Summary: In the last 1 – 2 decades of American political life (starting in the late 20th century), there’s been an anti-establishment rising among Republicans, Conservatives and some Populists. The Establishment (institutions and bureaucracy) is associated with elitism and self-interested enrichment; with being out-of-touch with the every-man. The insurgent outsider is extolled as pure of motive and (not yet corrupted) virtue and this in turn will be a boon and benefit to the individual and to society. Let’s bring in the Washington outsider; the Trump. Yet, this notion is incredibly misguided as I describe below.
Why Being Elite is Better than being an Outsider
a. On the surface this would seem obvious. Of course, being an elite is better than being a common “everyman”.
b. However, in the American historical mythos,– elites are associated with aristocracy, the King, Monarchy, empire, royalty, corruption, and therefore being out of touch with the needs of the populous.
c. Elites are seen as intellectuals – and there’s a strong anti-intellectual tradition in American culture for the same reason – the rebellion again King, Monarchy and empire that catalyzed this country. (see Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, published 1963).
d. The Old World was a world of rigid class structure – the New World, a land of opportunity for everyone; where the commoner could rise or fall – on his merits, unfettered from inherited class and status.
e. In the last 1 – 2 decades of American political life, there’s been an anti-establishment rising among republicans, conservatives and some populists. The Government establishment is associated with elite. So now we’re anti-elistists. Populism is in fashion; elitism is out of fashion.
f. One might argue that individuals and groups that have ridden this wave of anti-elite populism have been the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and now President #45 .. Trump himself – the ultimate Washington outsider
g. But while this populist “take over” sounds great and might even feel great for a day or two.. it’s very bad for our country. And here’s why.
Let’s start with a definition. Elite: representing the most choice or select; best
a. Now, let’s think of some examples:
i. if you brought your car to a mechanic to fix a problem, would you want that mechanic to be elite, or an outsider with no experience? How about you bring your car to an eye doctor next time you have an issue and I’ll bring my car to elite mechanic?
– One of them is elite – one of them is not.
ii. If someone said: here’s $100, buy yourself some classical concert tickets. Would you buy tickets to see the local 7th grade symphonic band play Mozart’s 8th symphony, or would you prefer to see the London Symphony Orchestra?
– One of them is elite – one of them is not.
iii. How about our military? The United States has an Elite Military – arguably, the best trained and equipped in the world.
iv. If your house was on fire, would you want the best, most elite fire department to put it out, or maybe just grab some local people off the street – total outsiders with no experience?
v. Would you want your school civics teacher to be an elite teacher, or maybe just a random kid off the street who’s never studied the subject?
I could go on forever. But you get the point. In just about all spheres of life, elite is preferred, elite is better. Except for politics (apparently). Suddenly, being elite is “bad”; being an outsider is “good”. Having no prior experience in government is now good for running the government. I posit that that is … irrational.
The best government is that which governs best
Hamilton in the Federalist Papers #68 wrote something to the effect of: the best government is that which governs best. I don’t recall reading from Hamilton that the best government is that which has no idea what to do or how to do it well. Is the best government an incompetent government or an elite one? Do we want the choice or select or best government, or the opposite? [note: the actual quote is from Alexander Pope “For forms of government let fools contest, That which is best administered is best.”]
Of course, an elite could become out-of-touch, engrossed with their own self-enrichment and corrupt. I think we are all familiar with an elite real-estate and marketing mogul who fits that description. Oh, I’m sorry, he’s supposed to be the ultimate outsider, right?
My point is: being the best at something doesn’t make you out of touch, a snob, or corrupt. There will be corrupt elites [such as Mitch McConnell] and virtuous elites [such as Joe Biden]. Just as there are corrupt outsiders [Trump] and virtuous outsiders.
Judge a person on their value; not if they are “elite” or “outsider”
The rational thing is to judge a person on their value and virtue. To elect a governor on their ability to govern. Now we see an administration of #45 populating itself with incompetent and unprepared “outsider, everymen commoners” for many of its cabinet picks. By selecting Trump, the voters have confused virtue with incompetence; symptoms with cause. Knowledge and competence in government does not corrupt or make one out-of-touch any more than a lack of knowledge does.
An elite diplomat from Russia, China, or India is going to beat our commoner diplomats every time. Just as their elite scientists will beat our “common” outsider with no experience scientists.We become a common nation over time when we shun elites and settle for unprepared outsiders instead.
Hillary Clinton was elite and we (47% of those who voted) shunned her because she seemed cold and distant. Now we have a dangerous but entertaining clown in office because he seemed fun to watch or say things we (47%) wanted to hear. And he is surrounding his administration with other unprepared commoners. And so when we start to decline in relation to other countries which promote their elites, I’m sure it will be very entertaining.