David Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale and the author, most recently, of America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats), just published by Encounter Books. He wrote “Why do we live in America-Lite?” for us, briefly summarizing the themes of his new book.
Professor Gelernter returned to expand on the themes of his book in “What keeps this failed president above water?” and in “A modest proposal.” Today he offers timely thoughts on the presidential contest that also bear on the themes of his new book:
There is a mystery about this election. The slanted national press and Romney’s weaknesses are well understood, but a large gap separates these explanations from the fact that needs explaining: this election will be close. How is that possible when Obama has shown himself to be the worst president in modern history? And when Romney (on the other hand) is unexciting but safe, serious, solid—just the right sort of man to shelter all sorts of tempest-tost Americans in a storm?
Americans are not a skeptical people. But we could use a double shot of skepticism right now. Half of what experts say about this ongoing campaign makes no sense. Romney does make mistakes, does have weaknesses–but in light of recent presidential history, they are trivial. Obama is said to have great personal strengths, and he has—but not the ones he is said to have.
Romney’s weaknesses, harped on by the Establishment and some conservatives, are insignificant in the larger scheme. Reagan was often inarticulate and sometimes fumbling off-the-cuff; so were both Bushes. Romney is said to be unlikeable, but he won the nomination although Republican primary voters were a tough audience for this moderate-minded businessman. How dislikeable could he be?
And what does it matter, anyway? Nixon was thoroughly dislikeable, but he demolished likeable McGovern and beat Humphrey, one of the nicest guys in US political history. Ford was more likeable than Carter; Ford lost too. And then there is Obama’s snide arrogance. Romney might not be warm and folksy, but at any rate he is never mocking, patronizing, abrasive—in fact his handlers would love to see some mocking abrasiveness from Romney, and he tries, but just can’t bring it off. He is not a mocking or abrasive or arrogant man.
And yet polls show that Obama is likeable and Romney is not.
Time to ask whether these popular responses to poll-takers don’t sound just a bit rehearsed; not quite convincing. It used to be that black candidates did better in polls than elections: people wanted to impress poll-takers with their open-mindedness. That effect has disappeared. But a generation that wants to seem good might easily give birth to a generation than wants to be good. And the whole American Establishment has busied itself since the end of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s defining “good” in terms that exactly match Barack Obama.
Haven’t we all been taught that globalism is good and patriotism silly? That oil wells are bad and “renewable energy” good? That fighting to defend your friends or your honor is bad, but apologies are the staff of life? That Judaism, Christianity and the Bible must be kept away from public life lest they infect it? That “experts” and intellectuals are America’s natural leaders? That America is far less sinned against than sinning, that Africans, Arabs and other “less-developed” people are more virtuous than we? That the greatest American hero of all was a black civil rights leader?–who was also a devout Christian, but we hear a lot less about that angle.
The press is slanted, but everyone knows that. What really matters is that American culture is slanted.
Remember that Obama has demonstrated the competence of Carter with the integrity of Nixon. He has given us persistent unemployment and a pathetic recovery, Obamacare people don’t want, a pipeline project knifed in the back without explanation while money disappears down the great Green sinkhole, a staggering debt and huge yearly deficits, poisoned relations with Congress, an incompetent Department of Justice, states and cities wrestling with financial collapse across the country, schools that keep getting worse—not to mention calamitous security leaks, the Middle East in flames and Iran’s terrorist government closer to nuclear weapons every day.
Carter for all his sanctimonious incompetence had a certain humility. He announced that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had opened his eyes to the evil of Communism–sad but honest. And Carter was never suspected of personal corruption. Of many contenders, the White House leaks will most likely emerge as the biggest Obama scandal.
Romney will win this election. But the wacko-left Culture Machine won’t fall silent; the schools and colleges won’t suddenly become patriotic, serious, politically neutral. The entertainment industry won’t discover open-mindedness regarding Judeo-Christianity and the Bible. Nor will mainstream churches and liberal synagogues suddenly catch on to the moral and spiritual greatness of America. Unless conservatives start taking education and culture seriously, an election day will arrive in which the outcome is never in doubt, because at least 51 percent of the electorate has been trained which way to vote. At which point the GOP might as well close shop and take the rest of the century off.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.