George Will

First, the consent of the governed, when their behavior is governed by their false consciousnesses, is unimportant. Second, the public requires the supervision of a progressive elite which, somehow emancipated from false consciousness, can engineer true consciousness. Third, because consciousness is a reflection of social conditions, true consciousness is engineered by progressive social reforms. Fourth, because people in the grip of false consciousness cannot be expected to demand or even consent to such reforms, those reforms usually must be imposed, for example, by judicial fiats.

The iconic public intellectual of liberal condescension was Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, who died in 1970 but whose spirit still permeated that school when Obama matriculated there in 1981. Hofstadter pioneered the rhetorical tactic that Obama has revived with his diagnosis of working-class Democrats as victims -- the indispensable category in liberal theory. The tactic is to dismiss rather than refute those with whom you disagree.

Obama's dismissal is: Americans, especially working-class conservatives, are unable, because of their false consciousness, to deconstruct their social context and embrace the liberal program. Today that program is to elect Obama, thereby making his wife at long last proud of America.

Hofstadter dismissed conservatives as victims of character flaws and psychological disorders -- a "paranoid style" of politics rooted in "status anxiety," etc. Conservatism rose on a tide of votes cast by people irritated by the liberalism of condescension.

Obama voiced such liberalism with his "bitterness" remarks to an audience of affluent San Franciscans. Perfect.

When Democrats convened in San Francisco in 1984, en route to losing 49 states, Jeane Kirkpatrick -- a former FDR Democrat then serving in the Cabinet of another such, Ronald Reagan -- said "San Francisco Democrats" are people who "blame America first." Today, they blame Americans for America being "downright mean."

Obama's apology for his embittering sociology of "bitterness" -- "I didn't say it as well as I could have" -- occurred in Muncie, Ind. Perfect.

In 1929 and 1937 Robert and Helen Lynd published two seminal books of American sociology. They were sympathetic studies of a medium-sized manufacturing city they called "Middletown," coping -- reasonably successfully, optimistically and harmoniously -- with life's vicissitudes. "Middletown" was in fact Muncie, Ind.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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