One of the things you learn by studying “progressivism” (as starkly opposed to classical liberalism) is the contempt its practitioners have for their subjects.
Er, citizens. Sorry. That was a slip.
Micheal Barone reviews a book – ““The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class.” by Fred Siegel – and runs down some history of this contempt, a history lesson you just didn’t get in high school:
Progressivism was repudiated in the landslide election of Warren Harding in 1920, at which point disenchanted [post-Wilsonian] liberal thinkers turned their ire against middle-class Americans who, in the “Roaring ’20s,” were happily buying automobiles, refrigerators, radios, and tickets to the movies.
The novels of Sinclair Lewis, the journalism of H. L. Mencken, and the literary criticism of Van Wyck Brooks heaped scorn on the vast and supposedly mindless Americans who worked hard at their jobs and joined civic groups — Mencken’s “booboisie.”
I’ve always been annoyed by the retroactive regard Mencken gets – but given his resonance with our intellectual “ruling class”, it makes disturbing sense.
These 1920s liberals idealized the “noble aspiration” and “fine aristocratic pride” in an imaginary Europe, and considered Americans, in the words of a Lewis character, “a savorless people, gulping tasteless food,” and “listening to mechanical music, saying mechanical things about the excellence of Ford automobiles, and viewing themselves as the greatest race in the world.”
This contempt for ordinary Americans mostly persisted in changing political environments. During the Great Depression, many liberals became Communists, proclaiming themselves tribunes of a virtuous oppressed proletariat that would have an enlightened rule…The supposedly mindless 1950s, Siegel recalls, were actually a time of elevated culture, with thousands of Great Books discussion groups across the nation and high TV ratings for programs such as Shakespeare’s Richard III, starring Laurence Olivier.
And let’s not forget the left’s tenuous relationship-of-convenience with rationality:
Liberals since the 1920s have claimed to be guided by the laws of science, but often it was crackpot science, like the eugenics movement that sought forced sterilizations.
Other social-science theories proved unreliable in practice. Keynesian economics crashed and burned in the stagflation of the 1970s.
The academy and the media it spawned has spent nearly 100 years trying to give Real America an inferiority complex.
Read the whole thing.