Thursday, August 18, 2016

Peggy dials in

Peggy Noonan is a former Reagan speechwriter who has had a perch at the Wall Street Journal for years. She seriously went off the rails in 2008, becoming an acolyte for Barack Obama. She was hardly alone in that season of self-deception, but given her prominence and pedigree she garnered a lot of attention and, subsequently, a lot of scorn, especially on the Right.

She's been better for the last few years, and her recent column concerning Donald Trump and the people who support him is pretty good. A lot of Trump supporters feel betrayed. She draws on the recent experience of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who threw open the doors of Germany to a sea of immigrants who aren't particularly attuned to Western culture, to make a salient point:
Ms. Merkel had put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections. Ms. Merkel, her cabinet and government, the media and cultural apparatus that lauded her decision were not in the least affected by it and likely never would be.

Nothing in their lives will get worse. The challenge of integrating different cultures, negotiating daily tensions, dealing with crime and extremism and fearfulness on the street—that was put on those with comparatively little, whom I’ve called the unprotected. They were left to struggle, not gradually and over the years but suddenly and in an air of ongoing crisis that shows no signs of ending—because nobody cares about them enough to stop it.

The powerful show no particular sign of worrying about any of this. When the working and middle class pushed back in shocked indignation, the people on top called them “xenophobic,” “narrow-minded,” “racist.” The detached, who made the decisions and bore none of the costs, got to be called “humanist,” “compassionate,” and “hero of human rights.”
Emphasis mine. If you ask the average bien pensant liberal in the U.S. about Trump and his supporters, you'll hear many of the same adjectives. Back to Noonan:
The larger point is that this is something we are seeing all over, the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it. It is a theme I see working its way throughout the West’s power centers. At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signalling.
I think "virtue-signalling" is a lot of it and although I live in flyover land, this "not our kind, dear" sentiment is plenty strong in our area. Although most people around here are closer in station to those who are objecting to globalism, Trump and his supporters are just too unseemly. Back to Noonan:
From what I’ve seen of those in power throughout business and politics now, the people of your country are not your countrymen, they’re aliens whose bizarre emotions you must attempt occasionally to anticipate and manage.
That last part matters. If our leaders assume that people in the hinterlands are alien, what difference does it make if you import some more aliens of a different sort? It's just something to be managed and the managerial class is all about that. Noonan again:
Affluence detaches, power adds distance to experience. I don’t have it fully right in my mind but something big is happening here with this division between the leaders and the led. It is very much a feature of our age. But it is odd that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.
Is it odd? I don't think so. I've spent most of my adult life on the outside of the elite, but I know people who have made it there, mostly from my college days. You wouldn't have assumed, based on what was happening at the time, that they would rise to the heights they occupy. And that's where we'll leave things for now.


Gino said...

At least Paul Ryan believes in building a wall...but only around his property.

Mr. D said...

At least Paul Ryan believes in building a wall...but only around his property.

The wall around his property has been there since before Ryan was born, but I take your point.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

The other day this whole dynamic that you describe reminded me of a point in history that was, in some respects, similar. It's the period of time not immediately following the Norman Conquest of Britain, but a couple of generations on when the aristocracy weren't foreign per se. Those who ruled were loyal to themselves and felt no particular connection to the people. The people had a concept of Britain, but no power to actuate it; they resented the fact that their rulers had more loyalty to their class than to the country. From time to time this resentment would bubble up when the rulers showed a particular lack of concern for optics. It took centuries (and Joan of Arc) to forge a somewhat common identity.

Bike Bubba said...

Good to see her returning to a bit of sense. In the lines of work I've been in--quality, ESD control, long term reliability--I've often seen the managerial class more or less use the argument from silence as a response to proposals to use best in class measures to control things. In a nutshell, that's the same argument coastal elites have when the rest of us suggest voter ID, strict border/immigration enforcement, and the like. It's more or less "we're not looking to see if there's a problem and therefore we haven't seen one, therefore we're not going to do anything."

The question I've got is this; with thinking like that, why does anyone consider these people elites?

Bike Bubba said...

Another thought; WB's comment suggests a great need to re-read some of Walter Scott's work. It's more or less the same dynamic involved; I got mine, screw you if you want yours, and then I'm going to wonder why all Hell just broke loose.

R.A. Crankbait said...

It's a common thread through history; the Scots-English conflicts from the time of William Wallace and Robert Bruce showed the same dichotomy between the nobles and peasants. Membership in the nobles club was still largely at the king's discretion, whether through blandishments or force. When the king wanted a tune it was better to be the organ grinder than the monkey.

Thank God we created a new nation that wouldn't have to put up with all that crap.