What he said

January 16, 2019

Donald Trump is a symptom of a new kind of class warfare raging at home and abroad

But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements.  And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.

The postwar era saw the creation of international institutions ranging from NATO to the United Nations to the World Bank, along with a proliferation of think tanks and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to accompany them. It saw the vast expansion of higher education in the United States, and the transformation of academic degrees into something close to must-haves for the upper-middle class. It saw a great expansion of power on the part of media organizations, and on the part of government bureaucrats and lobbyists, both of whose numbers increased enormously.

But after the turn of the millennium, other Americans, much like the workers and peasants in the old Soviet Union, started to notice that while the New Class was doing quite well (America’s richest counties now surround Washington, D.C.), things weren’t going so well for them. And what made it more upsetting was that — while the Soviet Union’s apparatchiks at least pretended to like the workers and peasants — members of America’s ruling class seemed to view ordinary Americans with something like contempt, using terms such as “bitter clingers,” “deplorables” and flyover people.

I think this is exactly right. There’s a lot I don’t like about Donald Trump, but he has spoken for and to people who our economy and culture have been leaving behind. Until those of us with good educations and urban lifestyles learn some humility and develop some respect for the people not like us, things will only get worse.

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