Friday, August 09, 2013


From Peggy Noonan, another misty watercolor memory of the way we were:
There is pervasive confusion about what the American dream is. We seem to have redefined it to mean the acquisition of material things -- a car, a house and a pool. That was not the meaning of the American dream a few generations ago. The definition then was that in this wonderful place called America, where you can start out from nothing and become anything. It was aspirational. The limits of class and background wouldn't and couldn't keep you from becoming a person worthy of respect, even renown. If you wanted to turn that into houses and a pool, fine. But you didn't have to. You could have a modest job like teacher and be the most respected woman in town.

When we turned the American dream into a dream about materialism, we disheartened our young, who now are forced to achieve what we've defined as success in a straitened economy.
So "a few generations ago" the American dream wasn't about materialism? Peggy, please let me introduce you to the work of Margaret Bourke-White. Perhaps you've heard of her?

The photo of the billboard (and breadline) speaks for itself. It was taken in 1937. (The billboard was part of a pro-capitalist propaganda campaign from the National Association of Manufacturers.)


Noonan's column focuses on Dan Balz's new book on the 2012 campaign -- specifically, on the bits about some focus-grouping the Obama campaign did. Yes, I'm sure you're shocked! A modern presidential campaign doing deep-dig voter research!
What followed was a "massive research effort" to help the Obama campaign develop a message....

The campaign asked middle-aged, middle-income Americans to keep online financial journals. Over 100 people took part, twice a week for three weeks. The Obama campaign did not reveal it was behind the effort. Participants were asked fsuch questions as whether or not they were putting off various purchases, or buying a used car rather than a new one. They were also asked: When was the last time you were treated unfairly at work? The journals yielded 1,400 pages of raw material.

I'll add here that when I told a young friend, a professional in her 20s, about this, she asked: "Do they have to do things like that to understand their own country?" Yes, they do.
You know which other people apparently "have to do things like that to understand their own country?" The executives of every large corporation in America. Who do you think hires these market research firms between campaigns? Yes, our Galtian heroes in the Fortune 500!

Look, I don't like the fact that modern campaign techniques are indistinguishable from corporate marketing. But if you're going to accuse Barack Obama of being out of touch with people because he does this, then you should also accuse every CEO in America of the same thing.


And there's this:
A year before the election Americans weren't sure who the president was. He held himself at bay, observes Mr. Balz: "An Obama friend once suggested to me that the teleprompter was a perfect metaphor for the president, a physical symbol of how he kept the world at arm's length."
Oh, for crissake.

Well, the only possible response to that is this:


Victor said...

...Peggy Noonan, another misty watercolor, whiskey-soaked, booze-addled, memory of the way she thinks things were...

There, fixed it fer ya, Steve!

I'm wondering what you can write next that will bring in another infestation of Teabaggers, who make roaches look like bright and independent thinkers?

Perhaps expand on their blessed Reagan's Presidential record.

I'm sure they'll be shocked at how Liberal and bipartisan he seems, compared to today's sociopathic Cro Magnon Conservative politicians.

They'll deny he was, of course.

But maybe you'll plant a seed that can germinate, and fill their empty craniums with something more useful than their usual stored gibberish of talking points, meme's, and put-downs of Liberals.

FSM knows, they have enough fertilizer up there, which, if properly utilized, could grow enough food to feed the world.

Having sh*t-for-brains, might then serve some purpose for the greater good - aka: SOCIALISM!!!

aimai said...

Peggy really is an interesting person, culturally speaking. She and K'Lo, both Catholics FWIW, hew to a very old idea of the numinous and the mystical when it comes to nation and society. They prefer to think of things in mystical terms--the president as king/pope who is just "one" with his people. They really detest the idea of research, of strivers, of outsiders. They talk a good game about "the american dream" but when you read their columns they don't like people who had to work too hard or who they identify as "inauthentic" where "authentic" means effortlessly fitting their role.

Peggy makes a habit of misrepresenting and misremembering how things actually work in America and in Poltiics because it suits her as a way to delegitimize her political enemies. If Obama and his campaign had been lazy and relied on mere slogans like "Its morning in America" or "There is a bear/out there/in the woods" she would have excoriated them for failing to use "good old american scientific know how and polling information." But at base she prefers the mystical and the effortless. She dislikes any representation of Obama that compares him to Reagan for his grace, style, and charm and she spends nearly as much time attacking him for faking those qualities as she does for any mere technical issue.

Dark Avenger said...

She longs for the days when National League of Decency was able to keep Amurican films pure, and simultaneously forgets the prejudice and discrimination that Catholics of the generations before her own faced.

And you see no pity or sympathy for the Amuricans who have seen their standard of living drop, probably because that's Gods' punishment for them choosing the Kenyan usurper over Mr 1% Romney last year.

Glennis said...

But as far as I know, Mr. Obama doesn't wear shiny, cordovan loafers for the Pegster to swoon over.

Anonymous said...

Well, they're still raging on in that second post. In fact some of them are settling down on the couches and putting their feet up on the coffee table to talk winger "philosophy". I'm staying out of there in case any of them start expecting sammiches.

Glennis said...

You know, just close off that room, and wait till they're gone and then fumigate it. There's a whole lotta crazy going on over there.

kestrel28 said...

you mean, Ms. Noonan, that there was never an Industrial Revolution? in England or in America? That was all a big pipe dream? You mean to tell me that the Model T was never invented, that candy bars were never mass produced on assembly lines, bicycles were never made by Schwinn, and the Sears Roebuck catalogs from 1909, and the Montgomery Ward catalog never existed? Clueless II, starring Peggy Noonan as Alicia Silver Spoon, the rich man's daughter who wishes to deny that the American dream was not about keeping up with the Smiths or the Jones, or the Baileys. Advertising back then was done in cute fashion in the Saturday Evening Post and other print mediums, and billboards like the famous Burma Shave ad. Only nowadays, Mr. Moneybags Monopoly is a greedy corporate spying bastard that wants to know everything you do and write: every "like" you click on Facebook is sent to behavioral advertising goons who then have the right to hang onto you like leeches Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen". Facebook's Graph Search (or Gaffe Search as I call it) is just another across the board privacy invasion to cluster consumer groups together.

She's been sniffing too much Ether or Vicks...there...some subliminal (or not) advertising.

Ottercliff said...

I remember those times. Saint Reagan was in the White House, the word "materialistic" hadn't even been coined, and Peggy Noonan didn't have her first martini until lunchtime.