The establishment strikes back – for now

If, as Bruno Maçães suggests in The story began, American culture became a Hollywood plot, and then we reached this place in history when the cattle baron burns down the shacks of unwanted settlers and the Death Star destroys the rebel planet. After defeating Donald Trump and stumbling upon new methods of control during the Covid-19 pandemic, the elites who run our institutions are taking revenge. The establishment retaliates.

Trump, always a volatile substance, in defeat has managed to live up to the most outrageous caricatures of himself drawn by his opponents. His mad nihilism was a happy gift to the elites. The President of the United States was thus banned from social media, using protocols developed during the pandemic to direct only “authoritative” information to the public.

Trump’s QAnon followers actually exceeded anyone’s expectations of crazy bangs behavior and then took selfies of themselves while being violently weird. It was another happy moment. The barbarians who looted the Capitol building have been declared not a mob but an insurgency, some sort of Latter-day Whiskey Rebellion – and the heart of Washington, DC remains occupied by a military force to this day.

When Trump won in 2016, elites insisted he subverted the election with Russian help. When Trump lost in 2020, the electoral process miraculously returned to its virginal purity. Questioning the result became the equivalent of saying that Bill Gates invented Covid-19. Both were straightforward, if eccentric, opinions – and both turned out to be dangerously unorthodox and therefore bounced back on social media.

The Georgia state legislature, controlled by Trump’s Republicans, enacted an election law that the Trump-hating establishment condemned as an attempt to restrict minority votes. The law does not contain anything particularly new and some of the allegations made against it seem doubtful, but the elites at the time of their triumph were not in the mood to tolerate deviance. A vast chorus of voices from the White House, mainstream and digital media, CEOs of big business, academia, the social justice sector and the usual group of virtue signalers – all with remarkable unanimity and in perfect harmony – pronounced the law of Georgia “unacceptable.” The punishment was to be inflicted on the inhabitants. In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball pulled the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta. The Georgians, in their shame, were not worthy of Bryce Harper.

Joe Biden entered the presidency with one thought in mind: to sign as many huge checks as his seventy-year-old hand could handle. The fact that the public tolerates a drunken approach to federal spending was another lesson from the pandemic – Trump and his Republicans were eager to join the initial frenzy. The economic theory behind this seems to be that the government prints money anyway, so what harm can be done if the president robs those he loves? There is no doubt that we will have the answer in the coming years.

TToday, having lost access to the cash faucet, Republicans in Congress have developed very strict reservations in principle on spending. It’s too late. They go to be emasculated. The Biden bills in their inflated enormity are going to pour money out of an entirely different crowd.

These bills have official sounding descriptions like ‘stimulus’ or ‘infrastructure’, but as always when colossal sums are thrown away, something is bought and something is sold, and political and ideological fantasies come true. The $ 2 trillion infrastructure bill allocates $ 115 billion for what, in my simplicity, I think of as infrastructure: roads, railways, etc. A lot will be spent on “Fight against climatic and racial inequalities.” The goal is clearly to buy a permanent majority, forever safe from mad populists and other incursions from below – the ultimate fantasy. A trillion here, a trillion there, and all of a sudden you find yourself being applauded by a lot of new friends.

Now some might insist that this frenzy is part of the great American tradition of partisan politics. The Democrats, not the elites, won the 2020 election and are now reaping the rewards, while Trump and the Republicans, having lost, are rightly sent into the wilderness. And it is true for all that. But the big picture is missing: our country’s elites are progressive and vote Democrats, but not all Democrats like elites.

Joe Biden, a 78-year-old middle man who had previously failed presidential politics, would never have become the Democratic candidate except as a desperate stopgap to anti-elite Bernie Sanders. He would never have become president if not for the four-year exorcism by the anti-elite Trump establishment. The elites have Biden or he is; the elite is what he is, a man whose main attribute is comfort at the top of the pyramid. When the CEO of Coca-Cola and commissioner of Major League Baseball, tech companies like Google and Apple, the New York Times and Washington post, and Bank of America and the ACLU direct the president’s interference in the Georgia controversy, a strange elite turmoil is at hand that transcends party politics.

