Twixt mandarins and mainstream
by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, May 28, 1996
Many Americans feel their government, the media and other major institutions of American society have been hijacked by aliens — by people who not only do not share their values but who are downright hostile to widely accepted ways of thinking about many of the critical issues of the day. Political, social and economic elites who, in the past, shared many of the dominant values of society have somehow been replaced by a new class of mandarins, whose values and views are often at variance with those of the rest of society.
The latest evidence of this chasm between mandarins and mainstreamers is found in data released last week by the Gallup Poll showing that large supermajorities of Americans support initiatives that are rejected by mandarins in charge of our major political institutions. Examples: Eighty-three percent of Americans favor a balanced budget amendment, but such an amendment was blocked by mandarins in the Senate (after it passed the House) and would have been opposed by the president.
Seventy-four percent of Americans favor a term-limits Amendment. Indeed, 40 states already have term limits for their governors. Twenty states have term limits for their state legislators and 23 states had put term limits on their representatives in Congress until the U.S. Supreme Court said no to term limits on members of Congress, claiming that states can’t limit the terms of the people they choose to represent them there. The Supreme Court has also said “no” to school prayer, even though 73% of the American people support a school prayer amendment.
This is the same Supreme Court that, for years, said yes to busing for racial balance and yes to racial preferences in education and hiring even though busing is opposed by 62% of Americans and racial preferences in schools and jobs are opposed by 83% of Americans.
Moving to issues at the state and local level, 82% of Americans favor English as the official language, but education mandarins impose bilingualism in our schools — often over the objections of immigrant parents who want their kids to learn English, fast and special-interest mandarins sue to force state and local governments to spend taxpayer dollars to print official documents (ballots, civil service announcements) in dozens of different languages.
Nearly three-out-of-five Americans (59%) favor school choice, but education mandarins have such a tight hold on so many elected officials and other opinion leaders that the inner-city kids who would benefit most from school choice are subjected to another term of monopoly education in under-performing government schools which they have little choice but to attend.
Seventy-nine percent of Americans favor the death penalty for murder, but mandarins assemble mounds of “data” from “studies” that show the death penalty doesn’t work. Result: Murderers continue to serve a few years and get paroled as the prisons fill up. And more than two-out-of-three Americans (67%) oppose legalization of gay marriages though there are now forces at work that could force all Americans to recognize same-sex marriages.
Last week the Supreme Court overturned Colorado’s Amendment 2 in the case of Romer vs. Evans, which gay and lesbian advocates called “a slam dunk for gay and lesbian equality.” That it may be. But Justice Antonin Scalia suggested in his dissent that there may be a larger issue here and that is the authority of nine unelected men and women in robes to substitute their view for those of the Colorado voter. Whatever the issue, there is a disturbing chasm that seems to be growing between elites and those expected to follow. If it continues, there may be fewer followers — or different elites.
Get the Bonus Years column right to your inbox
We take your inbox seriously. No ads. No appeals. No spam. We provide — and seek from you — original and curated items that make life in the Bonus Years easier to understand and easier to navigate.