Now part two of the short series on ideological walking caricatures--types that are recognizable in reality although certainly no one individual will fit all the markers described. But the type is real enough to evoke a general, typological description.
The liberal walking caricature is marked by a gigantic self-contradiction: the self-anointed messiah for the oppressed is ironically obsessed with distinctions of elite prestige: the best high school, the best university, the best neighborhood, the best consumer good. Just take a look at the glossy supplements to the New York Times on fashion or its real estate section which portray an exaggerated fascination with luxury that confirms the worst fears of those who view American decline as following the pattern of ancient Rome.
In lavish restaurants in privileged enclaves, the liberal caricatures worry about the masses and about global warming's effects. Liberalism becomes the way the elite can feel noble and superior in its condescension.
All of which brings us full circle: the liberal and conservative caricatures are both quite elitist precisely because the personality that becomes caricature is so insecure that it must desperately embrace an in-group identity that makes it superior to those outside. In some conservative caricatures, it takes on ethnic and racial overtones. Liberal caricatures hide such ethnic or family markers better and often substitute rankings of academic prestige to draw boundaries of alleged superiority.
The insecure personality gives us both of these caricatures--a type of personality that is a poor guide to anything practically useful for us and for society as a whole. Such a personality type is useless because it is divorced from reality. For reality demands humility, the humility that, ironically, only the secure personality can embrace.