July 29 2013
Washington: City of Entrenched Insiders
One of the distressing aspects of our contemporary political life is that we see the constant growth of an elite political class that simply refuses to listen to us.
Don’t want ObamaCare? The elites in Congress voted it in anyway, telling us that we’d come to love it when we saw all the nice things they had prepared for us. Needless to say, we’ll be footing the bills for all the nice things they had prepared for us. So we do have some use.
In a brilliant column yesterday in the New York Times, Ross Douthat nailed what is going on here.
The headline is “Going for Bolingbroke,” after the eighteenth-century political thinker Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, who critiqued the centralization of power England was witnessing under Sir Robert Walpole, the island nation’s first prime minister.
Bolingbroke postulated a “court party,” which was the centralized elite, and a “country party,” the outsiders, loosely comparable to today’s populists. Think of it this way: Nancy Pelosi is court party; the tea party is country party.
Douthat writes that Bolingbroke’s categories are more applicable to American politics today than the old left-right division of the past. Douthat writes:
Bolingbroke is largely forgotten today, but his skepticism about the ways that money and power intertwine went on to influence the American Revolution and practically every populist movement in our nation’s history. And it’s his civic republican ideas, repurposed for a new era, that you hear in the rhetoric of new-guard Republican politicians like Rand Paul and Mike Lee, in right-wing critiques of our incestuous “ruling class,” and from pundits touting a “libertarian populism” instead.
Theirs is not just the usual conservative critique of big government, though that’s obviously part of it. It’s a more thoroughgoing attack on the way Americans are ruled today, encompassing Wall Street and corporate America, the media and the national-security state.
As theories go, it’s well suited to the times. The story of the last decade in American life is, indeed, a story of consolidation and self-dealing at the top. There really is a kind of “court party” in American politics, whose shared interests and assumptions — interventionist, corporatist, globalist — have stamped the last two presidencies and shaped just about every major piece of Obama-era legislation. There really is a disconnect between this elite’s priorities and those of the country as a whole. There really is a sense in which the ruling class — in Washington, especially — has grown fat at the expense of the nation it governs.
Yuval Levin has an excellent—but longish—post on Douthat’s column on National Review. Levin proposes that the GOP can’t just rely on blocking policies of the Democrats but needs to put forth ideas that will appeal to us outsiders of the country party.