The populist saber continues to cut the elites down to size. The elites, who think they know it all and are uniquely qualified to tell everyone else how to live, took another pasting Sunday in the Italian elections. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi felt so humiliated by voter rejection of his proposals for constitutional reform that he quit on the spot.
That’s 3 for 3 for the peasants. Europe hasn’t seen such a sacking fit in years. David Cameron quit as prime minister in Britain after the kingdom voted earlier this year to say goodbye to Europe, and then Francois Hollande, the president of France, looked back and saw something gaining on him.
The most unpopular president since 1940, when France was about to fall, said he has had enough, and wouldn’t stand for an election that everybody said he couldn’t win, next year.
The Germans have a chance to make it 4 for 4 next year, when Angela Merkel stands for a fourth term, and though she may be the favorite, in the present climate she’s anything but a sure bet, and maybe not even a good one. Throwing the rascals out has become a game everyone wants to play, and the world has rarely seen so many deserving rascals.
Barack Obama, who is Europe’s favorite American president, can only be pleased that he isn’t running for anything next year but the streetcar, to take him to his new digs just down the street from the mosque where he might be content to listen to the evening call to prayer, which he calls “the prettiest sound on earth,” but this particular mosque plays no such call. He’ll have to get it on YouTube. The neighborhood is fairly finicky about noise.
Only yesterday the big media was agog with speculation about the funeral rites for the Republicans, who were about to be drowned (and good riddance) by the coming tidal wave bringing Hillary Clinton into office. Alas, the tide turned, as tides will do, and brought the Donald to power (if not yet much glory) instead.
Now it’s the Democrats who are lepers in the land. The same wise men who were writing obituaries for the Grand Old Party are recycling them as obsequies for the party of the people. That would be the party that lost the White House, the Senate, the House and so many governors, mayors and state houses that everybody but Jill Stein has quit counting.
The Democratic grass roots, however, are bubbling and on the boil, if not with optimism at least innovation. Students at California State College at San Marcos think white folks are the problem and the solution is getting rid of them. The students organized a “Whiteness Forum,” setting up more than a dozen displays with imaginative themes, including “Gentrification is the New Colonialism” (no one ever met a real-estate developer in a homeless shelter), “Whiteness in the Courts” (blacks are five times more likely to go to prison than white folks and Latinos are three times more likely), and “the hegemonic ideals of the beauty standard” must go.
The First Amendment, which not so long ago everybody regarded as the most important item in the Bill of Rights, continues to get a bad rap on campus. Jake Goldberg, a student at Tufts University, offered a resolution to the Student Senate affirming free speech and it was defeated 26 to zilch. The Senate president chided Mr. Goldberg for even offering the resolution. “I think clarity in itself is subjective so I don’t really know what we’re voting on, which is why I oppose it.” Another senator said 50 percent of Tufts students are from other countries where there is no free speech and free-speech issues are handled better than in America, and saying First Amendment rights are the best kind of rights “is not okay.” Hurting someone’s feelings is the most heinous of all crimes on campus.
The best news for the Republicans this week is not from Europe or the campus but from Nancy Pelosi, fresh from winning another term as the leader of the Democratic minority in the House. She told a CBS interviewer that her party doesn’t have to worry because “I don’t think the people want a new direction.”
The interlocutor, John Dickerson, reminded her that over the past eight years “the numbers are ghastly for the Democrats, with the party getting clobbered at every level, over multiple elections. That seems like a real crisis for the party.” No, no, Mrs. Pelosi replied. “You’re forgetting that we went up so high in 2006 and 2008.”
According to the five stages of grief, everybody should be moving on by now. But some folks are still stuck in denial.
• Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.