Let's Stop Obama-ing Apart
Just a quick word here to Mitt Romney: would you please take a week out from campaigning, get together with your messaging people, and all read Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 together? The book contains just about everything anyone needs to communicate a practical conservative vision to America and beat the pants off Barack Obama.
And Coming Apart shows, if anything can, how Barack Obama is a poster boy for everything that's wrong with America -- everything that got it started Obam-ing apart.
About a century ago and more, the educated elite decided that America needed to be governed by people like them: clever, educated, creative, and expert. Progressives, they called themselves. The rest of America wasn't so smart, so it needed to be supervised by this educated elite. The result, a century later, is that life is great for the educated top 20 percent, liberal and conservative -- living ordered, fulfilling lives in SuperZip enclaves -- while life for the bottom 30 percent is falling apart.
Why? Well, it couldn't possibly be that when people don't have to work, don't get married, don't engage in civic groups, and don't attend church, they end up miserable, could it? Of course not -- not when liberals are running things in accordance with the strict principles of progressive politics. What could go wrong?
Everything. There are four things wrong in the lower-class enclaves of America, according to Charles Murray. No work, as men hang around sleeping and watching TV. No marriage, as women give up on the arduous task of civilizing lower-class men and take easy money from the state instead. There's no civic engagement, as people bowl alone. And there's a collapse of religion.
The core of Murray's book is that if you want to be happy, in the full sense of "eudaimonia" in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics -- that is, full human flourishing over a lifetime doing the right things in the right way at the right time -- you need to check in on four basic qualities. You need satisfying work, you need to be married, you need to engage in civil society, and you need to attend church once a week. Look at a community without the Big Four, and you will likely find only 10 percent of people "very happy." Look at folks with all four, and you will find almost 80 percent of people reporting themselves "very happy." Call it the American project: family, vocation, faith, and community. Rush Limbaugh talks about it every day: American exceptionalism. Here is Murray's line on it, from page 305 of Coming Apart.
Historically, Americans have been different as a people, even peculiar, and everyone around the world has recognized it. I am thinking of qualities such as American industriousness and neighborliness discussed in earlier chapters, but also American optimism... our striking lack of class envy, and the assumption by most Americans that they are in control of their own destinies.
Upper-class Americans live that way. They work, they get married, they are involved in their communities. They just don't seem to think it matters if other people don't, so they have legislated this monster welfare state that pays people not to work and not to marry, and that harasses them if they join a club or run a church. Our elitists insist on lives with meaning for themselves, but for everyone else, they think life begins and ends with a check: a welfare check, an unemployment check, a severance check, or a Social Security check. And they call that compassion.
So how do we change it? Murray thinks that America's upper class is too powerful to be toppled. It must be persuaded to change.
What it comes down to is that America's new upper class must once again fall in love with what makes America different. The drift away from those qualities ... is going to be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional and why it is so important that America remains exceptional.
Fall in love with America? In your dreams. The reason why the educated elite has moved apart from the rest of America is because it thinks it is too good to rub elbows with the bitter clingers. It makes a point of disliking the ordinary habits of the middle class: McDonalds, Walmart, trucks, guns, cars, and suburbia. That's why NPR's This American Life is curiously detached from real American life, and A Prairie Home Companion actually sneers at it.
Somehow I don't think that gentle persuasion will persuade the cognitive elite to change the system that has been so good to them. Read the first New York Times reader comments on Coming Apart. In politics, gentle persuasion often doesn't work too well. We will have to use the other kind of persuasion: nice little liberal enclave you got there, mister. Real shame if anyone should vote against it.
Christopher Chantrill (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.