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Peggy Noonan and the American Spirit

August 7th, 2010 - 3:42 pm

Point Two:  Peggy says

I started noticing in the 1980s the growing gulf between the country’s thought leaders, as they’re called—the political and media class, the universities—and those living what for lack of a better word we’ll call normal lives on the ground in America. The two groups were agitated by different things, concerned about different things, had different focuses, different world views.

But I’ve never seen the gap wider than it is now. I think it is a chasm. In Washington they don’t seem to be looking around and thinking, Hmmm, this nation is in trouble, it needs help. They’re thinking something else. I’m not sure they understand the American Dream itself needs a boost, needs encouragement and protection. They don’t seem to know or have a sense of the mood of the country.

She’s got the substance right, but not the dates. The gulf between the intellectuals and politicians on the one hand, and “normal Americans” on the other, probably goes back to the first settlements in the New World. It most certainly did not originate in the 1980s, and to prove that all you have to do is pick up a book written back in the early 1960s by a distinguished Columbia University historian, Richard Hofstadter, called “Anti-intellectualism in American life.”  When I first read that book (an elegant lament about Americans’ traditional lack of esteem for intellectuals), I agreed with Hofstadter that this was a very bad thing. It was only later in life that I realized what a good thing it was, and how fortunate we were to have withheld high status from professors and politicians. But however you may feel about intellectuals, Hofstadter’s thoughtful book will certainly show you how old and how deeply rooted anti-intellectualism is in our country.

Peggy is entirely right when she says that our intellectual and political leaders have no sense of the mood of the country. But that is not new.  The new thing is that such types have now acquired an outrageous amount of power, and they are doing their damnedest to make us pay for our lack of adulation.  That’s what the big fight is all about these days, and is likely to be about for several years.

Thankfully, our DNA is healthy:  we’re fighting back against the revenge of the intellectuals (it’s the nucleus of the tea party movement); we know that if our children are to have it better than we do, we’re going to have to fight for it. And Americans love a good fight.

I’m not sure Peggy does.  I hope so.

UPDATE:  Welcome Instapunditeers.  How did we make it through the day before Glenn Reynolds?  Really!

UPDATE II:  Welcome Rebellion News!  I gotta check that out…cause there’s rebellion and rebellion…

MORE:  Welcome Newsbeat1 folks.

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