Us vs. Them: The People and the Political Class


Cross-posted from Mackinac Center for Public Policy

The fundamental problem facing our nation is that true representative government has been supplanted by an inbred, self-serving, self-perpetuating political class that does not represent the people. As a result, the government has escaped the control of the people.

Evidence is all around. For example, whether or not one agrees with the policy, for decades term limits have been consistently favored by an overwhelming majority. Yet they are opposed and sabotaged by the political class at every opportunity (most recently in New York City, where the city council just overturned mayoral term limits despite their being approved by 59 percent of the voters in a 1993 initiative, confirmed in a 1996 referendum.) By what principle of representative government is negating the repeatedly expressed will of the people justified?

Similarly, there’s a durable popular consensus favoring a federal balanced budget amendment, and an equally persistent refusal by the political class to enact it. At the state level, “Taxpayer Bills of Rights” spending limitations enjoy broad public support, but will never pass a single legislative body.

It’s not just the politicians – public employees are an integral part of the problem, too. For example, in Michigan last year there was an effort by some Senate Republicans and House Democrats to outsource certain juvenile justice and adoption services to private social service agencies. Despite bipartisan recognition that it would save money and generate better outcomes for children, the measure was gutted at the 11th hour because some 800 government jobs would have become superfluous.

Locally, can anyone doubt the result if pollsters asked, “Should municipal and school employees be able to retire at age 50 with a full pension and lifetime health coverage?” Yet such benefits are commonplace. The elected officials who grant them and their beneficiaries are all members of the same political/government class, which protects its own above all else.

The political class perpetuates its rule in many ways. One is campaign finance regulations that impose nearly impossible burdens on challengers, while incumbents use tax dollars and their offices in never-ending campaigns. Also, the government’s pampered minions – public employees and their unions – have become what may be the most powerful and effective special interest, and are fully engaged in electoral politics. Their exclusive goal is defeating candidates or initiatives that might diminish their authority, resources or privileges, and their political power all but dominates elections at every level.

That particular power-center is in part the offspring of the 19th century’s Progressive movement goal of replacing the bribes, kickbacks and graft of a corrupt patronage system with a professionalized, non-partisan bureaucracy. With the growth of a massive welfare state this “good government” reform metastasized into a much deeper corruption of the democrat ideal: An unelected bureaucratic nomenkaltura, controlling or allied with today’s political class, manipulating the system to deprive the people of any real choice. You can vote for the red squad or the blue squad, but they’re all members of the same elite, which always promotes its interests ahead of yours.

Can anything be done? What’s needed is a movement that, like the Progressives in their time, captures the public’s imagination by defining a new dimension in U.S. politics: Not Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal, or populist vs. capitalist, but the people vs. a political and government class that no longer represents them.

Don’t look for help from the political parties. Parties are all about power, and recent history demonstrates just how quickly a party abandons whatever principles it professes once that object is gained, instead embracing the instrumentalities of big government to keep it.

As always, the true source of reform must be the people themselves. Those who would restore representative government must raise the public’s consciousness regarding this fundamental but little understood divide: The people vs. the political/government class.

The rare candidate who sincerely opposes the status quo, or ballot initiative that challenges it, enjoys the tremendous advantage of an enthusiastic public. But they must also expect concerted counter-attacks from the arrayed forces of the system itself, rippling with political muscles.

These forces will only be overcome when the public explicitly understands where the real divide lies, and so sees through the inevitable demonization, lies and outright thuggery funded by the political establishment’s nearly bottomless resources, much of which come directly or indirectly from the state itself.

We may be approaching a tipping point where this political class and establishment amass such power and resources that efforts to dislodge them become futile, and Americans are no longer sovereigns, but subjects. While we still are able, defenders of liberty must become modern-day Paul Reveres, raising the alarm by identifying freedom’s true and most and potent enemies: Those who run and operate our unrepresentative governments.


Nov. 17 edit: Another piece of evidence, from the Washington Post of all places – “Obama Wrote Federal Staffers About His Goals: 

“The letters, sent to employees at seven agencies, describe Obama’s intention to scale back on contracts to private firms doing government work . . .”

Nov. 18 edit: from Steve Malanga, Our Spendthrift States Don’t Need a Bailout:


“For years, state and local politicians have bought support from public sector unions by promising big benefits. The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimated that the average public sector worker earns 46% more in total compensation than his counterpart in the private sector, largely because government employers spend 60% more per worker on benefits than counterparts in the private sector.”



12 Responses to “Us vs. Them: The People and the Political Class”

  1. wctaxpayer Says:

    Sign me up!

  2. Jason Gillman Says:

    As seen by the current situation with Palin, the politics are quite intense sometimes. Even friendly fire can be used to pave the way toward power goals shared by both Democrats and Republicans.

    Palin is seen as the cure by many of us. The problem is there are quite a few who don’t want the cure. Our mission.. we must see the cure to the point of the illness. 2012 is awful close IMO.

  3. Bob Carr Says:

    Hey Jack, you hit that one on point. When I think of the Bureaucracy and government, I can’t help but think of the USSR and their massive system. Where the leaders were the various heads of the different bureaucracies.When I recently became active in politics, I saw all around me that the efforts of the elected officials was geared around representing one bureaucracy or another. I asked my state Senator how hard was it to come up with something not backed by the bureaucracies or non profits. Well the answer was impossible. Mr. Smith can no longer go to Washington. They won’t even let him in the door.

    As always you see the problem, pretty soon we will become the United Non-Profits of America. With all the political leaders heading the major bureaucracies and living in the nicest dachas.

