Are the Tea Parties the Intellectual Antidote to the Left?, Or…


…why some conservative intellectuals hate the Sarah Palin “type”.

We already know the Left hates Sarah Palin. But they are stupid, and must be told to think this, so they don’t really know why. As LaborUnionReports reminded us only yesterday, they don’t even know when to hate war without being told.

But many in the GOP, and yes, including many “professional conservatives,” feel much the same. The difference is they hate the Sarah Palin “type” much more. Moreover, they know exactly why they think this way.

Why this is important to understand now, and why we will embark on a year-long inquiry about the many and varied IED’s that will be buried, and by whom, as we continue our march against both the Left and the Ruling Class (they are not entirely the same, coming in all shades of red)…

…is that these same reasons will serve as the basis for their hating Herman Cain should he do well in the early primaries. For you see, Herman also is of “that type.”

So get out your programs. This will be but one of several articles to determine who are players and who are spectators…and…

….who are the real soldiers and who are the real insurgents in this wahr…all according to James Madison.

Madison? Yeah, guess what? James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, good old Ben Franklin, John Adams, and a lot of other Founders were far closer, in type, to Sarah Palin and Herman Cain than say, David Brooks and many other self-proclaimed spokesmen for the intellectual Right.

Let’s compare being an intellectual in 1787 and being an intellectual in 2011.

Let’s assume for argument’s sake that the Founders were intellectuals.

Now, there’s 10,000 words in that simple statement alone, for most of you would say, why, of course they were. It’s like saying the Bible is the inspired Word of God. For believers this is a no-brainer, so much so its authority is rarely considered at any depth, while the wisdom of It is studied and analyzed and discussed by millions in Christian kaffehauser (called “churches” in fly-over country) every week.

But for non-believers this is equally a no-brainer, only It is dismissed out of hand on the basis of authority alone so that the underlying wisdom of the Bible is never even considered at all. Non-believers never inquire, “If that person is so wrong, why is he so happy?”

Again, we could run with this for at least 10,000 words.

Simply put, of the two points of view, which is the least intellectual? Which perspective most engages the intellect?

Again it’s a no-brainer. My own view is that by word and deed modern intellectuals do not consider the Founders to be very intellectual at all, only can’t bring themselves to admit it out loud. As one conservative told me, he wasn’t sure he really approved of the Constitution, or, as one very very adult (sic) 24 year old law student, who had never yet balanced a checkbook, told me, “Herman Cain isn’t ready.”

So, what are the key distinctions between these two kinds of intellectuals? I can come up with several terms: common sense, an inquiring mind, an alert sensory system (i.e, watches others rather than his own navel), thinks first, judges second, and has worldly experience.

In New York they might add…takes no notice of the crease in a fellow’s slacks. In east Texas they might add…can tell a horse from a mule, or has thumped a watermelon. And while you may think both a bit far-fetched, the reality is, the Founders knew all that stuff too, although it fell into the realm, like wine grapes, of regional varietals of common sense.

So, how would we distinguish the Founders from modern political intellectuals? And by modern, I don’t just mean the the graying sages of what Rush Limbaugh calls the “College of Conservative Cardinals”, men like George Will and Charles Krauthammer and women like Peggy Noonan, but Cliff’s Notes conservatives like David Brooks and the rising crop of under-forty wannabe-intellectuals, the by-the-knee-pants generation who are not unlike the Left of the Sixties, many of whom often define themselves entirely by who they are not.

How would the Founders fare in our world? I am quite certain, if living in our time, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, could manage modern iPod technology with the skill and deftness of a pimp running a string of doxies in Manhattan…and even old Ben Franklin and George Washington could manage at least an email from time to time. Just like me. And they could hail a cab, or drive a car. And order from a French menu. Old Ben at least could probably roll a doobie.

But you know there had to be wooden teeth jokes going around in the executive washrooms in those days.

