Fran Lebowitz talks politics with Frank Rich at the Smith Center

Photo: Christopher Macsurak

The Details

A State of the Union Conversation:An Evening with Frank Rich & Fran Lebowitz
October 17, 7:30 p.m., $26-$79
Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall, 749-2000

Forget recent Fox News claims that Sesame Street’s liberal Muppets are brainwashing our children. We don’t need publicly funded Muppets when we’ve got the more adorable and cuddle-worthy Fran Lebowitz, whose lefty quips and assertions come directly and unapologetically into our hearts so that we may indoctrinate our children long before they reach the dangerous liberal breeding grounds known to the far right as college.

The clever and cynical Lebowitz, still coasting in her more than 20-year “writer’s blockade,” is the subject of Martin Scorsese’s 2010 documentary Public Speaking. She joins journalist Frank Rich at the Smith Center October 17 for a conversation about the election. With little coaxing, the New York writer tells us exactly how she feels about racism in politics, home schooling and anti-intellectualism.

You’re very publicly liberal. Is there a plan to influence voters or just rally the base? If I thought I could influence people, I’d be running. I’ve been trying to get people to do what I want my entire life. I have almost universally failed at this. This is more of a discourse. With all of the media, which is prevalent to the point of suffocation, there isn’t really a lot of discourse.

But that doesn’t fit in well with the rise of anti-intellectualism. The anti-intellectualism in this country is not new. It’s kind of in the grain of the country. There was an actual political party in this country called the Know-Nothing Party. We still have the same party, but now they’re called Republicans.

Do you think anti-intellectualism has become worse? I think it’s become more respectable. Being smart is something very much looked down on in this country.

Particularly if you talk to Rick Santorum, who would target you as the type of snob he’s fighting against. I did not go to college. I didn’t even finish high school, so Rick Santorum should adore me. I am a self-made woman. College is a thing people use. Plenty of people who are not that smart have gone to college. Some smart people don’t go to college. Most cases it doesn’t matter. Here’s where it does: I would not go to a doctor who hadn’t gone to college. And I wonder, if Rick Santorum was sick, would he find someone who has said they would agree with him on home schooling, which, by the way, shouldn’t be allowed.

What’s the harm? [Originally] it was to allow some schooling of children who are isolated geographically. It was a way of giving more of the world to children who had less of it. Now it is used for the exact opposite. It is a way of giving less of the world to children. To give children tiny points of view, to take them out of competition with their peers, to keep them from harmful points of view, which are opposing points of view. It is a narrowing movement instead of what it was meant to be.

Your thoughts on Romney? That’s a broad question. I believe that Mitt Romney has two reasons why he’s running for the presidency. He wants to be the president because it’s a very big thing to be, the same way that people want to be movie stars. And two, his real goal, should he get into office, is to take whatever taxes remain on capital off of capital. That’s what he wants to do.

People should understand what that means and that they don’t have it—very few people have capital. There is this giant belief that all rich people care about is investing money so that you have a job.

So his constituents are voting against themselves? Well, people shouldn’t just vote their self-interest. You should think about the country. But the only people who have genuine self-interest to vote for Mitt Romney are straight, white, male millionaires. Everyone else he’s going to be bad for. George Bush got these people to vote for him because of this stuff called “values in politics”—how many guns are you allowed to have? How many prayers are you allowed to say in public school? With Barack Obama they don’t need any of that stuff, because what you have is racism, plain and simple.

In a nutshell? This hatred of Obama, this moderate, mild man, this hatred of him—you’d think he’s a really volatile person. My objection to Barack Obama is that he’s too moderate. If you really look at his policies as opposed to what he looks like, he’s too moderate. Fran would prefer someone quite a bit to the left of Barack Obama.

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