Communists have spent 150 years trying to convince us that economic status determines class in modern societies. But most people wouldn't have it- neither the diagnosis, nor the prescription of a dictatorship of the proletariat. We are far more complicated than this reduction to the most basic dimension of existence. We have other identities and values that confer status. Who is classier- Barack Obama, or Donald Trump, who is worth many times more?
This seems to inform our recent election, explaining the attraction Trump held on such a large section of the electorate. A section that has felt scorned by the meritocratic elite that has sprung up over the last couple of generations. The bicoastal, college-educated, Whole Foods shoppers who have taken over the Democratic party, the levers of government, and the media. They are the politically correct libtards who have climbed up the class ladder via its new mechanism of ivy league education, rather than old money or blue blood.
People of the heartland have dutifully sent their children off to college, only to see them indoctrinated into the liberal cosmopolitan ethos and turn their backs as they headed off to the coasts. And what has happened? Working class people have been oppressed by the economic system run by this new elite, which is itself under the thumb of the modern corporation, when it is not a unionized cog of a sclerotic public sector.
The resentment, while fueled by economics, is experienced far more viscerally as cultural, as condescension towards "fly-over" country, the South, Texas, religion, State's rights, and any place not "progressive". Obama's gaffe about people clinging to guns and religion was far more damaging than any policy statement. Was it condescending? Yes. Was it true? Of course. Well, the clingers saw their revenge in Donald Trump, a man clearly of their own class, despite his totally different background (New York!). His very classlessness was a marker of a certain class, and his rude comments about the non-whites, his mafioso bling, his religion as thin as a KKK sheet, were all signs of the right class, one that would take power in a new Jacksonian revolution.
|Andrew Jackson- true populist, not fake populist.|
But a funny thing happened on the way to this supposed populist revolution. It turns out that the Republican coalition, which Trump exemplifies so well, is made up of two classes, not just one. The resentful social clingers are just one part of it. The populous part, but hardly the most powerful. The other part is money. Pure, unadulterated greed. The 1%, and the 0.001% particularly, are the true soul of the conservative movement and Republican party, buying its elections and ordering up its policies. The new administration now has a plutocrat in every henhouse, whose clear goals are to destroy the walls that the government, in its liberal incarnation, has put up against their greed and predation.
These, finally, are the people who exemplify the communist maxim about class being determined by the ownership of the means of production. Despite having all they could wish for, they are defined by their desire to have more. Trump himself lives for the competitive zeal of destroying others, via deals, insults, and bullying. He is also dynastically inclined, grooming his offspring to inherit the empire. Being insecure in their wealth, they also feed endless propaganda about how great they are, how appropriate it is to put the most "successful" people in charge of all affairs, how success in business, or inheritance, betokens public virtue rather than its opposite.
So the test of the new regime, telling us whom it really serves, is coming when they let their money speak, via the budget and tax policies. Will inheritance taxes be eliminated? Who gets the most from the tax cuts? Why destroy the consumer financial protection agency? We know the answers already, and it does not accord in the least with a populist program. Trump has been meeting assiduously with CEOs to ask them what policies they would like, how workers should be treated, and taxes reduced. What can possibly be populist about the outcome? How thoroughly can they entrench a new system, where democracy is fully neutered, in favor of plutocracy?
So, once again, the clingers, true to their social concept of class, are being sold down the river by their comrades in the GOP, whose interests lie precisely in keeping them downtrodden, while throwing an occasional bit of social red meat in their direction, plus plenty of propaganda via the house organs.
In the end, we have three classes in the US, pulling in quite different directions. The downtrodden middle and lower classes, the cosmopolitan liberal middle, and the plutocratic top end. As Hillary Clinton found out, democracy alone isn't enough in the face of an antiquated constitution, shameless opponents, and buckets of money. How the Republican coalition continues to hold in the face of its stark contradictions has long been, and remains, a mystery, especially from the vantage point of California, where that contradiction has doomed it to obscurity. But clearly the social class consciousness of the Republican base is far stronger elsewhere, and can be traded on with what seems like impunity.
- Colleges as class incubators.
- Oh, those out-of-touch technocrats.
- Feelings of white victimhood ... of all things.
- Piracy on Australia: when free markets don't work. "If you decrease your output by half but as a consequence increase your price by a factor of ten, you’re better off decreasing your output."
- Other precedents for Trump.
- Making America great, with BS.
- And lies.
- Swamp draining? More like swamp-a-lago.
- Someone must and will lead on climate change.
- Stiglitz on Trump.
- Black on Arrow: Crime still pays, and economics is not rational.
- Win for inequality- let's repeal fuel efficiency standards!
- Whence Macedonia?
- China rising.
- Everyone deserves a union.
- Wealth distribution is a policy issue, not a technology issue.