Washington’s Bill of Wrongs

Is it time to replace our Washington elites?

Nearly a year ago, National Review writer Kevin Williamson infamously declared that white, working class communities “deserve to die.” While the charge reverberated and appalled most who read it—particularly the white Trump supporters at which it was aimed—Williamson did not lose his job. He was praised and defended, and still writes for NRO.

Last week, another member of the privileged #NeverTrump class took aim at the historic American population. Bill Kristol, who recently smeared former American Greatness senior contributing editor Michael Anton as a Nazi, suggested at an American Enterprise Institute  discussion with Charles Murray that white working class Americans are so “lazy, spoiled” and generally unsatisfactory, that they deserve to be replaced by “new Americans.”

Kristol said,

Look, to be totally honest, if things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to get new Americans in? Seriously, you can make the case—this is going on too long and this is too crazy, probably, and I hope this thing isn’t being videotaped or ever shown anywhere. Whatever tiny, pathetic future I have is going to totally collapse.

You can make a case that America has been great because every—I think John Adams said this—basically if you’re a free society, a capitalist society, after two or three generations of hard work everyone becomes kind of decadent, lazy, spoiled—whatever. Then, luckily, you have these waves of people coming in from Italy, Ireland, Russia, and now Mexico, who really want to work hard and really want to succeed and really want their kids to live better lives than them and aren’t sort of clipping coupons or hoping that they can hang on and meanwhile grew up as spoiled kids and so forth. In that respect, I don’t know how this moment is that different from the early 20th century.

Just before this point in their conversation, Murray had offered a much different perspective on immigration:

…Elite America was able to avoid any of the costs of immigration, whereas non-elite America was not able to avoid those costs, is a source of a great deal of the anger. And I will just add parenthetically that the one thing that I really changed my view on over the course of last year—I never warmed to Donald Trump and I am still not not warmed to Donald Trump—I have warmed to the idea that…we as Americans owe an obligation to our fellow Americans that should…I want to say “trump”…that should, should take priority over our loyalty to the world’s population and globalization, and so I am in favor of limiting low-skill immigration in a way that I was not in favor of it before, prompted in part by the kinds of issues implicit in your question.

Kristol immediately chimed in: “I’ve actually sort of gone the opposite way on immigration,” and launched into the tirade that got him into hot water last week—though, in my opinion, not enough.

Kristol gives vague citation to John Adams as inspiration for his sentiments about the need to refresh a degenerating democratic population. But it seems more likely that Kristol is taking inspiration from Plato’s argument about the degenerative nature of democracy and the cycle of regimes. Tocqueville, too, expressed skepticism about the ability of Americans to remain virtuous enough to govern themselves. It bears noting, however, that even in his darkest musings about the actions that tyrants might take against their own people, Plato never contemplated a tyrant so evil that he would seek to physically replace his own people every three generations.

While masquerading in the guise of an aristocratic plea to right the wrongs of degenerate modern democracy, Kristol’s recommendations remind one more of something from Machiavelli: a prince importing mercenaries when he cannot control or make use of his own citizens. (Though Machiavelli doesn’t even recommend this as a course of action, since mercenaries aren’t loyal to anyone.)

The problem is Kristol doesn’t seem to allow for any remedies for the plight of the white working class, and he doesn’t diagnose their problem as primarily one of citizen virtue. “We need immigrants who have more of the old-fashioned American virtues than lots of old-fashioned Americans,” Kristol said. One assumes that he means a work ethic. Surely Kristol doesn’t believe the only virtues are economic—does he? For that matter, is it really a virtue to be willing to work for wages artificially depressed through mass immigration?

In his discussion of how a prince can go about conquering a republic, Machiavelli observed: “For in truth, there is not any sure mode of possessing [such cities], other than to ruin them. But in republics there is greater life, greater hate, more desire for vengeance; the memory of ancient liberty does not leave them, nor can it let them rest—so the safest way is either to extinguish them or to live there.”

Whether it’s true that replacing the white working class with “new Americans” would really be good for the economic well-being of the nation as a whole seems to be an open question. But setting economics aside—would replacing a population used to liberty with one unused to liberty be good for the political well-being of the nation, assuming that self-government is a political good?

Whether democratic peoples eventually lose their capacity for self-government, particularly without careful devotion to piety and education, is a serious question. What is remarkable about the American working class today is in spite of the fact that, for decades, politicians and the education establishment have offered little to remind them of who they are, they still love their country and fellow citizens. Who has been there to teach them?

When it comes to historical memory, the white working class, despite all odds, hasn’t lost its devotion to the American nation. They loved it enough to vote for Trump in 2016.

