This is another of those Jacksonian moments in American politics. The lower middle class and the middle middle class are in full flaming revolt against the cultural, political and economic power of the upper crust. Whether it is Tea Party politics on the right or the rapidly swelling caucus on the left that thinks President Obama has capitulated to the Establishment, growing numbers of Americans aren’t just angry about the perceived failures of the elite. They are taking their anger into politics.
This is bad news for two groups of people who often don’t like one another very much. On the one hand, it’s bad news for people who think about Big Complex International Financial and Commercial Issues. Voters have lost a lot of faith in the corporate elites and especially the wizards of Wall Street. They don’t see the point of shipping U.S. jobs to China, and they don’t see the point of a financial system that pays fat bonuses to the big kids and melts down with terrifying speed.
Democrats want to ride this wave of anger into long term power the way they did in 1932.
But the other aspect of the public anger is less favorable to Democratic concerns. The snooty, good-government, clean-energy, read-the-terrorists-their-Miranda-rights crowd, the latter day heirs of the turn of the century Progressive movement, are also squarely in the cross-hairs of public wrath. Sarah Palin understands this very well and if nothing else this knowledge is selling her books and jacking up her lecture fees. Ivy League meritocrats think a system that gives the most power and the best jobs to the people who do the best on standardized tests and write really excellent term papers is the best and indeed the only proper way to run a country. The jocks and the cheerleaders should get out of the way and let the Debate and the Chess clubs rule. After all, government should follow the ‘best’ policies, and who is better qualified to identify and carry those out than the best brains?
The horrifying reality for liberals, I fear, is that the second wave of anger is more intense, more politicized, and more capable of dominating public opinion than the first.
Into this situation walk the greens like Bambi prancing daintily into the annual meeting of the NRA. The green goal, which for all I know may in fact be the only possible way to save life on earth, is incredibly ambitious and intrusive. It will change the way everyone in America changes their light-bulbs and flushes their toilets. It involves the U.S. sending billions of dollars in foreign aid to countries that are ‘stealing’ American jobs — with little or no oversight as to how these countries (many notoriously corrupt and undemocratic) will use said funds. It will raise the cost of everything Americans use and do. It will impose multiple new layers of regulation on the American economy and energy production at a time when voters are worried that we are competing with India and China with one hand tied behind our collective back.
When challenged on the need for such policies, greens stamp their cute little organically-booted feet and invoke the Sacred Authority of Peer-Reviewed Science. Oh — and pay no attention to that little man behind the curtain sending emails to his colleagues telling them to ban critical papers from peer-reviewed journals.
You don’t need a Nostradamus to tell you this won’t end well. The ‘best case’ scenario for 2010 is probably the narrow and painful passage of an unpopular but weak climate bill that won’t address the real issues. Barring an economic miracle, that meaningless bill will help stoke a GOP election revival in 2010, effectively ending any chance of serious climate legislation before the next presidential election — and quite possibly for longer.
The greens are going down and Ben Bernanke is going to get re-confirmed. Main Street hates even Wall Street less than it hates Harvard Yard.
Well credentialed, smart people from good schools should possibly invest some of the processing power in their Mighty, Mighty Brains to figuring out how, with the best intentions in the world, they have so profoundly and powerfully alienated precisely that voting public whose support they so desperately need.