Just the usual insightful deep dive from Codevilla.
By this century’s second decade, the oligarchs who occupy the commanding heights of American life had ceased trying to persuade. Self-government has declined as corporations have wielded public powers with private discretion. America’s ruling class—bipartisan, public and private—grew to disdain the rest of America’s religiosity, patriotism, and tastes. But until our own time, most Americans either had not noticed their loss of status as citizens or assumed that they could vote to regain it. But the rulers inspired no confidence and ruled by pulling rank.
In 2014, Pat Caddell’s study of public opinion, which he titled “We Need Smith,” found that:
Eighty-six percent of all voters believe political leaders are more interested in protecting their power than in doing what’s right for the American people. Eighty-three percent believe the country is run by an alliance of incumbent politicians, media pundits, lobbyists, and other interests for their own gain. Further, 79% believe that powerful interests from Wall Street banks to corporations, unions, and PACs use campaign and lobbying money to rig the system to serve themselves and that they loot the national treasury at the expense of every American. … Ninety-two percent say we must recruit and support for public office more ordinary citizens and fewer professional politicians. Not surprising when you consider that 81% believe both political parties do what’s in it for them rather than fix our nation’s problems.
Such figures bespeak neither conservatism nor liberalism, but widespread alienation and disdain among people who understand themselves to be subjects of a selfish power to which they have no personal connection and that exists beyond their collective control. Hence, in the runup to the 2016 election, the bipartisan ruling class entirely lost control of right-leaning voters and failed to hold on to nearly half of left-leaning ones. Opposed by both parties’ hierarchies, Donald Trump won the presidency more as a social rebel than as any kind of recognizable economic or political conservative, by appealing to people whose personal style and opinions on any number of subjects deviated from what was being presented as “mainstream”—including any number of people who had previously voted for Barack Obama and for Bernie Sanders.
Trump won in 2016 as the candidate who would lead the country class out of the clutches of the ruling class—as a caricature of Caddell’s Mr. Smith. The ruling class—Wall Street, K Street, Washington grifters, the educational establishment, the media, and the corporations—saw the alienation that Trump embodied as the mortal threat that it is to their own power and positions. Unable and unwilling to change their way of governing, or the system of heavily bureaucratized crony capitalism from which they so massively benefit, these people resolved to secure the votes of Blacks, Hispanics, women, and the young by encouraging them to make war on whites, men, and conservatives. “Hate thy neighbor and stick with us!” was their program. Hence the four-year campaign leading up to the 2020 election was all about hating Trump and beating down his voters on the basis of race, sex, the Russians—anything to divert from what the rampant oligarchy was doing to the rest of the country.
Ruling people by insulting and harming them is problematic, and not reversible. The use that the oligarchy made of the COVID epidemic added to insult and injury, as well as to its power, in a manner previously unimaginable. Boldly dismissing without argument the fact that viral infections cannot be stopped from running their course once they have taken root in a population, they asserted that acquiescing to indefinite cessation of social and economic activities they deemed to be nonessential would stop the disease’s progression. The ensuing lockdowns, mask mandates, and other measures made life for most Americans worse in every way. But these strictures also crippled the sectors of American society independent of and resistant to the oligarchy—religious institutions and small businesses. They isolated people and limited what they could hear from and say to each other, leaving them prey to one-way propaganda narratives backed by nightly threats of mob violence.
In the first few months of 2021, it is clear that widespread compliance with institutions and leading personages on which the American system of government has long rested is no longer possible. The oligarchy exercises all earthly powers. Its theophobia dismisses heaven’s. It substitutes “narratives” for truth. Because its members internalized the assumption that reason is simply what Hobbes called a scout for the passions, what Marx said is superstructural to material reality, and what the woke call “logism,” it has placed itself beyond the reach of argument. It can neither admit those it deems deplorable to real citizenship— never mind to society’s commanding heights—nor can it set bounds to the next round of exactions and humiliations that, having ditched persuasion, it must visit upon them.
The deplorables plainly stand no chance of dismantling the new American system. Corporate executives, not legislatures, governors, or presidents are the ones who decide what happens to the trillions of dollars created jointly by the Federal Reserve and Wall Street. They are the ones who regulate speech and attitudes, who for the most part decide who rises and who does not. And they are the part of the oligarchy most insulated from republican institutions.
New laws may be most useful for reviving old ones, such as the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. But the problem lies in a century’s accretion of administrative arrangements, court rulings, and above all, of self-serving practices. Nor would it be possible for these elected officials to restore the republic that was founded in 1776-79, even if an economic recession or act of Providence were to deliver solid electoral victories in the Senate, House, and presidency to a party of the country class (were one to come into being). That is because the republic’s substance withered over a century, and its husk collapsed over the past five years.
In our time, millions of people have grown up or been educated no longer to want or be able to live as citizens of what had been the American republic. Partisans in mind, heart, and habit, their support of the oligarchy’s partisan rule has left the United States with two peoples of opposing character, aspirations, and tastes within its national borders. The government bureaucracies are led by persons selected and habituated against the deplorables. The same can be said of the educational establishment and corporate boardrooms. What sort of dictatorial power would it take to purge them? Were the deplorables to struggle for the partisan power to oppress the others, they would guarantee dysfunction at best, war at worst. That is why it makes most sense for them to assert their own freedom.
That’s a pretty hefty excerpt, but even so we still only get around to the piece’s central theme with that very last sentence. There’s plenty more yet, so you know what you must do, Glasshoppa.