Validation by defeat

George Will:

A small but significant, because articulate, sliver of the Democratic Party seems to relish interpreting the party's defeat as validation. This preening faction reasons as follows: the re-election of George W. Bush proves that 51 percent of the electorate are homophobic, gun-obsessed, economically suicidal, antiscience, theocratic dunces. Therefore to be rejected by them is to have one's intellectual and moral superiority affirmed.

This insult directed at the electorate must appall most Democrats, who would prefer to be validated by victories. But disdain for the judgment of average Americans now colors various aspects of American life.

The culture of victimhood, and of the presumed incompetence of individuals, is both a cause and a consequence of a society sprinkled with warning labels written for imbeciles. Such as? On an iron: DO NOT IRON CLOTHES ON BODY. On a fold-up child's stroller: REMOVE CHILD BEFORE FOLDING. These warnings are, in part, defensive measures designed to protect manufacturers against an important Democratic constituency—trial lawyers wielding their premise that when anything goes wrong for anyone, someone else is culpable and should be made to pay.


Belief in the infantilism of the American public has been an expanding facet of some "progressive" thinking for 50 years—since the explosive growth of advertising, especially on television, in the 1950s. Then it began to be argued (see, for example, John Kenneth Galbraith's 1958 book "The Affluent Society") that Americans are a bovine, manipulable herd—putty in the hands of advertisers who can manufacture demand for whatever products manufacturers want to produce.


It is passing strange. As the American public has become more educated, American intellectuals have become more disparaging of the public's intellectual incapacities and moral shortcomings. In 1940, more than half of the U.S. population had only an eighth-grade education, or less. Now that 85 percent are high-school graduates, 53 percent have some college education and 27 percent are college graduates, it is an article of faith among the progressive intelligentsia that the public is becoming increasingly obtuse, bigoted and superstitious.


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