The old order is breaking down, thanks to Iraq. Katrina. The financial crisis. The failed stimulus. Obamacare’s launch. The Tea Party. Occupy Wall Street. Sanders. Trump. The American people are trying to find a new way, and they are looking for outsiders to lead them through the wasteland.It's an idea I've been following since last summer.
To the establishment, this breakdown looks like chaos. It looks like savagery. It looks like a man with a flamethrowing guitar playing death metal going a hundred miles an hour down Fury Road. But to the American people, it looks like democracy. Something new will replace the old order, and there are a host of smart, young leaders on all sides who must prove they have the capability to figure out how to create or retrofit institutions that can represent and channel this new energy.
Subverting the dominant paradigm and being transgressive isn't for the critical studies people only.
Now comes The American Conservative's Gilbert Sewall, suggesting the same thing.
How could this happen, the nation’s elites are wondering. They still have no idea how their arrogance spawned Trumpism or why someone with so many defects has kept against all odds trending up.Stated briefly, we squandered the peace dividend on experiments against reality.
Fifty years of liberal campaigns to make American society inclusive and “fair” with exacting standards have backfired. The rump of middle-class, salt of the earth, white America realizes it’s been abandoned and humiliated. For the ruling class, connection and concern for flyover America—and for that matter the nation—is tentative or less. Donald Trump is a demagogue made to order for the dispossessed.
Movies, advertisements, lectures, awards, history months, and news stories keep the narrative in motion, shaming anyone who does not openly spurn America’s white, straight middle class that clings to religion, guns, and more.But those prisons -- thus those National Review columns noting the cultural collapse in the hinterlands have some purchase -- can be self-made. Now comes a Washington Examiner report from Wisconsin's dairy country, strongly suggesting that some combination of solid institutions and economic prospects keep some people from imitating the worst features of celebrity culture.
Since Lasch wrote, liberal elites have solidified their public and private institutional control, wielding political power through the Democratic Party. They expect affirmation, not only compliance. On campus, Black Lives Matter, rape culture, curriculum witch-hunts, and a lengthening list of ideological tests overwhelm the pursuit of knowledge and quality. On and off campus, elites with assets and institutional power have the luxury to be high-minded. It is in their interest not to rock diversity’s boat but to steer it instead.
Said Lasch, the new American elites insist on sanitizing society according to their own moral precepts. On one hand, they want to set rules of enlightened thought and interpersonal relations. At the same time, they unwisely seek to “extend the range of personal choice where most people feel the need for solid moral guidelines.”
For America’s winners, compassion is abstract, as Lasch realized. As often as not, up-market altruism is staged to signal virtue and magnanimity. Emotional causes and feel-good politics keep all-important dopamine and self-esteem levels healthy and high.
Yeoman America is not protected or rich enough to be abstractly high-minded. It gets panhandled at the 7-Eleven. It travels Economy Class Group 3. It doesn’t get the scholarships or set-asides. It lives too close for comfort to seedy section 8 neighborhoods. Loose cultural standards and industrial decline have coarsened many who are prisoners of celebrity culture.
In the rural parts of the state, the economy is weaker. More importantly, and related — the culture is crumbling too. Donald Trump says that our country is falling apart, the American Dream is dead, and that a strong national leader is needed to "Make America Great Again."That exaggerates, slightly. I'm not going to ask readers to join me in a chorus of Heil Dir im Siegerkranz, although if you're in the neighborhood, there's Sprecher or Spotted Cow in the cooler, and we practice Prussian Wisconsin Nice at Cold Spring Shops.
The economies are stronger near Milwaukee, as shown by the tiny shopping centers that dot the shore of Lake Michigan north of the city. Also, the culture is stronger. Each of those three counties are below the state average on divorce rates and the rate of disability among the working-age population.
Where social cohesion is stronger, as my colleague Michael Barone has suggested, Trump support is weaker. Upper-middle class suburbs tend to have intact families and good public schools, yielding high social capital — and low Trumpism.
Besides high income and highly educated yuppie parents, there's another way to innoculate a place from Trumpism: To be German or Dutch.
It's not so much the Teutonic roots, it's more the kinship ties and the mediating institutions.
Oostburg is 47 percent Dutch and 38 percent German. The statistics show a strong community — the divorce rate of 4 percent among men is less than half the national average. The disability rate of 4.5 percent among working-age population is also less than half the national average.Institutions are civilization. And the village that does not combine the redeeming features of a hippie commune and a trailer park raises its children, and takes in the immigrants' children, more effectively.
Oostburgers, while modest, don't hide their pride in their community. "What I really like about this community is they stick together," Dan, a mechanic at the nearby dairy and wheat farm tells me at [local cafe] Judi's. "The community really backs their children."
Dan recounts the recent spring concert by Oostburg public schools where his children attend. Both showings were at capacity, because the whole village came, not just parents and grandparents but also neighbors and other locals.
It's not the German or Dutch blood that makes communities like Oostburg so healthy. The churches are essential. They have active missions and ministries that reach out to the needy in their community and out to poorer neighborhoods.