Dissecting Baby Boomer Liberalism Like a Frog in Science Class
It's one of my biggest disappointments that I've only begun to accept in the past few years: the average level of maturity that we experience in high school is as good as it gets. That's where most people stop their emotional and intellectual development. Once one realizes and accepts that overgrown teenagers dominate the planet, then literally everything starts to make much more sense.
First in my post-college years in the workplace and second as I began a career of full-time new media editing the same questions continually emerged. What happened to America's grown-ups? How come so many "adults" still act like adolescents spreading gossip, stabbing each other in the back, lying, nursing petty rivalries, and obsessing over how much fun sex is? Isn't college supposed to be the last hurrah where you get all the stupid things you need to do out of your system before your idiocy can hurt others too much?
As the Obama campaign dragged the national dialogue down to the locker room level thanks to Lena Dunham and Sandra Fluke, baby boomer conservatives uniformly predicted victory for their white knight Mitt Romney. This Ward Cleaver epitome of adult respectability would inspire the legions of "Silent Majority" American grown-ups (who somehow the pollsters kept missing) to awaken to the truth of Obama's fantasy of raising taxes on "the rich" for fairness's sake regardless of the disastrous economic consequences and the pitiful extra 8 days' worth of revenue to gain.
But those voters didn't show up. They don't exist anymore. Decades of cultural Marxist infiltration have finally started to bear fruit. Two rising cohorts that played key roles in Obama's victory include the never-married and the irreligious (two interrelated subjects, as readers of David P. Goldman's How Civilizations Die know).
Where did these voters come from to assist the president in his fundamental transformation of America?
In his new ebook The KinderGarden Of Eden: How The Modern Liberal Thinks (which you can purchases here), comedian Evan Sayet -- the creative mind behind The Arsenio Hall Show and Win Ben Stein's Money -- has begun to piece together an innovative answer. And his diagnosis beats mine for bleakness (so thank goodness he lightens it up with some jokes too). According to Evan, the movement he describes as Modern Liberalism -- a new, distinct ideology in opposition to Classical Liberalism -- has arrested the development of America not at the high school but at the kindergarten level.
Evan doesn't fling this as a schoolyard taunt about anyone being stupid. Early on in the book I knew he had real meat to his argument as he began a critique of a title that most of us have probably forgotten all about: 1988's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, which sold 7 million copies and hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. What does it mean that the Baby Boomers made the ideals of this book such a touchstone of their culture? How does kindergarten-level thinking manifest in our political culture today?
About of a third of the way done in its current published form -- hence Volume 1 -- Evan shows a tremendous potential to create a unique analysis building on and innovating from his intellectual predecessors, Allan Bloom, Thomas Sowell, Andrew Breitbart, and Dennis Prager. This is a book like theirs, one that can change minds and reframe arguments in accessible ways that cut through the standard responses used to dismiss American values. Consider Evan's definition of the ideology:
THE LAWS OF MODERN LIBERALISM
- Indiscriminateness – the total rejection of the intellectual process – is an absolute moral imperative.
- Indiscriminateness of thought does not lead to indiscriminateness of policies. It leads to siding only and always with the lesser over the better, the wrong over the right, and the evil over the good.
- Modern Liberal policies occur in tandem. Each effort on behalf of the lesser is met with an equal and opposite campaign against the better.
- The Modern Liberal will ascribe to the better the negative qualities associated with the lesser while concurrently ascribing to the lesser the positive qualities found in the better.
- The Modern Liberal may have personal standards but he must deny them and militate against their use and those who use them in the public arena.
- Modern Liberals do not and cannot seek to better themselves or society. Instead they must lower others and society to their level.
- Modern Liberals have secondary policies that are meant only to somewhat mitigate the greater suffering that their primary policies created or exacerbated.
This focuses attention on a key phenomenon that needs deeper discussion the next four years as the futures of the GOP, the Conservative Movement, and America remain threatened and uncertain. The country's ideological divide comprises much more than just two sides arguing over a 3% tax rate rise. It's more than one side wanting a European welfare state and the other a limited government in the mold of the founders'. Just explaining how the free market generates wealth and a hawkish foreign policy deters terrorists doesn't work. If it did then we'd all be looking forward to the Romney economic recovery.
The difference goes even deeper. According to Evan -- and I very much agree with this -- the Modern Liberal refuses to discriminate, meaning they refuse to make a value judgment of one concept as better than another. Hence in the Modern Liberal era we see the two demographic trends that the Obama team knew to exploit in their campaign: The secularist is no better off than the regular church-goer. A woman with a Girls and Sex and the City singles life (subsidized by your tax dollars) is no better off than a married woman raising a family. It's kindergarten! We have to be nice and not hurt anyone's feelings! Don't be judgmental!
