Oct 31, 2010 6:00 pm


Elitism admits Peter Baker of the NYT is The Charge that Obama Can't shake. The reason is simple explains FT columnist, Christopher Caldwell, America doesn't do kings and Obama repeatedly behaves as if he considered himself to be one:

Four episodes stand out.

The first came in July 2009 when James Crowley, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, police sergeant, found Henry Louis Gates, a Harvard professor of Afro-American studies, trying to break into his own house. (He did not have his keys.) The officer asked Mr Gates to show identification. Mr Gates grew angry and wound up in handcuffs for disorderly conduct. Mr Gates claimed he had been “profiled”, singled out because he was black. Mr Obama took his side. He accused the officer of having acted “stupidly”. The charges against Mr Gates were dropped.

. . . A powerful politician appeared to have intervened in a local police matter to tip the scales of justice in favour of his friend.

Episode two came when Mr Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2009. There was no shame in being awarded it, but it was a mistake to accept it. Mr Obama admitted he had not yet accomplished anything to further peace. The award looked like a stunt meant to damage the international reputation of the US, a Nordic sequel to the Palme d’Or awarded to Michael Moore’s anti-Iraq war movie Fahrenheit 9/11 at Cannes in 2004. . . .

A third big hit for Obama’s reputation as a man of the people came with his wife Michelle’s visit to Spain last summer. . . . The most substantive cause for grievance was that the vast security entourage that needs to be laboriously and expensively rolled out for the president and his family when he travels on business was instead deployed so that Mrs Obama and her friends could enjoy the sun.

The president’s most recent slip came two weeks ago at a Massachusetts fundraiser, where he widened the distance between himself and the electorate in the very effort of trying to explain it. “Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now,” he said, “and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.” Arguably Mr Obama is at his most blunt, honest and incisive when he is speaking to millionaires. It was at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008 that he described Pennsylvania voters as “cling[ing] to guns and religion”.

Caldwell is right. As Pauline Maier demonstrates in Ratification: The People debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, then as know, to the chagrin of those who consider themselves their betters, American citizens understand the stakes and insist on having a say in the manner in which their government is to be run. Reviewing the book Richard Brookhiser concludes that all in all, this citizen involvement turned out rather well.

Both sides, Maier believes, won something. The Constitution prevailed, but the spirited resistance encouraged the First Congress to propose the amendments now known as the Bill of Rights. Maier does not lard her conclusion with Big Thoughts, so let me rush in. The ratification process was a tribute to what Nathan Dane of Massachusetts, a reluctant convert to the Constitution, called “the attention of this intelligent people.”

Elites who disdain or ignore their fellow citizens come to grief. Witness the mess of the European Union, made and run by Brussels wire-pullers. Americans who tut-tut about our political process sometimes have a point — we can always do better —but sometimes they go too far. The process was not that different in 1787-88, and we did all right.

Indeed, the 2010 Congressional elections are about to demonstrate that feisty citizens are the reason this government of the people, by the people, for the people has not perished from the earth.

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