Are the liberal elite living on borrowed time?
Rod Liddle thinks so:
For a start, the elite is not liberal in the classical liberal sense, but closer to the American sense of the word. It is certainly not ‘liberal’ if by that you mean tolerant: it is intolerant and authoritarian. And by elite I do not mean the elected government: establishment elites can survive most forms of government and easily outlast them.
The liberal elite we talk about today is beholden to a leftish cultural and political paradigm which predominates in all the non-elected institutions which run our lives. In the judiciary, for example. Within the BBC. In the running of our universities and in the courses they put before students. In the teaching profession. In the social services departments of every council in the land. At the top of the medical profession. On the boards of all the quangos — the lot of them, from those which hand out money in the arts to those which regulate our media and our utilities. It is a left-liberal paradigm, informed by affluence, which has been swallowed whole by all of these institutions and which is utterly intolerant of dissent.
Try being a social worker who thinks gay adoptions are problematic. Or a doctor who disapproves of abortion or transitioning. Or a student who quite likes Germaine Greer and wearing a sombrero. Or a teacher who thinks Trump is maybe OK. (The headmaster at a school in south London recently told pupils that if any child uttered the same sorts of words as Donald Trump about immigration, they’d be excluded.)
Try being a judge who thinks an awful lot of hate crimes are imaginary or vexatious. In all cases you’d be drummed out. No job. You’d be finished. There would be tribunals — where you would be judged by other upholders of the liberal elite — and you’d be out.
That is what we mean by the liberal elite. The template for how our society is governed and which antithetical political parties may battle, but in the short to medium term, lose.
Elites do change, though. I remember as a speechwriter for the Labour party in the early 1980s suggesting that we do something in support of the teachers, who were complaining about pay. ‘Fuck them — they’re all Tories,’ I was told. And so statistically they were, at the time. And in the 1970s the BBC, the Church of England, the judiciary and the emergent quangos were small ‘c’ conservative. Elites last for about two generations. Our liberal elite has lasted since about 1985. And my guess is that right now it is on the way out, which is why we are hearing this continual howling.
Liddle’s summary of the Control Left is pretty accurate, but I cannot share his confidence that the power and influence of this deeply anti-intellectual group of “intellectuals” and elites is on the wane – at least not yet.
Perhaps, if the counter-revolution were led by somebody other than Donald Trump, there would be cause for hope. Somebody with unimpeachable ethics, a record of respect toward women and minorities and impulse control greater than that of a ten-year-old might just be able to prevail against decades-old vested interests and a self-regarding and frequently biased media.
But unfortunately we have Donald Trump in America (whose successful recent speech to a joint session of Congress may have finally given him the veneer of presidentialness, but none of the substance) and Theresa May in Britain (who seems eager to combine the establishment’s usual haughty paternalism with a desire to be led by the Tory Right into the most calamitous and disruptive form of Brexit possible). These are hardly the two torchbearers one would choose to “Drain the Swamp” or do anything else remotely transformative.
And so there is the very real risk that Donald Trump’s floundering new administration will either drop the ball so badly in response to some external crisis, or else precipitate a crisis of their own through poor legislative and executive decisions, that they actually manage to make the establishment opposition – led by fresh young anti-establishment faces like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer – look good by comparison. And if these people get back into power, will they take even a moment of introspection to consider their role in the rise of Trump, or show any regard for the more legitimate concerns of his supporters? I think we all know the answer.
Similarly, if Theresa May’s government miscalculates in our EU secession negotiations and triggers some sort of abrupt and traumatic departure with no carryover provisions in place to govern customs, regulatory matters and the myriad programmes of cooperation with other EU countries, the economic pain will be real and the Tories will no longer look quite so invincible.
Besides, Rod Liddle devoted paragraphs to pointing out the extent to which so many of our institutions – from academia to the charity sector to the state church – are corrupted from within and turned into the exclusive domain of the liberal elite. It would be great to see reasoned conservatism re-establish a beachhead in some of these places, but it does not look very likely at present.
The hair-trigger sensitivity of many of these people leads them to see a harmful microaggression in the smallest and most inconsequential of human interactions, and they have shown no qualms about persecuting even those from their own tribe who happen to deviate even 1% from the current social justice / identity politics orthodoxy. What hope, then, do conservatives have of breaking back into those workplaces and institutions from where they have been so comprehensively exiled?
So while the screeching and whining from left-wing commentators and their allies embedded in our institutions has become deafening, I see little evidence that it will be followed by retreat. Like a transatlantic flight spent sitting in front of a screaming baby, we are in for a long and tortuous ride.
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