Our President the WASP
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  • soren

    “Americans don’t care as much as they used to about races and bloodlines.”

    Wrong, “Anglo-Saxons” and other whites don’t care as much about race and bloodlines anymore… but everyone else does.

    This whole controversy is about denying whites any identity whatsoever.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Soren: since whites are a very large majority of Americans, if they don’t care as much as they used to about race and bloodlines, then the statement in the post is entirely correct. And your strange generalization, that non-white Americans care as much as ever, is clearly wrong. Intermarriage rates are higher than ever among all racial groups, with Asian Americans marrying other races at particularly high levels. And I’m not sure that saying that the old Anglo-American culture has now become the default base culture of many people from many races and ethnic groups is about denying whites an identity — any more than having the English language become the world’s leading medium for commerce and scholarship is about denying English speaking peoples their identity.

  • PR Stein

    A tangentially related thing worth considering is that Obama is solidly one half WASP by birth. Though his mother was a bohemian, information I have seen about his white family’s background suggest that at least some of his relations, several generations back, were fairly wealthy and prominent old-line Protestant Americans, in Connecticut and in Kansas.

  • soren

    “with Asian Americans marrying other races at particularly high levels. ”

    The Asian American intermarriage rate is plummeting.


    And I’d like to point out there are plenty of places with “Asian American studies” but there are no German-American or Anglo-American studies. People of the “Asian-American” construct are allowed the identity while whites are not. They know their stories, we do not.

    And why do intermarriage rates matter? Intermarriage won’t end “race”. Obama is half white but has taken up a black identity. Post-racialism is a delusion.

  • Larry, San Francisco

    Your comparison of Obama to McGeorge Bundy is scary. He was the one of the guys whose arrogance and cluelessness tgave liberalism a bad name. Not only was he one of the chief architects of the Vietnam tragedy he then became head of the Ford Foundation and helped to create or at least the subsidize the foundation of identity politics (as exemplified by the late 1960 teacher’s strike in New York that he helped foment).

  • Anthony

    Perhaps WRM (lacking your fluidity with the English language), the aide in question intended to convey a set of ideas and values that were shaped by ancestral history rather than an ethno-centricity; just another way to interpret aide’s comment in our sensationalize media driven world.

  • Cunctator

    This really “much ado about nothing”. Of course, Obama cares very little about the British heritage of the US and he has made that very clear from day one of his presidency. And how many publications over the past two decades have talked about the Anglosphere, and its supposed emergence as a new force in global politics?

  • Retail Lawyer

    The aide is not sufficiently nuanced. Nowadays, Anglo-Saxon is only used in disparagement. Remember when the French Prime Minister said that 25% of Anglo-Saxon men were gay?


    Of course, that was before gay was cool . . .

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Retail Lawyer: In France, “Anglo-Saxon” has been mostly used in a derogatory sense for hundreds of years, and the belief that Anglo-Saxon men are mostly gay and the women mostly frigid was widespread at the time of Napoleon.

  • Walter Sobchak

    Dear Mead: Please correct your essay. The statement, if the Telegraph story is factual, it is not about an “aide”, i.e. a paid staffer.

    The stories say that: “The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed Romney campaign adviser”


    An adviser could be anyone who has given the campaign advice, even unsolicited advice. Unless an until the Telegraph reveals who the “adviser” was, you cannot charge the Romney campaign with anything.

  • Dick Pickett

    King Egbert I of Wessex and ENGLAND *-43247 and Richard Floyd PICKETT-1

    1. 36th great grandfather (common ancestor: King Egbert I of Wessex and ENGLAND *-43247)

  • vanderleun

    From The Good Shepherd with Matt Damon:

    Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something… we Italians, we got our families, and we got the church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the blacks, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have?

    Edward Wilson: The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.

  • Pincher Martin

    ViaMeadia’s “Obama the WASP” is every much a figment of a wishful imagination as is the loony populist boogieman “Obama the Muslim”.

    Let’s see, Obama is a WASP because … he went to Punahou High School and then to a couple of Ivy League schools? Perhaps that would be true if this was 1945. Or maybe even 1965. But neither Punahou in the seventies nor the Ivy League schools in the eighties were havens for WASPS. Obama’s classmates at Punahou were more likely to be Asians than whites of any kind, and his teachers at Columbia and Harvard Law were more likely to be Jews and blacks than WASPs. (Are Lawrence Tribe and Derrick Bell WASPs? How about Roberto Unger and Charles Ogletree?) So unless you believe that a good education can only be the product of a WASP-founded institution, I’d really like to know what about Obama’s educational background could possibly make him a WASP.

    As for WASPs believing in a “strong central government leading the people along the paths of truth and righteousness”, may I remind you that Obama need not take a circuitous intellectual route back to seventeenth-century New England to find inspiration for this philosophy?

    Does a WASP head to Chicago and join Reverend Wright’s congregation for two decades? Does he write a book about “race and inheritance”? (Didn’t you just say that whites no longer care about bloodlines? It appears Obama cared about them enough to write a personal book about it.) Maybe I’m underestimating the natural fluidity by which people just invent any crap that they want and run with it. After all, if Elizabeth Warren can believe she’s a proud Cherokee and entitled to the rights and privileges of the oppressed, I’m sure you can believe Obama is a WASP in blackface — despite the fact that nothing in his background suggests he is sympathetic to WASP ideals.

  • At the very least Anglo-Saxon can be used to designate the tradition that began with the Magna Charter and which led to the concept of human rights (originally conceived as the rights of Englishmen) and the institutions of representative parliamentary democracy in place of absolute monarchy. The word “English” does not connote this. “Our Anglo-Saxon traditions” on the other hand does. We inherited them from the original colonies. Obama has used similar tropes — except he called them Puritans back in 2008.

