I loved David Brooks’s BoBos In Paradise, but its biggest flaw was in underestimating how much of the so-called bohemian-bourgeois lifestyle came pre-loaded with very political features. In 1997 Brooks wrote in The Weekly Standard that “one of the striking things about Burlington [Vermont] is that it is relatively apolitical.” I really don’t think that was true. More likely: Burlington was — and is — so uniformly liberal that even an astute observer might confuse stultifying political conformity for apoliticalness (not a word, I know, but like they said in Fast and Furious 3, you get my drift).
It’s telling that when Phil Griffin predicted MSNBC would overtake Fox News by 2014 (Stop laughing!). He said he wanted to do it by turning MSNBC into a “lifestyle” network. “It’s a mistake for us to limit ourselves to news,” he told The New Republic. Instead, he wanted to build up something he dubbed, “the MSNBC lifestyle.” This is the sort of thinking you fall into when you can’t see where politics ends and “lifestyle” — i.e., life — begins.
I’m not a big fan of generational stereotyping, but it’s fair to say that a large number of Millennials constitute the first big cohort of kids to be fully raised within this lifestyle-ized politics.
I’d add to this is that the Boomers and GenXers who taught this way of thinking to the Millennials have spouted it for so long they’ve come to believe it’s true just as fully as if they’d been raised on it themselves. As Goldberg suggests, we’ve allowed too many of our co-culturalists to develop allergies to the sort of debate and critical thinking that is indispensable to a self-governing population. But I’d say it’s worse than that: Malignant progressivism attacks the very principles and preferences that allow a society to remain healthy and protect itself — from strong families to notions of property rights to freedom of speech.
From my perch in Rhode Island, where this autoimmune disorder has been coupled with the flight of any voters who figure out the problem, I don’t know if there’s a cure. How do you turn things around when nobody with social power wants to, when those who might gain social power and grab the wheel decide it’s just more practical to leave, and when everybody else finds change impossible and keeps their heads down, hoping for a civic miracle that will allow them to keep making a living while not having to think about it all too much?