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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

This Anti-Establishment Zeitgeist

"The Times They Are a-Changin'" -- Bob Dylan

It is not so much an anti-incumbent sentiment that is being voiced at present in these mid-term elections, rather, as this blogger has argued, it is an anti-Establishment disaffection. "Change," that force which propelled a one-term United States Senator into the captain's seat of the American Empire, is continuing to express itself. We have thus far vaguely felt its faintest articulation. And it will continue to express itself tonight.

The President, unfortunately, is on the wrong side of History. Tempermentally, the President is a true-believer in (and beneficary of) the accomplishments of the American Establishment. We are at a monumental turning point -- perhaps a 49 BC turning point -- and Barack Obama is busy seekign the counsel of the mandarins that got us to this breaking point in the first place. As Frank Rich put it quite rightly this weekend:

His most conspicuous flaw is his unshakable confidence in the collective management brilliance of the best and the brightest he selected for his White House team — “his abiding faith in the judgment of experts,” as Joshua Green of The Atlantic has put it. At his gulf-centric press conference 10 days ago, the president said he had “probably had more meetings on this issue than just about any issue since we did our Afghan review.” This was meant to be reassuring but it was not. The plugging of an uncontrollable oil leak, like the pacification of an intractable Afghanistan, may be beyond the reach of marathon brainstorming by brainiacs, even if the energy secretary is a Nobel laureate. Obama has yet to find a sensible middle course between blind faith in his own Ivy League kind and his predecessor’s go-with-the-gut bravado.

By now, he also should have learned that the best and the brightest can get it wrong — and do. His economic advisers predicted that without the stimulus the unemployment rate might reach 9 percent — a projection that was quickly exceeded even with the stimulus and that has haunted the administration ever since. Other White House geniuses persuaded the president to make his fateful claim in early April that “oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills” — a particularly specious (indeed false) plank in the argument for his spectacularly ill-timed expansion of offshore oil drilling. The Times reported last week that at the administration meetings leading to this new drilling policy the subject of the vast dysfunction at the Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with regulating the drilling, never even came up.

Obama’s excessive trust in his own heady team is all too often matched by his inherent deference to the smartest guys in the boardroom in the private sector.

Further, it is instructive to observe that Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a three-term Senator, is facing a bruising primary campaign within her own party. Also -- and we cannot fail to note this -- the Republican primary races tonight in both Nevada and California threaten to overshadow the sitting Senate Majority Leader (!) Harry Reid and the legendary Senator Barbara Boxer. What does that say? What is the thusness of this thisnes?

Similarly, on the Republican side of the aisle (for this anti-Establishmentarian zeitgeist is thoroughly bipartisan in nature), look to Senator McCain, who, unlike the elegant former Virginia Senator John Warner, decided to stick around long past his usefulness in that august body. McCain, whose time has clearly passed, is ruining whatever reputation as a "maverick" he may have once had by running an awkward, cartoonish primary race against Tea Party darling JD Hayworth. Senator John Warner, whatever one says of him, knew when to leave a party. Apparently John McCain does not (Neither, quite frankly, does Crist). Tant pis!

By contrast, look at that populist Joe Sestak in populist Pennsylvania. He gets it. Sestak instinctively understands the trajectory of this new populist force, not nearly yet spent, this no-more-media-gatekeepers age in which we are entering with a vengeance. Sestak -- aka "Six-pack" -- is riding against the horse of his own party's unpopular backing of Arlen Spector into the home stretch. “There’s no more kings, there’s no more king makers in America,” Sestak said on the PBS show Tavis Smiley. “And if the Democratic party should stand for anything when they are trying to get me out of the race, they should be for enticing people into the race. This President said it so well and I believe [that] he believes it: believe in principle and politics will follow. No. The party establishment was wrong in what it did.”

This anti-Establishmentarian zeitgeist can even be said to be expressing itself however obliquely through the forced retirement of Helen Thomas, whose seniority made her first among equals. One doesn't get more DC press corps Establishmentarian that Thomas, who has covered ten US Presidents, and this week was this week forced into retirement. How ironic considering that, as The Progressive notes, "(Thomas) was not assigned to the (Kennedy) beat—she just started showing up." And it is bittersweetly ironic that Thomas, because of her intemperate remarks, was ultimately, finally asked to leave. Other DC Establishment icons of yesteryear -- Al and Tipper; legendary social arbiter Sally Quinn -- are exiting stage left under the fixed glare of the blogosphere, the new, unforgiving, rowdy Establishment. "The times," as Bob Dylan warned us on the cusp of another revolutionary period, "They Are a-Changin'."

Unfortunately (Averted Gaze), Charlie Rangel didn't get that memo.

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