Political Hay

Intellectuals Without Intellect

Post-election, irrational Democrats are trying to present themselves as the party of reason.

By 11.9.04

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John Kerry possessed reason, George Bush possessed faith. That's the consoling critique of the campaign by defeated liberals. But the truth is Kerry displayed neither. Without credible reason or faith, Kerry had nothing to offer Americans except experiments in radicalism.

To salvage their self-esteem, liberals are pushing the idea that they have lost the country but retained their reason. It hasn't yet dawned on them that they lost the country because they lost their reason. Their irrational anger and tired theories weren't persuasive. The American people rejected Kerry because of an absence not only of authentic faith but also of reliable reasoning. His arguments were quite lame and couldn't hold up under questioning.

"The Day the Enlightenment Went Out" was the post-election sob of Garry Wills in the New York Times, and captures the rationalists-versus-religious-boobs analysis liberals are using to pep up their spirits. Wills is the classic intellectual without an intellect, using his mind to theorize against common sense. He wholly identifies liberalism with "reason" and "enlightenment" even as liberalism defies basic logic and sanctions barbaric practices. His enlightenment conceit is a joke in light of the growing list of human rights abuses liberalism routinely justifies -- from killing unborn children to the killing of the aged and weak to the cloning of human embryos for harvesting.

The reason why liberalism lacks any enduring appeal to ordinary Americans is not that it is too lofty but that it is too low. It is beneath the reason of man. It appeals not to the mind of humans but to their irrational desires. Liberalism is far more about emotion than reason. Want to feel good about being bad? Liberalism will give you plenty of excuses to. But Americans can see that this is a childish, self-indulgent political philosophy that no civilization can run on for very long. To see that liberalism is false to human nature and reason all Americans have to do is look at the chaotic and downright barbaric public schools under its influence, the immense damage it has done to popular culture and family life, and its sapping of economies and governments.

The irony of liberal intellectuals holding themselves out as the last custodians of reason is that the enlightened mind as they define it mistrusts reason. Review the writings of Garry Wills' colleagues at Northwestern University and you would find numerous tracts in defense of skepticism and relativism that make it clear that the professors there have no more confidence in reason than they do in faith. This of course doesn't stop them from opening their mouths or acting as if they are imparting some dogmatic truth to the ignorant. Nor does their hostility to faith prevent them from demanding that Americans accept moral relativism on what amounts to faith in them -- an elite urging avant-garde morality on Americans not on the basis of any reasoned argument but on the basis of hectoring and religious baiting.

One would think that in a column titled "The Day the Enlightenment Went Out" Wills might try out an argument or two. Nope. In the place of anything even remotely resembling reasoned argumentation is bald bigotry aimed at his own religious heritage. "Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?" he writes.

It is a window on Wills' deformed mind that the idea of Jesus Christ coming from a virgin mother is more abhorrent to him than that man came haphazardly from orangutans. Wills takes as his measure of enlightenment a Darwinian theory that most scientists don't even bother to defend anymore. Complexity through chance -- random selection -- requires more faith than the virgin birth. Wills' test of enlightenment is richly ironic: take a leap of faith and believe that man is just the most evolved unreasoning ape to come along, and you are reasonable; reject it and you turn your back on, as Wills' puts it, the "enlightenment heritage" of America.

How many of the founders of this enlightened nation could pass Wills' test? How many of them would agree with Garry Wills' views on abortion, euthanasia, cloning, sexual liberation? Whatever Wills means by enlightenment, it would come as a shock to the founders, whom for the purposes of this column he extols as embodiments of it. Wills is so unhinged in this column he ends up extolling Ronald Reagan as well. The president Wills spent the 1980s describing as a dangerous simpleton is now "amiably and ecumenically pious" compared to the jihadist George Bush.

It is clear from the wild and ferocious way in which Wills spits out the word "Enlightenment" that it isn't a synonym for reason, but rather a euphemism for an increasingly willful liberalism that claims reason and attacks faith but is now bereft of both.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.