Sudden outbreak of democracy baffles US pundits
That didn't last long
"To be told that this bill would be beyond scrutiny was more than democratic flesh and blood could bear," wrote Simon Jenkins.
Ouch! Your democracy is hurting my consensus
But even after Monday's vote, the cream of America's pundits couldn't quite face up to what had happened. For example, Thomas Friedman retreated further into his fantasy world, from which he could only radiate disbelief:
We’re all connected. As others have pointed out, you can’t save Main Street and punish Wall Street anymore than you can be in a rowboat with someone you hate and think that the leak in the bottom of the boat at his end is not going to sink you, too. The world really is flat. We’re all connected. "Decoupling" is pure fantasy.
There's a man who's a prisoner of his metaphors. Leaping from "we're all connected" (vaguely... somehow) to "you can't let banks fail" is a jump that can only be made if you think your metaphors have astounding metaphysical properties. Maybe Friedman really believes this. Who knows?
Or take David Brooks, who usually poses as the champion of the proles, except when the proles do something he doesn't approve of. He called the Congressional vote "The Revolt of the Nihilists." The dissenting Congressmen, Brooks wrote,
... showed the world how much they detest their own leaders and the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed. They did the momentarily popular thing, and if the country slides into a deep recession, they will have the time and leisure to watch public opinion shift against them.
You could see what Brooks really objected to was the natural order of things was being upset - how dare people question "expertise"? Or leaders? People don't know what's good for them. (But of course, David does...)
And to confirm that what really peeved him was voters getting uppity, he concluded:
What we need in this situation is authority.
Actually, what we need is an open, rational, and democratic debate about a range of choices - and that's something the political and media elites united to oppose last week.
The media had done all it could to keep awkward questions off the air.
Where did the surreal $700bn figure come from? On Friday, we found out - someone at the Treasury had just made it up. The Treasury also let slip that the plan had been in a drawer for months. "Fratto insisted that the plan was not slapped together and had been drawn up as a contingency over previous months and weeks by administration officials," Rollcall reported. Oh, really?
Much else was kept off the air, particularly the key issue of whether US banks should be permitted to fail. The unspoken assumption was they couldn't - but they have before, and the financial system has continued.
The anti-democratic sentiment wasn't just confined to superstar American columnists. At the ironically-named OpenDemocracy, a British site funded by the Ford Foundation, the editor-in-chief patronized the bailout objectors by calling them "principled but mad." See how you're not permitted to both rational and disagree? (The site has argued before that people are too stupid to be trusted with democracy).