It is always interesting when writers I regularly read and admire disagree with others I read and admire. And today a blogger I regularly read and admire, Glenn Reynolds, links two such writers taking issue with the latest column from the woman I have dubbed the Athena of punditry. It’s almost as if we’re seeing a battle on Olympus, a war of wits.
Jacobson thinks Peggy is wrong to dub our political leaders detached “from how normal people think is more dangerous and disturbing than it has been in the past.” Instead, he believes that the élite strategy “in which success is punished is part of the plan. It’s a feature not a bug.”
In evaluating Noonan’s piece, Ledeen relates a bit of his own intellectual journey, objecting to her contention that the gap “between the country’s thought leaders, as they’re called—the political and media class, the universities—and those living what for lack of a better word we’ll call normal lives on the ground in America” begin in the 1980s:
She’s got the substance right, but not the dates. The gulf between the intellectuals and politicians on the one hand, and “normal Americans” on the other, probably goes back to the first settlements in the New World. It most certainly did not originate in the 1980s, and to prove that all you have to do is pick up a book written back in the early 1960s by a distinguished Columbia University historian, Richard Hofstadter, called “Anti-intellectualism in American life.” When I first read that book (an elegant lament about Americans’ traditional lack of esteem for intellectuals), I agreed with Hofstadter that this was a very bad thing. It was only later in life that I realized what a good thing it was, and how fortunate we were to have withheld high status from professors and politicians.
To be fair to Peggy, she wrote that she only “started noticing” the gap in the 1980s.
Both men wrote strong pieces in taking issue with a thoughtful column — where I have to admit, much as love Peggy, she does seem to be a little easy on the élites. All that said, all three pieces point to an issue which both Bruce and I have been talking about, in our own particular manner, in recent days: the growing disconnect between those in the governing classes and those in the classes they govern.