Tinkerbell Hell

Donald Trump is a gross, malicious Tinkerbell that we clapped into existence.

I believed that on his election night one year ago, and I still believe it.Trumpers

By “we,” I mean Americans who are sick of democracy because they never seem to get anywhere with it, except when they fall behind. They want to impose their will for once – and, in fact, feel entitled to do so. The Confederate statues and all the rest of it belong to them after all.

Philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote about them as the Mass Man in The Revolt of the Masses in 1930.

“Once for all, he accepts the stock of commonplaces, prejudices, fag-ends of ideas or simply empty words which chance has piled up within his mind, and with a boldness only explicable by his ingenuousness, is prepared to impose them. [This is] the characteristic of our time; not that the vulgar believes itself super-excellent and not vulgar, but that the vulgar proclaims and imposes the rights of vulgarity, or vulgarity as a right.”

When Mass Man sets up Facebook and Twitter accounts, well, you know…

“We” also includes the meritocrats, free-market absolutists, technologists, and their promoters and apologists, all of whom are sick of hearing the dummies whine about losing their livelihoods to improved productivity. They shrug off the economic and social displacement of these workers, or they jeer. Learn to code, for Christ’s sake. Then, when their anger and resentment boils down to a reduction of racism, xenophobia, and proud know-nothingism, the elites tell each other, This is why we wrote them off.

We are the authors of this catastrophe. Donald Trump is just the character we wrote in to keep our plot moving along.

A Little Courage and a Little Racially Polarized Voting

It feels rude to suggest racism — excuse me, racially polarized voting — played even a teensy role in John Courage’s shocking victory in District 9 on Saturday. It’s the kind of thing Squidward would say.

Nevertheless, racism, or RPV, did play at least a teensy role in Saturday’s outcome.

Squidward_Design_2
What I feel like when saying racism played a role in John Courage’s election in Council District 9

The reason writing that feels so douche-baggy is because progressives want it so badly to be true that District 9 is different now. They want it to be a new electoral front for their kind of candidates. Just check their Facebook and Twitter posts. To say RPV had a hand in the result is like telling your kid the tooth fairy died of complications from a venereal disease.

But, post-Hillary and post-post-Bernie, who can blame them for being so happy to have something to be happy about?

Progressives’ head rush is justified in that the most conservative district in San Antonio elected one of the most liberal candidates running this year for any City Council seat. To say Courage’s win was unexpected would be a big understatement.

Democrats and independents strongly suspect it came down to President Trump and the way he’s warped our politics top to bottom. To easily excited lefties, Courage’s victory feels transformational. Jeez, Bernie Sanders gave Courage a shout-out before Election Day — and he won!

I suspect the less caffeinated Courage voters are like my friend Felix Culpa, a SanAntoniomizer contributor who is fake-named for the famous Roman Republic stripper. Felix listed his reasons for voting for Courage in a text message: “1. Fuck you, Donald Trump.”

Anger at a sleazy, historically ineffective and disliked president doesn’t sound to me like the makings of a real realignment on San Antonio’s North Side.

Apart from the Trump factor, I’m sure Courage’s campaign team would say they ran a masterful ground game, and maybe they did. Just like all winning campaigns, and a surprising number of losing campaigns, ran masterful ground games. (Side note: I was the spokesman for Mayor Ivy Taylor’s re-election campaign, which was flawless, the 10-point loss notwithstanding.)

All of that said, I’d like to make a few observations.

  1. I worked in the City Council District 9 office for nearly two years, until April 30. Please trust me when I tell you that, judging from the email and phone calls the office received from constituents, the district did not become any less conservative during my time there. Many of them worried about the onslaught of undocumented immigrants and whether San Antonio was really a “sanctuary city” but was just being low-key about it. These preoccupations only intensified with the show-me-your-papers S.B. 4 in the recent Legislature.
  2. Marco Barros made no bones about his conservatism. He said all the right things to get elected in District 9, and his campaign had the money to make sure voters heard every word.
  3. Look at the “under vote” in the District 9 election — 799. That means nearly 800 voters walked into their polling sites, voted for mayor, and then, when it came time to choose a councilman, they said, “No thanks.”

Bear with me here.

