Musical Chairs

There’s a new book out that helps explain the behavior of liberals since Trump’s surprise election in 2016.

Virtue Hoarders, by Catherine Liu, examines the professional managerial class (PMC), which is predominated by liberals, and finds that they are shameless about hording all forms of “secular virtue”. White-collar, upper-class in terms of education and income, and often ideologically on the Left, she describes the PMC as engaged in class warfare against the lower classes. The PMC sees itself as vastly superior to working-class Americans who they ignore, or treat like children as they try to save them from various sins and pitfalls. The PMC defines virtues and then attempts to “hoard” them through “virtue signaling.” Its members create “moral panics” over violations of these virtues. They turn politics and policy battles into “individual passion plays”

Sound familiar?

The PMC’s didn’t set out to dominate politics, it just happened. Initially, the aim was to foster progressive values. But instead, these professional technocrats, who both had gained considerable wealth and were tightly concentrated in cities on both coasts, came to dominate the Democratic Party that formerly was a vehicle for the working class. In the process the PMC’s abandoned class based politics and focused instead on utopian ideals of diversity, identity and racial justice.

Since Carter, neoliberalism has been akin to musical chairs, as entire industries and jobs have disappeared, never to be seen again. The PMC’s have played no small part in this process except that now there’s no chair for them and they are lashing out in desperation and guilt. There appears to be a dull awareness that what is happening to the professional middle class has long since happened to the blue-collar working class. Those of us who have college and higher degrees have proved to be no more indispensable, as a group, to the masters of capital than those who have attained competency on assembly lines or in warehouses of foundries.

Hence the PMC anger at MAGA Republicans and urge to censor and silence and to curb speech they consider dangerous. From the beginning, the PMC was the intermediary and enforcer between the owners of the means of production, whether these were individual capitalists or large corporations, and the working class.  As Liu says, “The politics of virtue-hoarding is anti-universalist. Rather than pursue shared public goods, its function is to fortify the class’s dominant position by morally distinguishing it from the underclass”

What’s crazy but not all that surprising, is that liberals have turned into war and empire cheerleaders, thanks to the Russia-gate pys-op that equated Trump with Putin. And now, with the US proxy war on Russia in Ukraine and upcoming midterm elections, they’ve doubled down. If one really believes, as millions of American liberals do, that the U.S. faces two and only two choices: either elect Democrats and ensure they rule or live under a white nationalist fascist dictatorship, then of course such people will believe that media disinformation campaigns, censorship, and other forms of authoritarianism are necessary to ensure Democrats win and their opponents are vanquished. It’s like they’ve embraced an eliminationist mindset where their adversaries do not just disagree with them but seek to do them harm, hence the propaganda, censorship and suppression is fully justified. And that is exactly what is happening now.

But, remember, it’s virtuous.

As Liu writes.  If PMC “politics amount to little more than virtue signaling, it loves nothing more than moral panics to incite its members to ever more pointless forms of pseudo-politics and hyper-vigilance…PMC virtue hoarding is the insult added to injury when white-collar managers, having downsized their blue-collar workforce, then disparage them for their bad taste in literature, bad diets, unstable families, etc.” PMC champion Hillary Clinton gave voice to this sentiment with her “deplorable”comment. What really galls the PMC is that “their original dream – of a society ruled by reason and led by public-spirited professionals – has been discredited,” and the lament that the people just won’t listen to reason remains unheard by their subjects.

The only problem with this line of reasoning is that it’s flat out wrong. The status quo political establishment has failed as spectacularly as anything could possibly fail. And the PMC’s sure doubled down on the failure by vigorously promoting a new censorship regime in every American institution, shutting down free speech and, more crucially, the necessary debate for aligning our politics with reality. The idea that the PMC is doing “God’s work” has no current resonance with anyone outside their own echo chamber, which is amplified by the usual sources–MSNBC, NPR, NYT, etc.

American’s without college degrees have rejected PMC technocracy in favor of populist authoritarianism because they no longer believe it’s in their best interest. They don’t trust that the elites have their best interests in mind and otherwise find them somewhere between annoying, blind, and despicable.

Meanwhile, the chairs are disappearing and the music is slowing again.

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