ONE LIBERAL'S VISION OF THE FUTURE
I just received a copy of a recent essay in Time magazine, by Kurt Andersen, pictured on the right, entitled "The Reset," a liberal's vision of what America's future holds. For those of you who don't know Andersen, he is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel Heyday, and represents without exception everything that I deplore about the liberal mindset. For anyone who desires an Alice in Wonderland picture of where we have been and where liberals think we are going, let me encourage you to read this essay.
Andersen writes, "More than a year into the Great Recession, we still aren't sure if there's a bottom in sight, and six months after the financial system began imploding, it's still iffy." He then polishes off this observation with a conclusion: "The party is finally, definitely over." It is time, he emphasizes, for Americans to rein in excess and to get in touch with "sobriety, hard work, practical ingenuity, common sense, [and] fair play." One can't fault him for these sentiments, although the fact that anyone might regard them as a flash of profound moral insight is astonishing. Do we really need a wax-tongued, Harvard-educated novelist to explain to us that we have lived beyond our means and that financially severe times are upon us? Don't think so.
My problem with Andersen is not so much the way in which he understands the present, but the manner in which he envisions the future. He thinks that Barack Obama has "clearly sensed the nature of the historical moment," insofar as charting the direction of the future. He agrees with the new President that America is a country on the threshold of another social revolution, like the one engineered by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. Andersen agrees with Mr. Obama that a biblical kairos, a fullness of time, has finally arrived for changing the trajectory of America.
You may be eager to ask, "What kind of revolution does the novelist contemplate?" Well, it includes universal health care of course (we all realize that socialized medicine is a boon to the populace: just ask Canadians and Brits!), an all-volunteer armed forces ready to fight "necessary" wars without "pork-barrel weapons systems" (as if Andersen's and Obama's idea of a "necessary" war is self-evident and the development of new weaponry does not invariably cost enormous amounts of money – remember the expense of the "Star Wars" system that helped to bring down the Soviet Union?), an environmentally conscious citizenry (how do additional EPA-style regulations strike you?), quality journalism (like The Washington Post and The New York Times no doubt), planned communities (the government telling us where and how to build homes, how progressive!), "insanely unserious" Hollywood movies (they are all insane and unserious, aren't they?), and by all means increased immigration in order to forestall national decline (this suggestion is so ignorant and outrageous that commenting on it would detract from these defining characteristics). The list does go on, but I think this synopsis captures the wispy, quixotic spirit of Andersen's dream.
The "next new America that hatches" will not, he assures us, be opposite everything we know and love. But it will bring us new realities, just as the 1960s made civil rights, feminism, gay rights, environmentalism, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll part of the American way of life. (I take it that he wrote this with a straight face.) America is now, at this "historical moment," plotting its reconstruction and reinvention. "A 'reconstruction' and 'reinvention' by whom?" you ask. That would be by Obama, Biden, Reid, Pelosi, and H. Clinton. Are you beginning to feel better or worse? The prospect of these "secondary founders" establishing a new direction for the country should give us all pause.
I haven't yet reached the tragic aspect of this story. As I consider this talented writer's political perspective, it occurs to me that, if I were to attempt to engage him in a discussion about it, I would find the challenge an insurmountable one. The premises from which we start are light years apart. The conclusions we derive share no common ground. There is not the skinniest thread between Andersen's ideas and my own. It is a fair guess, I suspect, that all he and I could ever have for each other is a hefty dose of contempt.
Yet any scene in which Andersen and I try to dialog with each other would be nothing but the microcosm of a struggle going on throughout this country. The citizenry of America is more divided now than since the 1850s and those volatile moments leading up to the Civil War. National unity has been broken into many pieces. Contemporary "tea parties," where thousands intend to vent their protest, are scheduled all over this land. Some citizens are even beginning to use the unspeakable "S-word" ("secession"). We have a Congress we don't trust, because it is not watching out for us, a Supreme Court that's perceived as no less political than the Taney Court which gave us the Dred Scott decision, and a President that is widely believed by many to be a fraud. Sorry, but I don't think a comparison with Franklin Roosevelt is on target. Nor am I of the opinion that the ideological conflicts tearing at the fabric of this country will be settled by reason. The effectiveness of reason presupposes a commonalty of culture, which has been all but lost. So where does this precarious state of affairs leave us? You tell me.
April 5, 2009