Friday, November 5, 2010

Vanity Fair Editor: America Has Thrown a Temper Tantrum

by Michael Kaplan

Well it seems that the liberal progressive media elites are not taking Tuesday’s 2010 election results very well. Not well at all. Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, writes in the December issue (“Man Up, America!”) that the American electorate has, in effect, thrown a massive temper tantrum. This is no surprise. In September, Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post anticipated Carter by calling the American electorate a bunch of spoiled brats ready to throw a temper tantrum. And Tim Wise, the outspoken leftist crusader against racism, congratulates “the White Right” on a temporarily successful temper tantrum in its never-ending quest to bring America back to the good old days white supremacy and black servitude. The liberal progressive elites think, and have long thought, that Jacksonian America is a nation of destructive and ignorant children who need adult supervision to protect them from their own impulsive behavior. Such supervision to be provided by wise and knowing teachers like . . . Graydon Carter and Eugene Robinson.

America is drowning in irrationality and hatred. Or so Carter would have us believe. Admitting that he and his fellow progressives spent eight years indulging in (rational?) Bush hatred, Obama hatred is worse, Carter believes, because it is rooted in racism (Bull Connor, where are you?). And, Carter goes on, “What makes today’s fury more worrying is the fact that angry right-wing extremists tend to carry guns in disproportionate numbers to their liberal counterparts.” Yes, of course, those gun-toting Jacksonians are just waiting for the chance to practice their target shooting on some hapless liberal glossy magazine editors. So Carter turns for analysis of this alarming turn of events to a “distinguished colleague.”

A distinguished colleague of mine likens the wiggy mood of the nation to that of a hormonal teenager. What do you call an electorate that seems prone to acting out irrationally, is full of inchoate rage, and is constantly throwing fits and tantrums? You call it teenaged. Is voting for a deranged Tea Party candidate such as Christine O’Donnell, who has no demonstrable talent for lawmaking, or much else, so different from shouting “Whatever!” and slamming the bedroom door? Is moaning that Obama doesn’t emote enough or get sufficiently angry so different from screaming, “You don’t understand!!!
Such is the extent of “sophisticated” social science analysis from our gurus of the glitterati. Richard Hofstadter, a truly distinguished historian, did it much better sixty years ago.

In fact Carter really doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand that Jacksonians, ordinary Americans, saw that the nation had gone off course and was heading down the road toward European-style social democracy with an ever larger and more intrusive government. So they rallied through the Tea Party movement to enact a peaceful revolution—well “revolution” may be too powerful a term—but at least a peaceful change of course to put the nation back on the path of liberty, limited government, capitalism, and American exceptionalism. Looking back on the Election of 1800 that made him president, Thomas Jefferson said it was nothing less than a peaceful revolution, “the revolution of 1800,”
for that was as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of 1776 was in its form; not effected indeed by the sword, as that, but by the rational and peaceable instrument of reform, the suffrage of the people. The nation declared its will by dismissing functionaries of one principle, and electing those of another, in the two branches, executive and legisltaive, submitted to their election.
The Election of 2010 only changed the functionaries of one half of one branch of the federal government, but what Jefferson said still applies. Under the Federalist administrations of George Washington and John Adams, the federal government seemed, to a large section of the American public, to have become too arbitrary and intrusive. The Alien and Sedition Acts gave the government license to shut down dissent and abuse civil liberties. In 1800 the Federalist elites portrayed Jefferson as a raging out-of-control madman, determined to tear down the federal government, while in league with the devil! The Election of 1800 was the first time in history that an opposition party gained power through peaceful exercise of the popular will. Well, the Federalists back then accused the American people of throwing a temper tantrum by throwing them out of office. But the Federalists, to their everlasting credit, accepted the will of the people, however distasteful they found it, and peacefully turned power over to their Jeffersonian Republican rivals. This was a milestone in the development of democratic self-government.

Mad Tom in a Rage.

