“There’s got to be sanctuaries in a democratic society where nothing is for sale,” Nader said. “Government shouldn’t be for sale. Childhood should not be commercialized and be for sale. The environment shouldn’t be for sale. Our genetic inheritance shouldn’t be for sale. Elections shouldn’t be for sale. They’re all for sale now.”
Out of this rot and corruption, as it always does, arose a class of privileged elites who wallow in self-adulation and will do anything to further their personal self-advancement. Thomas Frank, who is a gifted writer and reporter, peers into the hermetic and exclusive world of the professional Democratic power elite—the vacations in Martha’s Vineyard, the hipster innovation districts for budding tech entrepreneurs in cities such as Boston, the Ivy League pedigrees, the open disdain for the working class and the blind faith in a functioning meritocracy. The elites believe they are privileged, Frank writes correctly, because they are convinced they are the smartest, most creative, most talented and hardest working. They cap this grotesque narcissism, he points out, with a facade of goodness and virtue. They turn their elitism into a morality play.
But Frank fails to grasp that, as C. Wright Mills understood, the Republican and the Democratic elites, along with our financial and corporate elites, are one entity. They are formed in the same institutions, run in the same social circles and cross-pollinate like bees. This has been true since the country’s formation. Harvard and Yale were designed, like Oxford and Cambridge in Britain, to perpetuate the plutocracy. They do an admirable job.
The problem is not the liberal elites. The problem is the elites. They serve the same ideology. They work in the same financial institutions, hedge funds and foundations, including the Council on Foreign Relations, where government officials often are parked when they are out of power. They belong to the same clubs. They are stunted technocrats who function as systems managers for corporate capitalism. And no class of courtiers, going back to those that populated the Ottoman palaces, Versailles or the Forbidden City, has ever transformed itself into a responsible elite. They are, as John Ralston Saul writes, “hedonists of power.”