Thursday, March 19, 2009

A New Counterculture

When I was coming of age in the sixties there was among the young a movement of estrangement from the established seats of authority in government, entertainment, education, and even in the family. It was called the "counter-culture," and it expressed the normal desire of the young to write their own Declaration of Independence from the "oppressive" regimes of previous generations. It was often incoherent and self-indulgent, but not always.

The counter-culture rejected what they saw (sometimes rightly) as the hypocrisies and phoniness of their elders, and they chafed at the attempt of the older generation to inculcate those values into the young without being able to give a plausible justification of the standards they sought to impose.

Today those who once fancied themselves as counter-cultural comprise, in fact, the establishment. They dominate the film industry, the major television networks, the schools, and newsprint outlets. They control the Congress, the White House and large swaths of the judiciary. It's now their values that are being imposed on the next generation. What are those values?

Paradoxically they're a blend of both libertarianism and authoritarianism. In matters of personal ethics the former sixties rebels endorse a kind of moral laissez-faire. Sex, family, drugs, religion are all matters of personal taste. At the same time, certain other matters require strict conformity to the prevailing attitudes of the establishment. On questions such as gay marriage, abortion, George Bush, Darwinism, illegal immigration, capitalism, the military, etc. there's enormous pressure to conform one's opinions to the consensus establishment views.

During the sixties the more thoughtful among the young rebels realized that taking over the country required patience, time and perseverance, but they also knew that the mass of Americans were too apathetic about anything that really mattered to take notice of what was going on in the culture around them. Thus, they were confident that, like the slowly boiling water gradually overcoming the frog, they could gradually gain hold of the levers of cultural power until it was too late for a torpid "silent majority" to do anything about it.

Jeffrey Kuhner gives us a concise adumbration of what happened:

Since the 1960s, the radical left has sought to transform America by its "long march through the institutions." It has succeeded.

In fact, antiwar liberals simply followed the program outlined by Italian Leninist Antonio Gramsci, who advocated the theory of "cultural hegemony." Gramsci argued for an incremental socialism. He stressed that the key to winning political power lay not in seizing the economic means of production, but in capturing society's commanding cultural organs. This way the left could relentlessly mold public opinion and indoctrinate the youth. He predicted that, once the left attained cultural hegemony, the state would fall into its hands - like a ripe fruit.

President Obama's electoral victory represents the culmination of the left's march to power. Mr. Obama deftly exploited numerous advantages - a weak opponent, a fawning media, a financial crisis and a demoralized, fractured Republican Party. But the cultural groundwork had been laid for decades.

Mr. Obama is an anti-capitalist, anti-family and anti-American leftist. And here is what most conservatives do not understand: Large swathes of the American electorate don't care.

Precisely so, but the time is auspicious for the emergence of another counterculture, one which opposes the established political power structure, one which challenges its values and forces it to defend its ideas. The modern counterculture, the modern underground, will embrace not the hedonism and nihilism of the sixties and seventies, but rather the traditional virtues and values upon which this nation was founded.

It took more than fifty years for us to get where we are, and it will take time to undo that history, but if you're young and passionate for a return to the principles of individual freedom, excellence, and achievement, if you're eager to work to return our culture to a position of respect for both faith and family, the years ahead could be very exciting.


Leftist Ideology Trumps Competence

There are dozens of excellent jurists out there that President Obama could nominate to various judgeships. Indeed, President Bush nominated many of them only to have them languish awaiting confirmation by a Democratic senate in no hurry to seat judges appointed by the nefarious George Bush.

So, who does Barack Obama, after having promised us that competency would be his chief concern in all his appointments, make his first pick to fill an appellate court vacancy? Let Wendy Long at National Review Online explain:

As reported by the New York Times this morning, the first Obama federal Circuit Court of Appeals nominee is "moderate" David Hamilton of Indiana, to be nominated this week to the 7th Circuit.

It's interesting that this is what Obama and the New York Times call a "moderate": Hamilton has a history as a hard-left political activist, and his choice signals that Obama does intend to push extreme liberals onto the bench and politicize the courts as we've never seen before.

Hamilton was a fundraiser for ACORN (nice ACORN payback, Mr. President) and served as vice president for litigation and a board member of the Indiana ACLU. In 1994, when President Clinton nominated him to the district court, the ABA rated him as 'not qualified,' apparently because of his almost purely political (as opposed to legal and judicial) experience.

Interestingly, he is also the brother-in-law of perhaps the hardest left radical Obama nominee to the Department of Justice, Dawn Johnsen.

Beginning to notice a pattern here?

Indeed. Let's hope that the appointment of Mr. Hamilton is an aberration and that with the President's future appointees judicial competence will not be trumped by far left political views. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has as yet given us little reason to be optimistic that this will be so.