  • White Anglo Saxon Protestant (Wasp) — now that is racist! Even Anglo Saxon Protestant is a little redundant. Time to retire Wasp. Put it there with the n word. And the k word, w word, sp word, ch word, etc.. They are all of a piece and should not appear in NYT.

  • wm. tyroler

    As Jennifer Rubin suggests, the accuracy of this “entirely unsourced story” is highly questionable, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/how-the-obama-team-works-the-media/2012/07/25/gJQAXLtz8W_blog.html. Absent some corroboration, I’d be quite reluctant to take it at face value.

  • English Protestant works as a phrase. So does European Protestant and European Catholic to designate strands of modern European history. European American would certainly be a useful term to distinguish from, say, African American or Asian American or even Ashkenazi American. I like Ashkenazi American especially. It has precision. Northern European, Southern European, and Eastern Europen also make descriptive sense. This whole area of our “discourse,” as they used to like to describe it on the left, could use a little work.

  • I think the words whites and blacks should be retired.

  • cacrucil

    History buffs at via meadia will love this.

    Here is a fascinating video of two honest to goodness Boston Brahmins, the most fascinating sub species of the WASP. Some of the Brahmin families have been around so long that they make the Rockefellers look like new money. This is from a PBS documentary “American tongues” which is about different American accents. It was made, I think, in the 80s, so it is likely that these two gents are now dead. I love learning about eccentric old money wasps, such as Louis Auchincloss. If you want to learn about the old wasp aesthetic, you can’t do better than his novels. Sadly most of the old school wasps aren’t going to be around much longer.


  • Alex Z

    “Someone like Secretary Rice, who strikes many Americans as a kind of embodiment of core Anglo-American ideas like the importance of liberty and the need to be strong”

    Can you expand on that last point “on the need to be strong”? What does that entail and how is that a uniquely Anglo-Saxon/American value?

  • cacrucil

    Then again, the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is what Louis Auchincloss, one of the pre eminent chroniclers of the old wasp culture, had to say near the end of his life.

    “Even near the end of his life, Mr. Auchincloss said the influence of his class had not waned. “I grew up in the 1920s and 1930s in a nouveau riche world, where money was spent wildly, and I’m still living in one!,” he told The Financial Times in 2007. “The private schools are all jammed with long waiting lists; the clubs — all the old clubs — are jammed with long waiting lists today; the harbors are clogged with yachts; there has never been a more material society than the one we live in today.”

    “Where is this ‘vanished world’ they talk about?” he asked. “I don’t think the critics have looked out the window!”


  • Corlyss

    “This is about as stupid a remark as a political associate can make: not only does it sound like a racial slur.”

    OMG! You have to be kidding! You think it was an accident that Obama dissed the “special relationship?” That his most notable factoid about Britain was that it was the colonial presence in his father’s home country? And you call the adviser’s remark “racist and bigoted!” God help us when we are forbidden say “Anglo-Saxons formed the early history of this country, the emphasis on religious freedom, the borrowed governmental underpinnings of the nascient nation, the patterns of civil society, the basic philosophy of civil interactions!” because someone out there will call us racists.

  • a nissen

    Blue state basher delares: “President Obama is one of the neo-Waspiest men in the country.”

  • PR Stein

    @Pincher, via New England Historic Genealogical Society, fyi, through his maternal grandfather Stanley Dunham, Obama is related to the following people:
    Obama “is a direct descendent of Jonathan Singletary Dunham a prominent early American settler who left the Plymouth Colony to build the first gristmill in New Jersey… distant cousins include six US presidents: James Madison, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. Through a common ancestor, Mareen Duvall, a wealthy Huguenot merchant who emigrated to Maryland in the 1650s, Stanley Dunham (and therefore Obama) is related to former Vice-President Dick Cheney (an eighth cousin once removed). Through another common ancestor, Hans Gutknecht, a Swiss German from Bischwiller, Alsace whose three sons resettled in Germantown, Pennsylvania as well as the Kentucky frontier in the mid-18th century, Obama is President Harry S. Truman’s fourth cousin, twice removed.”

  • Clytemnestra

    I have never read such a huffy bunch of nonsense in all my life.

    Mr. Mead, the SWINE (sapskulls wildly irate about nearly everything) who get upset about any implications that an Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture was actually created by Anglo-Saxon Protestants do NOT speak for ME and I don’t have a drop of Anglo-Saxon Protestant blood in me.

    Moreover, the Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans did not force non-Anglo-Saxon Protestants to immigrate here. Too bad, so sad if Anglo-Saxon America does not live up to anyone’s Southern or Eastern European or Asian or African or Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist expectations. We all have the option to leave.

    How would you feel if some beggar came to your home pleading for shelter and then abuses your hospitality by destroying your furniture, appropriating your master bedroom and driving you out to the garage?

    You’d scream bloody murder.

    My house. My rules.

    Well, this whole Anglo-Saxon Protestant bashfest you’re engaged in is analgous to that.

    Right now, the folks who created Israel are deporting their uninvited “houseguests,” invoking their “my house, my rules” prerogative without nary a protest from the media.

    You don’t have shinola to say anytime there is Anglo-Saxon Protestant bashing going on, yet you have to get your panties in a twist over a mild display of pride in the Anglo-Saxon Protestant heritage when you celebrate Black Pride, Asian Pride, Jewish Pride, etc. ad nauseum ad infinitum?!

    [obscene suggestions deleted]

  • thibaud

    The term WASP always implied upper-crust, country-club, white shoe Republicans, mainly in the northeast and the industrial cities of the midwest. The term was meant to distinguish them mainly from their Catholic and Jewish rivals for political and economic influence.

    So one would hear about law firms or investment banks or IVY League colleges or fraternities that were more of less “WASP”-y.

    Merrill Lynch (Catholic) and Goldman Sachs (Jewish) were less WASPy than Brown Brothers Harriman or Bankers Trust. Princeton and Yale were more WASPy than Columbia and Harvard.

    But outside of the upper middle and upper classes of the big cities of the northeast and midwest, the term WASP had little meaning and was not used much, if at all – in large part because jews and Catholics were so few in number. The main distinctions were between various Protestant denominations, with a distinct social hierarchy ranging from Episcopalians and Presbyterians at the top down to “shoeless” Baptists at the bottom. In certain areas, these distinctions were overlaid with ethnic/national ones, as with nordic and German Lutherans in the upper Midwest, but WASP was meaningless.

    Thus the term itself has almost no resonance or even relevance outside of a brief period in the mid-20c history of New York, Boston, Chicago and a few other cities when jews and Catholics had gained access to elite institutions and were challenging the protestant hierarchy for supremacy.

    Ironically, many of the jews and especially the Irish who gained such power became themselves associated with the WASP or “preppy” ethos and style badges: see Ralph Lauren nee Lipschitz and that buck-toothed, freckle-faced, red-headed Irishman who became the ultimate icon of 20c American political style and elegance.

    Even more ironically, Romney’s faith disqualifies him, as it did his father, from WASP status. His father was an outsider in Michigan’s auto industry, no less than in WASPy Republican circles, and Romney himself is only white anglo-saxon – an utterly meaningless term in 2012 America.

  • Dick Pickett

    Don’t forget your pedigree:

    Walter MEAD-67345 and Egberht the Great Saxon King of England-6778

    1. 36th great grandson (common ancestor: Egberht the Great Saxon King of England-6778)

    Walter MEAD-67345 and King of England Aethelred I, the Unready-43235

    1. 30th great grandson (common ancestor: King of England Aethelred I, the Unready-43235)
    2. 30th great grandson (common ancestor: King of England Aethelred I, the Unready-43235)
    3. Second cousin 33 times removed (common ancestor: King Edward I The Elder of England-43239 & Aelflaed of KENT *Queen of England-43447)
    4. Third cousin 37 times removed (common ancestor: King Alfred The Great of England-43242 & Ealhswith of MERCIA Queen of England*-43243)

    Stanley Ann DUNHAM-67746 and Polly Ayers MELLETTE-67251

    1. Ninth cousin once removed (common ancestor: Richmond TERRELL-19575 & Elizabeth WATERS-67625) Richmond Terrell was a prominent land baron in Virginia.

    Name: Robert TERRELL-19669
    Sex: Male

    Individual Facts
    Birth abt 1595 England, United Kingdom
    Death 1642/3 (about age 48)
    Burial 1642/3 (about age 48) St Giles Parish, County Berks, ENG

    1. Jane BALDWIN-19670 ( -1660)
    Marriage 29 Jun 1617 (about age 22) St Giles, Reading, ENG
    Children Richmond TERRELL-19575 (1624-1677)
    Robert TERRELL Jr.-19576 ( – )
    John TERRELL-19671 ( – )
    Marie TERRELL-19577 ( – )
    Margaret TERRELL-19672 ( – )
    Charles TERRELL-19674 ( – )
    Timothy TERRELL-19579 ( – )
    Joan TERRELL-19673 ( – )
    Thomas TERRELL-19578 ( – )
    William TERRELL-19580 ( – )

    Notes: Robert TERRELL-19669 General: He was a member of the Fishmongers Company, merchants of London. He came to America several times on trade ventures, but apparently never lived here. His will was dated 8 July 1643 and proved the following September 27th at Oxford.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Dick Pickett: Readers puzzled by this comment should know that my first cousin is married to an accomplished genealogist who apparently has enough time on his hands to dig up the roots of the family tree. It is clear that we will need even more stateliness in the Mead Manor from here on out — a descendant of Ethelred the Unready needs to keep up appearances! And apparently it turns out that I’m also related to President Obama on his mother’s side; ninth cousin is surely close enough to get a dinner invitation to the White House, hint hint.

  • hepzeeba


    What about The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism?
    Shall we ignore this cornerstone of our heritage as well?
    You are quite niggardly toward those dead white men to whom we all owe so much.

  • Nigel

    Obama is about as much of a WASP as a cat is a dog.

    Before the rise of Cultural Marxism / Culturalism, everyone understood that blood trumps all else.

  • Mark Michael

    Until we know if the U.K. paper didn’t fabricate the “Anglo-Saxon” quote out of whole cloth and insert it into the story unassisted, I think waxing indignant over the presumed arrogance and insensitivity of the Romney “spokesman” should be held in abeyance. The Romney camp has strongly denied any of their campaign aides have made any such quote as I understand it.

    Several bloggers suggest that the paper should be confronted with direct, blunt questions, “Will you swear on a stack of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ that you did not fabricate that ‘Anglo-Saxon’ quote? That it is a verbatim quote from an authorized Romney campaign aide & not something you ‘sort of’ heard, maybe, but not really?”

    Frankly, giving credence to this kind of “punking” just encourages them. Well, er, unless that’s your aim, then, okay.

  • HeatherRadish

    Honestly, I think the “aide” probably meant to say “Anglo-American heritage” and a malapropism came out. Like Obama talking about asthmatic kids’ “breathalyzers” or getting a “paralegal” for the fainters. Except this one was committed by a Romney aide, so it must be analyzed as to its deeper (and evil) meaning.

  • Dutch 1960

    I believe the thread that WRM is picking up on is the New England Puritan heritage of top down authoritarianism. In the distant past, the exercise of top down authority was through the church. Love it or leave it, from a congregational and geographic standpoint. Oh, by the way, you will also lose your identity and connections with the bit of snooty upper class that still wafted through American culture.

