Will offers up just the latest in a long string of pieces by cosmopolitan elites lecturing other cosmopolitan elites on the need to get out of the echo chamber they all share. Enough already. Can we please stop pretending that failure to properly appreciate the wisdom of parochial, tribalist hicks (and I mean that in a geographically neutral sense) is some kind of moral failing? Yes, Bush crafted a message that was “simple and appealing to a huge mass of voting Americans.” That’s what demagoguery is.
Will’s post is ultimately no less condescending than the attitude he criticizes, attributing Bush’s support less to substantive (if loathesome) policy agreement from the base, and more to his apparent embodiment of the spirit of the Volk. That may be the case, but if anything, it makes his base look worse, not better. As Penn Jillette says (roughly) in the most recent issue of Reason, sometimes respecting someone means saying “you’re a fucking idiot,” because then you’re at least taking their disagreement seriously. A difference over the morality of stem cell research, say, is at least in principle a substantive topic you can argue about. Disagreement that stems from one party’s being enmeshed in some adolescent narrative about the True Spirit of America forecloses that possibility, because it amounts to concluding that your opponents are hypnotized, and that the best hope is to hypnotize them better. Maybe that’s the case, but don’t tell me it’s less condescending. It sounds nicer, but only for the same reason you’re more polite to the guy screaming obscenities at you when you realize he’s got Tourette’s.