Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The (No Longer So) “New Class”

Many years ago, Irving Kristol wrote of the emergence of a “New Class” that had come to dominate the corridors of power:

Today there is a new class hostile to business in general, and especially to large corporations. As a group, you find them mainly in the very large and growing public sector and in the media. They share a disinterest in personal wealth, a dislike for the free-market economy, and a conviction that society may best be improved through greater governmental participation in the country's economic life. They are the media. They are the educational system. Their dislike for the free-market economy originates in their inability to exercise much influence over it so as to produce change. In its place they would prefer a system in which there is a very large political component. This is because the new class has a great deal of influence in politics. Thus, through politics, they can exercise a direct and immediate influence on the shape of our society and the direction of national affairs. [From The Neoconservative Persuasion: Selected Essays, 1949 - 2009]

Those who made up the “New Class” tended to dismiss Kristol’s warnings about them, often by pointing out that he was one of their kind: he possessed the same academic credentials they did, and he, too, sought influence over the nation’s political direction by the exercise of his intellect and eloquence. But they could not dispute his assessment of their aggregate power.

The most significant aspect of the “New Class” is its hostility toward those they deem “outsiders” who challenge their hegemony. Anyone who recalls the treatment Sarah Palin received from the political elite and their boughten allies in the media will know at once how savage they can be toward such an interloper.

The 2015-2016 Presidential campaign season is already providing us with another example of “New Class” ferocity in defense of its bastion:

The left-leaning mainstream media senses that [Scott Walker is] a potential danger. After all, he has won three straight elections in a swing state, while challenging the public employees’ unions head-on and significantly reducing their government privileges. (This is precisely what makes him interesting to those of us on the right.) The mainstream media feel that they need to disqualify him now, so they’re looking for anything they can use against him....

There are no real class divisions in America except one: the college-educated versus the non-college educated. It helps to think of this in terms borrowed from the world of a Jane Austen novel: graduating from college is what makes you a “gentleman.” (A degree from an Ivy League school makes you part of the aristocracy.) It qualifies you to marry the right people and hold the right kind of positions. It makes you respectable....

If you don’t have a college degree, by contrast, you are looked down upon as a vulgar commoner who is presumptuously attempting to rise above his station. Which is pretty much what they’re saying about Scott Walker. This prejudice is particularly strong when applied to anyone from the right, whose retrograde views are easily attributed to his lack of attendance at the gentleman’s finishing school that is the university.

That brings us to the heart of the matter. I have observed before that left-leaning politics has become “part of the cultural class identity of college-educated people,” a prejudice that lingers long after they have graduated. You can see how this goes the other way, too. If to be college-educated is to have left-leaning views—then to have the “correct” political values, one must be college-educated.

You can see now what is fueling the reaction on the left. If Scott Walker can run for president, he is challenging the basic cultural class identity of the mainstream left. He is more than a threat to the Democrats’ hold on political power. He is a threat to the existing social order.

Note what Kristol said about the “New Class:” “They are the media. They are the educational system.” Note what Robert Tracinski says above about the indispensability of a college education to “[having] the ‘correct’ political values.” The dots almost connect themselves.

What hones the above observations to microtome sharpness is the media’s immediate compliance with the Left’s defensive needs: the “gotcha” questions reporters have posed to Walker about evolution and Obama’s supposed Christianity. Perhaps it’s for the best that Walker isn’t a Catholic; they’d bombard him with questions about birth control and abortion. Note that John Kerry, a left-liberal who claims to be a Catholic, never had to face such questions.

A brief tangent: To conservative candidates everywhere, I repeat my exhortation:

Always answer a hostile question with an even sharper and more hostile question.

If they ask about your views on abortion, reply: “Does human life begin at birth, or in the womb?” If they ask for your views on birth control, reply: “Do you have any minor children? Were you married to their mother when they were born? Are you still married to her?” If they ask about whether you think Obama is a Christian, reply: “Would you say man who constantly defends the barbarities of Islamic societies has more sympathy for a bloodthirsty warlord like Muhammad, or for the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ?” There’s no better way to reveal the hypocrisy and venality of the Left.

To return to the main topic: A great part of the Left’s high dudgeon about Rudy Giuliani’s recent, highly publicized remarks about Obama’s self-evident lack of affection for America is that just as with Scott Walker, they regard Giuliani as a “rube” who dared to “rise above his proper place.” Worse, he succeeded in taming New York’s crime problem, where a series of Democrat mayors had failed. Worst of all, in defeating David Dinkins, the first Negro mayor of New York City, he committed an unpardonable sin against their favorite mascot-group.

