The breathtaking rage of this recent tweet by Charles Murray may be submerged in the masses of words of his latest article, "Trump's America" -- but I find both hard to fathom.
In explicating "Trumpism," Charles Murray argues that our Anglo-Protestant heritage (bad) has "inevitably faded" (good). This ignores, first, the 1965 Immigration Act that, in effect, made war on that heritage, and the nation and culture that had grown from it. He ignores also the dire toll that the unceasing wave of mass immigration ever since has had on cultural cohesion -- and now even national existence. His is a purely economic and class related analysis which misses so much of the living, breathing cultural core of Trump's appeal.
Invoking the centrality of the so-called American creed (as distinguished from the Constitution/Bill of Rights), Murray cites Richard Hofstadter -- Richard Hofstadter! -- for a somewhat swami-esque statement: "It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one."
What does this ideology—Huntington called it the “American creed”—consist of? Its three core values may be summarized as egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. From these flow other familiar aspects of the national creed that observers have long identified: equality before the law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and association, self-reliance, limited government, free-market economics, decentralized and devolved political authority.
Egalitarianism? Isn't that part of some other 18th-century-revolution? He continues:
As recently as 1960, the creed was our national consensus....
Charles Murray is a celebrated political scientist. However, this statement repeats a common fallacy about U.S. pre-1960 history -- back when everything was all right. To describe 1960 as a benchmark or even high water mark of "limited government," "free-market economics," "decentralized and devolved political authority" after the preceding twenty-five years of the "New Deal"-to-"Fair-Deal," which massively expanded the federal government and centralized authority reveals a gigantic historical blind spot.
But don't take my word for it. This decades-long movement toward socialism in this country was clearly recognized and celebrated by the leading Socialist politician of the 20th century, Norman Thomas.
From American Betrayal:
No wonder Norman Thomas was tickled by the direction of the country in the Eisenhower years. By 1958, he was beside himself. “The United States is making greater strides toward socialism under Eisenhower than even under Roosevelt,” he enthused. By 1962, the man who had run for president on the Socialist ticket six times had concluded that “the difference between Democrats and Republicans is: Democrats have accepted the ideas of socialism cheerfully, while Republicans have accepted them reluctantly.” Just not by name. As Upton Sinclair put it in a 1951 letter to Thomas, “The American People will take Socialism, but they won’t take the label.”
Even the most celebrated scholars fail to appreciate these revolutionary changes, which go beyond mere economics to the Marxian assault on all American institutions and traditions -- including identity.
To Murray, however, it's all and only about class and income. Through these blinkers, naturally, "Trumpism," as he calls it, is the voice of a beleaguered working class telling us that it too is falling away."
Murray published this piece in the Wall Street Journal on February 12.
Exit polling from the New Hampshire primary published on February 10 tells us that "Trumpism" is also the majority voice of every single category of voter, women, men, young, old, beleaguered and otherwise.
Trump also won every category of education, from high school or less, to postgraduate study!
He also won every income category!
Murray, though, continues blowing a riff on the "beleagured working class," "poor people," "regular guys" who, in his expert interpretation (published in the Wall Street Journal and the American Enterprise Institute) comprise the bulk of Trump's support -- again, belied by the exit polling to date.
In no way would I underestimate the appeal Trump has for Murray's "working class," who, I expect, will vote for him in numbers Mitt Romney or Ted Cruz, for that matter, can only dream of. Still, there is something green-eye-shade-sour about assessing the Trump phenomenon strictly in "have-not" terms of dislocation or "class" envy. Donald Trump is also tapping vast and deep wellsprings of relief by speaking to love of country -- love of nation -- in ways no candidate has within modern memory.
Why Murray's rage?