"The Cowboy Versus The Bobo" sounds like the title of a bad spaghetti western. But it's an apt description of the Spring 2001 issue of the Claremont Review of Books. The new issue, available now, tackles the question of what happened to the idea of heroism in American politics and popular culture.
The cowboy is easy to explain he is an American icon, immortalized in tens of thousands of books and films. But what about the Bobo? "Bobo" is short for bourgeois bohemian, and the subject of a best-selling book by David Brooks. In "Bobo Virtue and the Future of American Liberty," Peter A. Lawler examines what is right and wrong with America's new ruling class. The Bobo, Lawler writes, "is now the model American" and that is not necessarily a good thing.
The Bobos set the political and cultural tone for America today. They work hard, value their families, and place spiritual and personal fulfillment above mere acquisition of wealth. But they lack courage, a sense of civic duty, and noblesse oblige. They have no real heroes. Whatever virtues the Bobos may possess, Lawler argues, they cannot be allowed to remain America's ruling class for long.
In contrast to the modern bourgeois bohemian is the old cowboy, as portrayed in American cinema. In "There Once Were Giants," John Marini argues that western movies, at their very best, tackled the big questions of law, civilization, and justice. Westerns offered an artistic and popular response to the intellectual triumph of progressivism, which scoffed at the idea that the past could teach anything worth learning. For the progressives, "there were no giants in those days." The western gave audiences reason to believe that there really were.
"In the hands of directors like John Ford," Marini writes, "the western allowed us to go back to school again, to learn some lessons that could not be taught by value-free social science or progressive history."
John Meroney rounds out the theme of heroism with a reassessment of the films of Ronald Reagan in "Here's the Rest of Him." Reagan's political enemies criticized him as a second-rate B-movie actor who couldn't distinguish the fantasy of the big screen from the reality of world affairs. Even Reagan's friends tend to downplay his early career as an actor. Once again, the critics have gotten it wrong.
"Not only have historians and biographers missed the full significance of Ronald Reagan's Hollywood life," Meroney writes, "they have largely ignored the importance of the roles he played and the themes and storylines of his films."
Also in the Spring issue of the CRB:
- Martha Derthick considers the abuses of liberty and the rule of law committed in the name of regulating the tobacco industry.
- Angelo Codevilla gives a frank assessment of Ariel Sharon's statecraft and the dilemmas he faces, while Harry V. Jaffa offers some modest recommendations about what the United States should do about Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
- Michael M. Uhlmann takes on the darwinian legacy of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
- William Voegeli finds much to lament in George Packer's memoir Blood of the Liberals, but James Higgins finds plenty to admire in Thomas Sowell's A Personal Odyssey.
- Brian T. Kennedy reviews two important new books about the growing threat China poses to the United States.
- Mackubin T. Owens explores the differences between great conquerors and great liberators, while Jean M. Yarbrough wonders what to do about America's gender-neutral military.
- Mark Gauvreau Judge wishes the rock 'n' roll snobs at the New York Times would get over their obsession with protest music.
- The editors takes a stroll down "Gin Lane" and discover that it's gone upscale.
A one-year subscription to the Claremont Review of Books is only $19.95 for four issues. As an added bonus, new one-year subscribers will receive a free copy of The Electoral College: Proven Constitutional Pillar of Freedom, the definitive guide to one of the least understood and most reviled institutions in American government. The book sells regularly for $9.95.