As Victor Davis Hanson writes in “Medieval Liberals,” his latest NRO column, “Unlike classical liberals, the liberals of today hew to doctrine in the face of the evidence:”
A classical liberal was characteristically guided by disinterested logic and reason. He was open to gradual changes in society that were frowned upon by traditionalists in lockstep adherence to custom and protocol. The eight-hour work day, civil rights, and food- and drug-safety laws all grew out of classically liberal views. Government could press for moderate changes in the way society worked, within a conservative framework of revering the past, in order to pave the way for equality of opportunity in a safe and sane environment.
Among elite liberals today, all too few are of this classical mold — guided by reason and empirical observation. By far the majority are medieval and reactionary. By medieval I mean that they adhere to accepted doctrine — in this case, the progressive doctrine of always finding solutions in larger government and more taxes — despite all the evidence to the contrary. The irony is that they project just such ideological blinkers onto their conservative opponents.
Reactionary is a good adjective as well, since notions of wealth and poverty are frozen in amber around 1965, as if the technological revolution never took place and the federal welfare state hadn’t been erected — as if today’s poor were the emaciated Joads, rather than struggling with inordinate rates of obesity and diabetes, in air-conditioned apartments replete with big-screen TVs, and owning cell phones with more computing power than was available to the wealthy as recently as the 1980s. Flash-mobbing sneaker stores is more common than storming Costcos for bags of rice and flour.
In the medieval-liberal worldview, gun control stops violence like that in Chicago or Detroit. Solar panels are the energy way of the immediate future; fracking is not. Voting fraud is almost nonexistent and mostly a right-wing conspiracy trope. High-speed rail is an efficient and economical means of transportation. The problem with public assistance is that there is too little of it, not too much. Affirmative action ensures fairness. Climate change is proven; further debate is counterproductive, and disturbing data to the contrary are little more than propaganda of the ignorant.
Like a medieval bishop, the new medievalists also seek to avoid the ramifications of their own ideologies. Like residents of a walled medieval city or religious order, they prefer enclaves and cloisters filled with others of their kind.
And all of their promises of “diversity” and “tolerance” go out the window when they meet someone with a differing worldview, as Joel Pollack writes at the Breitbart.com “Conversation” group blog after being the sole conservative at an otherwise “liberal” dinner party:
“They can’t stand the fact that a black man is in the White House!” someone interjected.
That’s not true, I said. Oh, yes it is, they said.
Ok. Why don’t we put that thought in a box for now–we’ll come back to it, I offered. Let me finish. From a conservative Republican perspective, it’s necessary to stand up to Obama because he is doing things that no president should do, not just in policy terms but also in violating the constitutional separation of powers.
That stunned them. “What? You really believe that? Like what?”
Delaying the employer mandate under Obamacare, for instance, without statutory authority.
Oh, you Republicans and your business friends should like that.
No, actually, I don’t. And it’s just the start…
The conversation was cut short by the sound of a glass tapping at the next table, for a toast. We never did come back to the question of whether I was a racist who could not stand a black man as president.
I doubt these folks thought of themselves as mean people. But I am certain many other conservatives have had similar interactions among liberals in elite, polite society. Worldly as they are, they have no clue.
Did someone shout out to Pollack, “I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican?!” Because author Harry Stein tells a nearly identical story in his book by the same name, occurring in 2008, when he pointed out at a dinner party that he thought that the resume of that Barack Obama fella might just be a little too sparse to be an effective president.
But then, so much of the left’s fever that year might also be summed up in a book with a very different title: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds.