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Consent of the Governed

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Fox’s Steve Hilton will tell you that Trump is valiantly fighting elitism from within his own White House, finally getting rid of the swamp creatures (no, not Ryan Zinke, or 81-year old Wilbur Ross, currently missing from the G20, they’re not elites!) folks like Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster and Rex Tillerson and the other elitists that have finally been rooted out (as RINOs). Unlike Steve Hilton, he’s a real, average Republican. His story is the American dream, so get the fuck out of the way. More the British dream, actually, but who’s keeping score, observing that Steve grew up just outside of London. His family fled Hungary after the 1956 Revolt and they landed comfortably just outside Heathrow airport, the very place they would find employment. Steve didn’t have a father in the house after the age of five, however, but his dad was a professional hockey player, so he wasn’t exactly living hand to mouth. Educated in London, Hilton went to Stanford University and then went to work for David Cameron of the Conservative Party of Britain, one of the most singularly elite men on the planet Earth. No elitist himself, Hilton worked very hard and has amassed over $4 million for his considerable effort, according to wikinetworth.com. A dedicated public servant in government for most of his illustrious career, he proves that anybody can be successful and rich, as long as they’re not some snooty elitist (while being the godparent of a Prime Minister’s eldest child). I believe I’ve worked just as hard as Steve, perhaps not as intelligently or ‘non-elitely,’ and yet I have significantly less than $4 million in my bank account, so this ‘elite’ thing hasn’t paid off as well for me, so maybe Steve actually has a point. Make sure to visit the Millenial’s coolest place to fund their favorite candidates (and Steve’s BIG money maker) Crowdpac!

Another guy who likes to have other people ‘pull themselves up by their boot straps’ (born into wealth) is Donald Trump. His anti-elitism has catapulted him into the White House with a populist message that’s been laser-focused on anti-elitism. John Dewey and Walter Lippmann wrote a lot on the subject, if anyone would care read one of these great writer’s books, where after World War I, journalism was left in a quandary: is democracy even worth defending? Does journalism really have a part to play in a functional democracy? Lippmann was criticized heavily for his advice to FDR during WWII (particularly the position that the president may be required to attain some dictatorial powers) and Lippmann was called both a conservative and a socialist, hence one of the most misunderstood, powerfully intelligent writers in American history. John Dewey recognized the clarity of Lippman’s 1922 book Public Opinion and in Dewey’s follow up, The Public and its Problems in 1927, he set the record straight. Lippmann’s elitism didn’t make him anti-democratic instead, he was a subtle expert on how to integrate knowledge into a functioning democracy. A believer in ‘pragmatic conservatism,’ he saw the radical tendencies on both the left and the right as a threat to democracy and trusted in certain ‘elites’ who would draw on history and hard-won experience to pass sensible, progressive reforms in response to an ever changing world. If anything, Walter Lippmann simplified the debate over elitism, where he openly advocated for elitists, the ‘illuminati’ for conspiracy folks (and Steve Hilton) to lead the ‘dumb’ herd of public opinion around because they just can’t figure it out for themselves. John Dewey took a more nuanced approach, a moral philosopher, more ‘democratic’ (as John Dewey, the huggable humanist, would be) and he says emphatically that only individuals act – not groups or ‘the public in general.’ “It is between persons in their private and their official representative character,” which makes for any ‘public’ he wrote. Both Lippmann and Dewey recognized that information technology would ignite populist movements (among populations) unprepared for the onslaught of advertisers, hackers and PR firms in tow. Dewey’s solution, unsurprisingly, is education and democracy, with a healthy dose of skepticism:

Opinion casually formed, and formed under the direction of those who have something at stake in having a lie believed can be public opinion only in name. Calling it by this name, acceptance of the name as a kind of warrant magnifies its capacity to lead action astray. The more who share it, the more injurious its influence. 

