A chance encounter with a real politician
Most days I like to take a walk around my neighborhood. One day, while going along an unpaved and rather hilly street, I encountered a well dressed woman, who looked up at a house that had four flights of stairs to the front door. She turned to me and said, "The people who live up there must be in really good shape." I replied that maybe they really didn't go out all that often, but they at least had a terrific view of the bay. She then handed me a campaign flyer. She was running for Alameda County superintendent of schools and leafleting the neighborhood.
Right off the bat, she told me she was against school closures. I suggested that the problem is that the public schools are hemorrhaging enrollees. And she said that's because of those nasty charter schools. I told her that I was a staunch supporter of vouchers and that the K–12 education system would benefit tremendously from an infusion of competition. She replied that many parents are just not sufficiently competent to choose the right school for their children. I thought that unaccountable bureaucrats, who got their jobs mostly because they had otherwise useless social science degrees, were the last people on Earth I would want to decide where a child of mine went to school.
After we parted, I realized that this woman was a typical clone of the local political establishment. Her operating concept was that the general public is too stupid to make its own decisions, and so people need enlightened petty tyrants to show them the way. Her flyer said that the teachers' unions were staunchly behind her...and she ultimately won the election. And thus, a whole bunch of union-thug teachers will get to hold onto their jobs...even after they no longer have any students left to teach. What a county!
The incumbent, whom my chance encounter defeated, was mostly politically indistinguishable from her — but, apparently, was not as favored by the unions. Why? I suppose the degree of opposition to closing nearly empty schools was the deciding factor. Previously, some Oakland teachers went on a hunger strike to keep the nearly empty schools open. Again, why?
Writ large here is the "blue city" political culture of professional paternalists. It remains electorally advantageous to assume the public to be so feeble-minded that they need elected "experts" to guide them through the challenges of life. To the non-feeble-minded, however, these elected officials appear to be particularly inept at problem-solving. Heaps of taxpayer money are constantly being thrown at various problems without showing any significant progress. After all, it has become part of the discussion that politicians are averse to solving problems, since persistent public-sector problems are relied on as useful tools with which to control public opinion.
In broader perspective, the lady I encountered is a political dinosaur. Things are changing. It is no longer possible for one point of view to dominate the flow of information. Next up, government is being outed as the cause of many of our most familiar problems. However, the blue inner cities remain the last bastion of the "old" way of ward-heeling and poverty-pimping. Hereabouts, even educated middle-class folks still buy in to the "woke" agenda. Fault lines, however, are starting to appear.
Current buzz has a lot to do with the left's loss of its demographic edge, most conspicuously demonstrated by the Hispanic shift to the right that seems to have been triggered by the Trump presidency. Add to this the broad disaffection by all kinds of blue-collar "working class" folks that has left the Democrats to be dominated by a white elite, mostly by default. This was actually noticed years ago by the late Democrat polling guru Pat Caddell, who referred to an "elite gentry" when discussing the emerging dominance of environmental issues in the Democrat agenda.
Meanwhile, the blue-city ruling clique remains propped up by an engineered culture of dependency. Beyond "free" schools and welfare programs, there are the swarms of arson-prone vagrants encamped in parks and under freeways. They didn't just happen to be there; they were "recruited" by the purposeful creation of a friendly environment. Although the entrenched political establishment still finds these folks useful, the taxpayers are now seething with resentment.
Image: tom.arthur via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.