The situation in 2010, Carter laments, is quite a change from the days of 1994, when Bill Clinton recovered from the Democratic drubbing by wisely moving toward the center. Since 2001, Carter posits, the nation has been yanked away from the moderate middle by both the Bush and the Obama administrations. Actually American politics have been becoming increasingly polarized since the 1960s, with the rise of the two rival religious/ideological/cultural movements: the Aquarian countercultural left and the evangelical right. The new media technologies that emerged starting in the 1990s intensified this polarization. “Thanks to these dramatic political lurches—and aided by the exponential magnification of the Internet and the seething blogosphere, and with the martinets at the command center at Fox News marshaling forces—the fringe has achieved considerable purchase on the middle ground. Indeed, the fringe has almost become mainstream.” So, according to Carter, the Silent Majority of Nixon’s day has become the Angry Majority of Obama’s; this Angry Majority, of course, being the Jacksonian populist conservatives.

A conservative blogger using the moniker “Joetote”, a card carrying member of Carter’s Angry Majority, wrote this comment on Walter Russell Mead’s blog about the Tea Party and the mood of the electorate:

It is apparent beyond all doubt that the establishment on both sides are deathly afraid of the so called Tea Party (and thus the electorate in general) and they well should be! For those of you who prefer to live in a cave, the Tea Party from my view is not just about returning to conservative principles. The people who are aligning themselves behind this movement are looking for so much more. We are looking for men and women of principle! We want representatives that obey the will of the people, not their leaders or their own power lust! We want a return to the bedrock principles this country was founded on! We sure as hell do not want to be told we are racists, hate mongers or all the other names we are called just because we disagree with the direction this country is being taken. We believe in free speech, not “Obama says you will think and say as I want”.
Joetote concluded his comment with a cri de coeur:

The Tea Party movement is not a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican party! A co-opted media led by a hard core left wing wanna be dictatorship government would want you to believe that it is in fact all about the Republicans. And they would be dead wrong! The Tea Party movement is a fight for the heart and soul of our country! It is a fight to return us to what made us the greatest country in the world! How sad that entrenched politicians on the right along with the garbage on the left cannot or refuse to understand such a basic tenet!
This is the passion of Jacksonian America for honor, liberty, and American exceptionalism unedited and unrefined. The people who voted for Jefferson in 1800 and Jackson in 1828 would understand Joetote immediately. Yet for Graydon Carter this is nothing more than a juvenile rant that can be dismissed as a temper tantrum and ignored.

In a final touch of irony, Carter concedes that Europe, the model of what liberal progressives believe America should be, has been infected by the virus of Jacksonian populism! Populist conservatives on the old continent have been energized by social tensions caused by the inability to assimilate growing Muslim communities. Even Germany’s prim and proper Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared that her nation’s experiment in multiculturalism has failed. “Immigrants should learn to speak German,” Merkel announced in the ultimate heresy. “We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, some time they will be gone,’ but this isn’t reality. And of course, the approach [to build] a multicultural [society] and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other . . . has failed, utterly failed.” I guess Graydon Carter and his fellow elite progressives will have to find their model someplace else. And Americans can focus on the tough road ahead: to get the great capitalist wealth-creation machine working again, upgraded for the new economic world of the twenty-first century, and preparing ourselves for the unforseen and unprecedented challenges of the twenty-first century while maintaining our commitment to liberty and limited government.

© 2010 Michael Kaplan


  1. Mr. Kaplan,

    A great well reasoned essay. I am deeply honored to see my words used as part of your essay. I also want to compliment you as you really hit the nail on the head as to the passion we feel about our founding principles and the greatness that s the United States.

    We the people sometimes do not pay attention to all that is going on, but once we open our eyes, we act. I am hopeful this is the start of a second revolution that will restore our country's soul. I've said before that we need a revolution but we are the only country that can have one that is done peacefully through that ballot box. This last week was a good start yet we must remain vigilant and alert.

    I will be following your fine blog and once again my sincere thanks for the honor of my appearing in your essay.


  2. Joe,

    Thank you for your kind comment. Your words, which I quoted in this post, really captured, I believe, what much of the American public is thinking these days.

    With the 2012 election now on the horizon, I'm sure we're in for some interesting times. Will Obama run for re-election? Will he be challenged by Russ Feingold on the left or Hillary on the right? Will the Republicans go with Sarah Palin or with someone more establishment? We'll also see if the new Tea Party members of Congress can keep the Republicans honest and committed to Constitutional principles.

    I'll be looking in on your blog, and again thanks for your comment.