The elitist case for Trump

(Photo: Gage Skidmore, CCL)


“Jeremy Corbyn attacks ‘fake anti-elitism’ of ‘rich white men’ Trump and Nigel Farage” reads an Independent headline that did the rounds on social media after the Labour leader apparently made a speech. It’s an angle that brings in the clicks. A few weeks before the same online only publication ran the smug headline “Two men standing in a gold-plated lift are claiming they’ve stuck it to the elite” which similarly generated a lot of traffic.

Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend making a habit of opening an article with two references to the Independent however in this case I am willing to make an exception. The sentiment expressed in response to Nigel Farage’s meeting with President-elect Trump in his New York apartment brings to the fore an unnatural shift occurring beneath the surface of contemporary politics.

Not only has the left had a monopoly on anti-elitism since time immemorial but the right has traditionally been quite happy to espouse elitist rhetoric. In this country, when the paternalist aristocratic High Tory right gave way to the libertarian new right, the fundamental elitism did not change. The message went from the need to preserve traditional social structures to the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” narrative however the elitist conclusion remains the same. The difference lies in a preference for elites achieving their status by their own merits rather than through good birth. As for the Americans, self-improvement has always been part of their national myth.

This divide isn’t merely superficial either. Leftist arguments are constantly framed in terms of redressing a perceived unfairness in power relations. The obvious example of this is redistribution of wealth. Income inequality is construed as the result of the exploitation of the poor by the rich but it is almost universally applicable. A fundamental premise of feminism is that social structures intrinsically favour male success. Raising awareness of mental health is important because it is not treated as seriously as physical health. I could go on. In each case a certain demographic is purportedly being cheated of their fair share of the pie, or at least a fair shot.

Does this sound familiar? The standard narrative of Trump’s election victory tells the story of disillusioned Americans being left behind by the modern world, ignored in a globalised economy. Of people not being given their fair share, if you will. This is all coming from a man nominated by the party of Reagan. Somehow the rhetoric of the party of free markets, small government, and personal responsibility is following well-trodden leftist territory.

Some commentators have reacted to this strange new political landscape by claiming that the left/right split is dead and politics should now be framed as a battle between the establishment and the anti-establishment. I find this unconvincing. You don’t find many Hillary or Remain supporters arguing that their cause is just simply because it represents the interests of the establishment. Further, left-wing narratives still frame the debate in terms of unjust power relations. Hillary’s emphasis on the need to protect minorities, and her constant assertion that there needs to be a female President to inspire the next generation are two of many examples of this. In true ideological divides, the high priests of both sides don’t disavow their core principles. There very much still is a right and a left, and a meaningful politics can still be construed and discussed in these terms.

I think I’d better get around to what I promised in the headline. The following, then, is my attempt to explain how someone who was on the right before it was cool could possibly be sympathetic to a Trump administration, especially considering the above remarks where I think I’ve done a convincing job of showing how left-wing Trump’s pitch actually is.

A good place to start when making an elitist pitch for Donald Trump should probably involve justifying the right’s love affair with elitism first before seeing how that matches up with the President-elect.

Contrary to popular belief the right are not gut-instinct elitists merely out of a self-interested desire to protect their wealth and power. In fact, there’s a consistent sophisticated philosophy behind it, which is very exciting.

Conservatives don’t trust the human condition. Rather than Rousseau’s noble savage we find Hobbes’s account of life without social institutions as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,’ far more believable. As such, entrenched inherited traditions and institutions provide a buffer against man acting in accordance with his brutish instincts. Strong checks and balances on power and an exclusive narrow route into the corridors of power guarantees that whatever soundbites and unrealistic promises politicians are compelled to make to obtain the votes of the ignorant masses a firm hand still guides the ship of state.

The governing classes should never lose sight of the fact that their main duty is to preserve, nurture, and pass on the system they themselves had the privilege to inherit. Change, when necessary, is slow and properly scrutinised to avoid the destruction of our hard fought, but easily destroyed, liberties. It is this sentiment, beating in the breast of all true conservatives, that justifies elitism.

The current elites are far removed from the Platonic ideal they have a duty to aspire to. Instead of preserving Western liberty, and the Judeo-Christian traditions that guard them, the elite as represented by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have spent the last few decades dismantling the cornerstones of liberty. On the campaign trail, especially when Bernie Sanders was pushing her to the left, Hillary was fond of talking about the first and second amendments being subject to “reasonable regulations.” Hillary believes it is “reasonable” for free speech, and the capacity for the people to defend themselves against a tyrannical state to be subject to regulations.

Obamacare has pushed up insurance premiums mainly due to its ludicrous banning of insurance companies charging higher rates for people with pre-existing conditions. This constitutes a basic failure to understand how insurance works. You can’t get home insurance after your house burns down, or car insurance after a car crash. It is big government at its worst and most incompetent.

There are myriad other examples of how the establishment have reneged on their duties as elites, but we’ll stop there. True conservatives at this point should turn to a diluvian response to this dire situation. It seems necessary to sweep away the current elites with a wave of populism hopefully to be replaced by people better aware of their duties. Trump appointing Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff, and making amends with House Speaker Paul Ryan give cause for quiet optimism on this front.

In a kind of accordance with the Indy’s line, it is in fact possible to have sympathies with entrenched elitism as well as two white men in a gold-plated lift. It remains to be seen if Trump will double down on his populist big government protectionism rhetoric or surround himself with competent operators to guide him through the business of making America great again.

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