A president as far left as Obama would have been impossible fifty years ago (by today's standards JFK would be called conservative), so we have to ask ourselves what has changed in that period of time in order to make an Obama possible -- or worse, inevitable.
Dennis Prager has cited television and college (i.e., unprecedented numbers being indoctrinated in leftist seminaries) as the main factors, and it is interesting that Voegelin noticed the same trend -- only 60 years ago. For example, nailing Obama's type in 1954, Voegelin describes the students
"who are too dopey ever to find out, by their own powers, that something is wrong. Once they have gone through the process of college and graduate school, they are sufficiently brainwashed and morally debased to hold their positions with sincerity, and for the rest of their lives will never have a critical doubt."
In short, Obama is our first president who wasn't only immersed in the nutty ideologies of the left, but who actually believed and assimilated them -- hack, loon, & sphincter. Somewhere in his development an irony curtain descended on his mind, and the resultant absence of critical distance becomes the gateway to authoritarianism. For the leftist, the closure to reality always provokes the totalitarian temptation. In other words, they know the truth. It's just a matter of forcing others to accept it.
Of the mass media that made -- and makes -- Obama possible, Voegelin wrote in 1956 of "communication as intoxicant": "The spread of media mass communication... can be used as an essential indicator of the destruction of the personality. For only people whose personality is already deeply corroded will use these media as regular intoxicants....
"For me, the worst damage of mass media is not the impairment of 'morality' but the destruction of personality through intellectual confusion and vulgarization. The solution would seem to lie, not in the improvement of mass media, but in the development of alternative occupation for people who nowadays have so much time on their hands."
That's a good point, because the average American fritters away, what, 34 hours per week plugged into the matrix? This means 1) that Americans have an astonishing amount of slack, but 2) that they have no earthly idea of what to do with it. Hooked as they are to the ideological matrix, they simply become the LoFo rabble, the Mass Man who ratifies his own spiritual death via politics.
As a member of the most (over)educated generation in history, I am astonished at the utter absence of skepticism about college exhibited by my fellow boomer parents. If anyone should be cynical about the benefits of college, it should be someone who was warped by it, but again, it seems that the vast majority of these dopes have never stopped to even wonder about it.
But not only is it possible to obtain a liberal education outside the walls of academia, it has pretty much become the only way. As Voegelin wrote in 1956, "Obviously Plato and Shakespeare are clearer and more comprehensive in the understanding of man than is Dr. Jones of Cow College." And certainly Dr. Krugman of an ivy league college and a bull newspaper.
"Hence, the study of the classics is the principal instrument of self-education; and if one studies them with loving care..., one all of a sudden discovers that one's understanding of a great work increases... for the good reason that the student has increased through the process of study -- and that after all is the purpose of the enterprise. (At least it is my purpose in spending the time of my life in the study of prophets, philosophers, and saints.)" Amen to that!
In other words, the purpose of a liberal education is liberation, not in the modern sense of being liberated from human nature, from standards of decency, and from reality more generally, but in the sense that the truth sets us free, i.e., expands our subjective horizons instead of contracting them via ideology. And all ideologies contract this space, from feminism to scientism to Darwinism.
We cannot know reality exhaustively. Rather, we can only participate in it, within the luminous space of the subjective horizon. "And participation is impossible without growth in stature toward the rank of the best; and that growth is impossible unless one recognizes authority and surrenders to it."
Or in other words, if you are not constantly seeking out and surrendering to someone better than you, what are you doing here?
Well, you're probably some tenured hack who believes that all knowledge is historically conditioned. For who profits by such shameful idiolatry?
"The answer is obvious: the spiteful mediocrity which hates excellence. The argument of historical relativism is the defense of the little man against recognition of greatness."
Obama, for example, can criticize the founders for not being Marxists, so "the discomfort of discovering and admitting one's own smallness before the great is averted; and above all, the obligations arising through confrontation with greatness have disappeared."
And behind this dynamic of "personal viciousness that puts social strength" -- or political power -- "into historical relativism, there lies the much larger issue of the revolt against God and the escape into gnosticism."
TV and college: shielding the soul from reality for 60 years.