On Saturday, I wrote that Obama's ties to Ayers and Wright, and his apparent lack of self-consciousness about these ties and how they might affect his political career, "suggest to me NOT that Obama agrees with their views, but that he is the product of a particular intellectual culture that finds the likes of Wright and Ayers to be no more objectionable, and likely less so, than the likes of Tom Coburn, or, perhaps, a Rush Limbaugh."
Some readers might be a bit mystified as to what I was getting at. Well, consider Obama's years at Harvard Law. I attended Yale Law School the same years that Obama attended Harvard, and I had friends at Harvard, so I have some idea about the general intellectual culture that the institution (which was not dissimilar to Yale's culture).
That culture considered extreme leftists (known as "progressives") to be within mainstream political discourse, but run-of-the-mill conservatives (known as "reactionaries") to be, at best, on the fringe. Consider that conservative lawyer and Obama Harvard Law classmate Brad Berenson praised Obama as president of the Harvard Law Review because "Whatever his politics, we felt he would give us a fair shake". Are there many places in America where mainstream conservatives like Berenson have had to worry about being treated fairly because of their politics, and where a "boss" will get praise simply for not treating them like pariahs? But Obama won support and praise simply for giving conservatives a "fair shake," with no question that people on the extreme left were entitled to such treatment.
Now consider Obama's answer when asked at a debate about Ayers:
"George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense, George. The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who, during his campaign, once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions."
So, it seems that in Obama's mind, he's an open-minded guy because he's as willing to be friends with a law-abiding conservative Republican senator as with an extreme leftist unrepentant former domestic terrorist--just as he was considered open-minded at Harvard for treating a mainstream conservative Berenson as a non-pariah. It is this attitude that is a reflection of the political culture of elite liberal east coast schools, and liberal univeristy ghettos such as Hyde Park, and is also reflected in Obama's infamous "clinging to guns and religion" remark.
Being in the academy myself, I know many people who share Obama's outlook, or who are even more left-wing. Many of them are fine individuals, write thoughtful and interesting scholarship, are a pleasure to engage with in conversation, and respect my work and my ideas, even if they think some of my views are rather loony. Like them, Obama may very well be a fine, thoughtful, individual, willing to engage with people and ideas despite his natural instinct to recoil. But that doesn't mean I'd want to be governed by them, or him, and Obama's 100% liberal voting record in the Senate is likely a far better indication of his underlying ideology than his willingness to be polite to Berenson and Coburn.
UPDATE: For another take, see this piece by Jennifer Rubin. H/T--Instapundit.
FURTHER UPDATE: No, commenters, I haven't enjoyed being governed by Bush, the Republican Congress, or the Democratic Congress, and I'm not looking forward to a McCain Administration, either. But there's a good reason that liberals are especially excited by the prospect of Obama winning--he will be the first president to come out of the post-1970s elite liberal university culture that dominates modern liberalism, for better or for worse. Since this culture is antithetical in many (though not all) ways to my own views, I don't see any reason to share this enthusiasm.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Which One of These Is Not Like the Other:
- One More Reply to Orin:
- A Reply to David:
- Response to Orin:
- Obama and Liberal Culture -- A Response to David B:
- More on Obama as a Product of a Particular Liberal Culture:
- What is the Significance of Obama's Ties to Ayers (and Wright?):