Streetwise Professor

January 19, 2010

Messmate Before Shipmate; Shipmate Before Civilian; Civilian Before Dog; Dog Before Soldier

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 8:18 pm

Juan Williams said something astounding on Fox News Sunday.  I quote from memory, but I know this is quite close to what he said: “The audience for the conversation about healthcare in Washington right now is NOT the American people.”  I repeat: “The audience for the conversation about healthcare in Washington right now is NOT the American people.”

This is no doubt a true statement.  Williams is well connected among Democrats, and the White House particularly.  Moreover, Nancy Pelosi’s statement that “[l]et’s remove all doubt.  We will have health care one way or the other,” the various machinations being considered to ram a bill through in the event of a Brown win in MA, Obama’s apparent intention to double down on his agenda, and myriad other things all provide support for the truth of this claim.

In other words, those who are under the Constitution supposedly the representatives of the American people are taking the attitude: “STFU.  We’ll ram this down your throat [that’s the family friendly version] when we’re damn well ready, and make you like it.”

What makes this elitist position particularly jarring is that it is served up with a huge dollop of populist rhetoric, a la The One’s repeated attacks on bankers and their paychecks, and Wall Street “fat cats.”  (Is it just me, or does the phrase “fat cats” sound comically retro?)  The populist rhetoric is all the more insulting, when it is used in the service of a profoundly elitist, anti-populist cause.

It is this disconnect between what is happening in Washington and the mood in the country at large that signals that the country is in a pre-pre-revolutionary situation.  An isolated and arrogant elite that attempts to force unpopular measures upon an unwilling citizenry by means foul and fouler can readily engender an unpredictable, and potentially violent, response.

We have, in essence, a crypto-Leninist element in Washington that intends to serve as a revolutionary vanguard in defiance of the convictions of a large majority of the American people because, in the vanguard’s view, said people do not have the requisite revolutionary consciousness.  That is a recipe for conflict.

The title to this post is a piece of doggrel (dating from the 1840s) that I had to memorize as a Midshipman at Navy.*  It comes to mind because it captures an element of what is happening in Washington right now.  Yes, the politicians tend to favor those in their own party (their “messmates”), but by and large, in ways large and small, the various factions of the political class stand with one another, as shipmates, against those outside the class.  People in Washington battle over who gets the power, and how it is used, but they are pretty much in agreement that the power is a good thing and government knows best.  In the eyes of that lot, those out there in flyover country rank somewhere around “dog” or “soldier” who are at best to be patronized, at worse to be demonized and marginalized.

In a republic, that is both wrong, and dangerous.  When those with such attitudes govern using corrupt bargain after corrupt bargain, a truly populist backlash is inevitable.  A long time ago, in the 1820s, such a backlash ushered in Jacksonian Democracy.  Today, there is no preternatural politician like Andrew Jackson to galvanize and lead this movement, but the raw material is there.  The lack of a main leader is a source of strength and weakness; coordination is more difficult in the absence of a dominant figure, but at the same time, like a guerrilla army, a broad, diffuse, organic, swarming movement lacks a center of gravity that the Leninist vanguard can readily attack.

In brief, there is a potential for a New Jacksonian Era without a Jackson.  A self-organizing populist swarm that wages asymmetrical warfare against a centralized conventional political class walled up in its citadel.  As long as Obama and the Congressional Democrats persist in their current course, which all indications suggest that they will, they will breathe life into that swarm.

As a result, the next months and years will be a truly epochal period in American history.

* Bitter Midshipmen at the just-established Naval Academy coined this phrase out of anger at being forced to perform infantry drill like soldiers.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. i’m hoping pre revolutionary

    Comment by nathan resnick — January 20, 2010 @ 8:01 am

  2. I thought Obama got elected on a platform that included healthcare reform? And I thought healthcare reform-supporting Democrats had majorities in both houses? And last time I looked the US was a representative democracy…

    Finally, given your sensible comments on Russia and your obvious knowledge of the place, I would have thought you’d take more care about using terms like ‘crypto-leninist’. Calm down, dear.

    Comment by Gaw — January 20, 2010 @ 10:04 am

  3. What surprises me most is that while popular opinion continues to coalesce against the Marxist/ leninist philosophy of Obama, Pelosi and Reid, people seem content that current mechanisms to express their unhappiness will be sufficient to bring about change. Last night’s election results in the Brown/ Coakley race seem to have satisfied people that their voice will be heard and that, come November, “hope and change” will once again be the mantra of the people.

    It is amazing that our Constitution, bastardized as it has become by political corruption and special interest money, continues to provide the people the ability to control the direction of the government and that the anticipated populist backlash will occur at the polls and not at the point of pitchforks. As a nation, we seem to be coming to a consensus that the direction of the nation must and will change and no one I am speaking to seems concerned in the least that that Chicago political machine will be able to change the course of events.

    Regardless of the problems we have here in the United States, our Constitution still amazes me. Our system of government still continues to function, albeit in a slow and frustrating fashion. I could not imagine living under any other form of government.

    Now, if only we can control the populist backlash…

    Comment by Charles — January 20, 2010 @ 10:55 am

  4. ‘Marxist / leninist philosophy’? If you don’t understand the difference between a Marxist-Leninist and Obama you deserve to have your lawn-mower collectivised. I think a good proportion of the American nation has gone nuts.

    Comment by Gaw — January 20, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

  5. Sadly, my lawn mower would be essentially collectivised by Obama through his hair-brained scheme to tax me when I mow my lawn (energy tax via cap and trade) and the use of the proceeds of his tax scheme to promote his social engineering schemes to promote the “collective good.”

    In Obamaland, I may individually own my lawnmower, but if I decide to enjoy the use of my property, the need to do so in a manner that contributes to the collective good (as determined by Obama and his minions) will certainly restrict my ability to do so.

    Comment by Charles — January 20, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

  6. What you say is tendentious in itself. But to seriously compare anything Obama does to Soviet collectivisation simply reveals you have no idea about one or the other or perhaps both. As I say, nuts.

    Comment by Gaw — January 20, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

  7. Consider embracing Green Communism.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 20, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

  8. Taxachusetts is a state where Dems outnumber Repubs 3-1. The people in Taxachusetts were not too lazy to come out and send a message.

    2 governorships might be poo-pooed by the Dems. But when Bawney Fwank’s home district votes for a Repub, and Hyannisport, Most Holy Ground of the Holy St. Kennedy’s votes for a Repub, only a drugged-up rabid Dem won’t get the message.

    Wiener, the Dem from New York, already had “pigs flying out his butt,” to quote him exactly, but he did state that Martha Coakley was “not a good candidate.” How utterly arrogant.

    But he certainly has the sense to recognize a wake-up call when he gets one.

    I was wondering where all the sensible Dems had gone.

    Brown came from being down 30 points.

    Now we are hearing soviet-style propaganda from Obama and his apologists (starting with “he’s a ‘European socialist'” to “this is Vegas, baby, you have to double down” – what an utterly decrepit view of government).

    But we are also hearing from Dems who got a cold slap in the face, who got some cold water thrown on them, who have to decide whether they really, really want to walk the plank for Obama, and drink the Obama Kool-Aid come November.

    Those that haven’t bailed out, that is, like Chris Dodd, who may have found himself a multi-million dollar job at Fannie Mae, or the rest, who have bailed out into lucrative jobs in the lobbying world, because once you lose an election, you’re just not that marketable.

    Those Tea Party people are not the crazies that Obama and his leftie clique make them out to be – and they are persistent, whether the Dems believe it or not.

    God bless elections.

    And God Bless the United States of America.

    Comment by elmer — January 20, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress