The new millennium has also given us a new American profile — the hip richeral. Richerals are, of course, well off. But they are even more cool and liberal. The two facts are not so much incompatible, as complementary.
For some, big money allows three things: wealth’s cocoon enables you to dream safely about utopia rather than being laid off and broke; it exempts you from worrying much about the high taxes and regulations needed to pay for your redistributionist fantasy agendas; and it gives you the influence, capital, and opportunities to flee from the messy ramifications of your own ideology.
The other side of being liberal is just as important for the richerals. Guilt is a primordial human emotion — usually in civilization’s history assuaged by religion and the accompanying fear of damnation in the hereafter. But richerals are more likely than average to be either agnostic or atheistic. Yet that fact does not mean that they feel any less guilty about unfairness and inequality. So they do have deities of sorts — a hip Olympic pantheon of race, class, gender, and environmental gods. Their own privilege — be it the techie lifestyle of the Silicon Valley, the Ivy League quad, the Malibu gated estate, the Montana getaway, the Upper West Side ambiance — even under Obama just cannot yet be extended to everyone.
And that’s the rub, isn’t it? How can a richeral be redistributionist and statist when such ideologies are targeted at one’s own cherished lifestyle? So penance, medieval exemption, and confessions step in as civilization’s age-old remedies for the guilt of such a pious sinner.
Wear jeans as you board your jet. Listen to rap as you review your stock options. Champion a baitfish. Hate Sarah Palin. Make Travyon into a symbol of resistance. Amnesty for your gardener and nannie alike. Being a richeral apparently means you never have to say you are sorry about the means you used to get your cash, why you mean to keep and expand it, and how you plan to pass it on to your richeral kids.
Barack Obama came to Fresno last week to address the drought. He did not mention the diversions over the last five years of precious irrigation water out to sea. Nor did he talk of any possible funding to build new mountain reservoirs. Instead, he talked mostly of climate change and some new federal loans to address it. We were to assume that both the record cold, ice, and snow back east (that the president fled from) and the record lack of rain here in the West were due to man-made global warming. In terms of “climate change” reductionism, anything counts — a drought or a monsoon, ice or fire, the doldrums or hurricanes, occurring on average, below average, or above average.
In other words, for Obama the drought was sort of like pushing radical new gun control laws in reaction to the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy: another occasion to demagogue a political agenda that most likely has nothing to do with addressing the problem at hand.
After Obama talked of carbon footprints, the huge Air Force One jet flew down to Rancho Mirage — an oasis whose greenery hinges on two facts: it sits in a desert that even with recycled water would revert to its natural arid desolation without tapping a declining aquifer and Colorado River water; and a vast amount of energy is needed to pump water to scores of artificial golf courses. Exhausted after warning about droughts and global warming, the president then spent the three-day weekend on the Palm Springs regional links.
What goes through the president’s mind? Whether golfing at Rancho Mirage or vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard, Obama rarely worries much about the ramifications of his own ideology, whose consequences always fall upon others. His idea of climate change is irrelevant to those in need of a job welding on the Keystone pipeline, or to those paying over $3.80 a gallon to drive to the fields, over vast untapped natural gas and petroleum beneath one’s feet.
What was John Kerry thinking when he lectured Indonesians about climate change? Might he have calculated the .001% lifestyle that he enjoys from the Heinz fortune twice removed, and all the carbon-spewing appurtenances — speedboats, SUVs, luxury cars, private jets — that he indulges in? Is the logic that Indonesians better watch their smoky footprints, but I, Mr. Kerry, need not, because those who care the most for others need “down time” if they are to be effective? What would happen if every Indonesian had a speedboat like Kerry?
What goes through the mind of an Al Gore? Does he ever wake up and muse, “My God, I just made millions through the con of selling a broke cable network to a dictatorship in the Middle East, desperate for entry into the U.S. TV market to spread its hate-filled Islamist and anti-Semitic propaganda”? Or, in an afterthought, does Gore think, “Green God in Heaven, I almost beat the new capital gains tax-rate raise, but at least the buyer won’t renege on the price, given that al Jazeera is funded by billions of petrodollars and a thriving business of hawking carbon fuels that I hate“?
Does Gore believe that he needs those tens of millions of dollars to fly on a private jet and to drive in a huge SUV to better spread the gospel that gas and oil are bad? Without such cash and appurtenances, such as his houses and boats, would he sulk, and therefore be less effective in helping us wean ourselves off fuel he uses to the nth degree?
