Must the Beat Go On?
Get used to it. We're going to see more of this, unless....
Twice recently different branches of the federal government handed Americans who believe in border security and traditional values stinging defeats. First, the Senate passed legislation that will grant amnesty or a path-to-citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants without first securing America's porous borders. Then, by one-vote majorities, the Supreme Court outlawed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and began a process that will restore gay marriage in California, thereby ignoring Proposition 8, which was passed by a majority of the popular vote.
What do the Senate's and the Supreme Court's actions have in common?
At least three things.
First, I've already alluded to the fact that the Senate's and the Court's acts had the consequence of telling large proportions of the American population to, in effect, like it or lump it. These actions undermine popular government in America.
Second, these actions do the bidding of America's "ruling class," i.e., 7-15% of the population, that dominate the rest of society, a.k.a. "the country class." The terms "ruling class" and "country class" were coined by Angelo Codevilla in an essay published in the July-August, 2010 issue of The American Spectator. He expanded it into a book, The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It (2010). Earlier this year, Codevilla published an op-ed in Forbes magazine arguing that country club Republicans, who don't mind being junior members of the ruling class, are allied with Democrat elites, working against the desires and interests of the country class.
Third, the Senate's and Supreme Court's recent decisions continue the pattern by which America's ruling class govern against the country class' wishes. An excellent illustration is the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," a.k.a. ObamaCare, passed by Congress using extra-ordinary procedures and signed into law by Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. ObamaCare was not approved by a majority of the population when it became law, and polls indicate it is even less popular today.
Nor have we seen the end of the central government working its will against the rest of us. Obama has announced that he wants Washington to prevent "global warming," even at the cost of economic decline.
Virtually any attempt to combat "global warming" entails curtailing the coal industry, which supplies nearly a third of America's electricity. Expect prices of virtually anything that uses energy to skyrocket, with attendant diminution of most Americans' standard of living.
Language is symptomatic of the gulf between America's ruling and country classes. Today, America's ruling class and the rest of us disagree on the meaning of even the simplest words. What, for example, does "cut" mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the word's meanings is "to reduce in amount."
By that definition, a "cut" in the federal government's budget means an absolute reduction in the amount of money spent by Washington. To illustrate, if the government's budget for Financial Year (FY) 2014 were $1.4 trillion, and Congress passed and the president signed a law that would "cut" the government's budget by $.4 trillion, the amount of the federal budget for FY 2015 would be $1.0 trillion.
But that's not what "cut" means to the ruling class. To them, "cut" means only a reduction in the amount of growth in government spending. To illustrate, if the size of the federal government's budget for FY 2014 were $1.4 trillion, a "cut" would not mean an absolute reduction in the amount of spending, but only that spending in FY 2015 would be lower by some dollar amount than it otherwise would have been. As "cut" is understood by the ruling class, government spending in FY 2015 would be $1.6 trillion instead of $1.8 trillion.
As much as anything, this discrepancy in how the ruling class and the country class define even the simplest words explains why, against the wishes of a large percentage of the country class, Washington's budget has increased virtually every year for over half-a-century.
Apathy explains why the gap between public opinion and public policy has become a gulf on many issues. Popular government requires that ordinary citizens be actively involved in the affairs of state. Thomas Jefferson is alleged to have written that, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."
Historians indicate that 19th century Americans were more alert and active than those in later epochs (see, e.g., Glenn Altschuler and Stuart Blumin, Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century ). Voter participation, for example, reached 80+% of the voting-age-population (VAP) in several late 19th century presidential elections, and other indicators from that era bespeak an attentive public. Historians of the period between 1865 and 1900 tell how both major political parties mobilized large blocs of citizens to win public office.
Citizenship is very different today (see, e.g., Russell Neuman, The Paradox of Mass Politics ). Hyperactivity has been replaced by widespread indifference and passivity. We are lucky, for example, to see 60% of the VAP cast ballots on election day. Usually, it's lower. The special election for the Senate in Massachusetts on June 25th, 2013, for example, saw only 27% of the VAP turn out to vote.
It is not surprising if, when large portions of the populace care more about reality TV than about public affairs, the ruling class feel safe in ignoring public opinion.
Only about a third of the populace pays even moderate attention to public affairs; large portions are tuned out. Almost everyone knows who is president, but other than that, political ignorance is the rule, not the exception. (Jay Leno's "Man-on-the-Street" skits are not pretty to watch.)
The ruling class know this, and benefit from it.
I wish I knew the magic words that would motivate large portions of the country class to get involved in public affairs. If the country class suddenly got aroused, the ruling class would have to take note. Sadly, I don't.
A cataclysmic event, such as 9/11, might accomplish that end. Other than a cataclysm, a major economic downturn such as the Great Depression could mobilize some people. Turnout in the 1928 election, for example, was 56.9% of the VAP. In 1932, the first presidential contest after the Depression began in late 1929, turnout was 61.6% of the VAP.
Unfortunately, past surges in popular attention to and participation in public affairs have been short-lived. Sooner or later, and usually it's sooner, Jane and John Q. Public return to preoccupation with popular culture.
Recent posts on the American Thinker have predicted the deleterious impact on the American Republic that would very likely follow "immigration reform." Will the likely prospects of "immigration reform" be sufficient to mobilize millions of the country class? It did in 2007, but no one now knows how this round will end.
One thing is certain. Without a surge in the country class' political engagement, we should expect more of what we've just experienced.