The American Ruling Class Reaches Its Inflection Point

In a 2010 essay for The American Spectator, the late, great intellectual Angelo Codevilla wrote a rare essay that was, in retrospect, so prescient as to be outright eerie. Titled “America’s Ruling Class” and deploying “class”-based phraseology historically more at home in some corners of the political left than on the postwar political right, Codevilla set his sights squarely on his eponymous target. 

“Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits,” he wrote. “Whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats.”

Even more eerily prescient was Codevilla’s description of what motivates the ruling class. “Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself,” he wrote. “While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof.”

Is there a single sober-minded observer of our decrepit politics, in 2021, who does not read these words and immediately recognize that this is what is happening—indeed, what has been happening—in these United States?

Beginning with the 2008 bailouts, a parochial uniparty establishment—geographically and (nominally) politically diverse, but all sculpted by elite K-12 and higher education institutions to hold uniformly “correct” beliefs—deemed it necessary to toss moral hazard into the wind and lavish taxpayer money upon the failing Wall Street titans. As for elites’ message to the myriad struggling homeowners whose dreams were shattered by Fannie and Freddie, Clinton-era tropes about the relentless pursuit of “affordable housing” and simple lucre-seeking depravity: “Drop dead.”

The ruling class only tightened its grip in the ensuing years after the 2008 bailouts and the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 2009 nadir. Corporate profits soon skyrocketed, and the stock market began a prolonged, historically record-breaking ascent. But economic inequality worsened. Elites of both parties continued to push “free trade” and extensive economic entangling with a Chinese Communist Party regime hellbent on hollowing out the American industrial heartland and ultimately dedicated to America’s national implosion.

Republicans, who by dint of decades-long dripping academia/media disdain for their party and their voter base should have already realized they were now the party of blue-collar America, responded by nominating for the presidency a well-coiffed private equity plutocrat in Mitt Romney. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee was well-intentioned in most respects and admirably hawkish on immigration and national sovereignty matters, but that did not prevent the utterance of Romney’s infamous “47 percent” gaffe—a proverbial middle finger to the already ailing American heartland if ever there was one. President Barack Obama, ruling class talisman, cruised to reelection.

The American people, and especially the aggrieved and subjugated “deplorables,” responded in 2016 by electing to the presidency a man, in Donald Trump, who spoke their language and vowed to fight for them against the uniparty ruling class regime. The ruling class responded by launching an unprecedented, four-year-long campaign against the president, from deep state malfeasance to galling and gratuitous media coverage to coordinated Big Tech censorship (most egregiously, the quashed New York Post Hunter Biden laptop story) to ubiquitous suppression of conservative and pro-Trump viewpoints in the American academy under the risible guise of “microaggressions” and “safe spaces.” Elites to the half of America that voted for a duly elected president of the United States: “Drop dead.”

The era of COVID-19, a virus with a better than 99 percent recovery rate, has only accentuated and exacerbated this divide. Elites have latched onto Rahm Emanuel’s famous line about never letting a “serious crisis go to waste” and used it to seize previously unimagined power at all levels of governance. The purpose of this power, from officials such as Joe Biden to career bureaucrats such as Dr. Anthony Fauci to lowly foot soldiers such as pro-critical race theory teachers’ unions, is exactly what Codevilla said it was 11 years ago: “power for itself”—power tout court. In the era of COVID, the “biomedical security state,” to borrow the term recently popularized anew by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is the most convenient means of scratching the ruling class’ totalitarian itch and dividing the citizenry into de facto warring tribes.

The silver lining is that on every major issue, from COVID hysteria to critical race theory indoctrination to the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle, the rottenness of the American ruling class has been exposed. The ruling class senses this, and it will respond in the short term by accelerating its efforts. But such a tactic is not sustainable. The inflection point, and the time for the deplorables to unite against ruling class tyranny, is right now.


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About Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is senior editor-at-large of Newsweek. A popular conservative commentator, he is a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation and a syndicated columnist through Creators. A frequent pundit and essayist on political, legal, and cultural issues, Hammer is a constitutional attorney by training. He is a former John Marshall Fellow with the Claremont Institute and a campus speaker through Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Young America’s Foundation, and the Federalist Society.

Photo: Groton School, Groton, MA. John Greim via Getty Images