Kevin Williamson has gone on another one of his famous rants.
“There are not many contemporary phenomena that have one-word explanations, and even fewer that have one-word explanations that are not “gravity” or “whiskey.” But if you want a one-word explanation for the ugly, stupid, vicious populism that has overtaken our politics, try this one: meritocracy.
It should not surprise us that the people at the top believe very strongly in meritocracy. The well-off already enjoy the best of everything, and the feeling of virtue is one more exclusive pleasure for elite consumption. It is not enough to settle into a nice first-class seat and enjoy a glass of champagne — for the most exquisite satisfaction, one must also feel that one deserves it. …
In fact, the populist Left and the populist Right tell more or less the same story, rehearsing more or less the same complaints: Big business, especially multinational business, is against them, as are big money, big media, and big institutions of most kinds. Each side believes that it is the plucky representative of We the People, set upon from all directions by the vampires of profit, globalization, and capital. Each sides believes it lost a critical presidential election because of hostile actors in Silicon Valley and shadowy forces in the federal bureaucracy, assisted by a malevolent media. …”
It is worth asking though: what are the populists so angry about it?
If I could sum it up in one sentence, it is the fact that cultural, economic and political power has been systematically redistributed from the vast majority of the American people and has flown upwards where it has been concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite which has seceded from the rest of the country and which demands deference in spite of its loss of legitimacy. This disconnect between the ruling class and the governed combined with the perception of incompetence and unaccountability, immiseration and the memory of better times in a country which used to be a democracy is the source of populism.