So, Barros was the clearly identified, lone conservative in this race. And it’s not like Courage ran a Trojan Horse campaign. He focused on the basics — city services, streets, drainage, etc. — but he never hid the fact that he’d run as a Democrat against Republican incumbents in the Texas Senate and Congress. In fact, other Democrats look at Courage and whisper admiringly among themselves, “Wow, kinda libby, right?”

So given the unmistakable choice between a liberal and a conservative, 800 voters said nah, and 8,489 others picked Courage (52.65 percent) over Barros (47.35 percent, or 7,633).

The limb I’m about to go out on is wide enough for a pup tent, a couple of folding chairs, and a gas grill.

With everybody still sweaty from the S.B. 4 fight — coupled with District 9 voters having elected only one minority candidate in our city’s modern history (Elisa Chan, not Elise Sanchez) — Barros was running in part against his surname. And he lost.

 

 

What’s the Matter with Trump’s Biz Supporters? — a Two-Part Tantrum

PART ONE

I hated What’s the Matter with Kansas?

It’s a book about why everyday Kansans voted for right-wingers who thrilled them with attacks on abortion rights, for example, but then screwed them with economic policies that decimated the middle class. It was wildly popular among lefties when it was published in 2004, and still comes up when the subject is values versus economic self-interest.

Thomas Frank, a liberal journalist and the book’s author, portrayed voters who have religious values and act on them as stooges, easily taken in by nefarious free-marketeers. He saw it as nothing more than a bait-and-switch for dummies: you buy Old Testament fundamentalism and everything that follows from that, but receive the new religion of unfettered global trade.

Frank refused to acknowledge even the possibility that moral values matter greatly to many voters, sometimes more than how a candidate might hurt or help their financial well-being in the long run.

Progressives are still generally terrible about addressing voters’ values. They’re like a lawmaker who makes a well-reasoned, fact-filled argument for his bill, thinks that’s sufficient to win votes, and is shocked when the measure goes down in flames. He didn’t appeal to hearts, and he didn’t bother to press the flesh and build support.

Is it really that hard to make a case for taking care of the least among us, and that kind of stuff? In a way that grabs voters?

Frank is a native Kansan who managed to write a book about his home state like a New York liberal who thinks of most of the country as “fly-over states.”

So eff you, Thomas Frank.

PART TWO

And yet

His book came to mind when I read in the Express-News that Donald Trump will return to San Antonio for a high-dollar fundraiser at the Grand Hyatt downtown on October 11.

I think about the wealthy donors who will show up for the event like Frank thinks of those poor Kansans. What dupes. They’ll cut checks for a candidate they know is hostile to free trade and their economic interests.

We are way past the point where anybody can reasonably say Trump is dumping on trade agreements only to appeal to the pissed-off middle class — that once he’s in the Oval Office, it’ll be business as usual. No. He intends to trash or rewrite NAFTA. Really truly.

trump-laughing
Trump laughing malevolently

That has to be a big concern for San Antonio and South Texas businesses. It’s certainly a threat to jobs and the regional economy.

Among U.S. metro areas, the San Antonio MSA is the 21st largest exporter, according to the International Trade Administration, an arm of the U.S. Commerce Department. Companies in the area exported $16 billion worth of goods and services in 2015. About three-quarters of those sales were made to countries covered by free-trade agreements with the United States.

San Antonio’s biggest trading partners, by a mile or two, were Canada ($5.1 billion in sales) and Mexico ($3.9 billion). You may recognize them as NAFTA countries.

So, what the hell, donors?

They’re certainly not responding to Trump’s moral outlook, which he cobbles together before talking to religious audiences, trying to remember what he said the last time. He speaks religion as convincingly as he appeals to African Americans.

Is it Trump’s other values that attract business donors? The demonization of immigrants from Mexico and Muslims? The disdain for women?

Or are they — like many of Trump’s hardcore supporters — demoralized, ground down by globalism? By years of stagnant wages and exploding health-care costs? Is death their retirement plan?

Think I’ll just put that down as a “no.”

So, what is Trump’s appeal?

Maybe it’s his commitment to cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans. Or maybe it’s his desire to slash regulations on environmental protection, banking and finance, and workplace protections.

Maybe both.