    Regards, Live Dangerously Be A Conservative

  4. jmchugh4u Says:

    Thanks Bob. Lets get specific too – you’re referring to that broad swath of non-profits that to a greater or larger extent have allowed themselves to become (or in some cases were created to be) arms of the state. I wrote about this a few years ago when some of them “demonstrated” at the Capital in favor of higher spending and taxes. (Their action was of course just an extension of their usual lobbying.) See “Charities Lobby for Higher Taxes” at

    I’m not the only person who’s written about this (in fact my article is largely cribbed from a speech a couple years ago by a very wise man who lives in Wisconsin). Here’s excerpts from a 2007 piece in the Spectator describing the same phenomenon in Britain:

    Excerpts from The Spectator, 9/12/07 “The Establishment is dead ( But something worse has replaced it)” by Peter Osborne :

    It has been replaced by a narrow, self-serving governing elite

    . . . The Political Class is distinguished from earlier governing elites by a lack of experience of and connection with other ways of life. Its members make government their exclusive study. This means they tend not to have significant knowledge of industry, commerce, or civil society, meaning their outlook is often metropolitan and London-based. This converts them into a separate, privileged elite, isolated from the aspirations and the problems of provincial, rural and suburban Britain.

    …It has now evolved two novel methods of communication, both of which estrange its members from the voters they are supposed to represent. The first is the kind of language used when they talk among themselves. This has become arcane, always self-referential, often concerned with the techniques of voter manipulation and relying on the anti-democratic assumption that there are matters which ordinary people are either incapable of understanding, or which it would be too dangerous for them to know.

    …The language used by modern political leaders when they talk direct to the voters is, however, even less transparent. The emergence of the Political Class has coincided with the use of short but artfully constructed sentences which create in the mind of the hearer the impression of being easy to understand, but which are designed to mislead. These so-called soundbites have become one of the most effective weapons in the hands of the Political Class, used unsparingly by the Tories and Labour alike.

    …Nobody is more lonely than out-of-favour members of the Political Class. This is why their parties are demeaning and inhumane affairs, little more than expressions of naked power. The largest circle of ‘friends’ automatically assembles around the dominant person in the room. However conventional or humourless he or she in reality is, it can be guaranteed that party guests will find their remarks more interesting than anyone else’s. This syndrome explains why even very dull or obvious jokes made by really powerful Political Class figures are always met by gales of respectful laughter.

    . . . However muddled and self-serving it may often seem, the philosophy of the Political Class is always based on a basic assumption about the supremacy of human reason and will. The Establishment, in sharp contrast, subscribed to a system of thought which stressed the fallibility of human beings, and emphasised that there were limits beyond which the human intellect finds it unable to stretch.

    . . .Members of the Political Class, even when they come from apparently rival parties, have far more in common with each other than they do with voters. They seek to protect one another, help each other out, rather than engage in robust democratic debate. This is why the House of Commons is no longer a cockpit where great conflicts of vision are fought out across the chamber. It has converted instead into a professional group, like the Bar Council or the British Medical Association.

    . . . The most important division in Britain is no longer the Tory versus Labour demarcation that marked out the battle zone in politics for the bulk of the 20th century. The real division is between a narrow, self-serving and increasingly corrupt governing elite and the mass of ordinary voters. The distinction between those in and out of ministerial office has become blurred, and general elections have become public stunts, whose primary purpose is an ostentatious affirmation of Political Class hegemony.

  5. Looking for Renewal in All the Wrong Places « Jack McHugh’s Blog Says:

    […] Jack McHugh’s Blog Comments on politics, policy, culture, history and more – not-boring, not-trite. « Us vs. Them: The People and the Political Class […]

  6. Bob Carr Says:

    Any insight Jack into the English Conservative Rebirth? This seems like a backlash to the liberal, take away your freedoms type of socialism Brown has been leading. What do you think of Cameron’s efforts. While they resonate with their electorate are they not too much like a “compassionate conservatism” and not much like Conservatism? Is it as I’m sensing just an attempt of the Conservatives to position themselves against the “throw the Bums out” syndrome and not a real viable alternative. Not a clear choice.

    I try to pick the good out of it though. Perhaps an inbetween step to start to make a change,??? Or is it bound to get lost in the blur of the compromise? Especially when you are the only side doing the compromise.

    Regards Live Dangerously Be A Conservative

  7. jmchugh4u Says:

    I don’t have a clue about Brit politics, Bob, sorry. Tripped across the article I cited and parts of it describe exactly what we see here. Other aspects are different: Osborne says the Brit political class becomes enraged when their plans are stymied by legalistic procedure-following sticklers in the nomenklatura. In contrast, in our much more lawyered-up society, American pols aren’t bothered by this at all – if anything they glory in the minutiae.

  8. MEA Shows School Boards the Whip-Hand « Jack McHugh’s Blog Says:

    […] Us vs. Them: The People and the Political Class I argued that true representative government has been supplanted by an inbred, self-serving, […]

  9. Why another budget “crisis?” Excessive State Police bennies (among other reasons) « Jack McHugh’s Blog Says:

    […] Michigan taxpayers expected to foot the bill for one? See previous posts in this blog including “The people vs. the political class” and others, which describe the how our state and nation are being ruled by an inbred, […]

  10. Howes: State Dems, political class, and other problems plaguing Michigan : RLC Michigan Says:

    […] taxpayers a break are what Jack McHugh has called the political class.  He doesn’t have flattering things to say about this group: true representative government has been supplanted by an inbred, […]

  11. Political class to taxpayers: you work for us : RLC Michigan Says:

    […] you’re a government worker, most of whom are part of the political class that we’ve written of before, the answer is obvious.  It doesn’t matter how stretched […]

  12. Political Class to Taxpayers: You Work for Us | Republican Liberty Caucus Says:

    […] you’re a government worker, most of whom are part of the political class that we’ve written of before, the answer is obvious.  It doesn’t matter how stretched […]

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