What does Hillary think when she takes up the cudgels of feminism against the reactionaries and their “war on women”? After all, the sort of sexual banditry of Bill Clinton once fit every feminist rubric of exploitation:
● Check Monica Lewinsky — the subordinate on the job, in a power disequilibrium, in which even consent to sexual play with her boss is considered inherently a form of exploitation. We are lectured by feminists that consenting sex between boss and employee, general and major, or professor and student is a form of coercion. Power imbalances, not mutually agreeable sex, is the key.
● Check Paula Jones — class is also another powerful tool that the wealthy and influential use to subordinate their poorer female victims for “consensual” sex that is hardly so — given the array of insidious machinations the exploiters use for gratification.
● Check Kathleen Willey — the single woman, bereft of husband, trying to fight the odds in a male-dominated world, is uniquely vulnerable to well-connected bosses, who habitually sniff out and exploit such exposure.
● Check Juanita Broaddrick — the businesswoman trying to compete in a male-dominated world, who finds her sex, not her skills, piques the interests of the very powerful.
In short, every feminist totem marks the career of a younger Bill Clinton. With the possible exception of Gennifer Flowers, most of Clinton’s dalliances were predicated on what feminists would call coercion of some sort, given the imbalance in power and the empty, hormone-driven nature of the conquest.
That Hillary and her enablers (do we remember James Carville: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find”?) engaged in classic “war against women” defamations is, I agree, ancient history.
But ancient history certainly becomes once more contemporary fact if Ms. Clinton runs a war against the “war on women” that not long ago tarred Mitt Romney as a sexist for woodenly looking through biographies to find suitable female appointees. (As an after-thought: Is Al Gore also a warrior in the war against the “war on women”? If so, how did he get himself into a similarly exploitive scenario with a masseuse that was Clintonian to the core?)
What goes through the mind of the Bay Area biologist, Sierra Club activist, or naturalist lawyer who lobbies his legislators, who sues in federal and state court, and who galvanizes the powerful to divert millions of acre feet of irrigation water from farms to his delta to oxygenate a baitfish, or to introduce salmon in rivers that haven’t seen them in eons? After all, that gambit requires manmade reservoirs to store irrigation water to divert it to keep the rivers running unnaturally all year, when they would otherwise go dry. Is that irony, or is it supposed to be “payback’s a bitch”?
Distant Hetch Hetchy reservoir supplies most of the residential water of the otherwise quite unnatural and unsustainable arid Bay Area hills. Without Hetch Hetchy the barren expanse surrounding San Francisco, without adequate aquifers, would have no lawns, and indeed no majestic houses at all. The early explorers write movingly that the coastal corridor south of Napa is as beautiful as it is dry and without water — and thus mostly uninhabitable for large populations. Indeed, the usual villains of the current green religion are the early turn-of the-century water buccaneers, the Mulhollands and Pinchots. In the case of the former, Owens Valley gymnastics allowed current greens in verdant Beverly Hills and Brentwood to deplore manmade dams and canals, and things, in the case of the latter, like Hetch Hetchy’s Sierra water diversions from once salmon-rich rivers.
So, perhaps the Bay Area richeral thinks: “The smelt and salmon need help. I don’t need to wash my Audi. I can shower every other day. Presto! I will give the fish my Hetch Hetchy water. After all, I live a more unnatural existence, a more vulnerable existence, a more unsustainable existence than even the West Side almond grower. And while I can move to telecommute from Stockton or Modesto, the farmer cannot move his almond trees elsewhere. Do I really need that water-gulping Japanese maple or bougainvillea outside the library window? Therefore, I will back my convictions by returning to the river my own unnatural Sierra water, not someone else’s.”
Or instead, perhaps the green richeral thinks: “I am devoted to Mother Earth and if I live an unnatural existence based on vast water transfers and uses of electrical power to carve out a home in a naturally arid, barren landscape, I deserve exemption because I am on the right side, and I feel for nature. The crusaders of our green gods need earthly paradise time if they are going to free the polluted holy lands from the carbon infidels.”
From the Google-only bus that bypasses the heralded “public mass transit” to pick up the richeral in his overpriced, Hetch Hetchy-fed San Francisco Victorian, to the tony private academies that richerals’ kids attend, to the Mexican national help that cleans the floors and watches the toddlers before going home to the crammed garage in Redwood City, to the big money that always seems to find exemption from the redistributionist tentacles — such hypocrisy and self-righteousness sermonizing have done more harm to the culture and social fabric of the U.S. than any ideology of the last half-century.