As I have often noted, historian Michael Grant identified profound political disunity in the ruling class as a key cause of the dissolution of the Roman Empire. Grant described this dynamic in his excellent account The Fall of the Roman Empire, a book I have been recommending since 2009.
The chapter titles of the book provide a precis of the other causes Grant identifies:
The Gulfs Between the Classes
The Credibility Gap
The Partnerships That Failed
The Groups That Opted Out
The Undermining of Effort
Today we focus on the rising profound political disunity of the Power Elites of the U.S. As a general observation, the largely theatrical polarization of the two political parties is being replaced by fault lines within each party and American society that no longer respect the ideological lines of Republican and Democrat.
While conventional media pundits have observed the disorder in Republican ranks with more than a little schadenfreude (pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune), relatively little attention has been paid to the equivalent fractures in the Democratic Party.
Longtime correspondent Mark G. forwarded an insightful article by Joel Kotkin that explains one of the key fractures: Tech titans want to be masters of all media we survey.
In effect, the Old Left (currently represented by Bernie Sanders) is splintering from the mainstream Imperial Democrats (my term) of Hillary Clinton, while Kotkin’s Tech Titans are pursuing a Libertarian-flavored dominance.
Mark G. provides the analytic structure needed to understand why both parties are coming apart at the seams:
What Kotkin describes here is best characterized as a civil war among Democratic Party Elites. This parallels a similar struggle taking place inside the GOP between the ‘GOP Establishment’ and probably 70% of the GOP’s electoral base.
(Excerpt from Kotkin:) “The rising tech oligarchy, having disrupted everything from hotels and taxis to banking, music and travel, is also taking over the content side of the media business. In the process, we might see the future decline of traditional media, including both news and entertainment, and a huge shift in media power away from both Hollywood and New York and toward the Bay Area and Seattle.”
(Mark G.:) I think the most important finding from the present political cycle is the evidence of rapidly rising factionalism and infighting among our 0.01%’ers. Their ships are not “all sailing in the same direction,” as Don Lucchesi said in Godfather III. Their goals are becoming very divergent indeed to the point of directly opposing each other.
Contrary to received MSM wisdom, this warfare appears to be most pronounced at present inside the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders is clearly the AFL-CIO’s man in a sense, along with the aged New Left. And he’s drawing crowds to match. Like Bill, Hillary is the creature of Wall Street, NYC-based Mainstream Media, Hollywood and the Government Educational complex. The Tech Oligarchs really don’t have a candidate of their own in the field this cycle.
Meanwhile the “GOP Establishment” is increasingly at open war with its own electoral base. So is the Democratic Party under the aegis of the digital ‘Tech Oligarchs.’ The older ‘Mainframe’ Democratic elites were far more attentive to middle class interests in their political coalition. The Tech Oligarchs are displaying a streak of Libertarian “My Way Or The Highway” rawness where it comes to political issues and the interests of nominal coalition partners.
I think The Donald could easily be found possessing support from some surprising quarters when the time comes.
Thank you, Mark, for the analysis.
For further evidence of the fault lines shattering the Democratic Party considerWho Turned My Blue State Red? Why poor areas vote for politicians who want to slash the safety net.
Perhaps we can summarize this as the resentment of the remaining middle class/working class for free-riders who are living as well or better than the heavily burdened workers supporting their guaranteed income.
Game theory has shown that participants will choose to punish cheaters over skimming rewards, until the cheaters are in the majority. At that point, everyone converts to cheating/free-riding and the system collapses.
This rising sense of injustice applies to three classes: the super-wealthy skimmers who buy political influence; protected state workers drawing benefits that are distant memories for 99% of private-sector workers, and the free-riders at the bottom buying groceries with SNAP cards and non-food items with wads of cash earned without the burdens of taxes.
So we have two volatile brews being mixed together: the anger and resentment of what’s left of the middle and working classes against those above and below them, and the widening political disunity of the Elites.
All those Democratic Party stalwarts whose power base is being disrupted by digital forces beyond their control are not happy campers. Unfortunately for them, history can’t be turned back.
As for the Republicans, the party’s long reliance on social polarization for its support is wearing thin, as thin as the wallets and purses of traditional Republican audiences.
What’s upending the existing political Elites is this: there’s no free lunch. As the phantom free lunch of the past seven years is shattered by economic realities, the parties’ fiefdoms are discovering there isn’t enough money for all fiefdoms to expand as they have for 60 years.
As a result, each fiefdom is forced to battle other Elites for increasingly scarce financial and political oxygen.
The American Power Elite may yet discover that throw the bums out applies to all existing Establishment parties and Elites.
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