Monday, September 07, 2009

Obama and the paranoid style in educational politics

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.” So opened a classic 1964 essay of the renowned American historian, Richard Hofstadter, in which he analyzed a style of politics which is remarkably evocative of what has passed for political discourse these last two months. Consider how Hofstadter’s pithy characterization of this political style – “[a] sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” — so aptly fits the sort of behavior we have seen on display in town halls, on Fox TV “news” shows and on blogs from the right. What term better describes the conjuring of “death panels” out of thin air, the waving of photos of Obama defaced to resemble Hitler, than that which graces the title of Hofstadter’s essay, the “paranoid style?”
After weeks of the paranoid style in health care politics, it is now in full bloom in the realm of educational politics as well. Obama, we are told, has set out to indoctrinate American school children with his socialist doctrine through a planned address to American school children next week. The Cato Institute blog has outstripped its usual prodigious output with nearly hourly condemnations of Obama’s planned speech and the lesson plans produced by the USDoE for the event. Its torrent of criticism culminated most recently [at least at this hour] with the charge of an Obama “cult of personality,” a term of art that arose to describe the murderous rule of Stalin.* The Amen chorus at the National Review blog, led by Jonah Goldberg of Liberal Fascism fame, all agree with Cato on the existence of a dangerous Obama “cult of personality.”¶ Fox News commentator Monica Crowley decries Obama’s words urging students to stay in school and work hard as “Orwellian,” proclaiming that “this is what Chairman Mao did.” World Net Daily’s Bob Unruh compares the Obama speech on the importance of education to Hitler Youth. For the second time in two days, American Enterprise Institute house educational expert Rick Hess denounces the proposed Obama message of personal responsibility, this time as “groupthink.” Hess approvingly quotes Charles Murray of Bell Curve fame, that “if George W. Bush had proposed to make a national speech to schoolchildren, complete with lesson plans, isn’t ‘creepy’ a word that would have come to mind?” Little does it matter to Murray and Hess that George W. Bush [and his father] not 0nly proposed, but actually delivered such speeches. Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer opines that he is “absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.” And for good measure, Michelle Malkin throws in a shot at “zealous teacher unions.” It appears that someone forget to tell both the Obama DoE and us that teacher unions were the instrumentalities of Obama’s socialist propaganda.
This is surreal beyond all belief, in a way that makes the descriptor “paranoid” an inadequate understatement. Obama is so much of a socialist that in the real world he could not bring himself to propose the modestly social democratic single payer system of health care insurance, a form of which exists in every other Western democracy, and he has been hinting of his willingness to abandon the “public option” in his proposals for health care reform. Get a grip, boys and girls.
* Republican State Senator Steve Russell of Oklahoma makes the reference to a “cult of personality” explicit for the historically illiterate: “This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”
¶ “The quintessential liberal fascist,” Jonah Goldberg informed us in his book by that name, “is not an SS storm trooper. It is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.”

by Leo Casey
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