US voters are ready to 'throw the bums out' on Election Day. But who are the bums?(Read article summary)
Hostility to incumbents is strong this fall. Animus against the 'elite' may be stronger.
But who, exactly, are the bums?
According to the latest polls, anti-incumbent sentiment is running higher than anti-Democrat feelings among American voters. Indeed, the latest Rasmussen survey shows that 65 percent of voters want to replace the entire Congress this fall and start all over again.
One Florida Republican congressional candidate, Bernard Sansaricq, applauded the poll's finding: “Being American implies a duty; not to fulfill that duty is a treason. We must take the trash out next Tuesday. Vote all incumbents out of office. Let's clean the people's House in D.C. and replace them with true patriots.”
Mr. Sansaricq's rhetoric suggests that incumbents are just a convenient surrogate for the real target in 2010: out-of-touch political elites.
The anti-elitism card
Anti-elitism is one of the major themes expressed by tea party candidates.
• It's why bearded Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller seemed to suggest that his past ethics violation was part of his "warts and all" regular-guy appeal. "Alaskans get to understand that, hey, they're electing somebody like them," he said during a recent debate when he admitted the transgression.
Does the anti-elitist rally cry have merit? Are Beltway political leaders really that out of touch with mainstream America?
Snobby fat cats?
Absolutely – at least in some important respects. Consider the wealth of our members of Congress. As this New York Times article reminds us, most members have no idea what it's like to struggle to make mortgage payments. Of 100 senators, at least 68 were worth more than $1 million; 18 were worth more than $10 million. In the House, 240 members (out of 435) were millionaires.
Wealth is just one form of elitism. So is career choice. As this ad by Wisconsin Senate hopeful Ron Johnson points out, 57 US senators are lawyers; but there are no manufacturers and only one accountant. "That would be fine if we had a lawsuit to settle," Johnson says in the ad, "but we have an economy to fix."
The bubble that encases the New Elite crosses ideological lines and includes far too many of the people who have influence, great or small, on the course of the nation. They are not defective in their patriotism or lacking a generous spirit toward their fellow citizens. They are merely isolated and ignorant.
The members of the New Elite may love America, but, increasingly, they are not of it.
Get into a conversation about television with members of the New Elite, and they can probably talk about a few trendy shows -- "Mad Men" now, "The Sopranos" a few years ago. But they haven't any idea who replaced Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right." They know who Oprah is, but they've never watched one of her shows from beginning to end.
Talk to them about sports, and you may get an animated discussion of yoga, pilates, skiing or mountain biking, but they are unlikely to know who Jimmie Johnson is (the really famous Jimmie Johnson, not the former Dallas Cowboys coach), and the acronym MMA means nothing to them.
They can talk about books endlessly, but they've never read a "Left Behind" novel (65 million copies sold) or a Harlequin romance (part of a genre with a core readership of 29 million Americans).
They take interesting vacations and can tell you all about a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada or an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor, but they wouldn't be caught dead in an RV or on a cruise ship (unless it was a small one going to the Galapagos). They have never heard of Branson, Mo.
There are so many quintessentially American things that few members of the New Elite have experienced.
And when it comes to politics, the so-called elite clearly does have a different view of the current Congress. According to Rasmussen, while 84 percent of "mainstream voters" would opt to get rid of the entire Congress, 64 percent of the "political class" would vote instead to keep them all. That's quite a divergence, but read this article to learn why those categories could be bogus.
Best and brightest vs. ordinary
Who do you want representing you in Congress? Do you tend to favor the "best and brightest" – even if that means they're slightly out of touch? Or do you tend to favor "ordinary" Americans who much better understand the struggles of everyday citizens – even if that means they're not as educated or sophisticated? Is that a false choice? Please share your thoughts below.