You Say Class, I Say Caste

When prominent people take the extreme step of abandoning their longtime political party to support the other party’s standard-bearer, it’s generally for irreconcilable policy differences. They usually write a lengthy explanation of why they now agree with the other party’s positions. Winston Churchill switched twice, and you knew at length what the policy differences were. In my last two posts, I’ve shown this isn’t the case for those switching to support Biden. I’m not seeing well thought out explanations why the policies of Joe Biden and the Democrats are so much better for America. Instead, they claim Trump is dangerous and has destroyed the Republican Party.

Two Political Action Committees (PAC) have been leading the effort to help the Democrats crush Trump. Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT) and the Lincoln Project are actively campaigning to bring down the present President. The former puts its efforts into dumping Trump while the latter also works against down-ballot Republicans. It’s a distinction without a difference. If both get their wish and Trump loses in a landslide, both houses of Congress would almost certainly be in Democratic hands. With complete control, nothing would stand in the way of enacting the whole progressive agenda. Some form of the Green New Deal, packed courts, and government healthcare are among many other things that would become law. With two more states, a newly renamed District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, good luck winning back the Presidency. Neither of these PACs has offered any detailed explanation of why thy now favor these policies.

Two of the leading Republican defectors are syndicated columnist George Will and former Ohio Governor John Kasich. Will has loudly announced becoming a Democrat, while it’s reported Kasich will actually speak at the Democratic Convention. I’ve enjoyed Will’s well-reasoned articles for more years than I’d like to admit. If Kasich had won the Republican nomination, he would’ve had my vote. Surely these communicators have statements of their reasoning.

Think again. Will only offers Trump is awful and dangerous, while Biden is a gentle moderate. No stirring endorsement of the Democratic programs, just Joe “will end the national nightmare.” Is Joe a moderate? Biden has informed us he will be the most Progressive President in history. Damning Trump for not always telling the truth, while not believing Biden’s own words isn’t coherent. In any case at 77, Biden may give way to his vice-president. All those mentioned for the job are even more progressive than he is. 

Kasich, in refusing to endorse Trump in ’16 told us, “”I can’t go for dividing, name-calling, or somebody that doesn’t really represent conservative principles.” Most fair-minded people would hold both parties responsible for our divisions. Name-calling has been endemic to our politics since the country’s inception. Is Kasich going to give an excellent exposition of “Conservative Principles” at the Democratic Convention? Something you will never hear, Joe Biden Conservative. 

For these two, the PACs, and other like-minded people, the answer to their defection has little or nothing to do with principles. Traveling in India, I become aware of their ages-old caste system. Everybody has a rank and place in society. I think the reality of their position has more to do with class.

Many of the turncoats, including Will and Kasich, receive paychecks from liberal organizations. Will works for the Washington Post, and Kasich gets a CNN check. I don’t believe the money has changed their opinion. It’s just if you work somewhere you’re part of that world. People who work together, socialize in the same circles, and have similar backgrounds are more comfortable with each other. Particular manners and conventions are observed. Often these are class distinctions. Lisa Doolittle suffered from the verbal class distinction in Shaw’s Pygmalion (My Fair Lady is the musical version). Others outside the group are seen as crude or uncultured. You may have differences within your class, but they are handled according to caste norms. In India, Brahmins (Priests & the learned) and Kshatriyas (Rulers, Administrators & Warriors) are the elites above the Vaishyas (merchants & artisans ) and the Shudras (laborers). The castes maintain social distance and don’t intermarry. Caste manners and social norms are maintained first, then principles. This makes it hard to understand and communicate with people of a different class. 

As I pointed out in my series “The Long Journey to More” (series on this site), similar class systems existed for thousands of years. This was the way all the agrarian-based societies before the 15th century were organized. In that century, everything changed. Larger, more efficient ships, the printing press, and modern finance greatly expanded commerce & learning. This led to innovation, previously slow and incremental, to vastly speed up. The adaptable commercial-artisan class gained wealth and knowledge. Even laborers became literate, giving them economic mobility. Of course, the those in the lower classes wanted a share of power to protect their expanded interests and gains. Class friction has ensued ever since.

This may explain the disconnect between the bulk of Republican voters and the defectors. Many people have long thought much of the nation’s elite talked and looked down at them. They were being told what to think. Given the decidedly mixed results the elites delivered, people have looked more broadly for their information and choices. Instead of meekly accepting what your betters put out, they looked for politicians able to firmly push back. Someone not afraid to call out the left-leaning press when they’re wrong or unfair. Mitt Romney was a fine man, but he let the left and its press allies define him as a villain. When Hillary Clinton tried to identify Trump and his supporters as deplorable, the targets embraced the label and won. When the elites heard Trump speak, they found a vulgarian. His supporters understood something else and cut him some slack.

Win or lose, a vast majority of the Republican Party will continue to have the same outlook. They may not like everything about Trump, but they appreciate he stood up and didn’t give in to the elites. Given this simple fact, how do the turncoats believe they can ever return to the Republican Party? Many of their compatriots choose to stay on the right while criticizing the President when they feel he’s wrong. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board has no trouble in parting ways with the President on issues. They, along with other opinion leaders such as the editor of the National Review, Rich Lowry, have found a way to express opposition without abandoning principle. The defectors may not agree with progressives on policy, but they all can agree who is “deplorable.”

Many Republican officeholders will never forgive those whose actions threaten to cost them their jobs. A broadside against Trump can’t help but hit bystanders. A lot of rank and file Republicans work and contribute to these political campaigns. It’s hard to see any place for the defectors at the Republican table.

George Will could see the result of his defection and joined the Democratic Party outright. Maybe the others are planning to join him. Right now, they enjoy favorable reviews in the mainstream media. They are held up as right-thinking people of principle. This should last through the election. Then unless they show they’ve become true Progressive believers, they’ll be discarded. Benedict Arnold was never truly accepted by the Brits. It is always hard to trust turncoats. Having served the progressive’s purpose, most will find themselves without a place in either party. 

I know starting a new party is hard work and needs money. The defectors have raised millions to attack Trump and the Republicans. Their time seems to be spent all over every form of media. Seems to me this effort would’ve been better spent on building a party representing their supposed values. People left the Whigs and did the difficult work of building a party reflecting their purpose. Republicans took a stand and invited others to join them. Losing at first, they won on the strength of their principles. It was the right and honorable thing to do. They convinced enough people to succeed. Maybe it was the lack of heartfelt beliefs that kept the turncoats from taking this path. I think the defectors will regret their decisions in the not too distant future. After Nov. 3, sadly, no one will care about them.

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