Thursday, November 03, 2011

Elizabeth Warren changes the entire post-war liberal ethos

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 11/4/11

The greatly influential part of the post-war liberal ethos came from a hand full of very intelligent and committed New Yorkers – Brooklyn, primarily – which split into two teams; the Norman Mailers and the Norman Podhoretzes. They had an astonishing influence on modern times. I had the occasion to correspond with Mailer over 20-some years and it was much fun; much talk about drinking and play. Felt it wasn’t so much their ideas as their energy, intelligence and willfulness which carried that day. When the conservative Jews in this group moved to Washington, it perhaps more than anything formed modern conservatism. Liberalism at its worst perhaps from that period can be seen in Mailer’s novels in the 70s like An American Dream (1965) at it best in his journals like The Armies of the Night (1968) and elsewhere in a kind of intellectual majesty which Alfred Kazin brought to every task including his autobiography, New York Jew.

They were great days but they were post-European days; days lived in America but borrowed intellectually from Europe; Trotskyite Marxist and anti-capitalist in a romantic way on the left. The non-intellectual folk were Europeanized as well as if they were only half Americans speaking of themselves as “Irish-American” or like Geraldine Ferraro, the Vice Presidential candidate in 1984 as “Italian-American.”

Elizabeth Warren brings an end to all that. She brings to liberalism an indigenous or native ethos, which like her dress and presentation suggests a carefully and exquisitely stylized and symbolized American gothic, much as Lincoln’s big hat and beard was intended to bring country to mind. And she spent most of her life as a Republican, so she brings structure to her thinking. This is of enormous consequence. But it might not be fully realizable unless you grew up in ethnic Boston or New York during the Kennedy/Bush/Lodge era, well charicatured in the movie Miller’s Crossing.

But with Warren we are all Americans now, even here in Boston.

Since Dwight D. Eisenhower tentatively handed the keys over to Jack Kennedy, the American condition has been about ethnicity and kind; Can an Irish-Catholic be President? A Jew? A black woman? A lesbian? Was as if we at large were all sub set of proletariat and George H.W. Bush the only American. And we all wanted to go to Harvard too. But this inclusiveness had issues; excellence would be bypassed and in time, things would fall apart. And each group had its vengeance demons.

Eventually “the Krebs factor” (Bob Dylan’s phrase) would take hold. In time (at the end of time) the beatnik sidekick, Maynard G. Krebs, would take dominance over the mainstream event, Dobie Gillis.

Thankfully, from Krebs to Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher there was enough money to go around. Now there is not. Now again we need competence, and here enters Elizabeth Warren.

She has style, grace, courage and as can be seen in any one of her YouTube clips, ability.

Said here before, when the age’s avatar dies, be it Victoria, Jefferson or Ted Kennedy, the age ends as well. It is an archetypal rule of history. Shortly thereafter, the world will begin again and that is now and that is where Elizabeth Warren comes in.

No comments: