Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Trumpen Proletariat. By Daniel Henninger.

The Trumpen Proletariat. By Daniel Henninger. Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2016.


Barack Obama’s presidency of moral condescension has produced an electoral backlash.

Karl Marx, in a particularly dyspeptic moment, offered this description of what he dismissed as the lumpen proletariat:

“Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, pimps, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars—in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème.”

Even Donald Trump’s critics would not go so far as to suggest that his voter base consists of vagabonds, pickpockets or even, ugh, “literati.” But for the longest time, the American media saw the Trump base as an “indefinite, disintegrated mass” of mostly angry, lower-middle-class white males. The early Trump adopters often looked like bikers, with or without jobs. The Trumpen proletariat.

This was the original Trump bedrock, the proles who could look past him saying that John McCain, though tortured for years by the Vietnamese, wasn’t a hero. Even now they’ll blink right by Mr. Trump’s remark this week that Saddam Hussein was “good” at killing terrorists (“they didn’t read them their rights”), despite the unhappy fact that Saddam was a psychopathic, blood-soaked torturer responsible for the deaths of perhaps a half million non-terrorist Iraqi citizens.

(Still, one may ask: When the day after her Comey pardon, Hillary Clinton proposes “free” tuition at public colleges for families earning up to $85,000 a year, and $125,000 by 2021, how come her campaign isn’t universally laughed and mocked off the map?)

The media originally looked upon the emerging Trump base with suspicion and distrust, regarding it as a volatile and possibly dangerous political faction but one that would slip back to the shadows as the Trump candidacy faded.

We are 10 days from the party conventions, and Mr. Trump sits, uneasily as always, close to the polling margin of error against the former Secretary of State, former U.S. senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton. The Trumpen proletariat turns out to be bigger than imagined.

In the nonstop conversation about the 2016 election, the question at the center of everything is whether one is a “Trump supporter.” But if it is true that in this election all the rules have been broken, couldn’t it also be true that Donald Trump has himself become a bystander to the forces set in motion this year?

Mr. Trump has raised very little money, is still pouring the foundation for a campaign organization and faces a determined, billion-dollar Democratic Party machine. Once a month, he slanders reality with backhanded admiration for mass murderers such as Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un.

And yet he stands. This election must be about something else.

It is a reckoning, a final settling of accounts and grievances going way back. This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s the gunfight at the OK Corral, between the Earps and the Clantons. It’s a street fight about what have become irreconcilable views of America.

Undeniably, economic anxiety over flatlined incomes and the sense of economic loss, blamed variously on globalization or immigrants, explains a lot in this election. But not all of it. A Trump doesn’t rise without stronger forces in play.

That force has been described, including by me, as the revolt of the politically incorrect. PC, though, is just the symptom of a more virulent social disease.

The U.S. has been through culture wars before, as with the religious right in the 1980s and ’90s. Or the smart set in the 1920s. The country, ever resilient, eventually adjusts and moves on.

Political correctness added something new to the cultural divide: moral condescension.

What has really “angered” so many more millions who now feel drawn into the Trump camp isn’t just PC itself but that its proponents show such relentless moral contempt and superiority toward everyone else. People in America can take a lot, but not that. Marx would have a field day with how progressivism’s cultural elites have reordered social classes between the right-minded and everyone else.

Despite years of winning Supreme Court assent to their views, the left insists that the other side must remain on the moral hook. On race, sex or the environment the moralistic left seems to think it can keep the population incarcerated forever on vague, unproven charges of cultural guilt. For what?

In nearly eight years of presidential speeches, Barack Obama, by explicit choice, has come to embody the holier-than-thou idea of showing secular moral contempt for those who disagree with him.

As his inheritor, Hillary Clinton will bear the brunt of an energized Trumpen proletariat that suddenly finds moral demotion as something they no longer have to bear. That the mercurial Donald Trump has occupied both sides of this conflict and then some is, after all these years, beside the point.

The End of Palestinian Nationalism. By Liel Leibovitz.

Israeli Rina Yaffa Ariel, mourns over the body of her daughter Hallel, a 13-year-old girl who was fatally stabbed by a Palestinian attacker in her home, during her funeral in the Kiryat Arba settlement outside the Israeli occupied city of Hebron on June 30, 2016. The Israeli army said that a young Palestinian killed Hallel in her bed after breaking into her home in the Kiryat Arba settlement outside the flashpoint city of Hebron. Security personnel rushed to the house and fired on the attacker, who wounded a guard before being shot dead, the army said. The girl was taken to hospital in Jerusalem in critical condition and died of her wounds. Getty Images / AFP / GIL COHEN-MAGEN.