Oh wait, they didn’t have those in those days. Everybody in Philadelphia and New York visited the same little brown shack out back I did as a kid, with a Sears & Roebuck catalog rolled up under one arm. And when traveling on business they had that little porcelain bowl under the bed. Night-soil, now there’s a word you won’t hear David Brooks talk about every day. Still, in Madison’s day, especially when staying at the Days Inn in Yonkers on business, it was a fact of everyday life, especially for the citizen walking on the street below as it was tossed from the 8th floor…Oh wait, there were no tall buildings…or elevators…or sliding windows…

In other words, there’s nothing our modern Wunderkind could do today the Founders couldn’t do. But consider the reverse.

The Founders were defined by an ability to look around and watch the passing parade with a certain sense of inquisitiveness. An intellectual process? You’d think so, yet this is mostly gone from the self-proclaimed intellectual community in America. The Founder’s world more or less required it. To be in an intellectual in their day required them to be inquiring minds by necessity. Today, intellectuals mostly read, but usually what they were taught to read by Professor so-and-so or on the recommendation of another writer they recently read. There is no world of observation. Marx learned about the plight of the worker in a library, then wrote about it, ad nauseum, thus setting a template that still continues. Almost all political intellectualism has bought into this form of academic inquiry, in part, because it is so comfortable and less grimy, and also in part, because it seems to suit their image of themselves.

But the Founders learned by observing, as well as reading and talking, and less by being lectured to. And in the strangest of places…taverns, park benches, as well as salons. Many of America’s greatest minds were not born affluent and sheltered, so knew these simple laws by their own life’s experience, and never forgot them. Before the PhD came the diplomas in the School of Experience and the College of Hard Knocks.

It is from this deeper understanding of the human condition that  I distinguish intellectual elites from elitists, but the cascading desire to find something in Barack Obama that simply was never there, (see LadyPenguin’s piece) and which could have been deduced by a backstage wardrobe apprentice on Broadway, tells us why even the likes of Will, Krauthammer and Noonan sometimes too hastily look one way, and fail to look another, to find political leadership more reminiscent of  the Founders. It is because they can’t really identify with them any more. They remind us that the urge is strong to stay within one’s class, even if that class is generally unfit for political command.

If the Founders were intellectuals…they did study Burke, Aristotle, the Bible, after all…and spoke all sorts of languages, was this a result of what they read, or was it because of how they took what they read and applied it to what they observed in daily life, which today we quaintly call “common sense?”

Ever shoe a horse, build a dumbwaiter, estimate next year’s corn crop, or calculate the average shipping time from London to Boston? Under sail? How about fix a flat, grease an axle, cut kindling, build a stove fire? An open fire? With just a match, no gasoline? How about writing an amusing essay on flatulence? Do modern intellectuals tell fart jokes? Ben Franklin wrote a book about them. He also knew the position of the planets and the moon in October, and even wrote an almanac about it. In his day you could still learn stuff like that from the Indians, who the faux-intellectuals of the Left now claim as their own. Franklin knew real Indians….and knew how to tan a hide.

Do modern intellectuals just stroll into a tavern and sit down next to a card carrying union pipe fitter and order up a tankard? Or do they ask where the Red Carpet Lounge is for United First Class passengers?

Common sense, the common man, and the common weal were a routine part of daily life of the Founders. They practiced it and observed it every day….up close. They did not retreat, via limousine, to a hotel suite, or private office, or hideaway in the islands, to write a book, or a speech. They didn’t have an iBook, or even an Underwood. Riding along in a bumpy coach, struck by an inspiration, a thought, they couldn’t even pull out a piece of paper and jot it down. They were a hundred years before the Waterman pen, and two hundred before the 19-cent Bic. And they couldn’t even tell the driver “Pull over”…although I am sure they all peed behind a bush or a tree from time to time, which with those carnfangled trousers in those days, was no easy feat.

