The nomenklatura (literally “name list”) was one of the indispensable components of the former Soviet Union. It was indeed a literal list of those—almost always devout Communist Party loyalists—who would receive the favors of the state while the proletariat, those supposed “dictators” of the new paradise, lived in squalor and waited in bread lines.
This list was so meticulously kept Stalin was known as “Comrade Filing Cabinet.” You were either on it or off. And those who fell off, for whatever causes, real or imagined, were usually headed for the Gulag. The nomenklatura kept everyone in line.
In my book—I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already—I devote a chapter to the rise of a far more subtle and less overtly totalitarian American nomenklatura, one that may be more effective and enduring in the long run (and thus ultimately more threatening to democracy).
WikiLeaks, in its downloads of the “PodestaEmails,” in essence confirms the existence of this American list – who is on and who is off—and reveals its workings in remarkable detail. More downloads are on the way. But what we have already has gone a long way to demonstrating how the people of this country have been lied to and deceived for the preservation of this nomenklatura and its power. We owe Julian Assange and his cohorts a debt.
Most evident from their downloads is the unremitting, almost incestual, alliance between elites (read: Democratic Party leadership) and the press, those who are informing us of what we are supposed to think. The myriad emails between New York Times reporter and CNBC anchor John Harwood and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta would approach the risible were they not so disturbing by implication. Presidential debate moderator Harwood, putatively a journalist, actually acts as an advisor to Podesta in them, warning the campaign manager of the dangers of a potential Ben Carson candidacy and even bragging to him about having tripped up Donald Trump at a debate.
But the presidential debate moderator is far from alone in his fealty to the ways and means of the nomenklatura. The New York Times and the Boston Globe—the emails show, as if we hadn’t guessed already—colluded with the Clinton campaign.
But the level of collusion goes much deeper than press and politicians. The Department of Justice itself—the emails also reveal—was in private communication with the Clinton people during the investigation of the Hillary Clinton homebrew server, warning her campaign in advance of a State Department release of emails. Everybody was colluding!
Is anyone surprised at this, at best, legally dubious activity? Probably not at this point. But this underscores the fearlessness of the nomenklatura in transgressing the law in defense of their policy goals and positions. Certain of their own rectitude, they can do no wrong, even if it is wrong.
They are able to do this through a profound moral narcissism that convinces them that they, not the American people, “know best.” It’s a home-grown version of “the ends justify the means,” making the American nomenklatura an inherently totalitarian movement, although more subtle, as I note above, in its actions.
The rise of Donald Trump is in great measure a reaction to the pervasive power of this nomenklatura. But Trump, with his all-too-apparent personality flaws and shallow political knowledge, has not been, thus far, a successful opponent of these elites. Still, he has demonstrated courage not common in political candidates and opened a door that is unlikely to close easily. It remains for future leaders, perhaps emerging from the people themselves, to overcome this nomenklatura and help us retain or reclaim our democratic republic.
Roger L. Simon is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and novelist and the co-founder of PJ Media.