Bell the Cat by Calling them “Upper Class”

Bell the Cat by Calling them “Upper Class”. By Astral Codex Ten.

At last! For the last 15 years, efforts to oppose the “globalists” or “elites” or whatever they’re called has been hampered by not having a name that adequately sums them up. The events of the last year have clarified that, and now comes a well-though out article that makes the case for “upper class”.

Dear Republican Party:

I hear you’re having a post-Trump identity crisis. Your old platform of capitalism and liberty and whatever no longer excites people. …

So here’s my recommendation: use the word “class”. Pivot from mindless populist rage to a thoughtful campaign to fight classism. …

Economic class warfare is Marxist, but here in the US class isn’t a purely economic concept. Class is also about culture. You’re already doing class warfare, you’re just doing it blindly and confusedly. Instead, do it openly, while using the words “class” and “classism”.

Trump didn’t win on a platform of capitalism and liberty and whatever. He won on a platform of being anti-establishment. But which establishment? Not rich people. Trump is rich, lots of his Cabinet picks were rich, practically the first thing he did was cut taxes on the rich. Some people thought that contradicted his anti-establishment message, but those people were wrong. Powerful people? Getting warmer, but Mike Pence is a powerful person and Trump wasn’t against Mike Pence. Smart people? Now you’re burning hot.

Trump stood against the upper class. He might define them as: people who live in nice apartments in Manhattan or SF or DC and laugh under their breath if anybody comes from Akron or Tampa. Who eat Thai food and Ethiopian food and anything fusion, think they would gain 200 lbs if they ever stepped in a McDonalds, and won’t even speak the name Chick-Fil-A. Who usually go to Ivy League colleges, though Amherst or Berkeley is acceptable if absolutely necessary. Who conspicuously love Broadway (especially Hamilton), LGBT, education, “expertise”, mass transit, and foreign anything. They conspicuously hate NASCAR, wrestling, football, “fast food”, SUVs, FOX, guns, the South, evangelicals, and reality TV. Who would never get married before age 25 and have cutesy pins about how cats are better than children. Who get jobs in journalism, academia, government, consulting, or anything else with no time-card where you never have to use your hands. Who all have exactly the same political and aesthetic opinions on everything, and think the noblest and most important task imaginable is to gatekeep information in ways that force everyone else to share those opinions too. …

Aren’t I just describing well-off people? No. Teachers, social workers, grad students, and starving artists may be poor, but can still be upper-class. Pilots, plumbers, and lumber barons are well-off, but not upper-class. Donald Trump is a billionaire, but still recognizably not upper class. The upper class is a cultural phenomenon.

That’s a pretty good definition of “upper class”. Let’s go with that.

Aren’t I just describing Democrats? No. The Democrats are a coalition of the upper class, various poor minorities, union labor, and lots of other groups. It’s an easy mistake to make, because you Republicans absolutely loathe the upper class, and whenever you’re talking about Democrats you focus on this group and how much you hate them. But you make the mistake of saying you hate Democrats, and then it looks like boring old partisanship. Or saying you hate the elites, and then it looks like boring old populism. Or saying you hate rootless cosmopolitans, and then it looks like boring old anti-Semitism. Or saying you hate the government, and then it looks like boring old libertarianism.

Instead, just use the words “class” and “classism”. Say “Hey, we Republicans want to be the party of the working class. We are concerned about the rising power of the upper class, and we are dedicated to stamping out classism.”

It’s the 21st century; having principles is out of style. Politics is motivated by tribal hatred. You tell your people that the other side hates them and wants to kill them; they need to fight back. The Democrats are great at this — cis white men hate you, they deny your right to exist, the cruelty is the point, resist or be destroyed. You Republicans have been caught flat-footed. You can’t openly defend cis white men; that would be transphobic racist sexist. And you can’t openly attack trans black women – that would be super transphobic racist sexist. Plus it wouldn’t work; there aren’t that many of them, and they’re not powerful enough to be scary.

Trump outmanuevered the Republican establishment by finding a front where he could go on the offensive. He de-emphasized the unfavorable terrain of race/sex/etc, and focused on class. He didn’t use the word “class”. But he captured the idea. He implicitly understood that there was some kind of difference between the average working-class voter and the sorts of people who set trends in the media, academia, government, et cetera. Whenever an upper-class institution tried to make him admit that they were the experts and he should bow to them, he spat in their faces instead. …

It’s a way to build a very broad coalition, because the upper class is far from a majority:

It could appeal to the white working class. Everyone agreed these people were Trump’s base, but the media insisted on emphasizing the “white”, as in “WHITE!!! working class”. Your job is to get people thinking “white WORKING CLASS!!!” instead. You cannot ethically or pragmatically flatter these people’s identity as whites, but you can very easily flatter their identity as the working class.

