The Essay That's Inflaming the Right

Earlier this week, Rush Limbaugh devoted a significant chunk of his show to a sprawling essay by Angelo Codevilla in The American Spectator arguing that a vast American “ruling class” runs the country and shuts out dissenting views on every major issue. It circles the wagons around its liberal self, perpetuating its own ideas and protecting members of the club from competition on merit and a true marketplace of ideas.

A brief excerpt:

Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.

This is pretty innocuous stuff, but it comes near the beginning. If you read on, you discover that this Progressive ruling class wants to reorder the family, ruin businesses and social institutions it dislikes, and drive God out of public life, among other crimes against American values.

The tragedy of Codevilla’s essay is that it takes serious, legitimate grievances with our broken political system and turns them into culture war red meat. It spins elaborate, conspiratorial fantasies about the malicious motives of this “ruling class,” and then tries to pin them all on “progressives.” We don’t get anything close to a serious accounting of the failures of institutions ranging from government agencies to Wall Street to Congress. We only get that it’s all a big plot, and if you dig deep enough you’ll find liberals at the bottom of it—exactly what people like Rush Limbaugh and his listeners want to hear.

Magazines on the right should be deeply exploring the discontent of the “country class,” as Codevilla dubs it, and trying to determine how best to address those problems in a modern republic. But instead, this piece goes the route of the Tea Party: it lays the blame on fictitious bogeymen and allows the establishment to dismiss its grievances on the cheap.