Sunday, March 20, 2016

The protected v. the unprotected

Peggy Noonan has been providing some of the better observations about the Presidential race in her weekly Wall Street Journal column.   Ms. Noonan is hard to beat for political analysis when she is at  the top of her game.   She pens an interesting hypothesis on the cause of the "anger" that seems to fuel the support for Trump, Sanders, and even Cruz, much to the chagrin of both party elders.  Ms. Noonan writes:

We’re in a funny moment. Those who do politics for a living, some of them quite brilliant, are struggling to comprehend the central fact of the Republican primary race, while regular people have already absorbed what has happened and is happening. Journalists and politicos have been sharing schemes for how Marco parlays a victory out of winning nowhere, or Ted roars back, or Kasich has to finish second in Ohio. But in my experience any nonpolitical person on the street, when asked who will win, not only knows but gets a look as if you’re teasing him. Trump, they say.

I had such a conversation again Tuesday with a friend who repairs shoes in a shop on Lexington Avenue. Jimmy asked me, conversationally, what was going to happen. I deflected and asked who he thinks is going to win. “Troomp!” He’s a very nice man, an elderly, old-school Italian-American, but I saw impatience flick across his face: Aren’t you supposed to know these things?

In America now only normal people are capable of seeing the obvious.

But actually that’s been true for a while, and is how we got in the position we’re in.

Last October I wrote of the five stages of Trump, based on the Kübler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the professionals I know are stuck somewhere between four and five.

But I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection. It is a theme that has been something of a preoccupation in this space over the years, but I think I am seeing it now grow into an overall political dynamic throughout the West.

There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.

The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.

I want to call them the elite to load the rhetorical dice, but let’s stick with the protected.

They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.

Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.

One issue obviously roiling the U.S. and western Europe is immigration. It is THE issue of the moment, a real and concrete one but also a symbolic one: It stands for all the distance between governments and their citizens.

It is of course the issue that made Donald Trump.

Britain will probably leave the European Union over it. In truth immigration is one front in that battle, but it is the most salient because of the European refugee crisis and the failure of the protected class to address it realistically and in a way that offers safety to the unprotected.

If you are an unprotected American—one with limited resources and negligible access to power—you have absorbed some lessons from the past 20 years’ experience of illegal immigration. You know the Democrats won’t protect you and the Republicans won’t help you. Both parties refused to control the border. The Republicans were afraid of being called illiberal, racist, of losing a demographic for a generation. The Democrats wanted to keep the issue alive to use it as a wedge against the Republicans and to establish themselves as owners of the Hispanic vote.

Many Americans suffered from illegal immigration—its impact on labor markets, financial costs, crime, the sense that the rule of law was collapsing. But the protected did fine—more workers at lower wages. No effect of illegal immigration was likely to hurt them personally.

It was good for the protected. But the unprotected watched and saw. They realized the protected were not looking out for them, and they inferred that they were not looking out for the country, either.

The unprotected came to think they owed the establishment—another word for the protected—nothing, no particular loyalty, no old allegiance.

Mr. Trump came from that.

Similarly in Europe, citizens on the ground in member nations came to see the EU apparatus as a racket—an elite that operated in splendid isolation, looking after its own while looking down on the people.

In Germany the incident that tipped public opinion against the Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal refugee policy happened on New Year’s Eve in the public square of Cologne. Packs of men said to be recent migrants groped and molested groups of young women. It was called a clash of cultures, and it was that, but it was also wholly predictable if any policy maker had cared to think about it. And it was not the protected who were the victims—not a daughter of EU officials or members of the Bundestag. It was middle- and working-class girls—the unprotected, who didn’t even immediately protest what had happened to them. They must have understood that in the general scheme of things they’re nobodies.

What marks this political moment, in Europe and the U.S., is the rise of the unprotected. It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they’re fortunate but because they’re better.

You see the dynamic in many spheres. In Hollywood, as we still call it, where they make our rough culture, they are careful to protect their own children from its ill effects. In places with failing schools, they choose not to help them through the school liberation movement—charter schools, choice, etc.—because they fear to go up against the most reactionary professional group in America, the teachers unions. They let the public schools flounder. But their children go to the best private schools.