It could appeal to blacks and Hispanics. They’re mostly working-class, so they hate the elites as much as anyone else. So far the left has kept them voting Democrat by scaring them with stories about how racist the white working class is, and convincing them that only Democratic elites can keep them safe. Your job is to make the Marxist argument that this is the typical ruling class tactic of using racial animus to keep the working classes divided and powerless. If you do this right, you can get a bunch of minorities on your side without driving away any whites …

It could appeal to Republicans who are in it for the capitalism (including the rich donors). You would argue that capitalism is the system that lets people succeed regardless of class; even the most uncouth and uneducated person can strike it rich if they work hard and make good deals. The Democrats hate this; they prefer a system where powerful insiders get to play favorites, where success depends on who you know and not what you know, and where good jobs are locked behind gates of correct credentials from the right colleges. Every time Democrats attack Elon Musk for being rich, you can point out that Elon Musk was an immigrant who worked hard for his money, and you’re the party representing people like that — whereas the Democrats are the party of people who got hired by McKinsey straight out of college to a job that pays a higher entry-level salary than most people get in their entire lives. …

It could appeal to poor people who just want to get jobs. Point out how DC Democrats passed a law saying all child care workers must have college degrees, and how this is just a blatant attempt to take jobs away from working-class people in order to give them to upper-class people instead. Tell them that this is class warfare, that their side is losing, but that if you are in power they will win.

It could appeal to small-government libertarians. Argue that the Democrats and the government are a jobs program for the upper class. All those Institutes For X and Public Service Campaigns For Y, all those regulations that require two hundred lawyers just to move a potted plant, all those laws that mean every company needs fifty compliance offers working full time just in order to not get sued, they’re all a giant jobs program for college-educated people who refuse to work with their hands.

It could appeal to Asians, another up-for-grab minority demographic. Asians know they’ve done the hard work and gotten the test scores that ought to make them successful, but somehow success isn’t coming. We all know why this is — they’re being excluded by an academic establishment that believes “meritocracy” is a dirty word. Your job is to make the obvious point that Democrats have transformed college admissions from a search for talented students, into a scheme to perpetuate class advantage. If they wanted to accept talented students, they’d use some objective measure like test scores, and Asians would do great. Instead they focus on a deliberately-illegible stew of extracurriculars and sports and private school grades and “holistic factors” that all end up boiling down to class background (who do you think ends up getting the “right” extra-curriculars or “impressing” the interviewer?) You can position yourself as the party of meritocracy, and position meritocracy as the opposite of class favoritism, and your opponents will do all your work for you, tripping over themselves to insist on how anti-meritocratic they are. …

So here’s what to do:

1. War On College: As it currently exists, college is a scheme for laundering and perpetuating class advantage. You need to make the case that bogus degree requirements (e.g. someone without a college degree can’t be a sales manager at X big company, but somebody with any degree, even Art History or Literature, can) are blatantly classist. … If you can’t actually make degree discrimination illegal, just make all government offices and companies that do business with the government ban degree discrimination. …

2. War On Experts: Argue that you love and support legitimate experts, but that the Democrats have invented and propped up a fake concept of expertise as a way of making sure upper-class people who can game admissions to top colleges control the discourse. … Republicans are stuck distrusting experts, both because of ideological precommitments and because they’re understandably afraid experts will smuggle pro-Democrat bias into their judgments. But if they don’t trust experts, then sometimes they do incredibly dumb things and refuse to listen to the people who can set them right. Prediction markets — an un-biasable [if big enough, perhaps], decentralized form of aggregating expert and non-expert opinion correctly — are the only solution I can imagine working. …

3. War On The Upper-Class Media: This is your new term for “mainstream media”. Being against the “mainstream media” sounds kind of conspiratorial. Instead, you’re against the upper-class media, which gains its status by systematically excluding lower-class voices, and which exists mostly as a tool of the upper classes to mock and humiliate the lower class. You are not against journalism, you’re not against being well-informed, you’re against a system that exists to marginalize people like you. Tell the upper-class media that if they want your respect, they need to stop class discrimination. …

Insist that working-class people have the right to communicate with each other without interference from upper-class gatekeepers. Make sure people know every single fact about @Jack and what a completely ridiculous person he is, and point out that somehow this is the guy who decides what you’re allowed to communicate with your Twitter friends.

4. War On Wokeness. … Wokeness is a made-up mystery religion that college-educated people invented so they could feel superior to you. Why are they so sure that “some of my best friends are black” doesn’t make you any less racist? Because the whole point is that the only way not to be racist is to master an inscrutable and constantly-changing collection of fashionable shibboleths and opinions which are secretly class norms. The whole point is to make sure the working-class white guy whose best friends are black and who marries a black woman and has beautiful black children feels immeasurably inferior to the college-educated white guy who knows that saying “colored people” is horrendously offensive but saying “people of color” is the only way to dismantle white supremacy. You should make it clear that this is total balderdash, you could not be less interested in it, and you will continue befriending colored people of color regardless. …

Conclusion:

You’re fighting wars on all these things anyway. But now you can fight them while using the word “class”. You can have a specific target in mind: eliminating “classism”. And since you know your enemy, you can have an actual plan for victory, instead of just shouting louder and louder about how angry you are.

Well articulated. Read it all.