The End of Palestinian Nationalism. By Liel Leibovitz. Tablet, July 5, 2016.


When a movement devolves into a death cult, it’s time to rethink our assumptions.

With the Israelis murdered this week by Palestinian terrorists—13-year-old Hallel Ariel, stabbed in her sleep, or Michael Mark, father of 10, shot in his car with his wife and children by his side—it’s also time to bury the bloated corpse of the Palestinian national movement. A cause that had once attracted the sympathies of just and compassionate people everywhere is increasingly devolving into a call heard only by the wild and the deranged.

How did that happen? Like all questions of its scope, this one, too, contains multitudes. You could argue pragmatism and say that it was Israel’s fault, that the Jewish state’s stringent policies and its penchant for settlements drove the fragile Palestinians to despair. You could argue essentialism and say that it will always be in the Arabs’ nature to hate the Jews. There’s no shortage of good stories to tell, and all likely contain some dusting of the truth. But none explain 17-year-old Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah taking a smiling selfie and then leaving his luxurious two-story house in Bani Naim, ambling over to Ariel’s home in Kiryat Arba, watching her as she slept peacefully in her bed, exhausted from a dance recital the evening before, and slaughtering her with a kitchen knife. None explain Tarayrah’s mother and sister hailing the murderer as a hero who has made them proud. This is not nationalism. It is madness.

And yet, don’t expect the arbiters of global rectitude to pay much attention. The world, moved both by moral rightness and political necessity, has gotten used to holding two opposing narratives about the Palestinian national movement in its head at the same time. The first of these—some versions of which are inclusive of Israeli rights and aspirations, and some of which are entirely hostile to the existence of Israel itself—is about the right of the Palestinian people to their own state. The second is about the wrongs committed by both Palestinians and Israelis, and which tend in the minds of most reasonable people who are not deeply staked in the tangled history of the conflict to drown each other out: Oppression leads to terror attacks which lead to more oppression.

This clash between narrative A (the Palestinians deserve a state) and narrative B (bad deeds on both sides make a Palestinian state more and more unlikely) is frequently referred to by Western reporters and diplomats, usually with a schoolmarmish clicking of the tongue, as the “cycle of violence.” If only both sides could get along, the common wisdom among the global elites still runs, it would be easy enough to find some sort of solution, and the world would be at least a moderately better place.

But what if both narratives of rights and wrongs are in fact inseparable? That’s what the leaders of the BDS movement believe. In their view, the deeds of the occupation they decry are hardly an accident, because all of the land of Mandate Palestine properly belongs—by transcendent right, if not by international law and treaty—to the Arabs of Palestine. Compromise with Zionism is a compromise with inherent oppression and injustice, which by its very nature will only inflame further conflict. The only morally right, and politically stable long-term solution, therefore, is to eliminate the Zionist State of Israel, once and for all, even if both Zionists and devotees of international law might read the historical record and the facts on the ground very differently. The great virtue of the BDS position is that it replaces contradictions with clarity: Zionism is occupation, always and forever, plain and simple.

It is worth considering whether the leaders of the BDS movement have stumbled on something profound about the conflict, a premise that people in the West who oppose the elimination of the State of Israel might also want to consider. Maybe it isn’t true that both sides are right. Maybe the easy nostrum that both national movements have justice on their side and that both sides do bad things is a false appeal to complexity of the kind that comforts people who would really rather not deal with hard real-world questions of right versus wrong. Maybe the failure of decades of painstaking but fruitless efforts by the most sophisticated diplomats and map-makers and negotiators on the planet, backed by unending rivers of cash, is telling us something important: that there isn’t room for two full-fledged national movements in the same tiny sliver of land, even if, in a perfect world, it would be better if there was. What if what you see on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is what you get? Then what?

It is in fact impossible to separate the Zionist dream of creating a Jewish nation-state in the Biblical land of Israel from the abridgment of the national aspirations of those Arabs who were previously living in that land under the Turks, or who were drawn there in growing numbers in the early 20th century by the economic activity of Jewish colonists. In that sense, while Zionism doesn’t have to—and should never—imply that non-Jewish citizens of Israel do not have absolutely the same rights as Jewish citizens to live, work, think, and speak freely, the BDS movement is certainly right that Zionism absolutely does imply the abrogation of the national dream of the Palestinian people to enjoy the whole of historical Palestine as their national homeland. It is perfectly fine for some Palestinians to see that abrogation as a burning injustice, and to reject Zionism as a cruel, unjust imposition on their own experience, just as Zionists are free to celebrate the return of the Jewish people to its historic homeland, and wish that all the Arabs would pack up and leave. Whether settled in courtrooms or on battlefields, it is an argument that, really, only one side can win.

