Entry from September 11, 2012

How Intellectuals See The Election. . .

. . . Well, of course it couldn’t be anything as simple as a matter of conservative versus liberal visions of the country’s future, could it? Probably, that would have been the case even if one of the candidates were not Barack “The Magic Negro” Obama, but his presence inevitably gives a kind of license to the eggheads to indulge their most preposterous flights of fancy — and the more so as his opponent, Mitt Romney, is someone seen as being so very, very white. Consider, for example, the comically naive over-sophistication of Walter Kirn’s analysis in The New Republic:

In a letter written in his youth concerning the “ambivalence” and “fatalism” of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” Obama discerns a conflict in the poem “between ecstatic chaos and lifeless mechanistic order.” He may as well be describing the election. His base has marked euphoric tendencies and a proven tolerance for paradox. The idea of “soft power” makes sense to them, as does the notion that going into debt can sometimes help lift a sinking economy. His constituency also distrusts rigidity, particularly as it’s embodied by his rival, whose orderly, mechanistic temperament is evident both in the way he combs his hair and the way he dismisses raising taxes. Romney’s mental syntax runs smooth and straight, a spire pointing up to heaven, a graph line separating gains and losses. Chaos holds no ecstasies for him; his vision of bliss is a balanced checking account, a decisive missile strike, a running mate who’s identical to him minus a couple of decades and 20 pounds. He’s even precise in his inconsistencies, repudiating the same health care scheme that he instituted as a governor and insisting that to balance a budget, one need only alter one side of the ledger.

As any businessman could have told Mr Kirn, had he cared to inquire, it is not only true that “to balance a budget one need only alter one side of the ledger” it is also normally how that particular task has to be done, since one always has a great deal more control over one’s outgoings than over one’s incomings. The only thing Mr Romney is being inconsistent with in this instance is his inconsistency with Democratic party talking points, which this brainiac, like so many others who are now beating the drum for Mr Obama, appears to regard as simple axioms.

That must also be why he has neglected to examine the assumption behind a statement like “the idea of ‘soft power’ makes sense to them,” since the idea of soft power makes sense to everybody. It has nothing to do either with ecstatic chaos or partisan politics, and it does not constitute for anybody but the odd pacifist here and there a simple alternative to the hard kind. Nor, for that matter, does anyone doubt, so far as I know, that “going into debt can sometimes help lift a sinking economy.” All that we exponents of lifeless mechanistic order wish to point out is that sometimes — like for example when you’re already massively in debt and you keep borrowing on an unprecedented scale — it can’t.

But such simple contrarieties apparently do not rise to the level of the paradoxes for which Mr Kirn and his highly intellectual kind are said to have “a proven tolerance.” I wonder if it has ever occurred to him why the campaign slogan adopted by his hero is the suspiciously lifeless and mechanistic “Forward” — the movement of a train, or a tank — rather than “Ecstatic Chaos”? Or if he has ever reflected, in a stray moment of self-doubt, that what he is really congratulating the President on is his ability to conceal his ecstatic side beneath the pretense of responsible stewardship? But then there’s hardly any need for him to conceal anything, is there, so long as he has worshipful intellectuals like Mr Kirn to provide him with camouflage in the shape of a fluffy blanket of fine-sounding but essentially meaningless words.

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