Zman feels the winds of change rising, as the national division between rural and urban, elite establishment and worthiness widen and deepen.
For generations, the source of conflict in the American political system is that it represents a small slice of the American people. The Yankee elite that rose up in the aftermath of the Civil War, later joined by Jews in the 20th century, represents not only a narrow cultural slice of American society, but a narrow economic slice as well. Since the end of the Cold War this has become acute. In 30 years, there have been three major reformist movements attempting to broaden the ruling coalition.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but Ross Perot was in many respects the prototype for Donald Trump’s 2016 run. Perot ran as an outsider, on the back of his folksy observations about the federal government. Despite being very rich, he was clearly a man of the lower classes. His picaresque presentation was very appealing to a large portion of the population open to populist appeals. If not for his enigmatic personality, he probably would have won the White House in 1992.
Of course, what opened the door for Perot’s 1992 run was the Buchanan challenge to George H. W. Bush in the Republican primary. When asked why he was running against Bush he said, “If the country wants to go in a liberal direction, it doesn’t bother me as long as I’ve made the best case I can. What I can’t stand are the backroom deals. They’re all in on it, the insider game, the establishment game—this is what we’re running against.” That should sound familiar.
Both of those efforts to broaden the establishment coalition to include the majority of white Americans failed, but they set up the 2016 Trump run. …
What we have seen thus far in the 30 years since the end of the Cold War is two of the three ways people can attempt to broaden the ruling coalition. Both are reform efforts that start outside with the desire to end up inside. Perot wanted to bring in new people, who would represent the broader public. Buchanan and Trump both wanted to reform the system by reforming one of the parties. Buchanan wanted a genuine right-wing party, while Trump wanted a populist party.
The third way, of course, is the purely outsider movement. This is when the unrepresented create an alternative outside the ruling coalition. They either peacefully compel the ruling elite to acknowledge their interests or they replace the ruling elite, and the system they rule, with a new elite and a new system. This is exactly what happened with the American Revolution. A new elite replaced the old elite and created a system that worked for them to replace the old system.
This is what makes the current moment so dangerous. Within one generation three efforts to broaden the ruling coalition have failed, while the condition of the unrepresented has declined. Just as important, the number of people feeling threatened by the status quo has increased. In the 1990’s, reformers were speaking for the white working class. Today, it is the broader middle-class that is becoming increasingly radicalized by the intransigence of the ruling class.
Rush Limbaugh, too, is beginning to despair of there being any possibility of national coexistence, let alone unity.
I thought you were asking me something else when you said, “Can we win?” I thought you meant, “Can we win the culture, can we dominate the culture.” I actually think — and I’ve referenced this, I’ve alluded to this a couple of times because I’ve seen others allude to this — I actually think that we’re trending toward secession. I see more and more people asking what in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York? What is there that makes us believe that there is enough of us there to even have a chance at winning New York? Especially if you’re talking about votes.
I see a lot of bloggers — I can’t think of names right now — a lot of bloggers have written extensively about how distant and separated and how much more separated our culture is becoming politically and that it can’t go on this way. There cannot be a peaceful coexistence of two completely different theories of life, theories of government, theories of how we manage our affairs. We can’t be in this dire a conflict without something giving somewhere along the way.
And I know that there’s a sizable and growing sentiment for people who believe that that is where we’re headed, whether we want to or not — whether we want to go there or not. I myself haven’t made up my mind. I still haven’t given up the idea that we are the majority and that all we have to do is find a way to unite and win, and our problem is the fact that there are just so many RINOs, so many Republicans in the Washington establishment who will do anything to maintain their membership in the establishment because of the perks and the opportunities that are presented for their kids and so forth.