Yes, there's more than a little of the old nostrums and incantations in the defensive maneuverings of the Old Order. Consider this USA Today column from Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds.
Talking about the yellow-vest movement, French geographer Christophe Guilluy observes: “Immediately, the protesters were denounced as xenophobes, anti-Semites and homophobes. The elites present themselves as anti-fascist and anti-racist, but this is merely a way of defending their class interests. It is the only argument they can muster to defend their status, but it is not working anymore.”Or, to borrow from Patrick Henry, "If this be deplorable, make the most of it!"
That’s right. It’s class war masquerading as something else, but people have seen through the mask.
Understanding this won’t make the conflict less intense, but it might make it clearer what’s really at stake. What’s happening in America is an echo of what’s happening in democracies around the world, and it’s not happening because of Trump. Trump is the symptom of a ruling class that many of the ruled no longer see as serving their interest, and the anti-Trump response is mostly the angry backlash of that class as it sees its position, its perquisites and — perhaps especially — its self-importance threatened.
This time, though, the mouthpieces of the Old Order might be reminded that past performance is no guarantee of future results.
To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.The Best and The Brightest first came a cropper with the Vietnam War and the Great Society, and yet until recently they were mannerly about their attitudes toward the Ruled. More recently, their attitudes began to sour.
The postwar era saw the creation of international institutions ranging from NATO to the United Nations to the World Bank, along with a proliferation of think tanks and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to accompany them. It saw the vast expansion of higher education in the United States, and the transformation of academic degrees into something close to must-haves for the upper-middle class. It saw a great expansion of power on the part of media organizations, and on the part of government bureaucrats and lobbyists, both of whose numbers increased enormously.
The intellectual and artistic set always did regard themselves as a cut above the common herd. Over in Jolly Olde England, the gentry and nobility enforced their own supreme position with a fine sense of social brutality against ambitious interlopers.A commenter to that post notes,
In literature and reportage from last century on back, there will be any number of fictional characters and real people who had less-than-charitable opinions of those below them on the social scale – but such extreme utterances often seemed to be vaguely disapproved of, even if the milder versions were pretty much taken for granted. One does not come away from reading Dickens, Twain, Austen, or mainstream social commentators to the right of raving Marxists with the impression that the ruling and managerial class – such as it was – despised their countrymen and women with a white-hot burning passion; wished them all dead, exiled, or in reeducation camps. They might be contemptuous of the beggarly poor, seeing them as potential criminals – but at least they gave lip-service-respect to the working and middle-class; the backbone of the country, to turn the Victorian phrase. It might have struck us in this century as being unbearably patronizing, but at best – they seemed to appreciate the working and middle-class of their countrymen and women. Still snobbish, condescending, patronizing – but not actively, nastily, freely hostile.
How on earth did this come to pass? I speculate (along with others) that it was because we didn’t do as they ordered. We didn’t vote for the Dowager Empress, we cast doubt on the viability of Obamacare – and going back any number of decades, we declined to live in stack-a-prole city apartment blocks and patronize public transportation, decamping for the suburbs and POVs (privately-owned automobiles), declining the wise and kindly rule of those who deemed themselves our betters.
And there we are. Your thoughts – and what are we to do about a ruling elite which viciously despises the half the country and hasn’t the least shred of reluctance about voicing it?
So, why aren’t the basics of all this ever questioned? Does anyone see any actual evidence that the worldview these so-called “progressives” and “liberals” espouse has done anything to improve any of these situations? Have they fixed anything? Ever?By their fruits ... is anybody surprised that when you deconstruct institutions that work, you might break things?
We ceded control of academia, then educational instruction, and finally the schools to these wonderful, brilliant people. What have we to show for it? What have they improved? What is better, since they’ve had their hands on the tiller?
Everywhere you look, they’ve broken whatever they touched. Our schools now graduate functional illiterates in job lots; the universities produce nothing but inept and unhappy “social activists” who go on to sabotage more and more across society, spouting off theories and mad angry resentful claims of patriarchy and oppression.
But what if the elites get things wrong? What if the policies they promulgate produce grotesque inequality or lead to permanent war? Who then has the authority to disregard the guardians, if not the people themselves? How else will the elites come to recognize their folly and change course?The problem, to this day, is that to be part of the Establishment these days is to hold simultaneously two notions: that elections are a less messy way to transfer power than cannon and bigger battalions, and that elections can sometimes get things wrong. Too many of the Establishment, though, think that displaying the right degrees and showing up on the right shows is still sufficient proof of authority. It isn't. Here's Bill Reader at Sarah Hoyt's place.
Because you, American voter, chose the “wrong answer”. And your elites are here to “educate” that tendency out of you. But first, they need to violate a ton of laws, and take us well into banana republic territory (What else do you call government officials, many from the last administration, rebelling against a duly and legally elected leader and actively fighting everything he does, exactly? Contrary to what the Left likes to say, that is extremely unextraordinary behavior—from Leftists, no less—in those lovely South and Central American countries that are so well run, we need a wall in part to keep their people from coming into the US en masse. What it is not a legitimate part of, is the tradition of Western Democracy.).It's more complicated than that.
Not because they want to, you understand. If you had simply surrendered like good boys and girls and submitted to your rightful masters, they could have done everything they wanted without breaking any laws. It was you, ungrateful peon, who forced them to use extra-legal means to continue upholding the status quo, and only because they are deeply #principled are they continuing to doggedly fight to ensure your rights are abrogated for your own good. And by the way, as with the EU in Brexit, the Left is fighting Trump tooth and nail because he’s threatening their nest egg.
Every pillar of the Western world, it seems, has revealed itself to be infected with an extremely dangerous political class, formed of people who believe implicitly in rule by the enlightened, by the right people, even while mouthing obfuscating lies about “democracy”.It's not just a populist threat from what conventional wisdom calls the Trumpian right, either.
They believe in populism until someone plays the game of populism better. They believe in democracy, the more direct the better, as long as they think they’ll be in power under it. But mostly what they believe in is power.
The rest is window dressing. They are aristocrats in modern suits, and the government changes around them, but they remain the same. They believe in grand, stupid, and impossible visions that benefit them, and actively harm their people, and pursue them to the exclusion of all else. Oh, certainly they are the “new class”.
It’s hard to blame billionaires from wanting to get together and congratulate each other on their smarts (not to mention attend many a party), but our ruling plutocrats also want to be congratulated for their unique virtue while doing so. The idea all but baked into the Davos gathering is that the elite who can afford to attend are among what was once called the best and the brightest, people who by dint of their wealth and their financial accomplishments bring an understanding of important matters, one that exceeds that of most mere mortals and voters.Writers of the Angry Left have their verbal tics, some of which might still have effect, some of which no longer will. There's likely agreement on this score from Bill Reader. "What’s happened in France and is happening in Britain has made me realize that the conflict is fundamentally between normal people who are getting pissed on, and people who sympathize with—and often someday hope to become—the unelected or unremovable power brokers who are pissing on them." What comes next, not so much.
In fact, in many cases, it’s the opposite. Their wealth cuts them off, allowing them their restricted vision, and I mean that literally. A few years back, a behavioral finance study determined that the wealthier people are, the less they look at other people surrounding them as they walk down the street.
Reports on the ground say the men — and they are mostly men — attending Davos are more than a bit depressed. It’s not just that 70 percent marginal tax threat. President Trump is a last-minute no-show, thanks to the partial shutdown of the federal government he initiated and refuses to bring to an end. British Prime Minister Theresa May, still reeling from her Brexit vote defeat last week, isn’t present either. Ditto France’s Emmanuel Macron.
Fears of a global recession are thick on the ground. And then there is another top discussion item, a scolding letter penned by non-attendee Seth Klarman, the head of the Baupost Group hedge fund, who wrote, “It can’t be business as usual amid constant protests, riots, shutdowns and escalating social tensions.”
But somehow — maybe it’s that blinkered vision — the men and occasional woman at Davos mostly fail to see their personal responsibility for all that economic and political unhappiness. They don’t get that there’s a connection between, as Oxfam reported, the wealthiest 1 percent of the world population capturing 82 percent of all wealth created last year, and the increasing unrest.
Reminder: These are the sorts of people who believe the typical worker will be impacted by a tax that begins at $10 million in annual income.
As it turns out, possessing the ability to spend the tens of thousands of dollars that gains you admission to Davos (not to mention paying the absurd prices when there, like ordering a $56 hamburger) means never needing to worry about your role in the problems Klarman described, and the ones keeping the leaders of the United States, Britain and France away. It means you can surround yourself with people who will tell you it’s not your fault that the masses are angry after decades of income stagnation, while the wealthiest continue to make gain after gain. It means you can continue to pontificate about possible solutions for the mess of problems confronting the world order, while somehow exempting yourself from the sacrifice needed to solve them. And it means you don’t need to acknowledge that you are part of the problem, and not likely to be among those to offer a solution.
I pray that somehow, the leaders of America allow the peaceful and existing processes that could allow that to happen to advance unabated. It will take surviving a bitter old guard and defanging a particularly idiotic new guard of Democrats. It will take acknowledging earnestly that whole departments of our government, just like our press, have largely fallen into the hands of people who hate the nation and its people, and re-evaluating our goals on who to elect and what to do in elected office from that perspective.The Never Trumpers who claim to be conservative, and the Silent Generation relics clinging to the Democrat label have common cause against more than one kind of populist, and the fault lines between those populists are present, if not necessarily well defined. Angelo Codevilla explains.
The 2016 election cycle was not about Donald J. Trump. It unfolded as it did because most Americans were seeking desperately to shake off the uniform, bipartisan, progressive class that rules the country unaccountably—a class including most of the bureaucracies of federal and state governments, the judiciary, the educational establishment, the media, as well as major corporate officials that had separated itself socially, morally, and politically from the rest of society. It’s a class that affirms its superior worth by endlessly humiliating other Americans, people who feel good about themselves by deploring, hating, and hurting those they deem their inferiors.That basket has been tipped over.
