Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Louis Proyect's Elites

I am very happy that Trump won the election--enough so that I'm at least temporarily coming out of healing hibernation to pen this article. Plus I've recovered partial use of my left hand.

On one level this election pitted the Elites against the Hoi Polloi. The case was wonderfully made in a rant by the very talented Micheal Moore, intended as a trailer for his movie, Trumpland. Mr. Moore has his facts wrong--as do my Trotskyist friends--but he certainly gets the emotion right. A vote for Trump is a big "f*** you" to the establishment.

So there is something odd about Louis Proyect's blog. As of this writing he hasn't posted any serious analysis of the election. Yes, there is this article, which ultimately is about whether Jill Stein's 1% is significant. And then there's this, a profanity-laden piece about the history of the Democratic Party. Mostly he's retreated to movie reviews. But nowhere does he explain why Trump won the election. Why did 46.6% of the electorate (and excluding California a majority) vote for a fascist/racist/misogynist/idiot? How is it that the Republicans morphed into the party of the working class, while the Democrats were endorsed by all the sophisticated, right-thinking people?

He claims to be on the side of the working class, but it sure looks like he sides with the elites. I think he's befuddled, which explains his silence.

I infer that from this movie review he authored post-election. I don't read his movie reviews--not because they're bad, but just that I'm not interested. I haven't read this one either, but the first paragraph caught my attention.
Around this time every year I begin to be deluged by DVD’s and Vimeo links geared to the sort of middle-brow films that Hollywood studios submit for consideration to members of New York Film Critics Online for our annual awards meeting in early December. If you’ve ever seen something by Merchant-Ivory, you’ll probably know the kind of movie I’m talking about.
So I don't own a DVD player, I know nothing about the December awards, and I've never heard of Merchant-Ivory. When I watch movies (seldom) it is purely for escapism. So I am (at best) a "middle-brow" movie-watcher--the very kind Mr. Proyect so summarily dismisses.

And of course he's right to dismiss. He knows much more about movies than I do, and there is no reason why he should be held hostage to my (poor) taste. Indeed, when it comes to movies Mr. Proyect is a member of the elite. And despite my disinterest, I'm very happy there is a movie elite--were there not, even the movies I watch (syrupy rom-coms) would be less good.

Even in politics one has to place value in elites. After all, you want people in government who actually know something, and perhaps are even competent. Filling the halls with proletarian ignoramuses inevitably leads to disaster, as the Bolsheviks discovered beginning on October 8th 1917. "Peasants with Pitchforks" makes for a nice slogan, but you don't really want them in power. Much better is somebody from Goldman-Sachs.

Mr. Proyect, subconsciously at least, yearns for an elite, but it's the wrong kind of elite. His elite is not competent public servants, but rather people who claim to know what we want better than we do ourselves. Because of supposed climate change, for example, the American working class is required to fork over billions of dollars to third-world kleptocrats (or at least that's what the Paris accords require). Because cities are such charming places, Mr. Proyect's elites want to force us all into denser housing (aka tenements) so as to restore the mythical sense of community of yore. Mr. Proyect's elites are against almost all technological progress, from fracking to GMO agriculture. Their goal is poverty for everybody (except for the elite nomenklatura). And worse, our movie elites, instead of just making our movies better, want to force-feed us politically correct propaganda.

So who are Mr. Proyect's elites? Certainly they include people like Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Mackler, and--yes--Hillary Clinton. Mr. Proyect will undoubtedly complain that I put all these people in the same basket, and he is right that there are distinctions between them. Ms. Clinton, for example, is not merely elite in the sense I've described, but also claims (incredibly) to be a competent politician. As such, she's more willing to compromise with the status quo.

None of the rest make any concessions to reality. "Free college for all," insisting that American workers (e.g., Walmart employees) pay tuition for the children of the elite, is among their more ridiculous demands. Taxing the top 0.1% of the population into oblivion is not a viable way of raising anybody's standard of living. Putting the pharmaceutical companies out of business won't improve health care. Banning all technological innovation more consequential than an iPhone makes for a stagnant, poorer society.

We'll leave aside the explicit antisemitism, the rabid bigotry against religious people (especially Catholics), the unvarnished hatred of the Scots-Irish, and the deep suspicion that something traitorous is the matter with Kansas (and the rest of rural America). The fact is that Mr. Proyect's elites hate and fear most Americans. They do so because they claim to speak on our behalf, but at some level realize that we don't want to live in the way they prescribe.

So we voted for Donald Trump.

Now that's very strange. After all, far from being a Peasant with a Pitchfork, Mr. Trump is himself very proudly a member of the elite. He's made no attempt to hide it, flying around in his own plane, living in a gold-plated penthouse, and owning expensive, golf resorts. Notwithstanding the "blue-collar billionaire" moniker, Mr. Trump is just as elite as Misters Goldman and Sachs.

But that gets us back to where we started. I did say we need elites. I voted for him precisely because he isn't a peasant. He really does know something about how the system works and has connections to people who know even more. The difference between Mr. Trump and the rest of them is not his class. No, it's instead who he works for.

Because Mr. Trump can listen. He understands the plea of Middle America for some cultural stability. Not stasis, mind you, but at least a more modest rate of change. There is no question that globalization--hugely enriching overall, and in the long term good for everybody--is highly disruptive in particular times and places. One can't stop it, but perhaps one should slow it down. He realizes that the path to a richer society is to let people earn a living--be it by fracking, or mining, or trading securities, or building houses, or growing food. The obscene level of regulation prohibits citizens from earning an honest living.

Example: Does anybody remember the name Eric Garner? He was the poor fellow inadvertently killed by police officers in Staten Island. He tried to scratch out a living selling "loosies", i.e., individual cigarettes. This is illegal because the State of New York (I'm looking at you, Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio) needs the tax revenue from tobacco. So the cops went after him. Mr. Garner wasn't too bright and the scuffle led to his death.

The Left, including Mr. Proyect's elites, blamed Racism on the part of the police. But they've got the wrong "R" word. The real word is Revenue. Mr. Garner was killed for selling a legal product on a public street, not because he was Black, not because the cops are racist, but because Mr. Proyect's elites are against smoking, they need revenue, and anybody who gets in their way has to be dealt with mercilessly.

When Mr. Trump talks about deregulation, that's what he's talking about. Citizens (such as Mr. Garner) have a right to earn an honest living. The sniveling, hypocritical, selfish elites that populate Mr. Proyect's political universe don't understand that. They're too greedy, too self-righteous, too interested in some stupid cause (saving the planet, stopping smoking, overthrowing capitalism), to care about little people like Mr. Garner.

We can all be very grateful that Mr. Trump won the election.

Further Reading: