Socially Liberal, Fiscally Liberal
Hofstadter originally published the essay to explain the rise of his generation’s alt-right: A loose coalition of conspiracist anticommunists that opposed President Dwight D. Eisenhower, public works projects, and free speech. A cornered animal of sorts, the pseudo-con regularly made fretful lunges in defense of its political life. It was the woman who complained about “eight more years of socialism” after Eisenhower’s 1952 election. It was the delegate to the Omaha Freedom Congress who denounced Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren for his “middle-of-the-road” thinking and, paradoxically, his supposed communist sympathies.
To many, myself included, Hawking’s life of the mind stirred a genuine sense of human goodness. Hawking never treated his disciplines (cosmology and theoretical physics) as the private property of intellectuals, nor did he hesitate to poke fun at himself or his work. He regularly published literature for the laity, including the bestselling volume “A Brief History of Time,” which topped the London Sunday Times bestseller list for over five years. His visibility had powerful consequences outside of science too: Hawking embodied the wide gulf between condition and pathology. All who watched him knew that his physical impediment was no handicap to greatness.
This unfortunate admixture has prompted many to question the South Africa of the last 25 years: the sentimentalism for Nelson Mandela, the prospects of a “rainbow nation,” the potential for postcolonial “constitutional order.” In a sense, South Africa has put itself and the world on notice: Radicals are not to be discounted.
Much of the response among community members and the wider public has echoed a familiar array of sentiments. One student interviewed by The Crimson chastised the non-denominational Christian group for exemplifying “institutional backlash against queer people.” An op-ed judged HCFA “complicit in promoting dangerous homophobic rhetoric” and threatening “the emotional and physical safety of LGBT people here on campus.” One commenter following the story on a BGLTQ news site staked out a more extreme position: “Virginal births, talking snakes, boats with two of every species on board… Enough judging people through the prism of fairy tales.”
In the immediate, however, the community and public have become embroiled in another development: that Bacow’s selection marks "a return to white male leadership.”