Like most of us, I suppose, I've been thinking a lot about Donald Trump's rise to being the front runner for the GOP nomination. Watching the primary season has called to mind one of the best books on American politics and culture I've ever read: The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy. If you want to understand what's going on in our politics and the rise of Trump (and, to some extent, Bernie Sanders), it is a book you need to read.
Lasch powerfully and persuasively contends that that the values and attitudes of professional and managerial elites and those of the working classes have dramatically diverged. Although the claim is controverted, many of us on the right (especially social conservatives) agree with the quasi-populist/communitarian notion that democracy works best when all members of society can participate in a world of upward mobility and of achievable status. In such a world, members of society will perceive themselves as belonging to the same team and care about ensuring that that team succeeds. But how can society achieve this sort of mutual interdependence if its members are not part of a community of shared values?
The core problem is thus the revolt of the elites against the values of the wider community: "[T]he new elites, the professional classes in particular, regard the masses with mingled scorn and apprehension." For too many of these elites, the values of "Middle America" - a/k/a "fly-over country" - are mindless patriotism, religious fundamentalism, racism, homophobia, and retrograde views of women. "Middle Americans, as they appear to the makers of educated opinion, are hopelessly shabby, unfashionable, and provincial, ill informed about changes in taste or intellectual trends, addicted to trashy novels of romance and adventure, and stupefied by prolonged exposure to television. They are at once absurd and vaguely menacing." (28)
The tension between elite and non-elite attitudes is most pronounced with respect to religious belief. While our society admittedly is increasingly pluralistic, "the democratic reality, even, if you will, the raw demographic reality," as Father Neuhaus has observed, "is that most Americans derive their values and visions from the biblical tradition." Yet, Lasch points out, elite attitudes towards religion are increasingly hostile: "A skeptical, iconoclastic state of mind is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the knowledge classes. ... The elites' attitude to religion ranges from indifference to active hostility." (215)
In the years since Lasch wrote those words, the divide between the elites and non-elites has only grown. And the non-elites have finally had it.
Peggy Noonan captured this point quite eloquently in her column for the WSJ last week. She wrote that:
I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection. It is a theme that has been something of a preoccupation in this space over the years, but I think I am seeing it now grow into an overall political dynamic throughout the West.
There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.
The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.
I want to call them the elite to load the rhetorical dice, but let’s stick with the protected.
They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.
Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.
The protected were thus protected, if you will, from the effects of their decisions on the rest of society:
You see the dynamic in many spheres. In Hollywood, as we still call it, where they make our rough culture, they are careful to protect their own children from its ill effects. In places with failing schools, they choose not to help them through the school liberation movement—charter schools, choice, etc.—because they fear to go up against the most reactionary professional group in America, the teachers unions. They let the public schools flounder. But their children go to the best private schools.
This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens.
Life thus has been good for the protected:
But the unprotected watched and saw. They realized the protected were not looking out for them, and they inferred that they were not looking out for the country, either.
The unprotected came to think they owed the establishment—another word for the protected—nothing, no particular loyalty, no old allegiance.
Mr. Trump came from that.
And it's a global phenomenon, as the growing populist movements in Europe reflect a counter-revolution by the unprotected against the protected elites.
Ben Domenech captured this insight in a thoughtful column, which argues that:
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. ...
In other words, Trump is the unprotected class' beta test for a cure for the revolt of the elites. And its about damned time. Which leads me to hope Domenech is right about his next point:
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.”
Democrats and Republicans who still think that this is a phase – a fever they just need to wait out before a return to normalcy – are utterly delusional.
To the establishment, this breakdown looks like chaos. It looks like savagery. It looks like a man with a flamethrowing guitar playing death metal going a hundred miles an hour down Fury Road. But to the American people, it looks like democracy. Something new will replace the old order, and there are a host of smart, young leaders on all sides who must prove they have the capability to figure out how to create or retrofit institutions that can represent and channel this new energy.
I've been very lucky in life. I've made it into the outer fringes of the protected class. But I'm one generation out of the unprotected class and my heart is still with them. I share their values and, perhaps most important, their religious beliefs. The secularism and "progressive" values of the new elites have no appeal for me. So I get why Trump emerged.
