A reader has drawn my attention to this article by Julius Krein in American Affairs.
“Since at least 2016, the divide between the “working class” and the “elite” has been considered a defining issue in American (and Western) politics. This divide has been defined in occupational terms (“blue collar” versus “information workers”), geographic terms (rural and exurban regions versus major urban cores), and meritocratic terms (non-college-educated versus those with elite credentials). Occasionally, it is given an explicitly moral connotation (“somewheres” versus “anywheres,” “deplorables” versus “cosmopolitans”). All of these glosses effectively track basic economic categories: those who are seen to have enjoyed success in recent decades and those who have been “left behind.”
Like most clichés, this one contains elements of truth. The working class has experienced economic stagnation and precarity, and even declining life expectancy in the United States, as well as lower family stability and civic engagement. Social mobility has declined, while inequality has widened.
But it is precisely for these reasons that the working class is unlikely to be decisive in shaping politics for the foreseeable future. However one defines the working class, it has scarcely any political agency in the current system and no apparent means for acquiring any. At most, working-class voters can cast their ballots for an “unacceptable” candidate, but they can exercise no influence on policy formation or agency personnel, much less on governance areas that have been transferred to technocratic bodies. In countries like France, the working class might still be able to veto certain policies through public demonstrations, but such actions seem unlikely in the United States, and even the most heroic efforts of this kind show little prospect of achieving systemic reforms. …”
The strangest thing about liberal democracy is how we live under the illusion of democracy. The White working class has ZERO political power in the United States. Sure, it can still vote in primaries and national elections which are little more than personality contests, but there is no connection between the political process and public policy anymore.
There is no actual democracy in our system. There is only liberalism. The politicians will make token gestures to public sentiment by filing bills which they know will get torpedoed by federal judges. Ted Cruz, for example, has mastered the art of grandstanding. The actual policy agenda is auctioned to the donor class. There are two agendas in our system. There is the agenda that is for public consumption that is designed to get out the vote in elections and then there is the real agenda which is quietly passed by Congress after all the noise of election season is over.
Look at what Donald Trump and the GOP ran on in the 2016 and 2018 elections. Then look at what was done over the last three years. The same is true on the Democratic side.
“Initially, the new conservative apparatus was fairly successful. But institutions built on ideological conformity inevitably tend to ossify. They also tend to be populated by mediocrities who are only there because they cannot make it into the top-tier institutions. After the rest of the professional class decamped to the Democrats, this husk was all that remained of the politically active professional elite on the right. The conservative institutions became as detached and self-referential as the “postmodern” academy they criticize, and they long ago ceased to have any significant influence on broader elite discourse. Today, their main offering to new recruits is the chance to someday apply for affirmative action for conservatives.37 The result is a highly stratified and largely dysfunctional Republican Party: a few billionaires and corporate interests (mainly those who cannot fit into the more attractive progressive neoliberal program) pay their second-rate propagandists to offer a discredited and incoherent policy agenda to an increasingly disaffected voter base.
From the Republican establishment’s perspective, however, this weakness is also its strength. By repelling all professional elites except those content to be sinecurists of relatively unsavory donors, the conservative new class minimizes any internal threats to its survival, and the donors maintain total control over the party. The voters may openly despise their own party’s “establishment”; they may begin voting for “unacceptable” candidates and causes; yet, ultimately, they cannot set policy priorities or provide government personnel. If more elite professionals remained in the Republican Party, they might take advantage of voter discontent to challenge the billionaires and replace the entire decrepit apparatus. They would likely find that task much easier on the right than it is in the Democratic Party.
As it stands, however, the conservative movement can continue to lurch on as a zombified superstructure. If nothing else, it still unconsciously serves an important purpose: advancing the interests of, while providing a useful foil for, the more important billionaires in the Democratic Party. …”
This is very close to our take.
There are a tiny handful of billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus and Charles Koch who control the mainstream Right. They buy the policy agenda which is why the GOP did nothing in 2019 except promote the idea of Jexodus and accuse Democrats of being the real anti-Semites. There was no movement on anything else except the failed coup in Venezuela.
Conservatism, Inc. is the class of butt goys who serve the interests of the donors. They are the keepers of the flame of True Conservatism. Their job is to manufacture and mold public opinion, control, channel and police discourse in such a way that it advances the interests of the donors. These are the shills and hacks like Brad Polumbo and Charlie Kirk who are currently redefining conservatism to include homosexuality or Tiana Lowe who defends social media censorship or David French and Sohrab Ahmari who are also in the club due to their fealty to Israel.
Below the largely Jewish or libertarian-leaning donor class and Conservatism, Inc. are millions of people who are angry about losing their country and the rot that is spreading like cancer through their communities whether it is the opioid overdoses, radical gender ideology, the gig economy jobs, illegal immigration, student loans, crime, etc. The goal of Conservatism, Inc. is to harness their anger and exploit those people to push through the Zionist and financial agenda of the donors. This is why you see the shills say that populism has to be “tethered” to mainstream conservatism. They need those people to cut the corporate tax rate and to deregulate the economy for the investor class and of course to continue Israel’s winning streak.
If too many people in the conservative base get notions and go off the reservation, it would spell disaster for the donor class. This is why the greatest threat to Conservatism, Inc. are the people who for various reasons are not on the reservation. Some of those people are genuinely crazy and are always on the fringe in any society. Lots of them are independent thinkers who are unwilling to conform their lives to the -isms and -phobias and don’t believe in the ideology that is retailed by the shills and hacks. There is no reason to believe in it because it is utterly implausible. Far more of them are dissidents who are unwilling to be bought and hate the corruption.
The mainstream Right is incapable of delivering anything that its base wants. It is rewarded with power because it presents itself as the alternative to the Democrats who are worse. Then it uses power of democratic mandates to do all the things the donors want. Meanwhile, the grievances of the base are left to fester unaddressed and the anger and pressure builds and “radicalization” sets in and metastasizes as the credibility and the legitimacy of the conservative shills erodes.
It’s a long term crisis for them, but an emerging market opportunity for political outsiders and truth tellers. We have a bright future ahead of us in the 2020s and 2030s.