Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's not a 'ruling class' (and it's not semantics)

So, a couple of days ago, Conor Friedersdorf, a senior editor on Andrew Sullivan's "Daily Dish", basically reposted a piece by a conservative commentator, William Voegeli. In it, Mr. Voegeli explains that the "Tea Party backlash" has risen in response to an increased arrogance on the part of the current leadership in Washington. On the other hand, replacing the "establishment" isn't as simple as voting the current leadership out of office.

Here's how the whole thing goes. There's always going to be an "establishment", whether its one built on democracy, theocracy, or as Mr. Voegeli believes the current one sees itself, on a meritocracy, filled with "eternal valedictorians" who consider anyone who disagrees with their view of the world to be a fool (and they don't suffer fools). But while the meritocratic establishment learned from the previous establishment, they're not so likely to "teach" the next one; so the question is, how will the next establishment learn, and what will they learn?

That's actually a good point; but it's not how Mr. Friedersdorf saw the issue. He tries to put it "succinctly" by asking the Tea Partiers: "if we're choosing our ruling class the wrong way now, what alternative do you recommend?" He's missing the point; which is stunning, since Mr. Voegeli already summed it up:

"An alternative reading of what the Tea Party movement does and should want is not a better establishment but a less autonomous establishment, subject to the checks and balances of a re-engaged citizenry and a re-invigorated Constitution that constrains its discretion. "
We're not trying to elect a "ruling class"; we're trying to elect leaders who realize that they aren't a ruling class. And that's the answer to his question. We don't need a new system for electing leaders (except possibly as regards our primary and other nominating conventions, of which I've already written); we just need our leaders to remember their role. It's not as our rulers, but as our servants. They may be better educated and more experienced, but that does not excuse either the arrogance or the dismissiveness we have all seen in Washington and in our own state capitals.

Perhaps it was just a poor choice of words on Mr. Friedersdorf's part; but if so, then it was extremely poor indeed. There's a culture of corruption at work in our leadership, and it feeds on pride; the pride that comes from having power over others, and that tells them they're above accountability, that they are actually the "ruling class". You cannot govern, especially in America, without the consent of the governed. We rule in America (as easy as that is for everyone to forget).

Give me a man (or woman) who knows his strength, but doesn't flaunt it; who seeks to lead, but not to have power; who wants to help, but not to impose; and who owns his mistakes and seeks to rectify them. Give me someone humble, but self-assured; courageous, but careful; intelligent, but thoughtful; compassionate, but firm. There aren't many out there, I know, but with 300 million from which to choose, we should be able to find them.

I don't have a problem with elites running the government; in fact, I want elites running the government. I just don't want them running over me in the process.

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