We vote Tuesday in what promises to be one of the most decisive elections in recent American history. Commentators are using words like “wave,” “repudiation,” and, of course, “anger.”
But what is this election really about? Yes, it’s about the economy. No doubt about that. And it’s about the president and his record. But I also think it’s about something else, something deeper and more sensitive. This election is about the way the American people have been treated, and it illuminates their seething resentments. The people own this country. They make it run. They build it every day. And yet millions of Americans believe they’ve been patronized, spoken down to, and infantilized by an administration that believes itself to be quite a bit better than those who elected it.
This week John Kerry said that America is entering a period of “know-nothingism.” Strange, he didn’t say that when Democrats won a decisive victory two years ago. Wonder what changed.
We use the word “elites,” and Americans are clearly resentful of those elites, of the John Kerrys and Barack Obamas. No, contrary to elitist myth, they’re not resentful of intellectuals, or academically accomplished people, or successful entrepreneurs. Indeed, I’ve never met a member of the Tea Party movement who isn’t trying to get the best education for his or her children. They’re resentful of an attitude, and that, I believe, is the key to this election.
Franklin Roosevelt was a patrician, a man of wealth who grew up in a mansion and went to Harvard and the Columbia Law School. But go back and listen to his fireside chats to the nation, given during the Great Depression. He never spoke down to a population whose average education was, at best, the 8th grade. When he spoke, the American people felt they were listening to a friend. He never once said, “You don’t understand what we’re doing,” exactly what Barack Obama said to the nation two weeks ago. Doris Kearns Goodwin once wrote that, when FDR was giving a fireside chat, you could walk down the street of an American city and hear the whole thing without stopping, since every radio was on, the sound flowing out to the sidewalks. Americans anticipated those speeches. And the president did not spend time, between fireside chats, appearing on talk or comedy shows.
Too many people in the Obama administration, and in the leadership of the once-great Democratic Party, would be happy to put their College Board scores on their gravestones. They live by their degrees, by letters after their names, by awards and diplomas, and, most important of all, by their ability to secure party invitations to the “best” salons. While they claim deep compassion for “the people,” they don’t want to know them. Those people, described by Obama as clinging “to their guns and their religion,” are beneath them. Big bores. Unintelligent souls with dirt under their nails from a day’s work.
We have, since World War II, sent two generations of Americans to college. We thought it would be an unmixed blessing – the raising of the nation’s intellectual standards. And we probably do have a more aware population today than in the past. But the blessing has not been unmixed. We have, while educating the masses, developed a political class that is distant, aloof, and thoroughly in love with itself and the universities that created it. We see that political class in government and in the media, and most Americans have come to dislike it intensely.
When President Roosevelt died, a reporter spotted a soldier at the White House gate, crying. The reporter asked, “Did you know him?” The soldier replied, “No, but he knew me.”
And that’s the point. We have an administration, a political and journalistic class, that doesn’t know us, and treats us accordingly. And the American people have decided to send them a stern message, delivered on Tuesday. It is a message unlikely to be heard, for the current political class is probably beyond redemption, and must be sent on its way. The process begins this week. We hope to get it largely done by the end of 2012.
FROM URGENT AGENDA (WWW.URGENTAGENDA.COM)
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