When I talk to liberals, I sometimes get the impression that they live in a cozy cocoon. While we conservatives read their thinkers and writers, they haven’t the foggiest about any ideas that run counter to their received wisdom. There was a priceless little vignette in Andrew Ferguson’s piece on David Mamet, the great American playwright who has become a conservative, that makes this hilariously clear.
It seems that Mamet was talking to his close friend and rabbi. Mamet runs through the list of Democratic candidates for president, and on each name the rabbi says that is not his candidate. The rabbi recalled: “Dave said, ‘Oh no-you’re not going to vote for Nader!’ That he knew somebody who would vote Republican was outside Mamet’s frame of reference.
In fact, when the rabbi said he was going to vote for George W. Bush, an apologetic Mamet felt he had stumbled onto an embarrassing secret! Concerned about his friend’s misdirection, Mamet began sending him books (such as What’s the Matter with Kansas?). Finally, the rabbi turned the tables and sent Mamet Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions.
“He came back to me stunned. He said, ‘This is incredible!’ He said, ‘Who thinks like this? Who are these people?’ I said, ‘Republicans think like this.’ He said, ‘Amazing.’?”
[Rabbi] Finley piled it on, from the histories of Paul Johnson to the economics of Milton Friedman to the meditations on race by Shelby Steele.
“He was haunted by what he discovered in those books, this new way of thinking,” Finley says. “It followed him around and wouldn’t let him go.”
For years Mamet and Finley talked by phone at least once, sometimes twice a day. He became friends with Sowell and Steele, another Hoover Institution fellow. Mamet dedicated his most popular recent play, Race, to Steele.
Here was a major playwright, a leading liberal intellectual, who had never been exposed to ideas beyond the reigning orthodoxy!
Talk about living in a cocoon!