The messenger doubtless is deeply flawed. Trump is no Washington, that's for sure. Donald Trump would not have been my first choice as a GOP nominee. He would't have been my 100th choice. But if the counter-revolutionaries decide they want Trump as the nominee, I will not oppose them. And I will hope that the counter-revolution has now become too big for one deeply and profoundly flawed man to derail.
Update: My point exactly:
Update 2: It should go without saying, of course, that there are a lot of GOP types in the protected class. Think of the whole DC crowd--the politicians, the talking heads, the pundits--and the Business Roundtable types, all of whom are deeply entrenched in the protected class. They share the values of Lasch's new elites to much the same extent as do limousine liberals. The vehemence of ht GOP elites' anti-Trump rhetoric reflects their fear not just of Trump but of the counter-revolution from what they regard was "below" and the threat it poses to their busy lifestyles:
Update 3: Here's yet another argument along the same lines, which concludes "I’m sure lots of voters don’t think Trump has what it takes to be a great president. But he is the ideal person to disrupt a political class that deserves a hard smash in the mouth."
Update 4: I think this is basically right:
By now you will have heard that tied results in multiple Iowa Democrat caucuses were decided by coin flips, with Hillary Clinton beating Bernie Sanders in 6. Assuming the coin was unbiased, the odds of her doing so were 1 in 64.
So was Hillary very lucky? Maybe not. Maybe she (or her reps) were skilled. Because it turns out that US coins are not unbiased. I came across a while back a paper by Persi Deacons on "Dynamical Bias in the Coin Toss." Deacons and his coauthors "prove that vigorously-flipped coins are biased to come up the same way they started." The effect is not large and there are lots of variables, but it would give a statistically significant advantage to the person calling the flip if (s)he can see the initial starting position. (By the way, even more bias can be introduced if the coin is spun on a table top instead of flipped in the air, because the minting process results in different shapes on the sides, which means that one side weighs more than the other, and the heavier side tends to end up facing down.)
It should like an April Fools joke or an Onion headline, but apparently it's for real. Keith Paul Bishop reports that:
Earlier this month, California’s Secretary of State announced that the proponent of a California nationhood proposal may circulate the initiative for signature. The proponent must secure the signatures of 365,880 registered voters (five percent of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2014 general election) in order to qualify the initiative for the November 2016 ballot. According to the summary prepared by the Attorney General, the initiative:
Places question of whether California should become a separate nation on the ballot every four years, beginning November 2020. Voter approval of nationhood in any such election would then require California to demand federal recognition as a separate nation and distinct society. Federal government refusal to recognize California’s nationhood would require future placement on the ballot, every four years, the second question of whether California should unilaterally declare independence from the United States. Voter approval of unilateral independence from the United States in any such election would require California to declare independence and request admission to the United Nations. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Potentially large changes in California public budgets, assuming that this measure can be implemented legally, that voters approve changes to California’s relationship with the United States in later elections, and that these changes actually occur.
(emphasis in original). Earlier this year, the same proponent received the green light to circulate for signature initiatives that would change the Governor of California’s title to President and require the display of the California state flag in a position of “first honor” when displayed with the national flag.
All of which leads to a serious question: Since when is secession up for a vote? Great Britain seemed prepared to let Scotland walk if the commies that run the SNP had won the referendum. Spain may let Catalonia walk--or, at worse, fight it in the courts--despite some rumblings from the Spanish Army to the contrary.
What if Abraham Lincoln had taken that attitude towards when the slaveocracy tried to secede from the USA?
Since when do nation-states let secession movements vote themselves out as opposed to letting the tanks roll?
Updating my earlier post on Robert F Kennedy Jr.'s absurd proposal to impose the corporate death penalty on companies that disagree with his extreme climate views, Keith Paul Bishop examines the relevant California principles and concludes:
I agree with the professor, none of these authorizes the killing of a corporation merely because it has put its profit motive above the “general welfare”.
Meanwhile, Andrew Stuttaford argues that:
Kennedy also argues that “corporations which deliberately, purposefully, maliciously and systematically sponsor climate lies should be given the death penalty. This can be accomplished through an existing legal proceeding known as “charter revocation.” State Attorneys General can invoke this remedy whenever corporations put their profit-making before the “public welfare.”