Throughout The KinderGarden of Eden, as Evan dissects the key components of his Modern Liberalism his cultural references -- like Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon's "Imagine" -- reveal a generational factor that I hope he explores more as he completes his book. Is there a meaningful difference between Modern Liberalism and Baby Boomer Liberalism? Isn't the ideology of Modern Liberalism simply the collective political attitudes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Howard Dean, Chris Matthews, and John Kerry? And doesn't it make sense that a generation of self-described "babies" would peak at kindergarten?
As Evan continues to develop the concepts for his book, I've invited him to contribute to PJ Lifestyle. In particular -- and for his first piece -- I'd invite him to consider how his thesis relates to a developing new trend in the past few years to realign, transform, and grow the Conservative movement.
Evan's not the only one today who understands that the secular ideology of the Baby Boomers' Modern Liberalism needs a stronger response than the one provided by its mirror, the Baby Boomer Conservatism institutionalized by the George W. Bush administration and continued in Mitt Romney's failed campaign and John Boehner's continually disappointing House Republicans.
Just talking about policy isn't enough. We need to go to the root -- instead of arguing for some Conservative Ideology, how about we start reminding people of the traditional American values they've forgotten?
We really do have to go back to first principles, and the lessons of the Garden of Eden that Evan places at the center of his narrative are the right place to start the discussion of what "Indiscriminateness" means: a refusal to accept objective definitions of Good and Evil. The newest video from Prager University out this week also explores this question:
Modern Liberalism is an entirely separate ideology, new in its prevalence – and now dominance – to what I call the Modern Liberal era (post World War II through today). In fact, I call it Modern Liberalism only because they typically call themselves Liberals and I felt that any other word would make their prevalence and power appear less than it is. I added the modifier “Modern” to make clear that they are not what they say they are, nor what the Liberals used to be.
-- Evan Sayet, pg 11, The KinderGarden Of Eden: How The Modern Liberal Thinks
I think it's fair to say that Evan's definitions of Modern Liberalism can apply to the other side of the spectrum too. Just as the Modern Liberalism of the baby boomers has perverted classical liberalism, the Modern, Big Government Conservatism of the baby boomers has perverted the movement of William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan. A "compassionate conservatism" that expands entitlements and seeks a utopian foreign policy to democratize the Muslim world bears little resemblance to the Conservative movement of the 1950s through the 1980s that at its heart really just wanted to win the Cold War and free the millions of people enslaved in the Soviet Union.
Here's a thought I've meditated on lately in the wake of Romney's defeat: when a political movement achieves its central objective then it ceases to exist. The more I've studied the history of American conservatism, the clearer it's become how inaccurate the "conservative" name actually is. Really, the Conservative Movement, or the New Right, was the Anti-Communist movement. The unifying principle? Defeat the Soviet Union.
Hence the Reagan maxim which has emerged as a kind of movement scripture, invoked today any time one would criticize someone else allegedly on "our side": "The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor." This made sense when 80 percent of our problems involved the Soviet Union trying to make the entire planet a prison. But now nobody can name the biggest threat of the day that should unify the movement. The various flavors of social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and defense conservatives each continually jockey for power and influence. This has left too much room for troublemakers, as Ann Coulter observed in March,
“And just a more corporate problem is I think our party and particularly our movement, the conservative movement, does have more of a problem with con men and charlatans than the Democratic Party,” she said. “I mean, the incentives seem to be set up to allow people — as long as you have a band of a few million fanatical followers, you can make money. The Democrats have managed to figure out how not to do that.”
The Baby Boomer Conservatism of today really isn't a movement. It's a business and a genre that really cares more about keeping careers afloat than conserving American values. PJ Columnist Ron Radosh highlighted a particularly egregious example of this last month when former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee warmly embraced the antisemitic conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone and his radical historian collaborator Peter Kuznick to promote their Neo-Communist miniseries:
Instead of asking them any tough questions at all, Huckabee allowed them to use their assigned time to spout leftist propaganda without any objection or disagreement. Indeed, at one point, historian Kuznick praised Joseph Stalin and chastised the United States during World War II for not doing Stalin’s bidding, arguing that the U.S. could have come to their aid earlier and not refused a second front in Europe when Stalin wanted it. After all, Kuznick said, Stalin was “anti-fascist” when no other powers were.
