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Why don’t you just come out once and scream it?


A little while ago, I asked a made man where I could find the Trump intellectuals, and he directed me to the Claremont Institute, which he described as a group of West Coast Straussians (I was told there’s a big difference between the West Coast and East Coast Straussians).

I dipped a tentative toe in those waters, and found this essay by Angelo Codevilla, diagnosing the nation’s current “cold civil war.”

The government apparatus identifies with the ruling class’s interests, proclivities, and tastes, and almost unanimously with the Democratic Party. As it uses government power to press those interests, proclivities, and tastes upon the ruled, it acts as a partisan state. This party state’s political objective is to delegitimize not so much the politicians who champion the ruled from time to time, but the ruled themselves. Ever since Woodrow Wilson nearly a century and a half ago at Princeton, colleges have taught that ordinary Americans are rightly ruled by experts because they are incapable of governing themselves. Millions of graduates have identified themselves as the personifiers of expertise and believe themselves entitled to rule. Their practical definition of discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, etc., is neither more nor less than anyone’s reluctance to bow to them. It’s personal.

On the other side, some two thirds of regular Americans chafe at insults from on high and believe that “the system” is rigged against them and, hence, illegitimate—that elected and appointed officials, plus the courts, business leaders, and educators are leading the country in the wrong direction. The non-elites blame the elites for corruptly ruling us against our will, for impoverishing us, for getting us into wars and losing them. Many demand payback—with interest.

Like many a master of the prophetic essayistic gesture, Codevilla doesn’t deign to descend into the realm of quotidian concepts such as definitions or evidence, but I gather the “ruling class” here consists of college graduates, while the “ruled” is made up of everybody else — at least that definition tracks his one-third/two-third demographic split. (A side note: I thought Straussians really hated democracy?).

The problem is that the ruled, despite their numerical supremacy, keep getting their desires thwarted by the ruling class:

In 2016 the electorate, following the pattern it had set in 2010 and 2014 (and even in 2012, except for the presidential election), voted Republican to show its desire to reduce government’s intrusion in American life, to get out from under the ruling class’s socio-economic agenda and political correctness. But the Republican leadership did not and does not share the electorate’s concerns. Cycle after cycle, Americans who vote to “throw the rascals out” get ever more unaccountable rules piled on by the same unelected bureaucrats; and even modest attempts to hold back capillary intrusion into their lives get invalidated by the same judges. They come to believe that the system is rigged. In short, they want to drain the swamp.

This analysis omits to mention that the Democrat has gotten more votes than the Republican in every presidential election but one after 1988, the massive anti-democratic effects of House gerrymandering, the deeply undemocratic structure of the Senate etc., but moving right along:

The events preceding the Civil War, which killed some 10% of military-age American men, may offer some guidance. The conflict loomed for 30 years because Northerners and Southerners wanted to impose their views about slavery, the tariff, and much else on the other.  . . .

By 1858, America had become a “house divided” by a cold civil war that, Lincoln warned, would lead eventually to total victory for one side or the other. Lincoln left no doubt which side he wanted to prevail. But, until the firing on Fort Sumter left him no other option, he focused on cooling the conflict. He would send no obnoxious officials to the South—effectively agreeing to at least temporary nullification of federal law—though he made clear he would defend federal forts and arsenals in the South. He would faithfully enforce the fugitive slave law in the North, and even consider a constitutional amendment specifically protecting slavery where it existed. He believed that, so long as slavery was not allowed to expand into the territories, regardless of what the Southern states did within their boundaries, the best features of diverse America would triumph in the end.

To this extent, Lincoln was following the standard American way of getting along with people with whom one disagrees.

The key to understanding the reactionary political wave that has swept across America is that only white people count.  This is not hyperbole: whether this view is expressed by a “Fuck Your Feelings” t-shirt at a Trump rally, or in the dulcet prose of a Claremont Institute scholar, the message is the same.  This view is so deeply imbedded in the psyches of the leaders of reactionary backlash politics that even the humble rules of simple arithmetic are swept away:

The overwhelming majority of non-white voters without college degrees — by a margin of nearly four to one — voted for Clinton rather than Trump. Indeed non-white voters without college degrees were even less likely to vote for Trump than non-white voters with degrees.

So where are all these people, whose political preferences and very existence completely demolish Codevilla’s analysis? They are in exactly the same space occupied by the black residents of the antebellum South, when Codevilla ponders why Americans [sic] couldn’t just get along, while gradually, decorously, and above all civilly working through disagreement on questions like whether it was acceptable to continue to hold millions of men, women, and children in slavery.

As the storks flew northward the Negroes were marching southward–a long, dusty column, infantry, screw-gun batteries and then more  infantry, four or five thousand men in all, winding up the road with a clumping of boots and a clatter of iron wheels.

They were Senegalese, the blackest Negroes in Africa, so black that sometimes it is difficult to see whereabouts on their necks the hair begins. Their splendid bodies were hidden in reach-me-down khaki uniforms, their feet squashed into boots that looked like blocks of wood, and every tin hat seemed to be a couple of sizes too small. It was very hot and the men had marched a long way. They slumped under the weight of their packs and the curiously sensitive black faces were glistening with sweat.

As they went past a tall, very young Negro turned and caught my eye. But the look he gave me was not in the least the kind of look you might expect. Not hostile, not contemptuous, not sullen, not even inquisitive. It was the shy, wide-eyed Negro look, which actually is a look of profound respect. I saw how it was. This wretched boy, who is a French citizen and has therefore been dragged from the forest to scrub floors and catch syphilis in garrison towns, actually has feelings of reverence before a white skin. He has been taught that the white race are his masters, and he still believes it.

But there is one thought which every white man (and in this connection it doesn’t matter twopence if he calls himself a Socialist) thinks when he sees a black army marching past. “How much longer can we go on kidding these people? How long before they tum their guns in the other direction?”

It was curious, really. Every white man there has this thought stowed somewhere or other in his mind. I had it, so had the other onlookers, so had the officers on their sweating chargers and the white NCOs marching in the ranks. It was a kind of secret which we all knew and were too clever to tell . . .

George Orwell (1939)



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