Class Traitor

One of the things I’ve often noted is that the above the waterline social commenters scan the fringe for ideas, without ever mentioning the fringe people they were farming for ideas. The most obvious example is how good thinkers on the Right borrow from Steve Sailer whenever they need to write something smart about education or crime. I don’t recall seeing anything that smacks of plagiarism, but I’ve seen lots of stuff that was “inspired by” Sailer.

Anyway, I saw this in my twitter feed and immediately thought of myself and Sailer. I’ve been making the class traitor argument for a while with regards to Trump and Ted Cruz. I don’t think that’s particularly clever of me as it seem obvious. This sense of betrayal was at play with Bush and his overt Christianity. I know Sailer has made the same argument with regards to Trump and it looks like he saw the same story as he has posted about it.

Ross Douthat plays an odd role in the conservative ecosystem. His job, as far as I can tell, is to let the other chattering skulls know what fringe ideas are OK to appropriate without risking the wrath of the Cult. I don’t think it is intentional, more like serendipity. He writes for the NYTimes and he is aware of the alternative writers so he has become a gatekeeper for mainstream conservatives. He also seems to get that and he takes it seriously, but maybe I’m reading too much into it.

This bit got my attention:

This does not mean the two parties are interchangeable, a Republicrat conspiracy against the public. A clash between powerful elites can still be a very real clash, as recent Supreme Court decisions attest.

Nor does it mean that elites always get their way, even where there is bipartisan agreement. If they did, the Simpson-Bowles entitlement plan and comprehensive immigration reform would have passed many years ago.

But it does mean certain ideologies and worldviews get marginalized in national political debate. The libertarian who wants to cut defense spending, the anti-abortion voter who favors a bigger welfare state, the immigration skeptic who wants to keep Social Security exactly as it is … all these voters and many others choose the lesser of two evils every November, because neither party’s leadership has any interest in representing their entire worldview.

Guys like Douthat venture to the fringes of the media reservation, but they never wander far from the perimeter. They can’t as that inevitably means they get proscribed and sent to Sailer’s basement. They fear that more than anything because there’s no rehabilitation for managerial class heretics. Once you turn on your own, they lead you to the edge of the compound and slam the gates behind you. You’re effectively dead.

In this case, it means repeating the company line about there being real differences between the parties. The reality is our parties are just two versions of the consensus of the ruling elite The rich give to both parties equally. More important, they fund the media wings of both parties. Ironically, Trump has talked about this when asked about his political contributions. He buys pols from both parties just to be prudent.

At the end, Douthat repeats something I’ve been writing about here for a while making me think he is a reader.

and he’s coming at all these issues, crucially, from a vantage point of privilege — which his critics keep highlighting as though it discredits him, when in reality it lends his populism a deeper credibility. He’s the Acela Corridor billionaire (albeit tackier than most) who promises to reveal what the elites are really up to, the crony capitalist who can tell you just how corrupt D.C. really is, the financier who’ll tell you that high finance can afford higher taxes. It’s precisely because he isn’t a blue collar outsider that he may seem like a credible change agent: Because he knows Wall Street, and because he doesn’t need its money to campaign, it seems like he could actually fight his fellow elites and win.

He won’t, of course, but it matters a great deal how he loses. In a healthy two-party system, the G.O.P. would treat Trump’s strange success as evidence that the party’s basic orientation may need to change substantially, so that it looks less like a tool of moneyed interests and more like a vehicle for middle American discontent.

In an unhealthy system, the kind I suspect we inhabit, the Republicans will find a way to crush Trump without adapting to his message. In which case the pressure the Donald has tapped will continue to build — and when it bursts, the G.O.P. as we know it may go with it.

Since the founding, America’s party system has been two parties representing broad cultural and economic coalitions. The two parties jostle over building the majority coalition, with spells of Yankeedom trying to impose its communitarian culture on the rest of he country. Otherwise, the parties are coalitions representing the broad political consensus, one left of center and one right of center, but both very close to the center.

What’s happened in the last 25 years is something new in that one party has become an ideological party and both parties now represent the interests of the global elite. This works well for the Democrats because they have always been about the top and bottom versus the middle. Now they are just an explicitly ideological version of that old leftist strategy, financed by the super rich, buying grace on the cheap.

The Republicans are trying to figure out how to exist in this new arrangement. Their success in 2010 and 2014 is entirely due to the middle class having no alternative. That’s why the big fight is happening on that side. The American middle class is sensibly rejecting the dreary technocrats offered up by the party, giving Trump the opportunity to be the leader of a revolt that I doubt he understands.

There’s a lot wrong with his piece, but the fact is he has green lighted a discussion of the contextual issues regarding the Trump phenomenon. So far “conservative” writers have been limited to calling Trump a Nazi over and over because they were afraid to mention the dreary awfulness of the GOP. My guess is we will see discussion of this reality in the media.

9 thoughts on “Class Traitor

  1. Trump is “the leader of a revolt that I doubt he understands.”

    Well said. But then, I suppose few of his many supporters understand it either. This whole Trump business is really about the way the elites have made people feel for decades, not about what anyone thinks.

    Come to think of it, it’s just possible Trump may have a pretty good understanding after all. He turns any interview, debate, discussion into a one-way conversation on topics which Americans feel strongly about. No thoughts, no ideology, just feelings.

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  3. Every age views itself as unique, special, enlightened. But the melody lingers on. All societies tend to oligarchy. Oligarchies become insular. They don’t see the ground shifting beneath their feet.

    The revolution, be it bloody or by the ballot box, is never orderly nor coherent. The manifesto is, by nature, radical and seldom survives intact. The lucky few, the United States being the prime example, maintain continuity – but the new order is always a surprise.

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  5. Trump “towers” over Bush and the rest of the field. It looks like boys trying to play against a man. I know, I know Trump is (fill in the blank) but still…….. Trump is saying what is on the minds of many Americans – albeit in a voice that is, well, bombastic and sometimes incoherent but he is saying it. The points in his immigration manifesto resonate with citizens who have been left behind in the rush to embrace “dreamers” of every stripe. The silent majority is being voiced by the loud renegade. I kind of like it.

    • I was in a bar outside of Boston when Trump was visiting Norwood Mass this weekend. The whole place was glued to the TV’s. I was quite surprised by it, but I suspect a fair number of the people were not fans, just curious of the spectacle. One of the people with me does not vote, but registered so he can vote for Trump. He’s a guy who I’d put down as indifferent to social issues, but very patriotic. Former soldier, small businessman, family guy. Gave up on politics a long time ago thinking it did not matter. I don’t think immigration resonates with him at all. It’s just the raw patriotism. My friend think it’s time to shake things up and get the country back on track.

  6. “Because he knows Wall Street, and because he doesn’t need its money to campaign, it seems like he could actually fight his fellow elites and win. He won’t, of course, but it matters a great deal how he loses.”

    This is an example of the smugness that makes normal people hate the elites. My immediate reaction was to hope fervently that Trump wins. He’ll probably be co-opted once he’s in the White House, but the shock waves rippling through elitesville from election day to inauguration day would be a joy to watch.

  7. I would never have thunk Trump or even the Republican party. But he’s the horse, I don’t think he’s crazy or bad, so I guess we better ride him. It will be fun and the possible upside is big, downside small.

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