Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Smart Ain't Enough

One thing about our Democratic friends:  in the day-to-day political trench warfare of sound bites and talking points, they are the champs.  As smart as paint.  That's what Long John Silver told Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island.  "You're a lad, you are," said Silver, "but you're as smart as paint."

But of course, politics is not just smarts, playing the game of sound bite tit-for-tat.  There are bigger issues behind all the combat and the day-to-day one-upmanship.

So it makes complete sense that less than a week after the successful Democratic National Convention--boy, how it helps to have the mainstream media singing in the choir--the whole narrative gets chucked into the toilet when Islamists in Egypt and Libya celebrate 9/11 by trashing US facilities and murdering US diplomats.  It makes No Drama Obama look like No Clue Obama.

I was looking up Antonio Gramsci today.  He's the chap who decided that the bourgeoisie had achieved cultural hegemony by making its ideas part of the "common-sense" culture of the nation.  Why shouldn't the left do the same thing in reverse?

Brilliant idea, Tony.  The only thing is that the bourgeoisie never self-consciously set out to create cultural hegemony.  The bourgeois lived as they lived, and they developed their cultural memes as they went.  They never said: wow, we need to develop cultural hegemony in order to dominate the politics of the western world.

But you, Tony, decided to do just that.  Lefties would set out on a long march through the institutions so they could achieve their own cultural hegemony, and then rule from the solid base of that cultural domination of society.  And, to a great degree, liberals in the US have achieved that cultural hegemony.  Liberals dominate the media, dominate the schools, the university, Hollywood, the foundations.  They hold a remarkable power in the land.

But suppose the American people wake up one day and decide that they hate the world that liberals have built for them?  That is the risk.  Every political dynasty holds power in part due to its cultural hegemony, because it gets to tell its story and others don't.  But eventually, of course, people may decide that the narrative doesn't match up with the reality, that the glorious vision of the future doesn't match the grubby reality of power politics.  Cultural hegemony does not give you a lock on power.  It is just part of the trappings of power, whether the ruling class set out to achieve cultural hegemony or not.

So it is one thing for President Obama to give a high-toned speech about progress towards our goals.  It is another thing if the next day it turns out that the unemployment rate is down because 400,000 people dropped out of the workforce.  It is one thing to talk about getting out of Afghanistan one day and have crazed militants attacking US consulates the next day.  With all the cultural hegemony in the world, "events, dear boy" can quickly make the story and the reality out of joint.

That is where our liberal friends are at in these latter days.  They have been spinning their narrative about all kinds of things: that supply-side economics is trickle-down economics, that the Crash of 2008 was caused by greedy bankers instead of GSE-driven mortgage subsidies, that President Bush was a mad deregulator rather than a middle-of-the-road compassionate conservative that passed government-centric No Child Left Behind and Sarbanes-Oxley.

There is only one problem with all that stuff.  It is rubbish.  It is liberals pretending to themselves that everything is fine and that the Republicans are a bunch of yahoos.

Eventually all this clever spinning and cultural hegemony catches up with you.  And it could be that it's catching up with liberals this year.  

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