By the same token, it is also time to see the Palestinian national movement as a unified whole, rather than picking and choosing among its parts in order to construct a Western-friendly creature that can then be positioned as a likely partner for negotiations that—for reasons that should now seem obvious to every thinking person—go absolutely nowhere, because they are premised on a fantasy of a thing that doesn’t actually exist. Is there actually any meaningful difference in the aspirations of the leaders of Hamas and the leaders of Fatah, both of whom compete to incite and lionize the unending stream of zombie-like killers who murder Jews wherever they can find them, whether in settlements or on the beaches of Haifa and Tel Aviv? These killers, and the leaders who incentivize them, are not something separate from the Palestinian national movement. They are, as the wall posters and the television broadcasts in their honor claim, the front-line soldiers of the movement, and its purest representatives.

And that’s the real catastrophe facing the Palestinian people these days. There are plenty of other nations created by colonists on occupied land—America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and all of Latin America come immediately to mind, even if none of the Europeans who forged new nations in those places had even the slightest historical connection to the lands they seized. And there are some examples of national movements pushing off their oppressors and winning back their ancestral homelands. There are, however, no examples of nations, even failed ones, created by death cults. And a death cult is just what the Palestinian national movement has now become.

To understand how that is possible, we’ve few better guides than Leo Strauss. Lecturing in 1941, the philosopher was tasked with trying to explain what the hell had happened in his native Germany, and how so many seemingly normal people slid past reasonable reservations about logical geopolitical considerations and into the Hitlerian dance of death. The answer Strauss gives is chilling: The young Nazis weren’t so much ardent anti-Semites or staunch nationalists as they were nihilists repulsed by seeing their closed society threatened by the promise of progress and change. “Their Yes,” Strauss wrote as his subjects were still very much on the rise, “was inarticulate—they were unable to say more than: No! This No proved however sufficient as the preface to action, to the action of destruction.”

The Palestinian genius for nay-saying is well-documented, but what’s at play here is something new, something that transcends the dull boundaries of international negotiations and seeps into the hearts and minds of the young. Once the essential No that has guided Palestinian policy for decades has been turned inward, it could find no other outlet but destruction and no better target than the Jews next door. Anti-Semitism has something to do with fanning this derangement, but it is not its essence; neither are pure yearnings for an independent Palestinian homeland. The revolt we’re seeing now is more profound, more ontological in nature: It’s the revolt of an educated and relatively well-off generation—note how many of the stabbers have come, like Tarayrah, from comfortable and stable families—that looks for meaning and honor and sacrifice and can find it nowhere in the vastly compromised world outside, succumbing instead to the all-consuming fire of utter annihilation. We’ve seen this tide rise before under similar circumstances, and we’ll see it rise again.

It’s easy to argue that Tarayrah and his fellow pogromists are merely youth pushed into murder by the constant torrent of incitement prevalent in every corner of Palestinian culture; this is true, but it eerily assumes, like the looniest moralists do when they argue that violent video games or gangster rap will inevitably lead to shootouts in the streets of suburban Connecticut, that adolescents are spongy creatures incapable of doing much more than soaking violence and spurting out violence in kind. It’s even easier to continue to blame that mythical horned beast, the Occupation, as if there was no other reason for young Palestinians to feel hopeless—like, say, the fact that their own government is one of the world’s most repressive and corrupt—and as if hopelessness necessarily translated into taking knives to the throats of slumbering children. If we abandon these simplicities, and acknowledge instead that what bedevils Palestinian society is a much more wicked problem, we’re left to make some uneasy decisions of our own.

First, we should realize that we must approach a death cult differently than we would a healthy national movement. The latter calls out for compromise. It rewards negotiations, and it reassures its foes by offering indications, real and symbolic, that future reconciliation is likely and at hand. This is why we often forgive it its missteps, and are willing to look away even when it occasionally unleashes bloody hell, as even the most well-tempered and responsible national movements sometimes do. The former, however, has no appetite for anything but destruction, and measures its triumphs with the crude arithmetic of body counts and death tolls. It cannot be reasoned with. It can only be forcefully stopped. Until it is, any attempt to pretend that Palestinian nationalism is still viable is simply grotesque.

