As far back as the 1790’s in the United States, when the political parties were developing along with the new nation, actual “upstart” men (most of them democratic republicans) were ridiculing college educated men (most of them federalists), book learning in general, the aristocracy, and refined manners. They believed that these American gentry, the Founders, were removed from The People because of their education, money, and social status as gentlemen.
In the twenty-first century, college educated, aristocratic, wealthy, “first tier” men are using the rhetoric of populism, the guise of lowly origins, a “man of the people” platform in order to gain popularity with the sector of America that resents the intellectual elite and the wealthy. Thus gaining the support of the very people they will grind through the churning gears of their policies.
It’s brilliant. An Ivy League educated man from a wealthy New England family has gained the highest position in the land by condemning the very thing that he is, and the public has bought it. The public, with a misguided conception of loyalty to “God and Country”, has purchased limits on freedom, less safety in a increasingly unsteady world, more government, less money in pocket, fewer desirable jobs, crippled public schools, declining access to health care, a burgeoning underclass, tax cuts for wealthy liberals, and worsening air and water quality.
Thomas Jefferson, the most famous of the “democratic republicans”, might be dismayed to learn that his unwavering, romantic belief in the virtue of “the people” would lead them to sacrifice themselves on the altars of political avarice.
Is this a critical, necessary evolution in the Great American Experiment, or the beginning of the end? Is it just another political swing of the sort that we have been enduring these 230 years, or is it the final ushering in of what Madison, Jefferson, and others of the post revolutionary period feared: the gradual ascendancy of a type of monarchy in the United States?