What's behind the Tea Party protests, low approval ratings for Congress, distrust of the media and unease with experts in the Obama administration?
In short, a growing anger at the sermonizing and condescension by many of America's elites.
We see this specifically, for example, in the debate over global warming, which a year ago was accepted as gospel.
The high profile of prestigious scientists, former public officials like Al Gore and Van Jones, and the Obama administration all made impending cap-and-trade legislation seem likely. Skeptics were derided as "deniers" and virtual know-nothings.
But then the assertion of manmade climate change met a perfect storm.
First, several high academic priests of global warming were discredited. Leaked e-mails at East Anglia University in the United Kingdom revealed doctored evidence, personal vendettas and cover-ups among scientists.
More recently, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted it had relied on faulty information, leading it to make inflated claims on impending manmade warming disasters involving Himalayan glaciers.
These exposes dovetailed with a series of unconnected events that further undermined the climate-change diktat.
Many of the most prominent green advocates either seemed hypocritical or downright crazy. Al Gore, for example, has earned much of his new fortune from his supposedly disinterested public service to the green cause, and yet habitually leaves a carbon footprint like few others on the planet.
The president's own "green jobs" official, Van Jones, it was revealed, had signed a "truther" petition stating that the U.S. government had planned 9/11. His credibility shot, Jones had to resign.
Then there was the uncooperative weather itself. Environmental grandees jetted into frigid Copenhagen to discuss planet warming. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., portions of a very cold East Coast have been blanketed with unprecedented snowfall levels -- at a time when the public is supposed to be concerned that temperatures are unseasonably warming.
Other conventional wisdom from supposed experts has also been questioned. Take the model of the European Union.
After the September 2008 American financial panic, European diplomats and intellectuals lectured Americans on the evils of unfettered capitalism and the superiority of their statist model. The strong euro and steady expansion of the EU had convinced many that their soft socialism was the only way of the future.
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