“Who's In Charge?” - Part 2 - Vox Populi, Vox Dei or “My God, How did we get in this mess?”
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Start with the polls... When asked if they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election (2012), Republicans win and the margin is rising daily. But when a poll has the option "undecided," "none of the above," or "tea party," these win handily - the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind.
Most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well. However, only about a fourth of “Republican” voters say Republican officeholders represent them well. From this data, we can calculate that existing officeholders - both Democrats and Republicans - gladden the hearts of about one-third of the total electorate. Most of these happy folks are Democratic voters, with a smattering of a few Republicans.
Clearly, this means that Democratic politicians are effectively the representatives of the Elite Ruling Class. Because Republican politicians are supported by only a fourth of their voters, the rest of the self-identified Republicans vote for them reluctantly, they represent aspirants satisfied with a junior role in the Elite Ruling Class. In short, the Elite Ruling Class has a party (the Democrats).
Significantly, about two-thirds of all Americans -- a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all independents - lack a party in electoral politics. And they are increasingly not happy with this situation. Sooner or later, and regardless of how well it is handled, that clear majority of voters pent-up demand for appropriate representation will be filled. By someone. Almost anyone.
Consider that in in 1968 Governor George Wallace taunted voters with the statement "there ain't a dime's worth of difference" between the Republican and Democratic parties. At that turbulent time, on only 13.5 percent of voters agreed. A mere twenty-four years later, in 1992, Ross Perot became a serious contender for the presidency simply by speaking ill of the Elite Ruling Class. (Don't forget that at one point, Perot was favored by 39 percent vs. 31 percent for G.H.W. Bush and 25 percent for Clinton.)
The Elite Ruling Class was undeterred. It has not only it burgeoned in size and power, but it also has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans' conviction that the Elite Ruling Class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the Right Thing. The rest expect (correctly) that it will do more harm than good.
The main difference in 2010 is they are no longer afraid to say so.
It is hardly surprising that the Elites attempt to cajole the voting public to desire to be “more like Europeans”. The Elites had sunk deep roots in America over decades before 2008 with this in mind. After all, Europeans are accustomed to being ruled by those who presume to be their betters, and distrust of the rulers is expected. The goal was never satisfaction or even to provide Good Government. The goal is simply to perpetuate the status quo of those in power.
Wait a minute... Just WHO are these Elite rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing down to privileged Elites? What sets the Elites apart from the rest of us?
Many believe that our technologically-based modern society has become so complex and productive, and the technical skills to run it so rare, that it requires a new class of highly educated officials. An equally ridiculous belief is that Good Government requires a cadre of those dedicated to globalization: including the multinational manager, the technologist and those who desire some kind of meritocracy (in which they are conveniently considered the best of the best).
Most explanations are counter-intuitive. Wealth? The Elites do live in our big cities' priciest enclaves and suburbs, but they are no wealthier than most. They do have neighbors with whom they do not associate - just as the intellectuals in control of social science and humanities departments which control the educational system seldom associates with physicians and physicists.
Elites, regardless of where they live, their social-intellectual circle includes people in the lucrative "nonprofit" and "philanthropic" sectors which (mostly) rely on largess and drive public policy. What really distinguishes these privileged people is that, whether in government power directly or as officers in companies, their careers and fortunes depend on government funding in one form or another. Somewhat surprisingly, they vote Democrat more consistently than those who live on streets named for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An identifying mark is the fact that they draw their money (and political orientation) from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in general.
Professional prominence or position will not secure a place as an Elite any more than access to mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan), and not be taken seriously by the Elites. Like a fraternity, this societal class requires ONE THING above all else - being seen as “in” with the Right people, giving the required signs that one is on the Right Side, and joining with others of their ilk in despising Those On the Outside. Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and idols, and is shown to be a willing tool for the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among the established Elite ranks.
The reality: The Elites grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its symbiotic connection with an ever-increasing government bureaucracy. But the most disturbing characteristic of these New Elites is a certain attitude: I'm better than you... and I deserve it.
An example: in 1984, Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor of law, (and noted leftist) can "write" his magnum opus by using the products of a student assistant, Ron Klain. A decade later, after Klain admits to having written some parts of the book, and the other parts are found to be verbatim or paraphrases of a book published in 1974, Tribe claims (perhaps correctly) that the plagiarism was "inadvertent." Follow this approach with confidence since the Law School's dean, Elena Kagan, can be counted upon to appoint a committee that issues a secret report that "closes" the incident. (Incidentally, in 2010, Kagan eventually ends up a justice of the Supreme Court. Hmmm.)
Not one of these people did their jobs: the professor did not write the book himself, the assistant plagiarized instead of researching, the dean and the committee did not hold the professor accountable, and by any measure - all ended up getting rewarded. By contrast, technically detailed and learned papers along with distinguished careers in climatology at MIT (Richard Lindzen) or UVA (S. Fred Singer) are not “qualified” for their legitimate and reasonable questions about “climate change” to be taken seriously. For (accepted) members of the Elites, group identity and allegiance always trumps high academic achievement.
Don't the Elite go to Harvard and Princeton and Stanford? Didn't most of them get good grades? Yes... So what? Getting into America's "top schools" is less a matter of passing exams than of showing up with acceptable grades and an attractive social profile. American secondary schools are generous with their As. In fact, many teachers are criticized and ruthlessly brow-beat into submission with for daring to grade based on actual knowledge acquired: you're going to damage little Johnny's chances at Getting Into A Good School!
Since the 1970s, it has been virtually impossible to flunk out of American colleges. It is an open secret that "the best" colleges require the least work and give out the highest grade point averages. The Elites use this training ground to recruit not through meritocracy but rather by accepting people whose most prominent feature is their commitment to Fit In With The Crowd. The most successful neither write books and papers that stand up to honest criticism. They don't release their academic records either. Thus, the Elites avoid negative selection. Curiously, but not surprisingly, it has dumbed itself down while defining itself by the presumption of intellectual superiority.
Attitude is key to becoming an Elite. The first tenet is that "we" are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional - and must be properly controlled and restrained by their betters (us). Lost in the shuffle is the paradigm that "all men are created equal".
Experience teaches us that we are so unequal in so many ways. Setting yourself up as a “superior example of humanity” is extremely tempting and all-too human. Our Founding Fathers liked the idea of true equality because they believed that all men are made in the image and likeness of God, and because they were yearning for equal treatment under British law.
The notion of “equality for all” was eventually attacked by resorting to "science." In the early 1800's, Technical journals concluded different breeds of animals and plants produce inferior or superior results. Slave owners were citing the Negroes' “inherent deficiencies” as evidence they should remain slaves indefinitely. Sen. John Pettit of Ohio, in 1835, declared the idea that "all men are created equal" was a "a self-evident lie." The Elites quickly adopted the "scientific" notion (which Darwin only popularized) that man is the product of chance mutation and natural selection of the fittest. Accordingly, by nature, superior men *should* subdue inferior ones. In fact, they are *obligated* to subdue lower beings or, at the very least, try to improve them (as they see fit, naturally).
Abolitionists liked believing freeing Negroes would improve them in *all* ways. And, of course, Southerners *had* to be punished and reconstructed by force. Entering the 20th century, the Elite began to eye social reform. They were sure that because man is a mere part of evolutionary nature, man could be improved, and that they - The Elite - were clearly the most highly evolved of all, and therefore should step up to be the self-appointed guardians and “improver” of the species as a whole.
Enter the Progressives.
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Coming next time in the “Who's In Charge?” - Part 3 -
March of the Penguins... er, Progressives