    Today, that same top down authority is being exercised through the government, with Obama as the dictatorial face of the exercise of that governmental power. In that sense, Obama does represent the modern face of the old New England WASPy elites. Irony is not dead, as Obama’s membership in Chicago’s Trinity church, led by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, was in a United Church of Christ congregation, the modern bastardized iteration of the old time Puritans.

    The problem with the government exercising that power, rather than the church, is that escape from the oppressive elements is not as easy as moving over a state or two and dropping your church affiliation.

  • Richard S

    But didn’t the Puritans reject the labor and work laws that cramped the economy in England? They rejected the chain of being to the extent that laws put limits on who might engaged in what profession. To them, all men, from wealthiest to poorest, were obliged to work to put bread on their own table, first and foremost. Only un extraoridnary times, as Winthrop notes in “Model of Christian Charity” may that presumption be put aside. There’s a reason why the economy was solid from virtually the beginning in New England, even as Virginia was a mess for its first several decades. To be sure the separatists in Plymouth tried to live without private property. But they soon relized the folly the experiment, and conditions improved.

  • T. O’Connor

    c.f. Roger Williams (church-state separation) and the Massachusetts authorities who despised him.

  • OldCurmudgeon

    Unless an until the Telegraph reveals who the “adviser” was, you cannot charge the Romney campaign with anything.
    To be honest, we should all ignore stories based on “unnamed” sources. After all of the recent media scandals, they no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  • David

    “In God and Gold I wrote about the rise of the neo-WASP, people whose personal family trees didn’t go back to ancient Anglo-Saxons like Ethelred the Unready and King Egbert, but who were steeped in and helped carry forward a set of ideas and values that were shaped in British history and the American experience.”

    I believe the concept (if not the term) go back to an observation made in the 1960s by the late W.F. Buckley Jr. regarding the emergence of what he referred to as “CASPs, JAPSs, and NASPs”, that is, Catholic WASPs (like himself and the Kennedys), Jewish WASPs (such as Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg), and Negro WASPs (such as then-Massachusetts senator Edward Brooke).

    The WASP may have started out as what we would nowadays call an ethnicity, but it has long ago morphed into a cultural sensibility.

  • L Nettles

    What for a time was called Anglo Saxon, Victor Davis Hanson has more accurately identified as Greek. That is someone who has adopted Western Culture. Good news is that its available to anyone. We can all be Greek.

  • Whaddya know, I just started reading “God and Gold” yesterday. And yes, Barack Obama is everything that the French have hated for centuries.

    (Still it’s odd that the French have the most bureaucratic and centralized government on the planet.)

    But I am reading “God and Gold” in the light of, e.g., James Scott’s “Seeing Like a State” and Habermas’ dualism of “instrumental reason” vs. “communicative reason.”

    Obviously there is no way back to a Garden of Eden before the coolly competent Anglo-Saxons started winning all the wars against the various evil empires. But we are still social animals that live in a world defined by our conversation and communication. How do we balance the strategic with the social?

  • Nigel

    It would be a purely Cultural Marxist position to think that Obama and Rice are in any way WASPS.

    Look at Cavalli-Sforza’s genetic distance charts. Although Obama has some English ancestry, the genetic gap between him and the English would be great. Because of the Sub-Saharan African ancestry, the English would be around 60x more closely related to the Danish than to Obama.

  • Nigel

    Here’s Steve Sailer on Cavilla-Scforza’s genetic distances:


  • RHD

    Nice job and sharply observed. You provide a very different slant on Obama’s perspective than I have seen anywhere else. It puts in just the right context much of Obama’s self-righteous moralizing.

  • gringojay

    Obama’s racist white half just itches to do something every now & then.

  • Fred Schott

    Prof Mead: I’ve been regularly following this blog for, oh, 6 to 9 months at least (btw, tip your hat to Glenn Reynolds for that). Reading this article has prompted me to make my first comment…. I’m sure you’re familiar with David Hackett Fischer’s great work Albion’s Seed (1989). Your description of our Dear Leader as a “WASP” is consistent with Fischer’s characterization of JFK as being in the Puritan tradition….

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Fred Schott: welcome to VM, and I’m glad you enjoy the site. Albion’s Seed is one of my favorite books and it’s one that all serious students of American politics and culture should read.

  • Don

    I guess Thanksgiving will have to go….

  • D Gorton

    Christopher Chantrill is reading “God and Gold” and that’s good. He’s reading the brilliant Jim Scott’s “Seeing like a State”, and that’s good. But reading Jurgen Habermas, a Marxist from the old Frankfurt school is an exercise in futility, in my opinion.

    As to Obama-as-a-WASP, there are some interesting cocktail party conversation ideas. But, thats all.

  • FB

    This reporting of an unnamed adviser’s comments is a nice follow up to the reporting of an unnamed, unofficial (huh?) Romney adviser comment that there would be no women cosidered for vice president because Sarah Palin “poisoned the well.”

    Expect more of this from the MSM branch of the Democratic party as the campaign proceeds.

  • DrZ

    I have to disagree with Prof. Mead’s remark,”He has much more in common with Harvard-educated technocrats like McGeorge Bundy than with African freedom fighters and third world socialists of the 1970s.” Bundy, an outstanding math student at Yale eventually became the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences at Harvard. His intellectual superiority was admired by everyone affected by him including the faculty and students of the math department. When he spoke, he couched profound thought in beautifully formed English sentences often speaking extemporaneously and at length. To associate the innumerate, illogical and inarticulate Obama with such a man as Bundy is absurd. Obama is a doubtful technocrat since he has not demonstrated in public any degree of knowledge much less expertise in any subject except, arguably, basketball

  • AD-RtR/OS!

    A WASP/Progressive is someone who lays awake at night terrified by the prospect that someone, somewhere, is enjoying themselves.

  • Mr. Meade usually has an interesting insight into people and events, but this one falls flat. Let’s try another hypothesis, Obama is more like Kenyan.

