Sudden outbreak of democracy baffles US pundits
That didn't last long
Comment Something very spooky happened in the United States last week. The chances are you noticed it too, many days before it was reported.
Tuesday found me in New York, on my first stateside visit in a couple of years. The details of the Bailout plan had just been revealed and the slow burn of outrage was apparent everywhere. Admittedly, this was New York.
(Long-time readers will know I was the San Francisco correspondent for El Reg for six years and was frequently asked by Europeans: "What do Americans think of ... x?" To which the only honest answer is, "I can't tell you what Americans think, but here in San Francisco ...")
The outrage isn't the spooky part. The really odd thing is that if you had to rely on the mainstream US newspapers and TV channels - and nothing else - you'd wouldn't know something remarkable was happening. Which is that the Treasury Secretary's Bailout Plan had united parts of America who spend most of their energy hitting each other over the head, in common opposition to the proposal.
It was the moment that politicians dread the most. This was not merely an outbreak of popular discontent, but a phenomenon which breaks down those convenient labels the political marketing people like to use, to shield their masters from people's true desires and intentions. Not just coarse labels like "Left" and "Right" - but the really dumb, patronizing demographic ones like "Soccer Mom" and the nadir of modern politics, those found in Mark Penn's "Microtrends." Niche marketers will have to start from scratch.
Conservatives, libertarians, and lefties all raised objections to the Bailout for very sound reasons of their own. The idea that the state should bail out feckless private enterprises offended both conservatives and libertarians, who take moral responsibility seriously. The left wanted their traditional adversaries put in jail, not given a gift of new lease of life with the public's money.
People discovered that to "Change Congress," you simply need a ballot box - or the threat of one.
All this was reflected on political sites, forums and blogs - but not a hint of this sentiment was expressed by the professional media. So when Congress rejected the Bill on Monday, America's punditocracy expressed its shock. It also reported that the markets were "astonished" - the markets being presumed to have a better grasp of what American citizens want than American citizens themselves.
All week, the media had refrained from comment that might embarrass the political class. In fact, the first professional column I read which was reflected the true feelings of many US citizens around me was written from 3,500 miles away and published in London's Sunday Times.