The post-Cold War left-right politics of the nation have been breaking down in slow motion for two decades. They are now being replaced by a different type of inside-outside politics.
The Trump phenomenon is neither a disease nor a symptom – he is instead the beta-test of a cure that the American people are trying out. It won’t work. But this is where our politics are going: working and middle class Americans are reasserting themselves against a political and cultural establishment that has become completely discredited over time and due to their own actions…
This is not a temporary adjustment. It is a new reality, as Angelo Codevilla writes today. “America is now ruled by a uniformly educated class of persons that occupies the commanding heights of bureaucracy, of the judiciary, education, the media, and of large corporations, and that wields political power through the Democratic Party. Its control of access to prestige, power, privilege, and wealth exerts a gravitational pull that has made the Republican Party’s elites into its satellites.
“This class’s fatal feature is its belief that ordinary Americans are a lesser intellectual and social breed. Its increasing self-absorption, its growing contempt for whoever won’t bow to it, its dependence for votes on sectors of society whose grievances it stokes, have led it to break the most basic rule of republican life: deeming its opposition illegitimate.”
What would Alinksy say about that “basic rule?” Related, from 2013, Yuval Levin commenting on Ross Douthat’s piece about the “court party” and the “country party.”
For much of the past four decades, that kind of substantive populism (as opposed to the far more insidious institutional populism advanced by the early progressives) has tended to be divided into cultural and economic populism, and the two parties have tended to break down along a double axis of populism and elitism: The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. Republicans have tended to identify with the traditional values, unabashedly patriotic, anti-cosmopolitan, non-nuanced Joe Sixpack, even as they pursued an economic policy that aims at elite investor-driven growth. Democrats identified with the mistreated, underpaid, overworked “people against the powerful,” but tended to look down on those people’s religion, education, and way of life. Republicans have tended to believe the dynamism of the market is for the best but that cultural change can be dangerously disruptive while Democrats tended to believe dynamic social change stretches the boundaries of inclusion for the better but that economic dynamism is often ruinous and unjust.