The heads of our great institutions fear and hate the public. Trump’s election convinced them that ordinary citizens could not trust the vote. The rise of social media has persuaded them that limits must be placed on what can be said. Conscious of their lack of personal and institutional authority, they will gladly be content with political power. They aim to tame the beast.

Let’s be clear: there is no elite conspiracy, no secret gatherings in smoky rooms, only a gathering of conformist herd-like spirits. There is no elite ideology in a coherent sense, only a blind impulse of control that instinctively gravitates towards certain positions on certain issues. The scenario is always the restoration of order in a broken world.

Two things in common are evident: the public is a sectarian and destructive monster, and only state power wielded by virtuous elites can protect this creature from itself. The politics of racial and gender “fairness” involve complicated government mandates on corporate and private behavior, as well as consistent compliance in speech and opinion controlled by online inquisitors. Climate change policy involves government control over large swathes of the economy and the demonization of skeptics as the moral equivalent of Holocaust deniers. Authorized Truth Politics involves regulating digital platforms to ensure algorithms provide officially approved answers, and reporting or dismantling opinions that are unpleasant to elites. Transport policy involves taxing that symbol of indeterminacy, the car, to extinction, while pushing the masses into predictable railroads and cycle paths.

Fwith such a powerful agenda, republicans and conservatives began to discern the end of the world as we know it and the overthrow of the american way of life. A conservative friend of mine confided in his fear that the Democrats, now in possession of the executive and legislative powers, will establish a “soft dictatorship” on the country. But that’s just the tenor of politics at this strange moment: the flip side of the millions of Democrats and progressives who believed Trump was at least Mussolini, if not literally Hitler. (As everyone should have been able to tell at a glance, Trump lacked the capacity to become a dictator, even though he could fix his erratic mind on something so substantial, which he did not. couldn’t.)

There will be no dictatorship. Today, like four years ago, the danger is disunity rather than domination. I don’t have a crystal ball to look into the future, but I suspect that ambitious elite programs will collide with our fractured politics and mostly fail to get started. The uneven and inconsistent elements that will be passed will be adopted by Democratic-led states, which already have these agendas in one form or another, and fiercely repudiated or ignored by Republican-led states, such as, say, New York. and California did it with Trump. agenda. If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s that Paralysis is a bad habitat in which to hatch Caligulas.

The elites seem distant and powerful, but they try to impose a control structure inherited from another century on the tectonic forces unleashed in our own. They are stuck in the reactionary dilemma. The past was a golden age, but it’s gone forever, while the present is a nightmare of digital rage and political nihilism and is therefore ‘unacceptable’. The search for a return will lead deeper into chaos. There’s no switch to turn off the web, no twentieth-century time machine, no script in which the dream of control doesn’t get out of hand. Backlash and revolt, like Biden and Trump, are manifestations of the same pathology that plagues our troubled times.

After Napoleon’s defeat, the Congress of Vienna, led by Metternich, sought to return Europe to what it was before the French Revolution. It was the most ruthless and successful attempt in history to conquer time itself, but the system fell apart after just 20 years. The rule of the reactionaries turned out to be a zombie version of the old regime, infected with all the tendencies it wanted to suppress: the counter-revolution, at its core, is a tribute to the revolution. The effects were incalculable. Without the Congress of Vienna, there might never have been a Communist manifesto.

The consequences of this moment of establishment fury are also difficult to predict. The elites could rise high for a few years. But they must remember that the story resists being frozen in place. Eventually, the settlers hire a gunslinger to take care of the cattle baron, and the space rebels destroy the evil empire – and the plot of the film continues inexorably.

Photo by Sascha Steinbach / Getty Images

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