[T]he imagined national consensus is of course precisely aligned with the consensus-of-"Serious-Thinkers-in-Washington", the basic center-right "pro-business/low taxes/socially liberal but don't really care enough to fight for anything" position. Basically it's the editorial position of The Economist and the Washington Post. It's a consensus among elites, but I've never seen any actual or even anecdotal evidence that this a majority position in the country, let alone the supermajority its proponents dream of. Most people, you know, like Social Security no matter how many times Bob Kerrey is sent out it try to gut it.
It's the position of basically wealthy people who want abortion to be legal, but know that even if it's illegal it won't matter much because they'll be able to get them anyway. They speak the language of social liberalism, but it's more social libertarianism -- yes, gay people should be allowed to marry but who really gives a damn. It's the position of people for whom the system has worked quite nicely and can't imagine that they'd ever be screwed by it (and given that their money gives them adequate access to our civil justice system they might be right). It's the position of people born on third base who wax poetic about meritocracy. It's the position of people who might worry about the poor at times, but think "the problem with poor people is..." instead of "The problem for poor people is that they're poor." It's the position of people who are invested in the basic status quo, and for whom that investment has paid off quite nicely.
This is exactly right, and it is crucial for progressive people who are not really truly among the beneficiaries of this rigged system to stop their delusive and self-defeating identification via this consensus-discourse with the system, just as it is crucial for the progressive people who actually are its beneficiaries to grasp the necessity and inevitability that they will take a palpable hit in any workable redress of the callous, insipid, wasteful, unfair, crazy-making injustices of that system.
Aristocracy is the diametric opposite of democracy, it is not some "tension" or "tendency" within democracy with which it wrestles.
Difference, diversity, plurality, yes. Sustainable elites? No.
"We the Media" of the blogosphere, and YouTube, and Democracy Now! are squaring off with the self-congratulatory "punditocracy" who crave a skewed "balance" over truth-telling, who voice a fantasy "consensus" over reportage. "People Powered Politics" are squaring off against the corporate-militarist Machine politics of Rove and the DLC, bloody sausage factories peddling and even telling themselves weird somehow-consoling neoconservative and neoliberal fantasies about "free trade" and "freedom on the march" all the while just shoveling blood-money to their cronies in the midst of carnage, catastrophe, tragedy, and unrest.
Who but a wannabe aristrocrat would sniff in distaste at the too-exercised tone of those who point to the war-profiteering and war crimes of the Bush Administration? Honestly! Who but wannabe aristocrats would fail to muster the necessary nerve to condemn torture, for heaven's sake, for fear that the inscrutible distant masses might think them timid and disastrously "unmanly," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean?
Never lose sight of the reality and stakes and players in this conflict. Aristocracy against democracy. Say it again and again until you grasp it for true and grave it on your heart to compass by. There is no more abiding and clarifying distinction to be had when what is wanted is to sort out allies from foes, progressive ends from authoritarian ends, workable compromises from traps. "Follow the money," and "look where the guns (or cameras) are pointed" are principles that will yield similar results uncannily often.
Sure, there are ugly uncomfortable compromises to be made as first we democratic progressives must wrest control of our dull debased democracy from the mad theocrats and fascists of the current Republican party configuration, then boot the corporatists and Machine Politicos from the current Democratic party configuration, then re-work some of the institutional vulnerabilities in our system (the Electoral College, the Winner-Take-All outcomes, the various inticements to disenfranchisement and fraud). And all this must take place all the while we struggle to solve real problems through governance (since some problems can only be addressed by government, even when that government is as debauched and disaster-prone as our own), to shift from petrochemical to renewable energy and industry, to implement universal health care, to institute truly progressive taxation and property taxes, to publicly finance elections, and to consolidate and expand fledgling international institutions.
The wannabee aristocrats in the corporate press and in the surreal Millionaire's Club of "our" elective representatives (most of us are not, nor will we ever be, millionaires, you know) cannot be counted upon to do what needs to be done in this historical moment. Indeed, these aristocrats will actively resist much of the difficult democratizing work on the road ahead as directly opposed to their own sense of their best interests.
Never forget this. Never forget why this is. Never forget who you are. Never forget what you are fighting for.
Democracy is to be cherished, and democracy is struggle. Aristocracy is still the enemy, and no good will ever come of it for the likes of you and me.