The New York Times op-ed page gets one right. Let’s just say a stopped clock….
The story cannot be told without first referring to Angelo Codevilla. Codevilla, writing before Trump’s election victory, suggests that there is no more republic; there are only stakeholders and subjects. From this, nothing good can come:
We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end. Our ruling class’s malfeasance, combined with insult, brought it about. Donald Trump did not cause it and is by no means its ultimate manifestation. Regardless of who wins in 2016, this revolution’s sentiments will grow in volume and intensity, and are sure to empower politicians likely to make Americans nostalgic for Donald Trump’s moderation.
In an op-ed completely mis-titled “The Coming War on Business,” David Brooks identifies the reasons for the fracturing of the American body politic. I suspect it is mis-titled, because the Times doesn’t really want this op-ed to be found.
Brooks is describing work done by Sam Francis at The Washington Times in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He cites three key insights hammered home by Francis and used as the foundation of Pat Buchanan’s run in 1992:
The first was that globalization was screwing Middle America.
A sentiment captured perfectly by Trump during his campaign.
His second insight was that the Republican and conservative establishment did not understand what was happening.
Twenty-four years later, nothing had changed. But it is his third insight that is also to be found in Codevilla:
His third insight was that politics was no longer about left versus right. Instead, a series of smaller conflicts — religious versus secular, nationalist versus globalist, white versus nonwhite — were all merging into a larger polarity, ruling class versus Middle America.
As Codevilla noted: there are only stakeholders and subjects. Citing Francis:
“Middle American groups are more and more coming to perceive their exploitation at the hands of the dominant elites.”
The mood disappeared for a time – perhaps booming stock markets of the 1990s and booming housing markets of the early 2000s. Codevilla sees the financial crisis of 2008 as the fuel that lit (or, in reality, re-lit) the fire:
The ruling class’s united front in response to the 2008 financial crisis had ignited the Tea Party’s call for adherence to the Constitution…
And this is why I saw Trump’s success as a continuation of Ron Paul’s campaign – albeit without the policy integrity, personal class, or intellectual foundation.
Francis wrote in 1996 of Buchanan’s reference to the culture wars of the time; I recall Codevilla suggesting that when we were told that a man had the right to use a women’s restroom that this was a bridge too far.
There was a racist streak to Francis, apparently. Of course, Trump is painted with the same brush. I read once something like: not every Trump supporter is a racist, but every racist is a Trump supporter. The first part isn’t held to be true by non-Trump supporters; the last part ignores, apparently, non-white racists. But anyway, you get the idea.
Brooks, like Codevilla, also sees that Trump isn’t the end, but the continuation of a movement that will not die with Trump’s time in office:
Trump is nominally pro-business. The next populism will probably take his ethnic nationalism and add an anti-corporate, anti-tech layer. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple stand for everything Francis hated — economically, culturally, demographically and nationalistically.
As the tech behemoths intrude more deeply into daily life and our very minds, they will become a defining issue in American politics. It wouldn’t surprise me if a new demagogue emerged, one that is even more pure Francis.