    Obama is obsessed by his black African roots. Not by European socialism, but by the post-colonial development of Africa. Obama is his father’s son, the son who cried at his father’s grave , despite the fact that his father left his mother, had multiple wives, became an alcoholic failure, lost his legs in a drunken driving accident and died in his third car crash. This is the man who he admired so greatly that, according to his autobiography, when his father gave him a basketball he became a basketball fanatic and after he took him to a jazz concert, turned him into a jazz fan. It’s really no wonder that he would embrace his father’s cause: Kenya’s development as a Socialist state including wealth re-distribution, nationalization, confiscatory taxation, and dispossession of non-African people. Kenya and its struggle has done much more to create Obama’s self image than Europe, home to those who he says tortured and murdered his grandparents.

    So what do we know of Kenya? For most of its post-colonial history it has been a one-party state. His father’s problems came about partly because he lost favor with Kenya’s post-colonial ruler, Yomo Kenyatta. Kenya has a number of tribal groupings. Few Kenyans live beyond 65. Unemployment is estimated at 40%. Graft and corruption are a way of life. The rule of law is highly uncertain and the judicial system is mired in incompetence, executive interference, and corruption. The government spends 40% more than it takes in. The government also employs about one-third of the formal labor force, the rest are farmers or are in the “informal” economy. In summary, this is a country in which many of the important economic decisions are made by government functionaries. It’s a country which gives the rulers the opportunity to enrich their allies and punish their enemies. It’s one of the reasons that there have been years of civil strife brought about by the desire of competing factions to control the levers of power and the path to wealth. Individual wealth in countries like Kenya – and much of the rest of Africa – depends on who rules the country.

    Obama has taken this model and introduced it into the US. No country is free of corruption, payoffs to favored groups and a little “honest graft.” But on the whole, financial corruption has been modest and has not greatly affected the American economy. The Obama administration has created an entire economic sector – “green energy” – and has turned it into a trillion-dollar pool aimed primarily at enriching its political contributors. You can be sure that the same will be true of the health care sector. People will be willing to pay any amount for access to the limited health care that will be found under Obamacare. Health care companies will find out who is favored and who is not and the opportunity for “waivers” and favored status in a national system that includes one-sixth of the nation’s economy are gigantic. Not since the transcontinental railroad was built in the 19th century has there been this much opportunity for wholesale corruption. At least the result of the gigantic give-away of public land to the railroads resulted in the creation of a major transportation system. Green energy simply leaves empty buildings, bankruptcy filings and higher utility bills in its wake and Obamacare will give us the efficiency of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

    The European socialist model may be broken , but it is generally considered to be relatively honest. I’m concerned that Obama may be so much his father’s son that his goal is not the unworkable European social model but the corrupt Kenyan model. There are altogether too many signs that this is the direction we’re headed. Obama’s declaration that If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. is the sort of thing the revolutionaries said about the immigrants who owned the shops and ran many of the industries after the Europeans turned their colonies in Africa over to local rulers. That’s why Obama’s father believed that a 100% tax rate was not too high. They believed that these immigrants stole their success from the local population. It happens to be the belief system of the Left in academia, the press, popular culture and President Obama.

    Regarding America’s legal system, the Obama-Holder team is arguably the most corrupt in my lifetime. It has made a policy decision to apply the law unevenly between the races. It has ignored laws with which it disagrees, and used the legal process to harass its political opponents. It has issued decrees that stand outside of the legal bounds and defied congress and the courts to anything about it. It is widely believed to have placed thousands of American guns in the hands of violent Mexican gangs, resulting in the murder of hundreds of people, simply to create the political climate for more gun control in this country. It has used presidential power to cover up a policy that is so reprehensible that people can’t believe it of an American administration. The last time a President acted in a lawless manner, during the Nixon administration, members of his administration would not carry out his orders and members of his party called on him to resign. Today, his party is solidly behind Obama.

    What is the difference between Obama’s America and Kenya? A few years, a few thousand miles and a dream from his father.

  • RustyR

    Yes, Albion’s Seed is practically required reading if you want to comment on the underlying strains of American culture. i have felt for a long time that the American left is not populist but Calvinist — they know they are elect, and if you disagree with them you must be predestined for damnation. Clearly, their “Vision of the Anointed” cannot be criticized by the unenlightened. (Quoting another of my favorite writers.)

  • John

    I think Pincher above hits close to the mark, alas for our country.

    Unless one conflates “WASP” with “Pragmatic Leftist”–and it’s your article and a free country so fire away, I suppose–it’s hard to see Obama as WASPish in anything but style of presentation when teleprompted; in fact it’s hard not to see him as a true-believing Leftist who tacks exactly as far right as politically necessary and compossible with keeping his Progressive base’s support.

    The more that one understands Obama’s past, his college education (radical), his mentors (very radical!), his party involvement (the socialist New Party in the 90s), his appointments (e.g., Anita Dunn’s fave political philosopher? Chairman Mao), and his policy goals (single payer, public option, crony capitalism [via regulation, bail outs, targeted loans, targeted taxes, targeted tax and regulatory relief/waivers], extraordinary and highly politicized discretion in law enforcement), the more it becomes clear that he is a man of the race/gender/class Left in sheep’s clothing.

    Sheep’s clothing was more than enough in 2008, when the media never covered Obama, but instead covered for him. They’ll try _desperately_ again this year, of course, but I hope and even suspect they will have a harder time of it.

    America’s note-to-self re Obama/the media: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, and then a European-style corruption-, regulatory-, and debt-based economic collapse.