As I end this post, I just want to point out how much restraint and good taste I’m showing in not saying that for these donors, economic self-interest trumps values.

You’re welcome.

 

NYT’s Pearl Clutcher

After the massacre in San Bernardino last December, the New York Times ran a pro-gun-control editorial on its front page, prompting my liberal Facebook friends to go nuts. Judging from their reaction, the side fighting for sane, or less insane, gun laws had just dropped the Big One. How could the NRA survive such an attack?

An editorial hadn’t run in that hallowed space since 1920.

I have to say though, I didn’t actually see the front page. I read the editorial on the Times’ website. In fact, I learned about this blessed development from a headline that popped up on my iPhone screen.

No one seemed to grasp the irony of celebrating and promoting this rare event on Facebook, which is probably where many of gun-control advocates found out about it. I can’t imagine anyone I know standing in their bathrobe and slippers on the driveway with the unwrapped Times in their hands, mouthing “Oh, my God!” Among the handful who ever see the Times’ actual front page, it’s usually when they glance down at the newsstand at Starbucks.

Redesign Your Cause: Nicholas D. Kristof
Nicholas Kristof, pearl clutcher

Progressives’ reaction on social media was like putting on your Google telepathy hat to tell a friend the latest Outlook email upgrade will have a profound impact on the way we communicate.

Nicholas Kristof’s Times column on Thursday, headlined “When a Crackpot Runs for President,” reminded me of the clamor that morning nine months ago. Kristof’s piece revealed a lack of understanding of today’s media landscape and a certain nostalgia, just like the notion the Times’ sets the national agenda with its front page.

His topic was whether journalists should be honest with their audiences about the danger Donald Trump poses to this country. He approached the question with great earnestness.

“I’m wary of grand conclusions about false equivalence from 30,000 feet. But at the grass roots of a campaign, I think we can do better at signaling that one side is a clown.

“There are crackpots who believe that the earth is flat, and they don’t deserve to be quoted without explaining that this is an, er, outlying view, and the same goes for a crackpot who has argued that climate change is a Chinese-made hoax, who has called for barring Muslims and who has said that he will build a border wall and that Mexico will pay for it.

“We owe it to our readers to signal when we’re writing about a crackpot. Even if he’s a presidential candidate. No, especially when he’s a presidential candidate.”

Now, just reflect for a moment on the hours of video you’ve watched over the last 14 months of Trump making outlandish, stupid, racist, misogynist, and sometimes dangerous statements. Off the top of my head: inviting the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s email, his eagerness to use nuclear weapons, his fondness for war, and his belief that many of our generals are know-nothings.

Progressives’ reaction (to the NYT’s front-page editorial) on social media was like putting on your Google telepathy hat to tell a friend the latest Outlook email upgrade will have a profound impact on the way we communicate.

Sorry, Kristof, but I’ve already concluded Trump is a threat to the United States. Whether a reporter flat-out calls him a whackjob in print or on air is of zero consequence to me. Most Hillary Clinton voters have already come to the same conclusion.

Donald Trump has taken us and the news media into virgin territory.

Kristof is a solid, card-carrying liberal, but he’d never have written the same kind of column about Mitt Romney or John McCain. And if he had, he would have been laughed off the Internet, his credibility smashed. His differences with Romney and McCain were within the band of acceptable politics. Trump’s politics are unacceptable.

Except to his supporters, whose fear of a secretive, corrupt Clinton administration overwhelms their misgivings about Trump. Wrongly. But, of course, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Which gets to my deeper problem with Kristof’s column. It’s nostalgic for the days when big dailies and big networks were more consequential — when they had real authority.

To be an authority, a major cross-section of the population (national, state, or local, depending on which news outlet you’re looking at) has to agree that 1) you’re thorough and know what you’re talking about, 2) have integrity, and 3) are an honest, nonpartisan arbiter of facts and the contexts that make sense of them.

Which newspapers and networks are you willing to say that about?

A Pew Research Center study on political polarization and news consumption gives a partial answer: not many.  The 2014 report found that, among the consistent liberals surveyed, CNN was the top news source (15 percent of respondents), followed by NPR (13 percent), MSNBC (12 percent), and the New York Times (10 percent).

For conservatives? About 47 percent named Fox News as their No. 1 news source. They also distrusted far more news outlets than liberals.

