Mathew Continetti has a piece up in The Washington Free Beacon that is interesting for a number of reasons. One is that it is a direct rip-off of Sam Francis without ever mentioning Sam Francis. VDare picked up on that aspect, but they assume it is because Francis was purged back in the early 90’s. Many of the old guys on the Dissident Right still nurse a grudge over it.
My interest here is to point out that Continetti is 34 years old and so the 1990’s were like a long time ago. When Francis was purged, Continetti was 14 and probably more concerned with his new Sega Genesis. In our solipsistic age, there’s what we experienced and then there is the long long time ago, which no one has time to remember. Continetti relies on Newsweek as his source because that’s what he found on-line.
That sounds mean, but it is a strange aspect of our age. The past is mostly imaginary, where emotionally charged events loom large and feel like they happened yesterday. Other events are swept away into the distant past or simply airbrushed out of existence. Still others are invented to confirm current mythologies. The latter habit has become increasingly popular.
The other interesting thing about the piece is it gives some insight into how the establishment is noodling through their Trump problem. Placing him into the line of past failed efforts to topple the accommodationist wing of the political class is probably more comforting than correct.There’s a dismissive tone there suggesting wishful thinking more than hard headed analysis.
To my eyes, Trump is more like an indictment of the political class as a whole, while Perot and Buchanan were mostly about the corruption of the Bush clan. Perot really hated Bush and Buchanan hated what Bush represented. Trump, as far as I can tell, has avoided making it about the GOP establishment or about any of the candidates. He’s just taping into the general unhappiness in the public with the ruling elite.
This incredibly long sentence is also interesting to me:
What Republicans are trying to figure out is not so much how to handle Trump as how to handle his supporters. Ignore or confront? Mock or treat seriously? Insult or persuade? The men and women in the uppermost ranks of the party, who have stood by Trump in the past as he gave them his endorsements and cash, are inclined to condescend to a large portion of the Republican base, to treat base voters’ concerns as unserious, nativist, racist, sexist, anachronistic, or nuts, to apologize for the “crazies” who fail to understand why America can build small cities in Iraq and Afghanistan but not a wall along the southern border, who do not have the education or skills or means to cope when factories move south or abroad, who stare incomprehensibly at the television screen when the media fail to see a “motive” for the Chattanooga shooting, who voted for Perot in ’92 and Buchanan in ’96 and Sarah Palin in ’08 and joined the Tea Party to fight death panels in ’09.
This is incredibly condescending and says more about the writer than his subject. My read is people are cheering Trump because it is a good show and the people moaning are mostly barnacles and parasites. John McCain would be living under a bridge if not for government checks. Most of the people in Conservative Inc. have no marketable skills, beyond the sort of ball washing you see in the political press.
In other words, the Trump surge has nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with the people he upsets. Mathew Continetti can be forgiven for not accepting this reality. He and his coevals in the chattering classes like to think they are tribunes of the people, helping educate the hoi polloi, speaking truth to power and other delusional nonsense. In reality most people detest the media with the intensity of a thousand suns.
The other interesting thing about this is that the commoners are finding out that their masters hate their guts. You see it in the comment section at NRO, which reprinted the article. The glory years of America after WW2 gave Americans a sense that ours is a uniquely egalitarian meritocracy. Finding out that it is no longer that way is tough to swallow so people are understandably ticked off about it.
Since the founding of the country there has always been a tension between egalitarian democracy and aristocratic republicanism. Founders like Jefferson, Adams and Madison talked about liberty, but they certainly did not mean democracy or even social equality. But, the new country needed the support of the Scots-Irish rabble, as well as the Yankee commoners, the result being a republic.
When the balance gets out of whack we see political instability. The growing divide between the ruling elite and the people is throwing off this balance. Charles Murray and Robert Putnam have written about this growing divide. I refer to it as the Cloud People versus the Ground People. Murray and Putnam think all that’s needed is a little tinkering, but history seems to say otherwise. We’ll see.