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Conservatives &First things . . . Richard Falknor on 19 Jul 2010 01:40 pm

Are Your GOP Politicians Ruling Class? Or Country Class?

In the short term at least, the country class has no alternative but to channel its political efforts through the Republican Party, which is eager for its support. But the Republican Party does not live to represent the country class.  . . . . Few Republican voters, never mind the larger country class, have confidence that the party is on their side. Because, in the long run, the country class will not support a party as conflicted as today’s Republicans, those Republican politicians who really want to represent it will either reform the party in an unmistakable manner, or start a new one as Whigs like Abraham Lincoln started the Republican Party in the 1850s. “ – – – Angelo Codevilla (Underscoring Forum’s.)

Angelo Codevilla has just published an essential addition to the American conservative conversation, America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution, in the current number of the American Spectator. (We are grateful to Jonah Goldberg for drawing the Codevilla article to our attention last Friday.)

For conservatives and for Tea Partiers, Codevilla’s is a seminal and challenging piece that helps answer frequently-asked questions about puzzling if not highly frustrating (for conservatives) behavior within the GOP Establishment.

For example – -why does the US Senate Republican Leadership not play real hardball to try to stop statist legislation and nominees?  Why does the Maryland GOP Establishment try to muscle Old Line State conservatives out of party power?  Why did the governor of Virginia almost instinctively hit the Arizona bill though later coming to an apparently less critical view?  Why does his administration simply fine-tune the Old Dominion’s governmentalism? (Budget-and-taxes hawk Norman Leahy has the latest fiscal take on the McDonnell Administration.)

We can’t possibly do justice to distinguished scholar Codevilla’s entire piece – – but we can highlight some of his insights that touch our current situation. (Underscoring is Forum’s throughout the quotes.)

 

TARP and the Ruling Class

“As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ ‘toxic assets’ was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s ‘systemic collapse.’ In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one. When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term ‘political class’ came into use.”

But what is the “Country Class” according to Codevilla? 

“Describing America’s country class is problematic because it is so heterogeneous. It has no privileged podiums, and speaks with many voices, often inharmonious. It shares above all the desire to be rid of rulers it regards inept and haughty. It defines itself practically in terms of reflexive reaction against the rulers’ defining ideas and proclivities — e.g., ever higher taxes and expanding government, subsidizing political favorites, social engineering, approval of abortion, etc. Many want to restore a way of life largely superseded. Demographically, the country class is the other side of the ruling class’s coin: its most distinguishing characteristics are marriage, children, and religious practice. While the country class, like the ruling class, includes the professionally accomplished and the mediocre, geniuses and dolts, it is different because of its non-orientation to government and its members’ yearning to rule themselves rather than be ruled by others.
Even when members of the country class happen to be government officials or officers of major corporations, their concerns are essentially private; in their view, government owes to its people equal treatment rather than action to correct what anyone perceives as imbalance or grievance. Hence they tend to oppose special treatment, whether for corporations or for social categories. Rather than gaming government regulations, they try to stay as far from them as possible. Thus the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo, which allows the private property of some to be taken by others with better connections to government, reminded the country class that government is not its friend.

Negative orientation to privilege distinguishes the corporate officer who tries to keep his company from joining the Business Council of large corporations who have close ties with government from the fellow in the next office. The first wants the company to grow by producing. The second wants it to grow by moving to the trough. It sets apart the schoolteacher who resents the union to which he is forced to belong for putting the union’s interests above those of parents who want to choose their children’s schools. In general, the country class includes all those in stations high and low who are aghast at how relatively little honest work yields, by comparison with what just a little connection with the right bureaucracy can get you. It includes those who take the side of outsiders against insiders, of small institutions against large ones, of local government against the state or federal. The country class is convinced that big business, big government, and big finance are linked as never before and that ordinary people are more unequal than ever.”

The Beltway GOP and the Obama Program

Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government’s agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to. Sen. Orrin Hatch continued dreaming of being Ted Kennedy, while Lindsey Graham set aside what is true or false about ‘global warming’ for the sake of getting on the right side of history. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class’s continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.”

 

The “Two Classes”

“Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the ‘in’ language — serves as a badge of identity. ‘ . . . . [W]hether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.

The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners — nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, ‘prayed to the same God.’ By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God ‘who created and doth sustain us,’ our ruling class prays to itself as ‘saviors of the planet’ and improvers of humanity. Our classes’ clash is over ‘whose country’ America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark’s Gospel: ‘if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.'”

