Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I see that David Brooks is concerned about America's mettle (or intestinal fortitude or something), which doesn't seem as robust as China's -- and this has gotten me thinking about (of course) Sarah Palin. Here's some of what Brooks says:

...eschatological faith in the future has motivated generations of Americans, just as religious faith motivates a missionary. Pioneers and immigrants endured hardship in the present because of their confidence in future plenty. Entrepreneurs start up companies with an exaggerated sense of their chances of success. The faith is the molten core of the country's dynamism.

... The Chinese, though members of a famously old civilization, seem to possess some of the vigor that once defined the U.S. The Chinese are now an astonishingly optimistic people. Eighty-six percent of Chinese believe their country is headed in the right direction, compared with 37 percent of Americans.

The Chinese now have lavish faith in their scientific and technological potential.... The majority of the Chinese believe that China will produce the next society-changing innovation, while only a third of Americans believe the next breakthrough will happen here....

For better or worse, I don't think we particularly value tech innovators in this country (Steve Jobs and videogame designers excepted), and I don't think we care all that much about truly innovative entrepreneurs. Our heroes tend to be sports stars and entertainers, a few politicians and fist-shaking pundits, plus (in the tonier zip codes) the wheeler-dealers who make killings for themselves but don't add much to ordinary people's lives beyond that.

Oddly, this is true even on the right.

Think about it. You'd imagine that right-wingers, those great admirers of capitalism, would have many capitalist innovators and entrepreneurs as their big heroes. But that's not true. Their heroes aren't titans of industry or builders of better mousetraps.

Their heroes are whiners.

The biggest heroes on the right are the people who complain the loudest and most compellingly about what evil people liberals are. Sarah Palin. Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh. Joe Wilson. They don't make anything, except a high-pitched whiny noise. Isn't that odd?

Even their greatest intellectual hero, Ayn Rand, was a whiner -- her books are nothing but thousand-page complaints. Isn't it curious that the quintessential Randian act is not an act of creation, or even wealth creation, but a massive hissyfit -- the John Galt-led strike in Atlas Shrugged?


Via Barbara at the Mahablog, I see that Max Blumenthal has concluded that Sarah Palin's particular appeal to the right-wing base is specifically as a victim of the evangelical persuasion:

By emphasizing her own crises and her victimization by the "liberal media," Palin has established an invisible, indissoluble bond with adherents of that [evangelical] subculture -- so visceral it transcends any rational political analysis. As a result, her career has become a vehicle through which the right-wing evangelical movement feels it can express its deepest identity in opposition both to secular society and to its representatives in the Obama White House. Palin is perceived by its leaders -- and followers -- not as another cynical politician or even as a self-promoting celebrity, but as a kind of magical helper, the God-fearing glamour girl who parachuted into their backwater towns to lift them from the drudgery of everyday life, assuring them that they represented the "Real America."

A shared non-urbane background helps Palin connect (and, as Blumenthal says, even having a teenage mother in the family helps fprm a bond, given how common that problem is for rural white evangelicals) -- but don't forget that many of these same people deeply admire Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, who live secular lives and go to tony restaurants.

The base wants respect for its way of life, whether from fellow non-urbanites or not. Beyond that, the base wants victimized whining. And then more whining. And more whining. From anyone, as long as it's directed at the correct target.

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