  • Richard S

    Crony Capitalism resembles the WASP ways of 17th Century Virginig more than 17th Century Massachusetts. Town Meetings were quite important in early Massachusetts. And, lest we forget, Governor Winthrop had to bow to the freemen of Massachusetts and allow for the creation of a legal code–a strong step in favor of the rule of law. The higher ups were also forced to allow for the creation of two houses in the legislature. It was Virginia where the law often reflecte the discretion of JPs, who, as a rule, often happened to be the rich and well connected, and often served as Burgesses, too.

    By contrast, the average settler in Massachusetts had a much better chance or riseing or falling according to his merits. In a related matter, the Puritans, believing in original sin, did not think men were entitled to much of anything. By contrast, the early Virginia ideal was a life free of restraints.

    And, lest we forget, there is quite a chasm between the idea that God is responsible for whatever success we have and the idea that other human beings are responsible for whatever success we have.

  • Pincher Martin

    Reposting, in the hope that my now one-hour post makes it through moderation this time. I have added a “please” in the beginning to soften its tone.

    @PR Stein,

    Please answer me this: Why is it that you believe Obama’s white ancestry is relevant to his identity as a WASP, even though he has consciously rejected it throughout his adult life, but Obama’s African ancestry, which he has embraced and embellished, despite it not being a part of his identity beyond his genetic makeup, is not more relevant?

    When Obama chose to write his first book, did he entitled it Dreams of My Mother and explore the roots of his maternal white ancestry in as much detail as he did his African father’s side of the family?

    When Obama chose a church, did he choose a WASPy institution or an explicitly black church that, while it has roots in Congregationalism, quickly evolved through racial segregation beyond recognition to any mainstream Protestant religious institution?

    When Obama chose a spouse, did he choose a WASP wife, with WASP values or did he choose a woman whose identity was unequivocally black? Michelle Obama is authentically African-American in a way that Barack Obama can only pretend to be. Her family came from the south. Her ancestors were slaves. She didn’t have to make up stories about racial bigotry like Barack Obama did. Her family would have seen it first hand. To put it mildly, Michelle Obama ain’t no WASP, and that was a major part of her attractiveness to Barack.

    Professor Mead claims that Americans no longer care about race and bloodlines as much as they did. But in his words, he shows that he still cares about them a great deal — at least if they’re the right race and the right bloodlines, and as long as they’re promoted with the right kind of high-minded gibberish. In this, Mead shows his age. He grew up in the sixties and so he still promotes the racial brotherhood of man as a white man’s burden. Mead’s own duties in this regard, apparently, consist of shouldering the heavy intellectual burden of convincing his mostly white audience that Barack Obama and Condi Rice are WASPs.

    The United States has changed a great deal since the 1960s. The country is no longer ninety percent white. Nonwhites no longer live and work under a heavy or even light burden of discrimination. Mead knows this intellectually, but he doesn’t know it emotionally. And so the same silly cliches of thought pop up in his analysis whenever the subject turns to race or immigration.

  • John

    Re Obama and teleprompter’s, this official White House video is illustrative:


    When Obama is teleprompted, he appears to be a post-racial, uniter, albeit with a ping-pong reading style that would be comically scary where he a Republican.

    But when he speaks from his mind and heart, he makes leftist gaffe after gaffe. Thank goodness the Progressive Media can filter that out and provide the context necessary for the narrative to prevail and save America from itself!

    NB: there is no shame in telling genuinely noble lies, not when Progressive money and power are in the balance, and especially not if one profoundly and authentically agonizes over it much later. We do not live in a black and white world, after all! Life calls for difficult moral choices. Some think we should lie not at all to help Obama, others think we should tell nothing but lies–both choices are more complicated and fraught with difficulty than would appear at first glance, I think. As is usually the case, the best answer probably involves a balance.

    Erratum: c/”Progressive money and power”/”social justice and racial and gender harmony”. We regret the error.

  • John

    100 demerits for the initial apostrophe…..

  • Victor Erimita

    You’re right that the “progressive” movement is more or less directly descended from Puritan philosophy. But Contenetal socialism isn’t. Alinskian revolution isn’t. African Liberation Theology isn’t. Obama is steeped in all these things. Puritans may have believed in rule by an elite, centralized authority, but they also believed in private property, individual responsibility and a definition of “liberty” that provided protection from a too-strong federal government. Obama believes in none of those things. He is more socialist revolutionary than Puritan progressive.

  • ben h

    No sorry, it is not ‘offensive’ to say that an anglo-saxon heritage may be of interest to other anglo-saxons in the United Kingdom, which used to be the colonial master of our country and from which many of the political ideals of our founders originated. It is however ‘fake offensive,’ where people try to analyze a simple statement by attributing bad motives to the speaker and end up find themselves ‘truly [ie falsely] offended.’

  • Sergey

    If Puritans were so enthusiastic about Big Government how it came that their descendants wrote Constitution with a direct purpose to limit and hamstring it at every turn? Never met a New Englander, but my father-in-law, a Lutheran and pure-blood ethnic German, was as exemplary Anglo-Saxon as they come. Even after 3 generation of his ancestors living in Russia, the contrast of his moral with usual native Russian ethos could not be more striking. It was physiologically impossible for him to lie or simply allow others to lie in his presence without reprimanding them on that, and all this after years in Gulag! His honesty and stubbornness was a legend, as well his resourcefulness and ingenuity. If this culture is called Anglo-Saxon, than Anglo-Saxon supremacy is not a myth, but a self-evident truth.

  • Doesn’t the word WASP have a sting to it? Isn’t it slightly pejorative? So why isn’t it a slur?

  • From Wikipedia:

    “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) is an informal term, often derogatory or disparaging, for a closed group of high-status Americans mostly of English Protestant ancestry. The term implicates the group as allegedly wielding disproportionate financial and social power.”

    Origin of term

    “Historically, “Anglo-Saxon” has been used for centuries to refer to the Anglo Saxon language of the inhabitants of England before 1066, and since the 19th century has been in common use to refer to all people of English descent. The “W” and “P” were added in the 1950s to form a witty epithet with an undertone of “waspishness” (which means a person who is easily irritated and quick to take offense).

