Ed Driscoll

Our Decadent Elites

Peggy Noonan watches House of Cards and writes, “it’s all vaguely decadent, no? Or maybe not vaguely. America sees Washington as the capital of vacant, empty souls, chattering among the pillars. Suggesting this perception is valid is helpful in what way?”

No one wants to be the earnest outsider now, no one wants to play the sober steward, no one wants to be the grind, the guy carrying around a cross of dignity. No one wants to be accused of being staid. No one wants to say, “This isn’t good for the country, and it isn’t good for our profession.”

And it is all about the behavior of our elites, our upper classes, which we define now in a practical sense as those who are successful, affluent and powerful. This group not only includes but is almost limited to our political class, Wall Street, and the media, from Hollywood to the news divisions.

They’re all kind of running America.

They all seem increasingly decadent.

What are the implications of this, do you think?

They’re making their videos, holding their parties and having a ball. OK. But imagine you’re a Citizen at Home just grinding through—trying to do it all, the job, the parenthood, the mowing the lawn and paying the taxes. No glamour, all responsibility and effort. And you see these little clips on the Net where the wealthy sing about how great taxpayer bailouts are and you feel like . . . they’re laughing at you.

What happens to a nation whose elites laugh at its citizens?

What happens to its elites?

Ask Rome, or post-Revolutionary France, or Weimar, or even postwar England.* But then, a lot of us didn’t need a fictional TV series to tell us that Washington was decadent and corrupt, when we saw the warning signs five years ago of a half-term senator running for the presidency after palling around with race baiters, former terrorists, and eco-cranks. Back when others were writing this:

The case for Barack Obama, in broad strokes:

He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief. He climbed steep stairs, born off the continent with no father to guide, a dreamy, abandoning mother, mixed race, no connections. He rose with guts and gifts. He is steady, calm, and, in terms of the execution of his political ascent, still the primary and almost only area in which his executive abilities can be discerned, he shows good judgment in terms of whom to hire and consult, what steps to take and moves to make. We witnessed from him this year something unique in American politics: He took down a political machine without raising his voice.

A great moment: When the press was hitting hard on the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, he did not respond with a politically shrewd “I have no comment,” or “We shouldn’t judge.” Instead he said, “My mother had me when she was 18,” which shamed the press and others into silence. He showed grace when he didn’t have to.

Sorry Peggy, you were completely bamboozled, to borrow from one of the favorite words at the time of a remarkably decadent elitist. Or you were a knowing enabler yourself. Pick one.

* Or America itself. Our leftist elites have been laughing its citizens for over a century now.

Update: In the above passage, Noonan writes, “No one wants to say, ‘This isn’t good for the country…'” At Ricochet, Rob Long responds, “Except, maybe — and here’s my early political prediction — whoever wants to win the White House in 2016.  These feel like titanic issues to me.  Big issues.  Reagan-in-1980 kind of issues.”