I’m beginning to catch up after my brief absence of thirteen days, by reading The Financial Times with Martin Wolf’s essay from May 17, 2016 titled ‘Failing elites are to blame for unleashing Donald Trump’. Mr. Wolf demonstrates his bad judgement by quoting at length from Andrew Sullivan, possibly the most politically myopic, to use the most charitable term, of the Thatcherite, Neo-Conservative, Neo-Liberal, in his various iterations, political commentators that have made America home. America warms to British Reactionaries, we provide a safe haven for a thinker with an accent we find disarming, even when the politics are unseemly. Sullivan and his championing of the Bell Curve at The New Republic,a stunning object lesson of the unseemly! And for those who are old enough to recall Mr. Sullivan’s tenure at The New York Observer, where his obsession was with maintaining ideological conformity on the 9-11 question, or his support for the Iraq War, place him in the category of The Failed Elites per Mr. Wolf’s own standard!
‘Andrew Sullivan, the conservative commentator, recently wrote: “In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event.” He is right.’
‘Mr Sullivan calls on Plato, the greatest of anti-democratic philosophers, in aid. Plato, he reminds us, believed that the more equal a society became the less it would accept authority. In its place would come the demagogue who offers simple remedies for complex problems.’
‘The presumptive Republican nominee is the pied piper of the enraged and the resentful.’Mr Trump is the pied piper of the enraged and the resentful. He has risen, argues Mr Sullivan, as the man who will “take on the increasingly despised elites”. Moreover, the media revolution has facilitated this rise by erasing “almost any elite moderation or control of our democratic discourse”. ‘
There are many more politically honest ‘reporters’ on the Trump phenomenon than Mr. Sullivan or Mr. Wolf.
And don’t forget the obligatory Putin as political monster of the moment woven into the narrative:
By exaggerating crises or creating them, a would-be despot can pervert judicial and political systems. The presidents of Russia and Turkey are skilful exemplars.
The first two lines of the following paragraph seem a far echo of Disraeli’s defense of a landed aristocracy’s benevolent paternalism, although Mr. Cameron’s ‘One Nation’ also a borrowing from Disraeli is pure Lynton Crosby/Karl Rove political opportunism! What is the requirement for a ‘healthy republic’ if not equality? Mutual sympathy is not an idea born and nurtured by conservatives, except for Disraeli’s policy prescience, but rather by David Hume and the Adam Smith of the ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’ and ‘The Wealth of Nations’ viewed holistically by Smith as his unrealized ‘Science of Man’: who both viewed Capitalism as emancipatory, and inexorably tied to those moral sentiments as a means out of a persistent feudalism.
‘A healthy republic does not require equality, far from it. But it does require a degree of mutual sympathy. Sudden wealth from new activities — conquest in ancient Rome, banking in medieval Florence — can corrode social bonds. If civic virtue vanishes, a republic becomes ripe for destruction.’
Why is it a surprise that in the eighth year of the failure of Neo-Liberalism, that Trump should appeal to desperate voters, who have watched all efforts by Elites to bring Western economies back to prosperity have failed. The notion that Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio are somehow representative of a ‘political rationalism’ demonstrates Mr. Wolf’s bad judgement again. Cruz a nearly unhinged theocrat and Rubio a rabid Neo-Conservative!
‘It must be sobering to Republican elites that their base chose Mr Trump over Ted Cruz and Mr Cruz over everybody else. The party elite played populist games, notably in their adamant refusal to co-operate with the president. Those better at such games have defeated them.’
Is the self-apologetic hidden in the last paragraph a surprise? ‘Some of what has happened was right and so should not have been avoided. But much of it could have been.’ Neo-Libralism was an economic/political necessity, even an inevitability and I was right to champion it might be the Wolf self-justification. And a sub rosa justification for the dismantling of the Welfare State, although we see the fact that one million Britons are living in abject poverty, as evidence of the utter failure of Neo-Liberalism. And Mr. Cameron’s One Nation takes its place as so much cynical public relations chatter :
Mr Trump has called forth new political possibilities. But it is not mainly an excess of democracy that has brought the US to this pass. It is far more the failings of short-sighted elites. Some of what has happened was right and so should not have been avoided. But much of it could have been. Elites, particularly Republican elites, stoked this fire. It will be hard to put out the blaze.