Frankly, there’s nothing they approve of about conservatives, including those who’ve gone to Ivy League schools:

  • A large family would compromise one’s social standing.
  • Guns and shooting sports are noisy and dirty: low-class pursuits.
  • Patriotism expressed in deeds – e.g., military service – is déclassé.
  • Commercial enterprise is too grubby for the political class; they might get their nails dirty.
  • Religion, except for the purely cosmetic sort required to reassure the hoi polloi, is for rubes.
  • As conservative sentiments are strongest away from the Atlantic and Pacific Seaboards, anyone not from those Seaboards – preferably from one of the megalopolises that dominate them – is automatically extremely suspect.

The savagery the Left showed to Governor Palin has been resurrected to be showered upon Scott Walker. Should another of the other potential GOP presidential candidates pass Walker in popular standing, that same treatment will be visited upon him. The reason hardly needs to be stated outright: A successful conservative is a threat to their rice bowls.

Big Government has many flaws, both moral and practical. But it has a great virtue to the “New Class” that trumps all its shortcomings: It provides them with their incomes. Beyond that, it reinforces their “assumption of differential rectitude” (Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed), albeit by an exercise in circular reasoning. Their standard of living and their self-conferred privilege of dismissing those who disagree with them as stupid or evil both depend upon the embrace of the State. They will permit no conservative barbarian within its gates while they have the means to bar them.

The “New Class” does have a “candidates group:” its allies in the media and academic worlds. Persons from those environments are permitted to aspire to admission to the halls of power, though not many are accepted. As with any graduate student who seeks a doctorate, they must first prove themselves by serving the desires of the “New Class.” Quoth Lawrence Sellin:

In the Obama years, disseminating either disinformation or no information, a devoted media helped create the intellectual darkness and vacant servitude required to carry out the strategy of their leftist Messiah; a country without any sense of its own history and traditions, where the low-information voter would slouch towards Obama’s imaginary utopia through a combination of governmental coercion and the hedonist nihilism of a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free America managed by a nanny-state.

Though Colonel Sellin specifically references the Obamunist Interregnum, the media / educratic complex has served the agenda he delineates for at least four decades. It’s the precondition its foot soldiers must meet to be considered for eventual acceptance into the “New Class” elite: the nation’s political command staff. America’s education barons have participated as well: consider this eruption among the warmistas and the savagery of the assaults upon Michael Behe as cases in point.

A year and a half ago, I wrote:

Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, in their masterpiece The Bell Curve, noted that the ongoing striation of the American populace into classes separated from one another by differences in intellect presaged the emergence of a "Latin American kind of conservatism." Their symbol for this was the hacienda on the hill, surrounded by parapets manned by armed guards. Those walls and guards exist to protect a class order in which the aristocrats enjoy an elevated lifestyle and access to power, from disturbances from los peones below.

As I wrote some time ago:

A class is defined by its legal and social privileges. The aristocrats of medieval times were not distinguished by their lineages or their deeds, but by the things they were allowed to do, without penalty, that commoners were not. There is reason to believe that the majority of medieval aristocrats were fairly responsible stewards of their lands and of public order within them. That does not justify the creation of a class of men who could wield high, middle, and low justice over others, but who would normally escape all consequences for deeds for which a commoner would be severely punished.

My only amendment to the above would be to note that whereas Herrnstein and Murray focused on intelligence, the “New Class” has demoted demonstrable intelligence in favor of the right academic credentials and the right “values.” Other than that, the game remains the same. We will see many more throws as the Presidential campaign season moves ahead.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the abortion question is a good opportunity to 'turn the other cheek' by responding along the line of,"I'm happy your mother was pro-life." As for the lands between the seaboards..as I'm sure you are well aware, it is with no jest referred to as 'fly over country' by a great many who reside on the seaboards.

Anonymous said...

Grandpa says, take a good long look at the map... those of us who live in flyover country are seen by the seaboarders (coasters? beachnuts?... wait... asshats.) as being 'surrounded' by them, when the reality is, with a simple flexing of muscle, they can be pushed into the sea...
Don't get me wrong, it is not all but many. Grandma and I love the beach, and many who reside there... it is simply... sorting and shoving that needs to be done.
Flyover, indeed. Better be 'high over", my goose gun has great range lol...
And I went to college... got the shirt to prove it.