May 15, 2010

Bulworth was right, the world has changed. And yeah, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel to make fun of people like this. But let's just say that their familiar way of life is dying, and leave it at that:

On a recent morning at the Links Club, New York's wood-paneled preserve of the old banking elite, a small crowd of white-haired members gathered for breakfast.

The talk around the tables, over poached eggs and toast, was of Europe and sovereign-debt markets. Some were quietly negotiating deals. The crowd was mostly older, though it included a smattering of 40-something and 50-something members.

While undeniably upper-crust, the scene, which included a Latin American and an Asian, was a far cry from the Links Club of 20 years ago, when doing business was forbidden and the strictly homogenous crowd of Protestant blue-bloods spent their mornings comparing golf scores and vacation homes.

"It's changed with the times," said one former member. "That's both our gain and our loss."

In the long downward spiral of what used to be known as America's Protestant Establishment, there have been several momentous milestones: Harvard's opening up its admissions policies after World War II. Corporate America's rush in the 1980s to bring more diversity to the corner office. Barack Obama's inauguration as the first African-American president.

History may reveal another milestone—Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. If she is confirmed, the nation's nine most powerful judges will all be Catholic or Jewish, leaving the court without a Protestant member for the first time.

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