As a precedent, Kennedy cites this:
In 1998, New York State’s Republican Attorney General, Dennis Vacco successfully invoked the “corporate death penalty” to revoke the charters of two non-profit tax-exempt tobacco industry front groups, The Tobacco Institute and the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR)… Attorney General Vacco seized their assets and distributed them to public institutions.
Hmmm, whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of that particular decision, it’s worth noting that it was directed against groups with charitable status, a status that rests on a presumption of some sort of public good. What Kennedy is contemplating is action against ‘regular’ corporations (such as ExxonMobil and Koch Industries) that support a political and scientific agenda with which he disagrees, corporations that, incidentally, he believes to be “enemies of mankind”. That hysterical and demagogic description tells you everything that you need to know. Kennedy’s is the language of a tyrant-in-the-making, prowling around America’s constitutional protections and looking for a way in.
We should, I suppose, thank Kennedy for highlighting the fact that State attorneys-general have this power, and we should take steps to ensure—by law—that it cannot be abused by those who cannot stomach the awkwardness of free speech.
Stuttaford concludes by bashing Bobby's hyperbolic attacks on vaccine scientists.
Steven Hayward at Powerline does a nice job of summarizing the teapot tempest:
Robert F. “Little Bobby” Kennedy Jr is trying to backtrack from his latest foam-flecked calls for jailing climate skeptics. He’s taken the pages of EcoWatch.com (what—was Salon.com out of pixels that day?) to affect a denialist pose (heh) of his own previous very clear words:
Hysterics at the right wing think tanks and their acolytes at The Washington Times, talk radio and the blogosphere, are foaming in apoplexy because I supposedly suggested that “all climate deniers should be jailed.” . . . Of course I never said that. I support the First Amendment which makes room for any citizen to, even knowingly, spew far more vile lies without legal consequence.
Nice try. But Little Bobby essentially doubles down on stupid right away:
I do, however, believe that corporations which deliberately, purposefully, maliciously and systematically sponsor climate lies should be given the death penalty. This can be accomplished through an existing legal proceeding known as “charter revocation.” State Attorneys General can invoke this remedy whenever corporations put their profit-making before the “public welfare.”
Not content with delivering lethal injections to corporations, he thinks the idea should extend to non-profit advocacy organizations, too:
An attorney general with particularly potent glands could revoke the charters not just oil industry surrogates like AEI and CEI. . .
What was that about the First Amendment again, Little Bobby? Also, I wonder how Little Bobby would react if a state attorney general turned the same doctrine on his anti-vaccine advocacy, which has immediate real world consequences for children whose stupid parents follow his advice.
Turns out Little Bobby is skilled at backtracking, because he has to do it so much. Just Google “RFK Jr backtracking,” and sit back and enjoy the results....
Let's focus on Bobby's proposal to kill corporations via "charter revocation." First, in almost all states, there is no procedure called "charter revocation."
In Model Business Corporation Act states, there are three ways in which a charter may be nullified. First, voluntary dissolution approved by the shareholders and the board of directors, which is obviously not relevant here.
Second, there is a process of administrative dissolution, which may be carried out by the secretary of state--not Bobby's attorney general--but only for a very limited set of reasons none of which remotely relate to climate denial:
§ 14.20 Grounds for Administrative Dissolution. The secretary of state may commence a proceeding under section 14.21 to administratively dissolve a corporation if:
(1) the corporation does not pay within 60 days after they are due any franchise taxes or penalties imposed by this Act or other law;
(2) the corporation does not deliver its annual report to the secretary of state within 60 days after it is due;
(3) the corporation is without a registered agent or registered office in this state for 60 days or more;
(4) the corporation does not notify the secretary of state within 60 days that its registered agent or registered office has been changed, that its registered agent has resigned, or that its registered office has been discontinued; or
(5) the corporation’s period of duration stated in its articles of incorporation expires.
Do you see anything in there about forced dissolution of corporations that "put their profit-making before the 'public welfare.'" Nope? Me neither.
Finally, there is a process by which the state attorney general can request judicial dissolution of a corporation, but only on very limited grounds:
§ 14.30 Grounds for Judicial Dissolution
(a) The [name or describe court or courts] may dissolve a corporation:
(1) in a proceeding by the attorney general if it is established that:
(i) the corporation obtained its articles of incorporation through fraud; or
(ii) the corporation has continued to exceed or abuse the authority conferred upon it by law ....