This should come as little surprise to any serious student of national movements throughout history. Reread Herder’s remark that, in a certain sense, every form of human perfection is first and foremost national in spirit, and reflect again on the Treaty of Westphalia, which sliced Europe into nation-states erected on the basis of self-determination and committed to diplomatic congress as a means of resolving disputes. Then go forth and observe the myriad national movements that failed miserably to live up to this new spirit of creative nationalism. Ask the Moravians or the Transnistrians about their efforts at self-determination, and that’s just one small corner in Europe. The world is thick with failed national movements that, for one reason or another, saw their dreams disintegrate into violence, or irrelevance, or both. Sadly, the Palestinians now join them. This will have many implications, for Palestinians and Israelis alike, but if history is any guide, the only way to counter a No is with an equal or greater Yes, a spirit that meets death by loudly and enthusiastically affirming life.

Why So Many Missed the Nationalist Surge. By William A. Galston.

Why So Many Missed the Nationalist Surge. By William A. Galston. Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2016.


Politicians and young, educated urbanites live in an economic and cultural bubble.

In this year of Brexit and Donald Trump and ethno-nationalism rising across Europe, it is time to take stock of what we have learned.

Even in an era when globalization is thought to be an inexorable force, national sovereignty still matters. It was national political decisions that created the European Union and may end up dismantling it. Political leaders reached the trade treaties that allow goods and services and capital to flow more freely. Many countries welcome these flows yet seek control over the movement of people across their borders. It was the EU’s unwillingness to decouple population movement from other liberties that crystallized the U.K.’s pro-Brexit majority.

Population flows matter in part because they affect national economies, but even more because they challenge national cultures. Some native-born citizens welcome increased variety; others resent it. “Diversity” is a divisive norm, especially imported diversity, and promoting it can stir resistance.

It is one thing when immigrants remain in ports of entry and capital cities, quite another when they spread out into smaller communities that have been demographically stable for generations if not centuries.

Education shapes attitudes toward diversity. In most Western democracies, people with college and professional degrees tend to be comfortable with immigrants. From their standpoint, what’s not to like? The local cuisine improves; declining neighborhoods spring back to life; walking their city’s streets is more interesting.

Educated professionals’ easy acceptance of demographic diversity is part of a larger reality: They don’t fear change. Experience has taught them that they can adjust and even turn change to their advantage.

Not so for people with less education, many of whom see change as threatening. In their local stores, they encounter shoppers and soon counter clerks who are not fluent in their language. The immigrants’ manner is unfamiliar, and often their dress is too. These surface differences suggest deeper cultural disjunctions. “I feel like a stranger in my own country” is a familiar refrain among people who want things to stay the way they have been for ages.

National demography increasingly reflects these divisions between more-educated and less-educated classes. People with education—especially young people—have been drawn to urban centers as hubs of innovation as well as diversity. Meanwhile, older and less-educated people have remained in small towns and rural areas. The clash between the city and the countryside has been a staple of politics since classical antiquity, but now it has resurfaced full-force.

Perhaps cultural change wouldn’t be threatening for less-educated people if the economic changes of recent decades hadn’t been so devastating. There is a difference, alas, between statistics and the lived reality they represent. Many in my line of work have been writing for years about wage stagnation, income decline and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs. Too few of us have spent much time with the victims of these trends. If we had, their revolt against politics-as-usual wouldn’t have come as such a surprise.

At a recent foreign-policy conference, I heard Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former Danish prime minister, discussing the Brexit vote, when she blurted out: “I feel so guilty.” I didn’t have a chance to ask her what she meant, but I think I know: As her country’s leader, she had been as insulated from discontented citizens as Britain’s leaders had been, unaware of what these voters were thinking and, more important, feeling. Educated professionals—including most politicians—live in an economic and cultural bubble, and they all too easily assume that what they see and hear around them represents the entire country.

This matters more than ever because globalization has turned out to be a divisive force within rather than between nations. In the decades after World War II, most groups and classes gained ground. Manufacturing generated stable employment with decent pay and working conditions that were achieved and defended through powerful labor unions. Sustained economic growth enabled governments to expand the welfare state without straining public budgets.

Since then, the emerging economy—more global and less local, increasingly focused on services and information, rewarding innovation more and standardization less—has divided populations in advanced democracies into winners and losers.

As economist Branko Milanović’s pioneering work has shown, the new economy has brought enormous benefits to populations in less-developed nations and to wealthy and upper-middle-class individuals in advanced democracies—but not to the working and lower-middle classes in these democracies. These people wonder: If globalization isn’t helping us economically but is undermining our way of life, why shouldn’t we embrace nationalism instead?

A fair question, and those of us who fear that resurgent nationalism could trigger a rerun of the 1930s must come up with better answers than we have so far. If we don’t, Brexit and Donald Trump are just the beginning.