Ruling Class Blues

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the current insurrection is watching the popinjays in the Conservative Establishment writhe in agony at being cast as establishment men. Their utter astonishment at the little people, the hoi polloi, giving them the business about their perfidy and cronyism has been a blast. In the Bush years I developed a healthy dislike for many of the more oleaginous charlatans in the commentariat. My heart feels like an alligator.

A theme around here is that the panic in conservative media is due to the sudden rush of dis-conformation washing over them. For the longest time, they have believed they are the vanguard of a popular revolt against the Progressive establishment. Suddenly, everyone has joined a different revolt, a revolt against them. These putative champions of the people are like the character in the supernatural mystery film that suddenly learns he is the villain.

Here’s an interesting piece on the same theme. I wonder if this guy is a reader.

Once upon a time, in the immediate postwar years, the elites who ran the country’s two major political parties were part of the country’s broader political establishment, which included the owners of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time magazine, the heads of the three national television networks, and the directors of a small number of leading political, cultural, and religious institutions.

This establishment was dominated by an ideology of liberal centrism that one of its key figures famously described as “the vital center.” It fostered, cultivated, and presided over a broad consensus in favor of the New Deal at home and the Cold War containment of communism abroad.

From the beginning, the modern conservative movement thought of itself as an insurrection against the liberal establishment and its representatives at the head of the Republican Party. One of the movement’s formative, galvanizing events was the 1955 founding of National Review by William F. Buckley, Jr. as a place where right-wing intellectuals could work on fashioning an anti-liberal governing ideology. Less than a decade later, the magazine championed the populist candidacy of Barry Goldwater in the hopes that he would depose the reigning liberal consensus and pursue a policy of rolling back both the New Deal and the Soviet Union.

The effort failed. But by the mid-1970s, the movement had been joined by a new group of intellectuals. In addition to uncommonly sharp polemical skills and a training in policy analysis, the formerly liberal neoconservatives brought to the movement an awareness that to succeed it would need foment a counter-establishment, both to help overthrow the liberal establishment and to serve as an alternative to it once an electoral victory had been achieved.

I’d add that the so-called neoconservatives never abandoned their technocratic impulses. They just rejected the dovishness of the New Left, preferring a more muscular response to the Soviets.

This counter-establishment tasted power for the first time with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan 35 years ago, and since then it has grown massively in strength and influence. Today the counter-establishment simply is the conservative and Republican establishment.

And yet, because its ideological outlook was formed when it was out of power, this establishment seems incapable of thinking about itself as an establishment. And so we get the editor of National Review, a regular fixture on TV, saying (presumably with a straight face) that his magazine, which has been closely read among leading members of the Republican Party for decades, isn’t a part of the Republican establishment.

I’ll note that an integral part of Progressive mythology is the struggle. Despite being in charge for close to a century, Progressives still think of themselves as an insurgent minority at war with their oppressive overlords. Elizabeth Warren is worth millions, yet she spends her time in the Senate ranting about the one percent. Her neighbors in the one percent cheer her on. It’s false consciousness.

Another theme around here is that the two sides of the American political elite are two sides of the old Yankee elite. Yankeedom came to dominate America after the Civil War and has occupied the commanding heights ever since. The old Yankee sense of being a soldier of God in a fallen world morphed into a worldview where they are always the heroic underdog of their story. Both sides of the ruling class see themselves as noble warriors fighting the good fight against the ruling class.

13 thoughts on “Ruling Class Blues

  1. re: “the two sides of the old Yankee elite.” The late leftist thinker Carl Oglesby made a different distinction in his “Yankee/Cowboy War” thesis. Although I don’t agree with much of his final conclusion, his analysis of the deep politics in the American System argued that both parties were dominated by different groupings of large moneyed interests, which were in conflict with one another: the Democrats were the seat of banking and finance power centered in the Northeast (Yankees), while the Republicans had become the seat of oil and defense interests centered in the Southwest (Cowboys). With the end of the Cold War, the defense/aerospace industries have lost much of their clout, moving California into the reliably Democratic side of the tally and tilting the balance of power in favor of the Yankees (this is my analysis not, to my knowledge, Oglesby’s). And, if you look at it through this prism, you can also see that the Democrat’s focus on global warming and desire to eliminate fossil fuels, while they are legitimate causes for many, are also an aspect of this war and a means to eliminate the last major power center of the right. Cruz represents adherence to the old Cowboy model, while Trumpism (and, to a lesser degree, Romneyism before it) reflects a surrender by the Right to the power of the Yankee financial power center.

  2. The same thing happened in France in the years leading up to the revolution. Many of those ranting against absolutism and feudalism were those who benefitted from the system, directly or indirectly, while the actual victims of the system merely seethed. They weren’t heard from until the upper middle class and nobility had successfully rebelled against the king. We need to be ready for when our chance comes.

  3. You use the term “Conservative Establishment.” There is no such thing. Do not confuse Republican with Conservative

    • Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, Bill Kristol, Eric Ericson, etc, etc.

      Lookup American Enterprise. It’s a massive nonprofit bullshit tank for Conservative Inc.

  4. You keep using “Conservative Establishment” there is no such thing. Do not confuse Republicans w/Conservatives.

  5. Good one Zman, really good.
    Hell, the cultural marxists are the enemy, that is OK, they are their own worst enemy, but the cucksevatives, their are traitors. That isn’t ok. They are our worst enemies.

  6. Yes, the Republican establishment, like the Progressives, still wants to see itself as a plucky little David standing alone against enormous odds. I swear, they all have a mental image of themselves standing alone, silhouetted against the sky on a vast darkling plain. A few weeks ago Mark Steyn wrote about this Republican delusion: “At an event with Newt Gingrich about a decade ago, one of my neighbors asked why the Republicans were so ineffectual. Newt said it was because they’re still getting used to being the majority party. Somebody responded, “So the Iraqis are supposed to get the hang of self-government after six months, but the Republican Party still can’t manage it after ten years?”

  7. Progressives and neocons both imagine themselves brave souls battling the vested interests. But they are not only not fighting the vested interests (the so-called 1 percent); they aren’t even fighting each other, except over the division of the spoils.

    Neither are they the old Yankee elite, which has simply withdrawn to its estates, spending its days counting its money and hiring people to make more for them. Boston Brahmin types have no need of political avatars, because they know they’ll win either way, whichever pseudo-faction has the upper hand.

    Today’s actual elite is something quite else. It consists of a huge congregation of self-identified minorities and rejects, imagining they are battling prejudice when actually all the prejudice in the media, government, and social standards favors them. Members of these various groups don’t necessarily like or support each other, but some intuitive wisdom whispers “e pluribus unum!” in their ears — persecuted identitarians as a whole make an apparently unstoppable machine. They all get paid off. God help the poor white person who can’t claim outsider/professional victim status and can only look forward to being milked and genocided.

    • I don’t think that’s true at all. The entire reason these people have such power is because a rather large percentage of mankind wants to be ruled.

      • People DO want to be ruled- competently. See “Heaven, Mandate of.” When the people doing the ruling are this precise blend of obnoxious and incompetent, it’s time for a regime change.

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