Yeah, Shawn, that Brooks column was enough to make me abandon my blood feud with Ross Douthat. What I resent in Brooksian anti-populism is the insinuation that ordinary Americans are not fit judges of their own self-interest, and the hidden assumption that the interests of the elite are the only interests that matter.
In February 2006, when the battle over the (first) immigration bill was just beginning to strike sparks, I found myself in a casual conversation with Mark Krikorian, who explained the political conflict simply as between the Elites (in both parties) vs. Everybody Else. I spent that spring doing a lot of talk radio interviews as part of a book promotion and, even though the book wasn’t about immigration, I was frequently asked to respond to the issue. This was because the audience was extremely interested in the issue, and the audience was overwhelmingly against any amnesty for illegals.
Ordinary Americans believe that illegal immigration is harmful to their interests, they vehemently oppose amnesty, and no amount of argument is ever going to convince them otherwise. Yet, for the Brookses of the world, it seems as if this very fact of populist opposition constitutes proof that amnesty is the way to go: “If the knuckle-dragging troglodytes in flyover country hate it, it must be good.”
The same calculus seems to be at work in the bailout debate. It apparently never occurs to elite journalists that what’s good for elite journalists in Washington and New York is not necessarily good for truck drivers in Tulsa and Tupelo. Rather, the chattering classes attribute this to the presumed ignorance of the benighted plebes.