populism

Being an unhappy warrior

To burn it down, or not burn it down–that is the question. And increasingly, against my better nature, I’m starting to think the answer is incendiarism.

Why my flirtation with unbridled anger? It’s simple, really: Elite contempt for the hoi polloi has reached a fever pitch. Consider events over the past few weeks.

After much hand-wringing, the Brexit vote failed to topple the world economy. But that hasn’t stopped the elites from expressing their disdain over the little people taking back their borders. In a scathing piece for Foreign Policy titled “It’s Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses,” writer James Traub openly calls for the crushing of the working class. “One of the most brazen features of the Brexit vote was the utter repudiation of the bankers and economists and Western heads of state who warned voters against the dangers of a split with the European Union,” Traub, the son of the former chairman of Bloomingdale’s, says sorrowfully.

Emily Badger of The Washington Post concurs, writing “Brexit is a reminder that some things just shouldn’t be decided by referendum.” Columnists and opiners in a variety of publications have taken turns denouncing the small-minded Leave voters, each employing clever metaphors to say the same thing: The people are too stupid for politics.

The contempt is not dissimilar to the bitchfest that is Trump opposition. Not content to take potshots at Teflon Donald, some smug critics have taken to excoriating his pea-brained supporters. Jonathan Chait of New York magazine explained Trump phenomenology by surmising, “The Republican Party turns out to be filled with idiots. Far more of them than anybody expected.” National Review’s Kevin Williamson infamously referred to wage-class Trumpites as white trash so trashy it doesn’t deserve to be picked up. “The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible,” he pronounced, with the grace of a utilitarian Maoist.

And you wonder why middle-of-the-road Americans are so damn angry. In the face of such open mockery, why shouldn’t they be? The coastal high-earners take great pleasure in ridiculing Flyover country, which is largely comprised of red state Bible-believers.

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The importance of gatekeepers

Blogger Andrew Sullivan is back, and his latest offering in New York magazine is a doozy. Here’s a quick (and predictable) synopsis: Donald Trump is an existential threat to the American system of constitutional order.

Trump Derangement Syndrome gets tiring, even from a sharp guy like Sullivan. But T-Man Sully does get one thing right about the Donald and our fragile Republic. Citing Plato, he argues that the populist swell that propelled Trump to the GOP nomination is a real danger to something our country is losing supply of: legitimate authority.

I know what you’re thinking: Talk of “legitimate authority” usually comes from puritan witch-burners or Stalinists. It’s true that if taken too far, authority can corrupt. But as sociologist Philip Rieff wrote in his book The Triumph of the Therapeutic, the culture before our modern era “was embedded in a consensus of ‘shalt nots.’” The America of yesteryear had “creedal hedges” in place around “impulses of independence or autonomy” that detracted from “communal purpose.” Our country used to have a shared set of standards regarding sexuality, religion, race, and working life. It wasn’t perfect; but at least it kept grown men out of the little girls’ room.

Those informal limits are long gone. Explanations are legion for the collapse; yet one factor in particular stands out: A lack of gatekeepers on truth and knowledge.

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A response to Leon Wolf re: Donald Trump

Ever since Donald Trump decided to upend the Republican Establishment with his presidential run, the pusillanimous underbelly of the political elites has been on full display.

Acela Corridor talking heads despise the Donald. Liberals hate his courting of the poor working class. Conservative intellectuals dismiss him as a showman hypocrite without principle.

It’s all great fun to watch. Donald Trump had topped the Republican primary polls for three months straight, and show no signs of slowing down. Political know-it-alls are baffled by his success. Trump is everything they resent: rich, white, successful, straight-talkin’, and politically-incorrect.

Even professional right-leaning commentators are beginning to wonder how the Reign of Trump ends. Leon Wolf, the newly-annointed editor of RedState.com, is no Trump acolyte. He doesn’t believe the Donald is “a conservative in any meaningful sense of the word” and questions whether the businessman “believes literally anything.” Like most Republican faithful, he’s getting tired of The Apprentice: White House Edition, and wants GOP primary voters to settle on a “serious” candidate.

He poses this question to readers: “Is there anything Trump might do or say that would cause you to stop supporting him?”

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