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The Disconnect

In her OpinionJournal column today, Peggy Noonan writes that the elites of both parties have really started hating their bases recently:

It has occurred to me that both parties increasingly dislike their bases, but for different reasons and to different degrees. By both parties I mean the leaders and representatives of the Democrats and Republicans in Washington. I believe I correctly observe that they feel an increasing intellectual estrangement from and impatience with the activists who people their base of support.

And this is something new.

In the past, Republican leaders in Washington bowed either symbolically or practically to the presumed moral leadership and cleanness of vision of the people back home.


Now they seem to bow less. They know the higher wisdom on such issues as immigration. They feel less fealty to the insights of the base. They know more than the base, are more experienced than the base, have a more nuanced sense of reality. And as for conservative social issues groups, the politicians resent those nagging, whining pushers-for-the-impossible who are always threatening to stay home or go elsewhere. (Where?)


On the Democratic side, it is not just as bad but worse. They don't only think they're more sophisticated than their base, more informed and aware of the complexities. I believe they think their base is mad.

This seems to be the continuation of a recent theme for Noonan. A couple weeks ago she wrote about how it was time for a revival of third-party politics in America. "Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter," she wrote. "They're in agreement: immigration should not be controlled but increased, spending will increase, etc."

The question, however, is what a third party would stand for. If there's a political impulse not fully represented by a political party right now, it's populism. Down with the gays, up with the minimum wage, down with free trade, up with the U.S.-Mexico wall.

The two-party system has its faults, but it curbs Americans' ugliest impulses (for now) by keeping a lot of people who believe in the same bad ideas in different parties.

If it's a battle of the elites versus the masses, count me with the elites.