Their decline, however, comes in the immediate conditions of an impatient populism. That populism doesn’t represent a New Whitewater, but replaces Old Whitewater’s errors with a new set of mistakes.
Old Whitewater was (and what’s left of it still is) hierarchical, insider-centric, mediocre in policy and understanding, but with a boundless sense of entitlement. The present populism that creeps about is ground-level, ignorant in policy and understanding, with an impatient insistence that it has its way.
They both share some characteristics, including a powerful nativism, but the key difference is that this local populism has no deference or respect for Old Whitewater. They’re not submissive, and won’t take direction from a few aging town fathers. (Organizations with primarily older members still show considerable reverence to an older way, but those organizations are themselves in decline.)
There is another key difference: populism’s likely to burn itself out quickly; the older way it’s supplanting will have had a longer run.
(There’s little stranger than watching one of the old guard, wholly committed for a lifetime to a hierarchical, insiders’ approach, try to transform into a storm-the-Bastille kind of guy. A whole life facilitating opacity doesn’t easily shift into a convincing advocacy of transparency.)
Neither Old Whitewater nor the creeping populism that now replaces it are worthy outlooks: they’re both bottom-shelf approaches.
There’s reason for optimism. There’s nothing of the current scene – nothing – that cannot be overcome, decisively, if one will only hold to expansive rights, continental standards, and a methodical approach.