The first prong is obviously irrelevant. So for Bobby's proposal to execute corporations to have any legal validity, you have to believe that climate denial constitutes "exceed[ing] or abus[ing] the authority conferred upon it by law."
Bobby apparently believes that exercising free speech rights constitutes such an abuse, but despite his "support" for the First Amendment (for which I suppose we should all be grateful), presumably his education omitted much of the law of free speech under the First Amendment. If corporations have free speech rights (as they do), after all, speaking on issues of public policy must be covered and protected by the First Amendment.
Bobby also apparently believes that "profit-making before the 'public welfare,'" whatever the heck that welfare may be (apparently he gets to define what constitutes such welfare), constitutes "exceed[ing] or abus[ing] the authority conferred upon it by law." Wrong again.
What is the authority conferred upon a corporation by law? Very simply, to make money within the bounds of law:
A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end. The discretion of directors is to be exercised in the choice of means to attain that end, and does not extend to a change in the end itself, to the reduction of profits, or to the nondistribution of profits among stockholders in order to devote them to other purposes. ...
As we have pointed out, [...] it is not within the lawful powers of a board of directors to shape and conduct the affairs of a corporation for the merely incidental benefit of shareholders and for the primary purpose of benefiting others, and no one will contend that, if the avowed purpose of the defendant directors was to sacrifice the interests of shareholders, it would not be the duty of the courts to interfere.
In other words, Bobby has it exactly backwards. It would be an effort by "directors was to sacrifice the interests of shareholders" that truly would constitute "exceed[ing] or abus[ing] the authority conferred upon it by law ...."
Look, I'm not a climate denialist. Climate change is happening, albeit to debatable extents, and human activity is relevant. But stupid arguments against climate denialists don't help. And, once again, Bobby has been very, very stupid.
Update: Bobby opines in his article that:
New York, for example, prescribes corporate death whenever a company fails to “serve the common good” and “to cause no harm.”
I have searched the relevant New York statute and case databases on Westlaw for those phrases, as well as the secondary literature, and came up with nothing relevant. So I call BS. I think he made it up or got it from somebody who made it up.
There is a significant lobby for limiting corporate political contributions and requiring disclosures of any contributions (seemingly not matter how small). Part of the premise for this campaign is that corporate political contributions are bad for investors. Well, here's an interesting fact from a recent speech by SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher:
... a portfolio invested in companies with the largest lobbying expenditures would have doubled the performance of the S&P 500 over the past year. See Motif Investing, “Kings of K Street” at https://www.motifinvesting.com/motifs/kings-of-k-street. According to this site, from September 2013 to August 2014, this portfolio returned approximately 35%, while the S&P 500 returned approximately 17%.
So if corporate political contributions pay off for investors, why oppose them? Maybe because the opponents of corporate political contributions also oppose policies that are good for investors?
The webcast is open to everyone. Webcasts to the various addresses and panels can be accessed directly from the registration page: http://www.fed-soc.org/events/detail/second-annual-executive-branch-review-conference
or the Federalist Society YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheFederalistSociety
Surveying the fall in support for the governments of Barack Obama, New York City's progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio and France's Socialist President François Hollande, a diagnosis of the current crisis begins to emerge: The political left can win elections but it's unable to govern. ...
Rather than resolve the complexities of public policy in the world we inhabit, the left's default is to simply acquire power, then cram down what they want to do with one-party votes or by fiat, figuring they can muddle through the wreckage later. Thus the ObamaCare mandates. Thus candidate de Blasio's determination, cheered on by the city's left-wing establishment, to jam all its kids through an antique public-school system. The ObamaCare mandates are a mess, and the war on charter schools is an embarrassment.
Making the unworkable work by executive decree or court-ordered obedience is one way to rule, and maybe they like it that way. But it isn't governing.
Business Insider is very pleased to announce former New York City mayoral candidate and Congressman Anthony Weiner will be contributing a new monthly column to our politics page.
The new column, which will be titled "Weiner!," will run on the last Friday of each month beginning this week.
I had to check and make sure that it wasn't April 1st, but apparently banned from the securities amrkets for life securities fraudster turned "journalist" henry Blodget decided to give penis boy a job.