Interesting thought from Walter Russell Mead in response to some uproar going on in America over some stupid comment by one of Romney’s advisors:
Apparently the aide belonged to the Obama-as-Kenyan-socialist school of thought. In his own way, however, President Obama is one of the neo-Waspiest men in the country. He is not a product of Kenyan villages or third world socialism. He was educated at the Hawaiian equivalent of a New England prep school, and spent his formative years in the Ivies. He has much more in common with Harvard-educated technocrats like McGeorge Bundy than with African freedom fighters and third world socialists of the 1970s.
President Obama’s vision of a strong central government leading the people along the paths of truth and righteousness has “New England” stamped all over it. Puritan Boston believed in a powerful government whose duty was to promote moral behavior and punish the immoral; by 1800 many of the Puritan descendants were turning Unitarian and modernist, but while they lost their love of Christian doctrine they never abandoned their faith in the Godly Commonwealth and the duty of the virtuous to make the rest of the world behave. The New England mind has been open to insights and ideas that come from the third world ever since Henry David Thoreau and his fellow Transcendentalists read the Hindu scriptures in translation, but Obama is no more of a Muslim or an African socialist than Ralph Waldo Emerson was a Hindu.
I can really see this — Obama’s black skin and Arabic name are what prevent him from being seen as the private-school educated Ivy League professor that he really is (although he is still a common working man in comparison to Romney).
Also, I particularly like the way Mead linked the modern soft left big-state-ism to the old Puritans and the way they feel they have “the duty of the virtuous to make the rest of the world behave”. It really captures a line of thought that I have from time to time. There is just something that I don’t like about being told what working-class people want by highly-educated elites with middle-class professionals as parents who went to inner-city private schools and hold graduate degrees from Group of 8 Universities.
There is something horribly patronising in it — surely people from outer-suburban areas who work in trades, not professions, can speak for themselves. Why do they need legions of liberal arts/social science graduates to be speaking for them all the time?