Snob Story

The concluding part of Bill Maher’s “New Rules” segment last week illustrated some of the glaring contradictions between historical fact and fanciful, revisionist fiction when it comes to the disparity between the fundamental values of America’s Founding Fathers and those of the so-called Tea Party movement that has attempted to co-opt them as spiritual leaders of their reactionary, populist cause.

Writing early last year in New York Magazine about the recent surge of populism in the USA, Kurt Anderson succinctly described the “elitist” disposition of America’s framers this way:

…what those thoughtful, educated, well-off, well-regarded gentlemen did was invent a democracy sufficiently undemocratic to function and endure. They wanted a government run by an American elite like themselves, as James Madison wrote, “whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” They wanted to make sure the mass of ordinary citizens, too easily “stimulated by some irregular passion … or misled by the artful misrepresentations” and thus prone to hysteria—like, say, the rabble who’d run amok in Boston Harbor—be kept in check. That’s why they created a Senate and a Supreme Court and didn’t allow voters to elect senators or presidents directly. By the people and for the people, definitely; of the people, not so much.

It’s an excellent article that explores the conflicting dynamic that has existed from the outset in American politics between the “deliberative gentlemen engaged in careful compromise” and “the apoplectic vandals… throwing things overboard.”

Note: The usual warning applies regarding any RTWBM video… HBO may decide to have it pulled down at any time because they’re dicks that way.

Update: As expected, the hyper-vigilant copyright police at HBO zapped the clip that had originally been embedded.

7 Replies to “Snob Story”

  1. Reminds me of this line from Andrew Coyne:
    “A society that holds education and expertise in contempt, no less than one that disdains commerce or entrepreneurship, is dying. To whip up popular hostility to intellectuals is to invite the public to jump on its own funeral pyre.”

    That line came from his blog post on “A know-nothing strain of conservatism”, writing about the Harper government’s brushing aside of those so-called ‘experts’ when setting public policy to win votes. For example canceling the mandatory long-form census, or reducing the GST by 2% when every real economist was saying that is a bad idea. But say what you want about these policies, at least things are still salvageable and civil in the great white north.

    However Coyne’s statement really rings true when looking at the teabagger movement south of the border. Bill Maher is making the same observation here, just in a comical way.

  2. Heh. Here in Ontario, the Leslie Frost/John Robarts “Blue Machine” era (mid ’50s to mid ’70s) is remembered most fondly for its massive expansion of the province’s post-secondary system, including the from-scratch establishment of Ontario’s community college network.

    Mike Harris’ “Common Sense Revolution” era, by contrast, is remembered as the time when John Snobelen, Grade 11 drop-out and “waste management” entrepreneur, was made Minister of Education and given the mission to apply the “business principles” that drive garbage collection to the process of knowledge acquisition. He is most notorious for having been caught on tape saying that the education system had to be “bankrupted” and thrown into “crisis” before it could be improved.

    Says it all about how far we’ve fallen, really.

  3. I would strongly suggest reading Thomas Frank’s latest book The Wrecking Crew which thoroughly explores the phenomenon of destroying government from within by populating it with incompetent hacks who are not only inimical to the very idea and purpose of government, but whose maladroit incompetence serves to undermine its credibility and effectiveness.

  4. It’s an entertaining read. And one that certainly explains a lot…

    Case in point, the new head of the Committee on Eduction is Virginia Foxx, Representative for North Carolina’s 5th congressional district, a batshit crazy loon that is possibly the dumbest sack of hammers in Congress.

  5. Virginia Foxx…is possibly the dumbest sack of hammers in Congress.

    But a female politician saddled, presumably through no fault of her own, with the perfect porn name has my sympathies.

    And, unless Foxx finds it difficult to lift a spoon to her glossy lips without GPS assistance, she cannot possibly be dumber than Michelle Bachmann, who, with the recent defeat of Sharron Angle, would appear to have exclusive ownership of the “Most Dangerously Cretinous Active Politician In America” tiara.

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