    The first definition of the term was provided by political scientist Andrew Hacker in 1957, although it was already used as common terminology among sociologists.”

    Would I be wrong to speculate that it was probably a Jew, another group “allegedly wielding disproportionate financial and social power,” who invented the term? Would that be an insensitive way to put it? Yes, it would be. Which is why I would like to see the term retired in the mainstream press. It smacks of bigotry.

  • PR Stein

    @Pincher, thanks for interesting comment. I thought it important to balance all the weird things that come up when Obama’s African ancestry is discussed, with some hard facts about his actual white ancestry, which is in fact very distinguished and of which he is very aware. Further, I find those facts interesting in themselves. I think it is highly debatable that Obama has “rejected” his white heritage. I have never seen a negative word from him about his maternal grandfather, who is his connection to the Plymouth Colony. If pressed, he seems to identify with a democratic and urbane thread in WASP culture that runs, say, from James Madison, his distant relative, through Supreme Court Justice Gabriel Duvall, another, closer relative of Obama’s, to Archibald Cox, law professor, descendant of several Founders, and himself a Democrat and founder of Common Cause (not related to Obama as far I know). Obama correctly understands that he has not much to gain from sounding like a snob by discussing these things.

  • While I’m on the subject, I think the word “Jew” ought also be retired when used to describe someone’s ethnicity. It has a slightly pejorative connotation when used by a non-Jewish person (which is why we say “Jewish” all the time). For an ethnic group Ashkenazi is both neutral and more descriptive. Most Ashkenazis are not particularly religious after all. We don’t identify persons of European descent as Christian, do we?

    BTW, I am a Jew myself, having converted decades ago. Doesn’t make me Ashkenazi though, does it?

    Finally, an anecdote. My hometown is Chattanooga, where the family that owns the NYT began and some of whom still live here. They are old family friends. There was a family biography that came out a few years ago, I forget the name of it, and at one point some of the family members were defending themselves from charges that they weren’t being sensitive enough to Jewish sensibilities. I forget the particulars but one of the family quipped, “They think we’re Jewish!”

  • Joe

    Actually he has more of a whiff of Brandenburg than New England.

  • Glen

    Thanks again to Professor Mead for continuing to educate us on the connections between the early 20th Century Progressive Movement and the ”Democratic Wing” of today’s Democratic Party.

    Princeton economics Professor Tim Leonard has written extensively on the history of the Progressive Movement. His work on the rise of the ”expertocracy” is particularly timely.

  • Ed

    That whole “aragula” thing in the last campaign was a very carefully aimed message to rich, white liberals; “Don’t let the skin color fool you, I’m really one of you”.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    The worst posting on this blog, by far.
    No facts, just plain hatred of people whose forefathers built the foundation of this country.

    Total offensive nonsense.

    You should be ashamed, Mr Mead.

  • Pincher Martin

    PR Stein,

    ” I thought it important to balance all the weird things that come up when Obama’s African ancestry is discussed, with some hard facts about his actual white ancestry, which is in fact very distinguished and of which he is very aware. Further, I find those facts interesting in themselves. I think it is highly debatable that Obama has “rejected” his white heritage.”

    Would you agree that personal identity is closely connected to your parents’ identities, the region in which you grew up, your religion, your spouse’s identity, and your choice of what to identify as?

    By these five measures, Barack is about 10% white. He gets half-credit for his parents’ identity. In everything else, there is nothing remotely WASPish about his life or his choices.

    You say there is no evidence Obama rejects his genetically white half. Rejection might be too harsh a word. But he certainly slights it. He doesn’t, as Tiger Woods once did, play up his mixed background — except on those rare occasions he is making an explicit appeal for white votes. He doesn’t, for example, call himself Cablinasian.

    No, Obama identifies as African-American: “I self-identify as African American – that’s how I’m treated and that’s how I’m viewed. I’m proud of it.” He picked a black church that is as philosophically distant from its Congregationalist roots as Mormonism is. He sought out black professors at Harvard as role models who had some rather extreme views on race. He chose a black wife who was as unlike his mother as a woman could be. As a young politician, he sought out a black neighborhood in Chicago to represent.

    To now play up Obama’s white roots as the reason he has the politics he has is disingenuous. Sure, blame it on the Puritans. We blame them for everything else, so why not add Obama’s politics to the list?

    Mead’s addiction to classification, which is so evident in his many books and put to much better use in them, has officially jumped the shark.

  • teapartydoc

    The use of categories as artificial appliques that help us to make sense of the world is as old as Aristotle. I have my own aversions to the over-use of analytical thinking and classification, but to be frank these are really the only things available to us to communicate our ideas to each other. To be sure, non-analytical thinking exists and when it is used properly it beats the pants off the other kind, but it is deeply personal and difficult to communicate. I have used the same construct put forth by professor Mead to describe the basis of liberalism, and when viewed through the lens of church history it is dead-on. The Puritans gave rise to the mainline Protestant and Reformed churches and these were in turn the seed-bed of modern liberalism. The methods of church discipline of shunning and shaming are still used by liberals and they give no credit whatsoever to their ideological forebears. For some real insight into the origins of liberalism in Puritan thought one can go all the way back to the debate between Cranmer and Hooker. The spiritual forebears of the Puritans, like modern liberals rejected natural law and tradition as bases of authority and guidance, and basically desired to place the ecclesiastical polity under the tutelage of popular plebiscite by election of presbyters. Regardless of the seemingly conservative nature of the people themselves, the roots of political leftism are there. The first dictatorship of the Proletariat was not Marxist, it was Puritan.

