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Colin Powell and the Crisis of the Boomer Elite

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Democratic National Convention via AP

You need to understand that in a society where religion has gone out of fashion, the elite has to canonize secular saints as examples for the people it proposes to rule. The elite needs a quasi-religious justification to feel superior, and if it is not divine right that grants them that dispensation, it must be their own inherent superiority. This is why is so vital for them to feel smart – and why you see nonsense like signs reading “We believe in science” on the lawns of suburban wine women who contend that Kaden has become Katy through the power of wanting to be a girl. But our current elite, especially the Boomer establishment, was much less smart than it thought, and it has a track record of failure that requires an accounting. Therefore, when an aging Boomer within the upper reaches of the elite passes on, it is worthwhile to examine his life closely. 


Colin Powell is a prime example of that passing generation of the elite and the current crisis of leadership in our country. Many who knew him respected him greatly, and attempts to turn him into a comical failure are as meritless as those who seek to make him an icon. He was a mixed bag, as most of us are – though Washington seems to have more sacks of unmitigated Schiff than anywhere else.

The general died of COVID after, as all the elite-simping people writing the news reports assured us, he had been vaccinated multiple times. They had to get that in – they had to reassure the faithful that the general was no heretic despite his sad end. His passing was noted exactly as one would expect for a mandarin of the elite. The mainstream hailed him; the rebel media pointed out his faults. Predictably, his obituaries put great store in the fact that he was “the first black” whatever, reducing his achievements – and he did have achievements – to a mere accident of birth. Moreover, the repeated reassurances that he had been “fully vaccinated” only served to highlight the lie we were sold that the vaccine was perfect protection.

Powell represents the mixture of good and bad that makes our boomer establishment’s failure so troubling. He performed adequately – decades ago, in Vietnam, and in the Gulf War where soldiers in it (like me) found him a firm and reassuring leader. The guy was brave in battle. He got wounded and he was a competent general. But so was Robert Mueller, except the general part. Lots of the Boomer elite surfed achievements from the sixties all the way in.


Back then, the elite at least had an entry turnstile that was more than just getting some worthless degree from some allegedly prestigious college. Powell stepped on a punji stick, which strikes me as a pretty good qualification for future leadership. Hell, all I got in my deployments was a sunburn and appendicitis. 

But let’s be very clear about Powell’s total failure once he became one of the Washington wise men. He accepted the false WMD narrative and put his prestige behind it. Now, to be fair, I believed it too – I worked in that field during Gulf War 1.0 and understood the capabilities Saddam had then. But it turned out to be baloney a decade later, sparking the disaster that was Gulf War 2.0. From his public actions afterwards, Powell seemed outraged not so much by the war itself than the fact that being caught falsely pushing the meme damaged his credibility.

Powell became a reliably Democrat-voting Republican, the kind CNN would wheel out every election cycle to explain how actual Republicans are terrible. He was beloved in Washington as one of the wisemen because of this; it certainly helped wash off some of the stink of being caught up in the mustard gas fraud. Grimly, at the end, his passing exemplified the worst of the people he thought were the best and enjoyed being one of, with focus on his race and his taking of the vaxx sacrament and a soft-pedaling of his flaws.


Like many luminaries of the Boomer establishment, Powell provided a certain gravity and dignity to an elite rapidly filling up with young, woke, unaccomplished hacks. Though he was firmly on the side of the woke pronoun people by the end, he was not one of them. He picked up a rifle; they picked a gender. Powell was a serious man who found himself allied with unserious people.

But what did Colin Powell have to say to the rest of America? Sorry about the maimings and all the KIAs? He never gave any sense that he understood the forces that pushed Trump into the White House, and why would he? He was a four-star general, then the Secretary of State. These are potentates, and their encounters with the plebs are both rare and uncomfortable. He never had to make a payroll, never worried about the next mortgage payment. He entered the Army and never left the warm embrace of the establishment, whether as a soldier and diplomat in the government or in the quasi-governmental world that followed. So, it was no shock that the rise of Trump was a shock to him.

Powell gave no indication that he had any sense of the betrayals normal Americans felt, of the security stripped from them both economically and culturally by the policies of people like him. After all, the target of their populist anger was the insular ruling caste that he was a huge part of. Instead, it was easier for him to ascribe the rejection of people like him to their knuckle dragging ignorance or, more darkly, their racism. 


But the American people did not reject Colin Powell and his ilk because the American people are bad, but because the elite is so bad at being elite. In DC, they will mourn Powell as a secular saint. In the rest of America, people will shrug.

At least he tried. He was a patriot, even if that fact was overshadowed by his membership in the Boomer establishment. And the generation of the establishment that follows his has already proven to be even worse.

Colin Powell, RIP.

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