You Go, Girl

I do like that Camille Paglia. Though a liberal Democrat, she always thinks for herself — and what a lively and penetrating mind she has. In a recent column for, she offers some common sense about this excruciating national set-to over health-care. She begins:

As an Obama supporter and contributor, I am outraged at the slowness with which the standing army of Democratic consultants and commentators publicly expressed discontent with the administration’s strategic missteps this year. I suspect there had been private grumbling all along, but the media warhorses failed to speak out when they should have — from week one after the inauguration, when Obama went flat as a rug in letting Congress pass that obscenely bloated stimulus package. Had more Democrats protested, the administration would have felt less arrogantly emboldened to jam through a cap-and-trade bill whose costs have made it virtually impossible for an alarmed public to accept the gargantuan expenses of national healthcare reform. (Who is naive enough to believe that Obama’s plan would be deficit-neutral? Or that major cuts could be achieved without drastic rationing?)

Who, indeed? We read on:

By foolishly trying to reduce all objections to healthcare reform to the malevolence of obstructionist Republicans, Democrats have managed to destroy the national coalition that elected Obama and that is unlikely to be repaired. If Obama fails to win reelection, let the blame be first laid at the door of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who at a pivotal point threw gasoline on the flames by comparing angry American citizens to Nazis. It is theoretically possible that Obama could turn the situation around with a strong speech on healthcare to Congress this week, but after a summer of grisly hemorrhaging, too much damage has been done. At this point, Democrats’ main hope for the 2012 presidential election is that Republicans nominate another hopelessly feeble candidate. Given the GOP’s facility for shooting itself in the foot, that may well happen…

…Why did it take so long for Democrats to realize that this year’s tea party and town hall uprisings were a genuine barometer of widespread public discontent and not simply a staged scenario by kooks and conspirators?

Just imagine: to hear a liberal Democrat saying such things! Perhaps they’re true.

I’ve often thought it seemed odd that the “counterculture” that I remember from the Sixties could come to have so much faith in what the “Establishment” could do. It seems the same thought has occurred to Ms. Paglia as well:

Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism.

How delightfully refreshing. But wait! — there’s more:

…[A]ffluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. Why? Is it because the new professional class is a glossy product of generically institutionalized learning? Independent thought and logical analysis of argument are no longer taught. Elite education in the U.S. has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it’s invisible. The top schools, from the Ivy League on down, promote “critical thinking,” which sounds good but is in fact just a style of rote regurgitation of hackneyed approved terms (“racism, sexism, homophobia”) when confronted with any social issue. The Democratic brain has been marinating so long in those clichés that it’s positively pickled.

Don’t stop; I think I’m in love.

Throughout this fractious summer, I was dismayed not just at the self-defeating silence of Democrats at the gaping holes or evasions in the healthcare bills but also at the fogginess or insipidity of articles and Op-Eds about the controversy emanating from liberal mainstream media and Web sources. By a proportion of something like 10-to-1, negative articles by conservatives were vastly more detailed, specific and practical about the proposals than were supportive articles by Democrats, which often made gestures rather than arguments and brimmed with emotion and sneers. There was a glaring inability in most Democratic commentary to think ahead and forecast what would or could be the actual snarled consequences — in terms of delays, denial of services, errors, miscommunications and gross invasions of privacy — of a massive single-payer overhaul of the healthcare system in a nation as large and populous as ours. It was as if Democrats live in a utopian dream world, divorced from the daily demands and realities of organization and management.

Ah yes: “a glaring inability in most Democratic commentary to think ahead and forecast what would or could be the actual snarled consequences…”

Yes indeed, that’s it exactly. Thank you.

Reading on:

…Having said all that about the failures of my own party, I am not about to let Republicans off the hook. What a backbiting mess the GOP is! It lacks even one credible voice of traditional moral values on the national stage and is addicted to sonorous pieties of pharisaical emptiness. Republican politicians sermonize about the sanctity of marriage while racking up divorces and sexual escapades by the truckload.

Yes! Quite so; what a lot of braying jackasses, on both sides of the aisle. I’ve been tempted to throw out the TV and computer and take up gardening.

Then there’s this:

…Which brings us to Afghanistan: Let’s get the hell out! While I vociferously opposed the incursion into Iraq, I was always strongly in favor of bombing the mountains of Afghanistan to smithereens in our search for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida training camps. But committing our land forces to a long, open-ended mission to reshape the political future of that country has been a fool’s errand from the start. Every invader has been frustrated and eventually defeated by that maze-like mountain terrain, from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union. In a larger sense, outsiders will never be able to fix the fate of the roiling peoples of the Near East and Greater Middle East, who have been disputing territorial borderlines and slaughtering each other for 5,000 years. There is too much lingering ethnic and sectarian acrimony for a tranquil solution to be possible for generations to come. The presence of Western military forces merely inflames and prolongs the process and creates new militias of patriotic young radicals who hate us and want to take the war into our own cities. The technological West is too infatuated with easy fixes. But tribally based peoples think in terms of centuries and millennia. They know how to wait us out. Our presence in Afghanistan is not worth the price of any more American lives or treasure.

I’m beginning to think she may be right about this too (though I certainly disagree with her about the justification for our toppling of Saddam), but more on that later.

The article is here. Enjoy.


  1. JK says

    Well now… if it’s “love” for you, just remember… I’m single.

    You Sir, are not.

    ( I’m a bit more clear now concerning your previous post too. )

    Posted September 11, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  2. Yes, Malcolm, I picked up on that Paglia essay over at my place because I was much taken with it. It chimed, but I suspect the lady might not appreciate it, with Glenn Beck’s view that the problem America faces, and which we share over here, is the seperateness of the ‘political class’ from the electorate. There is now an ‘us and them’ mentality growing on both sides irrespective of party, by which I mean, they despise us as much as we are beginning to despise them.

    There-in, I feel, lies a great danger.

    Posted September 11, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  3. Kevin Kim says

    Yeah, I’ve been a Camille fan for years (mainly for her brand of feminism, and for her hatred of postmodernist cant), and did appreciate this piece.

    Posted September 12, 2009 at 3:42 am | Permalink
  4. the one eyed man says

    Paglia is a birther and a Sarah Palin fan — if she’s a liberal Democrat, then I’m Tiger Woods.

    Posted September 17, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Nice job at the BMW Championship, amigo!

    Posted September 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

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