Liberal commentator Cenk Uygur doesn't want to hear messenger Lee Harris. He'd rather stick with his liberal faith system. That's my take from Cenk's interview with Harris on The Young Turks. (Cenk is a Turkish American. Get it?)
In his new book The Next Civil War: The Populist Revolt Against the Liberal Elite, Lee Harris fleshes out the commonplace conservative meme that the tea party movement "is only the latest installment of an ongoing cultural war that began long before the current economic crisis. It is a rebellion against a self-appointed intellectual elite" that knows what is best for everyone.
Liberal Cenk wants none of it. But his arguments against Harris are instructive.
First of all, he argues that, while he accepts the Tea Party disillusionment with the bailouts, he also believes that Tea Partiers, while not actually racists, are still protesting the passing of their power. They can no longer pass the same job down to their sons, because there is a pesky Hispanic or black competing for that job.
And the Tea Party rage is misdirected. It's not the liberal elite that's the problem, it's the "establishment" in Wall Street and Washington, insurance companies that want to cut you off for a pre-existing condition, eevil corporations, etc.
Now this, to me, shows a very interesting blindness. It is addressed this very day by Victor Davis Hanson in "The Technocrats' New Clothes." Climategate, the Icelandic volcano, and the Greek meltdown tell us that the all-knowing technocratic elite don't know so much after all, writes Hanson.
So let's go back to Cenk's two arguments. First of all, the only reason that a father could pass a job down to his son was that the liberal elite insisted we had to give monopoly powers to labor unions, and institute "prevailing wage" laws that discriminated in the 1930s against unorganized Negro workers. Anyway, since labor unions in the private sector are almost defunct, except in government protected sectors like autos and government construction, what's the problem, except where powerful liberals get to put their kids into elite universities.
If there is a passing of power, it is that the once-favorite clients of the liberal elite, the white working class, are no longer favorite clients. But the white working class never had much power. The political power then and now resided with the liberal political, educational, and cultural elite.
Secondly, the power of the Wall Street and Washington "establishments" issue directly from the power and size of government. If government weren't so big and powerful, then the Washington establishment wouldn't be so powerful. And if government weren't sluicing so many bonds through Wall Street then the Wall Street establishment wouldn't be so powerful.
Why is government so big and powerful? Because liberals, through their dominance of the day-to-day public square, particularly through news media, through education, and through the TV and movies, want government to be involved in everything from health care to the environment.
When you decide that you want most things decided in the political sector then you create a huge political establishment trying to influence the way that the trillions of dollars are spent. But that establishment is an establishment that the liberal elite wished into being with their big-government political philosophy.
There have been some comments in recent days about the decline of the old WASP establishment. The elevation of Elena Kagan, Jewish American, to the Supreme Court would mean that there are almost no Protestants left on the court, according to Robert Frank. The Protestant establishment has slowly declined away from its once all-powerful domination of politics and culture.
Well yes. But the point is that the WASPs have gracefully allowed new competitors to displace them. They have not used the power of the state to keep the newcomers down. They played by the rules, and the rules moved them out of power.
But what about the liberal elite? First of all, liberals like Cenk Uygur deny that they even constitute an elite. Why would they want to do that? Secondly, when challenged, they fight dirty. You can start with the vilification of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Robert Bork, George W. Bush, Miguel Estrada, and Sarah Palin. You could continue with the bare-knuckle governing methods that rammed the unpopular health bill through Congress.
The great question facing the United States is not that there are populists that have less than pure motives for their populist rage, or that the populist activists are likely to be misled by special interests. Hey, what else is new?
The great question is whether the liberals will go quietly when they are shown the door.