The Cultural Chasm

Immediately following the November 1994 election, the Wall Street Journal had several brilliant editorial page features on the unbridgeable cultural chasm that separates conservative and liberal world views. The articles are an absolute scream.

So here are two, for those of you who may not subscribe to the Journal (and, hence, really do not understand our world!).

A particular kick is the mention of "trailer parks" from the memo of a liberal news editor when describing conservatives.

There is vengeance too, in the Journal's crowing about the decline in influence suffered by the New York Times.

But of far greater importance to White Nationalists is the passage about the older generation of Republicans "obsessing about and exaggerating the power of institutions that were unfriendly to them."

Integrationism is a self-interested moral code. If we White Nationalists "tend our own garden" with vigor and a little bit of joy, that moral code will collapse of its own weight.

Yggdrasil says - enjoy!


Nov. 17, 1994 Wall Street Journal p A20

Meet the New Establishment


On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the day after the election, the New York Times surveyed a team of experts to explain the Republican tide. These commentators included liberal historians David Halberstam, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Alan Brinkley; civil-rights leader Julian Bond; George McGovern; and a token Republican Howard Baker. Now, it may be possible to draw up a list of people who would be likely to know less about the anti-government message that was delivered Nov. 8, but it would take a lot of effort. One of the revelations of the past two weeks has been the incompetence on the part of so many liberals in understanding and describing the GOP takeover. Conservatives basically know about liberalism; anyone who goes to the movies, listens to popular music or reads the major newspapers finds himself traveling on liberal terrain. But many liberals, it transpires, have only the haziest phantasms about conservatism, having only read each other's descriptions of it.

The New York Times Magazine (whose slogan is "What Sunday Was Created For") recently did a story on evangelical Christians using a tone one might adopt in the contemplation of Martians.

* * *

A 1950s Horror Movie

While liberals such as John Judis and E.J. Dionne have actually read the conservative sources, many other liberals, especially in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, have reacted to the election like gaping victims of a 1950s horror movie: They don't know what this monster is; they don't know where it came from, or how it got so powerful; they only wish it would go away.

All of this goes to show how distant the two political cultures have become. On the one side there is the Doonesbury cohort: the smart liberal Boomers who have had their lives traced by the lives of Garry Trudeau characters-Mark on public radio, Joanie the lawyer and Hill staffer, Rick the Washington reporter. On the other side are a quite different set of cultural references associated with former professors Gingrich, Armey and Gramm- Sunbelt suburbs, John Wayne movies, grace before dinner and high- tech entrepreneurs.

The 1990s culture war isn't a conflict between country rubes and urban sophisticates. It is increasingly fought between elites, often with similar academic credentials but radically different world views. It's no longer outsider conservative bombthrowers railing against the East Coast establishment. The new paradigm is the assault on Robert Bork, with well-educated activists and journalists going up against well-educated theoreticians. Last Tuesday's election was not simply a political shake-up; it was another step in a long cultural revolution, the rise and maturity of what Sidney Blumenthal has called the Conservative Counter-establishment. We now have two rival establishments in this country.

* * *

This conservative establishment is of course radically different in shape, size and tone from the liberal one, but also from previous Republican leaderships. The Republicans who were formed before the Reagan administration practiced a limited form of politics. With their interest in getting policies right, the George Bushes and James Bakers were either satisfied with, or uninterested in, the cultural landscape.

The new generation of Republicans practice social politics. In his first postelection interviews, Mr. Gingrich spoke about the counterculture and the McGovernites. Mr. Gingrich set himself up for some snickering ripostes by bringing back McGovern-liberals have come a way since then and in fact liberalism is now too ethereal a thing to make an effective bogeyman. But in bringing up the 1960s, he was referring to the moment when liberals and conservatives first split into separate cultures.

Mr. Gingrich's best moment came during the final weeks of the campaign when he stood against a withering assault by an entire world of people who declared the "Contract With America" a disastrous mistake. He insisted that no, it was actually a key to victory. That correct stand echoed another key moment, last year, when GOP strategist William Kristol stood against a similar public barrage and said that no, there is no health care crisis and the Republicans should oppose the Clinton plan, rather than merely compromise with it.

These brasher conservatives were displaying an intellectual self-confidence and Washington-savvy that has not always characterized Republican political players. Feeling beleaguered, many older conservatives ended up obsessing about and exaggerating the power of institutions that were unfriendly to them. That temper is obsolete. The emergence of rival establishments means that the institutions of the old single establishment have lost importance. For example, the New York Times was once the paper of record, the voice of the governing New Deal Democrats and liberal Republicans. But that group is gone, and there is no longer a role for a single paramount institution. The Times reasonably enough oriented itself toward the upper-middle-class core of Manhattan, the Upper West Side/Greenwich Village liberals. It is still one of the great papers of the world, but it is now one player among others. The more it serves its core audience in Manhattan, the less authority it will have over the rest of the nation.

