They failed to note that Truman was a serious reader of history and had, in supposedly backward Independence, Mo., studied piano under a teacher who had studied under Ignacy Paderewski.
The supposedly mindless 1950s, Siegel recalls, were actually a time of elevated culture, with thousands of Great Books discussion groups across the nation and high TV ratings for programs such as Shakespeare's "Richard III," staring Laurence Olivier.
Liberals since the 1920s have claimed to be guided by the laws of science. But often it was crackpot science, like the eugenics movement that sought forced sterilizations.
Other social science theories proved unreliable in practice. Keynesian economics crashed and burned in the stagflation of the 1980s.
Predictions that the world would run out of food and resources turned out to be wrong. In the 1970s, people were told global cooling was inevitable. Now it's global warming.
As Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an artist among social scientists, pointed out, social scientists didn't really know how to eliminate poverty or crime. Policies based on middle-class instincts often worked better than those of elite liberals.
Some Democratic politicians learned lessons from this. Bill Clinton pursued welfare reform and honored, in rhetoric if not always behavior, people who work hard and play by the rules.
Barack Obama, in contrast, has built a top-and-bottom coalition -- academics and gentry liberals, blacks and Hispanics, with funding and organizational backing from taxpayer-funded public-sector unions. In 2008, Obama carried those with incomes under $50,000 and over $200,000, and lost those in-between.
The Obama Democrats passed a stimulus package tilted toward public-sector unions and financial regulation propping up the big banks. Those at the top got paid off.
Less has gone to those at the bottom. Those in the middle have seen their health insurance canceled by Obamacare and sit waiting for healthcare.gov to function.
Suddenly, this "aristocracy based on talent and sensibility," in Siegel's words, seems to be discrediting its own policies -- and its conceit that it is uniquely fit to govern.