Norman Lear, 1922-2023
Norman Lear, the legendary screenwriter and producer, died yesterday aged 101. Lear made his name with shows which were either remakes of British originals or spin-offs from those remakes.
Author David Lebedoff long ago predicted our current political dissonance. Dare I say ‘deplorables?’
A captivating (and favorite) aspect of the recent presidential election is how the stunning Fall of the House of Clinton in 2016 ambushed the American political establishment the way Herb Brooks snuck up on the invincible Russians at Lake Placid.
But not everyone was surprised. Minneapolis attorney David Lebedoff, a guest columnist in this issue of Thinking Minnesota (page 22), saw it coming—in 1978, no less, just about the time 32-year old Bill Clinton was capturing his first term as Governor of Arkansas.
David’s prescience didn’t address the Clintons by name, nor did he foresee the specific presidency of Donald Trump— that prediction belongs to an episode of The Simpsons that aired in 2000. Instead, he wrote an article in the August 1978 issue of Esquire magazine that described the political conditions that would lead to the most astounding presidential upset in the history of our republic.
His article, The Dangerous Arrogance of the New Elite, described how a growing “test-score meritocracy” was quietly undermining the American concept of governance by majority rule. David foresaw an elite class of confident Americans who attained cultural prominence through academic achievement and became disdainful of the “Left Behinds”—everyone else—even though all together the Left Behinds comprised a majority of American voters (can you say “deplorables?”). The new elite, “for the good of the country,” would bypass majority rule through the courts and by subverting the political process through arcane and complicated rule-making (can you say “super delegates?”). This process would succeed, he suggested, only until the Left Behinds found their political footing (can you say 2016?).
His column describes his theory far better than I ever could, but it’s noteworthy to mention that only conservative commentators embraced his hypothesis. Which is interesting, because David’s point of view is consistently non-partisan, even though he’s a lifetime Democrat. In fact, at the time he wrote the Esquire article, he was serving as treasurer of the DFL. (The parenthetical commentary above was mine, not his.)
David developed the Esquire article into two subsequent books, The New Elite: The Death of Democracy (1978) and The Uncivil War: How a New Elite is Destroying Our Democracy (2004). David is a talented writer and an impressively original thinker—a modern Alexis de Tocqueville. We’re delighted to have him in our pages
We created Thinking Minnesota to promote American Experiment’s free-market views and activities to a wide audience of policy-makers, media, and grassroots Minnesotans. We know that all great policy ideas, no matter how valuable, won’t accomplish a thing if they don’t attract the attention of policy-makers and voters.
We like to traffic in big ideas, even if some may consider them uncomfortable. Consider this issue:
• Disinherited, the cover story. Author Diana Furchgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, last year published a provocative and very readable book about how liberal policies betray America’s young people. After she spoke to an overflow audience at a recent American Experiment event (which included five tables of high school student), we prevailed upon her to do a follow-up q&a (page 34).
• Met Council. No organization of greater consequence to the future of the Twin Cities gets so little public attention as the unelected public oligarchy known as the Metropolitan Council. In How the Met Council Misplans the Twin Cities (page 28), Cato Institute scholar Randal O’Toole describes what’s at stake. O’Toole is a premier national expert on the interrelationships among urban growth, public lands and transportation. His compelling analysis of the Met Council is among the best I’ve read.
• No Thug Left Behind. American Experiment Senior Policy Fellow Kathy Kersten used an earlier issue of Thinking Minnesota to first describe the almost surreal way St. Paul school administrators relinquished their authority to a collection of unchecked student bullies. She followed this up with a more in-depth analysis that first appeared in City Journal, the prestigious national magazine produced by the Manhattan Institute. We reprinted it here (page 38). You can’t make this stuff up.
• Health Care. As Congress prepares to legislatively re-litigate America’s system of health care, Peter Nelson, American Experiment’s ubiquitous senior policy fellow, offers his timely and incisive take on what it means to Minnesota (page 44). Peter has become the go-to analyst about health care in Minnesota. And not for nothing, the White House recently invited to participate in health care briefings.
I hope you’ll agree with me that this issue of Thinking Minnesota is our best ever—not least for how well it is designed. For some reason, think-tank poohbahs apparently assume that presenting their ideas in long columns of uninterrupted grey text will somehow preserve the intellectual virtue of their work. This might work when communicating within the echo chamber of other think tank intellectuals, but otherwise not so much.
We’re more enthusiastic than ever about the depth, quality and relevance of the projects we’re working on at American Experiment. The ultimate success of Thinking Minnesota, we knew, would depend on how many people engaged with our ideas, which meant making our content graphically inviting. (My proposal for a swimsuit edition went nowhere.) We’re grateful to creative director Scott Buchschacher who demonstrates obvious creativity and talent. From my perch, there is no better looking magazine anywhere in Minnesota and certainly anywhere in the world of regional think tanks.
And readers clearly agree. Thinking Minnesota elicits as many friendly calls and emails as anything we do. I rarely go a day without someone mentioning how much they enjoy the magazine. Further proof: In just six issues, our readership has grown from 8,000 to 40,000+—and we’re still growing!