* * *

Happier Than Renegades

Conservatives will have trouble acting like an establishment in part because so many conservatives love feeling persecuted and resentful, but also because conservatives are acutely aware of the dangers of establishmentarianism: insularity and snobbery. But there's no getting around it; if you want to run a country for a long period of time, you have to form an establishment. And establishments have one advantage: They are happier than renegade movements that feel history is going away from them. The best advice on how to win conservative allies still comes from a happy establishmentarian of the 19th century, Walter Bagehot. It is this:

"The essence of Toryism is enjoyment. Talk of the ways of spreading wholesome Conservatism through the country: give painful lectures, distribute weary tracts . . . but as far as communicating and establishing your creed are concerned--try a little pleasure. The way to keep up old customs is to enjoy old customs, the way to be satisfied with the present state of things is to enjoy the state of things. Over the 'Cavalier' mind this world passes with a thrill of delight; there is an exultation in a daily event, zest in the 'regular thing,' joy at an old feast."

Let liberals wail and whine for the next decades; maybe it's the conservatives' turn to be happy warriors. Mr. Brooks is the Journal's editorial features editor. [The above quote consists of excerpts, the complete article may be downloaded from Dow Jones News Retrieval]


Those Who Don't Get It

The following memo has been passed along by Andrew Ferguson, a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine. Any relation to any actual memo circulating in Washington newsrooms is purely coincidental.

From: ___________, Managing Editor, The _____________.

To: Political reporters

Re: Covering the new Congress

I know the last several days have been difficult for you. Soon you will bid adieu to many good friends on the Hill-men and women who were always there with that pointed quote, that special document to round out our stories and bring our readers the fairest, most informed congressional coverage possible. But now is no time for tears, frankly. Literally thousands of new Republicans will be moving here to take positions on the Hill, and we have a big task ahead as we transition to this much less familiar environment.

The purpose of this memo is to make your transition as painless as possible.

What are congressional Republicans? In a nutshell, that's the question I've heard from many of you over the last week. It's a fair one. All across Washington, from Georgetown on one side to Cleveland Park on the other, neighbors have been asking the same thing. Our librarians have been very helpful (see profile of Everett Dirksen attached). And I have done some research of my own.

My information is admittedly sketchy. I have a call in to Elliot Richardson, an old tennis partner who is himself a Republican, and hopefully he'll be able to flesh out some details. What follows is the information I've gleaned from several casual conversations, including my lunch earlier this week with Dave Gergen.

(Incidentally, Dave indicated in the strongest possible terms that contrary to erroneous reports last year, he has always been a Republican and is "damn proud of it." Some of these erroneous reports appeared in our own paper. We have got to be more careful, people.)

Here, then, are the results of my reporting.

The days when moderates like George Mitchell controlled the Hill are gone, at least for now. Most of the new Republican congresspersons and staffers are adherents of the right-wing philosophy of "conservatism." Conservatism can be traced to such right-wing thinkers as Franco, Pinochet, and William F. Buckley Jr. Conservatism, in brief, calls for dismantling the entire government while simultaneously controlling the most intimate decisions of a person's life. Contradictory? Sure: like cutting taxes, increasing defense, and balancing the budget, all at the same time! Let's make sure our readers understand the impossibility of doing this.

Several sources emphasized that in reporting our stories, we should take care not to call staffers or congresspersons on Sunday morning, when the vast majority of Americans stay home to watch Brinkley. But apparently many Republicans "go to church." Some of you will be familiar with churches in Cleveland Park for their marvelous chamber music concerts. Our new Republican friends, however, go to church for "services" -patriarchal rituals that date back to the early 1900s or even earlier. This also has something to do with "turning back the clock," another right-wing tenet of conservatism.

Over the years you have been able to develop relations with congressional sources through your kids' schools-at soccer games, Earth Day ceremonies, Condom Fairs, and the like. But beware! I'm told that many of the new Republicans will be sending their kids to "public schools" in the suburbs, where they don't even charge tuition. As one waggish Source put it to me, "half these clowns have never heard of Sidwell Friends or Georgetown Day!" Good news for you as parents bad news for you as reporters, who will have to create new avenues of informal communication.

Again, not easy: Many of the Republicans will be living in Virginia, the state across the Potomac from Bethesda (see map attached). These suburbs are usually 1980s-style wastelands of tract houses - "one step up from the trailer park," another source quips - that have destroyed irreplaceable historic landscapes. If there's sufficient interest, the paper will be happy to arrange a bus tour. They must be seen to be believed.

This won't be news to some of you. It's been my pleasure to entertain members of our staff at my farm in the Shenandoah Valley, which is also in Virginia. As you drove out you may have noticed that instead of Volvos and Camrys many of the natives drove old cars, ''pickup'' trucks, and vans. The men wear their baseball caps oddly-with the bill turned forward, instead of backward in the more conventional manner. Often the women look as if their fitness-center memberships were canceled years ago. Oblivious to the population crisis, these people sometimes parent more than two children (and then complain about condoms in the schools!). All of them own guns.

I mention this because you've heard Gingrich talk of the "ordinary Americans" that he and his congresspersons supposedly represent. My sources indicate that this is a ruse. Historically, Republicans have been controlled by the "haves" in the war against minorities, women, gays and other "have-nots." There is a great deal of documentation for this.

I suggest you consult books by Sidney Blumenthal and Haynes Johnson. Their understanding of Republicans sets a lofty goal all of us should aspire to.

So let's get to work. In this new era our job remains the same: to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. When it comes to choosing between a self-satisfied, out-of-touch elite and ordinary Americans, I think we all know where we stand. [The above article, because of its admittedly uncertain parentage, is reprinted in full.]

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