Clearly, Kuznick does not realize that in fact Stalin was preparing his alliance with the Nazis during the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact way before it was announced, and the nature of his anti-fascism was spurious to the core. Indeed, as Foreign Minister Molotov had said in a famous statement, “fascism is a matter of taste.” The NKVD gave advice and aid to the Gestapo, among other things, and the two totalitarian leaders easily accommodated their ideological differences to work together against the West.
Did Huckabee challenge this statement? Not once. Nor did he object when the two repeated their argument about the unnecessary A-bombs dropped on Japan and the United States’ true purpose as a permanent militaristic power based on hegemonic domination of the world on behalf of American corporations.
Indeed, Huckabee went on to agree with them when he argued that Republicans were captives of Wall Street interests, and praised the two for revealing the evils of the American system to viewers of the series. I happen to agree with those who argue that conservatives have foolishly ignored the concerns of the middle class and working class and have failed to address their fears with alternative programs that address their just concerns. But making this point is quite a different one than that the governor made, as you can hear for yourself.
Huckabee ended the program by asking the two what is the main thing they want viewers to get out of their series. The answer, as you might predict, was that the true picture of the United States as the world’s villain become plain and comprehensible. In passing, Huckabee did mention Michael Moynihan’s take-down of their series on The Daily Beast, but he did not let listeners hear anything of what he wrote, nor ask them to defend themselves against Moynihan’s specific examples of deceit on the part of Stone and Kuznick. His only point was to say that there was one negative review. (Clearly, the governor does not read The Weekly Standard, where he would have found my comprehensive critique.)
So I must ask: Why does a well-known conservative and former presidential candidate, who supposedly knows something about foreign policy, give over his air time to two far leftist propagandists, and never argue with them? Why does he, in fact, seem to praise the two for their efforts, and indeed go on to agree with them for being anti-capitalist?
What's the solution to this? The answer to both a Baby Boomer Liberalism and Baby Boomer Conservatism who refuse to act on the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Some born after World War II have shed their diapers and grown up; Boomer Americanism -- a movement to define and promote American values -- is the phoenix rising from the ashes of a conservative movement that officially died on November 6, 2012.
The two books I've read that best define American Values are David Gelernter's Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion and Prager's Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. Both place American values in their proper context as derivations from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Gelernter describes the history of how over centuries the Old Testament Puritanism of the first settlers evolved into a secular, universal faith of Americanism. Prager defines the three core American values -- Liberty, In God We Trust, and E. Pluribus Unum -- and explains their incompatibility with Leftism and Islamism. Evan's emphasis on the Garden of Eden as the key myth to understand the Modern Liberal fits right in with this paradigm -- from page 30 of The KinderGarden of Eden:
In order to return man to Eden, the Modern Liberal had to reverse all of mankind’s progress, attacking everything that history had accomplished and undoing all that Athens and Jerusalem – reason and faith – had ever or would ever create. Note Voltaire’s recognition that Rousseau’s efforts were “against the human race,” and the results were to have everyone again “walk on all fours.”
To reverse the course of humanity, the True Believers had to turn everything on its head, literally changing the very meaning of life and the purpose of man’s day-to-day existence. Whereas Western Civilization was predicated on a person using his allotted days to better himself, without God or science the Modern Liberal had neither the mandate nor the means to do so. In fact, the Modern Liberal was taught from his birth to never seek to better himself in any way. This was because the Modern Liberal knew that to discover the better would require people to use that most monstrous of their faculties – their mind. Instead, in the Modern Liberal era, the child was instructed to only and always just be himself. The same “self” he had been from the day he was born.
It used to be the meaning of life was to get married, have children, and worship God according to the dictates of one's own conscience (Jerusalem + Athens). We understood that the Garden of Eden where a benevolvent father god takes care of us like children forever was not a state to which one should aspire. (Hence why the depiction of God evolves in sophistication over the course of Jewish and Christian scriptures.)
The real important lesson of the story was not what many of us learned as kids: that we lose paradise when we disobey a patriarchal parent god's rules. Rather, it's something more literal: as soon as you take a bite of the apple and realize that something called "Good" and "Evil" exists outside of you then you are no longer a child and you can never rest in paradise again. As long as you know that people suffer under evil -- both the kind perpetrated by the modern-day Hitlers and the more subtle variety bubbling in all our hearts -- then no matter how abundant the sticky cultural fruits of Modern Liberalism may grow and how beautifully Hollywood's cinematographer photograph them, they will always leave a bitter aftertaste.
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