Unless lefties start flocking to Fox News — no, no, never, never — the kind of authority that underpins Kristof’s piece is toast.

Postscript: One of SanAntoniomizer’s thousands of readers said she got the feeling that I’m nostalgic for the good old days when Big Media set the agenda. I am not — at all. Kristof? Definitely.

 

 

 

 

Hil, Please Stop Daring Me

Hillary still has my vote, but Christ why does she have to make it such a challenge? She might as well say, during one of those awkward pauses in her speeches, “Hey, motherfuckers, I dare you to not vote for me. Trump? Good luck living with yourself.”

First her “basket of deplorables” comment. Yeah, yeah. We know what you meant. White supremacists, run-of-the-mill racists, nativists, women haters — all that. Got it. What’s troubling is that she believes they make up half of Donald Trump’s voters.

Congrats, Hillary. Your comment will deservedly take its place alongside Barack’s bit about gun-and-bible clingers and Mitt’s quote about how 47 percent of Barack’s supporters would vote for the president no matter what because they were professional victims, dependent on the government, kind of bummy.

All three statements were the sweaty, claustrophobic exaggerations of political and economic elites. The only difference is that two of them were coming from the left side, the other the right side. And shocker — Clinton, Obama, and Romney spit up that bile in the safe zones of high-dollar fundraisers, not in high school gymnasiums stuffed to the rafters with supporters.

Suggestion: To get honest, unvarnished answers out of our presidential candidates, let’s stage all of the general-election debates in exclusive clubs that charge the audience thousands of dollars per plate. Dinner theater for the elites, and real insights into our candidates for the rest of us.

hillary
Hillary, making that face

Clinton doesn’t get the middle class or the working poor any more than Romney, the private-equity buccaneer and son of American Motors Corp. chairman and Michigan Governor George Romney. I’m leaving Obama out of this formulation because of his life story and his amazing power of empathy, and, mostly, because I have a soft spot in my heart for him. In my household, we call him Obambam.

At heart, Clinton is a free trader who only opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership because Bernie Sanders would have continued bludgeoning her with it if she hadn’t flipped her position. Robert Rubin and Larry Summers are her homies. Wall Street is another one of her safe zones.

Suggestion: To get honest, unvarnished answers out of our presidential candidates, let’s stage all of the general-election debates in exclusive clubs that charge the audience thousands of dollars per plate

She can’t quite understand what all the fuss is about in the hinterlands. Say again? What’s this about stagnant wages and a declining standard of living? (For a glimpse of what unfettered trade has done to my hometown of Muncie, Indiana, click here.)

Nevertheless, I will vote for Clinton because, while Trump has a feel for the legitimate grievances of the middle class, he’s exploiting them, not addressing them, and he brings out the worst in us across the political spectrum. Also, while Senators Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and their supporters wouldn’t stay Clinton’s hand as president, they would force her to remember the great unwashed, as they did during the primaries, and moderate accordingly. Finally, she wouldn’t radically depart from Obama’s economic policies because they’ve worked by and large.

Sharp increase in household incomes and decreased poverty? Yes, please!

Yet, sadistically, she’s forcing the non-Clintonites who will vote for her in November to crawl through the muck to do it.

Not to belabor the point, but the second clear indication that she just doesn’t get it arrived yesterday in her Facebook post about her recovery from pneumonia. It included this line: “Like anyone who’s ever been home sick from work, I’m just anxious to get back out there.”

Stop binge-watching Netflix and surfing Facebook and YouTube to rush back to work? Really, I want to know — what planet is she from?

GOP, Here’s How to Derail the Trump Crazy Train

[Editor’s note: Once again, the following post comes to SanAntoniomizer from Felix Culpa. The person is real, but the name is fake, obviously. It’s the blogger equivalent of a stripper’s stage name. Felix is an executive at a San Antonio company we’d all recognize.]

 

If you’re a sensible, clear-thinking Republican, the events of late July-early August should have made it clear to you that Donald Trump’s candidacy is doing more harm than good to the health of your party.

