If you make the effort to stake out a position on healthcare, on immigration, on war in Afghanistan — by the end of day, you’ve done nothing else.
Again, that is not to say that people abstain from having opinions on issues.
In fact, it is an argument in favor of the public pursuing critical debate. But in the same way we do not personally make legislation, is it possible to delegate the work of constructing those arguments and positions?
For that task, we need well-regarded and intelligent people, an intelligentsia if you will.
They very well may exist today, perhaps most conspicuously in the form of think tanks, but not contained within a single person like a Vidal or Buckley, Noam Chomsky or even Christopher Hitchens.
Many people may point to prominent pundits like Rachel Maddow or maybe Ben Shapiro, but I truly doubt they rise to the level of the aforementioned luminaries.
The punditry is not the same as a devoted cohort of individuals married to pondering. The network pundits are there, in large degree, to push a narrative and reinforce the biases of the viewers.
The problem with network punditry and the pseudo-intellect on cable news is that it is dishonest.
I mean this, again, not in a critical way, but with an understanding that we all have: partisans bend the truth toward their desired vision of the truth; alternative facts, if you will.
Intellectuals fill the void by standing athwart changes of popular opinion and political expediency. The flip side of that, of course, is that the public discards you when they deem you no longer necessary.
Intellectuals as a bloc can carry a negative connotation — primarily that they are unrealistic.
But what does it matter, if you accept that charge, for an intellectual to have lofty vision? The intellectuals should chart goals for society in the abstract, as politicians will enact short-term policy.
I believe that intellectuals could have a revival in American society. With citizens more disenchanted with politics than ever, someone above the partisan fray to offer a vision of society might be a welcome change.