Good Things for the New Year 4
There few institutions more intensely meritocratic these days than the Ivy League law schools. The applicant pool of any of those institutions contains perhaps half the people who will be running the country, and the world, a generation later. Those who make it in are awesomely talented. (Full disclosure: I am married to one).
I have found the story of the Clintons' courtship a wonderful tale of knowledge-class romance. Their eyes met in the Yale Law School library. Their first date was a private viewing of the Yale Art Gallery collection, which they earned by picking up the gallery's trash together during a garbage strike. Her Wellesley-graduation-speaker was brought together with his poor-boy/Georgetown/Rhodes-Scholar. A match made in meritocratic heaven.
And now their successors as the great Democratic couple -- and truly possibly as President and First Lady -- are two Harvard Law School graduates. OK, the Obamas did not meet at law school, but rather at a fancy law firm. They nonetheless were winnowed by the sorting machine. His Hawaii-prep-school/Occidental-College/Columbia-University/Harvard-Law-Review was joined to her Princeton (sociology major, by the way)/Harvard Law/Sidley & Austin.
The meritocratic sorting is not confined to Democrats - Chief Justice John Roberts and his wife Jane have an equally impressive dual c.v. Ever since the Ivies started downplaying social credentials and raising the bar on personal achievement in the 1960s, the entire ruling class has been drawn more and more from couples with what David Brooks appreciates as "titanic resumes."
And it is working. To be sure, we will still have powerful people with rough-and-tumble backgrounds, especially in business. And we still have quite a few "gentleman's C" students carried to power by social connections. But the drift of the ruling class, more and more, I think, will be to power couples sorted and brought together by the great American meritocratic schooling machine.