After the Republicans’ massive midterm victory, the congressional map popped back to its familiar, pre-Obama pattern—a red plain sweeping across the heartland with blue strongholds sprinkled along the coasts and in major urban centers.
The Republican wave has given Obama and the forces of statism a well-deserved “shellacking.” But America has seen major electoral shifts before. And this President, well versed in Alinsky’s tactics of incrementalism, is counting on a counter-wave in the next election from voters upset about efforts to repeal their brand-new entitlements.
Following up the political gains, therefore, requires not only shoring up the red heartland but also waging an ideological campaign in those densely populated blue islands. The editors of The Stranger describe them as an “Urban Archipelago” populated by “liberals, progressives, and Democrats.”
Like biologists studying species endemic to the Galapagos Archipelago, we must ask, What is the origin of this blue species of political thought?
And how can it be pushed toward extinction?
Urban areas tend to attract members of the “knowledge class”—people who work with ideas, data, information. In The Work of Nations, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich called them “mind workers” or “symbolic analysts” because their jobs involve words and symbols, in professions such as academia, science, law, mass media, and advertising.
In short, they are shapers of the public discourse. As sociologist Peter Berger puts it, “They control the institutions that provide the ‘official’ definitions of reality.”
And their definitions of reality are overwhelmingly secular and liberal.
The reason has much to do with the way secularists fought their way to dominance in the public arena in the first place. In their struggle for cultural ascendency, whom did they have to displace? Primarily the church.
Beginning under the Roman Empire, intellectual leadership in the West had been provided by Christianity. In the middle ages, who invented the first universities—in Paris, Oxford, Cambridge? The church. And in America, who valued the life of the mind so much that they founded its earliest universities—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth? Christian denominations.
To achieve cultural leadership, therefore, an emerging class of secular thinkers had to wrest it away from Christianity. This explains the hostility toward Christian influence expressed by so many who aspire to be intellectuals.
In Diderot’s unforgettable words, “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled in the entrails of the last priest.”
Until recently, historians and sociologists treated the process of secularization as an automatic, inevitable by-product of modernization. Today they realize there was nothing inevitable about it. It was the result of an intentional, self-interested struggle for cultural authority.
As sociologist Alvin Gouldner writes in The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class, secular elites’ insistence on “autonomy” from religion was a “political impulse”—an expression of their “social interests” as a class.
For if they succeeded in persuading the populace that human rights are not guaranteed by a transcendent source—not “endowed” by the Creator—then rights would be open to redefinition in purely secular terms. Secularists could then claim sole authority and power to decide who does or does not qualify for basic rights—from the fundamental right to life to freedom of speech to economic liberty.
This secular power grab tends to follow the spread of Western-style ideas around the globe. Sociologists tell us there is now a global secular elite that crosses ethnic and national boundaries. Its members tend to concentrate in large metropolitan centers and share the same mindset whether they live in New York City, New Delhi, London, or Tokyo.
In fact, the inhabitants of these global archipelagos typically identify more closely with one another than with their own compatriots.
Their big-city outlook spills over into towns and rural areas, however, through media, advertising, movies, and education. Timothy Keller, who pastors a church in the heart of New York City, says, “It is the culture/values set of world-class cities that is now being transmitted around the globe to every tongue, tribe, people, and nation.”
What this means is that even massive political victories will not secure what the American Founders called the “blessings of liberty.” It takes more than politics to repeal and replace the monolithic secularism that radiates out from blue urban strongholds into the red countryside.
The Tea Party has imparted political energy to common-sense American constitutionalism. Now its vision needs to be deepened with the cognitive resources to rebirth freedom in the blue archipelago as well.
America faces a fundamental choice: either the blessings of liberty or the servitude of liberalism. In the political struggle for survival, one or the other is headed for extinction.