My father-in-law, a Roosevelt Democrat, turns 90 this year. We were down in Scituate yesterday, and he unloaded back copies of magazines on me, as he always does. Some good, like Smithsonian. But also Time and Newsweek, which he supplements by reading the Boston Globe. I haven't asked which TV station he gets news and commentary from, but I can pretty much guarantee it's not Fox.
He tells me his opinions. He's an educated, intelligent man, and he says things very thoughtfully. He very thoughtfully tells me the opinions he has formed after paying careful attention to the events of the day. These are his own judgments, not anything some journalist has predigested for him and packaged in a way to get him to agree with the standard liberal journalist narrative.
By sheer coincidence, his opinions, even his original ones, line up exactly with the prevailing beliefs of his sources. What are the odds, eh? He liked the earlier George Bush, who he thought was a decent man, but thinks the son was rather common, and not very smart. (He forgets that I was his also his son-in-law in '88 and '92, when he didn't think Bush 41 was decent.) Clinton had flaws, of course, but he can't understand why people expect their leaders to be perfect in everything. Which is not what he said in '98. And for the record, I don't expect leaders to be perfect in everything, not even sex, campaign promises, or favoritism. I draw the line at lying to grand juries, though. That Palin woman, McCain made a big mistake, because she was obviously just a gimmick, and doesn't seem very smart. And why is everyone expecting Obama to just get everything done without any trouble? That Biden has more of the common touch, which is why what he says gets him in trouble.
Let me stop rolling my eyes for a moment and get serious here. This is the world the media was used to, where people believed they were thinking for themselves because journalists left a few of the dots unconnected. Half the country does not want to entertain that notion, unwilling to even consider the possibility that their thoughts are only partly their own. They have a great deal invested in not seeing the obvious, because it would be painful. TV hosts. Academics. Writers. Movie-makers. And just regular folks in town who want to seem like they know something about the world when talking with their friends and neighbors. How can such admit to themselves that they have been influenced without noticing?
The escape from liberalism is not only a series of intellectual propositions. It involves an expensive self-honesty.