Last night Bill O’Reilly asked how America had, in the thirty years, gone from electing Ronald Reagan to electing Barack Obama.
After all, he mused, Americans loved Ronald Reagan. They recognized him as a great success. Yet, many Americans have now happily embraced Obama, ignoring the fact that the two men are not only at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but see two different Americas.
Reagan rejoiced in American greatness; Obama constantly finds fault with the nation. The one was uplifting; the other is demoralizing. How did we get from there to here?
The easy answer is: it's not the same America; it is surely not the same American mind.
A few days ago Joel Kotkin addressed a similar question in an excellent article. He noted that Obama’s ascendance manifests a new economic reality. The old economy based on making and doing has been replaced by a new economy based on information and thinking.
We are no longer ruled by the productive class; we are now being ruled by the thinking class.
An Obama, Kotkin avers, sees good capitalists and bad capitalists:
… the administration is quite comfortable with such capitalist sectors as entertainment, the news media and the software side of the technology industry, particularly social media. The big difference is these firms derive their fortunes not from the soil and locally crafted manufacturers, but from the manipulation of ideas, concepts and images.
Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft are far from “the workers of the world,” but closer to modern-day robber barons. Through their own ingenuity, access to capital and often oligopolistic hold on lucrative markets, they have enjoyed one of the greatest accumulations of wealth in recent economic history, even amidst generally declining earnings, rising poverty and inequality among their fellow Americans.
These “tech oligarchs” are invariably liberal Democrats. Their interests are significantly different from those of small business owners, farmers and industrialists.
These new “robber barons” need to lobby government to protect their outsized wealth. And they need to control the media in order to ensure that they retain a pristine public image. It would do do for the nation to start seeing them as “robber barons.”
Bad press is toxic for huge fortunes.
Kotkins then adds two other groups that belong to the new ruling class: government bureaucrats and academics.
Neither of these groups, Kotkin notes astutely, depends on marketplace participation. Neither can be held accountable by the market.
Both have profited handsomely during the hard times of the first Obama administration:
Even in tough times, high-level academics enjoy tenure and have been largely spared from job cuts. Between late 2007 and mid-2009, the number of U.S. federal workers earning more than $150,000 more than doubled, even as the economy fell into a deep recession. Even as the private sector, and state government employment has fallen, the ranks of federal nomenklatura have swelled so much that Washington, D.C., has replaced New York as the wealthiest region in the country.
Along with the elite media, bureaucrats and academics make up what Kotkin calls a new “clerisy.” They constitute a class of clerics, of high priests who do not participate in the marketplace but who believe that they possess superior wisdom and that they are duty bound to impose it on everyone else.
The notion that large number of people participating freely in an open market can produce a functioning economy makes no sense to them.
Kotkin emphasizes a point that I and many others have often noted. American academics suffer from a case of chronic groupthink. For evidence Kotkin notes, in amazement, the extent of academic financial support for the Obama campaign.
Indeed the clerisy accounted for five of the top eight sources of Obama’s campaign funding, led by the University of California, the federal workforce, Harvard , Columbia and Stanford. Academic support for Obama was remarkably lock-step: a remarkable 96% of all donations from the Ivy League went to the president, something more reminiscent of Soviet Russia than a properly functioning pluralistic academy.
Kotkin is not suggesting that American academics are Communists. He is pointing out that there is something radically wrong with a group of supposedly free-thinking intellectuals who all think exactly the same thing.
Apparently, leftist culture warriors have found a way to enforce ideological orthodoxy and to indoctrinate student minds with perfect impunity.
Republican businessmen and women who fund these institutions have been duped into funding an educational system that abhors everything that they stand for. They should not be proud of themselves.
Of course, the American educational establishment has long since abandoned the notion that they have a duty to educate children. They have happily embraced their new role, to indoctrinate students in politically correct ideology.
In Kotkin’s words:
… today’s clerisy attempts to impart on the masses today’s distinctly secular “truths,” on issues ranging from the nature of justice, race and gender to the environment. Academics, for example, increasingly regulate speech along politically correct lines, and indoctrinate the young while the media shape their perceptions of reality.
Most distinctive about the clerisy is their unanimity of views. On campus today, there is broad agreement on a host of issues from gay marriage, affirmative action and what are perceived as “women’s” issues to an almost religious environmentalism that is contemptuous toward traditional industry and anything that smacks of traditional middle class suburban values. These views have shaped many of the perceptions of the current millennial generation, whose conversion to the clerical orthodoxy has caught most traditional conservatives utterly flat-footed.
Educators have in large part succeeded in gaining monopoly control over the marketplace of ideas. They and their fellow clerics want to exercise the same monopoly control over the American media.
Leftists are not satisfied to control major media outlets. They are not content to determine what is and is not acceptable opinion. They are sorely offended that conservatives are allowed a voice at all, especially Fox News. They are even more horrified that Fox News is highly profitable while the mainstream media, for all of its influence, is floundering financially.
I suspect that the mainstream media barons foresee a time when they will have to become wards of the state, like NPR and the BBC. They are trying to stay on good terms with their future masters, and at the same time trying to forestall their worst nightmare: a Republican takeover that would defund NPR.
As for Bill O’Reilly’s question, the nation has changed from Reagan’s nation to Obama’s nation because the media educational complex has succeeded in indoctrinating a significant number of Americans.