November 21, 2022

ICYMI: SALENA ZITO: Trump was always the result of the conservative populist coalition, not the cause.

Ever since former President Donald Trump lost to President Joe Biden in 2020, there has been a flag hanging from a home not far from where I live that reads “Trump 2024” — one of the thousands I have seen across the country in the past two years. But yesterday, when I drove past this home, that sign was gone.

The Trump flag is a phenomenon I have written about for years. I have noted that this wasn’t really about Trump himself — it was mostly about the conservative populist movement, using the name of its only standard-bearer to let people know they were not going anywhere. At that point, no one else had stepped up to fill the void. And so the flag bore the Trump name.

Flashback: “To understand events around the world today, one must think in terms of the class struggle.”

Much of the current tension in America and in many other democracies is in fact a product of a class struggle. It’s not the kind of class struggle that Karl Marx wrote about, with workers and peasants facing off against rapacious capitalists, but it is a case of today’s ruling class facing disaffection from its working class.

In the old Soviet Union, the Marxists assured us that once true communism was established under a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” the state would wither away and everyone would be free. In fact, however, the dictatorship of the proletariat turned into a dictatorship of the party hacks, who had no interest whatsoever in seeing their positions or power wither.

Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas called these party hacks the “New Class,” noting that instead of workers and peasants against capitalists, it was now a case of workers and peasants being ruled by a managerial new class of technocrats who, while purporting to act for the benefit of the workers and peasants, somehow wound up with the lion’s share of the goodies. Workers and peasants stood in long lines for bread and shoddy household goods, while party leaders and government managers bought imported delicacies in special, secret stores. (In a famous Soviet joke, then-leader Leonid Brezhnev shows his mother his luxury apartment, his limousine, his fancy country house and his helicopter only to have her object: “But what if the communists come back?”) . . .

But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.

Their first response is always to call their critics bigots

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