“The american president,” said Henry Adams— grandson of one president and great-grandson of another— “resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek.”
The new president, who likes to think of himself as one of the great historical figures of our time, took on the role of ship’s commander even before he was sworn in, and has made no bones about the port he wants to seek. In a word, he will do whatever he can to shift the political spectrum to the left, to reshape the very foundations of American life, leaving, when he has finished, a European-style democratic socialist state.
The course that Mr. Obama will follow is the course set forth over decades, in every institution in the Western world, by the cultural left. Its march through the institutions that shape American culture— the universities, the press, the entertainment industry, the legal profession, the arts and the public schools—started early last century, and by the end of World War II it had taken almost complete control.
The cultural left joined forces with the political left when the two took over the Democratic Party in 1972, and they have been in lockstep ever since. That marriage started the Democratic Party’s drift to the far left and the abandonment of the party by foreign policy hawks and the so-called Reagan Democrats; left-wing politics has waxed and waned since, but cultural liberalism—what we at the Spectator call the “Kultursmog”—just kept marching along, strengthening its stake, extending its reach, and silencing its critics. The soldiers were not incendiary revolutionaries, but knew that by slow, methodical perseverance they would eventually win, and politics would follow. Although the old right recognized the problem early on, conservatives publicly awakened to the phenomenon sometime in the 1980s, began to fight back, and the culture wars were born.
What has been the result? Doors were opened and there was plenty of noise, but if the right won foot soldiers and a few battles, it lost the war. Now the cultural left’s triumph is the election of Mr. Obama, himself the very symbol of an elitist liberal, who is busily surrounding himself with smug and knowing fellow travelers happy finally to have their hands on the helm. Their colleagues who remain in the press, in the universities, the think tanks, and the rest are the ones who will provide the political cover, and will do all in their power to keep the electorate believing that the savior has arrived.
Their arsenal is superior knowledge of all things. These liberal cultural elitists know things, they tell us, that others do not or cannot know, so we should believe them, and not challenge them. “Such knowledge,” writes Angelo Codevilla in the current issue, “is called science, and claiming ownership of it practically negates political equality, if not human equality altogether. Claiming it is a political, not a scientific, act.”
Whether we are talking about the health care debate or climate change, tax increases or the impact on the economy of massive federal spending, the cultural elite will be there with their superior scientific knowledge. Why do we need debate? they will ask. We know the answers, and we know what is good for you. And they also know what’s good for capitalism, thanks in part, as Philip Klein reports this month, to the sins of many of our so-called capitalists.
Welcome to Obamaland.