Daniel McCarthy: New Class War – The American Conservative

The New Class, after all, lacks a popular base as well as money of its own, and just as it relies on Wall Street to underwrite its power, it depends on its competing brands of identity politics to co-opt popular support. For the center-left establishment, minority voters supply the electoral muscle. Religion and the culture war have served the same purpose for the establishment’s center-right faction. Trump showed that at least one of these sides could be beaten on its own turf—and it seems conceivable that if Bernie Sanders had been black, he might have similarly beaten Clinton, without having to make concessions to New Class tastes.

The New Class establishment of both parties may be seriously misjudging what is happening here. Far from being the last gasp of the demographically doomed—old, racially isolated white people, as Gallup’s analysis says—Trump’s insurgency may be the prototype of an aggressive new politics, of either left or right, that could restore the managerial elite to power.

2 comments on “Daniel McCarthy: New Class War – The American Conservative

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  1. Though I thought the McCarthy piece was interesting–and some of the responses to the piece from the commenters down below also interesting–I came away with the distinct impression that McCarthy’s purpose in writing it was to recast the Trump phenomenon and all it signifies and portends away from its rather obvious racial implications and substitute instead an interpretation rooted in a (to my mind, controversial) understanding of contemporary class dynamics (“managerial elite” vs. “new class”) all to the end of allowing Mr. McCarthy to salve his paleocuckservative conscience as he proceeds to vote Trump. “No racial interests here, just class interests.”

    • McCarthy has struck me as a peculiarly compromised figure who is yet somewhat gamely struggling to discover a political rationale not entirely inconsistent with his, as they say, political priors. As I’ve argued elsewhere, AmConMag was “alt-right” or part of it in the fuller sense of the term before “alt-right” was “alt-right,” and was instead simply a term for whatever wasn’t left, wasn’t obviously insane, and wasn’t comfortable inside the reigning Republican coalition: alternative right.

      As for this latest effort, I agree that McCarthy’s attempt to impose a non-Marxian class conflict framework on the Trump phenomenon is perhaps less persuasive than it is interesting. After considerable brush-clearing, the connections between a type of libertarianism and a type of ethno-politics – reversion to the tribes and to regimes of the Masters and Slaves necessitated by rejection of the Universal Homogeneous State – might be re-examined. Instead, we have political campaigns in which the matter has to thrashed out via schoolyard taunts and the clash of voting blocs.

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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