Contempt

George Will notes how disdain for the judgment of average Americans has become a dominant theme in “progresive” thinking, to the point that some Democrats “relish interpreting the party’s defeat as validation.” Will connects this phenomenon to the culture of victimhood under which liberals implement their pet projects (or power grab) by positing an infantile American public.
I agree with Will, but think that something else is at work too. As I argued here, the deepest urge of many liberals is to prove their intellectual and moral superiority. One of the ways they accomplish this is by eschewing obvious explanations for misconduct — greed, cruelty, or (in extreme cases) evil — as too simplistic. Liberals would rather identify “root causes,” as if the basic motivations just mentioned are insufficiently rooted. And the root causes that satisfy liberals generally turn out to be flaws in America and its policies. Such liberals thus are able to trash the American public coming and going, as too simple-minded to focus on root causes and, ultimately, as the root cause itself. President Bush can be viewed as the representative of this cartoon version of the public. No public figure seems less inclined to worry about the things liberals deem root causes, and few public figures have more vigorously pursued the kinds of polcies that constitute the alleged root causes of our woes. No wonder they hate him.
Returning to Will’s observation about the liberal reaction to the election, it occurs to me that liberals don’t want to give the public much credit even when it elects Democrats, and this fact reinforces my thesis. The liberals attributed Clinton’s win in 1992 to “the economy, stupid” coupled with “Bubba’s” ability to connect with rednecks. If they viewed Clinton’s win in 1996 as the result of anything more uplifiting, I guess I missed it. Compare this to the way Republicans talk about Reagan’s victories or Bush’s recent triumph. All of this suggests that leading Democrats don’t hold the public in contempt because they are now the minority party; rather they are now the minority party because they hold the public in contempt.

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