We’re in a Culture War, and there has been no name to label the group who are driving this war. The old Left-Right canard isn’t working. The DINO-RINO’s are one and same Swamp-creatures. The left-leaning Bernie fans got screwed by the Upper Class as much as the Trump fans did.
It’s not about the rich versus the poor either: Donald Trump is a billionaire but he isn’t upper class. Green hippies in XR Superhero-Monk costumes needn’t be wealthy, but they aspire to be in the popular upper class. It’s about status and the pecking order. The same is true of the high school students who lecture grown ups on climate change. They might be poor but they’re aiming to climb class rungs.
Words matter. People can unite behind an idea that has no name, but the movement is fragile, prone to fragmenting. But here, in a rather scathing blast from someone who isn’t Republican and doesn’t even like them is a suggestion that’s got a lot going for it. Bring back a new version of the class war, against the Upper Class, and a war on classism. It is something that can unite the Deplorables, the workers, the minorities, and even the Occupy and Bernie Sanders fans.
by Scott Alexander on Astral Codex Ten
Dear Republican Party:
I hear you’re having a post-Trump identity crisis. Your old platform of capitalism and liberty and whatever no longer excites people. … You seem to have picked up a few minority voters here and there, but you’re not sure why, and you don’t know how to build on this success.
So here’s my recommendation: use the word “class”. Pivot from mindless populist rage to a thoughtful campaign to fight classism.
It’s not about economic class warfare, it’s about cultural class warfare.
Trump won by being anti-establishment “but which establishment”?
Trump stood against the upper class. He might define them as: people who live in nice apartments in Manhattan or SF or DC and laugh under their breath if anybody comes from Akron or Tampa. Who eat Thai food and Ethiopian food and anything fusion, think they would gain 200 lbs if they ever stepped in a McDonalds, and won’t even speak the name Chick-Fil-A. Who usually go to Ivy League colleges, though Amherst or Berkeley is acceptable if absolutely necessary. Who conspicuously love Broadway (especially Hamilton), LGBT, education, “expertise”, mass transit, and foreign anything. They conspicuously hate NASCAR, wrestling, football, “fast food”, SUVs, FOX, guns, the South, evangelicals, and reality TV. Who would never get married before age 25 and have cutesy pins about how cats are better than children. Who get jobs in journalism, academia, government, consulting, or anything else with no time-card where you never have to use your hands. Who all have exactly the same political and aesthetic opinions on everything, and think the noblest and most important task imaginable is to gatekeep information in ways that force everyone else to share those opinions too.
(full disclosure: I fit like 2/3 of these descriptors)
Aren’t I just describing well-off people? No. Teachers, social workers, grad students, and starving artists may be poor, but can still be upper-class. Pilots, plumbers, and lumber barons are well-off, but not upper-class. Donald Trump is a billionaire, but still recognizably not upper class. The upper class is a cultural phenomenon.
Trump attacked the Swamp, and one of his most popular phrases in the 2016 debates was when he responded to the baiting questions by ignoring the bait, and saying “we have too much political correctness”. But “Politically Correct” doesn’t roll off the tongue, nor bring out a historic class war.
The coalition of Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, concerned citizens are being played and divided by semantic word games. They need to identify the target and unify against it.
There is some broad appeal to fighting against the Upper Class: (it’s not exactly a new idea, is it?)
It could appeal to poor people who just want to get jobs. Point out how DC Democrats passed a law saying all child care workers must have college degrees, and how this is just a blatant attempt to take jobs away from working-class people in order to give them to upper-class people instead. Tell them that this is class warfare, that their side is losing, but that if you are in power they will win.
It could appeal to small-government libertarians. Argue that the Democrats and the government are a jobs program for the upper class. All those Institutes For X and Public Service Campaigns For Y, all those regulations that require two hundred lawyers just to move a potted plant, all those laws that mean every company needs fifty compliance offers working full time just in order to not get sued, they’re all a giant jobs program for college-educated people who refuse to work with their hands.
