Adlai Obama

George Will tracks the roots of liberal condescension from Adlai Stevenson to Barack Obama:

Barack Obama may be exactly what his supporters suppose him to be. Not, however, for reasons most Americans will celebrate. . . Obama does fulfill liberalism’s transformation since Franklin Roosevelt. What had been under FDR a celebration of America and the values of its working people has become a doctrine of condescension toward those people and the supposedly coarse and vulgar country that pleases them.

When a supporter told Adlai Stevenson, the losing Democratic presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956, that thinking people supported him, Stevenson said, “Yes, but I need to win a majority.” When another supporter told Stevenson, “You educated the people through your campaign,” Stevenson replied, “But a lot of people flunked the course.” . . . [Michael Barone wrote,] “Stevenson was the first leading Democratic politician to become a critic rather than a celebrator of middle-class American culture—the prototype of the liberal Democrat who would judge ordinary Americans by an abstract standard and find them wanting.”

Stevenson, like Obama, energized young, educated professionals for whom, Barone wrote, “what was attractive was not his platform but his attitude.” They sought from Stevenson “not so much changes in public policy as validation of their own cultural stance.” They especially rejected “American exceptionalism, the notion that the United States was specially good and decent,” rather than—in Michelle Obama’s words—“just downright mean.” . . .

The iconic public intellectual of liberal condescension was Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, who died in 1970 but whose spirit still permeated that school when Obama matriculated there in 1981. Hofstadter pioneered the rhetorical tactic that Obama has revived with his diagnosis of working-class Democrats as victims—the indispensable category in liberal theory. The tactic is to dismiss rather than refute those with whom you disagree.

Obama’s dismissal is: Americans, especially working-class conservatives, are unable, because of their false consciousness, to deconstruct their social context and embrace the liberal program. Today that program is to elect Obama, thereby making his wife at long last proud of America.

(Via Instapundit.) Read the whole thing.

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