February 12, 2009
The Emerging Liberal OligarchyBy Christopher Chantrill
Anyone can make a mistake. But when a parade of Obama administration cabinet picks -- Richardson, Daschle, Killefer, and Lynn -- turn out to have ethics or tax problems, and are actual lobbyists or lobbyists by any other name, you start to wonder. But why be surprised? You expect stuff like that from today's Democrats.
The problem started with the Obama campaign, which set up the absurd expectation that an Obama administration would drive the moneychangers from the temple. Then the Obama administration compounded the problem with the Obama ethics policy, published a week ago. First it said that lobbyists needn't apply, then it said that one of them could.
You might think that this just shows that the Obama people are hypocrites, like all politicians. But I think it goes deeper than that; it goes to the fundamental delusion in the world-view of our American liberal elite. Its members don't really understand that, at the beginning of the 21st century, they now constitute an American aristocracy well on its way to becoming merely America's ruling oligarchy.
You Greek scholars will understand that we mean that our liberal elite is transitioning from the "rule of the best" to the "rule of the few."
There was a time when our liberal friends could make a case for representing the best of America. They offered up political and economic reforms based upon the best ideas that they knew.
The Progressives of a century ago offered up financial reform, the income tax, the primary election, and popular election of US senators. The liberals of the New Deal offered up labor reform and old age pensions. The liberals of the Great Society offered up civil rights, Medicare for seniors, job training for minorities, and generous pensions for single mothers.
Let us give our liberals friends the benefit of the doubt. They believed, as they agitated for these reforms, that they were pushing for social advances backed by the best in scientific and political ideas. And when liberals launched their campaigns to convince the American people of the justice of their cause, the American people, decent and open-minded as they are, listened to them and agreed to let the reforms go forward. Those were the days when liberals truly deserved to be honored as an American aristocracy.
It truly is sad that all that youth and idealism has given us schools that fail the underclass, welfare that has shattered the underclass family, and health care that will bankrupt the nation. But anyone can make an honest mistake.
Right or wrong, the age of liberal idealism is over. We live today in a different era. As the American philosopher George Maroutsos puts it: If you have power and you haven't abused it, you don't have power. You just have responsibility. President Clinton was a man who had power. President Bush was a man who had responsibility.
The liberal aristocracy that once knew itself to be "the best" has become, after half a century of power, merely "the few," just another cabal of ruthless men and women fighting to keep their hands on the levers of political power.
Our liberal friends do not yet understand how their years of political and cultural power have corrupted them; they still imagine themselves as plucky outsiders battling for the people against the powerful. There is a word for a misunderstanding of reality like that. The word is "delusion."
It takes delusion to issue foolish slogans about Hope and Change, and make ridiculous promises to ban lobbyists from the political process. Think of it. The federal government disposes of $3.1 trillion a year. (That was last year. This year, who knows?) But any practical person understands that no mere sloganeering will bring change to this spending juggernaut, or drive the influence peddlers from K Street.
It takes an oligarchic sense of entitlement -- almost like a bailed-out banker -- to come into power and immediately give yourself and your supporters a trillion dollar stimulus bonus before you have achieved anything for the American people.
Things were not done that way back when liberals truly were young and idealistic.
In the early 1900s Progressives couldn't wait to get into power and legislate the exciting new ideas that would reform the creaking politics of the 19th century. In 1933 liberals couldn't wait to get into power and legislate landmark legislation to improve the lives of workers and old people. In the 1960s liberals couldn't wait to legislate a civil rights revolution and put the findings of social science to work in helping the poor.
Now fast-forward to today's liberals.
In 2009 liberals couldn't wait to get into power and award themselves a trillion dollar bonus.
Don't be discouraged! Maybe later they'll get around to saving the planet, and pave over the nation with solar collectors and wind farms.
Sic transit gloria mundi.