At the American Interest, Jason Willick writes perceptively about Samuel Huntington’s prediction, more than two decades old, that the political order in the West would be turned upside down by a growing gulf between a “global elite” and their more nationalist general populations. The post-war push for an elite cosmopolitanism demanded free trade, open immigration policies, and an internationalist foreign policy in an effort to transcend the baleful effects of an excessive and irrational love of one’s own (the elite shorthand for this is nationalism). This effort may now be discovering that their push was too hard and Willick’s article is of a piece with a spate of others like it, written by those who are sympathetic to globalist ends, but–if not quite urging for a pull-back–at least insisting on greater clarity about the nature of our present political moment. In a recent New York Times piece David Brooks also speaks to the question of a coming realignment of the political order in which he rightly argues that Trump has been able to smash the terms of the old right-left divide over small v. big government to one focusing more on the question of our relative “openness” or “closedness” (Brooks’ words). What Brooks really means is something similar to what Hungtington was talking about in his work and Willick recounts in the article referenced above.
What most of these pieces have in common, however, is not just some newfound clarity about the changing tides of our political discussion. They also share a cocksure belief that the globalists (or, as we prefer to call them in the spirit of JAG, the Davoisie) are correct in condemning what they see as the close-mindedness and stupidity of the common people in their orthodox assuredness that opening up the doors on trade and immigration is an unqualified good that we should be willing to deploy our resources abroad to maintain and protect. David Brooks ends his piece by declaring that though the forces of darkness (as he sees them) will be driving the conversation from here on out, the trouble they will have to confront is that the forces of globalism won’t go away (true) and that those forces are “massively right.” He seems to be urging those “massively right” betters among us to come to some reasoned method of dealing with the rubes. Since neoconservatism and its drive to spread the goodness of American democracy abroad no longer fits the bill, I guess they figure they need some other way to keep us cheering in the stands and chanting “USA!” since that’s probably all that we need to keep us satisfied while they do the hard work of keeping the globalist/cosmopolitan/Davoisie agenda alive.
So they are prepared to admit that they “pushed too hard” which, I suppose, is big of them since less than a year ago none of this was supposed to be happening. As the writers at JAG once put it, “Everything was awesome.”
But look, this is more than a simple case of pushing too hard. In Federalist 10, Publius warns of the problem of faction. Factions can be born out of interests or opinions or from some combination of both. Our constitution is set up so that “ambition can counteract ambition” and thus give to government some motivation to keep factions at bay. The object of our partly federal, partly national system is good government and a more perfect Union that advances what approximates the interests of the whole nation over and against the interests of any particular faction. But what if there were a faction to which most of the people in government belonged [REGARDLESS OF PARTY] and, by virtue of membership in it, they had more in common with the elite citizens [JUST “ELITES?”] of other nations than they did with the majority of their own fellow citizens? Could we trust these elite citizens of the world to govern on behalf of America’s best interests or would their perception of those interests necessarily be skewed by their ideas about what leads to the prosperity, happiness and fulfillment of people like them across the globe?
This are the central questions now before us: How well does our government currently represent its people in their totality? How well is it understanding or preserving truly American interests at home or abroad? To a very large degree, much of the dispute about the answers to these questions centers around whether representing the opinions and interests of the broad spectrum of Americans actually is representing the national interest. A great number of those in the elite faction have determined that too many Americans do not think rightly about their own interests and that their opinions, therefore, do not deserve respect. Such people, the elites seem to say, need their benevolent superiors in government, the media, on Wall Street, and in education to correct their misconceptions about what is happening around them. I mean, who are they going to believe? The experts or their lying eyes?
If we are to believe that the objects of globalism are “massively right,” as Brooks asserts, it bears asking “for whom are they massively right?” And it’s worth remembering that they are not equally “right” for everyone. The good effects of globalism flow, pretty heavily and obviously, to the well-educated and the insulated. It’s much less obvious to the working class how imported cheap labor at home and exported cheap labor abroad improves their lot. Oh, that’s right. Cheap entertainment and doo-dads from Wal-Mart will keep them distracted from the difficulties of building meaningful, productive, and virtuous middle class lives in communities that according to some of our betters, “deserve to die.” It remains unclear to this poor rube how the widespread decay of such communities and the social, economic, and political chaos that will bring with it serves the national interest in any meaningful way, but maybe I’m guilty of believing my lying eyes, too.