Behind Closed Doors

Douthat heaps scorn on how both campaigns play to dystopian visions in their pandering to elites (for Republicans, this, of course, means "Atlas Shrugged," while for Dems, it's "one part 'Turner Diaries,' one part 'Handmaid's Tale'"):

What does it say that our politicians, in settings where they’re at least pretending to open up and reveal their true perspective, feel comfortable embracing the most self-serving elite stereotypes about ordinary citizens who vote for the other party? Nothing good, I think. The current American story is one of polarization, with the two major parties sealed into their respective ideological bunkers, and stratification, with an elite that’s more isolated from the common life of the country it rules than at any time in recent history.

However, there's a small difference, he notes:

The way Obama and Romney employed these stereotypes are not actually equivalent. Both behind-closed-door comments were profoundly condescending, but only Romney explicitly wrote off the people he’s describing. 

It's not a small one, it's a huge one. Obama was telling his rich San Francisco Democrats that Republican dominance in the red states was understandable given their recent economic past. He was empathizing, not condemning – a huge distinction. And there was no cynicism, unlike Romney. Public cynicism is political death in America. Dreher merely sighs:

These excellent questions get to the heart of why I am so deeply alienated from both parties. We need a Christopher Lasch party. I keep trying to imagine what the source for this kind of political renewal would be, and I keep coming up blank.