I attended a wedding recently. It was a very high-end, mostly New York crowd, with lots of lawyers and investment bankers.
Here is a nearly verbatim transcript of a “conversation” I had with one banker. This guy was not yet drunk.
Me (to a friend): …so, in my experience, the Russians and others we negotiate with have palpable contempt for us.
Him (butting in): It’s not just them, everybody has contempt for us. We should just mind our own business and not try to solve everybody’s problems.
Me: I agree, but we are a superpower and we have certain responsibilities.
Him: Why do we have responsibilities?
Me: Our friends rely on us to do certain things around the world.
Him: Eff them. The only things we should be doing is things that benefit American taxpayers.
Me: I couldn’t agree more. There are some advantages to the taxpayers from living in a superpower though.
Him: That’s effing BS. The government is run by the big corporations. They’re the only ones who get any advantages. I know, I work in that world. And I’m something of a world affairs scholar.
Me: So why did we fight the Cold War? Was it to benefit the big corporations?
Him: Yes. They’re the only ones who benefited. And it was totally based on paranoia.
Me: What about the Nazis? And Imperial Japan? Was that all paranoia too?
Him: The big arms manufacturers are behind all wars. They control all governments.
Me: Well, I think all those powers were threats and we responded like any great power, for geopolitical…
Him (cutting me off): And I’ll tell you another thing. Those effing right wing Tea Partiers. I hate those right wing mother effers.
Me: Why do you hate them so much?
Him: They’re effing ignorant. They want to get rid of the Fed!
Me: I think what they want is to curb government spending and return to constitutional principles like limited government. They’re just Reagan conserva…
Him (cutting me off and moving closer): There is no intellectual content to any of that. Bunch of morons.
Me: There’s no intellectual content to constitutional principles?
Him: Listen, I’m a naturalized citizen, and let me tell you, Americans are the stupidest effing people on the planet. Your average American is an effing moron. Just think, they shut down the government! And for what? Because they’re afraid of Socialism? They just don’t want people to have healthcare! Me, I care about other people. Mother effers. You know the big insurance companies? They are my clients and they love Obamacare.
Me: How is that an argument for Obamacare? Anyway, didn’t Obama have something to do with the shutdown? He loves these crises. He could have stopped the shutdown any time he wanted. But he benefits politically, so he let it drag on as long as possible.
Him: That’s BS. They’re all just a bunch of Baptist religious fanatics with no education.
Me: That’s not true, and isn’t that just religious bigotry? Anyway, I’m sympathetic to them, I have plenty of education and I’m an atheist.
Him (moving closer, yelling and sticking a finger in my face): I’m sick and tired of you right-wing nut jobs. Let me tell you, it’s the people like me, the people who make over a million dollars a year, that carry all the weight in this country.
Me: I’m not a spokesman for the Tea Party. And if you’re complaining about taxes, why do you keep voting for Obama?
Him (yelling): What’s your problem with Obama? That he’s a Socialist?
Me: Get your finger out of my face and don’t yell at me.
Him (yelling louder): Why do you hate Obama? Because he’s black?
Ah yes, the lovely face of our enlightened rulers.
This experience and others like it remind me that, odious as Obama is, he is ultimately merely a symptom, not the cause, of deeper problems. I am even willing to listen to any reasonably informed person making the case that he is not the worst president we ever had. We have had bad presidents before and muddled through. The system was designed with sufficient play in the joints to withstand the stress of bad leadership. However, it cannot survive an ignorant and corrupt leadership class.