The same cannot be said for our political elites. But just as working class Americans resist the idea of their grand replacement, so too does our intellectual class. Nevertheless, after two or three generations, the intelligentsia has become decadent, lazy, and spoiled. If things are so bad in Washington, don’t we want to get some new elites?

About Marjorie Jeffrey

Marjorie Jeffrey is a PhD Candidate in Political Theory and International Relations and a veteran of Conservative, Inc. You can connect with her on Twitter @MarjJeffrey.

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23 responses to “Washington’s Bill of Wrongs”

  1. Remarkable, it’s just remarkable that you are still demanding that Kevin Williamson be punished for saying that many poor white communities are sick with drug abuse, illegitimacy, and dependence on social welfare program. No amount of blaming immigrants for “taking our jobs” is going to solve the deterioration of these communities.

  2. Ah, nice to see a political theory student spending time closely reading the words of Bill Kristol. Certainly worthy of your time.

    Your citations to Plato linked to articles by Decius? Sad!

    Time will tell if Trump, his administration, and a potential shift in elites will actually do working class Americans any good. One can applaud Trump for his anti-globalist outlook, but the patriotism he is encouraging is one that is without duties. He said in his inauguration speech that government must serve the people–fair enough. However the speech wasn’t dedicated at all to telling Americans what they can do (nor has he ever really done this), rather, it was dedicated to how he, as an individual, will fix our problems. I don’t think Trump is going to rekindle our love of liberty and virtue. He is too paternalistic–a different kind of paternalism than the welfare state–but one that all the same, tells the American people that we don’t have to worry, because Papa Trump will fix our problems.

    Further, while Trump invoked God more in the inaugural address than he did perhaps at any other time in his life, it seems highly unlikely that he will contribute very much to revitalizing the pillar of faith in America.

    On education, at least he thinks Common Core is bad.

    On the whole, one hopes that Trump and the intellectuals backing him have a positive vision for the country–not just a thoroughgoing critique of the establishment. This article merely says No. Armchair academics on the Right and Left say No all the time. The only positive purpose of the article I can divine is the author establishing herself against the establishment–for the article certainly wasn’t one that attempted to illumine political phenomena for readers.

    • I’m flattered that you have a disqus account solely devoted to commenting on my blogs.

    • the speech wasn’t dedicated at all to telling Americans what they can do (nor has he ever really done this), rather, it was dedicated to how he, as an individual, will fix our problems.

      That’s stupefyingly dishonest. The speech said absolutely nothing about how he, as an individual, will fix our problems. He used the “I’ word just three times in the entire speech – and one was “The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.” He used “we” thirty-three times.

  3. 51% of immigrants are on welfare. The lazy, loafers aren’t born here. Well the DC pundit class excepted of course.

  4. I am astonished that Kristol did not buy a fake beard and a cheap car for cash and make a try for a new identity after his excruciating, public, and devastatingly thorough demolishing by Donald Trump over the past 18 months. Nowhere in the history of political reporting has anyone’s wrongmanship, wrongosity, wrongtitude, or rogue wrongitry been as humiliatingly wrong as Kristol’s (George Will…? okay, that’s fair). Usually when your level of wrongness cannot be calculated without resort to scientific notation, well, you’re out. No one pays any attention to you anymore and when you chime in with something you are reminded of your chronic wrongness and asked to be quiet so as not to disturb the non-numbskulls.

    • Can’t agree more…but his game has never been to be right, it’s been to rule.

  5. Rather than replace our self-proclaimed elites, we just need to acknowledge there isn’t very much elite about them and place most on “ignore.” Kristol and the other neoconservatives are irrelevant and have been thrown on the dustbin of history.

    “But setting economics aside—would replacing a population used to liberty with one unused to liberty be good for the political well-being of the nation, assuming that self-government is a political good?”

    For Kristol this would be a feature and not a bug. If we dig further into this mentality, we can understand why some people were willing to expend the lives of young men and women to reorder the world in a lunatic scheme. What Kristol shared here, and it is a belief held throughout the Beltway, is our military is comprised of expendable white trash, as is our civil population, and their loss, suffering and pain means nothing to them.

    The problem isn’t our discredited elites. It’s the malignant cancer they have spread throughout the Administrative State, and it must be excised by all means necessary to save and improve American lives.

    The AEI also needs to explain why it would showcase such a dismal human being whose entire life has been rendered a meaningless failure, and, even worse, caused the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands here and abroad.

  6. I don’t understand Williamson’s idiocy but Kristol has zero knowledge of the real America because his “roots” in America only go back to the early Twentieth Century and neither he or his father ever had any connection whatsoever to rural America. I do, and although I became a professional pilot, my brothers, cousins, nephews and nieces ARE hardworking and none of them are on welfare or have criminal records, nor are they into drugs or alcohol abuse. They have all the answers but neither of them know what the questions are.