This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens.

And a country really can’t continue this way.

In wise governments the top is attentive to the realities of the lives of normal people, and careful about their anxieties. That’s more or less how America used to be. There didn’t seem to be so much distance between the top and the bottom.

Now is seems the attitude of the top half is: You’re on your own. Get with the program, little racist.

Social philosophers are always saying the underclass must re-moralize. Maybe it is the overclass that must re-moralize.

I don’t know if the protected see how serious this moment is, or their role in it.


Anonymous said...

She is spot on. This is not a new phenomenon, it has been boiling for years. The unprotected are grasping at a straw, although I think it is a weak one.

Anonymous said...

Great article. Great! Sam Hall hits a homer this morning too, in the Clarion Ledger.

Anonymous said...

It is very simple. The voters have not really had a choice in many years. Some people will remember the little man with the big ears who tried to tell the people what was going to happen. He was right but he looked funny so people did not listen to him.
Now the people have another chance. More people are listening today. More people are tired of the bought politicians.
In time we will see if the people are allowed to vote in a president that they want. We will see if the ruling class in the U.S. will allow it. If the voters are denied it may take other methods they may have to resort to. No one is looking forward to that but it just might become necessary.

Anonymous said...

Sam calls himself "common folk". Well, tell us Sam, how many of Mississippi's truly working class common folk with an annual median household income of $39,680 own a timeshare on the Gulf Coast?

Sam Hall is part of the problem. Sam Hall hits a homer? ROFLMAO Yeah, whatever you say.

Anonymous said...

Gee things aren't going my way, so let me throw aside principles and go all out racist, xenophobic, and fascist. A billionaire to help the little guy. Yeah that's the way out. People are generally idiots...

Anonymous said...

Well I was on board with Ms. Noonan, but @4:14's name calling has convinced me otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Gee 5:14 you just made Ms. Noonan's point.

Anonymous said...

4:14 sounds like the politicians people have been electing for quite a few years. Wonder why people would want a change from someone like that?

Looney Noonan said...

Although Looney Noonan claims to be a republican (so does Thad), she clearly endorsed Obama in '08. That's really all I need to know when it comes to considering her drivel and weighing her credibility.

1962guy said...

Seems Ms Noonan can feel the pulse of the "protected and "unprotected".

Good read !!

Anonymous said...

Why are people so bent out of shape for change? Life is not that bad. Plenty of employment, stock market up a bunch since Obama took office, we got Osama. Maybe we need more war.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mrs. Noonan's assessment regarding the frustration of the unprotected vs. the protected. However, when defining the protected and the unprotected, I think she misses the mark. The protected are not only those that have power in the political arena but also those that have power in the business world. It is the middle class, the small business owner, the very back bone of this country that are the unprotected and it is not just because of immigrants, illegal or otherwise. The Republicans will do anything to promote and protect big business and the very wealthy; the Democrats promote and protect big government, minorities and the poor. The problem is there is no one promoting and protecting the average American. The hard working folks that used to be Republicans before the politicians realized where their bread was buttered. Nobody is taking up for that demographic-- they are the unprotected and, more importantly, the un-represented.

What I can't figure out is how that group of people have come to the conclusion that Donald Trump is the man to represent them. Don't misunderstand, I don't necessarily disagree with Mr. Trumps political views. Frankly, I'm not sure exactly what those are because if you really look at his "record" (which is simply what he has said or done in the past) he is all over the map. I hope that their instincts are correct, but personally, I would have preferred some one that seems to have a heart for the "uprotected." Certainly not an anti-business, more-government liberal, but not a big-business guy like Mr. Trump (one who was spotted one million dollars by his father to begin his career) who doesn't have a clue what it's like to be a middle class American.

I do not dislike Donsld Trump but I am very fearful that he has duped the American people into believing he is the answer to our country's problems. Nothing he has said or done has demonstrated any substance that might convince me that he is the solution for the unprotected. I hope and pray that I am missing something and that all these angry Americans so committed to Donald Trump see something that I don't. I am concerned that they have found a voice to point out the problems but not the leader that we need to solve them. Maybe for now, a voice is the best we can do.

