Monday, November 24, 2008

Bottom Line II

As per the end of a recent post,
... the thing that seems most obvious to me looking back at the US from the perspective of contemporary Europe is that perhaps even more important than a "Democrat" victory or even a center-left victory (no, the US is not still center-right, the conservative intellectuals wish they could run with that ball), to me and my posse, this is a victory of intellectualism over anti-intellectualism. My greatest "fear" (if I can call it that -- it was really more of a concern) was not the lying Muslim meme being spread via email nor the potential of a "Bradley effect" proving the polls wrong again, it was this persistent attempt to dumb down the electorate while equating the phrase "domestic terrorist(s)" with "radical professors" as performed by the Phyllis Schlafly clone Sarah Palin that most disturbed me. It was Obama as Adlai Stevenson with a terrorist twist that had me slightly bent out of shape.
The defeat-of-anti-intellectualism meme (the obvious) is further articulated:
Republicanism’s anti-intellectual turn is devastating for its future. The party’s electoral success from 1980 onwards was driven by its ability to link brains with brawn. The conservative intelligentsia not only helped to craft a message that resonated with working-class Democrats, a message that emphasised entrepreneurialism, law and order, and American pride. It also provided the party with a sweeping policy agenda. The party’s loss of brains leaves it rudderless, without a compelling agenda.

This is happening at a time when the American population is becoming more educated. More than a quarter of Americans now have university degrees. Twenty per cent of households earn more than $100,000 a year, up from 16% in 1996. Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster, notes that 69% call themselves “professionals”. McKinsey, a management consultancy, argues that the number of jobs requiring “tacit” intellectual skills has increased three times as fast as employment in general. The Republican Party’s current “redneck strategy” will leave it appealing to a shrinking and backward-looking portion of the electorate.
What this possibly means is that Joe and Jane Six-Pack are beginning to embrace what will now become the "thoughtful genius" model of governing, even though we know personal mistakes, errors in judgment, political in-fighting among the brains, etc., are bound to occur.

But still, the bottom line is
Among the intangible tasks Obama faces is vanquishing the anti-intellectualism of the past eight years, the prejudice that serious policy discussion is too effete for the Cabinet Room or the Oval Office.
On CNN today there was an interesting moment when the anchor went out of her way to describe an upcoming guest, a former CNN anchor colleague, as a "professor" who would now come on the show to discuss the new Obama economic team, including Christina Romer, a "brilliant academic from UC Berkeley."

Let's hear it for palling around with professors.

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