THE RULING CLASS: HOW THEY CORRUPTED AMERICA AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT
By Angelo M. Codevilla
Beaufort Books, $12.95, 145 pages
America now divides ever more sharply into two classes, according to Angelo M. Codevilla, a professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University.
As he explains in “The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What You Can Do About It,” the smaller of these two classes “holds the commanding heights of government,” from which it presumes the right to direct our ways of living. The ruling class jealously guards the self-claimed prerogative in its belief that most Americans - the country class - are incompetent to run their own lives because they are stupid, racist or violent in their tendencies.
All “public affairs” issues are best left to professionals, or so goes the rationale, including what used to be considered private decisions such as medical care, the use of energy and water, and the consumption of food.
More and more, the ruling class (via government diktat or its guidance of societal pressure and often through its media outlets) tries to tell us what we can drive, what we can drink, what we can wear, how we shower, how we set our thermostats and, more alarming, what we can say. Much of this intrusion comes through government rulings, court edicts and other pressures related to “political correctness.”
The country class, as the author sees it, can be compared to “the frog that awoke to the fact that it was being slow-boiled only when getting out of the pan would require perhaps more strength and judgment than it had left.”
The two classes do not divide over station in life. Presidents (i.e., Ronald Reagan) and Supreme Court justices (i.e., Clarence Thomas) are not taken seriously by the ruling class.
Though much of the divide stems from cultural and lifestyle factors, America’s political trend lines are deeply affected by the conflict between the rival classes.
Stated another way: Mr. Codevilla thinks the ruling class is using the “slow-boiled” method to lead the country class into an “aggressive intolerant secularism” that the ruling class sees as the “intellectual basis” for its claim to rule.
The ruling class has the political support of one-third of the electorate: most Democrats and a few Republicans. The country class is roughly the home of a few Democratic voters, most Republicans and all independents.
The latter seems to be coalition of convenience. Most Democratic voters are satisfied their party officials represent them well. By contrast, just one-fourth of Republican voters feel the same way about their party officials. This may reflect country-class concerns that some Republican officials yearn for junior status in the ruling class.
As examples, Mr. Codevilla cites Sen. Lindsey Graham (backed “global warming” hoax) and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (wanted to be like Teddy Kennedy).
Members of the ruling class cover for each other in much the same way that old fraternity buddies, in their later careers, open doors for former college chums in the business world.
Mr. Codevilla cites a timely instance:
Let’s say that in 1984, you are Laurence Tribe, Harvard professor and pillar of the liberal establishment, who writes his “magnum opus” with the help of his student assistants Ron Klain and Barack Obama. Ten years later, Mr. Klain admits to having written some parts of the book, and other parts of the work are word-for-word or paraphrases of another book published in 1974.
You can claim - perhaps correctly - that the plagiarism was “inadvertent”- but it’s all very embarrassing. So what to do?
No problem: You can count on law school dean Elena Kagan to appoint a committee, including former and future Harvard President Derek Bok ,that issues a secret report that “closes” the incident.
It’s another win-win for the ruling class: Mr. Tribe eludes censure, Mr. Obama becomes president, and Ms. Kagan wins a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.
The author is not bereft of ideas as to how the country class can cope. One is to revise the statutes (or the Constitution, if necessary) to elect the regulators and federal judges who presume to rule us.
There would be a certain amount of glee among voters suddenly armed with the power to vote haughty bureaucrats out of office. It would be a delight to fire them for presuming to control the Internet, shut down our favorite radio/TV talk-show hosts, issuing “environmental” edicts that skyrocket our electricity bills, meet in secret to decide our economic future or engage in Gestapo-like tactics.
No longer would unelected “potentates” have the privilege of deciding what kind of washing machines, shower sprays, toilets and light bulbs we are allowed to have in our own homes. Mr. Codevilla takes pains to say he’s not advocating such ballot-box accountability for Cabinet officials, currently a presidential appointment prerogative.
If voting for quasi-judicial or quasi-legislative officials likely would not require a constitutional amendment, his proposal to elect federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, surely would.
The professor rightly accuses members of the judiciary of abusing the power of lifetime appointments.
It would be gratifying to be able to fire judges whose opponents vow not to read abortion and same-sex marriage into the Constitution. But would we be trading one set of problems for another? The purpose of the lifetime appointment was to shield judges from emotions of the moment. Most of us (in an extreme hypothetical) would not welcome a Pontius Pilate moment from a bench that would sanction public hangings without a trial. Presumably the author would accept a “retention” vote for judges every 10 years.
“The Ruling Class” notes that in 1940, there were eight times as many school boards as today. A remedy for that would bring a pivotal part of America’s governance closer to the citizen.
Mr. Codevilla says the rival groups have less in common culturally and dislike each other more than did 19th-century Northerners and Southerners.
It is no exaggeration to say “The Ruling Class” is possibly the most perceptive analysis to date of contemporary America.
Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer and veteran broadcast journalist.
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