Pick any of the following: Trump called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, continued to trade barbs with Ted Cruz mere hours after preaching party unity, wondered aloud why we aren’t eager to use nuclear weapons, and doubled down on his pissing contest with the parents of a dead Army captain. All while squandering chances to nail Hillary on the lackluster economy.crazy train

Any of those should have convinced you that Trump is tipping over the port-a-john while you’re still inside, and the stench will only get worse if he somehow manages to win in November.

Because, ironically, a Trump victory isn’t the best-case scenario for you, given that he’s not exactly a standard-bearer for your ideals and that the voters he attracts won’t support your down-ballot congressional or gubernatorial races.

No, the best-case scenario for Republicans is a Trump loss, while still holding on to both houses of Congress and a majority of the governorships. That way, you get to flush the crazy from your system while still limiting the damage from a Hillary Clinton administration, and it gives you four years to come up with some Debbie Wasserman-Schultzish skullduggery to quash the demagogues emerging from the Tea Party you’ve been brewing up the past decade.

But how to finesse an outcome to keep Trump’s short, vulgar fingers off the nuclear codes while still turning out the Republican faithful for the other races?

You have to find someone from the party’s brainpower to run as an independent against Trump.

If the race remains a Trump-Clinton dichotomy, you run the risk of smart Republicans staying home on Election Day. But if you give voters a third choice, it would quash the Trump demagoguery while boosting turnout for down-ballot races.

It would have to be done strategically. You’d want someone who can siphon off at least one key state from Trump’s Electoral College tally. Florida, Ohio, or Pennsylvania should do it. It would be great if you could knock Texas off the list, but to do that you’d need Ted Cruz to jump back in, and he isn’t about to do that.

You’re sacrificing a lamb here. He/she has to be someone with big enough name recognition and respect to attract people, but also someone who has no ambition to ever run again, and doesn’t mind being a pariah to the nutjobs who infect your party’s base.

Because, let’s face it, if you aren’t having a crisis of conscience now, you must not have a conscience. You certainly have a crisis.

So who? It’s too bad Arlen Specter is four years dead, because he’d be just about perfect. John Kasich could tip Ohio for you, but he probably wants to run again. Jeb Bush could deliver Florida, but would he do it? Maybe Mitt Romney? John McCain?

It’s really for you to decide, not me. Maybe you could cut a back-room deal with Hillary – you know, we’ll botch Trump for you, you put someone acceptable on the Supreme Court, that kind of thing.

Just do it quick. Your lamb has to be in the race by Labor Day to get on the ballots and have a chance of derailing the Trump crazy train.

If you’re a sensible, clear-thinking Republican, the events of late July-early August should have made it clear to you that Donald Trump’s candidacy is doing more harm than good to the health of your party.

Pick any of the following: Trump called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, continued to trade barbs with Ted Cruz mere hours after preaching party unity, wondered aloud why we aren’t eager to use nuclear weapons, and doubled down on his pissing contest with the parents of a dead Army captain. All while squandering chances to nail Hillary on the lackluster economy.

Any of those should have convinced you that Trump is tipping over the port-a-john while you’re still inside.

The stench will only get worse if he somehow manages to win in November.

Because, ironically, a Trump victory isn’t the best-case scenario for you, given that he’s not exactly a standard-bearer for your ideals and that the voters he attracts won’t support your down-ballot congressional or gubernatorial races.

No, the best-case scenario for Republicans is a Trump loss, while still holding on to both houses of Congress and a majority of the governorships. That way, you get to flush the crazy from your system while still limiting the damage from a Hillary Clinton administration, and it gives you four years to come up with some Debbie Wasserman-Schultzish skullduggery to quash the demagogues emerging from the Tea Party you’ve been brewing up the past decade.

But how to finesse an outcome to keep Trump’s short, vulgar fingers off the nuclear codes while still turning out the Republican faithful for the other races?

You have to find someone from the party’s brainpower to run as an independent against Trump.

If the race remains a Trump-Clinton dichotomy, you run the risk of smart Republicans staying home on Election Day. But if you give voters a third choice, it would quash the Trump demagoguery while boosting turnout for down-ballot races.

It would have to be done strategically. You’d want someone who can siphon off at least one key state from Trump’s Electoral College tally. Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania should do it. It would be great if you could knock Texas off the list, but to do that you’d need Ted Cruz to jump back in, and he isn’t about to do that.

