Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Power Elite

The Power Elite is an article that Patrick Deneen wrote in June 2015--so, pre-Trump. It's obviously drawing on the C. Wright Mills classic of the same name--which I read as a sophomore in college. It's interesting Deneen's 2015 article with with the results of the 2016 election as well as with what he's writing in 2019. The article was written

As the dust from the recent explosion over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act begins to settle, ...

Remember that? It was a very big deal in the leadup to the 2016 Presidential elections. Very big.

And Deneen adds, to set the narrative:

Mike Pence, Asa Hutchinson, and the Republican party were not blindsided by opposition to RFRA by gay rights activists. What knocked them back were major corporations, such as Apple, Walmart, and Angie’s List, and organizations such as the NCAA that denounced the law, ..., which was an idiotic miscalculation given the fact that establishment outrage scuttled the Arizona RFRA last year. 
The decision by corporate leaders to take a political stand over a controversial issue is therefore of great interest. Corporations and business leaders almost always avoid political statements and announcements, recognizing that such declarations have the effect of unnecessarily alienating potential customers. Corporations live in constant fear of bad pub­licity that can ruin a brand carefully erected through millions of dollars of advertising and publicity. Why step into a heated political debate and ­unnecessarily turn half of your customers away? Corporations exist to make money, not to advance political and social causes—except for those that help them make money, of course. 
And that’s just the point: The decision by Apple, Walmart, Eli Lilly, Angie’s List, and so on was a business decision—even more, a marketing decision.

But then came the 2016 election. The same companies and cultural groups opposed Trump. And now the GOP looks to be taking a deep dive into the role of Big Tech in attempting to deliver America to a Progressive One Party state. Maybe opposition to RFPA was the beginning of a backfire?

But here's Deneen's reasoning. Understand that what Deneen seems to mean by Republicans is "Libertarians." He also recognizes that Libertarianism is--yes!--ascendant in the Democrat party, as well. As I like to put it, America's default public philosophy is a "mushy libertarianism."

There is a deeper reason for corporate support, however. ­Today’s corporate ideology has a strong affinity with the lifestyles of those who are defined by mobility, ethical flexibility, liberalism (whether economic or social), a consumerist mentality in which choice is paramount, and a “progressive” outlook in which rapid change and “creative destruction” are the only certainties. The response to Indiana’s RFRA law shows very clearly that corporations have joined forces with Republicans on economic matters and Democrats on social ones. Corporate America is aligned with the ascendant ­libertarian portion of each party, ensuring a win for the political, economic, and ­social preferences of libertarianism. In effect, there is only one functional party in America today, seemingly parceled between the two notional parties but in reality unifying them in its backing by financial and cultural elites.

This is the managerial elite that Deneen speaks of, and against which the "populist" masses are raising their pitchforks. Trump mobilized them, even though he's maybe not exactly of them.

What this means is that today’s cultural power elite is entirely aligned with the economic power elite, and they’re ready to steamroll anyone in their way. In the case of Indiana’s RFRA, corporate and gay activists combined to bring to heel conservative Christians in a rural, Rust Belt state that struggles at the margins of America’s global economy. The threat to demolish Indiana’s economy is only a more explicit expression of a project that corporations like Apple and Walmart have been carrying out with the ­assistance mainly of Republicans (as well as free-trade Democrats) for a generation.
To see the glee with which ­liberals joined forces with corporations revealed the deepest fact about the American ruling class: politicians and corporations will join forces to effect the change preferred by corporations, change that too often damages the working class and benefits society’s elites. Corporate America is willing to join any coalition that advances its financial interests and ­deeper philosophic commitments, at the expense of Americans on the wrong side of history, especially those Americans living in places like Indiana who aren’t part of the meritocratic global elite.
... This elite-sanctioned attack on “bigotry” will not stop at Memories Pizza. It will be extended first to religious nonprofit institutions that insist upon the view that marriage is between a man and a woman—the schools, the colleges, the adoption services—and then will reach inevitably into the sanctuaries of the churches ­themselves. The narrative of bigotry will demand nothing less, and the protection that might have been afforded by RFRA and the First Amendment has been shown to be a parchment barrier in comparison with the might and power of cultural and financial elites. 
Americans of both parties once believed that no center of power in America should become so concentrated that it could force its views on every other citizen. What we saw in Indiana was not just a “miscalculation” by Republicans. We saw fully unmasked just who runs America, and the kind of America that they are bringing more fully into reality every passing day. It will be an America where the powerful will govern completely over the powerless, where the rich dictate terms to the poor, where the strong are unleashed from the old restraints of culture and place, where libertarian indifference—whether in respect to economic inequality or morals—is inscribed into the ­national fabric, and where the unburdened, hedonic human will reign ascendant. No limits reflected in political, social, or religious norms can be permitted: All are allowed except those who would claim the legitimacy of restraint.

2020 should tell us whether 2016 was a speed bump or whether a fundamental shift is in the works. If so, the revelation by Trump, Barr, and House Republicans of just how ruthless, amoral, and lawless the Power Elite is--in the Russia Hoax, in the whole Epstein story--will be a major part of what unfolds.


  1. This is a gross simplification, I know, but there seems to be very much an element of a quid pro in which Big Biz works to destroy the Swamp's political competition while the Swamp works to destroy Big Biz's business competition.

    Then again, maybe it's not really an oversimplification at all.

  2. Queensberry Rules Republicans always roll over. Trump is the first to show up with his spine stiffened and the determination to fight back.

    One of the things missing from this short analysis of how big corporations align themselves is that the publicly traded companies fear for the lives (fear for the stock price) regarding negative publicity. And most of these social issue causes are backed by various activist groups--and the DNC-MSM--who will bombard the company with questions and complaints about "what are they gonna do about it?"

    So as much as they might not want to be drawn into the social issue, they get captured by the PR need to come out looking good. It's not as if the local Christian church is going to come out and picket at the HQ. But you can bet the LGBTQWERTY or some other prog-left NGO will organize a protest, with film at 6 & 11.

    The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    1. However, publicity is far from the whole story. Target pushed the envelope re trans bathrooms, and paid dearly for it. They were trying to stay out ahead, not just follow the pack. There have been many instances of that.