Day By Day

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Crisis of the New Aristocracy

J. R. Dunn, over at the American Thinker asks why so many members of the conservative establishment -- he lists Peggy Noonan, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Richard Brookheiser, David Frum, Christopher Buckley, and David Brooks -- have judged Sarah Palin and found her wanting, despite and perhaps because of her enormous popularity. In some cases they are so outraged by her nomination that they have decided to support Obama. Why?

He thinks he has an answer:
[T]he urban conservative crowd is frightened of Palin because she represents a threat to the standard model of conservatism constructed since the wilderness years of the 1930s, in which a highly-educated and well-connected East Coast coterie led a much larger, less-informed heartland contingent. This, like it or not, is elitism. By their very nature, elites tend to corrode over time. And Sarah Palin, through the very fact of her showing up, has revealed this to be the case in our circle. She upset the enclave conservative applecart, and now they are angry -- a lot angrier than they have been at any lefties in recent memory.
Read it here.

Years ago in his prophetic novel, 1984, George Orwell noted the rise of a "new aristocracy"
made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians.
When 1984 was published, in 1948, this new aristocracy was just beginning to assume control in the United States [Orwell's reference was to the Soviet Union, but the concept embraces all of Western society]. Today it totally dominates the Democratic Party and, as Dunn shows, is well represented in the Republican. It fills the ranks of an ever-swelling government that has assumed more and more control over our lives. It staffs our educational institutions, our information and entertainment media, and organized labor. And it is beginning to become self-aware.

A number of recent political controversies -- over Harriet Meiers, Sarah Palin, and now Joe the Plummer, have exposed the extent to which this new "aristocracy" [they might prefer "meritocracy" or "the best and the brightest"] has class interests that span the political and ideological spectra. Once again the new aristocrats of the left and the right have drawn together in opposition to someone whom they perceive as a threat to their exalted status. But more importantly, the frequency of such occasions suggests that resistance to meritocratic domination is rising. The challenges are becoming more frequent and the resulting conflicts are creating a new degree of self-awareness within the new aristocracy. That is why so many are willing to support their ideological and political antagonist, Sen. Obama, rather than the charismatic vice presidential candidate of their own party. It also reflects the rising realization within the general public that the elites of neither party represent their interests. A crisis is blooming in American political culture and as it grows more and more we will find that class will tell.