media
The piece is a lengthy review of this season's "American Idol." He's impressed:
Unlike many other observers, Shales has found a way to rationalize the
fact that much of the show's entertainment value lies in watching the
humiliation of the defenceless and talentless.
He could have left it at that, of course, but since he's writing for
the Washington Post he has to
reach for some broader cultural meaning in even a low-rent phenomenon
like "American Idol". Otherwise, why would a luminary like himself
waste any time on it? So he
settles on the notion that the show is telling us something important
Anyone who has ever witnessed a British music hall performance or a French mime act or any sort of Japanese pop star might venture to suggest that self-delusion is more probably a function of human nature than national identity, but such an argument is beside the point. What's really going on here is that Shales is building up to a Tourette's moment. His very next sentence is a kind of seizure:
"American Idol" is somehow informing us about Bush foreign
policy??!! Well, that should be a mighty interesting little
disquisition. The reader can hardly wait to see where this is going.
But it's not going anywhere. The Tourette's moment has come and gone,
and the resolution of any possible idea buried in the writer's head is
preempted with a single word. "Whatever." Thus continues Shales:
Now we're back to vaudeville, the original point of entry to the
subject, and the critic moves into his wrap-up without further
reference to his one-sentence fit.
About 20 years ago, someone gave this guy a Pulitzer Prize, which hints at the possibility that he may not be a complete idiot, but one has to wonder. Somewhere between writing and publication there is usually a step called Reading Over What You Have Written. Does this weird new form of Tourette's conceal its existence from the sufferer? Does Shales read his moronic non-sequitur with something like pride? Or is he simply as impotent to edit it out as he was to avoid writing it in the first place, regardless of the intense embarrassment created by his condition?
These are deep waters, and I think it's time medical professionals applied themselves to the challenge of understanding and treating this disease. Before it spreads. Much farther.