You’re sacrificing a lamb here. He/she has to be someone with big enough name recognition and respect to attract people, but also someone who has no ambition to ever run again, and doesn’t mind being a pariah to the nutjobs who infect your party’s base.

Because, let’s face it, if you aren’t having a crisis of conscience now, you must not have a conscience. You certainly have a crisis.

So who? It’s too bad Arlen Specter is four years dead, because he’d be just about perfect. John Kasich could tip Ohio for you, but he probably wants to run again. Jeb Bush could deliver Florida, but would he do it? Maybe Mitt Romney? John McCain?

It’s really for you to decide, not me. Maybe you could cut a back-room deal with Hillary – you know, we’ll botch Trump for you, you put someone acceptable on the Supreme Court, that kind of thing.

Just do it quick. Your lamb has to be in the race by Labor Day to get on the ballots and have a chance of derailing the Trump crazy train.

If you’re a sensible, clear-thinking Republican, the events of late July-early August should have made it clear to you that Donald Trump’s candidacy is doing more harm than good to the health of your party.

Pick any of the following: Trump called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, continued to trade barbs with Ted Cruz mere hours after preaching party unity, wondered aloud why we aren’t eager to use nuclear weapons, doubled down on his pissing contest with the parents of a dead Army captain. All while squandering chances to nail Hillary on the lackluster economy.

Any of those should have convinced you that Trump is tipping over the port-a-john while you’re still inside.

The stench will only get worse if he somehow manages to win in November.

Because, ironically, a Trump victory isn’t the best-case scenario for you, given that he’s not exactly a standard-bearer for your ideals. And there’s this — the voters he attracts won’t support your down-ballot candidates in congressional or gubernatorial races.

No, the best-case scenario for Republicans is a Trump loss, while still holding on to both houses of Congress and a majority of the governorships. That way, you get to flush the crazy from your system while still limiting the damage from a Hillary Clinton administration, and it gives you four years to come up with some Debbie Wasserman-Schultzish skullduggery to quash the demagogues emerging from the Tea Party you’ve been brewing up the past decade.

But how to finesse an outcome that keeps Trump’s short, vulgar fingers off the nuclear codes while still turning out the Republican faithful for the other races?

You have to find someone from the party’s brainpower to run as an independent against Trump.

If the race remains a Trump-Clinton dichotomy, you run the risk of smart Republicans staying home on Election Day. But if you give these voters a third choice, it would quash the Trump demagoguery while boosting turnout for down-ballot races.

It would have to be done strategically. You’d want someone who can siphon off at least one key state from Trump’s Electoral College tally. Florida, Ohio, or Pennsylvania should do it. It would be great if you could knock Texas off the list, but to do that you’d need Ted Cruz to jump back in, and he isn’t about to do that.

You’re sacrificing a lamb here. He/she has to be someone with big enough name recognition and respect to attract people, but also someone who has no ambition to ever run again, and who doesn’t mind being a pariah to the nutjobs who infect your party’s base.

Because, let’s face it, if you aren’t having a crisis of conscience now, you must not have a conscience. You certainly have a crisis.

So who? It’s too bad Arlen Specter is four years dead, because he’d be just about perfect. John Kasich could tip Ohio for you, but he probably wants to run again. Jeb Bush could deliver Florida, but would he do it? Maybe Mitt Romney? John McCain?

It’s really for you to decide, not me. Maybe you could cut a back-room deal with Hillary – you know, we’ll botch Trump for you, you put someone acceptable on the Supreme Court, that kind of thing.

Just do it quick. Your lamb has to be in the race by Labor Day to get on the ballots and have a chance of derailing the Trump crazy train.

Lasching Elites

In late 1994, I was desperate to find out the real reasons behind the GOP’s takeover of Congress.

I was the editor of a lefty alternative newsweekly in Bloomington, Indiana, maybe the only truly liberal town in the state, and had this sinking feeling that I’d misunderstood nearly everything about national politics, which I often wrote about.

Our own congressman, the libby and genial Democrat Frank McCloskey, had fallen to a virtually unknown pro-life ideologue. The morning after the ’94 general election — it was cold and gray, I assumed, because God was pissed — one of my two reporters greeted me at the Uptown Cafe with, “Frank didn’t deserve this.” The problem was the Eighth Congressional District reached from Bloomington all the way to Evansville in southern Indiana. Who knew what those bastards in the hinterlands were thinking. Apart from the region’s fading coal and manufacturing industries and mounting job losses, what were they so upset about?

