by Whet Moser
"Acceptable cappuccino was also available throughout the commonwealth at Dunkin’ Donuts outlets, which makes one wonder if liberal elitism really begins and ends in Cambridge, Hyde Park and Berkeley these days. I even saw a Volvo somewhere west of Harrisburg."
Riiight. Quoth Chicagoland correspondent and U. of C. alumnus Tom:
"Have any of these people actually BEEN to Hyde Park? I know this effort to paint Obama as an elitist has now caused Hyde Park to be lumped in with other bastions of elitism, but having been to both Berkeley and Cambridge I can say safely that Cholie's and Nathan's Taste of Jamaica are not exactly Chez Panisse, and 51st and Cottage Grove is not exactly Central Square. We tried to have a gourmet grocery store there; it did not end well.
"On the plus side, maybe this is the end of the 'go to UChicago and you will get stabbed and mugged' trope amongst prospective students."
"Residents of Hyde Park are keenly aware that although our neighborhood possesses many fine qualities -- ample bookstores, nice housing, diversity of residents -- one quality it does not possess is a surfeit of great restaurants. For that, you have to go up to the downtown, the West Loop, or the North side."
So, this is what it's like when journalists parachute into your locale and just straight mangle it. When I arrived at the U. of C., it had zero independent coffee shops, save for the abysmally-run student hangout (and no stand-alone Starbucks). Now it has two, one of which has the imperialist-victory-lap name "Third World Cafe." Whatever shards of dignity I have left prevent me from going in. The one that sells ultra-elitist Intelligentsia Coffee moved in, um, last year.
Then there's David Brooks, who should know better, having gone to the U. of C.:
"Some of us love Hyde Park for its diversity and quirkiness, as there are those who love Cambridge and Berkeley. But it is among the more academic and liberal places around."
Anyone who lumps Hyde Park in with Berkeley and Cambridge is plum ignorant. The U. of C. is a conservative Great Books school, full stop. I was an English major, and I read two books by living authors (Philip Roth and the overrated Jeanette Winterson) during my time there. I read two books by black authors (Ralph Ellison and Charles Chestnutt). I wanted to read novels by crazy recent American postmodernists, but that just wasn't possible. You can go to UIC, home of the excellent Gaddis scholar Joseph Tabbi, for that.
The intellectual tenor of the U. of C. was set by classical conservatives like Saul Bellow, Allan Bloom, Milton Friedman, and Leo Strauss, and it just hasn't changed all that much, not with big fish like Leon Kass (Bush's bioethics adviser) and Richard Posner.
Are there liberals there? Hell yes. Put enough young people rebelling against their David Brooksian parents and you'll get your fair share no matter where you put a private university. And they do have an activist presence--not as big a one as the Larouche floggers or the Marxists who occasionally come down from up north, but they do sometimes have signs. The big issue when I was a student was getting Taco Bell to use fairly-harvested tomatoes.
Also worth noting: Bill Ayers? The liberal Hyde Park ex-terrorist? Barack served on a board with him and went to his house. You, me, and most other people pay his salary, seeing as he teaches at a state school. Am waiting on that guilt trip, but it doesn't seem to be forthcoming.