Bill Kristol recently posted a tweet saying:
Not presumably forever; not perhaps for a day after Nov. 3, 2020; not on every issue or in every way until then. But for the time being one has to say: We are all Democrats now.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 1, 2020
Apparently, since Trump hasn’t been removed from office and the Republican Party refuses to buckle down and do what they’re told, he guesses he’s a Democrat now.
Bill Kristol a Democrat?
This bit of self-reflection should be welcomed, but it’s a bit late. Back in July of 2018, I wrote “What Are You Willing to Give Up to Be #NeverTrump?” and later wrote “#NeverTrump: Objectively Pro-Democrat”; both of them responding to widely-read Republican pundits denouncing Trump.
So, this is just another one, not really much of a news story, honestly. But it did get me thinking, again, about what the actual Democrats’ actual stated positions actually are. I expect most of my readers are already familiar with them, but some of the more recent gems include Bernie Sanders announcing a plan to nationalize power generation, banning all fracking immediately, a Green New Deal, wealth taxes, and a whole host of things to be done by Executive Order their first day in office, Constitution and legislature be damned.
Not to mention the general agreement to “repeal Citizens United,” by which they mean “amend the Constitution to permit government regulation of political speech.”
So here’s my completely serious question: what in the world makes you think voting against Trump is worth voting for and supporting that agenda?
To quote the Sage of Aurora, “Are you mental?”
“U” and “non-U”
I read a lot of British fiction, everything from Kipling to C.S. Forester to David Lodge, and a good lot of British nonfiction. There’s a lovely bit of British slang that’s about as old as I am – “U and non-U.” The “U” there stands for “upper class” and the British, being immensely more class-conscious than Americans who live more than 50 miles from the coasts, immediately adopted the idea, while decrying the notion that they were in any way class-conscious.
The idea appears to have come originally from Alan S. C. Ross in a paper, “Linguistic Class-Indicators In Present-day English,” that appeared in a Finnish publication Neuphilologische Mitteilungen in 1954. (And yes, the journal is Finnish, the name of the journal is in German, and the paper is in English.)
The opening paragraphs are jewels of academic prose:
[The] English class-system is essentially tripartite — there exist an upper, a middle, and a lower class. It is solely by its language that the upper class is clearly marked off from the others. In times past (e. g. in the Victorian and Edwardian periods) this was not the case. But, to-day , a member of the upper class is, for instance, not necessarily better educated, cleaner or richer than someone not of this class. Nor, in general, is he likely to play a greater part in public affairs, be supported by other trades or professions, or engage in other pursuits or pastimes than his fellow of another class.
There quickly followed an effort to identify exactly what language usage distinguished the upper class from the lower classes.
I’ve thought for a while how to import this concept into American English, and have essayed terms like “clerisy” and “Aristo.” Others just use “elites.” But none of them seem to have the same feel. Maybe “clerisy” comes closest:
cler·i·sy | ˈklerəsē |
noun usually treated as plural
a distinct class of learned or literary people: the clerisy are those who read for pleasure.
But there are a bunch of us among the hoi polloi who are educated, even learned, literary, and read for pleasure, so that’s not it. So I think we should use “U” and “non-U” and be done with it.
(By the way, when I wrote “the hoi polloi” I was giving myself away as non-U: “hoi polloi” is just “the many” but in Greek, and “the hoi polloi” is “the the many” and by the redundancy I’m revealing that I’m not very conversant with Greek.)
The Good Old “Character” Topic
I’ve always been puzzled about the hardcore Never Trump people. Based on his history of being an FDR Democrat to the extent he had any lasting political positions, and given his flamboyant media presence, I worried that he would be easy pickings for even a semi-competent Democrat candidate.
Luckily, the Democrats nominated Grandma and she turned out to be an unexpectedly severe dumpster fire. Fortunately, Trump as a president has proven to be pretty good — although, even so, I think he’s benefitted a lot from the collective psychotic break that his election caused in the media classes. Including Kristol, of course, who managed to bankrupt his own magazine in the process.
It’s a little hard to pick a single example, but the tweet of Jonah Goldberg that prompted me to say “objectively pro-Democrat” is as good as any:
His personal character has real-world consequences. I reject entirely that everything bad he does and says is mere "style" but everything good is "substance."
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) July 1, 2018
I’m willing to admit that “character” might be a worthwhile thing to consider; on the other hand, was Hillary — of the security violations, deleted emails, and glaringly-obvious corruption — any better? Is Joe Biden? Elizabeth Warren, who seems to lie as easily as she breathes? And while Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard seem to be people of good character in general, does good character excuse their policy positions, which seem to have the quality of irrationality often characterized by comparison with bat guano?
The thing is, whether they know it, whether they admit it to themselves or not, the hardcore of Never Trump seems to have one real objection to Trump. He’s non-U. He’s a parvenu, literally — a person of (relatively) obscure origins who has gained wealth, influence, and celebrity. He talks like a real estate developer from Queens. He has a gut. He clearly puts a fair bit of effort into combing his hair and it looks funny. He wears an ill-fitting tuxedo rather than having one tailored to him. He would rather talk to firefighters than CNN and sees no reason that he, as president, should talk to CNN when they’ve been unremittingly hostile to him.
Perhaps most damning, he made a whole pile of money in business, and it was a down and dirty business involving construction, not by the casual graft that goes with a Harvard degree and a job shuttling among the State Department, think tanks, and corporate boards, and not something mildly acceptable like mergers and acquisitions, but by going out and building things and rolling in the dirt in the amazingly corrupt New York real estate world.
He’s a walking, talking Mamet character, and he’s most definitely what their mothers would sniff and call “not Our Kind, dear.”
It seems to me, now 3+ years into the Trump administration, that “Not Our Kind, dear” is what it’s coming down to. Okay, sure, he’s pretty completely turned the courts around, he’s made more progress reducing regulation than possibly any president, he turned a weak, wan recovery into a booming one with effectively full employment or even more than full since it’s bringing the long-term unemployed back into the workforce.
That, however, doesn’t seem to be enough when he’s NOKD, and having a president that’s U is so important that supporting the Green New Deal, government speech regulation, wealth taxes, and nationalizing the power system is an acceptable price to pay. Being Never Trump, like Kristol, Goldberg, Joe Walsh, Tom Nichols, and others in the proper U commentariat now are, means being willing to give up every ideological position you’ve held, every policy recommendation you’ve made, in order to make sure that a non-U parvenu is ejected.
And I really can’t think of anything that’s much more un-American than that.