Alexander has some great material, though as great as this idea is (the War on College) it needs a lot of fleshing out. Colleges need to be razed and rebuilt, but — again — without a free media, the parasitic grant-getting machines known as “universities” will ultimately always serve their gatekeeping funders — Big Government. We have to change those incentives or the parasitic phoenix will just rise again:
1. War On College: As it currently exists, college is a scheme for laundering and perpetuating class advantage. You need to make the case that bogus degree requirements (eg someone without a college degree can’t be a sales manager at X big company, but somebody with any degree, even Art History or Literature, can) are blatantly classist. Your stretch goal should be to ban discrimination based on college degree status. Professions may continue to accept professional school degrees (eg hospitals can continue to require doctors have a medical school degree), and any company may test their employees’ knowledge (eg mining companies can make their geologists pass a geology test) but the thing where you have to get into a good college, give them $100,000, flatter your professors a bit, and end up with a History degree before you can be a firefighter or whatever is illegal. If you can’t actually make degree discrimination illegal, just make all government offices and companies that do business with the government ban degree discrimination.
Likewise, the War on Experts — good idea. He’s hunting for a way to get accountability of Expert Predictions. I’m not sold on this, but it’s a tough task. Should we, could we, sack Professors who can’t out-predict the mass prediction markets?
I’d rather pick winner based on public debate. Call it free speech…
2. War On Experts: Argue that you love and support legitimate experts, but that the Democrats have invented and propped up a fake concept of expertise as a way of making sure upper-class people who can game admissions to top colleges control the discourse. Your solution will be prediction markets. Yes, really. Repeal all bans on prediction markets and give tax breaks for participating in them, until they have the same kind of liquidity as the S&P500. You’ll get a decentralized, populist, credentialism-free, market-based alternative to expertise. When the prediction markets outperform 75% of experts, fire them …
But once upon a time Experts had a reputation and if they kept getting it wrong, the throngs would laugh at them and their reputation would crumble. Can’t we get back to that? What we really need is free speech and a competitive media.
Instead we get Tim Flannery and years after his predictions failed dismally, he’s awarded Australian of the Year. The problem is The Media. The problem is also that the government can create Instant Experts with every new QANGO.
Alexander has a plan for The Media too:
3. War On The Upper-Class Media: This is your new term for “mainstream media”. Being against the “mainstream media” sounds kind of conspiratorial. Instead, you’re against the upper-class media, which gains its status by systematically excluding lower-class voices, and which exists mostly as a tool of the upper classes to mock and humiliate the lower class. You are not against journalism, you’re not against being well-informed, you’re against a system that exists to marginalize people like you. Tell the upper-class media that if they want your respect, they need to stop class discrimination.
67% of US families watch the Super Bowl – what percent of New York Times editors and reporters do? 20% of Americans go to religious services weekly – how many of those work for the New York Times? How come 96% of political donations from journalists go to Democrats? Your job is to take a page from the Democratic playbook and insist there is no reason any of this could be true except systemic classism, that any other explanation is offensive, and it’s the upper-class media’s moral duty to do something about this immediately.
And the free speech battle:
Insist that working-class people have the right to communicate with each other without interference from upper-class gatekeepers. Make sure people know every single fact about @Jack and what a completely ridiculous person he is, and point out that somehow this is the guy who decides what you’re allowed to communicate with your Twitter friends.
There’s an emptiness in the quest to get to the top of the pile no matter how many bodies are on the staircase. Some beautiful phrases here:
4. War On Wokeness. …wokeness is a made-up mystery religion that college-educated people invented so they could feel superior to you. Why are they so sure that “some of my best friends are black” doesn’t make you any less racist? Because the whole point is that the only way not to be racist is to master an inscrutable and constantly-changing collection of fashionable shibboleths and opinions which are secretly class norms. The whole point is to make sure the working-class white guy whose best friends are black and who marries a black woman and has beautiful black children feels immeasurably inferior to the college-educated white guy who knows that saying “colored people” is horrendously offensive but saying “people of color” is the only way to dismantle white supremacy. You should make it clear that this is total balderdash, you could not be less interested in it, and you will continue befriending colored people of color regardless.
There’s a theory that the US party system realigns every 50-or-so years. Last time, in 1965, it switched from the Democrats being the party of the South and the Republicans being the party for blacks, to vice versa. If the theory’s right, we’re in the middle of an equally big switch. Wouldn’t it be great if the Republicans became the racially diverse party of the working class? You can make it happen!
Read it all. Be a part of hammering out the solution.
We only have a small window to get a new narrative and give it flight…
h/t David E