One thing I know for certain: after the 2016 election, America, as we know her, will never be the same. Hopefully, ultimately, the unprotected will find a voice and in the end, our beloved country will be a better, stronger democracy.

Anonymous said...

Plenty of employment? Sure, right.

Hose Off The Deck said...

Plenty of employment 9:23? I think Mississippi still leads the nation in the 'unemployment insurance benefit recipient' column. There's 'plenty' for you and those at your patio party though.

Obama has rallied the stock market, made America a healthier nation and is on the right pathway to controlling the incidence of firearms in American homes. Right? Go to Cuba and stay there, dunce.

Kingfish said...

Obama has rallied the stock market

Nope. The Fed keeping interest rates low fueled a stock market rally AND strengthened the dollar, which combined with the boom in fracking, dropped oil prices.

Truth is we have had GDP growth less than 3% for around a decade. In other words, a stagnant economy. 0.5% in additional GDP growth would do wonders.

Ben Dover said...

Corporate buybacks don't a rally make.

Anonymous said...

I think 9:51 pm makes strong points.
I suspect immigration is simply the clearest example around which to rally and illegal immigrants give us an easy target.
With the middle class all but decimated, the upper middle class and the lower upper class are also feeling " unprotected". We still have money that can be legally transferred to the pockets of others. The institutions upon which we too could once rely, are no longer reliable.
Not all Trump supporters are middle class. I have many well to do friends with first rate educations who are strong supporters. I was , at first, very surprised.
But, I began to realize that like me, they have lost trust in the reliability of market information and the money managers. They have lost trust in the Fourth Estate. They have lost trust in banks. They have lost trust in the justice system. They can't rely on any institution and certainly not government to give them accurate information and to be responsive.
They don't feel respected as customers despite long histories of good credit and fiscal responsibility. They are treated no differently that the deadbeat. A good reputation and an honorable life becomes meaningless.
They see they are being " nickeled and dimed" to death with bogus charges or ridiculous non-bogus " new" entries to bills.
You can be without a service for days, weeks or months ( I have an example of the last one if needed) and still you are required to pay each monthly bill as if you had enjoyed the service.
Too many of the " too big to fail" entities know perfectly well that paying them is less costly than suing them. And, frankly, suing would be an exercise in futility. That is especially true now that Congress has made some mega businesses " litigation proof" by law. It's pretty telling when Congress passes a law that not even Congress can get information from some manufacturers or service providers!
Getting a human who speaks English when a problem arises is too rare and if you do, it is after navigating a phone menu that seems designed to keep the company from having to deal with dissatisfaction.
Instead of enjoying the fruits of our labor, we spend an inordinate about of time correcting mistakes that are not of our making.
Indeed, the latest money maker is to sell debt to collection agencies when no debt exists. The amount of money that can be made in the sale and from those who are too old to remember or so busy it's less expensive just to pay or too unfamiliar with how to go about tracking down the error, are a new source of profit. Collection agencies are wildly increasing numbers for that reason.
So, yes, the anger is real. It's justified. There isn't one candidate however, who seems to get that it's not JUST an immigration problem. But, they don't live in the real world...not a one of them.
We have lost our freedom in thousands of sentences in thousands of bills for decades and those in power have forgotten that the unprotected hordes will always, when it gets bad enough storm the gates.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that I wonder about is the reaction of an angry electorate (both democrats and republicans)to the likely election of an insiders insider, Hillary Clinton. I can't imagine the majority of citizens accepting the same old same old, which is what Clinton will absolutely do. There really does seem to be a disconnect between the citizens and their elected officials. I feel those willing to go into public service (more like self service) are not the intellectual cream of the crop any more and don't have the mental capacity to understand the frustration of the average person (they're too busy building their power and financial kingdoms). Not just economic frustration mind you, but an electorate having unpopular programs and ideals shoved down their collective throats and then called racists, homophobic, right wing Christian nuts, or any of the other insults meant to demean those that don't share their particular point of view. Could we see riots etc. by people that aren't usually prone to that type behavior? Anyway, interesting times

Anonymous said...

