Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Explaining Trump

Victor Davis Hanson writes:
Trump is a dangerously effective classic demagogue not because the working white poor are empty-vessel racists, but rather because he has split white America along class lines and has, among the Republicans, who are already the minority party, opened a self-destructive Pandora’s box of white resentments toward wealthy whites who use their education, family ties, networks, income, and money to leverage privilege while caricaturing or deprecating poor and middle-class whites. 
In other words, Trump is popular because he is attacking cuckservatives, as they are termed by the Alt-Right. Others have noted that his attacking the elites and their imposition of political correctness, underlies Trumps popularity. For instance, the Anonymous Conservative ("AC") writes today that Ted Cruz risks losing the Anti-Establishment vote because he (Cruz) is arguing that Trump is too aggressive. AC observes, though:
This is a huge mistake. Conservatives are K-strategists who see a rapidly approaching period of K-selection. Angst is building, and rage is barely constrained. Anti-establishment conservatives are the most aggressive of all – they want to fight the establishment because they feel it isn’t fighting the left hard enough.
In a larger context, this is just another episode in the decline of civilization. Oswald Spengler observed from his comparative study of cultures and civilizations that the transition from culture to civilization is accompanied by the elevation of the cosmopolitan, with its ultimate form being what he termed the "world city"--the great transnational metropolises, dominated by elites who would hold the inhabitants of smaller burghs and the countryside in disdain. These elites, Spengler noted, were the elites of a money economy (i.e., an economy focused on financial affairs rather than production--banks and stock exchanges instead of farms or factories) and ideology. But, separated from the culture which gave the people their vitality, such a civilization was doomed to decline and suffer either conquest or stagnation. In such a society, power naturally gravitated to the top. Eventually, according to Spengler, every society produces its own Caesars. Spengler believed that the West had already entered the period of civilization and decline when he published his work, entitled, appropriately enough, The Decline of the West. Paris, London, Berlin, and New York were already becoming "world cities."

It is notable that these are world cities, though, not national. Spengler had correctly noted and predicted that the course of civilization ultimately led to the rejection of the people that created it in favor of the cosmopolitan: the necessity of the money economy demanded it and the contempt for the rural and common justified it. That the elite feel free to spit upon the foundational organization of our culture--marriage--and enshrine sexual debauchery and mental illness as a constitutional right, merely underscores how secure they believe their position to be.

Whether Trump is a putative Caesar, an empty suit intended to distract the masses, or something else entirely, is irrelevant to the basic fact that he represents a last civil attempt for the masses to retain some modicum of power to themselves. In Our Enemy The State, Albert Jay Nock noted that the intersection of the State and the individual was a border representing, on one side, State power, and the other what he termed social power.  He wrote:
It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own. All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn. Therefore every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power; there is never, nor can there be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power. 
Moreover, it follows that with any exercise of State power, not only the exercise of social power in the same direction, but the disposition to exercise it in that direction, tends to dwindle. ...
Martin Gurri, writing in his book, The Revolt of the Public, and his articles at The Fifth Wave blog, believes that the revolt against the elite is essentially nihilistic; and, in fact, believes that Donald Trump is a product of this nihilism. My personal belief, still somewhat inchoate, are that Gurri may be correct that certain protests and movements are nihilistic--essentially an r-strategy trait, as AC would probably characterize it--but that not all anti-Establishment movements are nihilistic, nor that nihilism is what underlies Trump's popularity (or even that of Ted Cruz, who has also run as anti-Establishment). While there are those that simply want to see the world burn, and endorse Trump (or Cruz) simply because of the chaos they hope he brings upon the Republican establishment, I believe that underlying this is a very definite movement that seeks to retake power from the State; to increase social power and deplete State power. To someone invested in the State (or seeing no alternative to government by the State)--and I would note that Gurri had been a CIA analyst--such a position appears to be a quest for anarchy or nihilism because, for those invested in the State, there is no difference between government and the State; a proposition that Nock not only rejected, but argued had led to many errors in political analysis and thought.

If I am correct--that Trump is a last peaceful attempt to reallocate the division of power between the State and society--then we are in for a most interesting ride. The State will not willingly give up that power. I fully expect Trump (or Cruz, for that matter)--one way or another--to fail at any such reallocation, although I don't know whether that will be his failing to get elected, getting elected but lacking the will or desire to reshape the system, or simply being stymied. If I am correct that this is a last civil attempt to obtain a reallocation, then the next steps will be uncivil attempts including violence, sabotage, and social unrest.

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