The working class IS rising, but we haven’t really noticed. Yes, some of the geezers in my group remember Lech Walesa, the Polish shipyard worker who led the fight against Communism and eventually became president of his country. But for the most part, we think of world leaders as well-educated scions of the elite. Even the “outsiders” from business (think Romney or Berlusconi) or the arts (Havel, for example) come from the “best” schools, and have prestigious degrees on their walls. Charles Murray looks gloomily at our society, where he sees the elites living together, sending their kids to the same schools together, and then running the country together.
The French, I think, invented this system. They have special schools, the Grandes Ecoles, that train the elites to run the place. Historians of modern France will tell you that the ruling class remained remarkably stable from the mid-eighteenth century right on through the Revolution, the turbulent nineteenth century, and two world wars in the twentieth.
And yet some proletarians penetrate the elite and sometimes dominate it. Walesa is a prime example, and there are others.
When I read the puff pieces on Tommy Vietor, the just-departed spokesthing for the National Security Council, it struck me that he started his career as a bus driver for Obama in Iowa. That’s quite a move, from driving a candidate around to holding a plum position in the White House.
Vietor’s not the only bus driver to achieve spectacular upward mobility, nor is America the only place it’s happening. Look south: the new acting caudillo of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, was also a bus driver. And look East: the heroic Iranian trade-union leader, Mansour Osanloo, rounds out the current group of powerful bus drivers. No less a pundit than Bernard-Henri Levy has proclaimed him the greatest of a new generation of Iranian democrats seeking to change the nature of the regime in Tehran. (For that matter, Osanloo’s oppressor, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, comes from a very poor family, isn’t particularly well-educated, and though he never drove a bus he certainly has lowly origins.)