Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Why John Kerry doesn't "connect" with the little guy

There's an exceptionally good article about John Kerry and the modern Democratic Party in American Enterprise Online that explains much of what's happening in today's presidential election. Written by Karl Zinsmeister, it opens with a bang:

It is "becoming harder by the day to take the Democrats seriously as the party of the common man," writes columnist Daniel Henninger. "The party's primary sources of support have become trial lawyers and Wall Street financiers. It is becoming a party run by a new class of elites who make fast money--$25 million for 30 days work on a movie, millions (even billions) winning lawsuits against doctors...millions to do arithmetic for a business merger."

The Democratic party, for most of its existence, back to the early years of the party, was the party of the "little guy" against the"elite". The Democrats represented the labor unions against big labor - now they side with the labor union leaders and big labor against the employees. Today, the plant owners and the labor bosses are Democrats, and the rank and file vote Republican.

The Democrats were the party that supported the farmer, until farming first began to be overwhelmed by agribusiness giants, and the environmental movement began pushing millions into campaign coffers of Democratic politicians. Today, the Democrats continue to back farm subsidies that reward huge agribusinesses, while pushing the average farmer to the edge of bankruptsy. The Democrats sponsor environmental legislation that places even greater strains on the little farmer against the giants. The Democrats want high taxes to "soak the rich" to support welfare payouts - literally buying votes with tax giveaways - without understanding that such policies are destroying family-owned farms, dairies, and small businesses.

Today's Democrats count among their members the "robber barrons of the present age - trial lawyers, environmentalists, elitists, big media, Hollywood - just as the Republicans counted the railroad barrons, the mining barrons, the industrialsts, of the 19th century among their members. Zinsmeister says it best:

The term "limousine liberal" doesn't adequately capture how disconnected Democrats like John Kerry (and Jay Rockefeller, and Barbara Streisand, and Jon Corzine--there are now many such) are from everyday American life. They are more like "Learjet liberals," who literally pronounce their poxes on oil executives and cattlemen from leather sofas floating at 15,000 feet inside their personal jets (which consume 1,200 gallons of fuel every time they streak their enlightened owner to an Idaho skiing weekend or Cape sailing jaunt).

It's become polite to think that because someone has amassed a lot of money, they're intellectually brilliant. Kerry married money - twice. Most sports "mega-stars" make millions for physical capabilities, not mental muscle. The Hollywood elite think playing a role is the equivalent or rocket science. Tenure has made it impossible for universities and colleges to remove deadwood from their staff, and the gradual attrition has elevated a significant portion of these tenured professors to leadership positions. There's no consideration on their part that their elevation into a position of leadership does not equate to great intelligence. The Military has a similar problem.

There's also a tendency among many people to believe that, because they've achieved great success in one area, that brilliance translates equally into other areas. Again, Hollywood is a star-filled example.

Most people in this nation are hard-working, honest, intelligent, and educated beyond what the politicians and the mainstream media believe. The resent being treated as dupes, at being lied to, misled, treated with contempt, and looked down upon, especially by people they themselves do not consider better than themselves, only luckier. Zinmeister says its a cultural thing:

Reinforcing our philosophical egalitarianism is the fact that America (as Daniel Boorstin pointed out) has traditionally been a culture without a capital. At the time of our founding, more than 95 percent of the population lived outside the major cities, and we continue to be a highly dispersed, localized, and independent-minded people, quite resistant to bossing from the center.

Average Americans believe elitism is not only wrong in principle, but also ineffective. And they are correct. In his new book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki of The New Yorker demonstrates that a cross-section of everyday people will generally prove better at solving knotty societal problems than any fraternity of experts. He presents many proofs for the conclusion--long promoted in these pages--that ordinary citizens possess forms of knowledge, intuition, and moral sense that make them better arbiters of critical national debates than any educated elite. This is not just rabblerousing, but a time-tested reality that explains much of the brilliant success of America and the common people who have come to her shores.

The Internet in general, and bloggers in particular, have shown the truth in that statement, as the lies, distortions, and misleading statements of the Mainstream Media has been discovered and "outed" time and time again online, frequently within hours of the distortion being made public.

Zinmeister sums up:

So we're in an interesting new era. The Right has become a thinking party, with rich intellectual resources, that is simultaneously dead-set against political elitism and cultural snobbery. In many past issues of The American Enterprise we've described how conservatism has laid claim to America's quiet but multitudinous middle class. Now in this issue we look at the other side of the political spectrum: at how the Left has come to dominate among the overclass and underclass that bracket the conservative middle.

The old way of thinking about U.S. politics--little-guy Democrats vs. wealthy Republicans--is about as accurate and relevant today as a 1930 weather forecast. New fronts have moved in. Expect some exciting squalls ahead.

These brief exerpts don't do this very informative article justice, and I encourage every reader to read the whole thing, from the original source, as soon as possible. There's some monsterously successful ammunition that can be used, both in the political debate, and in the understanding of the evolving role of the middle class in American politics.

The Internet is the big question-mark not mentioned in Zinmeister's evaluation. If used properly, the Internet can reduce the "underclass" to a tiny sliver, while enhancing and enlarging the middle class. The Internet can expand horizons, provide remedial education, language training, skills development, and other resources for the less fortunate to use to move out of the bottom of the economic swamp. It opens doors to new ideas, new jobs, new prosperity, and new ways of thinking about everything. It's going to make some people feel very threatened - as indeed it should. It's going to empower others to succeed where the opportunity was just beyond reach before. It's also going to fail those that try to use it as a free ride. It's still going to take hard work, determination, and skill to succeed. The Internet is just going to allow you to do that in a different way, from a different perspective, and more freely than other opportunities. Success will still only come from personal effort.


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