Random DJB Thoughts
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The Chattering Class and President’s Day

Regular readers know I don’t delve too often into politics.  There’s just so many more interesting things to write about (such as the Nats finally landing a good free-agent in Adam Dunn – more to come on that in the near future).

But today’s Daily Kos had a posting by Markos that hits on an issue that I think deserves widespread reading:  the cluelessness of the Chattering Class.  Or perhaps that’s too charitable.  The issue may be that they are working to protect their own interests instead of seeking the truth.

This was all too clear during the campaign debates.  The instant polls were terrific because they showed – in real time and all too clearly – how out of touch the cable TV political commentators were with what the rest of the country was thinking.  As Kos says today,

In 2008, those snap polls made fools of the talking heads until the last debate, when they finally shut their traps and let the snap polls determine the winners. Because according to them in the previous three debates, McCain, Palin and McCain had won. The people, on the other hand, had drastically different thoughts on the matter. The gap between the chattering class and the populace couldn’t have been starker.

I watched those polls during the debates and saw this great divide first hand.  The DC Chattering Class really did blow it in calling those debates (and in so many other ways as well).

So why should we listen to them this week?  Again, from Kos…

The people who live in DC, who pretend to speak for the rest of the country, have no direct experience with what is happening there — and their attempts to handicap DC politics have more to do with the inside baseball games that seek to protect their own interests above all else. The fact that three and a half million Americans will have jobs as a result of the passage of this bill, or that people who are unemployed or living on food stamps will continue to be able to eat, doesn’t seem to graze their analyses.

As is usual, Frank Rich also got this right in yesterday’s column, noting how Obama had outwitted the punditocracy and the opposition.

I asked David Axelrod for his take on this Groundhog Day relationship between Obama and the political culture.

“It’s why our campaign was not based in Washington but in Chicago,” he said. “We were somewhat insulated from the echo chamber. In the summer of ’07, the conventional wisdom was that Obama was a shooting star; his campaign was irretrievably lost; it was a ludicrous strategy to focus on Iowa; and we were falling further and further behind in the national polls.” But even after the Iowa victory, this same syndrome kept repeating itself. When Obama came out against the gas-tax holiday supported by both McCain and Clinton last spring, Axelrod recalled, “everyone in D.C. thought we were committing suicide.”

The stimulus battle was more of the same. “This town talks to itself and whips itself into a frenzy with its own theories that are completely at odds with what the rest of America is thinking,” he says. Once the frenzy got going, it didn’t matter that most polls showed support for Obama and his economic package: “If you watched cable TV, you’d see our support was plummeting, we were in trouble. It was almost like living in a parallel universe.”

For Axelrod, the moral is “not just that Washington is too insular but that the American people are a lot smarter than people in Washington think.”

Here’s a third moral: Overdosing on this culture can be fatal.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue, as both sides have their spinners who conveniently forget the truth.  It is more about the all-knowing culture that feeds on itself here in our hometown.  During this weekend, when we celebrate the accomplishments of two Presidents who would never have survived if you would listen to today’s political class, that’s a good lesson to remember.

More to come…


This entry was posted in: Random DJB Thoughts


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. Dolores says

    Nice post, but please, please, please don’t do that “Washington” is the problem thing. “Washington” is a teriffic city with restaurants, parks, neighborhoods, art museums, wacky local politics, etc. etc. etc.

    Congress, the President (hopefully not this one) and the news media are the ones out of touch. I swear I’d love to be the PR Director for the city of DC. I’d convince the mayor to sue for libel every time someone defames the city by hiding behind some “inside the beltway” to make it seem like THEY’RE not part of the problem, someone else is.

  2. A fair point, although I think my post made the point that it was the DC Chattering Class that was the problem – not the city itself. I don’t recall saying Washington is the problem. I know that Kos, in his post, talks about “people living in DC” but even there I think he was pretty clearly focused on the media types who show up in op-ed pages and on cable TV.

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