  7. I suppose this is off-topic, but it never fails to annoy me when people talk about the ‘white’ or any other ‘middle class’. There are no classes in America, not by law, nor custom, nor tradition. There are people of middle income, or people who work blue-collar jobs, or whatever, but those are not permanent statuses, nor are their children forbidden from becoming rich or ‘elite’ (whatever the hell that is). America is, according to its own ideals, the Land of Opportunity. The richest Americans are successful entrepreneurs from modest origins (viz. Bill Gates, Rush Limbaugh, et al.); the name of the game is Mobility. It’s not for nothing that we learned as school children how Abraham Lincoln rose from splitting rails at his parents’ log cabin to become President of these United States. If there is something preventing poor folks from rising today, than that’s what we have to fix.

    Now back to your regularly-scheduled topic.

    /Mr Lynn

  8. Williamson’s general point is that no one can continue to live in exactly the same place that they grew up doing exactly the same jobs as their parents, and at some point the obligation is on them to adapt. That is a far cry from implying that he literally wants blue-collar Americans to die (Williamson himself is from blue-collar roots). Where things get complicated is when factors beyond personal behavior become involved. The welfare state has made it possible for people to live, albeit at a less than great level, better on welfare than at minimum wage. Many factors imposed on blue-collar and rural (and inner city) communities are entirely political and arbitrary, and wreck those communities while at the same time providing enough support for people to remain there, on the dole. Mass immigration then further undercuts the working class, while a third-rate public school system ensures they can’t go anywhere. Take away all of those factors – and unfortunately the desire of many people to vote themselves benefits – and things will change on their own. In that case, telling people to work or starve is totally acceptable.

    Kristol is another matter. Something about his cry-baby face just wants to make me punch it. That said, as a staunch big-government conservative and silver-spoon baby, he is the last person to be talking about old-fashioned American attitudes and personal responsibility. Williamson at least stands for small government and personal responsibility. Kristol is simply full of sh*t.

    • I do agree that government intervention has had disastrous results. I am old enough to have known people born into very poor circumstances and to know how they improved their circumstances without the social safety net so highly regarded today. My best friend’s mother left school after the 8th grade to join her sister in a local shirt factory. She loved it. She was very proud of herself for contributing first to her family’s income, and later to her own household. My mother exhausted herself trying to work her way through a teachers college. When she faltered in her senior year, they traded out her last semester for teaching in a rural high school. These are only two examples. People coped. Ways were found. Those generations learned to be resourceful and self-reliant. The government’s social safety net comes with a high price.

  9. Kristol immediately chimed in: “I’ve actually sort of gone the opposite way on immigration”

    Well, that’s just Kristol lying again. He’s always been an open borders fanatic and ten years ago complained that “right wing yahoos” were obstructing so-called “comprehensive immigration reform”.

  10. I am totally disarmed by Bill Kristol’s self-deprecating humor. The lament of his pathetic future earns him a certain amount of latitude. I actually recognize what he’s talking about. Americans are successful, capitalism works, and we all get richer. Perhaps richer than our economy can support. I am amazed at how well I live. I grew up overseas, where a whole floor of a friend’s apartment building shared one bathroom. I have 2-1/2!!! I had two but put in a powder room so I wouldn’t have to walk so far! My grandmother never had a real washer, just one with a wringer on top (to wring out as much water as possible). My parents, children of the Depression, never overspent. I have charge cards and I’m not afraid to use them. There is a lot of truth to Kristol’s point. The post WWII years ushered in a real boom economy, and we all benefitted. It doesn’t seem that we’re going to see those times again. the Five Generals that ran the economy are down to three, and a couple aren’t doing so well. There are no longer union jobs that would support a family and fund retirement. I don’t know what the answer is. But my heart breaks to see the rural small towns, which I believe were once the backbone of America, lose vitality and die. And there is no doubt that globalism stinks and our loyalties belong to our fellow countrymen … California excepted. (Sorry!)

  11. Last I knew, Americans, the legal ones anyway, still had a say in what many
    policies, including immigration, ought to be. Kristol’s arrogance that Washington DC should debate and decide what’s best for the country, in the case of immigration, by their failure to enforce existing law and by twisting the language into pretzels such as “unauthorized immigrants”, is what has made them despised by many of us. Kristol’s point could be legitimate, but this is not his or the rest of the “elites” decision. Make your case publicly, if you dare, instead of pretending to be for what you clearly are not.

    The elites have lost the virtues of humility, honesty and personal integrity and until they find these again I’ll stick with Trump and ignore anything any of these guys have to say. The great deception is over.