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The Bush Obama Oligarcy Cracks: Wisconsin and the End of the New Gilded Age

The Editors of Esquire Magazine - Usually, unless you happen to be one of the fifty-odd people with whom David Brooks customarily eats dinner, throws back a few, or gobbles the free snacks in Jim Lehrer's greenroom, reading one of his columns from the position of a normal, everyday, wage-earning human being gives you the inescapable feeling of being a bug, looking, upwards and backwards through the magnifying glass, at a giant eyeball. No columnist is as obviously convinced that everybody on earth is a specimen in his jar. No columnist is as utterly contemptuous of his fellow Americans if they don't stay pinned right there on the card where they belong. His self-importance is that of a two-bit grifter, looking to sponge the loose change somebody might have left as a tip at Applebee's.

We had something of a masterpiece of the form this week when Brooks bestirred himself to write about the current goings-on in Wisconsin, where they elected an undereducated county commissioner named Scott Walker to be governor. Walker promptly attempted to roll back progressive policies to a point half-past Fightin' Bob LaFollette, and then called upon his fellow governors to do the same. A whole lot of Wisconsinites disagreed, and they have encamped themselves several times now on the state house lawn to say so. State senators ran home to gather their things, and then ran away from home. This has been on television a great deal, and it seems to have chafed Brooks mightily. So much so that he wrote a column about the necessity of shared sacrifice in this time of economic trouble and woe. Somebody put atop it the headline "Make Everybody Hurt," which completed the cosmic comedy nicely. Exactly how Mr. Brooks is going to "hurt" remains unclear — unless, of course, he ventures out into the crowd in Madison and tries to explain why Edmund Burke would have stood with the half-bright goober from Wauwatosa who's made such a hash of things. Then we might need splints and a tourniquet.

Brooks's column is a perfect illustration of a general phenomenon that has been brought into sharp relief in the past two weeks or so. The elites in this country — economic, social, political, journalistic — have ingrained in themselves the habits of oligarchy.

There remains, of course, a president from the party that was once theoretically opposed to all of this. But the evidence is growing that Barack Obama, if he is not entirely comfortable with the habits of oligarchy, at least believes that he can devise a workable truce with those who are. In this, he is sadly mistaken. Read more.


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