I cannot recall a period in my life when there has been such a strong sense of “Us and Them.” There is a growing disconnect between the leaders and the lead. This is not a good sign for a country facing serious economic problems.
The gap has been widening for years. In the November 24, 1985 New York Times, Joseph Epstein wrote about the growth of a government bureaucracy more concerned with feeling good about what it is doing and indifferent to whether anyone is actually helped. He used the term “Virtucrat” to describe these people. They are certain of their virtue and anyone who questions them must, therefore, be lacking in either wisdom or sensitivity.
Thomas Sowell is an economist whose view of government virtue changed when he realized that the bureaucracy was indifferent to the results of their actions. They just wanted to feel good about themselves. His aptly titled The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy makes the same point. He talks about the “enlightened” and the “benighted” as two groups growing increasingly apart.
Recently, Anthony Codevilla, in the American Spectator, wrote of the separation between what he called the “ruling class” and the “country class”. After trying to come up with a reason why the “rulers” feel entitled to rule, he explains it as follows:
Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity — being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs. 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 shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment’s parts.
Melanie Philips, a British columnist and author, spends a chapter in her book Londanistan talking about the arrogance of the British courts. She describes how they have assumed the power to unilaterally impose the provisions of the “European Convention on Human Rights” on the British people.
The common theme in all this is the growing separation between the two groups. The governing class includes those in government and the major media. They assume their own virtue. There is no real need to argue with “those people” who disagree with them. When all else fails, there are all kinds of epithets to use to settle the argument. Racist, Sexist, Homophobe, Islamaphobe or even Speciesist are all the “descriptions” they need to prove to themselves they are purer than those people who don’t agree with the consensus.
The “rulers” are absolutely convinced of the stupidity and viciousness of the “ruled.” This is most obvious in how officials speak of event perpetrators. Mayor Bloomberg of New York famously hoped that the person who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square was mad about the Obama Health Care bill. You could almost feel Bloomberg’s pain when it was known that the perpetrator was Islamist.
Another aggravating theme constantly heard in the 2010 election is the idea that if they just “communicate” more we will finally get it and come around to their view.
The tone of “our leaders” in speaking down to the citizens is getting pretty annoying. The Associated Press, to calm the masses, decided to forego the term “Ground Zero Mosque.” Repeated news stories don’t mention race or religion when there is a criminal or terrorist act.
The “ruled” voters have been reacting for years but no one wants to listen. In The Neglected Voter, David Paul Kuhn shows that whites, especially the men, have been moving away from the Democratic Party since the late 1960’s.
In a time of high unemployment, the apparent arrogance of the self-anointed ruling class is even more insufferable. When times are good, people may be willing to agree that those in charge must know something the average person doesn’t. But, when times are difficult, the mood changes. At that point, the response to this kind of overbearing self-assurance is blunt and to the point. “If you’re so damn smart, why don’t I have a job?”