In Politico, Ben Schreckinger writes on “The Death of the WASP,” an article that probably hasn’t been written in, oh, a year or so.
It’s an ignoble end for a proud people. Once upon a time, climbing to the top of New England politics practically required membership in a mainline Protestant church, the remnants of an old shipping, banking or textile fortune, and your family’s name on either a nearby town or a building at the local Ivy League campus, preferably both (as in the Lowells, the namesakes of the Massachusetts municipality and the Harvard hall, among many other things). As Richard Brookhiser wrote in his 1990 book The Way of the WASP, “They wrote the rules; everyone else played by them.”
If you were to really track the declining influence of WASPs in American politics, this phenomenon has been a long time happening; I’d trace it back to the election of JFK (Henry Cabot Lodge to Vietnam—off you go!) and the discrediting of the best and the brightest in that war. Who was the last influential WASP in politics that you can think of? (Bill Weld, maybe?)
This does point up an interesting thing about web-based journalism, though. Ben Schreckinger, from what I can tell, appears to be about 25. Now, I’m all for young journalists, and I don’t want to sound like a defensive old guy when I write this, and a web search suggests that Ben Schreckinger is a talented guy with a great future. But because of the economics of web journalism—it makes little to no money, so the people who do it are poorly paid young people—the journalists involve tend to be young, and don’t have a great sense of history….