An African-American sociologist recently offered a diagnosis of America’s first African-American president. “In President Obama, you see a socialized mind at work, a collectivized mind at work,” Anne Wortham said at the annual meeting of the Philadelphia Society.
Wortham, who teaches at Illinois State University, has resisted socialization and collectivization for all of her seven decades on the planet. “I love this term, ‘Give back to society,’” she said at the Indianapolis confab, with a toss of her head indicating she clearly doesn’t. “What did I take?”
“That conversation that Bill Clinton is always talking about having? You can’t have it between two liars.”
“It’s what David Brooks calls ‘One-Downsmanship’ and what Ayn Rand called ‘Altruistic Appeasment.’” In it, “the individual will downplay his achievements and placate others less fortunate or lower achievers,” she explains. A corollary maxim among elites is seeking “a cause greater than self.”
This is one that stretches across party lines. “John McCain has also spoken of ‘economic patriotism,’” Wortham notes. “David Brooks and William Kristol talk of ‘National Greatness Conservatism.’” When it comes down to particulars, though, it still amounts to “government-enforced compassion,” Wortham avers. But it can be lucrative:
• Former President George H. W. Bush’s kinder, gentler Points of Light Foundation gets $200 million in federal funds; and
• The Faith Based Initiatives Office started by his son, Former President George W. Bush to demonstrate “compassionate conservatism” gets $2 billion in federal funds.
In one of the many ironies that mark her life, Wortham became more of a libertarian while serving in the Peace Corps. In fact, although she was in Washington, D. C. at the time of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech on the mall, she skipped the address. She did so not out of disrespect for the Reverend but in order to pack for her upcoming departure to Tanzania, then Tanganyika.
It was around this time that she became disillusioned with the turn that the Civil Rights movement was taking. “I wanted my rights but I didn’t want to discredit the entire white race in order to get them,” she said.
While abroad she read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead as well as Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative.
Wortham urged the fairly conservative audience at the Philadelphia Society to press liberals they may encounter on exactly what they mean by conservative epithets we frequently hear such as “anti-New Deal party.” “They’ve been trying to keep the discussion at bay,” she advised. “They’ve been doing this since the Enlightenment.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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