While the Founders fully understood their specialness, their unique intellectual capacity…after all the local cobbler or wainwright had no knowledge of Burke whatsoever…and they did have some of the finer accoutrements of life, such as someone else to dispose of the night soil (usually) every morning… still they were able to understand and appreciate how much better their lives were because of that boot maker who could provide a comfortable-fitting boot…they still understood that the tankard of ale and the beef stew tasted just as good to him as it did to them, and as often as not they shared it together in the same tavern.

They knew that everyone in their world had a part to play in enriching the other man’s life. Economists called this “division of labor” but moral political philosophers called this “sharing in Freedom’s bounty.” I sense that many modern political intellectuals do not understand this simple notion..

The big question is: Was it the simple experiences that molded the Constitution the way it was? I can’t say, but I’d wager yes.

In 1952-and 1956 the Democrats ran a genuine intellectual, Adlai Stevenson, and he couldn’t get elected on a bet. Twice. In 1960 the Washington elites ran a Harvard man, JFK, as an intellectual. He wasn’t, but it worked. So they tried again. They ran Micheal Dukakis and declared him to be an intellectual, so intellectual he didn’t know which end of the barrel the round came out of, and was rather nonplussed about his wife being raped.  He wasn’t either. Then they ran a Yale man, John Kerry, as an intellectual, but he failed too, although he could tell the difference between a riesling and a merlot grape. Finally in 2008 they ran another Harvard man as an intellectual. Like JFK, he wasn’t. Unlike JFK, he wasn’t even a man.

I think the intellectual dolts have run their string out. They have just met their antidote.

I’ve never fully understood the need for Beltway intellectuals to have one of their own in high office, since the most effective president the Left ever had since FDR was a rolled-up sleeves, calloused Texas political fixer named Lyndon Johnson.

I can only assume it’s a matter of class. But as the intellectual pickings seem to be getting thinner and thinner with each succeeding generation…I don’t see a young George Will out there, but I do see a lot of poseurs…I’m wondering if my original thoughts on the matter aren’t spot on. If the Founders were the real political intellectuals, then this brood can’t be. They are the outsiders.

While the Tea Parties are by and large made up of middle class folks from a variety of backgrounds, from cobbler to wainwright to coachmen to fisherman’s wives of another era, thanks to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and our own LadyPenguin, their constitutional education seems far superior to those of the so-called intellectual right. They are better read in the original materials, and have attended fewer courses to be pre-schooled in what those originals mean, and have many years more experience in the world of “applied education” that so defined the original Founders. They’ve dodged bullets, waded in mud, slop and muck, changed tires, oil, diapers, filed their own taxes, joined with their friends to raise a roof on a church, barn and house, dug a pool and a basement. To me, it’s a no-brainer. James Madison, meet your children.

So, are the Tea Parties the intellectual antidote to the Left? To that, I give a resounding “Yes!, Hell, yes.”



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March 21, 2011 7:07 pm

Dang. Makes me want to stand up and cheer.

March 21, 2011 7:12 pm

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
Attending Idaho State University is not a disqualifier for attaining the office of President of the United States.

March 22, 2011 12:05 am

Gee, I don’t know, but this item from the Jerusalem Post is precious:

“J Street officials, who are in Israel for a meeting of the Knesset Diaspora Affairs Committee, complained on Monday that Netanyahu had refused a request to meet with them but had chosen to meet with Palin.

The left-wing American lobby’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said he had wanted to meet with Netanyahu “to introduce ourselves and explain how we can work together as allies.”

March 22, 2011 12:17 am

Outstanding dispatch, and spot on, as usual, VB. I’ve been thinking lately, off and on, about an idea that seems somewhat related – that part of the problem is that too many are too far from the land – i.e., the food source, the actual sowing and reaping. In the time when the Founders lived, I’ll wager that the vast majority of folks were personally involved in actually producing at least part of what they ate – or at least, were no more than one step removed from the process, and therefore had the opportunity to observe and understand it… Read more »


[…] March 2011 I suggested that the Tea Party had become the intellectual antidote to the Left, which was never really that […]