The Victory of the Elites

Anne Applebaum notes that both of the candidates for President this year are members of the elite... two different elites, she posits.
Which is just as well, because the political success of both Obama and Romney proves that radical populism in the United States has failed spectacularly. For all of the attention they got, neither Occupy Wall Street nor the tea party has a candidate in this race. Neither found a way to channel inchoate, ill-defined public anger — at the deficit, at the banks — into electoral politics or clear alternatives. Whoever wins in November, we’ll therefore get the elite we deserve.
She's a member of the elite herself, of course:  the one she identifies for Obama.  Like many members of the elite(s), she is clearly happy to see that money can still buy power.  And for now, it clearly can.

UPDATE:  Another elite, David Brooks, writes that the problem is really that the elite aren't as elite as they used to be.  Now that it is at least possible to rise into the ranks via test scores or performance (and therefore possible to fall out through poor performance), those within the elite have become more corrupt in order to ensure that they remain in the upper ranks:
The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this.
Brooks' vision of an elite born to privilege but educated like Spartans is an old one:  that is how the higher ranks of the continental nobility used to view itself, before the revolution.  I wonder if it's really true, though, that they were any better.  Their interests were more perfectly aligned, which meant that there was less likelihood of their misdeeds becoming publicized in the press that they owned, and which was also aligned with their interests.

Were they better, though, because their power was more firmly seated?  That seems an unlikely effect, given what I think I know about human nature.


Eric Blair said...

It is not true that the "old elites" were any better.

That ought to be obvious to anyone who reads history.

I will point out again (at risk of sounding like a broken record) the example of WWI. All sides sort of blundered into the thing, and mismanaged it terribly, (granted, wars are not easy things to manage) and basically destroyed their own civilizations.

Grim said...

Well, except for the elites that Brooks is actually talking about: the American ones. They kept us out of war until 1917, when the war was winnable with a strong thrust from a fresh force.

Not that I disagree with you about the old elites in general.

Eric Blair said...

No, they kept us out of war until it looked like the Allies were going to lose, and the banking industry didn't want to lose all the loans that had been made to the Allies.

Grim said...

That is the sort of analysis that gets me in trouble with Cassandra. :) But it's correct, of course; the problem with having an elite that is in charge of the banks and also the government is that they make their interests align more than is proper.