This is the perverse logic of meritocracy. Once a system grows sufficiently complex, it doesn't matter how badly our best and brightest foul things up. Every crisis increases their authority, because they seem to be the only ones who understand the system well enough to fix it.
But their fixes tend to make the system even more complex and centralized, and more vulnerable to the next national-security surprise, the next natural disaster, the next economic crisis. Which is why, despite all the populist backlash and all the promises from Washington, this isn't the end of the "too big to fail" era. It's the beginning.
Well, when the ruling class faces populist opposition, it certainly does not react by saying, "Oh, gosh, we are messing up and losing support, so we had better back off a bit here." Instead, they become convinced that the opposition, is extremist, unserious, and all the rest.
Our rulers are like temperamental children over whom we have lost control. When we criticize them, they become even more insecure and more temperamental.
Douthat seems to believe that in a deep sense, the Tea Party movement can never win.