There will be civil war before we again see a "better, stronger democracy".

Kingfish said...

One thing that is NEVER mentioned in these type of discussions.

Our government is now run exclusively by Harvard and Yale grads. Reagan was the last president we had who didn't go to one of those two schools. Party doesn't matter. The same also applies to the Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

Most Trump supporters are looking for something different than what we have had for so long. Both democrats and republicans have nearly destroyed the U.S. We are so far in debt, thanks to both parties, that our grand children will not be able to make a payment on the interest. Large companies give their leaders million $ bonuses and they run their company into the ground. We, the tax payers, have to bail them out.
Our borders are nothing more than marks on a map. They are open to anyone, friend or foe. Our jobs are going to other countries. We continue to import many times more than we export.

It isn't that the people believe Trump. The people need a change. Democrats and republicans will do what the wealthy, who bought them, tell them to do and we are left to pay for it.

Maybe after this election the politicians will act more like leaders rather than leeches. The tax payers already have too many to support.

Burke said...

I'm a Noonan fan, but even she is not capable of simplifying what is signified by the Trump phenomenon. We're still sorting things out after the Great Recession. We only got over the Great Depression by going to world war, and we've been a military-industrial complex ever since. The rich we will always have with us. The so-called "unprotected" are mainly vulnerable to technological developments, which are accelerating. All in all, the over-all problem is still "future shock": we can't adapt to a major change before another one looms, and so on, faster and faster. "Wait a minute! We have gay marriage?" "Wait a minute! We have one big store where everyone shops?" I'm as dazed and confused as the next person. And I'm writing about it on a blog. "Wait a minute! We have instant commentary for everyone?" ET want to go home.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Noonan puts up the old straw man "the others." They're different and scary and are taking our jobs. It's not the illegal immigrants we're scared off. We're tired of the opulent elite, and Ms. Noonan is one, trotting out the same old message and protecting themselves from decisions they've made. We pay for their privilege.

Anonymous said...

Many things that people worry about are not really worth the effort. It is only a way to divert attention from the really important things. People fall for it every time just as they fall for being called racist and ignorant.

Anonymous said...

9:30 am A civil war doesn't guarantee a "better , stronger, democracy". It can just a easily get you a failed state or dictator or haven't you been paying attention? And, if we have a civil war , there are no geographical boundaries like in our first Civil War.Just about every state and city will become a killing ground. The weapons are much more destructive. And, yes, like Syria or Bosnia , the UN and other countries might feel like stepping in. Won't that be great? This isn't 1860 . There will not be a " do over" for the South.
You should be reminded that the Cuban people hated the Batista government, they did not expect to get a Communist dictator but rather a revolution with a less corrupt and more effective government. Ask Cruz's and Rubio's parents. Both their fathers started out supporting Fidel. Put this under " be careful what you wish for"!

If " the opulent elite" or Harvard /Yale grads are the problem, as KF and 11:29 am suggests, Trump is certainly one of the opulent elite and Wharton is certainly considered one of the Ivy League schools.

It should be noted that Trump didn't graduate from the prestigious MBA program at Wharton ( which is a part of the University of Pennsylvania which IS an Ivy League school), but rather received an undergraduate degree in economics after transferring from Fordham( a very prestigious Catholic school in NY). It's rather odd to me that he talks about going to Wharton rather than going to the University of Pennsylvania. It's like majoring as an undergraduate in business at Millsaps and saying you graduated from The Else School of Management.

If you think you want to end the grip of the power elite, your first task is to accurately define them and your second task is to know how they acquire and maintain that status. And, when it comes to the latter, it's how the tax code and the stock market regulations protect their wealth and don't protect YOURS. They don't have 401 Ks and IRAs and you don't have their write offs!

Anonymous said...

If you think you want to end the grip of the power elite, your first task is to accurately define them and your second task is to know how they acquire and maintain that status.

That is the easy part. A group of politicians who have not worked a real job in their life but have continually sucked at the teat of our govt.
The second part is easy also. They acquired and keep their status because of their family history of being a drain on our govt. Much like those families who have raised several generations living off govt. benefits.

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