This is sounding familiar, right? Just replace “mounting job losses” with “stagnant wages,” and add an orange sociopath.

trump voter 2
Trump voter

Anyway, one of the books I loaded up on to understand the Republican Revolution was The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy by Christopher Lasch. I must have read a favorable review of it. I put it in the queue, but for some reason never got to it. Certainly not because I’d really figured out what happened.

I found the book the other day in the hallway closet. As I leafed through it, I got the feeling I might’ve screwed up by setting it aside 21 years ago.

Lasch, who died in 1994 before the Revolt’s publication, indicted the elites — the one-percenters of his day, but also the cultural, intellectual, and political firmament — for writing off the rest of the country as philistines, racists, sexists, homophobes, and xenophobes. The elites of Lasch’s time are the kind of people who today bounce between the Aspen Institute and Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Cal., and South By Southwest (slumming) and the World Economic Forum in search of edification and companionship. They’re citizens of the world, not so much of the United States. Decades ago, they were already avoiding eye contact with the middle class and muttering things like, “Let’s agree to disagree, mm-k?”

Who knew what those bastards in the hinterlands were thinking. Apart from the region’s fading coal and manufacturing industries and mounting job losses, what were they so upset about?

Like in every big city, we have shades of the same kind in San Antonio, elites writ small. A lot of them voted for Mike Villarreal in the 2015 race for mayor. (I know what I’m talking about — I was his communications director.)

Going deep, Lasch argued that what made this breed possible was the concept of upward mobility, which took hold in the late 1800s as the industrialism came into its own. Since then, success has meant getting ahead in one’s career and achieving material wealth. It became all about talent, the kind that’s useful in the marketplace.

Earlier in the republic, leading a successful life meant making a good living, but also taking advantage of the educational and cultural opportunities open to you. You also talked politics with neighbors, friends, and strangers in bars or other public gathering spaces, even when you disagreed.

Threaded throughout Revolt of the Elites is Lasch’s suspicion of the free market, which he said tended to remake everything, including social institutions and governments, in its own image.

But instead of me droning on about the book, here are a few excerpts:

“The aristocracy of talent — superficially an attractive ideal, which appears to distinguish democracies from societies based on hereditary privilege — turns out to be a contradiction in terms: The talented retain many of the vices of aristocracy without its virtues. Their snobbery lacks any acknowledgment of reciprocal obligations between the favored few and the multitude. Although they are full of ‘compassion’ for the poor, they cannot be said to subscribe to a theory of noblesse oblige, which would imply a willingness to make a direct and personal contribution to the public good. Obligation, like everything else, has been depersonalized; exercised through the agency of the state, the burden of supporting it falls not on the professional and managerial class but, disproportionately, on the lower-middle and working classes.”

“[I]t is our reluctance to make demands on each other, much more than our reluctance to help those in need, that is sapping the strength of our democracy today. We have become far too accommodating and tolerant for our own good. In the name of sympathetic understanding, we tolerate second-rate workmanship, second-rate habits of thought, and second-rate standards of personal conduct. We put up with bad manners and with many kinds of bad language, ranging from the common-place scatology [Blogger’s note: I don’t mind scatology] that is now ubiquitous to elaborate academic evasion. We seldom bother to correct a mistake or to argue with opponents in the hope of changing their minds. Instead we either shout them down or agree to disagree, saying that all of us have a right to our opinions. Democracy in our times is more likely to die of indifference than of intolerance. Tolerance and understanding are important virtues, but they must not become an excuse for apathy.”

And this, 22 years before Brexit:

“The same tendencies are at work all over the world. In Europe referenda on unification have revealed a deep and widening between the political classes and the more humbled members of society, who fear that the European Economic Community will be dominated by bureaucrats and technicians devoid of any feelings of national identity or allegiance.”

Finally, this one has San Antonio’s name all over it:

“The goal of liberal policy, in effect, is to remake the city in the image of the affluent, mobile elites that see it as a place merely to work and play, not as a place to put down roots, to raise children, to live and die.”