The Attack on Faith and Family

“The ruling class is keener to reform the American people’s family and spiritual lives than their economic and civic ones. In no other areas is the ruling class’s self-definition so definite, its contempt for opposition so patent, its Kulturkampf so open. It believes that the Christian family (and the Orthodox Jewish one too) is rooted in and perpetuates the ignorance commonly called religion, divisive social prejudices, and repressive gender roles, that it is the greatest barrier to human progress because it looks to its very particular interest — often defined as mere coherence against outsiders who most often know better. Thus the family prevents its members from playing their proper roles in social reform. Worst of all, it reproduces itself.”

In this connection, readers should also be aware of seasoned investigator’s Cliff Kincaid’s warning about  – –

“. . . a well-funded effort to divide the conservative movement and dump Christian conservatives as a key constituency for the GOP.”

Codevilla adds – –

“The ruling class’s manifold efforts to discredit and drive worship of God out of public life — not even the Soviet Union arrested students for wearing crosses or praying, or reading the Bible on school property, as some U.S. localities have done in response to Supreme Court rulings — convinced many among the vast majority of Americans who believe and pray that today’s regime is hostile to the most important things of all. Every December, they are reminded that the ruling class deems the very word ‘Christmas’ to be offensive. Every time they try to manifest their religious identity in public affairs, they are deluged by accusations of being ‘American Taliban’ trying to set up a ‘theocracy.’ Let members of the country class object to anything the ruling class says or does, and likely as not their objection will be characterized as ‘religious,’ that is to say irrational, that is to say not to be considered on a par with the ‘science’ of which the ruling class is the sole legitimate interpreter. Because aggressive, intolerant secularism is the moral and intellectual basis of the ruling class’s claim to rule, resistance to that rule, whether to the immorality of economic subsidies and privileges, or to the violation of the principle of equal treatment under equal law, or to its seizure of children’s education, must deal with secularism’s intellectual and moral core. This lies beyond the boundaries of politics as the term is commonly understood. “

And the future – – as Codevilla sees it?

“If self-governance means anything, it means that those who exercise government power must depend on elections. The shorter the electoral leash, the likelier an official to have his chain yanked by voters, the more truly republican the government is. Yet to subject the modern administrative state’s agencies to electoral control would require ordinary citizens to take an interest in any number of technical matters. Law can require environmental regulators or insurance commissioners, or judges or auditors to be elected. But only citizens’ discernment and vigilance could make these officials good. Only citizens’ understanding of and commitment to law can possibly reverse the patent disregard for the Constitution and statutes that has permeated American life. Unfortunately, it is easier for anyone who dislikes a court’s or an official’s unlawful act to counter it with another unlawful one than to draw all parties back to the foundation of truth.”

We will be revisiting Codevilla’s rich discussion from time to time.  And typical of good argumentative conservatives, we may dissent from some or another of his lesser conclusions.  But his overall theme is sound and lights our way.

We will also, in coming posts, want to talk about Codevilla’s illustrations of the degradation of the legislative process and ways to fix it – –

 

“Nowadays, the members of our ruling class admit that they do not read the laws. They don’t have to. Because modern laws are primarily grants of discretion, all anybody has to know about them is whom they empower. By making economic rules dependent on discretion, our bipartisan ruling class teaches that prosperity is to be bought with the coin of political support. Thus in the 1990s and 2000s, as Democrats and Republicans forced banks to make loans for houses to people and at rates they would not otherwise have considered, builders and investors had every reason to make as much money as they could from the ensuing inflation of housing prices.”

Don’t overlook Codevilla’s final caveat – –

“How the country class and ruling class might clash on each item of their contrasting agendas is beyond my scope. Suffice it to say that the ruling class’s greatest difficulty — aside from being outnumbered — will be to argue, against the grain of reality, that the revolution it continues to press upon America is sustainable. For its part, the country class’s greatest difficulty will be to enable a revolution to take place without imposing it. America has been imposed on enough. “

The Long Haul

This is no time to be discouraged about the long haul. Mark Levin described the length of the road ahead as we noted last year – –

“’For the Conservative, the challenge is daunting and the road will be long and hard,’ Levin sums up. ‘But it took the Statist nearly eighty years to get here, and it will take the Conservative at least as long to change the nation’s direction. Still, there is no time to waste. The Conservative must act now.'”

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

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