  • Pincher Martin


    Of course classifications are a necessary analytical tool. Nothing I wrote should have suggested to you I believed otherwise. But that doesn’t make all classifications valid. And I submit that any analysis which classifies Barack Obama as a WASP because he is genetically half-white and went to a prep school in Hawaii, and later to a couple of Ivy league schools, is every bit as flawed as calling Obama a Kenyan Socialist or a secret Muslim.

    For any analysis to work, it must have some falsifiability to ensure the analyst isn’t working to a reductionism that he steers towards whatever conclusion he wishes to make. Where is the contradictory evidence? The weighing of alternatives?

    ” The first dictatorship of the Proletariat was not Marxist, it was Puritan.”

    What a stunning and silly rhetorical flourish. I prefer Jacque Barzan’s more nuanced handling of the Puritans in his book From Dawn to Decadence. There, in his chapter called “Puritans as Democrats”, he writes of the Puritan legacy of libertarian ideas and their pragmatism. He’s writing mainly about the English context of Puritanism, of course, which is different than the American context, but he notes that many historians seem to have an ax to grind when they write about either of the two groups.

    Pinning the centralizing tendencies of Barack Obama on the Puritans, and making those same Pilgrims the ideological forebears of Marxists, is certainly a new tactic in the modern political debate. While I give it points for creativity, I have to fault it on reductive and empirical grounds.

  • Dick Pickett

    Through your common descent from Richmond Terrell, Obama is your tenth cousin once removed. Of course, through that same ancestor, Rush Limbaugh is your tenth cousin. My mother is a ninth cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, but I’m not expecting an invitation to Buckingham palace from 10th cousin Chuck, the Prince of Wales.

    I read Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways by David Hackett Fischer at the suggestion of your father. What I found interesting about Obama’s treatment of his ancestry is the photo ops in Ireland showcasing his Irish ancestry. True his wife, Michelle, shares Irish ancestry. Her great-great-great-grandmother, a slave called Melvinia, was made pregnant in 1859 at the age of about 15 by Charles Shields, one of her owners’ sons, according to a comprehensive new book.

    Shields, who was about 20 at the time, was a descendant of Andrew Shields, a protestant Irish immigrant who fought against the British in the American revolutionary war in the late 18th century.

    Obama’s family were prominent in the business and political life of Dublin City in the first half of the 18th Century. The head of the family, Michael Kearney was Dublin’s most successful wigmaker, and even his opponents said of him, “No man alive was equally fired with ambition” in a scurrillous pamphlet in which he was accused of trying to take over the Guild of Barber Surgeons & Periwig Makers in Dublin. The pamphlet further urged the “Black-guards of Town” to pelt him [Michael Kearney] with “Pellets of Perjury”. The Kearneys invested their profits from wigs, in property, as the city of Dublin grew rapidly in the 1700s. As the 19th Century progresses, the family fortunes declined in line with the country’s economy, and Obama’s direct family line emigrated to the US at the end of the Famine in 1851.

    So, we have a Black Irish couple in the White House. Could Obama’s drone strike kill list be that Jacksonian steak coming out?

    But, speaking of Ireland, this just in:
    “Mr Obama described Ireland as a “tax haven” while attacking the personal investments of his election opponent Mitt Romney.

    Mr Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, will meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny for the first time today when both are in London for the Olympics.

    The meeting comes just weeks after Mr Obama’s campaign listed Ireland, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Switzerland, and Luxembourg on a graphic entitled: “Has Mitt Romney avoided US taxes by investing millions in tax havens?”

    But the attack on Mr Romney has been changed to now say Ireland is a “low-tax country” under the extended heading: “Has Mitt Romney avoided US taxes by investing millions in tax havens and other low-tax countries?”

    The u-turn came after contacts from the Irish Embassy in Washington objecting to the allegation.”

    What happened to the old song?
    “He’s as Irish as bacon, and cabbage and stew
    He’s Hawaiian, he’s Kenyan, American too
    He’s in the White House, he took his chance
    Now let’s see Barack do Riverdance

    Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo toor a lama
    There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama”

    All Hail to the Chameleon-in-Chief.
    May the enemies of Ireland never meet a friend.

    Sincerely, Dick Pickett, 52nd great grandson of Niall Mor of The Nine Hostages, High King and High Druid of Ireland

  • Svigor

    I just want to say I really enjoyed watching Mead get [thoroughly rebuked] in the comments. Too fun.

  • My final thought: Our “Anglo-Saxon political tradition” is probably the most useful, least controversial way to use the word Anglo-Saxon.

  • Mick The Reactionary


    “I just want to say I really enjoyed watching Mead get [thoroughly rebuked] in the comments.”

    Tolerating critical comments reflects very positively on Mr Mead.

    More importantly, does it show he has an open mind and capable to change his preconceived opinions when given contradicting facts and arguments?

    Jury is still.

    Tyler Cowen, proprietor of Marginal Revolution blog and Mead colleague, seems to have an open mind and is deeply misguided on immigration issues.
    Once a year Cowen puts out some nonsense on immigration, get thoroughly trashed by the commenters, silently retreats and returns with another nonsense in a year. Proving once again that he learned nothing.

  • Hu Ngu

    It’s ironic that the titular head of the Anglosphere is an Anglophobe.

  • Hu Ngu

    Bill Clinton: our first Black President.
    Barack Obama: our final WASP president?

  • Pincher Martin

    “It’s ironic that the titular head of the Anglosphere is an Anglophobe.”

    It wouldn’t be the first time. Think of FDR’s fraught relationship with Winston Churchill and the British Empire.

  • @D Gorton: I’ll agree that Habermas is a pompous lefty. But the Frankfurt School and Habermas establish an important point: business and government are “systems” that, unless limited, will dominate and oppress the person-to-person “lifeworld.”

    The lefties can’t see it, but the solution is civil society, what conservatives have been banging away on for two centuries.

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