The Dewey-Lippmann debate, as it was named, was renewed after the ‘low point’ of the Bush-Dukakis race and the ‘Willie Horton-ization’ of electoral politics, brought to us by folks like Lee Atwater, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. As we mourn the passing of the mountain of a man, George H.W. Bush, we mustn’t forget that it was the Bush operation that introduced us to the distasteful trend in politics that Lippmann and Dewey forewarned, delivered to us in spades by Fox News and now the Saudi and Russian governments. What Fox News has done to this country is what John Dewey and Walter Lippmann knew would reflect the lowest common denominator of what we might finally call a ‘public opinion.’ Perhaps our citizenry is so dumbed down that even the simplest idea (what is an elitist?) is totally lost on us, yet with all of my elitism, I can barely afford to pay the rent. Because I’m ‘urban’ and went to school, I’m automatically elite to people like Donald Trump, Steve Hilton and the gang at Fox News. Trump hates me — because I’m a Democrat, of course — and because I want my country to resemble the model country of Venezuela, you understand. What passes for argument with the Fox News crowd is really always more comparison — look, they do it too! Everybody does it! And that’s Trump’s favorite theme, that we’re all a bunch of corrupt assholes after all, (aren’t we)? Stop with all the bullshit. Human nature. Blah blah. Steve Hilton and Fox News are the ultimate sort of hucksters of virtue who would back a man like Donald Trump for president simply because he calls himself a Republican, while labeling his opponents elitists because they believe in little things like facts and the truth. With the consumer, it’s buyer beware and we’ve always known that about Trump, but Fox News and the Republican Party, this bunch of pitch men and women for Trumpism, packaged this treasonous criminal as some sort of American CEO superhero. Buy Trump! Fox and Hilton, however, are the personification of Walter Lippmann’s ‘elitist’ badge here, pointing the finger at other elites as Dewey had predicted. It’s all so reminiscent of Donald Trump’s assault on Palm Beach in the 1980’s —  look at all those anti-Semites and racists! I’m not like them! The long con, however, is that of course Trump is racist (thank you Omorosa), and anti-Semitic (thank you Gary Cohn) and a complete and total (habitual) corrupt liar.

The real elitists are the ones who fool you into thinking they’re not elite and at least Walter Lippmann had the intellectual honesty to admit it. Democrat John Kerry and Republican Mitt Romney stand accused of that charge, yet Barack Obama and John Kasich, however, cannot. Most of us hate hypocrisy in any political stripe, but hypocrisy at the expense of reason, and more so at the expense of our own best interests, should mean that the governed must consent only to the ‘best practices’ in Washington, D.C. No shitting around. If Bernie Sanders had been elected president (and if I voted for him) I would probably feel like what a Trump voter feels like today. I wasn’t a Bernie guy during the nomination because I couldn’t understand how the hell he got there in the first place. Sure, we all date the troublemakers before we end up with the goody-two-shoes, but Bernie’s numbers were way out of line. The Democratic Party did what the Republican Party was unable to do and marginalized the extreme base and that’s how American Democracy is supposed to work. Democrat Henry Wallace found that out the hard way, no matter how much Oliver Stone wants to cry about it, and today’s Democratic Party is one and the same. The GOP has been hoodwinked by a casino boss, where the Republican part of the Democratic–Republican rift once represented a ‘republic,’ (or a parliament) where the ‘elite’ govern, you would think it would be the Democrats that would’ve allowed the ‘honest, folksy’ populist to take over the party, but here it was the Republicans who allowed Trump to manhandle middle America into accepting this charlatan, while the Democrats still have Nancy Pelosi in charge. See! In fact, we should’ve had our first female president, where Hillary paid the political price required and was fully vetted — and yet a lingering depression of the thought of a new ‘Clinton era’ — prevented most from being wholeheartedly supportive of her candidacy. Hillary Clinton, as an American politician, is about as good as it gets for us small ‘d’ democrats and after His Excellency, Barack Hussein Obama saved our asses in 2008, she deserved a shot. Oh well. During Trump’s presidency, I’ve never been more proud to be a Democrat since I signed on to the bleeding hearts more than thirty years ago. 

John Underhill
December 1, 2018


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