Ross Douthat has a new article on the great divide in Western politics.
“A great and mostly unknown prophet of our time is Michael Young, whose book “The Rise of the Meritocracy,” published way back in 1958, both coined the term in its title and predicted, in its fictional vision of the 21st century, meritocracy’s unhappy destination: not the serene rule of the deserving and talented, but a society where a ruling class selected for intelligence but defined by arrogance and insularity faces a roiling populism whose grievances shift but whose anger at the new class order is a constant.
This year it’s Canada’s turn to live inside Young’s somewhat dystopian scenario, set in the 2030s but here ahead of schedule. On one side of the trucker protests you have Justin Trudeau, a condensed symbol of meritocracy-blurring-into-aristocracy — with degrees from two of Canada’s three best universities, but also the pedigree of being Pierre Trudeau’s son — and behind him a Canadian establishment that has followed public-health advice on Covid more closely than the United States, imposing more stringent restrictions throughout the pandemic.
Then on the other side you have the truckers and their allies: A complex mix of forces in the style of France’s gilets jaunes, organized in part by right-wingers but inclusive of all kinds of characters and ideas, defined by an exhaustion with pandemic restrictions and a strong connection to the physical portion of the economy, the part that relies on brawn and savvy, not just the manipulation of words and symbols on a screen. …
Still, once you recognize the divisions that Young prophesied, you see them in some form all over, as a novel class war that constantly raises the old question: Which side are you on? …”
This divide is extremely complex.
White Nationalists frame the divide as a conflict between White people and Jews. There is a grain of truth to this. Jews are vastly overrepresented among oligarchs and PMCs and the conflict definitely has a racial dimension. Jews also tend to be secular, urban, leftwing and highly educated. These characteristics are strongly associated with being on the other side of the divide regardless of race or ethnicity.
The divide is also now routinely framed as a class conflict between PMCs or the Zoom class and the working class or the Virtuals and the Practicals. This certainly captures another important dimension of the divide. As we have seen, there are PMCs who graduated from college who come from all racial and cultural backgrounds, but what unites them as a social class is their worldview and values.
It is easy to punch holes in both of these narratives. The most bitter divide in Western politics isn’t racial. It is between two groups of White people who hate each other. The working class isn’t neatly aligned with either party in the United States. It is split down the middle. Finally, only half of college educated Whites support Joe Biden. It is not like everyone who has a professional class job or a college degree is a super woke shitlib or a leftwing authoritarian technocrat who lives on a coast in a big city and who looks down on ordinary White people. It just so happens that there are a lot of these types of people there.
I have a college degree. I am highly educated. I am part of the laptop class too, but I am not on the side of these people. In my case, it is due to the fact that I was born and raised and still live in the rural Deep South. I strongly identify with my cultural background and my own people. I could have easily moved to some big city, repudiated my own background and absorbed the values of the people who live there. Instead, I have rejected those people mainly because I despise their cultural values.
The divide is only partially about race, ethnicity, religion, geography, class, profession and education. This explains a lot, but it isn’t sufficient. You can easily find White people, Jews, blacks, “Latinx,” AAPIs, Yankees, Southerners, urbanites, ruralites, Christians, atheists, PMCs and working class people on both sides of the divide. I think is ultimately about values, ideology and attitude. It is about social liberalism and specifically antiracism, modernism (cultural liberation), cosmopolitanism and political correctness.
How can anyone be on the side of Justin Trudeau and not the truckers? Supposedly, this is about the vaccine mandates, but it is not really about COVID. This divide existed long before COVID. It has been exacerbated by COVID. We’ve loathed Justin Trudeau for years on this website. In France, the Yellow Vests rebelled over the gas tax, but that was only incidental. As the Confederates would have said, it was the occasion of the rebellion, not the cause. It is about, you know, those people lording it over us.
Some people just embody the divide. Hillary Clinton is one of those people. Justin Trudeau is another.
Note: In particular, Trudeau illustrates how social liberalism has left behind traditional small-l liberalism in favor of pure authoritarian technocracy.