In the United Sates as much as in Britain, the idea of a political elite attracts fear and loathing in equal measure. "Elitist" is a political insult in both political cultures. It is important for aspiring politicians that they sell themselves as normal plain folks. So it is that we get the uncomfortable spectacle of various politicians trying unconvincingly to mix it with the proles.
Yet what are we to make of the latest twists in the bizarre saga of Sarah Palin?
It becomes clear that as candidate for the second highest office in the United States, she knew so little about international affairs, even of the closest ally of the US, that she proposed talking to the Queen in order to ensure continued British presence in Iraq. This doltish woman could have been a heartbeat away from supreme power in the United States- the worlds most powerful state!
Now of course we can say that she was an exception- but she isn't. Stupidity seems to be no hurdle to gaining political power, indeed it seems to be becoming part of the job description- after all plenty of plain folks are a bit stupid- "hey, he/she is just like me... at least he is not part of one of those elites... ".
The good fairy seems to have given the United States huge gifts to maintain its intellectual and financial lead in vast areas of human endevour, but unfortunately the bad fairy seems to be gifting the United States the most dysfunctional politicians of any democratic state, bar Italy.
Mitt Romney is an asset stripper who avoids taxes. Newt Gingrich is a self regarding puff-ball. Rick Santorum is a close minded and fanatical bigot. Ron Paul is a geriatric odd ball.
Compared to the Republican field even the distinctly sub-par Barack Obama looks good- and he has added yet more regulation into the mire created by George W. Bush.
You can hardly blame the Republicans for hoping that Jeb Bush will come to their rescue.
Yet that is not going to happen. The Republicans have a choice between certain losers- and that is pretty unhealthy at a time of relentless crisis.
The determination of voters to avoid any whisper of elitism has eliminated any candidates of distinction. Meanwhile the financial war reaches new heights of absurdity as the Super PACS crush all before them.
The fact is that the political class in the United States is now more isolated, more insular and more stupid than it has ever been. I hesitate to call such low grade individuals an "elite", but they are certainly apart from the rest of America- and in grave danger of destroying all the success beyond the Washington Beltway.