"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Donald Trump As One Of Us - How Class Is Always More Important Than Race, Gender, And Ethnicity

America is a classless society, or so the myth goes.  Democratic, populist, egalitarian, universalist we suspect those who fly first class – the One Percenters who acquire 90 percent of the nation’s wealth and spend it promiscuously. St. Bart's, Gstaad, summers on the Vineyard, skiing at Val d’Isere, dinners at Lutece and Noma for foraged urchins and sea kale.

In principle we ignore First Class as we make our way down to Economy – such a waste of resources which could be spent on supporting the Environmental Defense Fund. Thousands of dollars for a bit more recline.

Yet, if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit our wish to be in the front of the airplane where the stewardesses are trimmer, younger, and sexier; where the food is French, the wines Californian, and the entertainment package foreign and independent.



We may be headed for 45D but our hearts, aspirations, and American loyalties are to 3A.

The big difference between Europe and America is that there class is a fixed, stable, and predictable commodity.  Although modern EU configurations have facilitated  inter-class movement, a plumber is still a plumber and his son will join the trade, the union, and the working class with pride and reward.

In America, members of the upper middle class – professionals, senior managers, administrators – who aspire to but will never attain real American heights have made the One Percent their shibboleth, a totem to be discarded, a fortress to be stormed.  Safe in tenure they have made classlessness a cause and the redistribution of wealth their mission. Screeds against capitalism, the unequal distribution of income, the elite, the privileged, and the advantaged are their war cries. Short of social revolution, America must be reconfigured to reward the disabled, the disadvantaged, the poor, and the minorities.

The same liberal reformers, however, look with the same envy at those comfortable in First Class, those with homes in the Caribbean, Europe, and Park Avenue as the rest of us.

Now that Donald Trump is about to take residence in the White House – the  Donald Trump most at home in Hollywood, Las Vegas, and the glitz and tinsel of runways, casinos, mansions, and conspicuous wealth – progressives are at sixes and sevens.  They who have sniffed at  First Class privilege now have the essential bourgeois American as President.

How to deal with such a betrayal?  No more Camelot, Kennebunkport, or Hyde Park; no more Renaissance Weekends, summers on the Vineyard or even vacations in Maui; but a full-blown, tinsel-bedecked, Rockettes, over-the-top Hollywood extravaganza.  Impossible to have envisaged by the coastal elites, a true American has acceded to the White House.

Obama was a cultural interloper.  A black man, Harvard-trained professor of law, husband to a professional wife and father to two dutiful children, he was all that the liberal establishment could have ever wanted.  The loss of Hillary Clinton, his all-but-anointed successor, to Donald Trump the epitome of bourgeois excess and extravagance, was a visceral, existential blow.  It simply couldn’t be!

Yet, Trump is here with his model-gorgeous wife, his starlet daughter, and his coterie of white, happy, privileged, and ambitious family are here to stay, at least for four years.



Except for the disillusioned many who assumed, wrongly, that the time had come for a woman President who espoused progressive values, internationalism, civil rights, and environmentalism; most Americans are delighted with the surprising ascendancy of Donald Trump.

They embrace his braggadocio, his New York-Las Vegas-Hollywood tinsel and bauble glitz, his outspoken materialist patriotism, and his beautiful family.

He is unashamedly white, privileged, wealthy, successful, and wildly popular.  He has even eclipsed Ronald Reagan who only managed B-movie status.  Donald Trump who, in all his high-finance, showy middle-brow real estate, and low-brow television personality, is far more popular.  Ronald Reagan never made the cover of People Magazine or E!.



So, now that Trump is about to take over the White House, passengers headed down to Economy are a bit less envious of First Class.  One of their own – an ambitious, socially unpretentious, confidently middle class American has made it to the White House.  It makes no difference that they cannot sip Dom Perignon, or taste Beluga caviar.  It is enough that Donald, Melania, Ivanka, and Barron can.

No one who has paid any attention has ever dismissed the idea of class in America.  We are a class-bound, socially ambitious society which occludes class issues with race, gender, and ethnicity.  We are social strivers and climbers who stumble and bumble but who want to be like those who we are not.  We might have admired the Bushes, the Kennedys, and the Roosevelts, but we love the Trumps.  They are the closest we will ever come to cultural arrival.

This is what the Trump revolution is all about; and why Donald Trump has been so successful.  We know that we are all Bargain Basement shoppers, but we are at heart Trumpists who want not sedate intellectual weekends on Nantucket but high-octane trips to the Bahamas on private jets with trophy women.  We buy cheap but aspire dear.

The progressive Left has missed the point entirely.  Trump’s accession has less to do with geopolitics than with class and culture.  Less to do with white-black issues than with socio-economic aspiration; and nothing to do with race, gender, and ethnicity.

Donald Trump’s presidency is the most revolutionary in American history because it represents a true cultural revival.  For too long American bourgeois, middle class, religious fundamentalist ideals have been ignored or overlooked; and cultural contradictions dismissed.

American Airlines may be the first to offer ‘Last Class’ but not the last.   The race to the bottom while aspiring to the top is the essential American dilemma.  We will always be unwashed but hoping to be dressed in finery.

Such is the American saga.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.