The New National American Elite

The New National American Elite. By Michael Lind.

America is now ruled by a single elite class rather than by local patrician smart sets competing with each other for money and power. …

From the American Revolution until the late 20th century, the American elite was divided among regional oligarchies. It is only in the last generation that these regional patriciates have been absorbed into a single, increasingly homogeneous national oligarchy, with the same accent, manners, values, and educational backgrounds from Boston to Austin and San Francisco to New York and Atlanta. This is a truly epochal development. …

For two centuries there was a double competition among regional American oligarchies. On the one hand, the local notables, particularly those from the newly settled regions, had to prove they were not backward bumpkins … On the other hand, … the subnational blocs of New Englanders, Southerners, and Midwesterners fought to control the federal government in order to promote their regional economic interests.

The status of Harvard and Yale as prestigious national rather than regional universities is relatively recent. A few generations ago, it was assumed that the sons of the local gentry… would remain in the area and rise to high office in local and state business, politics, and philanthropy — goals that were best served if they attended a local elite college and joined the right fraternity, rather than being educated in some other part of the country. College was about upper-class socialization, not learning, which is why parochial patricians favored regional colleges and universities. If your family was in the local social register, that was much more important than whether you went to an Ivy League college or a local college or no college at all. …

The egalitarianism of the American frontier is greatly exaggerated. … Elite Americans might have been more likely than elite Brits to smile politely when dealing with working-class people, but they were no more likely to welcome them into the family. …

Compared with previous American elites, the emerging American oligarchy is open and meritocratic and free of most glaring forms of racial and ethnic bias. … Immigrants from Africa and South America (as opposed to Mexico and Central America) tend to be from professional class backgrounds and to be better educated and more affluent than white Americans on average—which explains why Harvard uses rich African immigrants to meet its informal Black quota, although the purpose of affirmative action was supposed to be to help the American descendants of slaves …

Membership in the multiracial, post-ethnic national overclass depends chiefly on graduation with a diploma—preferably a graduate or professional degree—from an Ivy League school or a selective state university, which makes the Ivy League the new social register. But a diploma from the Ivy League or a top-ranked state university by itself is not sufficient for admission to the new national overclass. Like all ruling classes, the new American overclass uses cues like dialect, religion, and values to distinguish insiders from outsiders.

  • Dialect. You may have been at the top of your class in Harvard business school, but if you pronounce thirty-third “toidy-toid” or have a Southern drawl, you might consider speech therapy. 
  • Religion. You may have edited the Yale Law Review, but if you tell interviewers that you recently accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior, or fondle a rosary during the interview, don’t expect a job at a prestige firm.
  • Values. This is the trickiest test, because the ruling class is constantly changing its shibboleths — in order to distinguish true members of the inner circle from vulgar impostors who are trying to break into the elite. A decade ago, as a member of the American overclass you could get away with saying, along with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, “I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, but I strongly support civil unions for gay men and lesbians.” In 2020 you are expected to say, “I strongly support trans rights.” You will flunk the interview if you start going on about civil unions.

More and more Americans are figuring out that “wokeness” functions in the new, centralized American elite as a device to exclude working-class Americans of all races, along with backward remnants of the old regional elites.

In effect, the new national oligarchy changes the codes and the passwords every six months or so, and notifies its members through the universities and the prestige media and Twitter. America’s working-class majority of all races pays far less attention than the elite to the media, and is highly unlikely to have a kid at Harvard or Yale to clue them in. And non-college-educated Americans spend very little time on Facebook and Twitter, the latter of which they are unlikely to be able to identify—which, among other things, proves the idiocy of the “Russiagate” theory that Vladimir Putin brainwashed white working-class Americans into voting for Trump by memes in social media which they are the least likely American voters to see.

Constantly replacing old terms with new terms known only to the oligarchs is a brilliant strategy of social exclusion. … Woke speech is simply a ruling-class dialect, which must be updated frequently to keep the lower orders from breaking the code and successfully imitating their betters.

The same forces are increasingly working at an international level. Hence the emergence of a global elite, chosen and maintained in the same ways. Keep an eye out for it, and you’ll see it encroaching n Australia’s ruling class and political elite, year by year.