How Liberals Plan to Transform America
by Professor Jack
Many people ask me why liberals have such animosity towards suburbs when so many of them live there. I can’t pretend to plumb the cognitive dissonance of the typical liberal mind, but I can tell you a little about why their progressive overlords harbor this contempt.
Since WWII, the intellectual classes have identified suburbs with middle-class conformity, obsolete religious beliefs, racism, and reactionary political views. Think back to your TV days. What were the leading sitcoms of the ’50s? Right, the suburban happy families of Ozzie and Harriet, the Cleavers, and the Andersons (“Father Knows Best”), and other such shows.
That world underwent a debunking in the ’60s and ’70s that has continued to this day. “All In the Family” was the archetypal, anti-suburban progressive sitcom, in which Archie and Edith represented the benighted suburbanites, while Meathead and Gloria were, though humorously ineptly, the new wave. “Levittown,” the Long Island development that led the suburbanization of America after the war, became a pejorative term regularly applied to the subdivisions that were popping up everywhere.
Movies continued the assault on the suburbs with flicks ranging from the 1950s’ “Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” to “Elmer Gantry” (1963) to “Easy Rider” (1969) to “American Beauty” (1999). Books are too many to enumerate, but they included the cultural broadsides of C. Wright Mills, Richard Hofstader, Herbert Marcuse and many others, academic as well as popular.
Leading intellectuals like H. L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, Dwight MacDonald, and Norman Mailer made their names, and their fortunes, by ridiculing and demonizing the suburbs. To this day, the 1950s are the one era of American life that it is scandalous to try and reprise. Even conservatives duly begin their apologies with “well, nobody wants to go back to the ’50s, but…”
The question is: Why this single-minded assault on that decade?
It is, I believe, that the 1950s, for all their faults, were a period of our national history that presented a believable and achievable vision of America that promised an alternative to socialism. It did this not so much through the McCarthyite suppression of dissent that introduced the decade, but through the more mature cultural and civilizational recoveries of the later ’50s.
These were the years when The Great Books began appearing on home book shelves, when Readers Digest classical music albums became commonplace, when Norman Rockwell created an authentic indigenous art form, when electric organs appeared in living rooms, when TV featured Liberace and Van Cliburn alongside Milton Berle and Lucille Ball. It was nothing less than a new American renaissance, in the words of historian George Marsden. Night schools opened for working adults to bone up on their music, literature, science and history. Political writer Michael Barone called it “The Midcentury Moment.”
Since the 1950s, much of America, even small Midwestern towns, have become “suburbanized” in the sense that they all share a middle-class ethos of national pride and personal cultural development. Towns of 50,000 routinely have local artists and community orchestras. Even on America’s farms, often large conglomerates, you find patrons of the arts and ticket holders to the local live theaters.
In spite of all of this, America’s progressives, working from their bases in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle, have continued the propaganda war against America’s real heartland, the suburbs. This is now so central a tenet of modern progressivism that we have all succumbed in one degree or another to its canonical status.
To the point that today’s liberals mouth this catechism from their living rooms and coffee shops tucked away in what Charles Murray calls the “Superzips,” the rich and tony suburbs of most large cities.
It is important for us to know where Mr. Obama and his acolytes get their ideas for what is best for our country. In this case they come from the self-contradictions of his followers.