Wednesday, January 10, 2018


The President Oprah thing is already beginning to die down, but before the historic moment passes let us bring to Clio's attention one particular piece of related gibberish from Opus Dei conservative Michael Brendan Dougherty at National Review. It is, as one would expect, dismissive of Winfrey — “about how women are rising up to speak ‘their truth,’ telling ‘those men’ who have oppressed them that ‘their time is up’" is his sneer-quote-intensive description of her speech (Gad, isn’t it just like a woman to get pissy about rape and harassment!) -- and has a Big Idea about the Meaning Of It All, please God, but instead of sticking with the traditional mush about what celebrity culture hath wrought, Dougherty goes the extra mile to fix blame for celebrity culture on “wonks.” How ya figure, MBD?
The wonk’s role is well-fitted to the centrist political ideal in the post–Cold War West. For them, government is most highly admirable when it is totally denuded of questions of value or morality (these having obvious and uncontroversial answers), and reduced to a purely technical exercise. The politician working with the wonk finds that his job is reconciling the public with what’s good for them. 
Imagine — being so almighty arrogant that you want government to give people “what’s good for them” (like working bridges and highways, health care, etc.) instead of gifting them with your moral value decisions like “hmm, feeding these poor black people seems moral, but wouldn't it be more Christian to let their starvation and misery serve to spur others to thrift and industry?”
And this fits the machinery of the executive branch, which is filled with hundreds of thousands of civil servants, overseen by a much smaller retinue of political appointees almost all chosen from within the governing class of the country. 
He doesn’t mention private-sector government contractors, who soak the public fisc at least as well as any Gummint bureaucrat (no “what’s good for them” nonsense for those privateers — just good old-fashioned free-market self-enrichment!), because they are of Reagan, which is to say of the Lord.
Where this model of government is most advanced — in Europe — policy questions are routinely taken away from the passions of democratic peoples, and quarantined for expert management.
Dougherty is of the Dreher/Douthat school that wishes Eurocrats would stop thwarting the true will of white people and let neo-Nazis lead.

We could go on forever like this but ugh, let’s cut to the chase: according to Dougherty these silly “what’s good for them” government wonks are making a celebrity president like Oprah inevitable, while serious people like Dougherty prefer “the traditional politician, a person of judgment and charisma who represents the community from which he or she emerges, using his own wisdom in reconciling the diverse interests and needs of his nation and constituency” — you know, like Reagan and Trump. Or the have-a-beer-worthy George W., if you want to talk about genuinely manufactured celebrity -- for Bush Lite, who would have had neither business nor political cred without wealth and Republican handlers, was about as big a put-up job as Peter Lemonjello.

"Wonks are now the producers, behind the scenes," closes Dougherty. "The celebrities are just the talent, reading lines and leveraging their brand for the great project of governance." I don't know whether Dougherty saw Trump going off the reservation on DACA and being guided back to orthodoxy by Kevin McCarthy before he wrote that, but even if he didn't, he should know by now that you don't need good-government types to treat political leaders like the "talent"; simple goons and grifters are if anything even better at it.

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