By Glen Browder
It is hypocritical and arrogant how the political class is dealing with serious demonstrations -- i.e., the tea party and Occupy Wall Street -- against the establishment.
Last year, Democrats derided the tea-partyers as selfish, racist obstacles to progress; conservatives praised them as true patriots. Now, Republicans depict Wall Street Occupiers as spoiled, socialist malcontents, while liberals extol their noble participation.
Many chattering journalists have entered the fray, sometimes promoting the movements as grass-roots democracy and at other times filling the air with nasty epithets. Expectedly, the Internet is buzzing with comments and videos about "barbarians" threatening the future of American democracy.
The hypocrisy and arrogance of the political class -- including some media -- is strikingly evident in this continuing fit of democratic distemper. It is ultimate double-talk for leftists to damn the tea-partyers and praise the Occupiers, all in the name of civic virtue; and it is just as wrong for rightists to push the alternative message.
Perhaps most galling is when partisans arrogantly preach their gospel to friendly audiences of aroused activists -- with Republicans pandering to angry taxpayers and Democrats stroking the beleaguered little guy -- totally oblivious to their snickering, on-record comments about the alternative movement and crass, semisecretive actions as public officials.
The truth is that many national leaders routinely engage in such self-serving and deceptive political practices. Publicly, Republicans trash Big Government and Democrats rail against Big Business. But behind the scenes, some R-teamers and some D-teamers aggressively push new federal spending for their favored interests and crony capitalism for their wealthy supporters. Unlike the average taxpayer and little guy, these back-door beneficiaries have wisely "invested" in federal campaigns; and they usually prosper beyond the bounds of competition and decency.
Of course, Washington and Wall Street are not alone in the practice of hypocrisy and arrogance. The public shares a great part of the blame. The American people have been living beyond their means -- privately and publicly -- for decades; and now they're outraged at having to pay the piper with increased taxes and/or lowered benefits.
This all sounds like politics as usual. But we're in a global/domestic crisis; these are indeed our days of reckoning, and the failed leadership of the political class is dangerous as well as disgusting. Something has to be done to restore the American Dream.
It really bothers me that the political and financial elites might skate through this crisis with impunity while ordinary people are hurting and desperation is setting in.
Check out contemporary headlines. Most Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction; our standard of living has plummeted; our misery index has peaked; and more people are on antidepressants than ever before. Meanwhile, our national capital is now the wealthiest metro area in the country, and corporate leaders continue to reap ransoms from questionable business deals.
I sympathize with both activist camps against the abuses and excesses of entrenched power. The tea-party crowd is right: Big government needs to be whipped into shape and made more responsible to taxpayers. The Occupy crowd is also right: We need to stop big corporations and fat cats from reaping huge profits by trampling on the little guy.
It is no wonder the tea-partyers and Occupiers -- who generally despise each other -- want to take back their country or at least restore their version, of the American Dream. While these divergent forces are not likely to ever merge ranks, America might be well-served if both movements were to enjoy some good old-fashioned, selective, corrective sacking and pillaging.
It's a trite and strained comparison, but the analogy of the fall of Rome actually may be appropriate here.
The Eternal City enjoyed a grand and glorious run; but toward the end of that course, the empire was broke; civic life was debauched; and emperors lived and ruled in an outrageous manner. In the end days, Rome needed to be sacked and pillaged; and hordes of barbarians helped put an end to that travesty. I'm not endorsing violence, and we can argue about where we go next, but the current political order needs to change drastically. It's nice to think that, lurking in the shadows of our current discontent, are indigenous spirits of Alaric the Visigoth, and Geiseric the Vandal, or even Attila the Hun; and we could use some noble savage -- a real-life, civic-minded Conan the Barbarian -- to storm the citadel. Maybe then we can start restoring the American Dream.
Sure, there's a lot to dislike about the tea-partyers and Occupiers -- some are selfish, racist obstacles and spoiled, socialist malcontents -- but the political and financial classes need to feel the wrath of an outraged citizenry. The more I hear self-serving politicians mouth their rhetoric, the more I wish some measure of success for both the tea party and Occupy Wall Street.
About the writer: Glen Browder, Ph.D., is emeritus professor of American Democracy at Jacksonville State University. He is a former U.S. congressman, Alabama secretary of state and Alabama legislator, and he is considered the father of the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act. Email: email@example.com.
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An Occupy Oakland protester waves a flag next to a bonfire in Oakland, Calif. (The Associated Press)