With the drama of the election and its aftermath at an end, the nation moves on, as it must. For those on the losing side, however exhausted we may be, questions persist: To where is the nation moving and where do we wish it to go?
To answer these questions, it is incumbent upon us not to lose focus on what is, perhaps, the most important achievement of the Trump era—namely, the beginning of the political realignment that will be necessary to curb the excesses and manias of our elites such that the country can begin to address long-lingering problems with actual innovations that might ameliorate, in a concrete fashion, the ills that our corrupt ruling class bemoans endlessly.
The disastrous state of our elites has never been more apparent. This group, as self-evidently identifiable as pornography, is firmly in control of the major institutions in our society—government agencies, the courts, academia, the media, Hollywood, sports entertainment, and large corporations. Seized by a moralistic ideological frenzy, across a broad spectrum of society, those in power have lost the rule of reason, the virtue of prudence, and the restraint of toleration.
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The grounds upon which such degeneration rests are not hard to discern; they were only augmented and highlighted over the last five years. Our present caste of elites is, for the most part, lightly educated, regardless of their many academic certificates. The Scarecrow, too, gained a brain when the Wizard bestowed on him a diploma. There is hardly an echo of a broad knowledge of history or culture, hence the willingness to entertain ludicrous notions about the past that justify such fancies as the “cancellation” of Beethoven or the condemnation of Lincoln as an immoral man.
Their general vacuity leads to their willingness to elevate shallow and unaccomplished figures to the heights of power. Anyone they come to favor is deemed an irrefutable genius, and relatively unknown figures (e.g., Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Dr. Fauci) can be instantly transformed into brilliant “icons” whose wisdom is as obvious as the Emperor’s New Clothes. Because they can think only in abstractions, even actual persons are made into ideological constructs.
Their lack of true learning produces, and complements, an immense arrogance. Knowing nothing of the past, they have come to see themselves as moral paragons, engaged in a struggle to protect the world from the purveyors of false opinion, a prerogative formerly reserved to the Holy Office. In this struggle, there is no actual agone or sacrifice, only the need to hold the right notions and let everyone on Facebook know it. The virtue comes as easily as the anxiety. They may not be landing on Omaha Beach, but they are quaking at the thought of a new Supreme Court justice and “terrified” by opinions with which they disagree.
In short, because they are ignorant of history and culture, they lack self-perspective and a sense of awe at the accomplishments of our forebearers. Even Caesar was humbled when dwelling upon the feats of Alexander.
The absence of religious belief—or even a respect for religious belief—is undoubtedly the greatest contributing factor to the decay of our elites. History teaches that the seed of self-righteous totalitarianism is contempt for religion. The primary defining characteristic of the French Revolution, the antecedent of all the illiberal ideologies that arose in the 19th and 20th centuries, was hatred of religion, especially Catholicism. While earlier Enlightenment philosophy had attempted to “rationalize” Christianity, it did not seek to destroy religious belief altogether. Most thinkers assumed religion was necessary for the flourishing of a healthy, virtuous society. The American founders, of course, shared this view.
But the French Revolution and its off-shoots sought to replace religion and to confect in its place an entirely new basis for the moral life. This hubristic conceit had many real-life consequences, early instances of which I write about in my play The Pearl of Great Price: Pius VI & the Sack of Rome. The desire to destroy was not merely metaphorical, but actual, as the armies of Revolutionary France exported the new ideology by the military conquest of the Italian Peninsula, eventually using deceit to sack Rome. Pius VI was arrested, exiled, and died a prisoner of the Directory. A decade later, Napoleon took nearly identical actions against the next pope, Pius VII, who barely survived five years of imprisonment, the end of which came only upon Napoleon’s fall.
The complete secularization of the elites leaves a great void of meaning that is filled by ideological fantasies that may be used to justify violence. Basic purpose, once proffered by the duties of religion, the aversion to sin and the ultimate end of judgment before God, is unknown to our elites. The lack of an essential foundation for meaning is coupled with a boredom brought on by abundant material wealth and the comforts of luxury that have removed the need for actual strenuous toil. Thus, their untapped energy is poured out in various ways by which they seek for greatness, imagining themselves as the “Resistance” singing La Marseillaise before the German officers at Rick’s or facing down Bull Connor at the side of Rosa Parks.
All the while, the actual problems of our society go unanswered and unaddressed. The elites would be shocked to learn, on reflection, that they have nothing new at all to offer on poverty, education, crime, government reform, health policy, energy policy, or any other concrete issue with which the political system is supposed to deal. Yet they were appalled in 2016 when the voters, finally, refused to continue their latest preposterous representative in power and instead chose an utter outsider who, in essence, promised to break the mold—a mold the elites incorrectly assume everyone cherishes.
The antics of the past five years, the election, and the chaotic months that followed, give cause for discouragement, for it seems that the bankrupt elite has, and will, prevail. They are at the gates of Vienna, soon to smash them down and impose the Woke Totalitarianism they have embraced. It is not an unreasonable fear; it may occur.
However, hope remains for another outcome, one for which the “other side” must labor, building upon the foundations of the political realignment that emerged under Donald Trump. This realignment would coalesce Americans of all classes, races, and religions who look upon the country with a healthy patriotism, who value our constitutional system, who believe in hard work and the opportunities offered by a tolerant society and who remain committed to solving our actual problems through innovation, new ideas, and a reasonable spirit of compromise. The realignment would encompass religious believers and anyone who respects and values the role of religion in public life.
Most critically, this realignment would begin to erase the nonsensical separations between the political affiliations of the races under a shared sense of solidarity. Here, “inclusiveness” would not be merely an ideological buzz word, it would be translated into actual policies that make urban poverty and equal educational opportunity paramount concerns. Lunatic propositions to “defund the police” would be the subject of laughter, while pretend-policy ideas such as the Green New Deal would be dismissed as helping to better the life of not a single person.
In time, perhaps, we could create a new and better elite, a true aristocracy (literally, rule by the best), with the remnant of the former powers rendered as useless as the nobles Louis XIV corralled at Versailles.
In the Second World War, George VI remained in London during the Blitz, along with his wife and two young children. Princess Elizabeth volunteered for the women’s branch of the army and trained as a truck driver and mechanic under the name Elizabeth Windsor. She was 19 years old.
They did not run away; they did not hide in the countryside wearing poison gas masks. The elite of the elite stood with the worker and the peasant, as was their duty. They went through it as a people, as a nation—work, and fear, and sacrifice, and death—and victory. It is the human story, and the promise of human life offered in the life of Christ Himself. It is the only way forward. It can and must be done.
[Photo Credit: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images]