The “silly season” seemed to start early this summer – not even waiting for our revered political assemblies to take their well –earned breaks. A month ago the newspapers were already scraping the bottoms of their troughs of choice. Time spent on them in the morning got shorter and shorter as the weeks moved on. America excepted. While the political battle being engaged in there over the next few months is not promising to be very inspiring, it is, however, offering some food for the politically curious among us.
This, from an interesting piece in today’s Washington Post by Anne Applebaum, makes an astute but somewhat dark observation on the prospect ahead of us there – and like it or not, it is a prospect in which we all have a stake.
“You know the stereotypes already. Both Obamas come from what might loosely be called the intellectual/academic meritocracy, the “liberal elite,” the post-WASP Ivy League, easily caricatured as the world of free-trade coffee, organic arugula, smug opinions and Martha’s Vineyard. The Romneys, by contrast, belong to the financial oligarchy, the “global elite,” the post-financial-deregulation world that is just as easily caricatured as one of iced champagne, offshore bank accounts, dressage trainers and private islands.
“The two groups have some important overlaps. Although Romney got some attention for holding a fundraiser in the Hamptons last week, Obama has raised more money in the Hamptons overall (the president scored particularly well in Sagaponack, by one account, where the median home price is $4.4 million)….
“They also have some important differences. The financial oligarchy, as we learned from the Barclays scandal in London last week, is happiest when it operates in deep secrecy, where it can manipulate interest rates, package derivatives, hide its profits and shelter its taxes as it sees fit. The liberal meritocracy prefers to operate in the glare of publicity, where it can give lectures, write books, make documentaries and generally promulgate its own views as loudly as possible. Aged 34, Obama wrote his autobiography. Aged 37, Romney founded Bain Capital.
“But while you might think one or the other group more preferable or more offensive for reasons of politics, culture or taste, you certainly cannot argue that either of them is in close touch with “average” or “ordinary” or even “middle-class” people, however those terms might be defined. And although they and their supporters may shout about “radical left-wing professors” on the one hand or “Gordon Gekko” on the other, neither Obama nor Romney can plausibly claim to leading a populist revolution against the “elites” who are allegedly destroying America.
“Which is just as well, because the political success of both Obama and Romney proves that radical populism in the United States has failed spectacularly. For all of the attention they got, neither Occupy Wall Street nor the tea party has a candidate in this race. Neither found a way to channel inchoate, ill-defined public anger — at the deficit, at the banks — into electoral politics or clear alternatives. Whoever wins in November, we’ll therefore get the elite we deserve.”
Did the Irish electorate deserve the “elite” it has been landed with for the next several years – with not another prospect in sight for at least a decade? One wonders what cataclysm we will have endure before we can escape from the politically correct mediocrity we are now crippled with.