Elitism isn't confined to the left, if today's Wall Street Journal column by Bret Stephens is any indication.
Here is the key sentence: "Pundits, particularly those who lean right, are schooled always to praise the wisdom of the electorate. Please. Only three years ago, Americans became acquainted with a junior U.S. senator with an interesting personal history, notable rhetorical gifts, programmatically liberal ideas and zero legislative accomplishments. Whereupon he was hailed as a saint and elected president."
This "are schooled" formulation is a classic journalist dodge of the passive voice. Who is doing the schooling? At the Wall Street Journal, the great teacher of journalists was the late, great editor Robert L. Bartley. His observation about the wisdom of the voters was core Bartley ideology, at least as it was transmitted to me by Seth Lipsky, and even at times firsthand by Bartley.
Mr. Stephens, with degrees from the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics, named a media fellow and Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum of Davos, and newly promoted to the lofty management post of deputy editor of the Journal editorial pages, seems still to be disappointed in the American voters for choosing Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008 — to the point of disagreeing with the core Bartley belief in the collective wisdom of the electorate.
I have a different view of it. I think that the voters figured that if they were going to vote in an anti-First Amendment (McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform"), pro-big-government (McCain suspended his campaign to try to get the TARP Wall Street bailout/takeover passed) skeptic of tax cuts (McCain voted against Bush's tax cuts in both 2001 and 2003), they might as well elect a Democrat. If the Republicans were going to abandon their free market and constitutional principles, they deserved to lose.
Mr. Stephens writes: "Americans disillusioned today with the president for his health-care legislation, his refusal to extend his predecessor's tax cuts, his support for cap and trade, his ties to labor unions and groups such as Acorn, and his belief in the regulatory state, can't honestly say that they were promised otherwise during the campaign. They got almost exactly what they voted for." First, on cap-and-trade and taxes, the Republicans in 2008 didn't offer the voters a clear choice. McCain was the lead sponsor of the McCain-Lieberman cap and trade bill, and, as already noted above, he voted against both Bush tax cuts. As for "belief in the regulatory state," what was the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform if not a statement of belief in that apparatus of the regulatory state known as the Federal Election Commission?
In fact Obama voters have gotten something different from what they were promised by Mr. Obama on both health care and taxes. Mr. Obama has broken his campaign promises on both issues. On health care, as we wrote at the time:
in some important ways, yesterday's vote wasn't what Barack Obama said he would do in the campaign. An individual mandate to purchase health insurance? Mr. Obama spoke out against it in the campaign, criticizing Hillary Clinton for it based on what he said were philosophical differences. A tax on high-cost insurance policies? Mr. Obama spoke out against that in the campaign, too, criticizing Senator McCain for proposing it. An end-run by the majority party around the Senate filibuster rules? Mr. Obama had spoken out against it when the Republicans wanted to use the "nuclear option" for confirming judges. A sharply partisan divide on passing the legislation, which got not a single Republican vote? Mr. Obama had vowed during the campaign to unite Americans and bridge partisan and ideological divisions.
On taxes, Mr. Obama promised during the campaign not to raise them on those earning less than $250,000 a year. Yet when he got into office, he almost immediately raised the federal cigarette tax, and his health care bill includes, in violation of that promise, tax increases on tanning salons and penalties for the uninsured that the administration has argued in court it has the power to impose under the taxing authority of the Constitution.
I'm generally a fan of Mr. Stephens's column, and even the best of us are entitled to a miss now and then. This was one.