Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The "Hyde Park as Liberal Enclave" Meme

The Spectator, picking up on the New York Times and LA Times meme: "One potential problem for Obama is his time in Hyde Park, the liberal enclave where the University of Chicago is. Hyde Park is like Berkeley or Cambridge, Massachusetts and definitely outside what would be normally seen as the American mainstream."

Hyde Park like Berkeley? I wish!

Where's my Chez Panisse, my Peet's, my Freight and Salvage folk music mecca, my sunshine, my City Council establishing a nuclear-free zone, my counter-cultural ambiance? All we have is fab bookstores and five mediocre Thai restaurants. Who lives here? Not aging hippies, but econ, law, business and med school profs who can afford the million-dollar properties, along with middle-class blacks and whites and thousands of hunkered-down students. The U of C itself ain't no Berkeley or Harvard. Our university has just announced a $200 million initiative for a new Milton Friedman Institute, for cripes sake, on top of the hundreds of million just spent on a brand-spanking-new business school. Our public policy school concentrates on survey design and econometrics. Our grad and undergrad students self-select for marine-corps-style learning experiences, not frisbee-flipping.

Hyde Park has been an enclave, but not a political enclave. What lies around it is not the real world where real, conservative Americans live -- it is a world of extreme poverty. And Hyde Park's survival as a middle-class integrated neighborhood enclave was the work not of liberals but of the conservatives who ran the University back in the 1950s.

This is not to say that there are no leftists in Hyde Park. It is only to say that the idea that Obama was living in a cushy Latteville where he never would meet a Republican is ludicrous.

No comments: