A few weeks ago the Aardvarks were dining here at Happy Acres with their learned friend Iakovos Fahrbahn and Mrs. Fahrbahn. I regaled them with the story of how, many years ago, I took a course at Ivy University from Professor Richard Rorty. I think it was about metaphysics. Whatever it was about, Aardvark grasped nothing, absolutely nothing, of what Rorty was trying to convey to the unwashed. How surprised I was to learn last year that Rorty was to be found among the Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition. That discovery explained a lot about my experience back at Ivy U.
Now, after the election, Iakovos has kindly shared these observations from Rorty, writing in 1998:
[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
Alas, these thoughts are all too understandable.
But here’s what we don’t understand. When—not if, but when—the unskilled workers of whom Rorty spoke grasp that they have been conned yet again in the greatest political con of all times, will they once again retire from politics? Or will they elect someone worse in 2020—a truly competent authoritarian?
No more water. The fire next time.