Trump, for those who voted for him, is neither more nor less than what serves their desires for protection from, and payback to, that class. He was elected not because of anything about himself but because of what his voters expected of him. By the same token, only incidentally is the ruling-class Left’s virulence against Trump. What they truly fear is the Deplorables’ resistance to their rule. Their purpose was and remains to crush the Deplorables’ resistance.
The Deplorables should “learn their lesson,” shut up, and accept subordinate status. In fact, between 2016 and 2019 the country in general and the Deplorables in particular have learned lessons bigger and very different from those the Left intends for them to learn.That sounds a lot like Kurt Schlichter's "Donald Trump is the Establishment's last chance" argument, but apparently the kind of opinion leader who makes the holders of the usual credentials and appears on the usual panels comfortable with their prejudices still has a platform. But Rush Limbaugh isn't having it.
America learned that there is a very large, unmet demand for leadership against the ruling class and a swelling host of ordinary citizens eager to take up political arms in its own defense. Since the law of supply and demand works equally in all human affairs, we can be certain that much talent will devote itself to filling it.
I think what all this is is these people used to think of themselves as the great opinion leaders, opinion makers, and they’re being ignored. They’ve warned everybody for all these years about Trump. They’ve told everybody that Trump’s this kind of reprobate and that, and they can’t get his numbers below 42%! And that’s been their objective, to drive him down to the thirties or twenties and they can’t get it done and they’re frustrated and they’re mad at you for not believing them.That crowd views its credentials and its validation on the usual panels as being anointed, which means that they, and they alone, have a license to hate.
So they’re piling on. They’re adding on. They’re intensifying. And also they’re cowards. “Most of the slurs are voiced by elites, especially politicos, journalists, and celebrities. Perhaps their angst is driven by class—as in how can their own superior logic and reasoning fail to resonate with 63 million voters?”
How come Trump can talk to these people and we can’t? Why do they listen to him and not us? Answer: Well, obviously Trump voters are stupid, hopefully stupid, they’re ignorant, they’re ugly, they’re filthy, they’re dirty, they can’t take care of their own personal hygiene, and now they’re becoming like apes and Nazis! That’s how arrogant this crowd is, plus cowardice.
And all engaged in vicious and cowardly stereotyping of a demographic in a manner that they assumed involved no downside. Rather, the smears were delivered on the expectation of winning approbation from their peers. And they did in twitter-fueled competitions to find the crudest pejoratives.That's not going to end well. R. R. Reno calls for a rebalancing.
For decades race and gender studies academics had argued that overtly expressed racism against whites was not real racism, but could be contextualized by prior white oppression. In the age of furor against Trump, their theories now went off campus and were being adjudicated by a wider constituency—and yet they did not seem to win agreement from the general public. The irony, of course, is that these professionals displayed far less humanity in their crude putdowns about smells, toothlessness and apes than did the targets of their smears.
But the hatred was not confined to the media and politicos, but rather also came from the very top of the Democratic Party. After the election, a defeated Hillary Clinton openly doubled-down on her earlier smear of Trump’s base as deplorables and irredeemables, in recalibrating Barack Obama’s old saw of the white working class as “clingers” who had failed to appreciate his transformative candidacy.
These days, the successful celebrate their superior virtue in matters as trivial as food and as consequential as social justice. Moreover, the successful match their self-praise with vigorous criticisms of the supposed vulgarity of those below them, often to the point of labeling them racists, homophobes, or some other kind of moral criminal.Yes, and the intellectual arguments are flimsy, and the food neither tasty nor filling. I could go on. Go read the essays I've linked and see. Mr Reno reinforces the main point of this post.
The cultural problems we face arise, in part, because our leadership class has been corrupted. It has been indoctrinated into identity politics. This is the mentality of an oligarchy. With the population sliced into slivers of “identity,” citizens can be set against one another. A divided population suits the ruling class. It prevents the many from uniting to challenge the wealth and power of the few. Universities have always been factories of elite conceits about their superiority. That’s why the tower is called ivory. Not surprisingly, the universities are hotbeds of multicultural ideologies that smooth the way for oligarchy.The Wise Experts ... aren't.
Daniel Larison is writing about the foreign policy failures of The Best And The Brightest, and he summarizes the bill of particulars against the Wise Experts more generally.
The violent murder-suicide of the old European empires and its aftermath made up a unique, horrible period in world history. But there is more to history than the wars and the interwar period, and there are more legitimate foreign policy options than mindlessly defending the post-1945 or post-1991 status quo. [Max] Boot complains at the start of his column that there used to an elite consensus on foreign policy. Yes, there was, and that consensus failed because it and its advocates lost almost all of their credibility over the last 20 years of repeated, costly failure. If more and more Americans don’t believe in the myth of the “liberal order” that Boot and the others are repeating, that is because those same people were responsible for leading the U.S. into one debacle after another.Yes, overseas, and at home.
Keep in mind that institutions are emergent.