I don't think that's quite a fair assertion to make. Local elected officials' hands are generally tied by policies set at the national and state levels. California is a strong example of this. Someone up above mentioned the extreme imbalance of tax payments made to the federal government vs. returns received. And I have experienced firsthand the enforced impotence of well-meaning school district officials in repairing severely outdated school plants due to positively Byzantine and constantly shifting state funding rules (which are typically rigged to benefit huge districts like Los Angeles). These are but two examples. The social engineering policies that define our society are set at the highest levels, and the power brokers at those levels do indeed come from an elite background or are validated by the elites who control the political and financial machinery. Populists and guys next door can make it to national office, usually in the House of Representatives, but they quickly learn to toe their party's line or be marginalized.
The American republic may have a system vaguely resembling democracy, but it is hardly participatory, and that is where the populist rage you decry comes from. It is especially intensified by the ease of individual interconnectivity that modern information technology enables. As these interconnected individuals come to feel more disempowered, their rhetoric becomes more intense. The same thing happened with liberals under Bush.