The Codevilla Tapes

The Codevilla Tapes, in which David Samuels interviews philosopher Angelo Codevilla.

The Democrats [are] the senior partners in the ruling class. The Republicans are the junior partners.

The reason being that the American ruling class was built by or under the Democratic Party. First, under Woodrow Wilson and then later under Franklin Roosevelt. It was a ruling class that prized above all its intellectual superiority over the ruled. And that saw itself as the natural carriers of scientific knowledge, as the class that was naturally best able to run society and was therefore entitled to run society.

The Republican members of the ruling class aspire to that sort of intellectual status or reputation. And they have shared a taste of this ruling class. But they are not part of the same party, and as such, are constantly trying to get closer to the senior partners. As the junior members of the ruling class, they are not nearly as tied to government as the Democrats are. And therefore, their elite prerogatives are not safe.

Which explains why, throughout the West, the main right party is less keen, but only slightly less keen, on big government. And why they suck up to the left so much.

On the elites’ trashing of meritocracy, excluding the more talented:

In France, with which you tell me you are acquainted, you have meritocracy in government and institutions. Meritocracy ensured by competitive exams. I, and a bunch of nonliberal democrats as myself, would be absolutely delighted if institutions like The New York Times, The Atlantic, were to open their pages to people who bested others in competitive exams. But of course, they’re not thinking at all of doing that. As a matter of fact, the institutions of liberal America have been moving away from competitive exams as fast as they know how.

In living memory, and I’m an example of that, it was for a time possible for nonliberal Democrats to get into the American foreign service, and if they did as I did, and scored number one in their class, they would have their choice of assignments. But now, you have all sorts of new criteria for admission into the foreign service, which have supposedly ensured greater diversity. In fact, what they had done was to eliminate the possibility that the joint might be invaded by lesser beings of superior intelligence. …

Now it is one of the fundamental truths of our co-option that it results in a negative selection of elites. That each group selects people who are just a smacking below themselves, so that generation after generation, the quality of those at the top deteriorates.

Their power derives from their connection to government. If you are not connected to government in the West, you are losing power rapidly. An interesting anecdote about how power really works:

When I started working for the Senate, some folks at the agency figured out that I wasn’t a run-of-the-mill staffer. So I was visited by one of the old boys who took me up to the director’s office—the director wasn’t there at the time. He took me up via the director’s elevator, he had a key. And showed me all around and was very, very clubby with me. Then they took me to his house, which is overlooking the Potomac, with these large wolfhounds sitting about. And essentially, he said the equivalent of “all this could be yours.”

If you play the game. I said to myself, “Hmmmm, what did the Lord say to all this?”

But it really is a matter of who has dinner with whom. I have worked in Washington long enough to know that people would sell their souls for invitations to be at certain tables. To be allowed to speak with this person or that. In the end, it’s all social.

And how do you become social? You express the same thoughts, you have the same tastes. You vacation in the same places. You love the same loves, you hate the same hates.

Unless you’re part of the elite, you probably don’t find out this stuff until it’s too late.